Show of 12-22-2018

Tech Talk

December 22, 2018

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Susan in Alexandria: Good morning, Dr. Shurtz. You have recommended using a cellular data network rather than public WiFi whenever possible, and using a VPN when a cellular connection is not possible. Recently I heard a radio commercial for BlackBerry’s secuSUITE product that referenced rogue cell phone towers. BlackBerry’s secuSUITE seems to be a Government/Enterprise solution intended to secure voice and text messages. I do not think you have discussed rogue cell phone towers since September, 2014.  Are rogue cell phone towers a risk to cellular data connections or is the risk only to voice and text message privacy? Thanks for Tech Talk. Susan in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: BlackBerry’s secuSUITE product provides end-to-end encryption for both voice and data. I protect against a man-in-the-middle attack using rogue cell towers. While voice data is encrypted end-to-end, security flaws in cellular standards permit the man-in-the-middle attack for voice traffic. A VPN provides end-to-end data encryption for data connections, but not for voice, unless you are using VoIP.
  • Cell-site simulators, called IMSI catchers because they capture devices’ International Mobile Equipment Identity codes, masquerade as legitimate mobile network cell towers to trick nearby cell phones into connecting. Once linked, they can track a cell phone’s location, or even surveil its messages and phone calls.
  • They are powerful tools that leverage flaws in wireless network protocols and cell phone software. In addition, while the telecom industry could significantly reduce their efficacy by plugging holes in various wireless standards, incentives to do so are mixed. In the US and around the world, law enforcement and intelligence agencies use stingrays for investigations, often under opaque circumstances.
  • DHS claimed that it does not have the technology to consistently detect the devices, or financial means to acquire or develop this capability. And while some researchers have made progress on developing stingray-sniffing techniques, technologists agree that it is difficult.
  • On some devices, users can turn off their 2G and 3G connections as a way of reducing the number of stingrays that will be able to interact with their device, because IMSI catchers targeting 4G are still less common.
  • Email from Mary Ann in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I travel internationally and have many contacts from around the world on WhatsApp. One person keeps sending annoying text messages. I have ignored them, but now would like to block them. How can I do that with WhatsApp? Love the show when I have time to listen. Mary Ann in Fairfax, Virginia.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can easily block messages in WhatsApp by blocking the number. Open the WhatsApp app on your phone. If you have a chat open, navigate back to the main Chats screen. Select the Settings icon at the bottom right of the screen, then Account, then Privacy, then Blocked. Tap Add New and choose the contact you wish to block. You can also click on the name of the person sending the text chat window, scroll down to the bottom, and click on Block Contact. The second method works if the person is not on your contacts list.
  • Email from Phillip in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk, my outlook.com is putting legitimate emails into its junk mail folder. It seems very random, but some of my closest friends’ emails are going into the junk folder as well as other legitimate contacts. Can I just not use outlook.com, do I need it? How I stop the filtering of legitimate emails in to the outlook.com junk folder? Enjoy the podcast. Phillip in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: You need to train the junk mail filter. It does mean you need to periodically log in to Outlook.com on the web and see what you find in the junk mail folder there. Then, for each non-spam email message you find there, right click on it and mark it as not junk. That will then also help “train” Outlook.com’s spam filter to learn that, for your account, email that looks like this should not be placed in the junk mail folder.
  • You can also set up Safe senders. Click on the gear icon again, click on Options and in the resulting page click on Safe and blocked senders. Allowing known safe senders can be one way to bypass the junk mail filter for senders you know about beforehand. You can make two different types of entries: Individual email addresses can be placed on the list. You could also allow an entire domain. Any email from that domain would bypass the junk mail filter.
  • Email from Kirk in Fairfax: Dear Dr. Shurtz – I am a long time podcast listener who will soon be upgrading several family computers from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and was amused by your recent tale of woe (including appropriate background music) about losing your laptop. You mentioned that data theft was not a concern because your laptop’s hard drive was encrypted.  Is hard drive data encryption a Windows feature or did you use a separate program?  I’m sure many of your users would welcome your walking us through the set up procedure. From a faithful listener, Kirk in Fairfax, VA.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Windows 10 includes BitLocker Drive Encryption, which provides data protection in case of a loss or stolen device. BitLocker has been around for several years and can be used with Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 operating systems.
  • BitLocker is not available on Windows 10 Home edition. It’s available on Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and Education editions. If you do not have the Pro edition and don’t want to spend $99 to upgrade, you could use TrueCrypt, an open source encryption tool that is free.
  • BitLocker Drive Encryption is built into the Windows 10 operating system and uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with configurable key lengths of either 128-bit (default) or 256-bit. BitLocker Drive Encryption encrypts your entire drive.
  • If you have a computer that you purchased in the last few years, chances are that it includes a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip. This is common on most laptops these days. To properly secure your Windows computer with BitLocker, Microsoft recommends you use TPM version 1.2 or later.
  • I recommend that first need to link your login to a Microsoft Account. This will enable you to reset the password in the event you lose it. If you don’t have this option, your data is lost without the password. Then go to Control Panel/System and Security/Bitlocker Drive Encryption. Select enable Encryption. You will go through a few additional screens. You will be asked where to save your encryption key (file, USB, Microsoft Account). I have chosen my Microsoft account. If I did not want the FBI to get access, I would choose a USB drive. Encryption is a slow process. Let it run overnight.
  • Email from Alice in Wonderland: Dear Dr. Shurtz & Jim, I am constantly getting these Google warnings. It says that “We recently blocked a sign-in attempt to your Google Account”. It then gives the time and location of the attempted sign-in. It goes on to say, “See if anything is suspicious. If so, change your password.” What is best practice to stop having this issue? Thanks! Alice in Wonderland
  • Tech Talk Responds: Do the time stamp and log in location match your attempted logins, or are they attempts by someone else. If they are your attempts, then you must be entering the wrong password too many times. If they are not your attempts and someone else gained access, change your password immediately. Whatever you do, do not click on a link in this email and login to your account. The whole email may be a phishing attempt to get your credentials.

