Show of 09-07-2019

Tech Talk

September 7, 2019

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Tom in Kilmarnock, VA: Question from Thomas: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a little cash to spend to upgrade my desktop computer and I need your advice on how best to spend it. Right now it has 16GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive (which is close to being full). My question is should I use the money to max to out the RAM on this machine by adding another 16GB or would I be better off replacing the hard drive with a 1TB SSD. I only have enough money for one of them. Tom in Kilmarnock, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: You already have 16GB of RAM installed, and that’s plenty for most anything you might want to do with this machine. An extra 16GB might come in handy if you frequently do heavy-duty movie editing or some other RAM-intensive task, but for general computing tasks and even most gaming activities 16GB is really plenty in my opinion. You also said the machine has a 500GB hard drive that’s nearly full. In my opinion that makes choosing the 1TB SSD upgrade a no-brainer in my opinion. If the tasks at hand ever require more than 16GB of RAM Windows will just augment that by swapping data in and out of the swap file on the hard drive (or SSD. Your best course of action would be to install a 1TB SSD in your system as the boot drive and leave the existing hard drive in place for extra storage.
  • Email from Craig in Virginia Beach, VA: Dear Doc and Jim. My wife and I just bought a two-story house and the Wi-Fi signal will not reach all the bedrooms. I am certain that moving the cable modem and wireless router from the den to some place near middle of the house would do the trick, but that would require having the cable company come out and run a new wire. I read your post about power line networking kits and I was wondering if I could use one of those to connect the modem to the router. That way I could leave the modem in the den and place the router somewhere in the middle of the house. Love the podcast. Craig in Virginia Beach, VA.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can connect your cable modem to your wireless router with a power line networking kit. It would be an excellent solution. There are a couple of things to consider however:
  • I recommend choosing a power line networking kit that transfers data at least as fast as your router’s Wi-Fi connection and the download speed offered via your Internet service agreement. To be safe, if I were you I’d go with a kit that operates at 600 Mbps or higher in order to ensure that you end up with a fast network, both now and in the future. In fact, a 1Gbps kit would be even better.
  • Try several different electrical outlets that are located in the general area where you want to place the router. Different electrical circuits can vary in the quality of their connections to the breaker box, which in turn can affect data transmission speeds. Just plug the power line network adapter and your router into each outlet that you want to test, then run a speed test. Use the results from Speedtest.net to compare the relative speeds supported by each outlet. Then simply use the outlet that gives the fastest test result.
  • Email from Kim in Arlington: Dear Tech Talk. My mom’s friend told her to be careful about what she puts on her Facebook page because once something’s posted on Facebook it stays on the Internet forever. I told my mom that isn’t true because if she deletes a post it’ll be gone immediately. My question is how can I convince my mom that things she posts and then deletes won’t stay on the Internet? Kim in Arlington
