Show of 05-18-2020

Tech Talk May 16, 2020

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Eleanor in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. My eyesight is not what it used to be, and now that I have a new computer with Windows 10. I sometimes have trouble seeing the mouse pointer. Years ago my daughter helped me increase the size of the mouse pointer on my old Windows 7 PC, but she’s no longer here to help me do it for Windows 10. Can you tell me how to do it? Thanks. Eleanor from Fairfax, VA.
  • Tech Talk Responds: It is very to make the mouse pointer larger and easier to see in Windows 10. Here’s how:
    • Click the Start button, then type the words “control panel”.
    • Select Control Panel from the list of search results.
    • Click Hardware and Sound.
    • Under “Devices and Printers”, click Mouse.
    • Select the Pointers tab.
    • Click the Down Arrow in the box below the word “Scheme”, then select Magnified from the drop-down menu.
    • Click Apply, then click OK.
  • That’s all there is to it Eleanor. Your mouse pointer should now be larger and bolder, and therefore easier to see.
  • Email from John in Reston, VA: Dear Tech Talk. I heard you talking about the coating on the touch screen of the cell phone to reduce fingerprints. How can I clean my phone after doing shopping, without damaging this coating? Love the show. John in Reston, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: Cell phones have an oleophobic layer on the screens. An oleophobic coating helps repel much of the natural oil from the finger when touching the screen. Apple introduced its first oleophobic screen on the 3G S iPhone.
  • Using the wrong product to disinfect it can cause damage to the phone’s screen and other components. The safest effective way to disinfect any modern screen is to use pre-made disinfectant wipes that use a solution containing exactly 70% isopropyl alcohol. Unfortunately, most varieties of disinfectant wipes on the market today contain 75% alcohol, and that’s 5% too much because that little extra 5% can indeed damage a screen after just a few uses. Luckily, you can buy 70% alcohol wipes locally at places like Walgreens and CVS. The solution really needs to be exact because less than 70% is not effective enough to kill all viruses and more than 70% will damage your screens!
  • Email from Bob in Maryland: Dear Doc, Jim, and the incomparable and irredeemable Mr. BigVoice. Doc, you have probably already looked at the source of that bit of technology trivia, Fandango on the Core that I just sent you a day or so ago. I think that the Jargon file is also an interesting read. It is a veritable treasure trove of potential candidates for the Profiles in IT. The Jargon File is a glossary and usage dictionary of slang used by computer programmers. The original Jargon File was a collection of terms from technical cultures such as the MIT AI Lab, the Stanford AI Lab (SAIL) and others of the old ARPANET AI/LISP/PDP-10 communities. It was published in paperback form in 1983 as The Hacker’s Dictionary and as The New Hacker’s Dictionary in 1996. Anyway, I do love the show. And I still try to twist the arms of all my friends, here in the US and abroad, to encourage them to listen to the show. All the Best. Bob in Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: It was fun to read about Fandango on the Core, a state where a memory pointer is out of range and some critical data is overwritten, causing a core dump. It is as if the pointer is doing the Fandango Dance over the core memory. I loved browsing through the Jargon file. It brought back memories of past exploits. I looked at the latest edition that came out in 2012 (version 5).
  • Question from Nathan in Manassas, VA: Dear Tech Talk. I am planning to buy a new laptop. I am looking for is a simple way to transfer my files from the old laptop to the new one. I was hoping I could just connect the two laptops together with a USB cable and transfer the files that way. Is that possible? Nathan in Manassas, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can transfer your files to the new laptop the way you described, but you’ll need a special cable called a USB Bridge Cable. A good bridge cable is one from a company called Plugable. It costs around $25 on Amazon and that includes a free license for Bravura Easy Computer Sync, a program that you can use to transfer all of your user-created files (photos, Office documents, etc.) from the old laptop to the new one.
  • While it works amazing well and is very easy to use, this cable will transfer your files at USB 2.0 speed even if both PCs have USB 3.0 ports. It will be slow. USB 3.0 is ten time faster. If you have a lot of large files to transfer the transfer could well take several hours to complete. If you want to complete the transfer quickly, you would be much better off copying your files onto an external USB 3.0 hard drive or SSD and then copying them from there onto the new computer.
  • Email from Valerie in Boston: Dear Doc and Jim. We are planning to backpack for a week and will probably not have access to electricity. I would like to keep my cell phone charged with a solar panel. Is this practical? Love the show. Valerie in Boston
  • Tech Talk Responds: I would recommend a foldable solar panel. It will be larger and provide more power. You need at least 14W to charge your phone in a reasonable time. I would recommend the Nekteck 21W Solar Charger with 2-Port. It is $49.99 on Amazon.
  • The power conversion rate increases up to 21%-24%, providing enough power to charger 2 devices at same time. It has a built-in smart IC chip, each port intelligently identifies your device and seeks to maximize its charging speed. Ultra lightweight (20 oz) and ultra compact (11.8 x 6.5in folded or 22.8 x 11.8in opened).
  • Email from Alice in Wonderland: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I live in a three level SFH and have Verizon FiOS as my IP service. I have an iMac is on main floor and the apple TV is in the basement. Today, nearly show I selected would not load. All I got was the spinning icon on the screen. I rebooted the power to the apple TV. This did not fix the issue. What are my options? Thanks. Alice, anxious to return to Wonderland
  • Tech Talk Responds: Alice, it sounds like an Internet connection issue. You need to reboot your Wi-Fi router and when the Internet is down. Simply rebooting the Apple TV will not do it. My router has both 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands. I have given them different names so that I can choose which one to use. The 5.8 GHz band has substantially more bandwidth. I connect my Apple TV using the 5.8 GHz band and never an buffering problems with my FIOS connection.
  • Email from Ford in Bowie, Maryland: Dear Tech Talk. I have a boatload of baby pictures and no place to store them. I have been sending them as attachments using a few free email accounts. I was wondering how long I would be able to keep those accounts open. I would hate to lose my pictures. I use Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and Hotmail for my picture storage. Love the show. Ford in Bowie in Maryland.
  • Tech Talk Responds: First of all Ford, you are going to have to get a better way to store your photos, either in an external hard drive or the cloud. Using free email accounts for secure storage is lunacy. At least it is better that using Facebook, which only save a low resolution version of your photo. But if you insist, you must make certain to log onto the account at least twice a year to keep it from going inactive. Here are the facts.
  • Yahoo Mail: If you rarely use your account, it will go into an inactive state and then be deleted. You can prevent this by signing in to your account using any device at least once every 12 months. It is a good practice to log into your account twice a year. Yahoo will recycle email addresses.
  • Gmail: Google reserves the right to delete the data in your account after 9 months of inactivity. In practice, Google does not delete accounts or data, but that could change in the future. It is a good idea to log into your account twice a year. Google says it will not recycle usernames, according to its terms of service. Users can never sign up for a Gmail account previously held by another person, even if that account has been deleted for years.
  • Hotmail: After 270 days (about 8 and a half months) without access, a Windows Live Hotmail account becomes inactive. This means all messages stored in the account are deleted and no new mail is accepted. After 360 days (five days short of a typical year) of inactivity, a Windows Live Hotmail account is permanently deleted. If you do not use your Windows Live ID (which is your Windows Live Hotmail email address) for 365 days (about a year), it, too, can be permanently deleted. Somebody else can take your Windows Live Hotmail address!

