Tech Talk August 22, 2020 Best of Tech Talk Edition
- Segments taken from previous shows.
Email and Forum Questions
- Email from Tom Shum: Dear Tech Talk. Once when I was much younger there was a contest on the radio and I called in just to win. But I didn’t really want the prize so I asked them to please give it to somebody else. They didn’t like that. So, when you announce that you haven’t got an answer yet to the prize question, I’m tempted to call in but since I never claimed the prize I got last summer I don’t call in. One prize is enough for me. Know that you actually have at least one radio listener in the Washington DC area. I wouldn’t miss a single one of your shows. This should make you feel a whole lot better. Tom went on to talk about cat whisker radios using Galena. Tom Shum, a loyal listener
- Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the feedback and keep on listening. That reminds I used to collect Galena out in Galena, Kansas, known as the oldest mining town in Kansas.
- Email from Bob in Maryland: Dear Doc and Jim, and the highlight of every show, Mr. Big Voice. I LOVED the show on February 15th, 2020. Doc did a great job of talking about Cecil Green. I have no idea what the proper way to say Cecil Green’s first name is. What I can tell you is that Cecil would pronounce it “See-sill”, as would his wife IDA and all his friends and colleagues, at least in the US. I never met Cecil’s British friends.
- Tech Talk Responds: The proper pronunciation of Cecil’s name is great to know. Love your emails.
- Email from Don in Alexandria: Dear Tech Talk. Is it possible to save money by building my own laptop? I would like an interesting project and would also like to save some money. Don in Alexandria
- Tech Talk Responds: It is not possible to save money by building a laptop instead of buying one at retail. Unlike desktop computers, laptops are constructed from proprietary parts that are not standard from manufacturer to manufacturer. This means it would be extremely difficult to buy a laptop case and populate it with a good used motherboard, video card, RAM and hard drive like you could if you were building a desktop PC.
- There are companies that sell barebones laptop kits that you can use to build a working laptop by purchasing the “extras” you need and installing them yourself. Barebones kits sometimes include everything except for the CPU, RAM and hard drive or SSD. By the time you finished purchasing the barebones kit and the extra parts needed to turn it into a working laptop, you wouldn’t save any money. And then you would have to purchase your Windows license.
- My son did build a few desktop computers, quite successfully. He learned a lot of specification and design. He most difficult part of the task was using thermal paste to bond the CPU to the heatsink. He failed once and had to replace the CPU. After his first failure, he could successfully complete this task. He did save a little money but not much. But he had so much fun, that I would recommend it. He reported on his progress at Tech Talk at the time.
- Email from Herb in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I have heard that hackers are using rogue apps and other forms of malware to spy on folks via their Windows computers’ webcams. Some are even spying on us via our machines’ microphones as well. Is there anything I can do to stop reduce this risk. Herb in Fairfax
- Tech Talk Responds: Recognizing the threat, Microsoft has added a new setting to recent builds of Window 10 to prevent rogue apps (and Windows itself) from stealthily eavesdropping on you by listening in on your conversations. If you’re concerned about your private conversations potentially being leaked to the world, you can now prevent Windows and any apps that are installed on your PC from accessing the microphone at all. Just follow the steps below:
- Click the Start button.
- Click the Settings icon (it looks like a “gear” or “cog”).
- Under “Privacy”, click Microphone.
- Click the Change button that’s located under “Microphone access to this device is on”, then toggle the setting to Off.
- From now on Windows won’t be allowed to access your PC’s microphone, and neither will any malware or apps. You can do the same thing for the Webcam.
- Email from John in Manassas: Dear Doc and Jim. I’m not a pro photographer or anything, but I do love taking pictures, and I take a lot of them. I use a Canon Powershot camera with two SD cards. What happened is I accidentally formatted the wrong card and wiped out a ton of pictures that I really want to keep. Is there a way to get those pictures back? Help. John in Manassas.
- Tech Talk Responds: If all you did was format the card without trying to use it again, you most likely can retrieve most (and possibly all) of your lost photos. We have covered this problem before on Tech Talk. There is a great file recovery utility called Recuva. Recuva will scan your memory card and compile an inventory of all the files that haven’t been over-written with new files since the card was formatted. Most (if not all) of your photos can be recovered since you probably stopped taking photos and storing them on that card after it was formatted. I have given you a link to Recuva that is guaranteed not to include any malware. That is a problem with many free download sites. OlderGeeks.com is a great download resource. Support them if you wish.
