Show of 05-22-2021

Tech Talk May 22, 2021

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments taken from previous shows.

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Jim in Ashburn: Dear Doc and Jim I spilled a large glass of coke all over my keyboard. After I saw what I had done I immediately unplugged the power cable from the computer and disconnected the keyboard from the USB port. I’m not worried about the keyboard since they’re so cheap, but it’s the tower that has me worried. Do you think I can just buy a new keyboard and plug it in or do you recommend having the computer checked out by a repair shop first to make sure it’s not damaged? Jim in Ashburn, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: Spilling liquid on the keyboard can easily damage a laptop, but I have never heard of a case where it damaged a desktop computer with a USB keyboard. Unlike the computer hardware of days past, USB is quite forgiving of mishaps like this. I believe your computer will work just fine once you connect it to a new keyboard. This is an excellent time for you to upgrade to a wireless keyboard. A wireless keyboard will cost a few bucks more than a wired one, but trust me, the extra cost is well worth it considering how convenient it is not to have to deal with a cord.
  • Email from Tracy in San Francisco: Dear Doc and Jim. I have noticed that sometimes when I look at someone’s profile on Facebook there is no “Add Friend” button. I do not know if it’s always been that way because I just started noticing it a few days ago. Can you tell me why there is no “Add Friend” button on those profiles? In addition, is there some other way to send those people a friend request? Tracy in San Francisco, CA.
  • Tech Talk Responds: When you do not see an “Add Friend” button on someone’s Facebook profile that user has blocked anyone who isn’t a friend of someone who is already on their Friends list from being able to send them a friend request. Some people just don’t want to receive friend requests from people they have no existing connection with, and this is Facebook’s way of allowing them to choose that option. If you are inclined to do so, you can place a similar restriction on your own account by following the steps for Facebook on a laptop or desktop computer:
  • Click the down arrow at the right side of the Facebook Menu bar.
  • Click Settings & Privacy.
  • Click Settings.
  • Click the Privacy link in the left-hand column.
  • Scroll down to the “How People Find and Contact You” section and click Who can send you friend requests?.
  • Click on Everyone and then select Friends of friends.
  • The process is similar on your mobile device.
  • Email from Carla in Woodbridge: Dear Tech Talk. I have decided to eat healthy. A friend suggested that I download a QR code scanning app so I can get the nutrition info for the foods on restaurant menus. I went to a restaurant for lunch yesterday and saw an item that looked good. I tried to open the QR code scanning app but it wouldn’t open. Last night I tried opening the app again and it still wouldn’t open. I uninstalled the app and went to Google Play to download it again but I couldn’t find it. It’s just gone. Can you recommend a good QR code scanning app for my Android phone? Carla in Woodbridge, VA.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You old QR code scanning app has been removed from the Google Play Store. The most common of which are the companies behind the apps either going out of business or getting caught using their apps to do nefarious things. The good news is that most modern smartphones can read QR codes just fine via their native camera apps. I’m quite confident that you can use its camera app to scan QR codes without having to install any third party apps at all. To test you phone , just open your camera app and point it at a QR code. If the camera app recognizes the QR code a link will pop up on the screen letting you know that. If it does not work, try looking in the camera app’s settings for a switch to turn QR Code Scanning on. The camera app in modern iPhones can read QR codes as well.
  • Email from Chuck in Baltimore: Dear Tech Talk. The 1TB hard drive in my desktop computer has started making odd noises and I’m afraid it’s about to break. I have already copied all my files onto an external hard drive so I’m prepared if it does go belly up on me. I’m wanting to replace the failing hard drive with an SSD that has at least the same amount of storage space. I’d like to keep the cost as close to $100 as possible. Can you could recommend the best SSD for me to get in that price range? Chuck in Baltimore
