Show of 03-14-2020

Tech Talk Radio
March 14, 2020

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments taken from previous shows.

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 Philadelphia: 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.
  • Email from Susan in Alexandria: Good morning Dr. Shurtz. How about Tony Brooker, a contemporary and colleague of Alan Turing? Perhaps foremost among his many contributions to computer science, he developed Autocode, the first commercially available high-level programming language. Autocode would allow “anyone” to program the computer – not just the engineers who understood the right-to-left binary coding required to program the machine. Happy New Year to you, Jim, Andrew, Kevin and Mr. Big Voice! Susan in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the suggestion. I will use in a later show. Thanks for listening.
  • Email from June in Burke: Dear Doc and Jim. My iPhone has died on me. The battery needs to be replaced. I need to get my text messages at work. Is there a way to get iMessages on my Windows 10 computer? This is critical. Help. June in Burke
  • Tech Talk Responds: Apple does not want to share their iMessage app with other companies. So your options are slim. I tried an iOS emulator, iPadium, because some said it could execute iMessage. They were wrong. I did not even offer the chance to install the app. In the end, your only options is to install a virtual machine on your Windows computer and then install the MacOS within that virtual machine. You can create a virtual machine using either Oracle VirtualBox Manager (VirtualBox) or VMware Workstation Player (VMware Player). You also need a copy of macOS, too. Once you have the MacOS installed, you simply have to log into your iCloud account and phone number to get iMessages.
  • Email from Scotty in Ft. Lauderdale: Dear Doc and Jim. I have an iPhone 11, but have never installed antivirus software. Is it required? Or am I OK as is. Scotty in Ft. Lauderdale. FL
  • Tech Talk Responds: The short answer is no, you don’t need to install an antivirus app on your iPhone. It’s because iOS (your iPhone’s operating system) forces the apps running on the device to run in a way that isolates them from the operating system itself. That makes it extremely difficult for a malicious app to take control of your phone. The risk of an iPhone catching a virus is so small that it makes little sense to run an antivirus app on one. However, if you ever decide to “jailbreak” your iPhone, iPad or other iOS-based Apple device the built-in protections that lock down your device and protect it from viruses will be rendered ineffective.
  • Email from Drew in Alexandria: Dear Tech Talk. I love to surf the web with the Chrome Browser. Sometimes I will close a tab by mistake and can’t get the web page back again. It is a way to undo closing the browser tab. It would make life so much easier. Love the show. Drew in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can reopen a browser tag. All you have to do is press the Ctrl+Shift+T key combination to reopen the last tab that was closed. Press Ctrl+Shift+T again and it’ll reopen the tab that was closed before that one. By the way, this method of restoring closed tabs works in all the major web browsers, not just Chrome.
  • There are a few more shortcuts that work with all the most popular browsers:
  • Ctrl+Shift+Del – Quickly delete the cookies that have been stored by the browser.
  • Ctr+ (The Ctrl key and the + key) – Zoom the page in and make text larger.
  • Ctr- (The Ctrl key and the – key) – Zoom the page out and make text smaller.
  • Ctrl+F5 – Force the browser to fetch a fresh copy of the current web page.
  • Virginia in Fairfax, VA: Dear Tech Talk. I forgot my Wi-Fi password. My Windows 10 computer logs on the network automatically, but now I have second computer and need to connect it to the router. Is there a way to discover the password stored in my first computer. Enjoy the show. Virginia in Fairfax, VA
  • It’s very easy to forget your Wi-Fi password if your devices store it and log you into the network automatically. Luckily, that’s very easy to do as long as your Windows Windows 10 PC is currently logged into the network. Here’s how:
  • Press the Windows+S key combination to open a “Search” box.
  • Type the word control into the search box and select Control Panel from the drop-down menu.
  • Click Network and Internet.
  • Click Network and Sharing Center.
  • In the “View your active networks” section, click on the name of the active wireless network connection over in the right-hand pane. A box labeled “Wi-Fi Status” should pop up.
  • Click Wireless Properties.
  • Select the Security tab.
  • Click the box labeled “Show characters” and the password for your wireless network will appear in the “Network security key” field.
  • That’s all there is to it. Now that you’ve retrieved your Wi-Fi password, either memorize it or write it down and store it in a lock box or some other secure place so you’ll have it on hand the next time you need it (and you almost certainly will need it again in the future).
  • Email from Alice in Alexandria: Dear Doc and Jim. Help! My taskbar’s on the right side of my screen. How do I move the taskbar back to the bottom where it belongs? I can hardly use mu computer. Alice in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: A lot of people don’t realize it, but the taskbar can be placed on any edge of your screen: left, right, top or bottom. In fact, if you have multiple monitors, it can be placed on any edge of any display. Occasionally, usually through an accidental mouse action, the taskbar can get moved to somewhere other than where we want it. It is easy to move back to the bottom.
  • Right click on an unused area of the taskbar.
  • Make sure that “Lock the taskbar” is UNchecked.
  • Left click and hold in that unused area of the taskbar.
  • Drag the taskbar to the side of the screen you want it.
  • Release the mouse.
  • Right click in an unused area of the taskbar, and make sure that “Lock the taskbar” is checked.
  • Email from Erich in Springfield: Dear Tech Talk. I have a number of ring devices in my house (doorbell and cameras). I am worried because I have heard that many of these devices have been hacked and people can view the cameras remotely. What can I do to protect my family’s privacy? Erich in Springfield
  • Tech Talk Responds: Ring’s central servers were not hacked. Most accounts were hacked because users used the same password everywhere and hackers got simply used it on their Ring account. In other words, poor password management was the culprit.
  • Whether you changed your Ring account’s password or not, you should enable two-factor authentication. The extra security is enough to stop most bad actors from getting into your account. The only pre-requisite to enabling two-factor authentication is having a phone number associated with your Ring account. One should already be there, but the setup process goes over adding a phone number if it isn’t already in place.
  • Two-factor authentication settings can be found in the “Extra Security” section.
  • Click the “Turn On” link to enable the feature.
  • Authenticate that you’re the owner of the account by re-entering your email address and password. Click the “Continue” button to proceed.
  • Enter the phone number that you want to use for two-factor authentication using SMS.
  • Once you have double-checked that you entered the correct number, click the blue “Continue” button at the bottom of the page.
  • After a couple of seconds, you should receive a text message from Ring. Enter the six-digit verification code into your web browser and then click the “Verify” button.

