Show of 06-29-2019

Tech Talk

June 29, 2019

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from David in North Carolina: Dear Doc and Jim. I just bought a smartphone that supports wireless charging. I am planning to buy a wireless charger soon. Are there any technical specifications that I should be watching for? Love the show. David in North Carolina.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You must buy a charger that is Qi-Certified. Qi (pronounce chee) is a standard for wireless energy transmission. It is a format that is maintained by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), and it aims to standardize wireless charging across all devices in the same way that the USB or Bluetooth standards have standardized data transmission across all devices.
  • When a phone or charger is Qi-Certified, it’s tested by the Wireless Power Consortium for safety, effectiveness, and compatibility.
  • Wireless chargers rely on magnetic induction or magnetic resonance to transmit energy (Qi uses both). Your phone contains a coil that converts this magnetic energy into electrical energy, which then charges the battery.
  • If a wireless charger isn’t Qi-Certified, then you should avoid buying it or using it. Qi-Certified chargers from Anker, CHOETECH, and Yootech. A Qi-Certified charger from CHOETECH is 15W and only $25.49 on Amazon.
  • Email from Anna in Kilmarnock: Dear Tech Talk. A few days ago I got a text message from Microsoft saying my computer has a virus and that I need to delete System 32, but I can’t find it on the list of programs to remove. I texted them back and asked them what I need to do, but I have not heard back from them. Can you tell me how to find System 32 so I can delete it? Anna in Kilmarnock, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: You do not have to delete anything because the text message you received is a hoax. It was sent to you by a scammer, not by Microsoft. You couldn’t find System 32 on the list of programs you can delete because it isn’t a program at all. It’s actually a critical file folder that contains many essential components of your Windows installation. If you ever managed to find and delete it, you would end up completely trashing your Windows installation. Luckily, Microsoft has made it extremely difficult to actually delete the System 32 folder. But given the right set of malicious instructions it can be done. The person that sent you that text message is just trying to cause you to cripple your Windows installation.
  • Email from Helen in Rockville: Dear Doc and Jim. I have been shopping for a new laptop and I have noticed that most of the better ones do not come with an optical drive. I have hundreds of CDs and DVDs that are filled with photos that I need to access on occasion so my new laptop needs to have a DVD drive. I know I can buy an external DVD drive, but I’d prefer to have it built-in. Why are they making laptops without optical drives? Helen in Rockville
  • Tech Talk Responds: There are several reasons why they are being left out of new laptops these days:
    • Most music, movies and computer software is being delivered to the consumer over the Internet instead of on discs these days, making optical drives completely unnecessary for younger consumers who don’t own a library of optical media.
    • Inexpensive USB hard drives and online backup services make it easy and convenient to back up our computers without having to deal with a stack of blank optical discs.
    • Cloud storage and cloud backup services make sharing photos and other files with our friends a lot faster and easier than having to burn them onto a disc.
    • Leaving out the optical drive lets the manufacturers build laptops that are smaller, lighter and less expensive than they would have to be if the drive was included.
  • Luckily, an external USB optical drive can be purchased for as little as $15 for those of us that still use optical discs on occasion. The good news is that you can still buy a laptop that does have an internal optical drive. They are getting harder to find every day, but they are still available.
  • Email from Jim in Arizona: Dear Tech Talk. I am an admin on a large Facebook group that now has over 60,000 members. This is a wonderful group that discusses mindfulness living. The problem is the person that created the group has stopped making useful posts and now posts nothing but SPAM. I have a feeling he is selling posts on the group to third-party businesses. My question is do you know of a way to kick that person out of the group and ban him? Everything I have read says I cannot but I thought maybe you know of a way to do it.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You cannot ban the creator of a group, even if you are an admin. I believe Facebook is correct in preventing other admins from removing and banning a group’s creator. If just any admin could kick the person that created a group out of it that would leave every group creator vulnerable to losing control of his/her own group. The fact is, the person that created a group can use that group in any way he/she sees fit as long as he/she doesn’t violate Facebook’s ‘Terms of Service’.
  • This is what I recommend that you do:
    • Create a new group of your own for discussing the disease in question.
    • Invite the members of the old group to join your new group (be sure to explain why you created it).
  • If the SPAM problem is as bad as you say it is, I believe a large percentage of the current group’s members will be eager to join your new group.
  • Email from Wendy in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a Samsung Smart TV and my friend told me she heard on the news that viruses are hitting smart TVs and we need to scan them for viruses. I did not even know a TV could catch a virus! Is that true? And how do I run the scan if it is? Wendy in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: Smart TVs can indeed catch viruses and it’s already happened in a very few isolated cases. The NSA had a toolkit to use the built-in microphone for spying purposes.
  • The news report your friend heard was likely in response to a tweet Samsung recently posted on Twitter warning owners of their Smart TVs to scan their TVs for viruses every few weeks. That tweet set off a panic among Twitter users who own one of Samsung’s Smart TVs. Samsung quickly removed that tweet in order to mitigate what
  • While your Smart TV is indeed capable of catching a virus, I really don’t recommend that you run a scan on yours because I’ve heard of some instances in which virus scans ended up actually bricking the TVs. The risk of a virus is not great enough to do a virus scan. If you really want to run a virus scan on your Samsung Smart TV your TV’s user manual should have instructions for doing so.
  • Email from Lois in Erie: Dear Tech Talk. We have two computers in our home office, but only one USB printer. Is there a way to print from both computers without actually have to switch the print cable from one computer to the other. Love the podcast. Lois is Erie, Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: You in luck. There is a device called a USB Printer Auto Sharing Switch that makes it easy to connect a single printer to two or more computers without ever having to switch the cable again. This devices monitors the USB connections from all the connected computers, and when it detects that one of them is sending a print job to the printer it automatically “connects” that computer to the printer. You can choose between 2-port and 4-port models depending on how many computers you need to connect to the printer. Installation is easy because it’s plug and play. Just plug the computers and the printer into the switch box and then install the software onto each computer when prompted.
  • Some models have physical switches that you must press in order to make the connection to the computer you wish to print from. I strongly recommend that you pass on these and choose an automatic switch. The IOGEAR 2-Port USB 2.0 Automatic Printer Switch is $24.99 on Amazon.