  • Tech Talk Responds: While it is certainly true that anything your mom posts to her Facebook account will be immediately removed from her account the instant she deletes it, the deleted information (photo, video, text, etc.) could still exist somewhere else on the Internet. Depending on your mom’s Facebook privacy settings, one of her friends (or a complete stranger for that matter) could have seen the item and downloaded it to their computer or mobile device, then posted it on their own Facebook account. If that were to happen (and it does happen all the time), the item would indeed be gone from your mom’s Facebook account after she deleted it, but it would still exist in her friend’s account. Even worse, stolen (i.e. copied) photos, videos and information can easily be shared in other places besides just Facebook. They can easily be emailed to a third party, uploaded to a different social media website such as Twitter or Instagram, or even printed and shown to others in person. In addition, Facebook’s servers also keep backup copies of deleted information for some time after its deletion.
  • Once you upload something to the Internet (including Facebook), you no longer have complete control over what happens to it.
  • Email from Donna in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk. I chat with friends on WhatsApp all the time and would like to format some of the words for emphasis. Some of my friends do and can not figure out how they did it. Help. Donna in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: The types of formatting you can apply in a WhatsApp message are bold, italics, strikethrough, and monospacing. To manually apply the formatting, you need to place a particular punctuation mark on either side of a word (or series of words):
    • Bold: Place an asterisk on either side (*bold*).
    • Italicize: Place an underscore on either side (_italic_).
    • Strikethrough: Place a tilde on either side (~strikethrough~).
    • Monospace: Place three back ticks on either side (“`monospace“`).
  • When you send your message, the text will be displayed with the chosen formatting. You can also use the built-in formatting menu. Long press the word you want to format and the menu will appear.
  • Email from Barbie in Reston: Dear Tech Talk. I am getting spam messages in my Google calendar and I have not added them. These are annoying. I someone hacked my phone? How can I stop them? Barbie in Reston
  • Tech Talk Responds: Spammers have found a way to add unwanted phishing and scam events to people’s Google Calendars without their permission. Here’s how to stop them. Google Calendar (by default) shows event invites whether the user has accepted them or not. Spammers are using the loophole to flood people’s calendars with malicious links and other derogatory text.
  • One of Google Calendar’s default settings is to add event invites automatically to the calendar. To turn this off, click on the gear icon found in the top-right of the display and then select “Settings”.
    • Google Calendar Click Gear and Settings
    • Next, choose “Event settings” found in the left sidebar.
    • Google Calendar Select Event Settings
    • Locate the drop-down that’s labeled “Automatically add invitations”. Click on the arrow.
    • Google Calendar Select Automatically Add Invites.
    • Lastly, select “No, only show invitations to which I have responded”.
  • Google Calendar also pulls events directly from Gmail. If someone emails you an invite—sometimes even when it goes to the spam folder—it ends up on your calendar. To turn off this feature, click on the gear icon and selecting “Settings”.
    • Next, choose “Events from Gmail” from the left sidebar.
    • Google Calendar Select Events from Gmail
    • Uncheck the box next to “Automatically add events from Gmail to my calendar”.
    • Google Calendar Toggle Off Automatic Gmail Events
    • Google Calendar will ask you to confirm this action. Click “OK” to approve the change. Google Calendar Select Confirmation OK
  • If you’ve gone through and declined the spammy calendar events, they’ll still show up in Google Calendar but crossed out. To turn the feature off, head back to Google Calendar’s Settings menu. As mentioned before, you get there by clicking on the gear icon and then selecting “Settings”.
    • Once there, choose “View options” located in the left sidebar.
    • Google Calendar Select View Options
    • Uncheck the box next to “Show declined events” to remove the diminished invites.
    • Google Calendar Toggle Off Show Declined Events
  • Oddly enough, when you decide to hide declined events from the desktop view, they still appear in the Android, iPhone, and iPad apps. You have to through the same steps to hide them in your mobile device.

