Show of 11-30-2019

Tech Talk

November 30, 2019

 

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments taken from previous shows.

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Jason in New York City: Dear Tech Talk. I have a three-year-old laptop that has a broken screen. It is smashed and it won’t light up at all. I checked and it would cost more to have the screen replaced than the laptop is really worth. I plan to just junk it, but I have a lot of files on there that I’d really like to get off of it first. Do you think I’ll be able to save my files, and if so, how do I do it? Jason in New York City
  • Tech Talk Responds: I think you should indeed be able to save the files from your damaged laptop. Here are a few options for you to consider. Even though the screen is unusable, the laptop itself might still boot up just fine.
  • If it appears to start up after pressing the power button, you can try connecting an external monitor via the external video port. If all goes well you can simply run the machine with the external monitor long enough to copy the files from the hard drive.
  • You can remove the hard drive and connect it to another PC via an inexpensive external USB hard drive adapter.
  • You can remove the hard drive, then slip it inside an external USB hard drive enclosure and leave it connected to your computer as an external drive.
  • If you decide to go with the first option, be sure to either remove the hard drive from the laptop before disposing of it. That way no one will be able to steal your data from it.
  • Email from Wije in Rockville, MD: Tech Doc and Jim. I am having problems with my data usage. I have heard that iOS13 has solved this problem. What are the facts? Wije in Rockville.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You are correct, There is a Low data Mode in iOS 13 that shuts off all background communication. It stops Background App Refresh for apps and requests apps to postpone all non-urgent sync tasks until you are connected to a network that does not have Low data mode enabled. It also pauses all background sync tasks. So when Low Data Mode is enabled, the Photos app won’t back up your photos. You will not see much of a difference using your iPhone on a day-to-day basis, but all the background processes that you usually do not have control over will be paused.
  • To enable Low Data Mode on your cellular data connection, open the iPhone’s Settings app, and select the “Cellular” option.
  • Tap on Cellular option in Settings app
  • Tap on “Cellular Data Options.”
  • Tap on the toggle next to “Low Data Mode” to turn on the feature.
  • Tap on Low Data Mode toggle to enable Low Data mode
  • You can also enable low data mode in specific apps and services. For example, Instagram has an option for a low data mode. To save data usage in streaming apps, you can reduce the video or audio streaming quality.
  • Email from Donna in Pittsburg, KS: Dear Tech Talk. I have a bad problem and I need help ASAP. I was browsing Facebook last night and clicked on a link that caught my attention. As soon as I clicked it my screen went solid blue and the computer froze up completely. I finally just unplugged it and it booted back up into Windows, but now none of my programs will open. It’s running real slow too. I’m sure the link I clicked probably put a virus on my system but my Norton antivirus software won’t open so I can’t run a scan. Is there anything I can do to fix this problem besides just buying a new computer? Thanks for your help. Donna from Pittsburg, Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: The best way to be absolutely certain that you have completely cleaned your PC of malware is to wipe your hard drive and re-install Windows from scratch.
  • The second best way is to restore everything from a known good system image backup that you created at a point in time before your PC became infected with the malware.
  • Sometimes neither of those options are feasible however, so we have to remove the malware manually. Here’s the step-by-step procedure that I recommend:
  • Boot your PC into Safe Mode with Networking.
  • Download Geek Uninstaller and use it to remove any toolbars that you do not remember installing at some point.
  • If possible, update your existing antivirus software and run a thorough scan to remove any malware that it finds.
  • If you’re unable to update your existing antivirus program, uninstall it and then install the free version of Avast Antivirus and run a scan with it.
  • Download the free version of Malwarebytes from this page, then install it and run a thorough scan so it can remove any malware that it finds.
  • Download Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit from this page and run it, then follow that up by downloading the free Sophos Rootkit Removal tool from this page and running it as well.
  • Download Autoruns from this page. Save the zipped folder to your Desktop, extract all the files, and then click on autoruns.exe to run the program.
  • Once Autoruns is up and running, uncheck the box beside every process that you don’t want to load every time the PC is booted up.
  • Email from Allen in Springfield, Missouri: Dear Doc and Jim. I just got my new iPhone and configured it to allow Wi-Fi calling. Wi-Fi calling works when I am at work. However, when I get home and connect to my home router, Wi-Fi calling fails to initiate. I need Wi-Fi caling because my cellular signal at home is very weak, particularly in the basement. Thanks for your help. Allen in Springfield, Missouri.
  • Tech Talk Responds: To use Wi-Fi Calling, your device must be able to communicate with the carrier network. If the router’s configuration has been updated or you are using a firewall you may have to update the router settings to support Wi-Fi Calling.
  • Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) is a method of encrypting traffic sent through the Internet. It is used to provide a secure voice and data communication path. Wi-Fi Calling requires IPsec pass-through. Make certain that IPSec is allowed. This setting can be found the firewall section of your router configuration. UDP Ports 500 and 4500 are used to communicate with the carrier. These ports must be open. Check the access lists in the firewall section of your router setup. These requirements re described in RFC 5996, which described Version 2 of the Internet Key Exchange (IKEv2). IKEvs is a component of IPsec used for performing mutual authentication and establishing and maintaining Security Associations. Finally Wi-Fi calling performs best if the Maximum Packet Size (MTU) is set to 1500. Just search for MTU in your router settings. Hope these changes work for you.
  • Email from Don in Baltimore, MD: What is the difference between a ‘System Image’ backup and a regular backup? Are these just regular backups or is there something different about them? I’ve been using Carbonite to back up my irreplaceable files, but would I be better off creating Windows 10 System Image backups instead? Don in Baltimore, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: What you refer to as “regular” backups typically only back up selected types of files, leaving the rest of the files on the hard drive or SSD out of the backup set. On the other hand, an “image” backup creates what is essentially a “mirror image” of the contents of your hard drive or SSD and (usually) stores it on an external USB hard drive. That means if you ever need to replace a failed drive or reinstall the operating system for some reason you’ll be able to restore the drive back to the exact state it was in at the time the image backup was created.
  • Carbonite is an excellent choice for an off-site backup medium. That is probably not a disk image, unless you have purchased that very expensive option from Carbonite.
  • The good news is that Windows 10 can create a System Image on an external USB hard drive.
    • Click the Start button, the type the words control panel.
    • Select Control Panel from the list of search results.
    • Click System and Security.
    • Click File History.
    • Click the System Image Backup in the lower left-hand corner.
    • Click Create a system image.
  • Repeat the steps above on a regular basis to ensure that you always have a recent backup image on hand. Back up files daily. Create a disk image whenever you make changes to the OS or to your applications.

