Show of 04-25-2020

Tech Talk

April 25, 2020

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz. Let us talk about 5G for a moment. Just how many devices that one has now that will not work with 5G? Current iPhone, iPad, modem, router, laptop, XFINITY TV (do not have Verizon FIOS here in the Colorado Springs). New iPhone SE coming out soon. Will it work with 5G? Moreover, when will 5G really be viable for most people that live in cities? Thanks for such an informative & interesting show! Arnie in ‘Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: 5G is the successor to 4G (or LTE), which succeeded. It should be 15-50 percent faster that 4G in the day-to-day in the real world. 5G isn’t just about speed though, about simply being able to watch 4K Netflix on the train home. It’s also about capacity, and being able to get a stronger signal in crowded areas. In other words, you shouldn’t lose connection anywhere near as easily at a crowded sports stadium or a music festival, for example. 5G uses more spectrum thanks to FCC releases of underutilized bands. Expect the 5G networks to roll out over the next couple of years. That rollout should be matched with the availability of handset. Only a few are available now (from Samsung, LG, and OnePlus). The next generation of Android and Apple devices should support it. The iPhone SE, a repackage of current technology, will not support it. The initial phones ran hot and used lots of power. This improves with each successive release. The networks are expensive to deploy and are rolling out slowly, first in the big cities and major corridors.
  • Email from Bob in Maryland: Dear Doc and Jim and the true “star” of the show, Mr. Big Voice. Doc, have you ever heard of this. Computers powered by swarms of crabs. It an article from 2012. It is a bit offbeat! Love the Show Bob in Maryland.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Interesting concept. Swarms of crabs when given choices of which entrance to use behave like a computer AND or OR gate. This was verified with a swarm of 40 crabs. Simple rules can produce complex results with cellular automata. This may be a reflection of that fact.
  • Email from Peter in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. I have an old printer that does not support Wi-Fi. I would like to share the printer over the wireless network. Is there any way to convert this printer to Wi-Fi? Enjoy the podcast. Peter in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: I love Wi-Fi printers. You can prints from a computer or cell phone anywhere in the house. You can easily convert your printer to support Wi-Fi by using a Wireless Print Server. Simply place your printer in the place that’s most convenient for everyone who’ll be using it, then plug it into the wireless print server. Plug your wireless print server to the input port of your printer. Add a wireless print server to your network and print from your laptop, desktop and mobile devices without having to switch a cable from one device to another. Your USB-only printer can now be accessed from anywhere in your home without running a cable from the computer or mobile device to the printer! Amazon has an excellent selection of wireless print servers to choose from. They run from $40 to $60. If you want to print from your iPhone, make certain that the print server support AirPrint.
  • Email from Stu in Kilmarnock, VA: Dear Tech Talk. We have a DSL Internet connection. It was pretty good when they first installed it, but it’s been terrible for the past year. We really need the higher speed because our family does a LOT of video streaming. I’ve been seeing commercials for HughesNet satellite Internet that say they have “Unlimited data with no hard data limits“. What exactly do they mean by that? It’s really confusing. Stu in Kilmarnock, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: The “Unlimited Data” part of the phrase means just that. As long as you are subscribed to a HugesNet data plan you can use all the data you want every month without having to worry about your Internet access being cut off because you exceeded some pre-determined data cap. However, their FAQs page states that your download speeds will drop from 25Mbps to 1-3 Mbps after you reach the data threshold that’s defined in your chosen data plan. If you decide to sign up with HughesNet you’ll be able to choose from several plans ranging from 10GB per month to 50GB per month. If you end up exceeding your monthly high-speed data allotment, HughesNet will gladly sell you some “Data Tokens” which will boost your speed back up to 25Mbps for the duration of the extra data purchased.
  • Email from Alice in Alexandria: Dear Doc and Jim. My friend recently forgot their password and was locked out of their Facebook account. And Facebook won’t help them gain access. Is there anything that I can do to ensure that this will not happen to me? Alice in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: People find themselves in this situation because Facebook has determined that it’s better to have some people locked out of their accounts forever than to make it easy for hackers to reset the passwords of unsuspecting users.
  • You can make some adjustments, but these steps MUST be taken in advance! Once your password has been forgotten or changed by a hacker, it’s too late to go back and set these security measures up because they can only be completed while you’re actually logged into your Facebook account.
  • The first thing you need to do is make a record of which email address (or phone number if you use the Facebook mobile app) you used to open your Facebook account. This should be the same email address or phone number you use to log into your account right now. It’s imperative that you keep this email address and phone number active as long as you are planning to keep your Facebook account open because you’ll need to enter one of them in order to reset your password if the need to do so ever arises. Having access to that email address or phone number will be the only fool-proof way to reset your password and regain access to your account if you ever need to do so.
  • The second thing you need to do is to select anywhere from 3 to 5 “Trusted Contacts”. Trusted Contacts are Facebook friends who you trust completely and would be willing to vouch for you and verify your identity if you ever need to regain access to your account. Having several Trusted Contacts designated for your account will provide a second option for regaining access to your account if you find yourself without access to the Facebook-registered email address or phone number. Trust is very important here because your “Trusted Contacts” could potentially collude allow someone to take over your account simply by clicking the “Forgot password?” link and then all of the Trusted Contacts falsely verifying that the person trying to change your password is you. Choose only trusted family members and/or your very closest trusted friends to be your Trusted Contacts.
  • If you’re using Facebook in a web browser on a laptop or desktop computer:
    • Log into your Facebook account.
    • Click the Down Arrow icon at the right end of the blue bar near the top of the screen.
    • Click Settings.
    • Click the Security and Login link over in the left-hand column.
    • Click the Choose 3 to 5 friends to contact if you get locked out link and then follow the prompts to select your Trusted Contacts.
  • Email from Lilly in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. How can I hid sensitive notification from my iPhones lock screen? I do not like all they notification visible for anyone to see while my phone is charging. Enjoy the show. Lilly in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: Your iPhone gives you much more control over notifications. You can designate certain apps as “sensitive”, so that it hides the content of notifications while your phone is locked, only letting you see the full preview when you use Touch ID or Face ID to unlock your iPhone. This works in every single app on your phone.
  • To change this setting, head to Settings > Notifications on your phone. Tap the “Show Previews” option at the top of the screen. Set the option to “When Unlocked” and notification previews will be hidden until you unlock your phone, preventing other people from snooping on them. You can also select “Never” and you’ll never see previews, even while your phone is unlocked.
  • Whatever option you choose, you can override it for individual apps. For example, you can hide message previews for all apps, but then allow them for a few apps.
  • To do this, head to the Settings > Notifications screen and tap the app you want to configure. Scroll down on the app’s notification settings screen, tap “Show Previews” under Options, and select your preference. You can select “When Unlocked”, “Never”, or “Always” here. Unless you select custom preferences for an app, it will use the default setting you choose for all apps.