Profiles in IT: Alessandro Volta

  • Alessandro Volta was an Italian physicist, who best known as the inventor of the electric battery and the discoverer of methane.
  • Volta was born in Como, Italy, on 18 February 1745. In 1794,
  • In 1774, he became a professor of physics at the Royal School in Como.
  • A year later, he improved the electrophorus, a device that produced static electricity.
  • In the years between 1776 and 1778, Volta studied the chemistry of gases. He methane after reading a paper by Benjamin Franklin on flammable air.
  • In November 1776, he found methane at Lake Maggiore, and by 1778 he managed to isolate methane. He ignited of methane by an electric spark in a closed vessel.
  • Volta also studied what we now call electrical capacitance, developing means to study both voltage and charge. This is called Volta’s Law of Capacitance.
  • In 1779 he became a professor of experimental physics at the University of Pavia.
  • In 1780, Luigi Galvani had shown that the legs of frogs hanging on iron or brass hooks would twitch when touched with a probe of some other type of metal.
  • He thought this response was caused by ‘animal electricity’ from within the frog.
  • Volta, while initially impressed with Galvani’s findings, came to believe that the electric current came from the two different types of metal.
  • He experimented with stacks of layers of silver and zinc interspersed with layers of cloth or paper soaked in saltwater, and found that an electric current did in fact flow through a wire applied to both ends of the pile.
  • At the anode, the electrode reacts with the electrolyte in a reaction that produces electrons. These electrons accumulate at the anode.At the cathode, another chemical reaction occurs simultaneously that enables that electrode to accept electrons.
  • Each of these reactions has a particular standard potential. The difference in this standard potential is the voltage produced by the battery.
  • The salty water was the electrolyte. An electrolyte can be a liquid, gel or a solid substance that allows the movement of charged ions.
  • He described his findings to the Royal Society of London in 1800.
  • Napoleon was fairly impressed! The volt was named after him.
  • Actually batteries date back to 150 BC in Mesopotamia. The Parthian culture used a device known as the Baghdad battery, made of copper and iron electrodes with vinegar or citric acid. They were used primarily for religious ceremonies.
  • In 1809 Volta became associated member of the Royal Institute of the Netherlands.In honor of his work, Volta was made a count by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1810.
  • Volta retired in 1819 to his estate in Camnago in Como, Italy, now named “Camnago Volta” in his honor.
  • He died there on 5 March 1827, just after his 82nd birthday. Volta’s remains were buried in Camnago Volta.