  • Tech Talk Responds: There are many great solid-state drives. I think you would be well served by this fantastic 1 TB SSD from Western Digital (currently $89 on Amazon). This drive has a reputation for being one of the most reliable SSDs on the market, and as a result is has collected a 36,000+ overwhelmingly positive user reviews on Amazon. I’ve used Western Digital hard drives and flash memory products for many years, and I’ve had great luck with them. Since you will be installing your new SSD into a desktop machine, you’ll need to check to see if it has an open 2.5 inch drive bay. If it doesn’t you’ll need to buy an inexpensive 2.5″ to 3.5″ drive adapter bracket so you can mount the drive inside the PC’s case.
  • Email from Doug in Pittsburg: Dear Tech Talk. I recently read an article about using hard drives or SSDs in a RAID configuration. The article said RAID 1 copies all data to every drive in the array at the same time, essentially creating a clone of the primary drive in real time. In the comments on the article, someone suggested that using two drives in RAID 1 would automatically create a backup, eliminating the need to back up the hard drive in the usual way. That made sense to me but then someone else commented and said that is a really bad idea. But he didn’t explain why. What is your opinion on using RAID 1 to create automatic backups? Is it a good idea or not? Doug in Pittsburg, KS
  • Tech Talk Responds: I’m going to have to agree with the second commenter. While RAID 1 certainly has its uses, creating instant backups isn’t one of them unless you also augment the RAID array with some other type of redundant backup. You should never use two (or more) drives configured in a RAID 1 array to create a machine’s only backup for the following reasons:
  • If the power grid that serves your house or business is hit with a direct lightning strike that takes out your computer, the power surge could easily destroy both hard drives at once. That would obviously destroy your backup.
  • If you accidentally delete an important file, it’ll also be automatically deleted from the “backup drive” as well.
  • If your computer gets infected with a horrible virus (ransomware, for instance), both hard drives will get infected at exactly the same time.
  • If your house burns down and destroys your computer, your backup drive will go up in flames right along with the computer.
  • If a burglar breaks into your house and steals your computer, he’ll take your backup drive with him as well.
  • As you can see, using RAID 1 to “mirror” two hard drives doesn’t create a reliable backup at all. Having a RAID 1 array in a file server will greatly reduce the risk that the server will go offline due to a hard drive failure. If one drive fails the other drive will pick up the load without missing a beat.
  • Email from Joy in Ashburn: Dear Doc and Jim. My 7 year old laptop stopped working last year and I replaced it with a new one that has Windows 10 on it. When I was setting up the new laptop it asked me to create a password for logging into Windows. Then it also asked me to create a PIN. I’ve been logging in with the PIN ever since but I recently read an article that said passwords are more secure than PINs. I’ve been logging in with my password since then but the log-in screen still gives the option to use the PIN when I click the “Sign-in Options” link. My questions is, how do I completely remove the PIN from my laptop? Joy in Ashburn
  • Tech Talk Responds: While using a strong password is indeed more secure than using a typical four digit PIN in most situations, on a Windows 10 PC a PIN that’s longer than four digits can actually be more secure overall than a password. I suggest you simply specify a longer PIN. If you still wish to delete your PIN you certainly can.
  • Click the Start button.
  • Click the Settings icon (it looks like a “gear” or “cog“.)
  • Click Accounts.
  • Click Sign-in options.
  • Click Windows Hello PIN.
  • Click Remove, then click Remove again to confirm.
  • The PIN should now be removed from your Windows account and you should be able to log in with your password.

