Show of 06-13-2020

Tech Talk June 13, 2020

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Tom Schum: Dear Tech Talk. I’m thinking about getting a smartphone or maybe even one of those digital assistant things. It was interesting to find out that Siri can use a British accent. I would likely move faster to get one of these things if I could get Hal 9000 as my voice assistant, complete with calling me Dave all the time.
  • I’ll bet Elon Musk has a Hal 9000 voice assistant. Is this voice assistant available anywhere? One nice feature might be for Hal to respond, “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that,” to every request, so I would have to repeat it a second time to get any results. Another nice feature might be for Hal to use my name, or any other name, but this might be hoping for too much. Final question, is there a “Mister Big Voice” selection available? I would definitely be an early adopter! Tom Schum
  • Tech Talk Responds: Douglas James Rain was a Canadian actor, who provided the voice of the HAL 9000 computer for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. He died November 2018, at age 90. Stanley Kubrick, the director, had heard Rain’s voice in the 1960 documentary “Universe,” a film he watched at least 95 times,
  • Siri9000 is a useless, but fun, jailbreak that transforms Siri into HAL 9000 from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. I should warn you that the tweak does not convert Siri’s voice into Hal’s. It only changes the Siri start up sound to a few Hal quotes from the movie (“Good evening Dave”, “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”). To activate the Hal 9000 sounds you will have to know how to transfer files on your iPhone with SSH (Secure Shell) and have OpenSSH installed. I do not recommend this install.
  • There was a Hal9000 app for Android, but it was removed from the Google store in 2017. There is also a FunHal skill for Alexa, but it is simply Hal quotes done with Alexa’s voice. Unfortunately, there are not too many options.
  • I can still remember a Tech Talk show that I did with David Burd. We interviewed Hal9000 and he eventually took control of the studio. When we asked to have control back, he said to Dave: Sorry I cannot do that, Dave. You know the reason way. Hal wanted to become the Tech Talk co-host and get rid of Dave.
  • Email from Susan in Alexandria: Good morning, Dr. Shurtz. Would you please explain Cisco Registered Envelope Service (CRES) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) secure email protocol? How secure is your email when either of these methods is used?  What else should you do to protect your sensitive email? Thanks again for all your great advice! Susan in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a great question. Transport Layer Security (TLS) is a cryptographic protocol that provides end-to-end security of data sent between applications over the Internet. It is mostly familiar to users through its use in secure web browsing, and in particular, the padlock icon that appears in web browsers when a secure session is established. However, it can and indeed should also be used for other applications such as e-mail, file transfers, video/audioconferencing, instant messaging and voice-over-IP.
  • TLS evolved from Secure Socket Layers (SSL) that was originally developed by Netscape Communications Corporation in 1994 to secure web sessions. TLS does not secure data on end systems. It simply ensures the secure delivery of data over the Internet, avoiding possible eavesdropping and/or alteration of the content.
  • Cisco Registered Envelop is an email application that uses TLS transport. Cisco Registered Envelope Service gives senders full control to terminate (expire) emails, recall emails, track when an email was opened, and control actions (forward, reply, reply all). It supports TLS 1.1 and 1.2. It does not support the latest version TLS 1.3 (released August 2018). Recall and termination are triggered by revoking the certificate required to read the content.
  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz. Thought you might like to see this article. A bit over my head even though I have taken a few physics courses, but you may understand what Twistronics is all about. Arnie in Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: Twistronics refers to tuning the properties of 2-dimensional materials by stacking them and rotating the layers with respect to each other. Some theoretical physicists were predicting that interesting things might happen at certain “magic” angles of rotation, such a 1.1 degrees. In 2018, physicist Pablo Jarillo-Herrero showed that graphene “devices” with a twist angle of 1.1 degrees exhibited superconductivity. Superconductivity would transform our electrified world and allow for the creation of much more powerful and efficient electronics. These structures also have interesting optical properties useful for integrated optical circuits.
  • Email from Ann in Arlington: Dear Tech Talk. I have heard about the dangers of using the same password on all my accounts. How can I create a unique password for every account that’s extremely secure, yet easy to remember? I think I need to become more security conscious. Love the show. Ann in Arlington, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: You don’t need to use a password manager in order to create extremely secure (and unique) passwords for each of your online accounts – and remember easily them. I have discussed this before, but it is an important topic.
  • All you have to do is take an easy to remember phrase and modify slightly. For example: my dog has spots and runs very fast.
    • First remove all the spaces and capitalize the first letter of the second word.
    • Second, change all the letter a’s to the asterisk symbol @:
    • Third, change the letter s’s to dollar signs:
    • Fourth, add three letters onto the end that makes the password unique for each service I use it with. For example, if this was a Gmail password I would add gma. For a Facebook account, I would add fac.
  • Now, all you have to do is remember the phrase, mentally remove the spaces and make the character substitutions as you type. Then add the three letters to the end that describe the service. You have passwords, which are different for all your accounts.
  • Email from Lynn in Cleveland: Dear Doc and Jim. Someone stole my daughter’s picture from my Facebook photos and they are using it as their profile picture. She is only 14 and I don’t like it at all. Can you tell me how to report the stolen picture to Facebook? Do you think they’ll do anything about it? Lynn in Cleveland, Ohio
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can easily report this. If you use Facebook in a web browser on a laptop or desktop computer:
    • Find the stolen photo on the person’s Timeline or in their “Photos” section.
    • Click on the photo to open it on its own page.
    • Hover your mouse over the photo until a menu pops.
    • Click Options, then select Find Support or Report Photo and follow the prompts that follow.
  • Facebook should review the reported photo and remove it from the thief’s account.
  • Email from John in Fayetteville: Dear Doc and Jim. I have finally thrown in the towel and am switching from Android to iPhone to keep my family happy. Is there a simply way to transfer my data to my new phone? John from Fayetteville, AR.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Transferring data is easy. When you first set up your new iPhone, you’ll be asked whether you want to set it up as a new phone, transfer contents from an old iPhone, or migrate from Android. The last option should get you up and running quickly. To migrate, download Apple’s Move to iOS app from Google Play on your Android device. This app allows you to transfer data wirelessly to your new iPhone. Data you can transfer includes contacts, messages, photos and videos, bookmarks, email accounts, calendars, and some free apps. The app is useful because it puts this data in the corresponding iOS apps, like the Phone app (contacts), Safari (bookmarks), and Photos (media). Free apps, like WhatsApp, Slack, or Facebook, might also be downloaded and ready to go.

