February 1, 2020
Email and Forum Questions
- Email from John in Annapolis: Dear Doc and Jim. My Windows computer is very slow. It is not too old, but it has just slowed down over time. How can I speed it up again? I really don’t want to buy a new one. John in Annapolis
- Tech Talk Responds; The first thing I recommend is making sure your PC is free of viruses and other forms of malware. Next, use Geek Uninstaller (https://geekuninstaller.com/) to remove any programs you don’t need and never intend to use. Geek Uninstaller does a much better job at removing than the native Windows “Remove a Program” utility.
- Next, remove any non-essential programs and utilities from the Windows Startup process using Autoruns. Since it’s freeware from Microsoft Sysinternals, you can be sure Autoruns is safe to use and fully compatible with Windows. Unchecking any non-essential programs in the Autoruns startup list is an easy way to trim down and streamline the Startup process. Finally, run the Windows Update tool to make sure that your Windows installation is completely up to date.
- On the hardware side, make certain that you have at least 8GB of RAM. If your machine is running 4GB, it will be sluggish. If there is too little RAM available, Windows must use a “swap file” that is basically a section of hard drive space that acts as RAM. Swapping is slow.
- Finally, replacing your computer’s existing hard drive with a relatively inexpensive solid state drive (SSD) will make a huge difference in how quickly your computer boots up, shuts down, and runs programs. An SSD stores your operating system, programs, and files in fast non-volatile memory chips instead of on the much slower spinning platters of a traditional hard drive. The difference in speed is amazing!
- Email from Micheal in Philedelphia: Dear Doc and Jim. I finally switched from Windows XP to Windows 10, and I actually like it. However, . I hate having all those notification messages pop up at random times in the lower-right corner of the screen. Is there any way to turn those notifications off? Michael in Philadelphia
- Tech Talk Responds: Windows 10 includes a handy feature called Focus Assist that you can use to prevent all those notifications from popping up at the bottom of your screen. Open All Settings and search for Focus Assist in the search box at the top of the screen. Open the Focus Assist screen.
- Click Alarms only if you want to prevent ALL notifications from being displayed.
- Note: Alarm notifications will still pop up when this setting is enabled. However, if you haven’t created any alarms this setting will effectively hide ALL notifications.
- You can select Priority only if you would like to allow some of the more important notifications to be displayed while hiding all the rest. Note: If you choose this option you’ll need to select the notifications you wish to receive.
- Email from Bob in Maryland: Dear Doc and Jim and my buddy, Mr. B.V. Ever notice how when Jim is doing his normal, regular job, he sounds so professional and so perfect? His professional traffic reporter performances are really incredible! He is very fast and he never ever makes a mistake and he articulates and enunciates perfectly at all times. And then, he comes on Tech Talk Radio. Although in my case, I prefer the more “relaxed” Jim on Tech Talk Radio, even if maybe it is because of the bad influence of Mr. Big Voice. But maybe, just maybe, Jim has some sort of “evil twin” or split personality or something…It really is incredible, the difference between Tech Talk Jim and Traffic Reporter Jim. I LOVE the show and would never miss it. I even love the corny jokes and banter. Your Faithful Listener. Bob in Maryland
- Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for listening and for all your suggestions
- Email from Peter in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. I keep hearing about people having their Twitter accounts “shadow banned”. I do not know exactly what that means but I’m wondering if maybe my account has been shadow banned. I used to receive dozens of new followers every day but I have only received three over the past two weeks. And hardly anyone likes or re-tweets my tweets anymore. They used to do it all the time. Can you tell me exactly what shadow banning is? And how can I tell for sure if my account is shadow banned? Peter in Fairfax
- Tech Talk Responds: Twitter has a set of published rules (Terms Of Service) that users must follow in order to keep their accounts in good standing on the platform. If a user violates one or more of these rules they will typically receive a written warning and a short-term suspension of the right to use the feature that Twitter thinks they have abused. Subsequent infractions can result in the user being permanently banned from using Twitter.
- However, occasionally a user will tweet things that Twitter does not think is good for the Twitter community but does not actually break one of the rules set forth in the Terms of Service. In situations like that, Twitter will typically shadow ban the account in instead of banning it outright since no “rule” was actually broken.
- When a shadow ban is in effect, the user’s account usually will not show up in searches and the only people who will see that account’s tweets are the people who are already following the account. In addition, even their followers will not see their tweets unless they visit the shadow banned account’s Twitter timeline directly. Everything will seem to be working just fine from the shadowbanned user’s perspective. They can still publish tweets of their own and respond to the tweets of other users. You can find out for sure by typing your Twitter handle into the search box on this Twitter Shadow Ban test site (https://shadowban.eu/).