Profiles in IT: Narinder Singh Kapany

  • Narinder Singh Kapany is an Indian-born American physicist known for his work in fiber optics. He is known as Father of Fiber Optics, but did not get a Nobel Prize.
  • Kapany was born 31 October 1926 to a Sikh family in Moga, Punjab.
  • He studies at Agra University.
  • In 1955, he received a PhD in optics from the Imperial College London.
  • In 1953, while at Imperial College, Kapany he worked with Harold Hopkins and achieved good image transmission through optical fibers for the first time.
  • Optical fibers had been tried for image transmission before, but Hopkins and Kapany’s technique allowed much better image quality than previously achieved.
  • This, combined with the almost-simultaneous development of optical cladding by Dutch scientist Bram van Heel, started the new field of fiber optics.
  • In 1960, Kapany coined the term ‘fiber optics’ in an article in Scientific American.
  • In 1968, he wrote the first book about the field: Fiber Optics: Principles and Applications.
  • Kapany’s research and inventions have encompassed fiber-optics communications, lasers, biomedical instrumentation, solar energy and pollution monitoring.
  • He has over 100 patents, and was a member of the National Inventors Council.
  • He is an International Fellow of numerous scientific societies including the British Royal Academy of Engineering, the Optical Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • As an entrepreneur and business executive, Kapany has specialized in the processes of innovation and the management of technology and technology transfer.
  • In 1960, he founded Optics Technology Inc. and was chairman of the board, President, and Director of Research for twelve years.
  • In 1967 the company went public with numerous corporate acquisitions and joint-ventures in the United States and abroad.
  • In 1973, Kapany founded Kaptron Inc. and was President and CEO until 1990 when he sold the company to AMP Incorporated.
  • For the next nine years, Kapany was an AMP Fellow, heading the Entrepreneur & Technical Expert Program and serving as CTO for Global Communications Business.
  • He founded K2 Optronics and has served on the boards of various companies.
  • He was Director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED) at UCSC for seven years.
  • At Stanford University, he was a Visiting Scholar in the Physics Department and Consulting Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering.
  • In 2009, Charles K. Kao won the Nobel Prize for a 1966 discovery that led to a breakthrough in fiber optics, transmitting light over long distances via optical glass fibers using ultrapure fibers. Kapany was not even mentioned and many wonder why.

Why Hurricanes Spin in Different Directions

  • The direction of that spin depends on what hemisphere of the world the hurricane is located.
  • A hurricane’s spin and the spin’s direction is determined by a phenomenon called the “Coriolis effect.” It causes the path of fluids — everything from particles in the air to currents in the ocean — to curve as they travel across and over Earth’s surfaces.
  • During the 24 hours Earth takes to make one revolution around its axis, points along the equator (and therefore the air above them) move much faster than areas near the poles, because they have much farther to travel during the same amount of time.
  • That means that particles heading away from the equator are traveling at higher speeds than the ones closer to the poles. Because the globe is spinning, air and water therefore do not follow a straight path north or south.
  • Instead, anything traveling northward in the northern hemisphere gets pushed toward the right (from the perspective of its point of origin).
  • Particles traveling from the equator to the south experience a similar curve in the opposite direction.
  • The area at the center of a hurricane has very low pressure, so the higher-pressure air that surrounds the eye of a storm naturally heads towards that middle area. But as the air rushes toward the center, it winds up moving in a curved path thanks to the Coriolis effect
  • This creates a circular spinning pattern as air travels from areas of high pressure to low pressure.
  • That is why hurricanes originating in the northern hemisphere rotate counterclockwise.
  • In addition, those developing in the southern hemisphere spin in a clockwise direction.
  • This phenomenon doesn’t explain the circular direction that water travels in your toilet bowl after you flush. A toilet bowl is too small to be affected by other variables.
  • However, if you eliminate those variables, you get the same effect.

EU Wants to Review Boeing 737 Max Repairs

  • Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, said the EU will conduct independent tests of the plane before it can resume commercial flights to and within Europe.
  • EASA insisted that it approve all changes to the 737 Max proposed by Boeing without delegating any testing to the FAA.
  • It also asked for a broader review of the aircraft’s design, a complete understanding of the cause of the crashes (the official accident reports have yet to be published) and an adequate flight crew training process.
  • The EASA’s conditions mark a sharp change from how the EU and the US have negotiated the certification process for commercial airplanes in the past.
  • As part of a bilateral aviation safety agreement, the European Agency has traditionally accepted the FAA’s decisions without conducting its own review.
  • The FAA has been under close scrutiny since the 737 Max crashes — the first in October 2018 and the second in March of this year — over whether Boeing employees acted on behalf of the agency during the certification process and whether it was too lax on setting pilot training standards.
  • If the two agencies disagree on the 737 Max’s airworthiness following the repairs, the return of the airliner could be chaotic.