- Recuva download link: https://www.oldergeeks.com/downloads/file.php?id=278
- Email from Sharon in Richmond: Dear Tech Talk. Why I can’t get Facebook or Pinterest to load while I’m at work. I use the same laptop at home and everything works fine there. But when I’m at work I can’t get either Facebook or Pinterest to work in any web browser. Everything else loads just fine but when I try to load either of those websites I get an error saying the page failed to load and it might be offline. I know they’re online though because I can sneak to the bathroom and load them on my phone. This started happening over a week ago and it’s still doing it now. Can you help me fix it? Sharon in Richmond
- Tech Talk Responds: The fact that Facebook and Pinterest load just fine when you’re at home means this isn’t an issue with your laptop. I have a strong suspicion that your company’s IT department has made the decision to start blocking social media websites from being accessed via their network. Many companies are doing that nowadays. You didn’t mention Twitter or Instagram but I have a feeling those sites won’t load in your browser either. I recommend that you try loading Twitter and Instagram and see what happens. If they won’t load either that’ll be a pretty strong indication that your company is indeed now blocking access to social media sites. I DO NOT recommend asking your company’s IT department about this. If you do that would sort of be admitting that you check social media sites while on the job.
- Email from Mary Ann in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I travel internationally and have many contacts from around the world on WhatsApp. One person keeps sending annoying text messages. I have ignored them, but now would like to block them. How can I do that with WhatsApp? Love the show when I have time to listen. Mary Ann in Fairfax, Virginia.
- Tech Talk Responds: You can easily block messages in WhatsApp by blocking the number. Open the WhatsApp app on your phone. If you have a chat open, navigate back to the main Chats screen. Select the Settings icon at the bottom right of the screen, then Account, then Privacy, then Blocked. Tap Add New and choose the contact you wish to block. You can also click on the name of the person sending the text chat window, scroll down to the bottom, and click on Block Contact. The second method works if the person is not on your contacts list.
- Email from Phillip in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk, my outlook.com is putting legitimate emails into its junk mail folder. It seems very random, but some of my closest friends’ emails are going into the junk folder as well as other legitimate contacts. Can I just not use outlook.com, do I need it? How I stop the filtering of legitimate emails in to the outlook.com junk folder? Enjoy the podcast. Phillip in Kansas
- Tech Talk Responds: You need to train the junk mail filter. It does mean you need to periodically log in to Outlook.com on the web and see what you find in the junk mail folder there. Then, for each non-spam email message you find there, right click on it and mark it as not junk. That will then also help “train” Outlook.com’s spam filter to learn that, for your account, email that looks like this should not be placed junk mail.
- You can also set up Safe senders. Click on the gear icon again, click on Options and in the resulting page click on Safe and blocked senders. Allowing known safe senders can be one way to bypass the junk mail filter for senders you know about beforehand.
Profiles in IT: Lawrence Gordon Tesler
- Lawrence Gordon Tesler was a computer scientist who worked in the field of human–computer interaction, best known as creator of cut and paste.
- Tesler was born on April 24, 1945 in the Bronx in New York City.
- Tesler graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1961.
- At Columbia University where he was able to spend a half-hour each week on their computer systems, through which he taught himself programming before college.
- He went on to Stanford University in 1961 when he was 16, studying computer science and graduating in 1965 with a degree in mathematics.
- Tesler also worked at Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) in the late 1960s. he co-designed Compel, a functional programming language.
- Tesler created Pub, recognized as one of the first uses of markup language; as means to easily produce printable manuals from simple text files
- Tesler accepted a position with PARC work with Alan Kay, creator of the mouse.
- Some of Tesler’s main projects at PARC were the Gypsy word processor and Smalltalk, the first dynamic object-oriented programming language.
- While working on Gypsy, Tesler and his colleague Tim Mott started writing ideas down envisioning the future of interactive computer use.
- The two developed the basic copy and paste function, now a standard feature.
- Tesler also established the idea that computer interfaces should be modeless, where all actions are available to a user at all times, rather than modal.
- Tesler also was part of a team that worked on the Xerox NoteTaker, a portable computer system Alan Kay had envisioned.
- Tesler is considered the origin of the phrase “user-friendly” as a measure of usability.
- Tesler is tied to the origins of the phrase what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG).
- Tesler had been present during both of Steve Jobs’ fateful visits to PARC in late 1979.
- Tesler demonstrated to Jobs the Xerox Alto, including its computer mouse-driver GUI features, Gypsy, and Smalltalk.
- Tesler started at Apple in July 1980 supporting development of the Apple Lisa.
- He developed object-oriented language extensions to the Pascal for the Lisa GUI.
- Starting in 1990, Tesler was named VP of Apple’s Newton Group. In 1993, he was promoted to Apple’s Chief Scientist, after becoming frustrated with Newton.
- Tesler decided to leave Apple in 1997, as it struggled financially
- Tesler co-founded Stagecast Software in Palo Alto in 1997, where his team created a programming environment for educational use. He shut company down in 2000 and joined Amazon in 2001.
- Initially he had been hired as VP of shopping experience, where he helped to improve the Amazon website interface, including developing its book preview program.
- Tesler moved back to Silicon Valley in 2005 to join Yahoo! as VP User Experience.
- Tesler equipped his automobile with a California license plate reading “NO MODES”.
- His personal website was located at “nomodes.com” and on Twitter had used @nomodes.
Tesler died in Portola Valley, California on February 16, 2020, at the age of 74.
