January 19, 2019
Best of Tech Talk Edition
- Segments taken from previous shows.
Email and Forum Questions
- Email from Al in Waldorf: Hello Doc & Jim, Long time listener in Waldorf, Maryland. I have heard your concerns about public Wi-Fi without using a VPN. As a former Intel person, I always think security and avoid putting anything personal on the air. Even at home, all my computer stuff is hard wired. My question is about the security of computers in hotel business centers. I travel a few times a year, do not have a smartphone and would like to check E-Mail to avoid returning home to hundreds of days-old E-Mails. I worry about the security (or lack thereof) of these hotel computers and putting the password to my E-Mail account into such a computer. The computers are cable connected, not on Wi-Fi, but I have no idea what security software may be present. They would seem to be an easy target for hackers as full access to the hardware is readily available. The hotel people know nothing about the on-site computers. Any thoughts? Might it be possible to detect if malware or a keylogger might be installed? Thanks again for your interesting show. Al in Waldorf
- Tech Talk Responds: Business center computers are risky. You can never tell if malware or keyloggers are been installed. Some hotels have created a secure system that resets that computer after reboot, so that no malware or keyloggers can be installed. However, you can never be assured that this is the case. For instance, we have Stratford employee who logged into a business center computer to check Stratford email. Within 12 hours, her Stratford account had been hacked and spam email sent. My advice is to avoid these computers. The Secret Service noted that the attacks, while not sophisticated, allowed the criminals to “access a physical system, stealing sensitive data from hotels and subsequently their guest’s information.” The Secret Service, in collaboration with the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center notified the hospitality industry of the threat to business center computers through a non-public advisory.
- Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to detect whether a computer is secure or infected with malware. If you’re on the road and need to print something from your email account, create a free, throwaway email address and use your mobile device to forward the email or file to that throwaway address, and then access the throwaway address from the public computer.” Two factor authentication and unique passwords across all of your accounts can help protect you, but most people don’t take the time to establish such simple countermeasures.
- Email from Dave in Everett, WA: Hello Dr Shurtz and Jim, Help! Now that it is so easy to take digital photos, I find myself overwhelmed by my photos! In fear of losing some “precious moment”, I have backups to my backups. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, an external hard drive and a backup program called “IDrive” all seem to be collecting photos at a feverish rate… duplicates of photos everywhere! Several of these are done seemingly automatically. Do you know of a program that will collect all my photos, put them in some sort of order, and delete the duplicates? I would like to have one easy to use and reliable backup for all my photos. Help! Dave in Everett, WA
- Tech Talk Responds: You need to use photo-organizing software that can locate duplicates and sort photos using different criteria (date, location, face recognition, etc.). You will have to consolidate all your pictures into one locations, with a cloud backup. I have my pictures on my laptop with a cloud backup. Occasionally I back up everything to an external hard drive for extra security.
- I personally loved using Picasas. That had been by free photo manager of choice for years and then Google bought them. The recently discontinued Picasa and transferred all the photos to Google Photo, which is a pretty good service. It includes free cloud storage if you limit each picture to 16MB. Paid storage is required for larger photos. Use Duplicate Sweeper to find and remove duplicate pictures stored in your Google Photos storage. First of all, please ensure that your computer is synced with your Google Drive account. Download and install the Google Drive ‘Backup and Sync’
- I checked the reviews from many photo professionals and they preferred a program ACDSee. It is not free, but got great reviews from the pros. ACDSee has been around since the very earliest days of digital imaging on home computers. ACDSee Photo Studio is available in a number of editions, but the Standard edition is almost exclusively a photo manager. It is available for all versions of Windows for $89.99, but it is currently on semi-permanent sale for $39.99. There is also an unrestricted 30-day free trial available, but it does require the creation of an account in order to complete the launch process the first time you run it. ACDSee Photo Studio Professional Edition is $99 with professional photo editing in addition to photo organization. It also got great reviews, with it automatic photo editing features. There is a Mac version of ACDSee available, and while it doesn’t work exactly the same way, my research indicates that it’s just as capable as the Windows version. You can use the Duplicate Finder plug-in to search for duplicate files on your hard drive. Once you locate any duplicates, you can rename or delete them.
