Show of 12-14-2019

Tech Talk

December 14, 2019

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Don in Alexandria: Dear Doc and Jim: I need to connect a desktop computer in my basement to my router which is in my sunroom (on the far end of the ground floor of my house). I tried using a USB Wi-Fi adapter but the signal was just too weak to maintain a usable connection. After hearing your show on powerline networking adapters I did some research on Amazon and ended up buying one (Zyxel AV2000 Powerline Brown Box Kit for $69.99). I installed the two adapters per the instructions and I can establish an Ethernet connection between the computer and the router just fine. However, after a couple of minutes, the connection drops out and I have to restart the computer to get it to connect again. This particular unit has very good ratings on Amazon. Do you have any idea about what I need to do to get these things working as they should? Don in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: The power line networking kit you bought is a good one. I think you made a wise choice. The fact that you are able to establish a connection between the computer and the router leads me to believe the devices are working as they should.
  • I can think of two possible causes of issues with power line networking devices:
    • One or both of the power line networking adapters is plugged into a power strip, a surge protector or an extension cord. Power line adapters need to be plugged directly into a wall outlet in order to work properly. If you plug them into any type of intermediary device they will often either not work at all or establish poor connections (as in your case).
    • One or both of the electrical outlets you are using with the adapters is wired incorrectly. This is easy to check with an inexpensive electrical outlet tester. These outlet testers are easy to use. Simply plug the tester into an outlet and compare the status lights to the chart on the adapter. The pattern of the illuminated lights will tell you if there is a wiring problem. If you discover that one (or both) of your outlets is wired incorrectly, you will need to rewire the outlet.
  • I believe one of the above situations is likely preventing your power line networking adapters from working correctly. Good luck with your network.
  • Email from Emily: Dear Richard, I listen to your program every day on Apple ITunes in Taiwan. Because I want to improve my English in listening and speaking skill. You really give me a great help in English learning. Thank you very much! Best Regards, Emily Liang from Taiwan
  • Tech Talk Answers: Thanks for listening Emily. The podcast is on many podcast sites, in addition to iTunes (podcastone.com, techtalkonline.com, stitcher,com).
  • Email from Amy in Baltimore: Dear Doc and Jim. I have been using my Netgear wireless router without a password on the Wi-Fi connection for several years. My boyfriend told me I need to put a password on the Wi-Fi connection but I don’t think it’s necessary because I don’t have any neighbors living close by to piggyback off of it. I like being able to let guests connect to my network without having to hassle with a password. Do you think it’s ok if I leave it without a password, or is my boyfriend right? Enjoy the podcast. Amy in Baltimore
  • Tech Talk Responds: You boyfriend is right. Without password protection your Wi-Fi connection is open to absolutely anyone who happens to be in close proximity to your house, even someone who might just happen to drive by and notice that you have an unsecured wireless network.
  • Unsecured Wi-Fi connections are especially useful to people who are into child pornography. Why? Because when the police try to track them down by IP address they will end up at the house of the owner of the unsecured Wi-Fi connection instead of their own!
  • Everything you send over an open Wi-Fi connection that isn’t encrypted by your web browser can be read by anyone with a laptop equipped with “sniffer” software. That means all of your emails and instant messages as well as your unencrypted usernames and passwords are free for the taking by that someone who appears to be waiting in his car for AAA.
  • You need to secure you network.
    • Secure your Wi-Fi connection with the strongest encryption method that’s supported by your router. If your router doesn’t support the latest encryption methods I recommend replacing it with a newer model that does. Don’t use WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy). Use at least WPA2 or WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access II or III).
    • Use a strong password that is difficult to break. Short passwords consisting of common names or words can be broken in seconds by an experienced hacker with the right tools (and virtually.
    • Change the name of your Wi-Fi network (some routers use the term ‘SSID’ instead of ‘network name’). The default network name often identifies the brand of router you’re using – a very handy piece of information for a hacker.
  • Email from Lilly in Fairfax. Dear Tech Talk. I am trying to configure a Wi-Fi extender to get Internet in the sunroom. I noticed that the device has a button called WPS. I can’t figure out what this button does. Help. Lilly in Fairfax, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) is a network security standard to create a secure wireless home network. Created by the Wi-Fi Alliance in 2006, the goal is to make network configuration easy. Most routers support WPS.
  • To configure the Wi-Fi extender with WPS, press the WPS button on your router. That places it into the discovery mode. The go to your Wi-Fi extender and press the WPS button. When the router discovers the new device, it will transfer the Wi-Fi password and network. You configuration will be complete without entering the information manually. This is a very convenient feature.
  • You can use the WPS button to connect an Android phone to the network. Simply go to Wi-Fi preferences and click the WPS button. Unfortunately, the iPhone does not support WPS to connect to WiFi networks. You need to manually type the password for the WiFi network you wish to connect to on the iPhone.
  • Email from Tung in Ohio: Dear Doc and Jim. I’m getting ready to buy a new Windows 10 laptop and I want to make sure it’ll be safe from viruses. It seems like I remember reading somewhere that you don’t need to buy an antivirus program for Windows 10 because it comes with one built-in. Is that true? I definitely want to protect my computer from viruses but I don’t want to pay for a program that I don’t need. Love the show. Tung in Ohio
  • Tech Talk Responds: Windows 10 indeed comes with an integrated antivirus app called Windows Defender. And although there are third-party antivirus solutions that are better, Windows Defender is actually pretty good.
  • You have two free options for effective virus protection available to you:
    • Use the Windows Defender security app that your new computer will come with and augment it with the free version of Malwarebytes. Just visit this page: https://www.malwarebytes.com// and click the big “Free Download” button. When you install Malwarebytes, you will actually be installing a 14 day free trial of the paid Malwarebytes program. At the end of the 14 day trial period simply do nothing and your Malwarebytes installation will revert to the free version. MalwareBytes free version is not a real time anti-virus; it simply scans for other types of malware and should run with Windows Defender
    • Download a great free antivirus program like Avast or AVG and augment the free version of Malwarebytes. After you install any third-party antivirus program Windows Defender will detect that another antivirus app is installed and automatically disable itself. This is important because you should never run more than one full-time antivirus program at a time. This post explains why.
  • Email from Mary Ann in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. How can I turn off the annoying camera clicking sound on my iPhone. I was at an event last night and the noise bothered everyone around me. Enjoy the show. Mary Ann in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: The fact that you cannot simply switch off your phone’s camera shutter noise is annoying. However, you have other two options:
    • Turn on live photos, by clicking on the concentric circles at the top of screen. Live photos capture a few seconds of video with each photo.
    • Flip the ring/silent switch on the left side of your iPhone. Both the ring and camera’s shutter sound will be silenced.

