Show of 06-01-2019

Tech Talk

June 1, 2019

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email form Doug in Baton Rouge: Shurtz and Jim. I have a problem! I dropped my landline phone and went with AT&T’s VOIP and router. Now I cannot use my USB Zoom fax dongle on my computer to send faxes through my router. After contacting Zoom about the problem, they stated that my Zoom model 3095 was analog and not DIGITAL. And furthermore they stated that they do not manufacture digital faxes. Having a fax “machine” is handy for sending documents that need to remain confidential; unlike emails that are not secure. I would like to find an inexpensive digital fax “machine” like the Zoom fax dongle that can be used through my computer USB port again. But, I hear conflicting information that using a digital fax going through a router is chancy at best or may not be supported. What are my options? Great podcast and so enjoyable! Thanks, Doug / Baton Rouge, LA
  • Tech Talk Responds: There are not any good options to fax over Wi-Fi because all standard faxing standards are analog and require a landline. Your best option is to use an online faxing service. He are a couple of services. There are many more. Just seach for free online faxing service.
    • FaxZero (https://faxzero.com/). Send a fax for free anywhere in the US and Canada (or many international destinations). You can upload a document or PDF file or enter text to fax. The free service places an ad on the cover page and is limited to a maximum of 3 pages per fax, up to 5 free faxes per day. If you need to send more than 3 pages, you can send a fax of up to 25 pages with priority delivery and no ad on the cover page for $1.99.
    • GotFreeFax (https://www.gotfreefax.com/). If you’d rather not have an ad on the cover page, consider GotFreeFax, which uses no-ad free fax cover pages and also doesn’t add any GotFreeFax branding to your fax. You can send faxes online to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. You can send up to 3 pages per fax with 2 free faxes allowed per day. If you need to send more than 3 pages, GotFreeFax allows you to fax up to 10 pages for $0.98, 20 pages for $1.98, and 30 pages for $2.98.
  • Email form Susan in Alexandria: Good morning, Dr. Shurtz! In your show on April 27, 2019, Lien in Fairfax asked for advice about replacing an old Windows 7 computer. One option you mentioned was to “Simply stop using your computer and use a mobile device instead. These days more people access the Internet with a smartphone or tablet than with a traditional laptop or desktop computer. Then “Michael in Boston” said someone had hijacked his router.  Your advice was for him to connect the router to his computer with an Ethernet cable in order to setup stronger Wi-Fi security. So I am wondering:  How do you connect a smartphone or tablet to your router via an Ethernet cable?  Are there adapters to make the connection?  What’s involved? Thanks, Susan in Alexandria.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Many people want to connect an iPad to Ethernet. It can be done. You will need a Lightning to USB Adapter, USB Ethernet Adapter, a Powered USB Hub, and an Ethernet Cable
  • The reason you need a powered USB hub is because the USB Ethernet adapter requires more power than the Lightning to USB adapter cable can provide, so if you don’t have the powered USB hub, you end up getting a popup saying the device cannot power the adapter.
    • Disable WiFi on your iPad, as well as cellular data if it’s an LTE model.
    • Plug one end of the Ethernet cable into a free port on your router, and the other end into the Ethernet port on the USB Ethernet Adapter.
    • Connect the USB end of the adapter to any of the USB ports on the USB hub.
    • Connect a USB cable to the hub. Power the hub.
    • Connect the Lighting to USB Adapter to the other end of the USB cable.
    • Plug the Lightning end of the adapter into your iPad.
  • You might have to give your iPad a few seconds to recognize everything, but after that, you can launch Safari and begin surfing the web.
  • Email from Carl in Texas: Dear Doc and Jim. I own a small business with just a few employees. We share a common set of files that are stored in a shared folder on my Desktop PC, which mean I have to have my computer up and running 24/7. I’d love to go with a different setup, but I’d like to avoid having to buy and maintain a file server just to host a handful of Office documents. Can you tell me what my options are, and perhaps make a recommendation? Carl in Texas
  • Tech Talk Responds: A single NAS hard drive would be ideal for your situation. NAS stands for “Network Attached Storage”, and it allows everyone on a network to access the files stored on the drive(s) contained within the NAS enclosure. These devices are basically mini file servers that resemble common external hard drive enclosures (actually, that’s what they are). You simply connect the NAS device to your network, configure a few settings, and then get down to work!
  • NAS devices have several advantages over traditional file servers. They don’t require a keyboard, mouse or monitor since they can be administered from a remote PC, Mac or mobile device. They typically come with pre-installed software for backing up all the computers on the network.
  • You can buy NAS devices that will hold multiple hard drives, but given the size of your office staff and the small number of shared files, a device with two 8TB NAS hard drives should probably suffice. That will provide you with one drive for everyone to use to access the shared files and a second drive dedicated solely to storing backups. You can configure the drive in mirror mode so that you never lose data if one drive fails. I would augment the local back with cloud back like Carbonite.
  • A two-bay NAS example would be Synology 2 bay NAS DiskStation DS218, which is $298 on Amazon. You would still need to buy two hard drives. For instance, a Western Digital Red 4TB NAS Hard Disk Drive is $119 on Amazon.
  • Email from Alice in DC: Dear Doc and Jim. I have heard that anyone can clone your Facebook account and impersonate you. How can I prevent this from happening. Alice in DC
  • Tech Talk Responds: Account cloning, it’s where a scammer creates a completely new Facebook account in your name and populates it with photos and personal information they’ve copied from your real account. They then use the new fake account to send friend requests to all the people on your real account’s friends list. And since it appears to the friends receiving the friend requests that they were sent by you, some of them will accept it. This of course results in those friends now also being “friends” with the fake account that was created by the scammer. Scammers typically try to target accounts for cloning that have a fairly large number of friends.
  • Luckily, there’s one simple settings change that can make your account very unattractive to a potential scammer who might be interested in cloning it: Hide your friends list from the public. Setting the privacy of your friends list to “Only me” makes it an unattractive target for cloning because the scammers wouldn’t know who to send friend requests to from the cloned account. And if a scammer can’t add friends to a cloned account it’s virtually useless to him/her.
  • If you access Facebook via a web browser on a laptop or desktop computer:
  • Log in to your Facebook account using your preferred web browser.
    • Click on your name in the upper right-hand corner in order to go to your Timeline.
    • Click the Friends link.
    • Click the pencil shaped icon just to the right of the “Find Friends” button.
    • Click Edit Privacy.
    • On the line that reads “Who can see your friend list?“, click the down arrow at the far right and select Only me. Then click Done.
  • You can go through a similar process with the cell phone client.
  • Email from Don in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. My Windows computer is running very slow these days. It is annoying. How can I speed it up? Don in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: There are several things you can try.
  • Perform a thorough malware scan to find and remove any viruses or adware.
  • Remove any programs and apps that you do not use.
  • The next thing you’ll want to do is trim back your list of auto-loading programs to just the programs you really need.
  • Make sure that your PC isn’t over-heating. When many modern CPUs detect that they are running too hot they will reduce the system clock speed.
  • If your computer has 4GB or less of RAM, try doubling it to 8GB.

