Show of 01-23-2021

Tech Talk January 23, 2021

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from John in Baltimore: Dear Tech Talk. Is there an easy way that I can share my WiFi password with friends when they visit my house? I have an iPhone an my wife has an Android phone. I would like an easy way to share my connection with them via my one of our cell phones. John in Baltimore, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: Good news. You can easily share your WiFi password with either the iPhone or the Android.
    • iPhone — Make sure both devices have the latest version of iOS. On both devices, turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. If either device has Personal Hotspot on, turn it off. Sign into iCloud with your Apple ID. Then make sure that the email address you use for your Apple ID is saved in the other person’s Contacts. And make sure you have their email address saved in your Contacts. Keep the other person’s device nearby, within Bluetooth and Wi-Fi range. Make sure that your device (the one sharing the password) is unlocked and connected to the Wi-Fi network. Select the Wi-Fi network on the device you want to connect. On your device, tap Share Password, then tap Done.
    • Android – You can share the WiFi password using a QR code. To create the QR code, click on Settings/Network or Internet. Now, tap on the “Wi-Fi” listing from the top of the menu. Make sure that you’re connected to the Wi-Fi network that you want to share with others and then either select the network name (SSID) or the corresponding Gear icon. Tap the Network’s Advanced Settings Menu Icon. You’re now in the Advanced Settings menu for the given network. Tap on the “QR Code” or “Share” button. Your Android handset will now generate and show a QR code. Have your guests open the default camera app on their Android smartphone or iPhone and scan the code. A message might pop up, asking if they want to connect to the Wi-Fi network.
  • It is very easy to do and you don’t have give out your password. Good luck.
  • Email from Linda in Myrtle Beach: Dear Doc and Jim. I am planning to buy a new laptop to replace my old Gateway. I was hoping to buy another Gateway since I had such good luck out of the old one, but I heard that Gateway is now out of business. I have been asking around about recommendations for a different brand, and most people seem to like either Dell or HP. The problem is there does not seem to be a consensus. Which is better in your opinion, Dell or HP? Linda in Myrtle Beach, SC.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Between Dell and HP, which is the better brand depends on who you ask. Both companies make quality laptops. Unless you end up buying a lemon, either brand is likely to give you great service. This is similar to the perpetual Nikon vs. Canon debate in the camera world. Both companies make great cameras, but which one is best depends on whom you ask.
  • I recommend that you check out laptops from both HP and Dell and make your decision based upon the user reviews and star ratings on Amazon. As a general rule, I always recommend choosing a model that has at least a 4 star rating and at least 100 overwhelmingly positive user reviews. Good luck with your selection.
  • Email from Emma in Philadelphia: Dear Doc and Jim. My friend told me I need to put a password on the WiFi connection, but I do not think it is necessary because I don’t have any neighbors living close by to piggyback off of it. I like being able to let guests connect to my network without having to hassle with a password. Do you think it is ok if I leave it without a password, or is my friend right? Email from Emma in Philadelphia, PA.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Your friend is right. You need a WiFi password. Without password protection, your WiFi connection is open to absolutely anyone who happens to be in close proximity to your house, even someone who might just happen to drive by and notice that you have an unsecured wireless network.
  • Hackers love to target isolated houses with WiFi connections because they can just pull over to the side of the road, connect to your network, and do whatever they want to do on the Internet. Moreover, the things that many of them want to do are illegal. For example, unsecured WiFi connections are especially useful to people who are into child pornography. If someone uses your WiFi connection to download that garbage, you will be contacted by the police not them.
  • Email from Claire in Madison: Dear Tech Talk. We are building a small cottage in our back yard for my mother-in-law to live in. The question I have is about extending Internet service to the cottage. The distance between our house and the cottage is about 100 feet. Will I need to run a long Ethernet cable from the router in our bedroom (which is on the side of the house facing the cottage) to the cottage or can we get by with a pair of power line networking adapters? We need to find a solution quickly. Claire in Madison, Wisconsin
  • Tech Talk Responds: Based upon the situation as you described it I believe a powerline networking kit should work just fine. The cottage will be drawing its power from your home’s breaker panel and the distance is relatively short, so I can’t foresee any reason why it wouldn’t work just fine.
  • However,, you potentially have another, even simpler option depending on how your mother-in-law will be using her Internet connection. If she just needs basic Internet service for visiting websites, using email and pretty much any other non-streaming activity she’ll probably be able to simply piggyback off your existing Wi-Fi network. You mentioned that your router is in a room that is on the side of your house facing the cottage so I’m guessing that there will be a usable Wi-Fi signal inside the cottage as well. This is easy enough to check. If you ultimately determine that the Wi-Fi solution simply isn’t feasible you can always install a powerline Wi-Fi extender like this one to get the job done.
  • Email from Lois in Kansas: Dear Doc and Jim. Recently a friend of our died and his family had trouble taking control on his Facebook account. I dont want that to happen to me. How can I specify what happens to my Facebook account if something happens to me? Love the show. Lois in Kansas.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Facebook gives you two options for such an eventuality. You can either choose to delete your account when you die, or have it memorialized.
  • Memorialized Account —When you memorialize your account, you leave someone you trust in charge of making sure that your account is curated after you’re gone. Memorializing an account allows friends and family to get together and share memories of you, and has some key features. You name will have the word “Remembering” placed next to it.
  • In order to set your account so that it can be memorialized after you pass, you need to appoint a legacy contact. This would be any friend or family member who you trust to tend to your wishes. To set a legacy contact, first open the Settings and click on Security, then Legacy Contact. Now, you simply need to appoint a friend to serve as your legacy contact.
  • Your legacy contact will not gain these new powers until after your account is officially memorialized, which someone must request for you after you have died. Facebook will require your name, the date you died, and optionally, some kind of proof such as link to obituary or a copy of your death certificate.
  • Deleted Account — The simpler option is to have your account deleted upon your demise. This isn’t the same as deactivating it. When deleted, everything goes away. To do this, open the Security settings, click on Legacy Contact and this time click Request account deletion. After you have passed away, someone will need to notify Facebook, which they can do using a special request form. It’s best that you appoint someone, regardless of whether they’re your legacy contact, to take care of this matter. Be sure to communicate to them your wishes for how your Facebook account should be handled.
  • Donna in Kansas: Dear Doc and Jim. I just got a new iPad. Can I connect a full size keyboard to my iPad for document creation? Donna in Pittsburg, Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: Your iPad support Bluetooth keyboards. They will make your iPad almost like a laptop, especially with the new operating system.There are many options. A good one is the Arteck HB030B Universal Slim Portable Wireless Bluetooth 3 Keyboard with Built in Rechargeable Battery. It is only $20 on Amazon.