COBOL turns 60: Why it will outlive us all

  • In computing’s early years, the only languages were machine and assembler. In those days, computing science really was “science.”
  • Clearly, there needed to be an easier language for programming those early mainframes. That language, named in September 1959, became Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL).
  • The credit for coming up with the basic idea goes to Mary Hawes, a Burroughs Corporation programmer who saw a need for a computer language.
  • In March 1959, Hawes proposed that a new computer language be created. It would have an English-like vocabulary that could be used across different computers to perform basic business tasks.
  • Hawes talked Hopper and others into creating a vendor-neutral interoperable computer language.
  • Hopper suggested they approach the Department of Defense (DoD) for funding and as a potential customer for the unnamed language.
  • Business IT experts agreed, and in May 1959, 41 computer users and manufacturers met at the Pentagon.
  • Drawing on earlier business computer languages such as Remington Rand UNIVAC’s FLOW-MATIC, which was largely the work of Grace Hopper, and IBM’s Commercial Translator, the committee established that COBOL-written programs should resemble ordinary English.
  • By that September, COBOL’s basic syntax was nailed down, and COBOL programs were running by the summer of 1960. In December 1960, COBOL programs proved to be truly interoperable by running on computers from two different vendors.
  • It would still be the business language of choice until well into the 1980s.
  • In 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Social Security Administration, to name just three, were still using COBOL.
  • If you’ve received cash out of an ATM recently, it’s almost certain COBOL was running behind the scenes.
  • The largest number of businesses using COBOL are financial institutions. This includes “banking, insurance and wealth management/equities trading. Second is government services (federal, provincial, local).”
  • While COBOL is nearing retirement age, the language itself is still far from retiring.

Deepfake CEO’s voice to Trick Manager to Transferring Funds

  • Criminals sought the help of commercially available voice-generating AI software to impersonate the boss of a German parent company that owns a UK-based
  • They then tricked the latter’s chief executive into urgently wiring said funds to a Hungarian supplier in an hour, with guarantees that the transfer would be reimbursed immediately.
  • The company CEO, hearing the familiar slight German accent and voice patterns of his boss, is said to have suspected nothing.
  • But not only was the money not reimbursed, the fraudsters posed as the German CEO to ask for another urgent money transfer. This time, however, the British CEO refused to make the payment.
  • As it turns out, the funds the CEO transferred to Hungary were eventually moved to Mexico and other locations. Authorities are yet to determine the culprits behind the cybercrime operation.
  • In this case, the voice-generation software was able to successfully imitate the German CEO’s voice.
  • To safeguard companies from the economic and reputational fallout, it’s crucial that “voice” instructions are verified via a follow-up email or other alternative means.

When is the Best Time to Sell an old iPhone

  • The price of old iPhones, including the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, are expected to peak shortly before the release of Apple’s anticipated iPhone XI (or iPhone 11).
  • Used iPhones immediately lose a large portion of their value when they are first sold.
  • Afterwards, many old devices see small bumps in their price, in particularly just before the latest iPhone is released.
  • According to research by Compare and Recycle, the largest drops in price happen as new models are released or just before release.
  • After a dip through summer in June and July, prices rise again for most iPhone models in August every year, meaning that August is a great time to get a good price for an unwanted smartphone.
  • The iPhone Plus and Max models hold their value much better than basic models and models with less storage.
  • Devices hold their value best during their second year after release, possibly because they are viewed as new enough to be up to date. However in the following years they depreciate in value fast.
  • However, if you prefer to use a device until it stops working, it would be wiser to plump for a phone with more storage. Although these cost more, they do retain their value for longer than other models.

Apple Card can be Damaged by Wallets and Jeans

  • Apple has advised owners of its new credit card to keep it away from leather and denim.
  • Keeping the card in a leather wallet or in the pocket of a pair of jeans could cause “permanent discoloration”.
  • The Apple Card is a relatively plain matt white credit card made of titanium, which was designed to stand out against other credit cards.
  • But people have poked fun at the company after reading that the card could be so easily damaged.
  • Apple has published a guide advising customers how to “safely store and carry” their Apple Card. The guide warns that storing the card with other credit cards can scratch and damage it.
  • It is currently available to Apple customers in the US. A launch date for UK customers has not been announced.
  • The Apple Card was created with the help of Goldman Sachs and MasterCard.
  • It was announced in March as part of Apple’s push into services.
  • The card has no numbers imprinted on it, only a name. The actual credit card numbers are stored in the Apple wallet. This was designed to be an mobile first card.