Profiles in IT: Ajay V. Bhatt

  • Ajay V. Bhatt is an Indian-born American computer architect who best known as creator of the USB (Universal Serial Bus), AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port), PCI Express, Platform Power management architecture and various chipset improvements.
  • Ajay V. Bhatt was born 6 September 6, 1957 in India
  • In 980, Bhatt received a BSEE from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India.
  • Growing up as the only technically-minded child in a family of liberal-arts professionals, Bhatt had long been the go-to person to fix radios, televisions.
  • His interest in electronics eventually led him to leave his native India to study at City University in New York, where he helped develop video technology used aboard the Columbia Space Shuttle.
  • In 1984, Bhatt received his MSEE from The City University of New York.
  • In 1984, he was hired as Principal Engineer at Wang Laboratories. He lead the system architecture group for Motorola 680X0 based Workstation product line.
  • In 1990, he joined Intel as Staff Architect. Ajay lead a team of engineers in defining architecture for the Energy Star compliant Green Desktops.
  • The Power management Architecture proposed by Ajay and his team has become a standard feature in every platform shipped since 1994.
  • He provided key technical contributor to ISA Plug and Play (PnP) architecture.
  • While installing a new printer on his wife’s computer, Ajay V. Bhatt was confronted with an all-too-common frustration: connecting new peripheral devices.
  • Back then, computer users had to negotiate a maze of competing plug designs on the back of their desktops, install new drivers and often add new computer cards.
  • Bhatt saw an opportunity to greatly simplify the process using one universal plug ultimately became known as the Universal Serial Bus (USB).
  • In 1992, he became Chief Architect USB Development. He led an industry-wide team that delivered an open USB 1.0 industry spec in 1995.
  • Intel released all the patents on the USB design so that it could become an industry standard. Bhatt did not receive a single penny for this innovavtion.
  • He went on to lead several teams responsible for the platform architecture and planning for Clients, Servers, Storage, Manageability and Communications products for Enterprise Platforms chipsets & I/O devices
  • In 2009, he served as the PCI Express lead architect and was instrumental in developing and driving the specifications through the standards groups. PCI stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect.
  • Ajay led definition and development of the next-generation Client Platform architecture. He retired from Intel in 2016.
  • He holds one hundred and thirty-two U.S. and international patents
  • Ajay Bhatt was featured in the July 2010 issue of GQ India, as one of “The 50 Most Influential Global Indians!”