 

Profiles in IT: Jack Ma

  • Jack Ma, or Ma Yun , is a Chinese business magnate best known as the cofounder and former COE of the Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate.
  • Jack Ma was born October 15, 1964 in Hangzhou, China.
  • He began studying English at a young age by conversing with English-speakers at Hangzhou International Hotel.
  • For nine years, Ma would ride 17 miles on his bicycle to give tourists tours of the area to practice his English. He became pen pals with one of those foreigners, who nicknamed him “Jack” because he found it hard to pronounce his Chinese name.
  • Later in his youth, Ma struggled attending college. Ma failed the entrance exam for the Hangzhou Teachers College twice because of low math scores.
  • After three years at age 20, Ma passed the entrance exam and attended Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute, graduating in 1988 with a BA in English.
  • While at school, Ma was head of the student council. After graduation, he became a lecturer in English and international trade at Hangzhou Dianzi University.
  • He claims to have applied unsuccessfully ten times to Harvard Business School.
  • Ma applied for 30 different odd jobs and was rejected by every one. He was rejected by the police department, even KFC.
  • In 1994, started his first company, Hangzhou Haibo Translation Agency.
  • In early 1995, he went to the US on behalf of the municipal government with colleagues who had introduced him to the Internet. He discovered there was little information about China on the web in the US.
  • He and his friend created a website related to China (chinapages.com). By Noon of the first day, he had received emails from Chinese investors.
  • In April 1995, Ma and He Yibing (a computer teacher) opened the first office for China Pages. On 10 May 1995, they registered the domain chinapages.com in the US. Within three years, the company had made US$800,000.
  • From 1998 to 1999, Ma headed an information technology company established by the China International Electronic Commerce Center, a department of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation.
  • In 1999, he quit and returned to Hangzhou with his team to found Alibaba, a China-based business-to-business marketplace site in his apartment with a group of 18 friends. He started a new round of venture development with about $77,000US.
  • Ali Baba is a poor woodcutter in the Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves who gained entrance to the treasure cave of the 40 thieves by saying the magic words Open, Sesame!
  • In October 1999 and January 2000, Alibaba received $25M in venture capital from Goldman Sachs and Softbank.
  • In 2003, Ma’s Alibaba launched Taobao.com, a consumer-to-consumer auction website that is equivalent to eBay and Amazon. It includes Alipay, an escrow-based payment system.
  • Annual transaction volume on Taobao reached nearly $15 billion in 2008, exceeding the largest off-line retail chain in China.
  • In 2007, Ma’s Alibaba Group founded Alisoft, which low-cost financial management tools using the Software as a Service delivery model.
  • After the rapid rise of Taobao, eBay offered to purchase the company. However, Ma rejected their offer, got a $1B investment from Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang.
  • com, which went public in Nov. 2007 as the second-biggest Internet IPO in history after Google. It traded in Hong Kong.
  • In September 2014 it was reported Alibaba was raising over $25 billion in an initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange.
  • Ma served as executive chairman of Alibaba Group, which is a holding company with nine major subsidiaries: Alibaba.com, Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, Alipay, Alibaba Could Computing, and others., eTao, Alibaba Cloud Computing, Juhuasuan, 1688.com, and AliExpress.com.
  • In September 2018 Ma started the Jack Ma Foundation and announced that he would retire from Alibaba to pursue educational work, philanthropy, and environmental causes. Ma denied that he was forced to step aside by the Chinese government.
  • In November 2018, the People’s Daily identified Ma as a member of the Communist Party of China, something which surprised observers.
  • Ma officially stepped down from the board of Alibaba on September 30, 2019.
  • In November 2020, the Ant Group’s IPO was cancelled after an intervention by financial regulators. Jack Ma disappeared from October 2020 and January 2021.
  • Many feel the crackdown and his disappearance are connected to his criticism of China’s regulators and “pawnshop mentality” banks.
  • Ma made a public appearance again on 20 January 2021, speaking via video link to a group of rural teachers at a charitable event, the annual Rural Teacher Initiative.
  • As of January 2021, with a net worth of $58.3 billion, Ma is the third-wealthiest person in China and 20th in the world, according to Forbes.