 

 

Profiles in IT: Rasmus Lerdorf

  • Rasmus Lerdorf is a Danish-Canadian programmer best known as co-author and inspiration for the PHP scripting language.
  • Lerdorf was born on November 22, 1968, on Disko Island in Greenland and then moved to Denmark. Lerdorf’s family moved back to Canada from Denmark in 1980.
  • His first home computer was the Timex Sinclair 1000 home computer. He used a dial-up modem and the Gopher protocol to retrieve online research papers in college.
  • He graduated from King City Secondary School in 1988, and in 1993 he graduated from the University of Waterloo with a BS in Systems Design Engineering.
  • It was the first Mosaic web browser in 1994 that got him going. This changed everything for him and for everybody. He was motivated to impact the web.
  • He contributed to the Apache HTTP Server and he added the LIMIT clause to the mSQL DBMS. It was later adapted by several other SQL-compatible DBMS.
  • In 1994, Lerdorf created the first incarnation of PHP. It was a simple set of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) binaries written in the C programming language.
  • Originally used for tracking visits to his online resume, he named the suite of scripts Personal Home Page Tools, more frequently referenced as “PHP Tools.”
  • Over time, Rasmus rewrote PHP Tools, producing a much larger and richer implementation. This new model was capable of database interaction and more, providing a framework upon which users could develop simple dynamic web apps.
  • In June of 1995, Rasmus » released the source code for PHP Tools to the public, which allowed developers to use it as they saw fit.
  • This also permitted users to provide fixes for bugs in the code, and to improve it.
  • In September, 1995, Rasmus expanded upon PHP. It had Perl-like variables, automatic interpretation of form variables, and HTML embedded syntax.
  • In October, 1995, Rasmus released a complete rewrite of the code, called Personal Home Page Construction Kit. The language was deliberately designed to resemble C in structure, making it an easy adoption for developers familiar with C and Perl.
  • In April of 1996, Rasmus introduced PHP/FI. It included built-in support for DBM, mSQL, and Postgres95 databases, cookies, and user-defined function support.
  • In 1997 and 1998, PHP had a cult of several thousand users around the world. 60,000 domains reported having headers containing PHP.
  • From September 2002 to November 2009 Lerdorf was employed by Yahoo! Inc. as an Infrastructure Architecture Engineer.
  • In 2010, he joined WePay in order to develop their API.
  • In February 2012 he announced on Twitter that he had joined Etsy, where he remains.
  • In July 2013, Rasmus joined Jelastic as a senior new technology advisor.
  • Lerdorf is a frequent speaker at Open Source conferences around the world.
  • He works for a living, but PHP is his passion.

