Show of 01-16-2021

Tech Talk January 16, 2021

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Bob in Maryland: Dear Doc, Jim, and the furtive Mr. Big Voice. I just stumbled onto this amazing hybrid insect-electronic device, the Smellicopter. Researchers put a living antenna on a drone to give the machine an insanely keen sense of smell. The system that monitors the electrical signals sent from the antenna of an actual moth, allowing the drone to lock onto the source of a scent and navigate toward it. The antenna is from the hawk moth Manduca sexta. What do you think, Doc? All the best from your faithful listener, Bob in Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: That is a great idea. I loved the article. The system that monitors the electrical signals sent from the antenna of an actual moth, allowing the drone to lock onto the source of a scent and navigate toward it. The antenna is from the hawk moth Manduca sexta. When a moth picks up a scent, like that of a flower or a potential mate, the odors bind to proteins inside the antennae, and these proteins in turn activate neurons dedicated to specific chemicals. That means the antennae are producing electrical signals that researchers can tap into. The detached moth antenna keeps on living for up to four hours, giving the drone plenty of time to sniff out odors.
  • Email from Jim Tilton in Bowie: Hi Dr. Shurtz. Another Windows update this week caused this problem to re-occur, where the laptop mic was not recognized by the system. This occurred every time I updated windows. So I got into a chat session with Microsoft Support. After discussing the problem with them they finally decided to help me to a complete reinstall of my Windows 10 operating system. This took about three hours, but when the reinstall was complete, the problem with my headphones disabling my internal microphone was resolved. I hope this is a permanent solution. I’ll let you know if the problem reoccurs after a future Windows update. Jim Tilton in Bowie, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: Glad you solved your problem of using a headset with the built in microphone on your Windows computer. The real story here is the fact that MS provided such great support. I would not have expected that level of concern for your problem, since you will trying to use older hardware where it is difficult to provide backward compatibility. Kudos to Microsoft for they effort. Best of luck and thanks for the update.
  • Question from John in Baltimore: Dear Tech Talk. I recently bought a HP laptop running Windows 10, and ever since I first brought it home it’s been keeping the wrong time. It’s always 1 hour behind, and if I change the time to the correct time it just reverts back to the wrong time all on its own. Do you think it might be a bad CMOS battery or maybe a bad motherboard? I’d really like to get this resolved while the machine is still under warranty. John in Baltimore
  • Tech Talk Responds: The problem is almost certainly not a hardware problem since it keeps a consistent (although incorrect) time. I have a strong suspicion that your PC’s clock is set to the wrong time zone. When you first set up Windows, it asks you to set the correct time zone for your physical location. If you make a mistake and select the wrong time zone, the computer’s clock will automatically sync with the wrong time every time it checks the current time via the Internet.
  • If that’s the problem here, it’s very easy to fix.
    • Boot your PC into Windows.
    • Right-click on the time display in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.
    • Click on Adjust date/time.
    • Toggle the “Set time zone automatically” setting to Off (the slider should be white).
    • Select the correct time zone for your location from the drop-down menu in the center of the screen.
    • Make sure the “Adjust for daylight saving time automatically” setting is set to On (the slider should be blue).
    • Exit the Date and time utility.
  • Check to make sure the current time matches the actual time at your location. If not, repeat the steps above until you have found the correct time zone for your location.
  • Email from Azra in Fredericksburg: Dear Doc and Jim. I would like to set up my own YouTube channel. I have a Mac, an iPhone 10, and an iPad. How can be monetize the site? What do you suggest my first actions should be? Azra in Fredericksburg
  • Tech Talk Responds: That should be a fun project. You will first need a Gmail address for the channel. You can easily create one that is specific to your channel name. Create a YouTube account using your Gmail address. Sign in to YouTube on a computer or the mobile site. Click your profile picture and then Your Channel. You will be asked to create a channel. You can connect your channel to a Brand Account if you want to use a different name on YouTube than your Google Account. Fill out the details to name your new channel. You will need a 1000 word summary of your channel. You can also create playlists (with 5000 word descriptions) that will display your content as a video playlist.
  • Then you have to create content. That is the challenge. You iPhone is a perfect camera. Make certain to always shoot videos in the landscape mode for YouTube.
  • You will need a good microphone. Sound is absolute essential. I would suggest a wireless mic. I would suggest the Movo WMX-1 1.24 GHz Wireless Microphone System. It is only $119 on Amazon and has a 200-foot range. You will need an audio jack to lightning jack adaptor. This is midrange in cost and has great reviews. They have system that plugs directly into the iPhone, but you can’t use it for a camera (and I think you will eventually move to a camera).
  • You should use the cameras on the back of the phone, not the selfie camera. You will need a way to control the video. I suggest linking you iPhone to your iPad and using the FilmiC Pro Remote Control Camera Kit. It is $19.99 in the App Store. You can set select the FOV, all video parameters, and turn the camera on and off with your iPad. Your producer can use it to control the camera remotely. It links to Wi-Fi and has a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi mode when you are outside.
  • You will need a tripod with an iPhone mount, which you can get a Walmart for $35. You will need a Selfie LED Light Ring for indoor videos. You can get a 12-inch ring light with tripod from Walmart for $35. You can get one from Walmart for $5. This simple set of hardware will get on the path to making great videos. You may want to use a green screen for placing photos in the background. A simple green screen is less than $50.
  • Finally, you will need to edit your videos. iMovie can be downloaded to your Mac. It is a great tool for beginners. You can piece together and edit videos you. You can do voiceover and create title pages. You can place background photos for your green screen videos. It is very intuitive. You can then export the movie an upload to YouTube. Each time to upload a video, name it clearly, provide enticing description, a great thumbnail, and assign a playlist. You should have a cadence to new content (two to three videos a week) so that over time, your channel will grow in size and in users.
  • After you have 1,000 followers and 400 hours of view time annually, YouTube will monetize your side by place ads. Google keeps a third of the ad revenue and you get two thirds. If you have great content and many followers, this can generate real money. You total budget to get started should be less than $250, assuming you already have the iPhone.
  • Email from Steven in Waldorf: Dear Tech Talk. I recently a new Dell laptop with an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 1GB hard drive. For a couple of months the new laptop was lightning fast, but then it slowed down to a crawl. And it happened virtually overnight. I just turned it on one morning and it took forever to boot up and the hard drive seemed to be working itself to death. I think it might have caught a virus but I can’t get Norton to load so I can run a check. What should I do? Steven from Waldorf, MD.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Your laptop is probably infected with malware. The fact that you can’t get Norton to load is a huge red flag.
  • Download the Norton Remove and Reinstall Tool and use it to completely uninstall Norton from your PC.
  • Install the free version of Avast Antivirus and run a scan with it. Avast is great.
  • Download the free version of Malwarebytes from this page, then install it and run a thorough scan so it can remove any malware that it finds.
  • Download Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit and run it, then follow that up by downloading the free Sophos Rootkit Removal tool from this page and running it as well.
  • You can leave these tools on your PC or go back to Norton. I would use these tools.

