Show of 05-25-2019

Tech Talk
May 25, 2019

 

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments taken from previous shows.

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email and Forum Questions Email from Tom Schum: Dear Doc and Jim. You explained inertial propulsion incorrectly. It is more like a bicycle that works in space. It is not anything like perpetual motion. You have to pedal the bicycle to get anywhere. Tom Schum
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the feedback. They are based on asymmetric spinning wheels, where the motion is rectified; much like AC current can be rectified into DC current. The theory is that such rectification produces a thrust in one direction. Sceptics believe this violates Newton’s Third Law of Motion (for every action, there is equal and opposite reaction). Some suggest that this laws needs revision.
  • Email from Sharon in Richmond: Dear Doc and Jim. I was curious about the Windows 10 operating system. What is the difference between Windows and Windows Server? They look the same to me. Love the show. Sharon in Richmond.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Microsoft offers desktop and server versions of Windows. At first glance Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 look similar, but each has different uses. Windows 10 excels at everyday use, while Windows Server manages many computers, files, and services.
  • If you load up a clean copy of Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016, it would be easy to confuse the two at first. They can have the same desktop, same start button, and even the same task view button. They use the same kernel and can feasibly run the same software.
  • But the similarities stop there. Microsoft designed Windows 10 for use as a desktop you sit in front of, and Windows Server as a server that runs services people access across a network.
  • While Windows Server does have a desktop option, Microsoft recommends installing Windows Server without a Graphical User Interface (or removing it), leaving just a command line to work which reduces the overhead needed to run the server.
  • If you have the GUI enabled, moments after Windows Server loads, a Server Manager program launches. Here you can add on server-specific features like Windows Deployment services, DHCP services, and Active Directory Domain Services. These features allow deployment of an OS remotely to other machines, the creation of static IP address for client machines, control of a network domain for joining other computers to a domain, and creating domain users.
  • Features like these aren’t available for Windows 10 natively, although you could install third-party software like the Apache web server.
  • Windows Server supports features like SMB (Server Message Block) Direct for faster file sharing, greater support for Resilient File System, the only way to get similar features without Server is to use Windows 10 Pro for Workstations.
  • Windows Server also supports more powerful hardware. While Windows 10 Pro has a max limit of 2 TB of RAM, Windows Server allows for 24 TB.
  • A desktop user is unlikely even to consider such a large amount of RAM, but servers can make good use of their greater RAM capacity, between managing many users, computers, and potential VMs through Hyper-V.
  • Email from Lois in Kansas: I am thinking of getting an inkjet printer to print pictures that I take with my cell phone. I was wondering whether printing pictures myself is cheaper than printing through a service. What is your opinion? Lois in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: For the sake of convenience, we’re only going to look at the cost of 4×6 prints. Shutterfly, one of the most popular photo printing services, charges $0.12 for every 4×6 print. Not bad, but Amazon, Snapfish, and Walmart will print your 4×6 photos for $0.09 each.
  • Now we need to compare those prices to an at-home photo printing setup. We need a solid inkjet printer, some 4×6 photo paper, and some ink. The Canon Pixma IP8720 is one of the most popular at-home inkjet photo printers. It produces pictures with a 9600 color DPI, and only costs $180. That set of ink cartridges will cost $55. Canon claims that these ink cartridges will yield up to 780 photos (questionable), which means that, at best, we’re paying $0.07 in ink for every 4×6 print. A 400 pack of CanonInk’s of 4×6 glossy photo paper for $20—that’s $0.05 per sheet. So in addition to the $180 printer cost, you are paying $0.12 for every 4×6 photo.
  • Of course, this math is idealistic. If you e only use our $75 of paper and ink to produce 20 photos, then we’re dropping $3.75 per photo, not $0.12.
  • The only real downside to online photo printing is the wait time. Shipping can take a couple of days, although some services like Walmart allow you to pick photos up in-store a few hours after you submit your order.
  • Email from Dennis in Oklahoma: Dear Tech Talk. I just bought a new router and it support both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz bands. What is the best one to use? Love the show. Dennis in Oklahoma
  • Tech Talk Respons: Wi-Fi can run on two different “bands” of radio frequency: 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz. 5 GHz Wi-Fi went mainstream with 802.11n. 5 GHz Wi-Fi is newer, faster, and less congested, but it has a weakness. 2.4 GHz is better at covering large areas and penetrating through solid objects.