Amazon Plans to Create Orbital Internet

  • Amazon is planning to send 3,236 satellites into orbit to create a new satellite-based internet service provide
  • The company asked the FCC back in April whether it could launch the satellites, and its plan has now been approved.
  • The plan is known within Amazon as ‘Project Kuiper,’ named for a region of the solar system that exists beyond the eight major planets, and will give “unserved and underserved” communities access to the internet.
  • Two issues must be considered
    • Space is surprisingly crowded. There are nearly 2,000 satellites circling the Earth at the moment, and that number is increasing rapidly. Some satellites in lower orbits are travelling at more than 17,000 mph, making it collisions with even small pieces of
    • NASA is worried about the amount of satellites and space junk in orbit, saying that there are more than 20,000 pieces of space debris larger than a softball in orbit, and 500,000 larger than the size of a marble.
    • Anti-trust Concerns. With a satellite-based internet-serving customers with little to no option for changing supplier, Amazon would almost have a captive market. If Amazon raised the prices for internet provision, would customers have anywhere else to turn?
    • But, if a country wanted to increase corporation tax, for example, could Amazon threaten to remove the internet from some of its population?
  • Space might be the final frontier, but it needs to be controlled before it turns into a wild west.

Robocalls Are a Nuisance – Possible Remedies

  • In 2019, scam calls will make up 44.6% of all US mobile phone calls, one study predicts. Iy fast. It’s up from 29.2% in 2018 and 3.7% in 2017.
  • Last year saw 85 billion spam calls across the globe. The types of scams vary. Some are phishing for bank or credit information by impersonating your bank, your phone company, or the IRS. Others simply want you scare you into calling back so that they can hit you with a bill for their pay-per-minute number.
  • The billions of calls wouldn’t be possible without robocalling technology, which lets scammers call hundreds of potential victims simultaneously,
  • The bank holding company Capital One bank was the worst offender by far last month, with over 23 million estimated national calls, more than double the calls attributed to the runner-up, Comcast.
  • The US government has not been of much help. You can sign up for the national Do Not Call Registry, but the government can only investigate a fraction of infractions.
  • Robocalls are the Federal Communications Commission’s top consumer complaint, with over 200,000 complaints lodged annually.
  • The advice from the FCC: Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
  • When it comes to blocking calls, we have two options – blacklisting and whitelisting.
  • With a blacklist, every phone number found to be a spammer, scammer, or otherwise unwanted will be blocked from reaching you. But numbers can be spoofed.
  • Whitelisting is blocks everyone as the default, only allowing in any pre-approved numbers from your phone’s contact list. Friends and family will get through, but no one else including your dentist office or a school closing notification.
  • Whitelisting seems to be only method that works today.

Amazon’s Ring Doorbell attract Congressional Concern

  • Amazon-owned doorbell camera company Ring is facing questions from a U.S. senator over its partnerships with police departments around the country.
  • Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, sent a letter Thursday to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos raising privacy and civil liberty concerns about Ring cameras that are capturing and storing footage of U.S. neighborhoods.
  • Markey is seeking more information from Bezos about Ring’s video-sharing agreements with law enforcement agencies.
  • The lawmaker says he’s also alarmed that Ring may be pursuing facial recognition technology that could flag certain people as suspicious.
  • Many police agencies have said the partnerships with Ring’s crime-focused social network serve as a digital neighborhood watch.
  • Critics complain it turns neighborhoods into places of constant surveillance and creates suspicion that falls heavier on minorities.
  • The Washington Post reported last week that more than 400 police agencies have signed agreements with Ring since the company began the partnerships last year.