Profiles in IT: Cheng Wei

  • Cheng Wei is be known as found of Didi Chuxing, China’s largest mobile transportation platform, and as the man who outmaneuvered Uber.
  • Cheng Wei was born in May 19, 1983, in Shangrao, China.
  • When the time came to sit for university entrance exams, he was ill but did enough to get into Beijing University of Chemical Technology.
  • In 2004, he received a BS in Business from Beijing Univ. of Chemical Technology.
  • In 2004, Wei served as an assistant to a chairman at a foot massage company.
  • In 2005, he applied to Alibaba in business-to-business e-commerce sales.
  • Wei rose to being a sales manager for the northern region of China for Alibaba.
  • In 2011, he moved to Alibaba’s e-commerce online payment arm, Alipay, where he rose through the ranks to become the company’s youngest regional manager.
  • In 2012, he founded Beijing Orange Technology Co and launched Didi Dache, which meaning Beep Beep Call a Taxi.
  • In 2014, Uber rapidly gained traction in China after its local unit received a cash injection in late 2014 from Baidu.
  • Cheng favors rectangle-framed glasses and polo shirts and has an astute eye for talent
  • In 2014, he hired Jean Liu, from Goldman Sachs Asia, the COO and fundraiser. Didi out maneuvered Uber it gained backing from Apple.
  • In February 2015, the company merged with its rival Kuaidi Dache to become Didi Kuaidi (later renamed Didi Chuxing).
  • In August 2016, Didi Chuxing acquired all assets of the Chinese division of Uber, including its brand, business operations and data for operation within China.
  • Under the terms of the deal, Wei is set to become a board member of Uber and Uber’s CEO also gets a seat on DiDi’s board.
  • Under the leadership of Cheng Wei and Jean Liu, DiDi has grown to become one of the world’s highest valued tech start-ups.
  • The company has evolved from a simple taxi-hailing app to taxi hailing, private car hailing, hitch (social ride-sharing), bus, minibus, chauffeur service, car rental service, and bike-sharing service.
  • Wei is among those advocating that China needs to focus intensely on development of artificial intelligence. DiDi is investing substantial resources in AI research and is focused on building self-driving cars.
  • He believes that China will be the new driving force for the development of the Internet industry with Chinese Internet companies competing with US counterparts.
  • Cheng is a voracious reader. He wrote in 2011 that he had developed a habit of going to the same bookstore to curl up in on Sundays, with a book and a cup of tea.
  • His leadership style is cutthroat and tinged with nationalism. He often references China’s history and military in his speeches.