Facial Recognition coming to New York Schools

  • Lockport City School District will be the first US public school system to test a facial recognition program on students and staff.
  • The district begins the “initial implementation phase” for the Aegis software suite.
  • Aegis’ applications include a facial recognition tool, Sentry, that alerts school officials if anyone from the local Sex Offenders Registry enters a school or if any suspended students, fired employees or known gang members enters a school.
  • The company also offers Protector, a shape recognition tool that recognizes the top 10 guns used in school shootings, and Mercury, a forensic search engine that can review unattended video. S
  • The district has already increased security measures in the past, like the “Raptor” ID System, which reviews the government-issued IDs presented by building visitors and alerts if they’re in the sex offender database.
  • Aegis’ system will not compile information on and track the movements of all District students, staff and visitors.
  • The software is limited to identifying whether an individual whose photograph has been entered into the system database is on district property.
  • The people in the database are those who aren’t allowed on the property.
  • If one is identified by Aegis’ software, it will alert staff.
  • In the case of the system identifying a gun, it immediately alerts police.

Website of the Week: World Privacy Forum.

  • The World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit site “dedicated to reimagining privacy in a digital era.” The organization has an extremely detailed opt-out list for data brokers, with the respective links and steps needed to remove your info from the companies’ clutches.
  • More broadly, the WPF put together what it calls the top 10 opt-outs, a detailed step-by-step guide to pulling your information from the data brokers of the world.
  • Link: https://www.worldprivacyforum.org/

Amazon Wants To Stop Selling Items at a Loss

  • Amazon is rethinking its strategy for items it sells that it refers to internally as “CRaP,” which stands for Can’t Realize a Profit.
  • These items – which include things like bottled water, paper towels, and snack foods that sell less than $15 and are heavy or bulky to ship.
  • Amazon is trying to focus on more profitable items and wants to get rid of some CRaP items.
  • Amazon wants customers to buy less “CRaP” online.
  • Amazon is eliminating some of the items and working with manufacturers or vendors to repackage others so they’re more profitable to sell online.

Starlink Update: 60 Satellites Deployed

  • The first batch of 60 Starlink internet satellites has been orbiting Earth for about a week.
  • According to SpaceX, “all 60 satellites have deployed their solar arrays successfully, generated positive power and communicated with our ground stations.”
  • They aren’t expected to reach their full altitude for three to four weeks.
  • The observability of the Starlink satellites will be dramatically reduced as they raise orbit to greater distance and orient themselves with the phased array antennas toward Earth and their solar arrays behind the body of the satellite.
  • At this point, all 60 satellites have deployed their solar arrays successfully, generated positive power and communicated with our ground stations.
  • Most are already using their onboard propulsion system to reach their operational altitude and have made initial contact using broadband phased array antennas.
  • All the satellites have maneuvering capability and are programmed to avoid each other and other objects in orbit by a wide margin.
  • Astronomers are still concerned that these large arrasy of satellites will interfere with deep space exploration.

US DOJ Antitrust Probe of Google

  • The US Department of Justice is preparing an antitrust investigation of Google.
  • Unnamed sources close to the matter as saying the department would look into Google practices related to web search and other businesses.
  • A new investigation would come as backlash grows against major tech companies that dominate key segments of the online economy.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has argued that big firms such as Facebook, Google and Apple should be broken up through antitrust enforcement.
  • Alphabet’s profit in the first three months of this year sagged because of a hefty antitrust fine in the European Union. The European Commission fine came in at $1.7 billion.
  • Google is separately working to satisfy EU regulators investigating its hugely popular Android devices following a $5 billion fine last year.
  • Google earlier this year said it would offer smartphone users five browsers and search engines as part of the company’s effort to meet EU competition concerns.
  • Brussels accused Google of using the Android system’s dominance of smartphones and tablets to promote the use of its own Google search engine and Chrome browser and shut out rivals.