Idea of the Week: Live Skin Face Scans (Originally broadcast on 2/22/2020)
- Fooling a face-scanning phone camera may be a lot more challenging in 2021. Live-skin-sensing technology is coming to phones, promising a way to 3D scan your face, and also check to see if your face is made of actual living flesh.
- Trinamix, a subsidiary of German chemical company BASF SE, promises it could work with a variety of affordable components.
- Detecting living skin is a practical idea if you think of it as an extra form of verification before completing a facial ID scan.
- Face ID-type sensors found in phones like the iPhone 11 and Google Pixel 4 use a 3D map of infrared dots for security, and in some cases a 2D photo as well.
- Trinamix will also check backscatter on the reflected infrared and be able to identify whether the face is living skin.
- The way Trinamix recognizes materials through its camera array has to do with identifying the backscatter of infrared or lasers that are bounced off a 3D scan.
Currently, the technology will work with Qualcomm-powered Android phones. The company isn’t working with Apple at the moment.
Tip of the Week: Magnetizing Your Screwdriver (Originally broadcast on 3/7/2020)
- If you have ever worked on a laptop computer you know how tiny some of the screws can be, and working with those tiny screws is often frustrating at best.
- But the job is a LOT easier if your screwdriver is magnetized.
- There are several ways to magnetize a screwdriver (or most any metal tool for that matter), but the easiest and safest method is to rub a powerful magnet along the shank of the screwdriver a few times, starting at the handle end.
- By the way, you can easily magnetize other types of tools as well. In fact, pretty much any metal tool that isn’t either copper or aluminum can be magnetized!
Product of the Week: Phone Soap UV Sterilizer (Originally broadcast on 3/28/2020)
- Studies show that since we pick up our phones hundreds of times a day, we could be undermining our best hand washing efforts.
- We call our phones the third hand you never wash. Unless you treat your phone the same way as your hands, it’s hard to keep all three clean.
- Enter Phone Soap. Phone Soap is a device that kills germs on your phone using UV light. Just place your phone into Phone Soap and let it work. You device will come out clean and sterilized.
- According to an MIT study, alcohol wipes are effective for fighting bacteria, and UV light can be effective under the right circumstances, depending on the strength of the UV and certain other factors.
- Presently, it is unclear how effective UV light would be with the new coronavirus because it has not been studied yet. Other scientists have found that PhoneSoap is not effective against SARS (a cousin of the novel coronavirus). PhoneSoap says it can neutralize germs that transmit the common cold or flu, and work on other pathogens.
- Some phone makers advise against using wipes because they can damage protective films on the phone’s surface. Wiping your phone yourself is not adequate because the treatment might not be equally distributed or last for a long enough time to kill the bacteria.
PhoneSoap makes a few different models, some meant for use on the go, some to be stored at home. Link to Phone Soap: https://www.phonesoap.com/
Products of the Week: Keeps you From Touching Your Face (Originally broadcast on 3/28/2020)
- With the onset of Coronavirus, we must stop touching our faces.
- Transmitting an infection via our hands to our face (mouth, eyes, nose, ears) is the most common attack vector.
- Studies show people touch their faces up to 25 times an hour. Medical experts want us to break that habit as a defense against coronavirus. How can we break the habit?
- Here are two options.
- JalapeNO —Kim Binsted, a University of Hawaii professor, designed an app for the Fitbit fitness tracker to help people remember to stop touching their faces. It’s called JalapeNO because it’s supposed be like you having jalapeno juice on your hands. You don’t want to touch your face or nose.
- It took her only a couple of days to create the app that tracks the orientation of the wearer’s hand as at rises toward their face. Get the Fitbit too close to your face and you feel a pulse and hear a faint beeping sound.
- The JalepeNO app only costs 99 cents. Binsted said some of the proceeds will go to the Hawaii Foodbank. She is working on an Apple watch app.
- Link: https://Jalapenoapp.com
- Immutouch Coronavirus Wristband – Thisis an option if you don’t have a Fitbit.
- Slightly Robot redesigned their wearable as the Immutouch, a wristband that vibrates if you touch your face. Its accelerometer senses your hand movement 10 times per second. Based on calibrations the Immutouch takes when you set it up, it then buzzes when you touch or come close to touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. A companion app helps you track your progress.
- The Immutouch wristbands go on sell for $50 each and they’re ready for immediate shipping. Link to device: https://habitaware.com/
Viral Video Week: A Brief History of Pretty Much Everything (Originally broadcast on 3/6/2020)
- This video carries the viewer from the creation of the universe to man leaving Earth to explore that universe.
- Along the way, the flipbook-style animation retells evolution, the rise of civilizations, and the theory of relativity.
- It was made by 17 year-old Jamie Bell from the UK.
- Jamie drew and filmed the project for art class.
- It 2100 pages contained in about 50 jotter books.
- He worked on it on-and-off for about three weeks.
- The YouTube clip has attracted more than 1 million viewers.