How Does GPS Work?

  • The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a world-wide radio-navigation system formed from a constellation of 24 satellites and their ground stations.
  • GPS receivers use these “man-made stars” as reference points to calculate positions accurately to an accuracy of meters using unclassified data.
  • GPS Satellites
    • Name: NAVSTAR
    • Manufacturers: Rockwell International
    • Orbit: 12 hours, 55 degrees to the equatorial plane
    • Ground stations in: Hawaii, Ascension Islands, Diego Garcia, Kwajalein, and Colorado Springs
  • Three satellites are needed for triangulation, but the receiver must have an atomic clock
  • Four satellites provide the time information and allow for cheap receivers.

Computer Glitches Caused by Cosmic Rays

  • The Los Alamos National Lab wrote in 2012 that “For over 20 years the military, the commercial aerospace industry, and the computer industry have known that high-energy neutrons streaming through our atmosphere can cause computer errors.”
  • As the feature size on computer gets smaller, the susceptibility to cosmic ray bit flips is increased significantly.
  • When your computer crashes or phone freezes, don’t be so quick to blame the manufacturer.
  • Cosmic rays — or rather the electrically charged particles they generate — may be your real foe.
  • While harmless to living organisms, a small number of these particles have enough energy to interfere with the operation of the microelectronic circuitry in our personal devices… particles alter an individual bit of data stored in a chip’s memory.
  • Consequences can be as trivial as altering a single pixel in a photograph or as serious as bringing down a passenger jet.
  • A “single-event upset” was also blamed for an electronic voting error in Schaerbeekm, Belgium, back in 2003. A bit flip in the electronic voting machine added 4,096 extra votes to one candidate.
  • The issue was noticed only because the machine gave the candidate more votes than were possible.
  • On October 7, 2008, an Airbus A330-303 operated by Qantas Airways was en route from Perth to Singapore.
  • At 37,000 feet, one of the plane’s three air data inertial reference units had a failure, causing incorrect data to be sent to the plane’s flight control systems.
  • This caused the plane to suddenly and severely pitch down, throwing unrestrained occupants to the plane’s ceiling.
  • All potential causes were found to be “unlikely,” or “very unlikely,” except for a cosmic ray bit flip.
  • Cisco has been researching cosmic radiation since 2001, and in September briefly cited cosmic rays as a possible explanation for partial data losses that customer’s were experiencing with their ASR 9000 routers.

Hackable Wireless Voting Machines

  • After Russian hackers made extensive efforts to infiltrate the American voting apparatus in 2016, some states moved to restrict internet access to their vote-counting systems.
  • Colorado got rid of barcodes used to electronically read ballots. California tightened its rules for electronic voting machines that can go online. Ohio bought new voting machines that deliberately excluded wireless capabilities.
  • Michigan went in a different direction, authorizing as much as $82 million for machines that rely on wireless modems to connect to the internet.
  • State officials justified the move by saying it is the best way to satisfy an impatient public that craves instantaneous results, even if they’re unofficial.
  • The problem is, connecting election machines to the public internet, especially wirelessly, leaves the whole system vulnerable.
  • Michigan’s new secretary of state is considering using some of the state’s $10 million in federal election funds to rip out those modems before the March presidential primary.
  • Michigan says its votes are safe from hackers since its election system only connects to the internet only after votes have been counted.
  • Cybersecurity experts differ. Even brief exposure to the internet can leave states vulnerable to infiltration and an attack on the credibility of their results.
  • And yet, some local and state election officials remain committed to wireless-enabled machines, which allow them to quickly provide results to the public and more easily accommodate disabled voters.
  • Heading into the 2020 presidential election, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida are among at least 11 states that still allow voting jurisdictions to use wireless-enabled voting equipment.
  • In 2016, Russian hackers attempted to infiltrate most, if not all, state election systems, and downloaded voter data in Illinois.
  • However, there is no evidence that the hackers attempted to change the vote.
  • Remote election machinery hacks, however, are almost certainly the easiest to prevent — by simply not allowing the equipment to connect to the public internet.