  • 5 GHz uses shorter radio waves, and that provides faster speeds. There’s also much less congestion with 5 GHz. That means a more solid, reliable wireless connection, especially in dense areas (like apartments) with a lot of networks and devices. Traaditional cordless telephones and wireless baby monitors also operate on 2.4 GHz, so they only interfere with 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi—not 5 GHz Wi-Fi.
  • Modern routers are generally “dual-band” routers and can simultaneously operate separate Wi-Fi networks on the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz frequencies. Some are “tri-band routers” that can provide a 2.4 GHz signal along with two separate 5 GHz signals for less congestion among Wi-Fi devices operating on 5 GHz.
  • Routers can be configured in one of two ways: They can hide the difference between the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks or expose it. It all depends on how you name the two separate Wi-Fi networks.
  • To choose between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, go into your router’s web interface and find the wireless network settings. Give the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz network separate SSIDs, or names. You can put “2.4 GHz” and “5 GHz” in the names to make it easier to remember. In addition, you can use the same wireless passphrase for each.
  • Email from Paula in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk. Can you suggest some low cost or free options to learn coding on my own. I love computers and think that I could learn a lot in my free time. Love the show. Paula in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: Learning how to code is no longer just for IT professionals and software engineers. Here are a few suggestions to learn coding with minimal cost.
  • TREEHOUSE —Students will be able to learn from more than 1,000 videos that have been created by experts on the topics of web design, coding, etc. Students practice what they have learned by taking quizzes and completing interactive code challenges. Users can choose the basic plan for $25 per month, or the pro plan for $49 per month.
  • KHAN_ACADEMY —This site offers education in the form of practice exercises, a personalized learning dashboard, and instructional videos. There are courses for beginners that don’t know where to start, all the way up to professionals that are just looking to sharpen their skills.
  • CODE SCHOOL —This is an interactive learning destination for those who are aspiring or experienced developers. Students can choose HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Ruby, Elixir, PHP, .NET, Python, iOS, Git, SQL, and even some electives. Students will have experienced and engaging instructors that take them through the material with high quality video lessons. Code will be practiced right in the browser through course challenges, and students will receive immediate feedback. Students can expect to pay monthly at $29 per month, or pay for a year at $228 one time.
  • EDX —This leading online learning platform is not for-profit; it is open source. It was founded in 2012 by MIT and Harvard. EdX has over 90 partners around the world. Open edX is the actual platform and is available for free.
  • COURSERA —Coursera has matured into a large for-profit educational and technological company that offers over 1,000 courses that come from 119 institutions. There are a number of introductory programming courses that are advanced courses available for a fee. The courses are normally priced from about $29 to $99.
  • UDACITY —The mission of UdaCity is to provide affordable, accessible, highly effective, and engaging higher education to the entire world. The nanodegree programs are put together with today’s leading companies. Students can learn the basis of Javascript for free, while the more intense courses have a nominal fee.
  • Email from Dennis in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk. I have been using the Dropbox free account for many years. The limit me to only three devices and 2GB. There must be better options out there for someone who does not want to pay.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You have some great cloud storage options
  • Google Drive –Google Drive is a great storage service. It offers 15 GB of free storage, although that’s shared with your Gmail account and can sync to an unlimited number of devices. Google’s Backup and Sync software even lets you easily back up and sync other folders on your computer outside the Google Drive folder. Google Drive is integrated with Google Docs so you can easily create and work with documents. Google provides mobile apps so you can access your files on Android, iPhone, and iPad. And you can access your files anywhere in a browser.
  • Microsoft OneDrive –Microsoft’s OneDrive service offers 5 GB of free storage. OneDrive is particularly convenient because it’s built right into Windows 10. It also uses a “Files On-Demand” system that will store your files in the cloud while showing them in File Explorer on your PC. They will be downloaded when you double-click them to open them. Microsoft also offers OneDrive clients for macOS, Android, iPhone, and iPad.
  • Apple iCloud Drive –Apple’s iCloud Drive offers 5 GB of storage for all your device backups, photos, and files and there are no device limits. While iCloud Drive is built into macOS, Apple also offers iCloud Drive for Windows.
  • Paid Options — Dropbox charges $99 per year for 1 TB of storage space. Google Drive charges $1.99 a month for 100 GB and $99.99 per year for 2 TB. Microsoft OneDrive charges $69.99 per year for Office 365 Personal, which gives you 1 TB of storage as well as Microsoft Office. Apple charges only $0.99 per month for 50 GB of storage, while $9.99 per month will get you 2 TB.