Profiles in IT: John Bannister Goodenough

  • John Bannister Goodenough is an American a solid-state physicist, who is widely credited with the identification and development of the lithium-ion battery.
  • John Goodenough was born July 25, 1922, in Jena, Germany, to American parents.
  • John and his brother attended boarding school at Groton in Massachusetts.
  • In 1944, Goodenough received a BS in Mathematics, summa cum laude, from Yale.
  • In 1952, after serving as an Army meteorologist in World War II, Goodenough completed his MS and PhD at the University of Chicago.
  • After his studies, Goodenough was a research scientist and team leader at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory for 24 years.
  • During this time, he was part of an interdisciplinary team responsible for developing random access magnetic memory (RAM).
  • During the late 1970s and early 1980s, he continued his career as head of the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory at University of Oxford.
  • Goodenough expanded upon the work of Stanley Whittingham on battery materials.
  • In 1980, Goodenough found that by using LixCoO2 as a lightweight, high energy density cathode material, he could double the capacity of lithium-ion batteries.
  • Goodenough’s work was commercialized through Sony by Akira Yoshino, who had contributed additional improvements to the battery construction.
  • Since 1986, Goodenough has been a Professor at The University of Texas at Austin in the Cockrell School of Engineering.
  • During his tenure there, he has continued to study improved materials for batteries to help promote the development of electric vehicles.
  • His group has identified lithium-based materials that do not rely on cobalt, such as lithium-manganese oxides that are used today for most electric vehicle batteries, and lithium-iron phosphates that are used for smaller devices like power tools.
  • On February 28, 2017, Goodenough and his team at the University of Texas demonstrated a low-cost solid-state glass battery (noncombustible, long cycle life, high energy density, and fast charge/discharge).
  • Instead of liquid electrolytes, the patented battery uses glass electrolytes that enable the use of an alkali-metal anode without the formation of dendrites.
  • In 2019, he, Whittingham, and Yoshino shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their research in lithium-ion batteries.
  • He has authored more than 550 articles, 85 book chapters, and 5 books.
  • Goodenough was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on October 9, 2019, for his work on lithium-ion batteries, along with M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino. He is the oldest person to be awarded the Nobel Prize.
  • Goodenough still works at the university at age 97 as of 2019, hoping to find another breakthrough in battery technology.