Profiles in IT: Alex Hills

  • Alex Hills is Distinguished Service Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, where he and his team built the world’s first big Wi-Fi network at Carnegie Mellon.
  • Alex Hills was born in 1943 in Caldwell, New Jersey.
  • Alex got his Novice Class ham radio license at 14, and his General Class a year later. He built his first transmitter and receiver from a kit. Radio became his passion.
  • Alex Hills received his BS from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1964.
  • He then moved around the US teaching engineering at various institutions.
  • In 1969, he received his MS from Arizona State University.
  • After graduation, looking for some excitement, he joined the military. He served as a U.S. Army Signal Corps officer and company commander in Korea.
  • In 1971, RCA hired him to install VHS communication systems to 142 remote Alaskan villages. This is where he learned about the five bad boys of radio: shadowing, reflection, refraction, scattering, and diffraction.
  • On Little Diomede, a small island in the Bering Strait, he bounced the signal off the cliffs of Big Diomede, an island controlled by Russia, to reach receivers in Alaska.
  • VHS was designed to replace short wave radio, which was severely disrupted by the aurora borealis. However, it could not cover Alaska without mountaintop repeaters.
  • He soon realized that satellites were a better solution, but RCA was not interested.
  • In 1973, he quit in frustration and was hired by public radio station KOTZ in Kotzebue, as an engineer and GM. He tended the transmitters, ran the station, and had his own show. KOTZ was the only station in Northwest Alaska.
  • Working with state and local politicians, Alex finally got the small satellite earth stations in the remote villages ($5M from Alaska bought the equipment; RCA installed and maintained the links). However, each village still had only one phone.
  • Hills then started the region’s OTZ Telephone Cooperative and brought telephone exchanges to many rural villages, linking the exchanges to satellite dishes. Other cooperatives finally brought phones to all remote villages. Mission accomplished.
  • In 1977, he enrolled in a PhD program at Carnegie Mellon University, completing in 1979. After graduation, he was hired by CMU to teach.
  • In 1993, Alex was the founding Director of CMU’s Information Networking Institute.
  • Alex Hills and his team built the world’s first big Wi-Fi network. It was an unheard of idea when Hills started the project in 1993. The new network, which came to be called “Wireless Andrew,” was the prototype used by many others.
  • Working with colleagues, Professor Hills also developed a methodology for designing Wi-Fi networks. He invented a semi-automated design tool called “Rollabout” to dramatically improve and speed up the Wi-Fi network design process.
  • Hills works with CMU students on many projects in developing nations.
  • He holds 18 patents. Alex retired in 2010 from CMU and now lives in Palmer, AK.