Profiles in IT: John William Mauchly

  • John William Mauchly was an American physicist who, along with J. Presper Eckert, designed ENIAC, the first general purpose electronic digital computer,
  • John William Mauchly was born on August 30, 1907, in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • When John was eight, his family moved to Chevy Chase, MD. His father was head of the Section of Terrestrial Electricity at the Carnegie Institute of Washington, D.C.
  • As a youth, Mauchly was interested in science, and in particular with electricity, and as a young teenager was known to fix neighbors’ electric systems.
  • He graduated from McKinley Technical High School in downtown Washington, DC.
  • At McKinley, Mauchly was active in the debate team, was a member of the national honor society, and became editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, Tech Life.
  • In 1925, he earned a scholarship to study engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
  • He subsequently transferred to the Physics Department, and without completing his undergraduate degree, instead earned a Ph.D. in physics in 1932.
  • In 1932, he accepted a teaching position Ursinus College in Philadelphia.
  • From 1932 to 1933, Mauchly served as a research assistant at Johns Hopkins University where he calculated energy levels of the formaldehyde spectrum.
  • Mauchly’s teaching career began in 1933 at Ursinus College where he was appointed head of the physics department, where he was, in fact, the only staff member.
  • In 1936, Mauchly accepted a job assistant physicist and computer at the Carnegie Institution to analyze meteorological data. This sparked his interest in computation.
  • In the summer of 1941, Mauchly took a Defense Training Course for Electronics at the University of Pennsylvania Moore School of Electrical Engineering.
  • There he met the lab instructor, J. Presper Eckert, with whom he would form a long-standing working partnership.
  • Following the course, Mauchly was hired as an instructor of electrical engineering and in 1943, he was promoted to assistant professor of electrical engineering.
  • Mauchly got the idea for computing at electronic speeds from high-speed electronic flip-flops used in cosmic-ray counting devices at Swarthmore College.
  • Lieutenant Herman Goldstine asked Mauchly to write a formal proposal.
  • In April 1943, the Army contracted with the Moore School to build the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC). Mauchly led the conceptual design while Eckert led the hardware engineering on ENIAC.
  • A thousand times faster, it could do 357 10-digit multiplications in one second.
  • The ENIAC design was frozen in 1944 to allow construction.
  • Eckert and Mauchly began plans on a second computer, to be called EDVAC.
  • John von Neumann learned of the project and wrote First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC. Dated June 30, 1945, it was an early written account of a general-purpose stored-program computing machine (the EDVAC).
  • Goldstine removed any reference to Eckert or Mauchly and distributed the document to a number of von Neumann’s associates across the country.
  • Because of this paper, which defined the von Neumann architecture, the patent for the ENIAC (U.S. Patent 3,120,606) was invalidated.
  • In March 1946, just after the ENIAC was announced, the Moore School changed their patent policy and Eckert and Mauchly resigned.
  • In 1947 Eckert and Mauchly formed the first computer company, the Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation (EMCC); Mauchly was president. They secured a contract with the NBS to build an “EDVAC II”, later named UNIVAC.
  • UNIVAC, the first computer designed for business applications, had many significant technical advantages such as magnetic tape for mass storage.
  • Mauchly’s belief in the importance of languages led him to hire Grace Murray Hopper to develop a compiler for the UNIVAC.
  • In 1950 they sold their company along with their computer patents to Remington Rand. Mauchly worked for Remington and later for Sperry, which bought RR.
  • In 1959, Mauchly left Sperry Rand and started Mauchly Associates, Inc.
  • One of Mauchly Associates’ notable achievements was the development of the Critical Path Method (CPM) which provided for automated construction scheduling.
  • Mauchly also set up a consulting organization, Dynatrend, in 1967 and worked as a consultant to Sperry UNIVAC from 1973 until 1980.
  • Mauchly retired to the quiet suburb of Ambler, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. He died on January 8, 1980, of complications from an infection.
  • In 2002, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Observations from the Bunker