The Global Search for Lithium

  • Rechargeable lithium batteries are crucial for storing energy produced by solar and wind power and for powering electric vehicles.
  • Lithium, in its elemental form, is soft and silvery and light, with a density about half that of water. The element was discovered in 1817 by Swedish chemist Johan August Arfwedson, who was analyzing a grayish mineral called petalite.
  • Lithium makes up about 0.002 percent of Earth’s crust, but isn’t particularly rare,
  • Global demand for the metal is expected to rise at least 300 percent in the next 10 to 15 years because sales of electric vehicles are expected to increase dramatically.
  • Researchers are studying how and where the forces of wind, water, heat and time combine to create rich deposits of the metal. Such places include the flat desert basins of the “lithium triangle” of Chile, Argentina and Bolivia; volcanic rocks called pegmatites in Australia, the United States and Canada; and lithium-bearing clays in the United States.
  • Pegmatite — Before the 1990s, pegmatites in the United States were the primary source of mined lithium. But extracting lithium ore, primarily a mineral called spodumene, from the rock is costly.
  • Brines — In the 1990s, a much cheaper source of lithium became an option. Just beneath the arid salt flats spanning large swaths of Chile, Argentina and Bolivia circulates salty, lithium-enriched groundwater. Miners pump the salty water to the surface into ponds and let it evaporate in the sun.
  • To extract battery-grade lithium in commercially useful forms, particularly lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide, the miners add different minerals to the brine.
  • Extracting lithium from the brine is extremely cheap and it dominates the market.
  • Clays — To get lithium-enriched clay requires the right starting ingredients, particularly lithium-bearing rocks such as pegmatite and circulating groundwater.
  • The groundwater leaches the lithium from the rocks and transports it to a lake where it becomes concentrated in the sediments.
  • The western United States, it turns out, has all the right ingredients to make lithium-rich clay. The Yellowstone caldera, would be excellent sources of lithium.
  • Most of the current lithium sources are pegmatite mines in Australia and China and brine mines in Chile and Argentina.

Tip of the Week: Burglars are Using Social Media to Identify Targets

  • You have probably seen a Facebook status update like this: We just arrived at the airport. So glad our trip to Jamaica is finally underway! See ya’ll in 10 days!
  • Most people would read this status update and think nothing of it, but a thief could read it and immediately start making plans to pay your home a little visit sometime during the next 9 days.
  • While it’s certainly understandable that one would want to share the good news about a well-deserved vacation with their friends, is it really wise to share it on the Internet?
  • We trust our friends not to rob us blind while we are gone, but what about our friends’ friends?
  • Even if you have your privacy settings configured to share your Facebook posts with just your “friends”, how do you know they will not share your vacation plans with their friends?
  • For that matter, how do you know that all of your friends on Facebook are trustworthy?
  • The possibility of getting burgled because of a Facebook post might seem a bit far-fetched, but it happens every single day in the real world. And the problem is getting worse.
  • Many users publish more than enough personal info on their Facebook profiles to make it easy for a thief to use Google Maps to find their homes. All it takes is one seemingly innocent status update to make your home a prime target for burglars while you are out of town on vacation.
  • It might be a good idea to tell only the friends you would trust your travel plans, either in person or on the phone. Not in a public forum.

Tim Berners-Lee Tries to Fix the Internet

  • Tim Berners-Lee, the benevolent father of the WWW, has produced an international treaty to rebuild the web as its founders envisioned.
  • The Contract for the Web flows from his proposal at last year’s Web Summit, crafted with input from over 80 organizations and surveyed citizens, and spearheaded by representatives from entities, including Facebook, Microsoft, and the French, German, and London governments.
  • It outlines nine principles for government and company-implemented reform on tenets like privacy, transparency, inclusivity, and rational dialogue.
  • Since it officially unrolled yesterday with a little over 160 backers, hundreds of other organizations are signing on–at this writing, the World Wide Web Foundation reports are 500 endorsing organizations, including Twitter.
  • The contract is less of a law than an agreement on fundamental moral principles for society: don’t verbally abuse people, don’t hit the kill switch, don’t spy on people, tell us you’re spying if you are, tell us how much you need to spy, and don’t censor free speech.
  • The only enforcement mechanism is being removed as a backer if the steering committee finds that governments and companies are not adhering to it.
  • It seems sort of like the Paris Accord with pledges for action that are more difficult to measure and we still need to identify benchmarks for what peak levels of abuse we’re willing to put up with.
  • You can sign on, too, and make citizen pledges to share open licenses, resist the hate, and also please don’t publish revenge porn.
  • Link: contractfortheweb.org/

