Show of 01-12-2019

Tech Talk

January 12, 2019

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from John in Washington DC: Dear Doc and Jim. I have been told that microwave ovens will interfere with my Wi-Fi router. If that is true, they must use the same frequency. Why in the world would anyone design these systems to use the same frequency? Seems like a bad idea. If I have interference, what are my options? Love the show. John in Washington DC.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Wi-Fi and Microwaves both operate on a similar frequency, which can lead to interference. In 1947 the International Telecommunication Union established the ISM bands, short for Industrial, Scientific, and Medical. The goal was to define what devices would be allowed to run at certain bands of radio frequency so that they would not cause interference with other radio communication services.
  • The ITM designated the 2.4 GHz band as an unlicensed spectrum specifically for microwave ovens. This band has three compelling properties: It does not require much power to broadcast, it is easy to contain, and at relatively lower power, it can heat food.
  • As the ISM name suggests, the original intention was for use only in devices that did not provide communication. In the years since the prospect of an unlicensed spectrum has been used outside the original purpose, such as cordless phones, walkie-talkies, and more recently Wi-Fi. The 2.4 GHz band was ideal with its low cost to implement, lower power needs, and decent distance capabilities.
  • Anything that runs on the ISM bands is supposed to be designed for intolerances to avoid interference, and Wi-Fi devices do have algorithms expressly for that purpose. However, a microwave is powerful enough to overwhelm any nearby Wi-Fi signals.
  • Microwaves have shielding to prevent this, but they are not a perfect Faraday cage. The very nature of a mesh window on the door prevents that. It is not uncommon to have some leakage from a microwave. Microwaves use more power than a Wi-Fi router; typically they generate 1000 watts of power. Conversely, a standard Wi-Fi router generates about 100 milliwatts (or 0.1 watts) of power.
  • If you do see interference issues, you do not need to replace the microwave; most likely the leak is tiny and not harmful. Instead of replacing the microwave you could move it. Alternatively, buy a new Wi-Fi router that operates on the 5 GHz band. You will not only avoid interference from the microwave, but you will also prevent interference from your neighbors.
  • Email from Dennis in Arkansas: Dear Tech Talk. What are some tools for coding collaboration? I heard that MS just purchase Github. What do you think of that option? Dennis in Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: Good news about Github. Microsoft announced a change in GitHub pricing. In the past, GitHub charged $7 a month for a private repository. But now those are free if you have three collaborators or fewer.
  • GitHub has always had a free tier, but in the past, that free tier was limited to public repositories. If you were an aspiring coder who wanted to delve into source control, the best affordable option was to make your code public. That is not always appealing, especially in the early stages of learning when your code might be something of which you are less than proud. Even after landing your first developer job, when it comes time to move on or work on a side project, you might not want to have your work out in the open for your current employer to see.
  • For an employed developer, this was not a difficult problem. GitHub charged $7 a month for private repositories. While that cost does add up over the year, it is not too challenging to put together $7 a month if you have a job. For students, who might not have the time or capability to work while learning, that fee can be harder to put together. The cost might have prevented students from using a resource that could not only give them more experience with source control but also give them a valuable place to store their work for future job prospects.
  • Microsoft is simplifying GitHub’s business options as well. Instead of offering GitHub Enterprise Cloud and GitHub Enterprise Service as separate services, Microsoft is rolling them into one: GitHub Enterprise. AND the new free tier for private repositories will be a boon to students and small developers alike.
  • Email from Jessica in Ashburn, Virginia: Dear Doc and Jim. I am going on a backpacking hike and will be off the grid for about a week. I would like to find a way to keep my cell phone fully charged while I am gone. What is my best option? Jessica in Ashburn, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: I would recommend the Feelle 24,000mAh Dual USB Solar Battery Pack, which cost $43 on Amazon. Most solar battery packs take about a week in the sun to get a full charge. They are fine for a weeklong camping trip, but they will not take you off the grid, and they will not power multiple devices for very long. Adding more panels is the obvious solution to this problem.
  • The Feelle is a solar battery pack that has three solar panels instead of one. It can achieve a full charge after about 35 to 40 hours in the sun, which is much faster than most solar battery packs. The Feelle has a large capacity of 24,000mAh so you could realistically use this power pack to keep your phone, laptop, and a few other devices charged, without ever plugging into an outlet.
  • This power pack comes in a nice leather case. It has two USB-A inputs, but neither of them are Quick Charge compatible. I hope that you enjoy the outdoors so much that you do not care how quickly your phone charges.
  • Email from Wendy in Fairfax, VA: Dear Doc and Jim. I have heard that you periodically have to reinstall Windows to keep it running smoothly. Is that true? It seems that such bad software design. Enjoy the show live on Saturdays. Wendy in Fairfax.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The main reason people reinstall Windows is that it slows down over time. But why do Windows systems slow down over time?
    • Startup Programs: Examine a Windows system that is slowed down and you will likely to find many additional startup programs have been installed.
    • Explorer Plug-ins, Services, and More: Applications that add shortcuts to Windows Explorer’s context menu can make right-clicking on files take much longer if they’re poorly programmed.
    • Heavy Security Suites: Security suites like Norton are often use many resources to perform all their functions. You do not need a full security suite—just an antivirus program.
    • PC Cleaning Tools: PC cleaning tools are generally scams. They can make your computer even slower if they add themselves as a startup program and run in the background.
    • Other Junk: Poorly written applications may clutter your system with useless DLL files and fill your registry with unnecessary entries.
    • Browser Toolbars: Legitimate browser extensions can slow down your browser, but junk add-ons like the terrible Ask.com toolbar is the worst.
  • In other words, the leading cause of a Windows system slowing down over time is installing junk software. To keep your Windows system running like new, you need to take proper care of it.
    • Install only software you will use. Choose well-written, lightweight programs.
    • Pay attention when installing software and avoid installing browser toolbars, spyware, and other garbage software that can slow down your computer.
    • Regularly uninstall software you don’t use from the Control Panel.
    • Occasionally use tools like Disk Cleanup to remove the temporary files wasting space on your hard drive.
    • Take proper care of your web browser, too. Use a minimal selection of browser extensions
  • All you need to install on Windows now is an antivirus app and possibly an anti-exploit app. With Windows 10, the built-in Windows Defender plus an anti-exploit app like Malwarebytes makes a great combination.
  • Use a startup manager tool like the one built into Windows 10 to prune useless programs from your startup process.