 

Profiles in IT: Lodewijk Frederik (Lou) Ottens

  • Lodewijk Frederik (Lou) Ottens was a Dutch engineer and inventor, best known for inventing the cassette tape and being involved in the development of the CD.
  • Ottens was born in Bellingwolde, Netherlands, on June 21, 1926.
  • As a child, he passed the time playing with a Meccano model construction set.
  • He built a radio as a teenager through which he and his parents could receive Radio Oranje during Germany’s wartime occupation of the Netherlands.
  • He equipped the device with a directional antenna that he called a “Germanenfilter” because it could avoid the jammers used by the Nazi regime.
  • Ottens later served in the Dutch air force, although he was stationed on the ground because of poor eyesight.
  • After the war, Ottens began attending the Delft University of Technology, where he studied mechanical engineering.
  • While attending university, Ottens worked part time as a drafting technician for an X-ray technology factory. He graduated in 1952.
  • In 1952, Ottens was hired by Philips. He started in the mechanization department of the Main Industry Group in Eindhoven.
  • In 1957, he transferred to a factory in Hasselt, Belgium. This factory mainly produced audio equipment, including turntables, tape recorders, and loudspeakers.
  • In 1960, Ottens became the head of the new product development department in Hasselt. He led the development of Philips’ first reel-to-reel portable tape recorder, the EL 3585. It was quite successful, selling over 1 million units.
  • Two years later that Ottens made the biggest breakthrough of his life, born out of annoyance with the clumsy and large reel-to-reel tape systems.
  • Ottens’s idea was that the cassette tape that should fit in the inside pocket of his jacket, nick named the pocket recorder.
  • Ottens cut a block of wood to fit into his jacket pocket. This wood block became the model for the first portable cassette recorder, the EL 3300.
  • In 1963 the first tape was presented to the world at an electronics fair in Berlin with the tagline “Smaller than a pack of cigarettes!”
  • Ottens convinced Philips executives to share the company’s cassette technology after flying to Japan to meet with Sony, which said it was preparing to release a rival.
  • In doing so, he helped establish a uniform standard that ensured cassettes sold in one country would work in another.
  • The rest is history. It led to the mixtapes beloved by teenagers across the world.
  • In 1972, Ottens became technical director of Philips Main Industry Group Audio.
  • While in this position, Ottens realized that laser technology being researched at Philips for video records could also be used for audio.
  • Using resources from the NatLab, a new solid state laser was developed that was smaller and more suitable for Ottens design.
  • Since analog technology caused too much background noise, Ottens formed a team of technicians with experience in digital technology to create the first compact disc.
  • The first full model was finalized by March 1979 at a conference in Eindhoven.
  • He again reached an agreement with Sony, who was ahead of Philips in digital development and optical recording, but had not found a way to reduce the size.
  • In 1980 the 12cm Philips-Sony CD standard was ready for the world.
  • Upon returning from his trip to Japan, Ottens became technical director of Philips Video Main Industry Group. Where is concentrated on the development of the VCR.
  • After retiring in 1986, Ottens remained active in the field of technology for many years. He became chair of the Dutch Association for Logistics Management in 1988.
  • More than 100B cassette tapes and 200B CDs have been sold.
  • When asked about his regrets, Ottens lamented that Sony had brought out the first Walkman. “It still hurts that we didn’t have one,” he said.
  • Ottens died in Duizel on March 6, 2021, at age 94.

 

Videotape Format War

  • The videotape format war was a period of intense competition or “format war” of incompatible models of consumer-level analog video videocassette and videocassette recorders (VCR) in the late 1970s and the 1980s.
  • It mainly involving the Betamax and Video Home System (VHS) formats, with VHS ultimately emerging as the preeminent format.
  • The first consumer-grade VCR to be released was the Philips N1500 VCR format in 1972, followed in 1975 by Sony’s Betamax.
  • This was quickly followed by the competing VHS format from JVC (Victor Corporation of Japan), and later by Video 2000 from Philips.
  • Subsequently, the Betamax–VHS format war began in earnest.
  • Sony had demonstrated a prototype videotape recording system it called “Beta” to the other electronics manufacturers in 1974, and expected that they would back a single format for the good of all.
  • However, JVC in particular decided to go with its own format, despite Sony’s appeal to the Japanese Ministry of Trade and Industry, thus beginning the format war.

 

Observations from the Bunker

  • Our dependence on the Internet, my personal saga.
  • My Internet was disconnected at the Bay house because of noise on the line.
  • I was without Internet for several critical days prior to my Board meeting.
  • I accessed the Internet using the free McDonald’s WiFi. That system had the best download and upload speeds in town (25MB download, 6 MB upload).
  • I could not use my phone for a WiFi hotspot because I connection was so weak.
  • I was a WiFi beggar, without Internet, no TV, no Alexa, no iPhone garage door opener, no Dropbox upload for my Board meeting, no Skype for the radio show.
  • Even my hydroponic garden was off line. I looked at the plants in person now.
  • I began to see the problem kids have if they do not have Internet for online classes.
  • I had to drive to Northern Virginia, where I had Internet, to prepare and deliver the show. I decided not to broadcast from the McDonald’s parking lot in Kilmarnock.
  • We fixed the noise source and my Internet is now up. I am still trying to discover if the excessive noise was caused by my Powerline Ethernet, which now fail to connect.