Tip of the Week: How to Create a Strong Password

  • One of the most difficult tasks in computing is choosing a password that is both hard for hackers to crack and easy to remember.
  • In order for a password to effectively do its job, it needs to be both long and obscure.
  • Hackers use sophisticated software programs that are designed to break into accounts by trying every possible combination of letters and numbers until they stumble upon the right one.
  • Choosing a long password that is easy to remember isn’t all that difficult. All you have to do is take an easy to remember phrase and mix it up a bit.
  • Here’s an example:
    • tech talk radio is on federal news radio
  • We can easily change this easy to remember phrase into an effective password by following these steps:
  • First, eliminate all the spaces so the words all run together like this:
    • techtalkradioisonfederalnewsradio
  • Next, capitalize the first letter of the second word:
  • tech talk radio is on federal news radio
    • techTalkradioisonfederalnewsradio
  • Next, change all the letter a’s to the asterisk symbol @:
    • techT@lkr@dioisonfeder@lnewsr@dio
  • Next, change the letter s’s to dollar signs:
    • techT@lkr@dioisonfeder@lnew$r@dio
  • And finally, I add three letters onto the end that makes the password unique for each service I use it with.
  • For example, if this was my Gmail password I would add gma onto the end to ultimately end up with this:
    • techT@lkr@dioisonfeder@lnew$r@diogma
  • If I’m creating a password for my Facebook account I would add fac and end up with this:
    • techT@lkr@dioisonfeder@lnew$r@diofac
  • We have created one single password that’s very secure and easy to remember, yet is unique for every website it’s used on. No dangerous password manager required.
  • Please do not use this example. Pick your own easy to remember phrase.

Ring Camera Hacked in 8-year-old Daughter’s Room

  • A family in Mississippi claims a hacker gained access to a Ring camera placed in their 8-year-old daughter’s room and started talking to her.
  • Mysterious music started playing from the Ring. A voice can also be heard saying “Hello there.” “I’m your best friend. I’m Santa Claus.”
  • “You can do whatever you want right now,” said the voice. “You can mess up your room. You can break your TV.”
  • Ring said the incident was not related to a breach or compromise of its security. Due to the fact that customers often use the same username and password for their various accounts and subscriptions, bad actors often re-use credentials stolen or leaked from one service on other services.
  • As a precaution, Ring encouraged all users to enable two-factor authentication on their Ring account, use strong passwords and regularly change their passwords.
  • Earlier this year, a California family said they heard an emergency warning from their Nest camera about three missiles from North Korea preparing to strike the U.S.
  • The incident happened because of a compromised password, not a direct hack of their system. Like Ring, Nest advises users to use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication.

Huawei’s Darkest Secret Has Just Been Exposed

  • China has been suppressing the minority Uighur Muslim population in Xinjiang – imprisonment, surveillance, organ harvesting.
  • Huawei’s technology has been linked to Xinjiang before, but the company has always claimed this is only through third parties, that Huawei itself is not involved.
  • The China Cables, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, include operations manuals and status reports for Xinjiang’s surveillance ecosystem and detention camps.
  • The far-reaching use of technology to underpin all of this is a consistent theme throughout. This includes AI-based surveillance, intrusive data collection and smartphone and general communications monitoring. Any missteps seemingly run the risk of internment. And once detained, only modified thinking and behaviors seem likely to secure a person’s release.
  • Huawei is front and center in providing this technology. Huawei’s work in Xinjiang is extensive and includes working directly with the Chinese Government’s public security bureaus in the region.
  • Huawei’s Xinjiang activities should be taken into consideration during debates about Huawei and 5G technologies.”
  • In addition, TikTok owner ByteDance is accused of deploying a “public security and Internet social governance model” in Xinjiang under a strategic cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Public Security’s Press and Publicity Bureau.