Food Science: Champagne Bubbles

  • A team of scientists at the University of Reims have revealed the secrets behind the bubbles in Champagne, and why your glass might leave the wine as flat as a pancake or fizzing furiously.
  • A single bottle of Champagne contains 10 million bubbles. As the bubbles reach the surface of the wine they explode, and this phenomenon known as “the Worthington Jet” has been captured by the scientists on a 5000-frames-per-second camera.
  • It explodes, making a tiny crater on the surface. The crater closes up and then ejects a thread of liquid, which then breaks up in droplets that can fly up to 10 centimeters.
  • They also figured out why strings of bubbles, known as the bead, rise from certain points in glass. It happens when microscopic fibers left by a kitchen towel or often just an airborne particle stick to the side of the glass, allowing molecules of dissolved carbon dioxide to coalesce and form bubbles.
  • The finding is important for Champagne lovers and for the restaurant industry.
  • Glasses that are retrieved from a dishwasher, where they have been washed and blown dry upside down, could be so ultra-clean that horribly few bubbles form.
  • Top-end glass manufacturers now use lasers to etch a tiny crown of spots at the bottom of the glass, creating flaws to make bubbles form and rise in a pretty ring.
  • Should you drink Champagne from a tall, long-stemmed glass or a shallow cup?
  • The shallow cup loses CO2 one-third faster than a flute, so the flute is preferred.
  • Drinking Champagne from a plastic cup can be a drab experience because the sides are hydrophobic, or liquid repelling. The bubbles adhere to the sides through capillary action and inflate into the size of tiny balls.
  • The easiest way to produce finer bubbles is to reduce the quantity of CO2 which is dissolved in the Champagne, and this is linked to the amount of sugar.
  • The tradition was to add 24 grams of sugar per liter of Champagne along with yeast to induce the second fermentation, but the trend now is 18 grams of sugar.
  • Although its carbon dioxide that dissolves in both wine and mineral water under pressure, the label on the bottle actually says “contains carbonic acid.”
  • The reason for this is the chemical process that causes carbon dioxide molecules to combine with water molecules under high pressure to produce carbonic acid.
  • Because carbonic acid is a very unstable molecule, it quickly disintegrates again when the bottle is opened and the pressure drops, and then bubbles up as carbon dioxide.
  • Scientists have named their new branch of science “blaseology”, the science of bubbles

Live Champagne Bubble Demonstration

  • Demonstration Props
    • Bottle of Champagne (Brut)
    • Two crystal Champagne Flutes with etched bubble ring in bottom
    • Two Plastic Glasses
  • Observations
    • Bubbles originate from etched ring rough area in flutes
    • Bubbles stick to the sides of the plastic glasses
  • On air question: To drink or not to drink.