Profiles in IT: Sophie Mary Wilson

  • Sophie Mary Wilson is a computer scientist best known for designing the instruction set of the ARM processor, which is used in nearly all mobile phones.
  • Wilson was born 1957 in Leeds, Yorkshire, England.
  • She studied Computer Science and the Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.
  • In the 1977 Easter break, Wilson designed a microcomputer, which was used to electronically control feed for cows.
  • In 1978, she joined Acorn Computers Ltd, after designing a device to prevent cigarette lighter sparks triggering payouts on fruit machines.
  • Her computer design was used by Chris Curry and Hermann Hauser to build Acorn 1, the first of a long line of computers sold by the company.
  • In July 1981, Wilson extended the Acorn Atom’s BASIC programming language for the Acorn Proton, which was used for the BBC computer education project.
  • Wilson and Steve Furber built the BBC prototype within a week. Wilson designed the system including the circuit board and components from Monday to Wednesday.
  • By Thursday evening, a prototype had been built, but the software had bugs, requiring her to stay up all night and into Friday debugging. BBC loved the prototype.
  • The Proton became the BBC Micro and its BASIC evolved into BBC BASIC.
  • Over a million BBC Micros were sold and used in thousands of U.K. schools.
  • In 1983, Wilson began designing the instruction set for one of the first reduced instruction set computer (RISC) processors, the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM).
  • The ARM1 was delivered on 26 April 1985 and worked first time. This processor type was later to become one of the most successful IP cores, a licensed CPU core.
  • This was used in the BBC Micro as a second processor (1986); Acorn’s first general-purpose home computer based on their own ARM architecture, the Archimedes (1987); and Apple Computer’s first personal digital assistant, the Newton (1993).
  • The ARM processor core is now used in thousands of different products, from mobile phones and tablets to digital televisions and video games.
  • The number of ARM processor cores now shipped exceeds 30 billion, or more than four ARM microprocessors for every person on earth.
  • Wilson designed Acorn Replay, the video architecture for Acorn machines. This included the operating system extensions for video access, as well as the codecs, optimized to run high frame rate video on ARM CPUs from the ARM 2 onwards.
  • She is now the Director of IC Design in Broadcom’s Cambridge, UK office. She was the Chief Architect of Broadcom’s Firepath processor.
  • In 2012, she was awarded the Fellow Award by the Computer History Museum for work with Steve Fulton on the BBC computer and the ARM processor architecture.
  • In 2013 Wilson was elected as a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society.
  • Wilson is a transgender woman. She enjoys photography and is involved in a local theater group. She designs costumes and sets and occasionally acts in plays.