Observations from the Bunker

  • So how did a former English teacher from Hangzhou, known as “Crazy Ma” because of his unorthodox management philosophy, build one of the most valuable companies.
  • He did it by blending the best of Western and Eastern technologies, operational practices and management styles.
    • Be like Forrest Gump — Jack Ma relates to the naive innocence with which the character Forrest Gump approaches life. Ma watches his favorite film Forrest Gump over and over and over again. Indeed Ma never let himself get down, even when he made $15 a month as a teacher while supplementing his income peddling on the street. He was not discouraged when KFC, a hotel and the police turned him down for jobs. He kept on believing that if someone sticks to his principles and works hard, anything was possible. Like Forest Gump, Ma has always seen the world and its possibilities almost as if through the eyes of a child, believing technology could be magic and life truly is a box of chocolates — but one that a person never knows what he will get inside.
    • Innovate on the Shoulders of Giants — Ma has consistently understood that innovation is not always synonymous with invention. Like Steve Jobs, who did not invent the digital music player, and Bill Gates, who did not invent computer operation systems, Ma built his most successful properties on the foundations of what came before. For example eBay had long been established as the largest and most successful consumer-to-consumer ecommerce site in the world when Ma launched Taobao. What Ma did was adapt the concept specifically for China, knowing that culture, history, philosophy and mind-set were as important to success as functionality..
    • Soar with Eagles — Jack Ma has surrounded himself with the smartest and most capable and innovative executives and managers he could find. He never believed that he was an expert at everything and that as a founder he had earned the right to micromanage every aspect of his business. Ma was open to bringing in foreign executives to further his goal of blending East and West. He also befriended Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, and Masayoshi Son, chairman of Japanese telecom giant Softbank. Both were early investors in Alibaba and helped the company grow.
    • Take your business but not yourself seriously — Ma has worked hard from Day 1 to build a unique culture at Alibaba. Ma has built a culture of participation, inclusion and fun. He exhibits high energy and is outspoken, fun loving and charming. He has ensured that all those personal traits have become company traits and is well known for singing karaoke with employees, holding company retreats for 15,000 (focused on fun not work) and dressing in outlandish outfits when addressing management. He has created an atmosphere such that Alibaba employees treat him like a combination of father figure, inspirational guru and band leader.
  • Ma has proved through his unique management style for Alibaba that East and West can meet and when they do something beautiful can come of it.

Tip of the Week: Speed Up Your Phone

  • Does your smartphone seem sluggish and slow compared to the way it ran when you first got it? There is one popular, but unnecessary app, that could be slowing your phone down to a crawl. The Facebook app is the guilty culprit. Plenty of apps are memory and resource hogs, but the Facebook app is in a class all by itself.
  • You can uninstall this app and still use Facebook on your phone (or tablet) just like you always have. All you have to do is sign into your existing Facebook account via your favorite mobile web browser instead of the app! Facebook works perfectly in a mobile browser without causing your phone to get cluttered up with app-related junk. Once you’re sure you’re able to log into your account via a web browser you can uninstall the app from your device.
  • Using Facebook in a browser instead of the app will probably make your phone’s battery charge last longer as well. Switching from the Facebook app to the Facebook mobile website will not require you to open a new account.