- Email from Jean: Greetings Gentlemen, Thank you for all the interesting information you dispense with your own brand of humor. I have many VHS tapes that I made through the years that I want to save using my Windows PC. Have done this in the past transferring to DVD but I would like to be more forward looking and transfer them to a USB. I did look up the process on line but I would like to do this with the best of possible results and I do not know the best way. Would appreciate some clarification. Some of these tapes are of great sentimental value. Thanks, Jean
- Tech Talk Responds: I makes sense to convert all of those old analog VHS tapes to a digital format. The best file formats to store video in are: .MPG, .MOV or .MP4. You should then permanently store the files to two locations that are separated. I would suggest an external USB hard drive and the cloud. Cloud options include: Dropbox, Apple Microsoft OneDrive, iDrive, Google Drive, or Amazon Drive (free with Prime). I would not suggest using a USB storage device to permanent storage. You can use a USB device to transport and share with others, but do not count it as one of the two permanent storage locations. USB drives are too easily corrupted. Actually, cloud sharing is the most convenient method for me.
- The first thing you will need to do is get that old VHS player out of storage. If you got rid of it, you can purchase one from your local consignment store or online (a used one on eBay goes for about $30). You will need an analog converter for your PC. I like Diamond the VC500 USB 2.0 One Touch. It is available from Amazon for $33.99. Its software will also burn the digital files to a DVD, if you wish.
- You can even combine all your footage into a home movie using a basic editing program like iMovie (for Mac), MovieMaker (for Windows) or the software that came with your converter.
- Email from Carletta in Pittsburgh, PA: Dear Tech Talk. I just got a new laptop and discovered that it does not have a DVD player. I have many pictures stored on DVD and also like to watch DVD movies on my laptop. What are my options? Carletta in Pittsburgh, PA
- Tech Talk Responds: Use can use an inexpensive USB Portable DVD writer/player. I have been using a Samsung DVD for years and it has worked perfectly. I have used the same device for multiple Windows laptops and it keeps on working. You can get the Samsung USB 2.0 Ultra-Portable DVD Writer on Amazon for $49. Not having the DVD in the laptop reduces it weight and size. Having an external one for use at home is the best option for most users.
- Email from Valerie in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I am planning a trip with long rides on the airplane. The entertainment available will be sketchy because I am using budget carriers. I watch both Netflix and Amazon Prime movies at home and would like to take some of my favorite series with me. Can I do that? How big are the dowloands? Love the show. Valerie in Fairfax
- Tech Talk Responds: Taking your own entertainment is becoming a must as many carriers scale back their offerings. Netflix and Amazon have all made it possible for you to watch your favorite TV shows and movies offline. BTW, HBO and Showtime also permit downloads. The size of the movie depends on the movie and how well it compresses. For a 90 min movie you’d be looking at 1-1.5GB for SD, and 3-4GB for 720p HD, more for 1080p HD. So will will need extra memory space on your device prior to download.
- Netflix Offline —Netflix made it possible to download content for offline use in November 2016. Unfortunately, only some movies and shows are available for download. The feature is available through the Netflix app on Apple devices with iOS 9 or later, Android devices running the 4.4.2 update or later, and computers and tablets running Windows 10.
- On the Netflix app, open the menu on the home screen (the three lines on the top left) and select “Available for Download.” Here, you’ll find all the content you can watch offline. On the other hand, you can also simply search for what you want to watch, and content available for download will have a downwards arrow next to it.
- Amazon Prime Offline – Amazon has offered offline streaming since 2015. Amazon was actually way ahead of Netflix — the site has offered offline streaming since 2015. Amazon Prime members need to download the Amazon Video app, which is available on iOS and Android phones and tablets. A downward arrow icon appears next to movies and TV episodes available for download. However, unlike Netflix, the app does not offer a way to only view those titles that can be watched offline. Amazon says on its site there is a “maximum amount of Prime titles” that can be downloaded across all devices on an account, but it doesn’t specify how many.
- Email from Bob in Maryland: Just a note to let you know I still listen to Tech Talk every week religiously. And that even includes the times when I am up in Canada (since I am a Canadian down here with you yanks). I love the show and recommend it to all my friends. Bob in Maryland
- Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the feedback. It is a joy to have listeners like you.
- Email from Raymond in Virginia Beach: Dear Tech Talk. Can vendors track when I have opened their emails. I don’t like to be tracked and want to avoid it. Can they track me and, if so, how can I stop it. Love the show. Raymond in Virginia Beach
- Tech Talk Responds: Practically every email message you receive from a company has a tracker in it. The sender gets a ping when you open the message. In theory, email is a very simple medium. Emails can contain HTML code, like on web pages. They can also load images, which is how the tracking works.