  • Email from Dan in Kansas: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a vintage whole-house audio system with powered with a 200W stereo amplifier. This system was installed before Wi-Fi or streaming music the net. I would like to use it it to stream Pandora music over the whole house. I am currently using several Amazon Echo’s for music. What is my best option for this? Dan in Pittsburg, Kansas.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Since you already have invested in Amazon Echo’s, I would suggest the Amazon solution for you. You have other wireless pre-amps from Yamaha and Sonos in about $350, but I would not recommend them for you.
  • Amazon Echo Link Preamp for $200 is your best option. If you have a solid Echo smarthome setup, then the Amazon Echo Link preamp may be the device for you. It’s basically a glorified Echo Input. The Echo Link can stream audio from voice commands, but you have to have an Alexa-Enabled device nearby because the Link doesn’t have a microphone.
  • You can wire audio sources (CD players, record players) through the Link. Pair the Link with a few Echo Inputs or Echo Dots, and bang, you can broadcast the audio from your record player around your house.
  • Email from Lois in Kansas: Dear Doc and Jim. Recently a friend of our died and his family had trouble taking control on his Facebook account. I don’t want that to happen to me. How can I specify what happens to my Facebook account if something happens to me? Love the show. Lois in Kansas.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Facebook gives you two options for such an eventuality. You can either choose to delete your account when you die, or have it memorialized.
  • Memorialized Account —When you memorialize your account, you leave someone you trust in charge of making sure that your account is curated after you’re gone. Memorializing an account allows friends and family to get together and share memories of you, and has some key features. You name will have the word “Remembering” placed next to it.
  • In order to set your account so that it can be memorialized after you pass, you need to appoint a legacy contact. This would be any friend or family member who you trust to tend to your wishes. To set a legacy contact, first open the Settings and click on “Security” then “Legacy Contact”. Now, you simply need to appoint a friend to serve as your legacy contact.
  • Your legacy contact won’t gain these new powers until after your account is officially memorialized, which someone must request for you after you have died. Facebook will require your name, the date you died, and optionally, some kind of proof such as link to obituary or a copy of your death certificate.
  • Deleted Account —The simpler option is to have your account deleted upon your demise. This isn’t the same as deactivating it. When deleted, everything goes away. To do this, open the Security settings, click on ” Contact” and this time click “Request account deletion”. After you have passed away, someone will need to notify Facebook, which they can do using a special request form. It’s best that you appoint someone, regardless of whether they’re your legacy contact, to take care of this matter. Be sure to communicate to them your wishes for how your Facebook account should be handled.
  • Email from Lynn in Orland: Dear Tech Talk. I frequently work from home and need to set up conference calls. I only have an iPhone at home. Is there any service that I can use for conference calls? Love the show. Lynn in Orlando.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Your iPhone allows you to call up to five people at once, making it easy to set up a quick conference call. The other people don’t need anything special, just any cellular or landline telephone.
  • Start your conference call by calling one of the participants normally from the Dialer app. You may want to tell the person that you’re going to add more people to the call. While in the call on your iPhone, tap the “Add Call” The first call will be placed on hold while you place the second call. Dial the second person’s number or choose it from your contacts.
  • After the second person answers the call, you’ll see the first call on hold and the second call active below it. If you have the names of the people in your contacts, their names will be displayed here. Otherwise, you’ll just see their phone numbers. Tap the “Merge Calls” button and you’ll now have a conference call involving you and the two people you called.
  • Repeat this process several more times if you want to add other callers. Just tap “Add Call”, dial the next person, and then tap” Calls” after they answer. You can call up to five people at once.
  • Email from Tung in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk, I have a new Mac computer. It uses a Bluetooth mouse. I can’t seem to connect my Bluetooth speaker at the same time. I am listening to some audio files that my sister sent me. Does Bluetooth allow two devices to be connected at the same time? Please help me. Love the show, Tung
  • Tech Talk Responds: A single Bluetooth device can communicate with up to eight different devices within about a 30-foot radius simultaneously. Bluetooth 4.0 randomly chooses from 40 frequencies 1,600 times every second to minimize interference among devices. You may be having trouble connecting with your Bluetooth speaker because it is already paired and connected with another device, like your iPhone or iPad. If that is the case, turn off Bluetooth in those devices so that only the Mac is discoverable. Press the button in the speaker to make it discoverable. Then try again. It should work because the technology supports it.