Second Florida City Pays Ransom To Hackers

  • Less than a week after a first Florida city agreed to pay a $600,000 to get their data back from hackers, now, a second city’s administration has taken the same path.
  • On Monday, in an emergency meeting of the city council, the administration of Lake City, a small Florida city with a population of 65,000, voted to pay a ransom demand of 42 bitcoins, worth nearly $500,000.:
  • The decision to pay the ransom demand was made after the city suffered a catastrophic malware infection earlier this month, on June 10, which the city described as a “triple threat.”
  • Despite the city’s IT staff disconnecting impacted systems within ten minutes of detecting the attack, a ransomware strain infected almost all its computer systems, with the exception of the police and fire departments, which ran on a separate network.
  • A ransom demand was made a week after the infection, with hackers reaching out to the city’s insurance provider, which negotiated a ransom payment of 42 bitcoins last week.
  • City officials agreed to pay the ransom demand on Monday, and the insurer made the payment yesterday, on Tuesday, June 25, local media reported.
  • The payment is estimated to have been worth between $480,000 to $500,000, depending on Bitcoin’s price at the time of the payment.
  • The city’s IT staff is now working to recover their data after receiving a decryption key

Idea of the Week: Non-Profit Wi-Fi Mesh Network in NYC

  • A community-run operation named NYC Mesh is on a mission: to deliver better, cheaper broadband service to New York City.
  • The locally run nonprofit project says it’s engaging in a dramatic expansion that should soon deliver a new, more open broadband alternative to big ISPs to a wider swath of the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
  • With the installation of a new “supernode,” NYC Mesh has greatly expanded its coverage area to much of western Brooklyn, as well as much of lower Manhattan.
  • Born out of frustration in 2013, NYC Mesh is not a traditional business.
  • It is built on the backs of volunteers and donors who dedicate their time, money, bandwidth, hardware, and resources to building an alternative to the telcos.
  • Initially, the mesh network was powered by a single “Supernode” antenna and hardware array located at 375 Pearl Street in Manhattan.
  • This gigabit fiber-fed antenna connects 300 buildings, where members have mounted routers on a rooftop or near a window. These local “nodes” in turn connect to an internet exchange point — without the need for a traditional ISP.
  • Unlike a traditional ISP, users do not pay a fixed monthly rate, and there are no costly monthly usage caps or overage fees.
  • A NYC Mesh rate sheet notes the project is funded by optional monthly member donations of $20 or $50 for a residential users, or $100 for a business.
  • Users also pay $110 for a WiFi router and rooftop antenna, and a $50 installation fee.