- Companies that send email newsletters and other automated emails almost always include a special tracking image. This is a tiny invisible image file that’s only a single pixel in size, also known as a 1×1 image. Each person who receives a copy of the email newsletter has a unique tracking image address in it.
- If the recipient is using an email client that’s set not to load images, the tracker won’t load, and you’ll have no way of knowing if that person looked at the email. This is also true if the recipient is using software that blocks these tracking images.
Profiles in IT: Vilhelm Friman Koren Bjerknes
- Vilhelm Bjerknes was a Norwegian physicist and meteorologist who did much to found the modern practice of weather forecasting.
- Vilhelm Bjerknes was born March 14, 1862 in Christiania, Norway.
- Bjerknes enjoyed an early exposure to fluid dynamics, as assistant to his father, Carl Anton Bjerknes, who had discovered by mathematical analysis of actions between pulsating and oscillating bodies in a fluid.
- Vilhelm Bjerknes became assistant to Heinrich Hertz in Bonn and made substantial contributions to Hertz’ work on electromagnetic resonance.
- He proved experimentally the influence which the conductivity and the magnetic properties of the metallic conductors exert upon the electric oscillations, and measured the depth to which the electric oscillations penetrate metals (skin effect).
- In 1895 he furnished a complete theory of electric resonance. These methods contributed much to the development of wireless telegraphy.
- In 1895, he became professor of applied mechanics and mathematical physics at the University of Stockholm.
- He elucidated the fundamental interaction between fluid dynamics and thermodynamics, with his major contribution being equations used in climate models.
- His work that inspired others to apply it to large-scale motions in the oceans and atmosphere and to make modern weather forecasting feasible.
- Bjerknes himself had foreseen the possible applications as early as 1904. His work was supported by the Carnegie Institution, of which he became a research associate.
- Statics and Kinematicsand Dynamic Meteorology and Hydrography, were published in 1913. These formed the basis of modern weather prediction.
- In 1906, Bjerknes was the first to describe and mathematically derive translational forces on bubbles in an acoustic field, now known as Bjerknes forces.
- In 1907, Bjerknes returned to the Royal Frederick University in Oslo before becoming professor of geophysics at the University of Leipzig in 1912.
- In 1917, he founded the Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen where he wrote his book On the Dynamics of the Circular Vortex with Applications to the Atmosphere and to Atmospheric Vortex and Wave Motion (1921), and laid the foundation for the Bergen School of Meteorology.
- He was the originator there of an improved and more scientific weather service, afterwards controlled by his son and collaborator, the meteorologist Jacob Bjerknes,
- From 1926 to his retirement in 1932 he held a position at the University of Oslo.
- He was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1905 and of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1936 and a Fellow of the Royal Society.
- He died in Oslo on April 9, 1951, of heart congestive heart failure.
- The craters Bjerknes on the Moon and Bjerknes on Mars are named in his honor.
Word of the Week: Doxing
- Doxing (from dox, abbreviation of documents]) or doxing is the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting private or identifiable information (especially personally identifiable information) about an individual or organization.
- The methods employed to acquire this information include searching publicly available databases and social media websites (like Facebook), hacking, and social engineering. It is closely related to Internet vigilantism and hacktivism.
- Doxing may be carried out for various reasons, including to aid law enforcement, business analysis, risk analytics, extortion, coercion, inflict harm, harassment, online shaming, and vigilante justice.
Streaming Deal of the Week: Spotify with Hulu and Showtime
- Students Can Get Spotify Premium, Hulu, and Showtime in $5 a Month Bundle
- US students can get Spotify Premium for $5 a month, with Hulu and Showtime thrown in.
- Spotify Premium alone usually costs $10 a month, so this is already a good deal. Access to Hulu Limited Commercials normally costs $8 a month, and Showtime normally costs $11 a month. The first three months only cost $1 a month. The deal expires October 9,
- Why do they offer this deal? These companies want college students to get into the habit of paying for subscriptions, and hope that a low deal will be enough to get the ball rolling. It is probably smart, considering how rampant piracy tends to be on college campuses.