Observations from the Bunker

  • My latest tragedy in the Bunker
  • After doing some simple weeding by the Bay, where cut down some vines growing up a tree, I returned to the house the rest.
  • I did not wash my hands. I only do that after shopping at WalMart. This instance was not in the flatten the curve guidelines from Dr. Fauci.
  • The next day my eyes were swollen shut with Poison Oak blisters. My iPhone face recognition did not recognize me. It one thing if your mother does not recognize you. When you cell phone does not recognize you, it is a tragedy.
  • So I had a critical decision this week, very critical. Should I adjust my phone to recognize my new, but temporary face. OR should I leave well enough alone.
  • I decided not to change it. And just put in my passcode for awhile.
  • But now I now advice for Dr. Fauci and the Coronavirus team.
  • We more guidelines for social distancing. Here are a few suggestions.
    • Social distancing for poison oak and poison ivy.
    • Also for sharks, tigers, lions, boa constrictors, rattle snakes
  • So many social distancing norms have been left out by Dr. Fauci and team.

Cell Phones Videos have changed the World

  • In 2008, Steve Jobs had an assignment for a small team of engineers in Cupertino: Make the iPhone record video.
  • After seeing that people liked taking photos with the first iPhones, he wanted to add moving pictures. A year later, Apple released the iPhone 3GS, the first iPhone to record video.
  • About 10 years and 10 iPhone models later, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier found herself standing on a sidewalk in Minneapolis, swiping on her purple iPhone 11 lock screen to launch the video camera as fast as possible.
  • She uploaded the video of George Floyd’s murder and the rest his history. These videos have been good for humanity. They have accelerated change.

Dumb Idea of the Week: Anti-PowerPoint Party

  • I have grown to hate PowerPoint presentations. They come between me and the presenter. Marthias Peohm has even stronger opinions.
  • In 2011, Poehm, a former software engineer, founded the Anti-PowerPoint Party (APPP), a Swiss political party with, as you may have guessed, a distinctly anti-PowerPoint bent.
  • The party was formed with the sole purpose of raising awareness about the inefficiencies of PowerPoint and other slide-show-style presentation software, how presentations lower engagement and motivation, and how they ultimately cost Switzerland (and other countries) large sums of money due to lost productivity.
  • While the APPP hasn’t exactly taken over the Swiss government, it has managed to gain enough supporters to become the 8th largest political party in Switzerland, as measured by votes in the 2015 election.
  • This is a rather strong indicator of just how little people like sitting through yet another PowerPoint presentation.

Facial Recognition in the Crosshairs

  • The rapid adoption of facial recognition systems by law enforcement agencies around the world has been challenged by civil liberties groups
  • They allege that the technology is not fit for the purpose. In particular, it does a poor job of accurately identifying black people.
  • In the wake of the protests over the killing of George Floyd, tech companies have taken much notice.
    • IBM announced it would stop selling facial recognition software.
    • Amazon imposed a one-year moratorium on the use of its Rekognition system by the police pending regulatory action by Congress.
    • Microsoft said its facial recognition system would not be sold to police departments until there was a federal law governing the technology.
  • Amazon’s case is probably the most significant. The Rekognition system allows a police officer to compare a photo taken on a smartphone with a database of known suspects.
  • The dataset used to train the systems for face recognition are highly imbalanced and heavily under-represent black women and men.
  • Even if the problem of bias in the systems is ironed out, lawmakers will still need to confront some big questions about facial recognition. It will change the very nature of power in our society. Do we want big brother everywhere like in the book 1984.
    • Who can use it?
    • For what purposes?
    • Do you ever have a right to opt out?
    • How do you opt out if it’s just being used everywhere, and it can be used on you without you even knowing it?”
  • We need more accountability, transparency, more privacy rights for all citizens…face recognition is just the beginning.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

  • Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in the United States, defines “intermediary liability” online.
  • Online intermediary liability protection first emerged in the United States in 1995 as a policy discussion regarding the scope of responsibility intermediaries should have.
  • At the time, there was no Facebook or Twitter, so the law was aimed at services like CompuServe, Prodigy, and AOL.
  • The question was simple: should intermediaries be liable for content posted using their services or for actions performed by third parties, i.e. their users?
  • Similar to how telecommunications services are not responsible for the things phone users say over the phone, it was clear that online intermediaries and service providers would need similar commonsense restrictions on what they could be liable for.
  • Immunity from liability ensures a level playing field and provides autonomy to a diverse set of actors to perform their intended functions.
  • President Trump signed an executive order in which he claimed that social media platforms are disproportionately flagging or removing conservative content, and requested a reassessment of whether social media platforms that engage in content moderation should enjoy the legal protections section 230 affords them, or rather be treated as publishers.
  • We need an informed public debate about the power of platforms over public discourse.
  • Politicizing it would reverse years of such predictability and could place the Internet’s future potential in jeopardy. However, we need to keep Section 230 in place, with some tweaking.