- Email from Charles in Rockville: Dear Doc and Jim. I just returned from vacation. When I got home I saw that my house had been broken into and ransacked. They took almost everything of value including both of my computers and my iPad. The police came out and did some investigating but now I’m worried about the thief getting into my accounts. I borrowed a friend’s laptop and tried to log into LastPass to change the password but I couldn’t log into my account. The thief must have changed it on me. I called the bank and they changed the password to my online account. Luckily no money had already been withdrawn. I was able to use my friend’s computer to change several other passwords but there were a few that I couldn’t change. My question is do you know of a way to change the master password on my LastPass account without being able to log into it? Worried. Charles in Rockville, MD
- Tech Talk Responds: You could always try using the tools listed on this page to recover your master password if you’d like to attempt to keep using your current LastPass account. Link to page: https://support.logmeininc.com/lastpass/help/recover-your-lost-master-password-lp020010
- The person that stole your devices has already had access to your stored passwords for the better part of two weeks if he was indeed able to log in to your account (and it certainly appears that he was). For that reason, I strongly recommend that you use the tool on this page to simply delete your LastPass account outright and be done with it using this link: https://lastpass.com/delete_account.php
- Email from Don in Baltimore: Dear Doc and Jim. I recently upgraded the speed of my Internet connection. However, I don’t really see an difference in speed. Is there something that I must do in order to get the increased speed. How can actually check the speed accurately. Love the show. Don in Baltimore, MD
- Tech Talk Responds: Internet providers periodically raise the guaranteed download and upload speeds for their various Internet service tiers in order to remain competitive in the marketplace. They usually email their customers to let them know they’ve received a bump in their connection speeds. They will also let the customers know that they will need to order a new updated modem to get faster data transmission. The problem is, many customers either don’t receive the notification emails about the needed modem upgrades or the emails get lost in their junk folder. An old, outdated modem will often throttle their Internet connection down to a speed that is often a lot slower than the speed they should rightfully be enjoying.
- I recommend visiting Speedtest.net (https://www.speedtest.net/) on a regular basis to determine the actual download and upload speeds being delivered by your Internet connection. Then visit your Internet provider’s website to verify the speeds you should be receiving with your plan tier. If the speeds promised for your tier are a lot faster than the actual speeds reported by Speedtest.net, contact your Internet provider and ask them to check it out. You either have a problem with your physical cable connection or your modem needs to be upgraded.
Profiles in IT: Ralph Anthony Brooker
- Ralph Anthony Brooker was a computer scientist best known for designing the world’s first high-level programming language, the Mark 1 Autocode.
- Ralph Anthony Brooker was born September 22, 1925 in London, England.
- He was educated at Emanuel school, Wandsworth, and enjoyed running and rowing.
- In 1943 he won a scholarship to study mathematics at Imperial College. He graduated with first-class honors in 1946.
- In 1947, he was appointed assistant lecturer in engineering mathematics at Imperial.
- His first computer project was construction of a multiplier unit from electro-mechanical relays, which was incorporated into ICCE (pronounced “ikky”), the Imperial College Computing Engine based on the same technology.
- In 1949, Brooker became a research assistant at the Cambridge University mathematical laboratory and took charge of its analogue differential analyzer.
- This machine became obsolete following the completion in May 1949 of the laboratory’s Edsac, the world’s first practical electronic digital computer.
- Brooker switched his interest to computer programming, under the tutelage of David Wheeler. Together they produced a scheme to simplify mathematical programming.
- Brooker was a keen rock climber; after a weekend climbing in north Wales, he visited the computing machine laboratory of Manchester University.
- He introduced himself to the staff, among them Alan Turing. This resulted in the offer of a lectureship in 1951, which he accepted, not least for the proximity to Snowdonia.
- He took over from Alan Turing the task of writing programming manuals and running a user service on the Ferranti Mark 1 computer.
- The tedious Manchester machine-coding conventions that led him to devise what was probably the world’s first publicly available High-Level Language, Mark 1 Autocode.
- It was released March 1954 and about two years ahead of the first Fortran compiler.
- Throughout the 1950s Tony led a group at Manchester working on the theoretical underpinnings of compilers.
- This culminated in the compiler-compiler, a seminal idea first presented at a British Computer Society Conference in July 1960 by Brooker and Derrick Morris.
- This was subsequently implemented on the Ferranti ATLAS and used for high-level language development.
- The ATLAS was regarded as the world’s most powerful computer when it was brought into service in December 1962.
- Tony helped started the UK’s first Computer Science degree course at Manchester.
- He moved to Essex University in 1967 to take up the University’s founding Chair of Computer Science.
- He retired in 1988 and died on 20 November 2019 in Hexham, England.
Avast’s Free Antivirus Shares Browser Data
- Avast is harvesting users’ browser histories on the pretext that the data has been ‘de-identified,’ thus protecting your privacy.
- But the data, which is being sold to third parties, can be linked back to people’s real identities, exposing every click and search they’ve made.
- Last month, the antivirus company tried to justify the practice by claiming the collected web histories were stripped of users’ personal details before being handed off.
- The Avast division charged with selling the data is Jumpshot, a company subsidiary that’s been offering access to user traffic from 100 million devices, including PCs and phones.