Profiles in IT: George Charles Devol, Jr

  • George Charles Devol Jr. was an American inventor known for developing Unimate, the first material handling robot employed in industrial production work.
  • George Devol was born February 20, 1912 in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • Devol was interested from boyhood in all things electrical and mechanical.
  • He attended Riordan Prep, in addition to studying traditional subjects, he helped construct some buildings and ran the school’s electric light plant.
  • Although he wasn’t very scholarly, he could figure out how things worked easily.
  • Graduating from high school in 1932, he started forming United Cinephone to record directly onto film for the new sound motion pictures (“talkies”).
  • After learning that others were working in the same area, he pivoted.
  • He invented the first photoelectric door, a bar code system for sorting packages at the Railway Express, the first optical registration control for color offset printing, and automated photoelectric people counters for the World’s Fair.
  • When World War II began, Devol United Cinephone so he could help with the war.
  • He was hired by Sperry to develop radar devices and microwave test equipment.
  • In 1943, he was hired by Auto Ordinance in to produce counter-radar devices. The company’s radar counter-measure systems were on allied planes on D-Day.
  • Devol was part of the team that developed the first commercial use of microwave ovens, the Speedy Weeny, which automatically cooked and dispensed hotdogs.
  • In 1946 he applied for a patent on a magnetic recording system for controlling machines and a digital playback device for machines,
  • In 1954, Devol applied and received the patent for Programmed Article Transfer that introduced the concept of Universal Automation or Unimation (termed Unimate).
  • Devol patented the device, without a single prior citation. He he teamed up with Joseph F. Engelberger, who convinced Consolidated Diesel Electronic to back development of the robot. This new division was called Unimation.
  • Unimation designed and machined practically every part in the first Unimates.
  • The first Unimate robot was installed at GM to lift hot pieces of metal from a die-
  • Approximately $5 million was spent to develop the first Unimate. In 1966, full-scale production began. The first production robot was a materials handling robot and was soon followed by robots for welding and other applications.
  • In 1975, Unimation showed its first profit. In 1978, the PUMA (Programmable Universal Machine for Assembly) robot was developed with support from GM.
  • Devol later obtained patents on visual and tactile sensors for robots, coaxial connectors, non-refillable containers, and magnetostrictive manipulators.
  • Elected to honorary member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (1985)
  • Devol was Inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2011 and is a member of the Automation Hall of Fame

IBM Used Flickr Photos for Facial Recognition Training

  • IBM took nearly a million photos from Flickr, used them to figure out how to train facial recognition programs, and shared them with outside researchers.
  • People photographed on Flickr didn’t consent to having their photos used to develop facial recognition systems.
  • While the photographers may have gotten permission to take pictures of these people, some told NBC that the people who were photographed didn’t know their images had been annotated with facial recognition notes and could be used to train algorithms.
  • The photos are part of a larger collection of 99.2 million photos, known as the YFCC100M, which former Flickr owner Yahoo originally put together to conduct research.
  • Each photographer originally shared their photos under a Creative Commons license, which is typically a signal that they can be freely used, with some limitations.
  • IBM noted that the dataset could only be accessed by verified researchers and only included images that were publicly available. It added that individuals can opt-out of this dataset.
  • IBM is only one of several companies exploring the field of facial recognition and it is not alone in using photos of regular people without expressly asking for their consent.
  • Facebook, for instance, has photos of 800,000 faces open for other researchers to download.