Profiles in IT: Stephen Wolfram

  • Stephen Wolfram is a computer scientist and physicist, best known as the founder Wolfram Research, creator of Mathematica and the Wolfram Alpha answer engine.
  • Stephen Wolfram was born in London in August 29, 1959 to Hugo and Sybil Wolfram, both German Jewish refugees to the United Kingdom.
  • At the age of 12, he wrote a directory of physics. By age 14, he had written three books on particle physics.
  • Wolfram, at the age of 15, began research in applied quantum field theory and particle physics and published scientific papers.
  • Wolfram was educated at Eton College, but left prematurely in 1976. He entered St. John’s College, Oxford at age 17 but found lectures “awful”. He left in 1978 without graduating to attend the Cal Tech where he received a PhD in particle physics at 20.
  • Following his PhD, Wolfram joined the faculty at Caltech and became the youngest recipient of the MacArthur Fellowships in 1981, at age 21.
  • In 1983, Wolfram left for the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where he conducted research into cellular automata, mainly with computer simulations.
  • In the 1980s, Wolfram worked on simulations of physical processes (turbulent fluid flow) with cellular automata and helped initiate the field of complex systems.
  • In 1986, he founded the Center for Complex Systems Research (CCSR) at the University of Illinois and, in 1987, the journal Complex Systems.
  • Wolfram led the development of the computer algebra system SMP (Symbolic Manipulation Program) in the Caltech physics department during 1979–1981.
  • In 1983, Wolfram joined the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton to pursue cellular automata. Wolfram methodically analyzed sets of rules, developing a classification system that rated the complexity of various cellular automata,
  • In Wolfram’s mind, studying the results of cellular-automata runs on the computer could unlock deep truths about the universe itself.
  • In 1986, he founded their Center for Complex Systems Research and started to develop the computer algebra system Mathematica, which was first released in 1988.
  • In 1987, he founded Wolfram Research to develop and market Mathematica.
  • From 1992 to 2002, he worked on his controversial book A New Kind of Science, which presents an empirical study of simple computational systems.
  • Wolfram’s conclusion is that the universe is digital in its nature, and runs on fundamental laws which can be described as simple programs.
  • In March 2009, Wolfram announced Wolfram|Alpha, an answer engine. The engine is based on natural language processing and a large library of algorithms.
  • In March 2014, Wolfram announced the Wolfram Language as a new general multi-paradigm programming language and Mathematica’s primary programming language.
  • In April of 2020, Wolfram announced the Wolfram Physics Project as an effort to reduce and explain all the laws of physics within a paradigm of a hypergraph
  • This newly introduced ordered-graph system lends itself to geometrical interpretation.
  • It is these geometrical interpretations that provide an analogy with physical law.
  • Physicists criticized Wolfram’s decision not to seek peer review.
  • Wolfram has an extensive log of personal analytics, including emails received and sent, keystrokes made, meetings and events attended, phone calls, even physical movement dating back to the 1980s.
  • Since 2018, Wolfram has been producing a podcast, where he discusses topics ranging from the history of science to the future of civilization and ethics of AI.