Food Science: Frozen Turkey

  • Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D. has a new way to roast your Thanksgiving turkey: put it in the oven frozen solid.
  • Snyder is the president of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul , Minnesota.
  • A common problem on Thanksgiving is waking up on Thanksgiving morning and realizing that the turkey has not been thawed, and there is not enough time to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator or in flowing water at 70 degrees F, which takes hours.
  • However, there is a very simple solution – cook the entire turkey from the frozen state.
  • The FDA Food Code allows this. The HACCP-based procedure for cooking a 12-to-13-lb. frozen turkey is shown below.
  • Start 5 to 5 1/2 hours before you want to serve the cooked turkey. Set the oven temperature at 325 degrees It is much better that the turkey be done 30 minutes before mealtime than to rush and serve an undercooked turkey.
  • Remove the wrapping from the turkey and put the turkey on a rack on a pan that has been covered with foil to make cleaning easy.
  • In the first 2 to 2 1/2 hours, the legs and thighs get up to approximately 100 degrees The breast, about 1 inch into the flesh, is still at the soft ice point, about 25 degrees F. At this point, begin to monitor breast temperature.
  • After about 3 1/2 hours, the legs and thighs will be around 150 to 160 degrees F, and the breast, about 40 to 50 degrees The bag of heart, liver, etc. and the neck can be removed.
  • At 4 1/2 to 5 hours, the turkey is nicely cooked. Check the temperature. The leg and thigh should be tender and at a temperature of 175 to 185 degrees F, while the breast will be moist at a temperature of 160 to 170 degrees
  • Cooking a turkey from the frozen state has benefits over cooking a thawed turkey.
  • If one thaws a turkey in a home refrigerator, there is a significant risk of raw juice with pathogens at high levels getting on refrigerator surfaces, other foods in the refrigerator, countertops, and sink, thus creating a hazard and a need for extensive cleaning and sanitizing.
  • The second benefit is that, because the breast has greater mass, it takes longer to thaw. Therefore, the thigh and leg are well cooked and tender, while the breast is not overcooked and dried out. The breast will cook to a juicy 160-to-165 degrees F endpoint without difficulty.

Idea of the Week: Generating Power from the Night Sky

  • A new device can harvest energy from the cold night sky.
  • By harnessing the temperature difference between Earth and outer space, a prototype of the device produced enough electricity at night to power a small LED light.
  • A bigger version of this nighttime generator could someday light rooms, charge phones or power other electronics in remote or low-resource areas that lack electricity at night when solar panels don’t work.
  • The core of the new night-light is a thermoelectric generator, which produces electricity when one side of the generator is cooler than the other.
  • The sky-facing side of the generator is attached to an aluminum plate sealed beneath a transparent cover and surrounded with insulation to keep heat out. This plate stays cooler than the ambient air by shedding any heat it absorbs as infrared radiation.
  • Meanwhile, the bottom of the generator is attached to an exposed aluminum plate that is continually warmed by ambient air.
  • At night, when not baking under the sun, the top plate can get a couple of degrees Celsius cooler than the bottom of the generator.
  • Engineer Wei Li of Stanford University and colleagues tested a 20-centimeter prototype of the device on a clear December night in Stanford, Calif.
  • The generator produced up to about 25 milliwatts of power per square meter of device, enough to light a small light-emitting diode, or LED bulb.
  • The team estimates that further design improvements, like better insulation around the cool top plate, could boost production up to at least 0.5 watts per square meter.
  • A typical lamp bulb might consume a few watts of electricity. So a device that took up a few square meters of roof space could light up a room from the night sky.