Google Maps Speedometer Feature: Check Your Speed History

  • Google is rolling out the speedometer in Maps and will be global in the weeks to come. This feature is added to camera trap and traffic jam reporting..
  • Speedometer may possibly be used in court if you get a speeding ticket and we not going that fast. This happens when two cars are close together and the police tag the wrong car for speeding.
  • Here’s how to turn on all three of the latest features.
  • Turn on the speedometer
    • Open your Google Maps app.
    • Tap on the three stacked lines and scroll down to the bottom of your screen.
    • Select Settings.
    • Tap Navigation Settings.
    • Scroll down to the Driving Options menu and slide the toggle on for Speedometer. If you don’t see this option, you probably don’t have this new feature yet.
  • Report a speed camera trap
    • Open your Google Maps app.
    • Type in your destination to start navigating — you can only report the speed cameras if you are in navigation mode.
    • Tap the speech bubble icon with the plus sign.
    • Select Mobile speed camera.
    • A pop-up message will appear that says, “Adding mobile speed camera to the map.”
    • If you didn’t mean to report anything, you have a few seconds to cancel by tapping the circle that says Undo.
  • Report an incident, like a car crash or a traffic jam
    • Open your Google Maps app.
    • Type in your destination to start navigating — you can only report incidents if you’re in navigation mode.
    • When you’re on the road and you see a wreck or a slowdown, tap the speech bubble icon with the plus sign.
    • Tap Add a report.
    • Select crash or slowdown.

Russia denies role in Israeli airport GPS jamming

  • Russia has denied Israeli suggestions that it is behind disruption of GPS signals at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.
  • Since early June, GPS signals at the airport have been unreliable for pilots and planes using the location.
  • The missing navigational data has had a “significant impact” on airport operations, said Israel’s Airports Authority.
  • The disrupted GPS signals had not caused any accidents or safety incidents. Pilots can use the alternative Instrument Landing System when approaching and landing at the airport.
  • The GPS problem only affects aircraft in the sky over the airport, not ground-based sensors.
  • The Israeli Airline Pilots Association said the GPS problems were a “spoofing” attack that produces incorrect location data. This can mean receivers on planes sometimes reporting their location as miles away from where they actually are.
  • The disruption was linked to “electronic warfare” systems Russia used to protect its planes at the Hmeimim airbase in Syria, it said. The military base is about 350km (217 miles) north of Ben Gurion.
  • Russia spoofed GPS signals when Vladimir Putin visited Crimea’s Kerch Strait Bridge
  • Despite the denials, Russia is known to have a long history of involvement in GPS spoofing and jamming.
  • It documented more than 10,000 separate incidents of GPS disruption and said Russia was “pioneering” the technique to “protect and promote its strategic interests”.

Chinese Hackers Linked to Global Attacks on Telcos

  • The campaign, dubbed “Operation Soft Cell,” has been active since 2012, according to Cybereason, an endpoint security company based in Boston.
  • The attackers attempted to steal all data stored in the active directory servers of the organizations, including all usernames and passwords in the companies, as well as other personally identifiable information, billing data, call detail records, credentials, email servers, geo-location of users, and more, according to the report.
  • Based on the tools used in the attacks, such as PoisonIvy RAT, and the tactics, techniques and procedures deployed by the attackers, the campaign likely was run by APT10, a notorious group of Chinese hackers, the researchers pointed out.
  • The U.S. Justice Department last year indicted two members of APT10 for conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
  • The hackers attacked organizations in waves launched over a period of months, the report notes. During that time, they were able to map the target networks and compromise credentials. That enabled them to compromise critical assets — such as production and database servers, and even domain controllers.
  • The attack has widespread implications — not just for individuals, but also for organizations and countries alike, the Cybereason researchers said.
  • This type of attack would greatly help Huawei in their fight to control as much of the 5G space as possible.
  • “The attacks didn’t have any super secret stuff. All the stuff was off the shelf. You could teach a college student to how to use it in a semester,” he said.