The Woman Who Discovered CoronaViruses

  • June Almeida was an electron microscope operating at the Ontario Cancer Institute.
  • She developed new techniques and published several papers describing the structures of viruses previously unseen.
  • An electron microscope blasts a specimen with a beam of electrons and then records the particles’ interactions with the specimen’s surface. Since electrons have much shorter wavelengths than light, this shows scientists an image with much finer, smaller detail. The challenge is figuring out what you are looking at.
  • To solve the problem, Almeida realized she could use antibodies taken from previously infected individuals to pinpoint the virus.
  • Antibodies are drawn to their antigen-counterparts—so when Almeida introduced tiny particles coated in antibodies, they would congregate around the virus, alerting her to its presence. This technique enabled clinicians to use electron microscopy as a way to diagnose viral infections in patients.
  • Almeida moved to London for a position at St. Thomas’s Hospital Medical School.
  • In 1964, Dr. David Tyrrell sent her a flu-like virus they labeled “B814” from a sick schoolboy in Surrey. They suspected that B814 might be a new type of virus.
  • Not only did Almeida find and create clear images of the virus, but she remembered seeing two similar viruses earlier in her research: one while looking at bronchitis in chickens and the second while studying hepatitis liver inflammation in mice.
  • With the sample from Tyrrell, Almeida was confident they were looking at a new group of viruses.
  • As Almeida, Tyrrell, and Almeida’s supervisor gathered to discuss their findings, they wondered what to call the new group of viruses.
  • After looking over the images, they were inspired by the virus’s halo-like structure and decided on the Latin word for crown, corona. The coronavirus was born.

Zoom Security Fixes are Getting Better

  • Zoom says 300 million people are using its service every day. And their infrastructure is feeling the load.
  • Zoom released a range of new security features designed to keep meetings safer.
  • Security monitoring is easier. Previously, users had to navigate through various menus to access all of the different security settings. Now, meeting hosts can actually access them directly from the menu bar during a meeting.
  • With the increased occurrence of “Zoombombing,” the company is making it possible to report a user that causes problems. When reporting a user from the Security Icon, Zoom will take a screenshot of the user, as well as any content they are sharing. Zoom will investigate and block accounts that it deems to have violated its terms.
  • Zoom says it is upgrading the security of your video meetings by using 256-bit AES-GCM encryption. While it’s still not “technically” end-to-end, it’s about as secure as you can get for data in transit.
  • Zoom had faced criticism over its use of data centers located in China, and will now allow those admins to opt-out of those locations.

Happy Birthday Hubble Space Telescope

  • NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope was launched way in 1990 and despite a few hiccups along the way, it’s still going strong in the year 2020.
  • On the telescope’s official birthday, April 24th, NASA is showcasing one of its latest images, and it’s definitely a candidate for the most impressive photo Hubble has ever captured.
  • The picture features two nebulas, NGC 2014 and NGC 2020, hanging out in the Large Magellanic Cloud some 163,000 light-years away.
  • The two nebulas — NGC 2014 is the large red one and NGC 2020 is the smaller blue orb — form what astronomers have nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef” because its colorful, surreal appearance resembles what you might find beneath the waves of the ocean.
  • Images like this of a distant, volatile region of space where new stars are born out of masses of gas and dust are incredible examples of just how important Hubble is not only to science but to science fans around the world.
  • Hubble has made over 1.4 million observations during its lengthy tenure in space. With that wealth of data about the cosmos, researchers have produced over 17,000 peer-reviewed papers on all manner of cosmic interest. Even if the telescope were to be shut down today, the amount of data it has already sent back to Earth will continue to yield new discoveries for decades.
  • Estimates suggest that the telescope could remain operational for up to another decade, and with it still producing images like the Cosmic Reef, we’re in no rush to see its mission end.

China’s National Blockchain Has Launched

  • On April 25, China officially launched a major new Blockchain initiative called the Blockchain-based Services Network (BSN).
  • The BSN is a critical part of China’s national Blockchain strategy that was announced by President Xi in late November 2019.
  • The portal’s global commercial launch is scheduled for June 25.
  • Essentially, the BSN will be the backbone infrastructure technology for massive interconnectivity throughout the mainland, from city governments, to companies and individuals alike.
  • The BSN will be a new internet protocol to allow a more efficient way to share data, value and digital assets in a completely transparent and trusted way between anyone who wants to be a node on the network.
  • The main BSN founding consortia partners are the State Information Center, China Mobile, China Unionpay, and Red Date Technologies.
  • Cloud providers under BSN’s multi-cloud management services already include AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Baidu Cloud, China Unicom, China Telecom and China Mobile.
  • The BSN launch will allow companies to access ultra-low cost Blockchain cloud computing services. Target pricing is less than $400 USD/year, which would allow any SME or individual access to the critical tools to participate in the digital economy and drive adoption and financial inclusion opportunities.
  • The central government has developed a master top-down plan to connect all the major cities in the country, rolling out to 200 cities over the next year and rapidly to all 451 prefecture-level cities thereafter.
  • The Chinese central government sees Blockchain as the critical next-generation IT infrastructure to build future smart cities, connecting cryptographically secure databases linked by 5G to scalable cloud and data management infrastructure such that big data/AI analytics can efficiently run on top.