  • Who bears responsibility for the real-world consequences of technology? This question has been unduly complicated for decades by the 1996 legislation that provides immunity from liability to platforms that host third-party content.
  • According to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, written before platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter existed: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
  • This one sentence has been interpreted as essentially freeing the “provider”, including social media platforms, from responsibility for the content they host (with a few carve-outs for things such as intellectual property infringements and sex trafficking).
  • In theory, Section 230 was written to give the internet room to flourish without fear of potentially never-ending lawsuits from anyone with a grievance from something that is posted online as well as protections to moderate what they view as dangerous and offensive content.
  • In practice, it has provided a vastly over-interpreted blanket immunity shield for companies to evade responsibility for real-world harms that, as we have seen in recent years, have been spawned or exacerbated by some online companies.
  • While many of the amazing advancements that have grown from an open internet were in large part thanks to this legal infrastructure that provided a wide berth for innovators to experiment without the fear of reprisal, it has left those who have been harmed by some of these innovations often with no avenue for recourse.
  • Many of us who believe that corporate responsibility and accountability are critical components of a healthy democracy are often left frustrated that the tech industry continues to be held to a different standard. It is the only industry whose responsibility has yet to be defined.
  • Over the past year, the debate around accountability in the tech industry made it to the national (and global) stage. Of all the conversations about how to regulate “big tech”, one that had the attention of U.S. legislators on both sides of the aisle was whether to amend, or even remove, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Mistake of the Week: Lost Bitcoin Password

  • Stefan Thomas, a German programmer based in San Francisco, forgot a password that would allow him to access 7,002 bitcoin, which could be worth $ 220 million.
  • The password will allow Thomas to unlock a small hard drive, called the IronKey, which holds the keys to a digital wallet containing 7,002 bitcoin.
  • Thomas lost the document where he wrote the key to his IronKey years ago and so far he only has two attempts to gain access. Otherwise, the device will encrypt your content forever.
  • The programmer obtained this amount of cryptocurrency in 2011 when he lived in Switzerland, after making an animated video explaining “What is Bitcoin?”.
  • Thomas is not the only one who has lost his money in this way. Of the existing 18.5 million bitcoin, around 20 percent, currently worth around 140 billion of dollars, seem to be in lost or stranded wallets.