Google to Digitize 5 Million New York Times Historical Photos

  • The New York Times doesn’t keep bodies in its “morgue” — it keeps pictures.
  • In a basement under its Times Square office, stuffed into cabinets and drawers, the Times stores between 5 million and 7 million images, along with information about when they were published and why. Now the paper is working with Google to digitize its huge collection.
  • The morgue (as the basement storage area is known) contains pictures going back to the 19th century, many of which exist nowhere else in the world. It is a chronicle of more than a century of global events that have shaped our modern world.”
  • Google will use AI to scan the hand- and type-written notes attached to each image and to categorize the semantic information they contain (linking data like locations and dates).
  • Google says the Times will also be able to use its object recognition tools to extract even more information from the photos, making them easier to catalog and resurface for future use.
  • The pictures won’t even be accessible to the public, as they were when Google worked on Time magazine’s archive. Hopefully, that will be next.

App of the Week: Apple VoiceOver

  • In 1993, Scott Leason was a U.S. Navy veteran who had seven years of service as a visual communications expert. Unfortunately, that was also the year that he lost his vision in both eyes when he was shot at during a robbery attempt.
  • Twenty-five years later, Leason has his iPhone XR and iOS’ VoiceOver feature to help him out in his everyday life, which includes regular surfing sessions in the San Diego area.
  • VoiceOver is a gesture-based screen reader that lets you enjoy using iPhone even if you don’t see the screen. With VoiceOver enabled, just triple-click the Home button to access it wherever you are in iOS. Hear a description of everything happening on your screen, from battery level to who’s calling to which app your finger is on. You can also adjust the speaking rate and pitch to suit you.
  • Because VoiceOver is integrated in iOS, it works with all the built-in iPhone apps. You can create custom labels for buttons in any app — including third-party apps. And Apple works with the iOS developer community to make even more apps compatible with VoiceOver.
  • With the help of his new iPhone XR, Leason is now able to get ready for a day of surfing by checking the latest reports on the Surfline app. He also uses an Apple Watch Series 4 to monitor the progress of his surfing workouts and to find out how many calories he has burned.
  • According to Paul Lang, instructional coordinator at San Diego’s Mission Bay Aquatic Center, Leason’s ability to use the iPhone and VoiceOver to assist him in his daily tasks has been quite impressive.

The World’s Longest Running Webcam Almost Went Offline

  • FogCam, the world’s longest running webcam, will be shut down its creators, Jeff Schwartz and Dan Wong, announced on Twitter:
  • FogCam has been in “near-continuous operation” for the past 25 years, having been temporarily offline when it had to be moved around San Francisco State University’s campus.
  • Originally, the duo came up with the idea to set up a livestream while they were taking computer science classes and learning the process of scripting. Schwartz also ran another webcam from his apartment that streamed his cats, Petunia and Web, so he could keep an eye on them while he attended classes.
  • Schwartz and Wong’s “little pet project” grew quickly and came to be loved by viewers, many of whom shared their disappointment:
  • Alas, Wong and Schwartz seem firm in their decision to shut the camera down but will leave the FogCam website up “for the sake of posterity.”
  • Update from the website: San Francisco State University can confirm it has agreed to continue maintaining the FogCam, which prevents shutdown of the service.
    • San Francisco State University has supported operation of the FogCam since its inception in 1994, a major technology milestone at the time. The University looks forward to continuing the webcam’s legacy.
  • Link to Website: https://www.fogcam.org/