People Named Wiener or Butts Have Trouble Creating Accounts Online
- What if your real name contains an obsene words? Natalie Weiner, a writer for SB Nation, was recently filtered by just such a system. She talked about on her blog.
- Soon, Weiner’s mentions were filled with hundreds of comments from people who sympathized with her plight. “I get this a lot, surprisingly,” said Kyle Medick. James Butts “knows these problems” and Matt Cummings has “been there.” Arun Dikshit said algorithmic bias has become almost a daily occurrence. “At one of my jobs, IT had to create a rule on email server to stop my emails from being rejected as porn spam,” said Clark Aycock.
- These sites are just trying to prevent certain words in fake names from becoming common on the site, but the automated measures end up making life harder for innocent people. It’s a problem.
- This has to be frustrating for people. My last name, Pot, has triggered jokes from near strangers my entire life. This is annoying enough, so I can only imagine how bad it must be when the machines are adding to it by refusing to accept your actual name.
- For these unfortunate few, they have to reach a person who will allow their account to be created, once they verify that it not fake.
Japan to test mini ‘space elevator’
- A Japanese team working to develop a “space elevator” will conduct a first trial this month, blasting off a miniature version on satellites to test the technology.
- The test equipment, produced by researchers at Shizuoka University, will hitch a ride on an H-2B rocket being launched by Japan’s space agency from southern island of Tanegashima next week.
- The test involves a miniature elevator stand-in—a box just six centimetres (2.4 inches) long, three centimetres wide, and three centimetres high.
- If all goes well, it will provide proof of concept by moving along a 10-metre cable suspended in space between two mini satellites that will keep it taut.
- The mini-elevator will travel along the cable from a container in one of the satellites.
- “It’s going to be the world’s first experiment to test elevator movement in space,” a university spokesman told AFP on Tuesday.
- The movement of the motorised “elevator” box will be monitored with cameras in the satellites.
- The space elevator idea was first proposed in 1895 by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky after he saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and was revisited nearly a century later in a novel by Arthur C. Clarke.
- Japanese construction firm Obayashi, which is collaborating with the Shizuoka university project, is also exploring other ways to build its own space elevator to put tourists in space in 2050.
- The company has said it could use carbon nanotube technology, which is more than 20 times stronger than steel, to build a lift shaft 96,000 kilometers (roughly 60,000 miles) above the Earth.
Should You Buy or Upgrade to the Apple Watch Series 4?
- The Series 4 marks the biggest update the Watch line since it was initially introduced back in 2015.
- It features a bigger design with a larger screen, more biometric sensors than ever, and some serious health benefits.
- Like previous models, the Series 4 comes in two sizes: 40mm and 44mm. This is slightly larger than the 38mm and 42mm sizes of the previous gen Watches.
- It also features an improved heart rate sensor that is capable of generating an electrocardiogram. The improved heart rate sensor can also detect irregular heart rhythms and abnormally high or low heart rates.
- It also features fall detection with emergency notifications, and will even automatically generate a notification should it detect non-movement for a minute following a detected fall.
- The GPS-only model is $399 (up from $329 of past models) with the LTE-connected model coming in at $499 (up from $399) for the 40mm model. Add $30 for the 44mm version.
- The Series 3 is a fantastic watch. If you already have one, then you indeed have a great smartwatch. The biggest benefits of moving to the Series 4 is the improved heart rate tracking. Upgrading is not worth the money.
- The Series 3 is now cheaper, down to $279 for the GPS-only model and $379 for the LTE model.
- If your current Watch is a couple of years old or older, an upgrade makes sense.
- If you don’t already have a smartwatch but want one, you could get either the Series 3 or Series 4 depending on your price point.
Idea of the Week: Teach Coding Like a Foreign Language
- Mike Kanaan had a great idea: to treat computer coding skills like the service does any other mission-critical foreign language.
- The Air Force prides itself on its global reach, and so the service fosters and rewards foreign language skills.
- The Air Force measures linguistic aptitude with tests to determine an airmen’s existing fluency, or his or her capacity to learn another language.
- Those who pass are open to duty assignments that require another language.
- The languages of computers themselves are as critically significant to the needs to the DoD as much as any of these traditionally viewed, non-native languages.
- Python, Java C++ all have their unique vocabulary, and sets of grammatical and construct rules, just like any other language.
- Kanaan says these computer language skills are vital for weathering the current sea change in battlefield analytics, big data, and artificial intelligence.