 

Profiles in IT: Geoffrey Everest Hinton

  • Geoffrey Everest Hinton is a psychologist and computer scientist, most noted for his work on artificial neural networks and deep learning. He is known as the Godfather of Deep Learning.
  • Geoffrey Everest Hinton December 6, 1947 in Wimbledon, London.
  • When in high school, he was fascinated that the brain worked like a hologram. Rather than keeping data in a single location, it spreads them across neurons.
  • In 1970, he received a BA in Psychology from Kings College, Cambridge.
  • While studying at Cambridge, Hinton was inspired by the realization that scientists did not really understand the brain. They could not explain how neurons learned.
  • In 1977, he received a PhD in Artificial Intelligence from University of Edinburgh.
  • He did postdoctoral work at Sussex University and the University of California San Diego and spent five years as a faculty member at Carnegie-Mellon University.
  • In the early 80s, when Hinton and his colleagues started working artificial neural networks.
  • He was one of the researchers who introduced the back-propagation algorithm and the first to use backpropagation for learning word patterns.
  • During the same period, Hinton co-invented Boltzmann Machines with David Ackley and Terry Sejnowski. This applies stochastic spin-glass model with an external field to ANS.
  • The Boltzmann Machine training algorithms alternate between a learning phase to strengthen network connections and an unlearning phase to decrement the connections. A similarity was discovered between Boltzmann Machine behavior and human dream states.
  • But computers were not powerful enough and his success was limited. The AI community turned its back on them, working to find shortcuts to brain-like behavior.
  • He spent three years from 1998 until 2001 setting up the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at University College London and then returned to Toronto.
  • He became a fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and moved to the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto.
  • Hinton founded the Neural Computation and Adaptive Perception (NCAP) program.
  • It was comprised on an invite-only group of computer scientists, biologists, electrical engineers, neuroscientists, physicists, and psychologists.
  • In 2005, the graphical processors (GPU) were introduced to quickly render images. These new processors were optimized to parallel processing and artificial neural nets.
  • By 2007, his team matched the results of conventional techniques in speech recognition. Two of his students went to Google and by 2011 speech recognition was in production.
  • In 2012, using same processes for image processing, they matched conventional algorithms
  • Speech recognition and artificial vision systems adopted by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo.
  • Computational power had caught up with neural networks.
  • In 2011, an NCAP researcher and Stanford processor named Andrew Ng founded a deep learning project at Google. In 2013, Hinton joined Google half-time.
  • With with Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio, Hinton won the 2018 Turing Award for conceptual and engineering breakthroughs with deep neural networks.
  • Hinton is the great-great-grandson both of logician George Boole, whose work eventually became one of the foundations of modern computer science
  • Website: cs.toronto.edu/~hinton/