The Age of Electric Flight Is Coming for Regional Carrier

  • Israeli firm Eviation is building an electric airplane called Alice that will carry nine passengers for up to 650 miles at 10,000ft at 276mph. It is expected to enter service in 2022.
  • Alice is an unconventional-looking craft: powered by three rear-facing pusher-propellers, one in the tail and two counter-rotating props at the wingtips to counter the effects of drag. It also has a flat lower fuselage to aid lift.
  • “This plane looks like this not because we wanted to build a cool plane, but because it
  • Eviation has already received its first orders. US regional airline Cape Air, which operates a fleet of 90 aircraft, has agreed to buy a “double-digit” number of the aircraft.
  • Crucially, electricity is much cheaper than conventional fuel.
  • A small aircraft, like a turbo-prop Cessna Caravan, will use $400 on conventional fuel for a 100-mile flight. But with electricity “it’ll be between $8-$12, which means
  • For example, Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Siemens are working on the E-Fan X program, which will have a two megawatt (2MW) electric motor mounted on a BAE 146 jet. It is set to fly in 2021.
  • Investment bank UBS which predicts the aviation sector will quickly switch to hybrid and electric aircraft for regional travel, with an eventual demand for 550 hybrid airliners each year between 2028 and 2040.
  • But the prospects for electric long-haul flights are not so rosy.
  • While electrical motors, generators, power distribution and controls have advanced very rapidly, battery technology has not.

Microsoft deletes massive face recognition database

  • Microsoft has deleted a massive database of 10 million images which was being used to train facial recognition systems, the Financial Times reports.
  • The database was released in 2016 and was built of online images of 100,000 well-known people.
  • The database is believed to have been used to train a system operated by police forces and the military.
  • The deletion comes after Microsoft called on US politicians to do a better job of regulating recognition systems.
  • Last year Microsoft asked the US Congress to take on the task of regulating the use of facial recognition systems because they had “broad societal ramifications and potential for abuse”.
  • More recently, Microsoft rejected a request from police in California to use its face-spotting systems in body cameras and cars.
  • Even though the data is no longer available from Microsoft, it is probably still being used by people who downloaded a copy.

Top 10 Jobs for 2019 and Beyond

  • With cloud computing, mobile applications, massive amounts of data, software of all sorts, the ever-expanding world wide web, social media, and a whole world’s-worth of information security threats, organizations large and small rely more and more on well-qualified and highly-specialized IT professionals.
  • Employment growth outlook information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for 2016–2026. Salary statistics information has been sourced from PayScale.com, and reflects median annual salaries as of March 2018.
  • Mobile Application Developer — Mobile application developers create applications for mobile devices, such as iPhones and Androids.
    • Median annual salary: $72,066.
    • Employment growth outlook: 30.7%
  • Information Security Analyst — Information security analysts develop and implement computer security strategies and systems to protect vital information from computer crime and cyber warfare.
    • Median annual salary: $70,521
    • Employment growth outlook: 28.5%
  • Web Developer — Web developers collect or create web content and plan website layouts and navigation, as well as coding for web pages. They also test and optimize a website for user experience and optimum performance.
    • Median annual salary: $58,005
    • Employment growth outlook: 15%
  • Cloud Solutions Architect — Cloud solutions architects design solutions for companies seeking to move their IT infrastructure and services from on premise servers to a cloud-based storage solution.
    • Median annual salary: $120,067
    • Employment growth outlook: 12%
  • Applications Architect — Applications architects ensure individual software projects follow the organization’s application development methodology and parameters. They also ensure the project fits a company’s technology infrastructure and business strategy.
    • Median annual salary: $107,831
    • Employment growth outlook: 12%
  • Development Operations (DevOps) Engineer — DevOps engineers function as a “jack of all trades” in regards to databases and information systems in organizations.
    • Median annual salary: $91,465
    • Employment growth outlook: 11.5%
  • Data Scientist — Data scientists direct the gathering and application of data for a variety of organizations, including corporations and government agencies.
    • Median annual salary: $90,958
    • Employment growth outlook: 11.5%
  • Information Technology Manager — Information technology managers oversee the IT needs of an organization.
    • Median annual salary: $84,440
    • Employment growth outlook: 11.5%
  • Business Intelligence Developer — Business intelligence developers oversee databases and information systems with the goal of optimizing the storage, implementation, and flow of data in corporations.
    • Median annual salary: $78,076
    • Employment growth outlook: 11.5%
  • Database Administrator — Data Administrators are responsible for organizing and managing an organization’s data, making sure that data is accurate and available and that database performance meets organizational requirements.
    • Median annual salary: $71,513
    • Employment growth outlook: 11.5%