Boeing Will Update 737 Max Control Software

  • The Boeing 737 Max will receive updated flight-control software in the coming weeks.
  • The announcement comes nearly five months after the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 and two days after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Both involved effectively brand-new Boeing 737 Max 8 airliners.
  • For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX.
  • This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals, and crew training.
  • The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.”
  • The Chicago-based aviation giant said the update would be implemented across the 737 Max fleet within weeks.
  • The company has not indicated it will make physical changes to the aircraft, which has been in service since 2017.
  • At the heart of the controversy surrounding the 737 Max is MCAS, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System.
  • To fit the Max’s larger, more fuel-efficient engines, Boeing had to redesign the way it mounts engines on the 737. This change disrupted the plane’s center of gravity and caused the Max to have a tendency to tip its nose upward during flight, increasing the likelihood of a stall. MCAS is designed to automatically counteract that tendency and point the nose of the plane downward.
  • Initial reports from the Lion Air investigation, however, indicate that a faulty sensor reading may have triggered MCAS shortly after the flight took off. Observers fear that a similar thing may have happened in Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines flight.

Halo Drive: Lasers and Black Holes Could Launch Spaceships to Near Light Speed

  • A new study envisions firing laser beams that would curve around a black hole and come back with added energy to help propel a spacecraft to near the speed of light.
  • Study author David Kipping, an astrophysicist at Columbia University in New York, came up with the idea of the halo drive through what he calls “the gamer’s mindset.”
  • A key challenge to using rockets to fly through space is that the propellant they carry with them has mass. Long trips need a lot of propellant, which makes the rockets heavy, which in turn requires more propellant, making the rockets even heavier, and so on.
  • Spacecraft now regularly use “slingshot maneuvers,” in which the gravity of a body, such as a planet or moon, hurls the vessels across space and boosts their speed.
  • Kipping suggests that gravity might assist spaceships by increasing the energy of laser beams fired at the edges of black holes.
  • In 1993, physicist Mark Stuckey suggested that a black hole could, in principle, act like a “gravitational mirror,” in that the black hole’s gravity could slingshot a photon around so that it flew back at its source.
  • Kipping calculated that if a black hole was moving toward a photon’s source, the “boomerang photon” would siphon away some of the black hole’s energy.
  • Using what he called a “halo drive” — named for the ring of light it would create around a black hole.
  • The faster a black hole moves, the more energy a halo drive could draw from it.
  • His findings were based on boosts from pairs of black holes orbiting each other at relativistic speeds. He estimates that there are 10 million pairs of black holes in the Milky Way.
  • The halo drive works only in close proximity to a black hole, at a distance of about five to 50 times the black hole’s diameter.
  • The major drawback of a halo drive would be that one has to travel to the nearest black hole.

Good News: Quantum Computers May Not Break Encryption for Decades

  • A new paper by researchers from Kryptera says that it could take decades for quantum computers to break encryption.
  • The “Grover” algorithm could break an encryption key in quadratic time.
  • That means that a quantum computer could break a 128-bit symmetric encryption key in the time it takes classical computers to break a 64-bit symmetric encryption key (several hundred CPU cores could do it in a year).
  • According to the Kryptera, breaking AES-128 encryption should require a quantum computer with 2,953 logical qubits, while breaking AES-256 would need 6,681 qubits.
  • The “Shor” algorithm, which can break asymmetric encryption with twice as many qubits as the key size. For instance, breaking a 2048-bit RSA key would require a 4096-qubit quantum computer.
  • Neither Google nor IBM have built quantum computers with error-correcting logical qubits. When error correcting code is used in a quantum computer, many more physical qubits are needed to create a logical qubit.
  • According to the Kryptera paper, creating a universal quantum computer with 1,000 qubits would require millions of physical qubits.
  • Even if the number of qubits in a quantum computer could double every year, we’d still need to wait roughly two more decades before we get to the one million qubit mark.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has started a competition for quantum-resistant algorithms and has recently announced phase 2 of this competition. The agency has selected 26 of the initial 69 algorithms for phase two.
  • NIST is expected to select several of the candidates as the finalists.

Artificial Intelligence at the Fast Food Drive-Thru

  • Denver based fast food chain, Good Times, is now using an artificial intelligence voice assistant in place of cashiers in their drive-thru service.
  • The restaurant is using an artificial intelligence system created by the company Valyant AI to help the employees manage the restaurant more efficiently.
  • This trend will eliminate jobs and help make small business owners that own these restaurants more profitable.
  • The software is also used to increase the input and reduce mistakes commonly made by employees.