The 10 Best Gifts to Buy for Techies in 2018

  • Apple Watch Series 4 — The newest Apple Watch is the perfect gift for the person who always has the latest device. Running on a new S4 dual-core 64-bit CPU, the Apple Watch Series 4 continues to redefine what we expect from smartwatches, reviving the features of Apple Watches past and introducing new ones, including Walkie Talkie mode and a bottom made of black ceramic and sapphire crystal for better cellular reception. However, its real claim to fame is the introduction of an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor, the first of its kind integrated into a smartwatch or fitness tracker. The sensor can monitor heart health, including slow or irregular heartbeats, alert you if anything seems abnormal, and store the data to share with a doctor. Both the accelerometer and gyroscope have been improved, which is useful for those hitting the trail and for everyone who wants an extra layer of safety: if you fall and are motionless for 60 seconds, the Watch will contact emergency services and your emergency contacts. From $399.00
  • Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Generation) — Once the techies in your life get their hands on the Amazon Echo Plus 2nd Generation, they’ll be hooked. The key highlight is, of course, the built-in Alexa assistant. This gives users the power to control their entire smart home through a single hub. Just ask Alexa to switch on smart lights, turn up the thermostat, lock your doors, and more. $149.00 from Amazon
  • Fitbit Alta — Today’s techies aren’t just nerds who geek out over games in their parents’ basements. In fact, you’ll find plenty of techies getting active outside. But the giveaway? They likely have a wearable around their wrist. The Fitbit Alta is a perfect gift for the health-conscious techie type because it tracks steps taken, distance traveled, floors climbed, calories burned, time spent active and sleep patterns. It will even send you reminders if you aren’t moving enough.$149 from Amazon
  • Amazon Smart Plug — Amazon’s Smart Plug can turn almost any device in your home into a “smart” device. It’s extremely simple: Just plug it in, open the Alexa app on your smartphone, and add the Smart Plug. An LED light on the front indicates it’s active. You now have the ability to set timers for that device and turn it on and off remotely. If, for example, you want to create a morning routine that turns on a light or a coffee maker, the Smart Plug can do that. You can also connect it to a humidifier, fan, baby monitor, Christmas tree lights, and so much more. The Smart Plug works on a 2.4GHz, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi network. There is no support for 5GHz networks. $24.99 from Amazon.
  • Robo R2 3D Printer – The Robo R2 is self-leveling printer with automatic calibration, which means you won’t have to meticulously adjust it every time you make a small change to the printer. It has a five-inch color touch screen and its Wi-Fi connectivity enables you to print from USB, phone and tablet, or from cloud libraries. It can print items up to 8 x 8 x 10 inches at a build speed of up to 16mm^3/s. It also includes a second extruder, which lets you print with two materials at the same time; more than 30 materials are supported. $1,499.99 from Amazon
  • Sphero Mini Orange — The Sphero Mini is an app-controlled robot the size of a ping pong ball. You can play fun, pre-installed games, invent your own and even drive it around using Face Drive, a feature that uses facial recognition technology to let you steer with your face. Equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope and LED lights, creativity takes hold as you discover new ways to play. While the Sphero is designed for people of all ages, it’s especially great for kids because the Sphero Edu app lets them experiment with coding by writing their own Javascript for the robot. $37.99 from BestBuy.
  • Oculus Rift VR Headset — Plunge into the immersive world of VR with the Oculus Rift. Whether you’re playing one of the many supported games, watching a VR movie or navigating a location on the other side of the Earth, you’ll instantly forget where you are. The Rift has a sleek and simple design that is comfortable to wear and connects to your PC via a cable that runs behind your head. And while you can buy the Oculus Rift on its own, we recommend springing for this package, which includes two Touch controllers that let you interact naturally with the virtual world. $349.00 from BestBuy.
  • GoPro HERO7 Black — Wrapped in a rugged and waterproof body, the GoPro can go underwater up to 33 feet. On the inside is the same 12MP camera as the prior generation, and the photo results are excellent. To help distinguish the HERO7 from last year’s model, GoPro introduced SuperPhoto, which incorporates a variety of photo technologies for the best results GoPro has been able to produce to date. With 4K video capturing at 60 fps, the HERO7 Black produces phenomenal footage. This model also includes HyperSmooth technology, which adds gimbal-like stabilization to video capture so the results are less jumpy and jittery. $392 on Amazon.
  • Bose QuietComfort 35 Headset — Bose QuietComfort® 35 wireless noise cancelling headphones II are engineered with world-class noise cancellation. With your Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa built-in, you can control music, send and receive texts, and get answers using just your voice. Be free from wires by connecting to your devices with Bluetooth® and NFC pairing, and enjoy up to 20 hours of wireless listening per charge. $299 on Amazon.