- The data collected is so granular that clients can view the individual clicks users are making on their browsing sessions, including the time down to the millisecond. And while the collected data is never linked to a person’s name, email or IP address, each user history is nevertheless assigned to an identifier called the device ID, which will persist unless the user uninstalls the Avast antivirus product.
- At first glance, the click looks harmless. You can’t pin it to an exact user. That is, unless you’re Amazon.com, which could easily figure out which Amazon user bought a product at this time. Suddenly, device ID: 123abcx is a known user.
- Most of the threats posed by de-anonymization—where you are identifying people—comes from the ability to merge the information with other data.
- Avast needs to come clear and disclose exactly what they are doing.
Britain Approves Huawei 5G Despite US Objections
- The US lost its long battle to persuade the UK to ban China’s Huawei Technologies from 5G wireless networks.
- The decision to let Huawei build the periphery of the 5G system showed the difficult position of US allies asked to choose between Washington and Beijing.
- The US has been clear about what it sees as the problem: a potential Chinese breach of allied national security.
- With few alternative companies able to supply the 5G market, the US could not counter the significant added costs and delays involved in banning Huawei outright.
- The threats so far have included cuts to intelligence sharing, although that would come at significant cost to the US itself and British officials don’t believe it would follow through.
- GCHQ, the British equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency, operates a hub for the “Five Eyes” members—Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S.
- Britain’s electronic intelligence agencies appear to have rejected U.S. claims that in 5G networks the core has become “virtual” and so widely distributed that the distinction at the heart of Tuesday’s decision—between a sensitive core and dumb periphery—no longer exists.
- Going forward, countries will need to address the market failure at the root of the Huawei dispute. Only a tiny number of vendors—none of them American—are able to build 5G networks at scale.
- Not only does that force an over-reliance on Chinese suppliers, it also reduces options to build backups into networks.
- The U.S. Defense Science Board recommended in June that the federal government should provide seed funding for “western industrial base alternatives” to Huawei.
Does Your Domain Have a Registry Lock?
- If you’re running a business online, few things can be as disruptive or destructive to your brand as someone stealing your company’s domain name and doing whatever they wish with it.
- Major web site owners aren’t taking full advantage of the security tools available to protect their domains from being hijacked.
- On December 23, 2019, unknown attackers began contacting customer support people at OpenProvider, a popular domain name registrar based in The Netherlands. The scammers told the customer representatives they had just purchased from the original owner the domain e-hawk.net. In the case of e-hawk.net, however, the scammers managed to trick an OpenProvider customer service rep into transferring the domain to another registrar with a fairly lame social engineering ruse — and without triggering any verification to the real owners of the domain.
- E-HAWK said one security precaution his company had not taken with their domain prior to the fraudulent transfer was a “registry lock,” a more stringent, manual (and sometimes offline) process that effectively neutralizes any attempts by fraudsters to social engineer your domain registrar.
- With a registry lock in place, your registrar cannot move your domain to another registrar on its own. Doing so requires manual contact verification by the appropriate domain registry, such as Verisign — which is the authoritative registry for all domains ending in .com, .net, .name, .cc, .tv, .edu, .gov and .jobs.
- In the end, E-HAWK was able to get back its hijacked domain in less than 48 hours, but only because its owners are on a first-name basis with many of the companies that manage the Internet’s global domain name system.
IOS 13 Privacy Features Negatively Affecting Advertisers
- The iOS 13 updates from Apple have substantially cut the amount of user location data shared with apps, especially while they are not in use.
- The pop-up informing users of apps that use data while not in use cuts opt-in rates from 100 percent down to below 50 percent.
- The new update not only reduced the figures but also provide awareness that users have a choice on the kind of data they want to share with apps, the report adds.
- When Apple periodically rolls out iOS 13 updates, it introduced a couple of changes that promote users’ awareness of the issue. Apple allows devices to send pop-up notifications to remind users that they allowed this particular permission. It also provides the option to switch or not give access to the app.
- The amount of background location data that marketers gather dropped by 68 percent since iOS 13 update was released says Locations Sciences.
- Additionally, foreground data sharing, which happens when the app is in use, plummeted by 24 percent.
- Although none of these figures indicates that location tracking is gone, it is now starting to take its toll on advertisers. More users are now opting out in terms of sharing their precise location with apps.
- It is already an indicator for marketers and advertisers to rethink their excessively invasive tracking. With the drop in users’ location data given to apps, targeted advertising is now affected. Marketers now have a lesser amount of data collected.
Teen Hack of the Week: Airpods for Secret Communication
- A YouTube video showed a fun way kids are apparently communicating in class.
- It appears they’re swapping a single Apple AirPod of theirs for a single Apple AirPod of their friends.
- Next, they quietly type little messages using some text-to-speech app and their friends can listen to those messages while the teacher lectures.
- They can talk without moving their lips. There’s nothing like technology that makes you feel very clever.
- It was Apple that first thought of the basic principle of AirPods sharing. The company’s 2017 Christmas ad showed two strangers splitting a pair of AirPods so that they could, oh, dance in the street.
- I suspect that once adults understand this technique, they will be using in their next long, boring meeting.