Origin of the Word: Robot

  • Robot is a relative newcomer to the English language. It was the brainchild of a Czech playwright, novelist and journalist named Karel Čapek (1880-1938) who introduced it in his 1920 play, Rossum’s Universal Robots.
  • Robot is drawn from an old Church Slavonic word, robota, for “servitude,” “forced labor” or “drudgery.”
  • The robots perform all the work that humans preferred not to do and, soon, the company is inundated with orders. In early drafts of his play, Čapek named these creatures labori, after the Latinat root for labor, but worried that the term sounded too “bookish.” At the suggestion of his brother, Josef, Čapek ultimately opted for roboti, or in English, robots.

Microsoft Patent: Turing the Dead into an AI Chatbot

  • If technology in a patent granted to Microsoft comes to fruition, interacting with a chatty 3D digital version of the deceased could one day become a reality.
  • The patent, titled “Creating a conversational chatbot of a specific chatbot of a specific person,” details a system that would access images, voice data, social media posts, electronic messages and the like to “create or modify a special index in the theme of the specific person’s personality.”
  • In some cases, images and video could be used to create a 3D model of the person for extra realism.
  • It’s an especially provocative notion when you consider the patent’s suggestion that the tech “may correspond to a past or present entity.”
  • Microsoft filed the patent in 2017, but it was granted this month and has become the subject of online chatter.
  • Kuyda, co-founder and CEO of software company Replika, trained a chatbot on thousands of text messages she’d shared with her best friend Roman, who died in a car accident. In doing so, she created an immortal digital Roman that could still “talk” to family and friends.
  • That a company as prominent as Microsoft has outlined a system for immortalizing the dead through chatbots suggests the practice could someday become far more widely accepted and used.
  • The question is should we do it? And if we do, what should it look like?

Secret Service Used Phone Location Data without a Warrant

  • A newly released Secret Service document confirms that U.S. law enforcement has been purchasing phone location data gathered from popular apps. This circumvents the need for a warrant.
  • Obtained by Motherboard through a Freedom of Information Act request, the 2017 contract shows the Secret Service bought a product called Locate X from a Virginian social media surveillance company Babel Street.
  • Locate X is able to track a cell phone’s movements using anonymized location data collected by various apps, and is so secretive that its mere existence is confidential information.
  • Using Locate X, the Secret Service could identify devices that were in a specified area during a specified time, and track their movements months before and after that event. Simply follow that trail to a house and presto, that anonymous data is anonymous no more.
  • According to the internal document, the Secret Service paid almost $36,000 for a one-year subscription to the service running from Sept. 27, 2017 to 2018 — part of approximately $2 million paid to Babel Street for social media surveillance products.
  • Federal records showed Locate X was being used by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, but this is the first official confirmation that it has also been utilized by the Secret Service.
  • Usually law enforcement would need to obtain a warrant or court order to gather this kind of information on people’s movements.

Facial Recognition use Surges after Capitol Riot

  • The use of facial recognition technology by local and state law enforcement agencies has risen significantly in the week since the Jan. 6 pro-Trump mob at the U.S. Capitol.
  • With many of the participants posting footage of the riot to social media, officials nationwide are relying on software like Clearview AI — which matches photos of unidentified people with publicly posted images — including in jurisdictions that have enacted recent reforms about police use of the technology.
  • During a press conference Tuesday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker suggested that state and local police departments across the commonwealth are searching facial recognition databases to determine if any of its residents traveled to Washington to participate in the riot.
  • After Baker vetoed a bill containing an outright ban of the technology, Massachusetts recently adopted law enforcement reforms that require officers to obtain a court order or approval of the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicle before running a facial recognition search.
  • So far, more than 70 people nationwide have been charged over their participation in the Capitol assault, though Baker said none are from Massachusetts. Still, many more arrests are expected in the coming weeks and months; the FBI said
  • Tuesday it has already collected more than 100,000 digital images from the violent insurrection, which killed five people, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.
  • Facial recognition products like Clearview AI — which has sparked privacy concerns for its sprawling database of at least three billion images scraped from Facebook, YouTube and other sites — are a key component of this work. Clearview executives have also said that use of their software jumped 26% the day after the Capitol riot.
  • Law enforcement use of facial recognition software continues to face stiff criticism from privacy activists. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has previously argued against Clearview specifically, said Tuesday that it could easily be turned on peaceful, constitutionally protected protest activity. Facial surveillance technology allows police to track people not only after the fact but also in real time, including at lawful political protests.