FCC Forces California to Drop Fees on Text Messages

  • The FCC last week voted to classify text-messaging as an information service, rather than a telecommunications service.
  • “Information service” is the same classification the FCC gave to broadband when it repealed net neutrality rules and claimed that states are not allowed to impose their own net neutrality laws.
  • The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) was scheduled to consider the text-message fee proposal at a meeting next month but pulled the item off the agenda after the FCC action.
  • Under California law, telecommunications services are subject to the collection of surcharges to support a number of CPUC public programs that subsidize the cost of service for rural Californians and for low-income, disadvantaged communities, and provides special services for the deaf, the hard of hearing, and the disabled.
  • The FCC vote “limits state authority” over text messaging.
  • Landline phone and mobile phone services are still classified as telecommunications services.
  • All telecommunications corporations and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers offering telephone service to the public in California are required to assess surcharges.
  • The FCC has never decided whether VoIP is an information service or a telecommunications service. Text messaging was similarly unclassified until last week.

Top 2018 iPhone Apps

  • Apple just released its lists for the most downloaded apps of 2018 and YouTube took the number one spot, beating out Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat for the honor.
  • YouTube held the #3 spot last year, when Bitmoji and Snapchat came in at #1 and #2 respectively. This year, Snapchat dropped to third place and Bitmoji down to sixth, with Instagram climbing to the #2 slot.
  • These are the top 20 free apps of the year, according to Apple
  • 1 YouTube, 2 Instagram, 3 Snapchat, 4 Messenger, 5 Facebook,
  • 6 Bitmoji, 7 Netflix, 8 Google Maps, 9 Gmail, 10 Spotify Music,
  • 11 Amazon, 12 Uber, 13 WhatsApp Messenger, 14 Pandora, 15 Wish,
  • 16 TikTok, 17 Cash App, 18 Google Photos, 19 Google Chrome, 20 Twitter

Blocking Robocalls on iPhone and Android

  • Unwanted calls are often harmless but some are after your credit card information, IDs or passwords. All are a distraction and a waste of your time.
  • Robocallers have gotten more devious by masking their calls with phone numbers that use the first three or first six digits of your phone number.
  • If you don’t get a lot of unwanted calls, you can block calls one at a time. On the iPhone you do this by selecting “Phone” then tapping the information icon (the encircled lowercase “i”), and selecting “Block this Caller.”
  • On Android, it’s similar, you tap on the caller’s name, then long-press the number and tap “Block/report spam”.
  • AT&T and Verizon, as with other carriers, offer apps that let you block calls by identifying fraudsters. To identify a suspicious call, numbers are run against a massive list of robocallers that is updated daily.
    • Verizon Caller Name ID app is $2.99 per month per line.
    • AT&T has its Mobile Security & Call Protect Plus for $3.99 per month.
  • There are third-party apps that you can try for free such as Nomorobo and RoboKiller. After the trial period, both ask for a small monthly fee, which typically starts at $0.99 or $1.99 per month.
  • The most effective method is to limit calls to your contact list. On the iPhone, you go to Settings, then tap on “Do Not Disturb” then select “Allow Calls From” then “All Contacts.” This is effective and may be a good option for people hounded by spam calls. For Android, you can do this with apps such as Calls Blacklist.

iPhone eSim has Finally Arrived

  • Apple has now made it possible for owners of an iPhone XR, iPhone XS, or iPhone XS Max to add a second line of service by using an eSIM (or digital SIM), bypassing the need for a physical SIM card.
  • This will let you easily add a local carrier if you travel internationally. You can even have two different plans on the same phone — say, one for voice and messages and one for data. Three major vendors currently offer eSIM capabilities: AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.
  • Your phone also needs to be running iOS 12.1.1 or later. And if you want to have plans from two different carriers, your phone must be unlocked. Otherwise, both your SIMs will have to be from the same carrier.
  • First, you will need to purchase a new eSIM account from your carrier. Once you have purchased the eSIM plan, you will want to set up your phone for dual SIMs.
  • Note that while both phone numbers can be active at the same time (so you can be on a call with one and get a call from the other), you can only use one data plan at a time.
  • Assuming you are eligible, you will then get a series of screens that will lead you through the process of activating your new service, including selecting a phone number. Once that is done, you will get an email with a QR code. On your iPhone, go to Settings, Cellular, and Add Cellular Plan, and then scan the QR code from the email so you can do the final account setup.