Facebook Says Don’t Expect Privacy

  • Facebook argued that it didn’t violate users’ privacy rights because there’s no expectation of privacy when using social media.
  • “There is no invasion of privacy at all, because there is no privacy,” Facebook counsel Orin Snyder said during a pretrial hearing to dismiss a lawsuit stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to Law 360.
  • The company reportedly didn’t deny that third parties accessed users’ data, but it instead told US District Judge Vince Chhabria that there’s no “reasonable expectation of privacy” on Facebook or any other social media site.
  • The social network’s legal argument comes as the world’s largest social network is more publicly trying to convince people that it knows how to protect their personal information.
  • Earlier this month, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said she and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will do “whatever it takes” to keep people safe on Facebook.
  • Calls to curtail Zuckerberg’s control over Facebook have escalated as the company continues to be plagued by problems, including issues around data privacy and security.
  • Facebook is expecting to face a record $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission for its alleged failure to protect user privacy.
  • The company’s data-handling practices have been called into question in the wake of the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, during which personal information on up to 87 million Facebook users was improperly accessed.

Microsoft Warns Users To Install Patch

  • Microsoft has issued its second advisory this month urging users to update their systems to prevent a re-run of attacks similar to WannaCry.
  • Microsoft warned that it recently discovered “wormable” vulnerability in Remote Desktop Services for Windows can allow attackers to remotely run code on a vulnerable computer.
  • Worse, the vulnerability allows it to spread to other computers on the same network “in a similar way as the WannaCry malware, which spread across the globe in 2017 causing billions of dollars in damage.
  • A patch was released earlier this month on Microsoft’s usual patch release day on Patch Tuesday.
  • The bug, CVE-2019-0708, better known as BlueKeep, is a “critical” vulnerability that affects computers running Windows XP and later, including its server operating systems.
  • The vulnerability can be used to run code at the system level, allowing full access to the computer — including its data. Worse, it is remotely exploitable, allowing anyone to attack a computer connected to the internet.
  • Windows 8 and Windows 10 are not vulnerable to the bug.
  • The bug is so dangerous that Microsoft took the rare step of issuing patches to its long-outdated and unsupported operating systems, including Windows XP.
  • Independent malware researcher Marcus Hutchins said in a tweet it took him “an hour to figure out how to exploit the vulnerability” and four days to develop working exploit code, but declined to immediately publish the code, calling it “dangerous.”
  • The universal message seems clear: patch your systems before it’s too late.

China’s Takeover of Rare Earth Element

  • Rare earths have become a bargaining chip in the expanding trade war between China and the United States.
  • Rare earth minerals are a crucial component of products that cut across the U.S. economy.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey describes them as a “relatively abundant group” of 17 chemical elements. What makes them unusual, however, is that they are difficult to extract in high concentrations from the ground.
  • The elements’ names, which include cerium, promethium, scandium, might sound like something out of science fiction, but each one can be used for a variety of purposes — from making magnets, batteries and lights, to glass production and the cooling of nuclear rods.
  • The U.S. military also depends on rare earths for the construction of equipment used in satellites, lasers, jet engines, radar and sonar systems, and other sophisticated machinery.
  • From the 1960s to the ’80s, the U.S. was the global leader in rare earth mineral production based out of a mine in California, which later closed.
  • But China quickly gained ground in the ’90s, and is home to more than 30 percent of the world’s rare earth reserves.
  • By 2017, China accounted for roughly 80 percent of the world’s rare earth production, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Other countries, including India, Brazil and Australia, share a smaller output.
  • The U.S. imported about $160 million worth of basic rare earth materials last year, mainly from China.
  • In 2010, Japan accused the Chinese government of purposefully halting its supply of rare earth minerals, seen as retaliation after Japan detained a Chinese fishing trawler captain who was found in waters under dispute by the two nations.
  • Japan counted on the rare earths for a number of uses, including the production of its hybrid cars, solar-panel glass and battery packs.
  • China’s President Xi Jinping may have tipped his hand last week when he toured a region of China that calls itself a “rare earths kingdom.”

5G Networks Could Interfere with Weather Forecasting

  • Forecasters say interference from 5G radios in the 24 GHz band could reduce the accuracy of predicting the intensity and path of major hurricanes by 30%.
  • NOAA’s acting chief Neil Jacobs testified on Capitol Hill that the interference from new 5G wireless radios could reduce the accuracy of weather forecasting by as much as 30 percent.
  • The FCC began auctioning off the 24 GHz spectrum in March to wireless carriers who plan to use it for new 5G networks.
  • The problem comes from the use of spectrum in the 24 gigahertz frequency band, which is very close to a spectrum band that NOAA uses to collect data for weather prediction.
  • NOAA uses the 23.8 GHz spectrum to collect data about atmospheric conditions that’s then fed into its data model. The concern is that 5G radios carriers use in the 24 GHz band will interfere with these sensitive sensors on satellites monitoring the atmospheric conditions.
  • Turning down the power emitted by 5G wireless radios could help prevent some of this interference.