Profiles in IT: James Whelton

  • James Whelton is best known as founder and CEO of CoderDojo, which is designed to open the world of coding to more young people in a simple and viral way.
  • James Whelton was born August 31, 1992 in Cork, Ireland.
  • From 2005 to 2011, he attended high school at Presentation Brothers College, where he founded the Computer Club and was Vice Chair of the Debating Society.
  • As a young child, he figured out how to make computer animation and spent his days taking apart electronics to see how they worked.
  • At age 9, he saved his pocket money for a month to buy a book on HTML, teaching himself how to code so that he could make a website for his animations.
  • James made various gadgets throughout his childhood such as a toaster wired to a computer and a proximity kettle that boiled more or less based on your distance to it.
  • In his first year in high, he tried to start a computer club, but the school refused. He ended up meeting in another location weekly, teaching student coding skills.
  • When 16, he built a website for sharing CAT scans to US doctors, to help a friend.
  • During his senior year, he hacked an iPod Nano, gaining international notoriety.
  • In his last year, he founded a sanctioned coding club, starting with 40 students.
  • After graduating, he founded and ran a digital company, Disruptive Development.
  • In 2011, he then founded CoderDojo, a not for profit volunteer organization, setting up youth computer clubs across Ireland and the World.
  • A dōjō is a space for immersive learning, which is “place of the Way” in Japanese.
  • He turned down investments in Disruptive Development to focus on CoderDojo.
  • In 2012, he was elected to an Ashoka Fellow for social entrepreneurship .
  • In 2012, was hired by Resolute Venture Capital as Hacker in residence.
  • In 2013, he founded the CoderDojo Foundation to assist with scaling and developing CoderDojo. After a year, he hired an experience CEO to scale it.
  • In 2013, he became a Director of Inspire Ireland
  • In 2013, he became Advisor to WhatSalon, on technology, development, and product.
  • In 2013, he was hired as Dublin City University, Social Entrepreneur in Residence.
  • In 2014, he was hired by Polaris Partners as Entrepreneur out of Residence.
  • In 2014, he was hired as CTO by Cobone, which is UAEs biggest deal site,
  • In 2016, he became Managing Director of AYM Commerce, an investment holding company specializing in digital technologies in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Initially serving as Chief Technology Officer at AYM’s inception, then transitioning to Managing Director once key project Danube Online was launched
  • In 2016, he served as Advisor to Talkcircle, helping with development strategy.
  • As of 2018, it was in 90+ countries with 1800 clubs, reaching 150,000 young people.
  • In 2018, CoderDojo merged with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The merger of is expected to expand to over 5,000 Dojos by 2020.