Elon Musk Tells Followers to Use Signal Messaging App

  • Encrypted messaging app Signal is seeing a wave of new users after Tesla CEO Elon Musk told his Twitter followers to use the service.
  • The flood of sign-ups on Thursday briefly caused Signal to delay sending out the verification codes needed to activate new user accounts. Nevertheless, the nonprofit behind the app said it is ecstatic about the surge in activity.
  • Hours earlier, Musk tweeted to his followers “Use Signal” in an apparent attempt to discourage people from using WhatsApp, a rival messaging app owned by Facebook.
  • The tweet arrived after WhatsApp announced a new privacy policy covering how it can share user data with Facebook. The practice is nothing new, but the policy update grabbed headlines over concerns users will have almost no way to keep their WhatsApp data separate from Facebook.
  • Facebook says in practice the new WhatsApp privacy policy will mean no change for users when it comes to chats with friends or family members.
  • If you previously elected to stop WhatsApp from sharing data with Facebook during a one-time option back in 2016, the company says it’ll continue to honor your choice.
  • So why is Musk telling people to try Signal? It’s true that both WhatsApp and Signal provide free end-to-end encrypted messaging. This means not even the provider, such as Facebook, can read the content of your messages—only the sender and the recipient of the messages.
  • However, Facebook is a business focused on mining people’s data largely for ad-targeting purposes. Signal, on the other hand, is run by a nonprofit foundation. It’s gone as far to refuse venture capital funding to prevent financial profit from driving its focus.

Tim Berners-Lee Tackles Internet Privacy

  • Suggested by Bob in Maryland
  • The man responsible for creating the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, says he wants to re-make the internet.
  • Berners-Lee, has created a new startup called “Inrupt.”
  • Berners-Lee’s goal is to fix some of the problems that have disrupted the internet in our time. Huge corporations like Facebook and Twitter are operating closed platforms and as such he argues the user has lost control.
  • Berners-Lee’s new web plans to enable person-to-person sharing and collaboration while leaving the user in control. He places a great emphasis on the importance of the individual keeping their personal data in their hands.
  • The goal of Inrupt is to develop a single sign-on for any service, where personal data is stored in “PODS,” or “personal online data stores,” controlled by the individual user.
  • The company has launched a pilot program and has signed up the British NHS (National Health Service), the BBC and government services in Flanders, Belgium to begin testing.
  • The program was initially launched to give people more access to their medical data, but Berners-Lee thinks applications could be far broader.
  • While working in 1980 as a consultant software engineer at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, Sir Berners-Lee wrote a private program for storing information.
  • He hoped to replicate the kind of random associations the brain makes to help himself find data. This program would lay the groundwork for what we know today as the World Wide Web.

MIT Professor Charged With Hiding Work for China

  • A Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor was charged with hiding work he did for the Chinese government while he was also collecting U.S. dollars for his nanotechnology research.
  • Gang Chen, 56, was arrested by federal agents at his home in Cambridge on charges including wire fraud.
  • While working for MIT, Chen entered into undisclosed contracts and held appointments with Chinese entities, including acting as an “overseas expert” for the Chinese government at the request of the People’s Republic of China Consulate Office in New York.
  • Chen did not disclose his connections to China, as is required on federal grant applications, authorities said.
  • He and his research group collected about $29 million in foreign dollars, including millions from a Chinese government funded university funded, while getting $19 million in grants from U.S federal agencies for his work at MIT since 2013.
  • Chen’s attorney said the professor “loves the United States and looks forward to vigorously defending these allegations.”
  • MIT said it is “deeply distressed” by Chen’s arrest. “MIT believes the integrity of research is a fundamental responsibility, and we take seriously concerns about improper influence in U.S. research.

Wikipedia Celebrates Twentieth Birthday

  • Wikipedia celebrated its 20th anniversary on January 15. It aims to spend the next 20 years further expanding free access to information.
  • Founded on January 15, 2001 by the American-British entrepreneur Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia is now the seventh-most popular website in the world, with its more than 55 million articles being consulted 15 billion times every month.
  • The website started in English but within two months had already launched in German and Swedish. It is now available in 309 languages.
  • But Wales doesn’t intend to stop there, with the languages of the developing world in the website’s sights.
  • In 2006, Wales set the goal of having 100,000 entries in Wikipedia for every language with more than one million speakers, but he recognized that Wikipedia is still at least 20 years from achieving that.
  • Wikipedia’s non-profit status nature make it an outlier among today’s internet dominated by the likes of Google and Facebook, and hark back to the web’s early idealistic days when the open-source movement harnessed the talents of volunteers to offer free access to tools and knowledge.
  • Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales acknowledges he was afraid someone would beat him to creating a free online collaborative encyclopedia
  • Wikipedia continues to be a volunteer-driven effort, with each language site built up independently from original contributions rather than translated articles.
  • Unlike traditional encyclopedias, contributions by non-experts are welcome, which has driven innumerable debates about content and have led to restrictions on updating certain entries.
  • The website has also come in for criticism because its volunteers are overwhelmingly white males from Western countries, with critics saying it lacks information about women and developing nations.