Observations from the Bunker

  • This is a great time to rethink your career options.
  • I recommend, What Color is Your Parachute, by Dick Bolles. This is a great read for career changers. It helps you identify for strengths and to craft a job that uses those strengths. It focuses on survey interviews and networking, rather than sending out resumes.
  • Discovery your innate abilities, your natural tendencies, your tropisms.
  • Build your next job around, who you really are.

U.S. Navy Wants Robo-Ships

  • The U.S. Navy is teaming up with DARPA to develop autonomous, robotic ships that are completely human free.
  • The NOMARS (No Mariners Required Ship) concept, if successful, would be a huge leap over current unmanned surface vessel development efforts.
  • The result could be a warship able to do the tedious, dangerous, and dirty jobs all by itself, keeping human-crewed ships safe from harm—and boredom.
  • The Navy, struggling to grow the fleet on a flat defense budget, is making a big push into unmanned surface vessels, or USVs.
  • The Navy plans to build ten Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle ships, 200 to 300 foot long vessels displacing 2,000 tons, in five years. LUSV would act as a scout, sailing ahead of the fleet to detect threats early, or floating magazine, carrying a large load of missiles. LUSV would ideally be autonomous, or optionally manned with a small crew.
  • NOMARS is a separate, parallel effort to develop an entirely autonomous ship. While LUSV is based on existing ship designs and will have built-in accommodations for humans, NOMARS will be an unmanned ship from the ground up.
  • NOMARS would likely be much smaller than a similarly capable human crewed vessel, as designers could strip out everything related to human habitation. The ship’s bridge, combat information center, living accommodations, mess, recreation room, bathrooms, and even hallways would all become redundant, shrinking the size of the ship dramatically.
  • The NOMARS concept ship sits low in the water with a high mast for sensors and communications. The robot-ship would have four launchers for missiles, possibly reloaded from within the hull.
  • A robotic ship could dutifully do the boring work of sailing and down the coastline of countries such as North Korea, eavesdropping on radar, radio, and cell phone communications.
  • A NOMARS-type ship is inevitable. Until recently, the primary driver to build an unmanned warship was to build an inexpensive ship that did not require an expensive human crew. Now the COVID-19 coronavirus has given the Navy another reason to go unmanned: humans get sick.

U.S. Won’t Tolerate Technology Fence-Sitters Any Longer

  • Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is in the enviable position of being a critical supplier to both China and the US.
  • The company makes the world’s most advanced chips for the likes of Apple Inc., Qualcomm Inc., Nvidia Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co.
  • The U.S. fear, as portrayed by the White House, Pentagon and Commerce Department, is that allowing China to procure the world’s best semiconductors while America is unable to make them at home is an urgent and critical national security threat.
  • TSMC’s strategy has been to stay neutral. It has most of its capacity in Taiwan, one new and one not-so-new factory in China, and an old facility in Washington state.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted Washington’s need to protect supply chains from disruption, and heightened concerns about reliance on Taiwan.
  • Intel also operates a foundry business that does contract manufacturing using clients’ own designs. Once the world leader in chip production, the Santa Clara, California-based company has fallen behind and now trails TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung.
  • Intel clearly sees an opportunity. TSMC has been trying to push back.
  • Beyond expanding domestic capacity, Washington wants TSMC to limit Chinese access. The Trump administration is considering new rules to curb the use of U.S. equipment and materials in making chips for the likes of Huawei, arguing that the Chinese company is a conduit for Beijing’s espionage.
  • The American market accounted for 59% of its sales last year, against 19% for Chinese clients. Yet the growth momentum clearly favors China.
  • TSMC has attempted to play Switzerland. Washington increasingly wants TSMC to be its foundry alone. TSMC has little choice but to offer something to the Americans.
  • After years of delay and resistance, it is time for TSMC to build a new factory in America.