 

Billions of Cicadas Set to Emerge in Easter US

  • The cicadas burrow underground as nymphs and suck fluids from the roots of plants as they grow, eventually bursting into the open as adults in mass synchronized events.
  • The last such event for 15 states including New York, Ohio, Illinois and Georgia occurred in 2004.
  • The cicadas emerge in a 17-year cycle, meaning they will appear this year once temperatures are warm enough, expected to be mid-May
  • While cicadas will not harm people, pets that gorge on them may become ill.
  • It is thought that long underground development helps cicadas survive predators.
  • The noise made by the enormous swarms will be noticeable, however, with males emitting mating calls that can reach 100 decibels.
  • The males produce these mating “songs” by vibrating their tymbals, two rigid, drum-like membranes on the underside of the abdomen.
  • BTW, 2004 was the year that Gmail was launched. I go one of the first accounts by offering a staff person, chocolate covered Cicadas made by our culinary department.

 

Dumb Idea of the Week: Connecting Chastity Belt to the Internet

  • Sam Summers was sitting at home with his private parts wrapped in an internet-connected chastity cage when he got a weird message on the app that connects to the device.
  • Someone told him they had taken control and they wanted around $1,000 in Bitcoin to give control back to Summers.
  • When Summers called his partner, she told him it wasn’t her, even after he told her their safe word.
  • He had gotten hacked and you know what was locked in the cage.
  • Summers is one of several people who purchased a chastity cage device called Cellmate and produced by Qiui, a China-based manufacturer.
  • Some of the device’s owners got their accounts — and thus their devices as well — hacked at the end of last year, after security researchers warned that the manufacturer left an exposed and vulnerable API, which could allow hackers to take control of the devices.
  • Summers realized he had some Bitcoin stashed in an old account. So he sent the hacker what they wanted, hoping that would be it. They refused to open it. They wanted more money.
  • He managed to break out with a hammer and bolt cutters. He suffered only a minor injury with some bleeding.
  • Link: https://www.qiui.store/($169.00 for both the long and short version)

 

Technology of the Week: Green Light for Fishing

  • Scientific research shows that all members of this food chain have eyes sensitive to the colors blue and green. This probably evolved because the water absorbs longer wavelengths.
  • Fish and some members of their food chain have color receptors in their eyes optimized for the light of their “space”. Eyes that can see a single space color can detect changes in light intensity.
  • It has been known for a long time that a light attracts fish, shrimp and insects at night. Based on the biology of visual receptors, the light should be blue or green.
  • The light first attracts microorganisms, which attract bait fish, which attract predator fish.
  • This light works very effectives after it has been one for a couple of hours.
  • I ordered the Extra Bright Single Dock Light System from UnderWaterFish.com or $499.00
  • It is a 250W submersible arc-lamp. It burns hot enough to keep barnicles from forming on the light fixture itself.
  • My grandkids are happy and are catching 14 inch fish every nights (striped bass, puppy drum, perch, and speckled trout)

 

Food Science: Why is Fish White?

  • There are two types of protein myosin that be found in muscle
  • Slow fibers
    • Slow fibers burn fats to provide energy.
    • These muscles need oxygen to operate.
    • Slow fibers are suited for working continuously.
  • Fast fibers
    • Fast fibers burn glycogen and do not need oxygen.
    • Fast fibers do not need myoglobin and are always white.
    • Fast fibers can only operate in short bursts.
    • Fibers are short and fall apart when cooked.
  • Land animals need to support their own weight and hence must have slow fibers.
  • Fish swim in busts and are supported by water and can be by with fast fibers.
  • Sharks which must continuously are an exception

 

Good News for Electric Vehicles – Battery Capacity Tripled

  • One of the most-cited concerns about all-electric cars, battery capacity, will soon be addressed with a new nanomaterial capable of tripling the capacity and extending the service life of lithium-ion batteries.
  • The researchers synthesized a new nanomaterial able to replace low-efficiency graphite, which is used in lithium-ion batteries today.
  • Lithium-ion batteries are found in common household appliances, from smartphones to electric vehicles. They charge and discharge via the movement of lithium ions from one negatively charged anode to a positively charged cathode.
  • To overcome graphite’s inherent limits, scientists from the National University of Science and Technology procured a new material for anodes capable of drastically increasing the capacity and extending the service life of all-electric batteries.
  • Porous nanostructured microspheres with the composition Cu0.4Zn0.6Fe2O4, used as anode material provide three times higher capacity.
  • It also allows to increase the number of charge-discharge cycles by 5 times compared to other promising alternatives to graphite.
  • This will have a major impact on Electric Vehicles.