Surprise David Burd Visit

  • David was co-host on the original Tech Talk twenty years ago
  • We reminisce about the last 20 years
  • It has been fun and hopefully informative

Microsoft Wants to Kill Passwords

  • The next version of Windows 10 will support passwordless Microsoft accounts.
  • Microsoft will just text a code to your phone number when you sign in. It is all part of Microsoft’s stated goal: “a world without passwords.”
  • This feature is available now in Insider build 18309. It will be stable and available to everyone in the next version of Windows 10, codenamed 19H1 and available sometime around April 2019.
  • Passwordless logins debuted for Windows 10 Home back in Insider build 18305, but are now available on all editions of Windows.
  • Here’s how it works: You can now create a Microsoft account without a password. Instead, you just provide your phone number. When you sign into Windows 10 with that phone number, Microsoft will text you a code that you enter on the sign-in screen.
  • After that, you can use Windows Hello to set up a PIN, fingerprint, or face login method.
  • You never have to type a password—your account doesn’t even have one!
  • And you don’t have to enter a code sent via text every time you sign in, either. You only have to receive a code on your phone when you sign in on a new PC.

How to Fund Roads to Ensure EV’s Pay

  • Since electric vehicles use no gasoline, their drivers pay no gasoline tax.
  • As more people drive EVs, gas-tax revenue for road repairs is dwindling.
  • How can California and the rest of the country avoid road-funding shortfalls and ensure that EV drivers pay their share of needed repairs?
  • A research report submitted to the California Legislature proposed that EVs pay a mileage fee while continuing to have gasoline-powered cars pay gasoline taxes.
  • Many states, including California, have opted for the easy way out—charging an extra registration fee for electric vehicles, but that is not a sustainable or effective.
  • The report concluded that a mileage-based user charge would be the easiest and least costly way of addressing the long-term decline of gas taxes.

Five Biggest Tech Trends at CES 2019

  • The Consumer Electronics Show 2019 is over and a number of technology trends became clear.
  • Virtual Assistants Everywhere — Companies are now putting Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and Bixby in everything from beds to toilets. 2019 is shaping up to be the year that virtual assistants are literally everywhere in the home.
  • Gaming Laptops — A number of factors have converged this year including more efficient mobile processors and GPUs, the popularity of PC gaming and a year in which PC sales paused a long slide, led by laptops. As a result, laptops, especially gaming laptops, were out in full force.
  • 8K TV Is Coming — There were plenty of high tech TV prototypes on display, from flat screens that roll up for storage to wall-sized sets, but 8K is the trend that manufacturers are betting on as being the next big commercial success. The big question is, where is the 8K content going to come from?
  • Apple on Television – Apple is taking the unprecedented step of opening up its iTunes movie and TV show store to Samsung TVs, no Apple TV streaming box required. Apple also announced its AirPlay 2 streaming is being adopted by TV makers including Vizio, Samsung, LG and Sony.
  • 5G Hype — 5G is the next generation cellular network that promises speeds 20 times that of 4G LTE. Wireless providers are also looking at it as a potential disrupter that could let them replace broadband internet access for homes. However, cellular networks that can take full advantage of 5G are very expensive, and rollout is progressing slowly. Carriers must install far more towers than LTE requires, and additional wireless spectrum must be purchased.

The Biggest Change at CES 2019

  • The most surprising thing has been all the sharing among competitors.
  • For at least the past decade, most products came with a very special walled garden.
  • In simple terms, that meant joining an ecosystem.
  • Buy this device and lock yourself in to Google’s Android or Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s iOS.
  • This is beginning to change and the consumer is the benefacors.
  • At this year’s CES, every company’s ecosystem is now also appearing on every other company’s products.
  • The barriers that once separated products into little vertical silos appear to be crumbling.
  • Products that used to only have one ecosystem now have many. Samsung is including not only its own Bixby assistant on its TVs, but also Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.
  • Sony’s TVs, which run on Android TV, will also support Apple’s AirPlay standards for connecting sets to mobile devices.
  • In the early stages of the digital revolution, there was a logic behind lock-in:
  • When markets start to mature, however, growth slows because the audience hits its limit.
  • When that happens, you no longer want your customers to be restricted in which device they buy; instead, you want them to have access to your services on as many products as possible.
  • The revenue model starts to shift more toward content and services that customers pay for on an ongoing basis.