Show of 08-14-2021

Tech Talk August 14, 2021

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz. This is not a Tech Talk question, just some interesting feedback re Tech Talk podcast. For about two months, the only Tech Talk program I could get was the 12 June program. Then out of the blue, I received all the July programs – June’s as well in file. Wonder what happened. I am very pleased that they are available now. Hopefully this was an aberration, and Tech Talk is alive and well. Arnie in Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: Arnie, it was an aberration. The program that ported the XML file to the website failed. It is fixed now and the show should remain current. I should point out, that Federal News Radio uploads the show to PodcastOne each week. Here is the link: https://www.podcastone.com/tech-talk-radio.
  • Email from Susan in Alexandria: Good Morning, Dr. Shurtz and Jim. I recently heard about security/privacy issues with QR codes. Could you elaborate? Are there any countermeasures the user can take? Thanks (again) for your informative show. Susan in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: This attack relates to the fact that a QR code can send you to a malicious website that could install malware on your computer or phone. Some bad actors are putting QR cost stickers on posters and signs. The warning is to be mindful of the source of the QR code. Check the actual website link before clicking on it. Not all QR codes can be trusted. There is not particular vulnerability in the QR code itself.
  • Email from Bob in Maryland: Dear Doc, Jim and the elusive Mr. BigVoice. I came across this article about a new kind of malware called “code-poisoning”: A team of researchers with the Cornell University Tech team have uncovered a new type of backdoor attack that they showed can “manipulate natural-language modeling systems to produce incorrect outputs and evade any known defense. The Cornell Tech team said they believe the attacks would be able to compromise algorithmic trading, email accounts and more. I am not sure I understand this attack completely. What do you think of this, Doc? All the best, your faithful listener, Bob in Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: Because of the popularity of AI and machine learning technologies, many non-expert users are building their models using code they barely understand. The are using open source code that is available in repositories. The open source resources that be infected (or poisoned) with malicious code. The resultant backdoor can manipulate natural-language modeling systems without “any access to the original code or model by uploading malicious code to open-source sites that are frequently used by many companies and programmers.” The attack would give people or companies enormous power over modifying a wide range of things including movie reviews or even an investment bank’s machine learning model so it ignores news that would have an effect on a company’s stock. This research proves how important it is to review and verify materials before integrating them into any systems.
  • Email from Elijah in Ashburn: Dear Tech Talk. I dropped my Android phone and broke it so I had to replace it. I decided I wanted to try an iPhone this time so I bought a used iPhone 7 Plus. I like the iPhone ok but I can’t use my favorite headphones with it because there’s no place to plug them in. Do you know of any way that I can use those wired headphones with my iPhone? Elijah in Ashburn, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: This has been a source of frustration for many iPhone users ever since Apple decided to stop putting microphone jacks on their devices. Eliminating the jack was helped with water proofing the device. In addition, Apple has long had a policy of abandoning older technology that it deems obsolete. You can buy a very inexpensive adapter that will allow you to connect your existing set of corded headphones to your iPhone. You can get an Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter on Amazon for only $7.99. It would cost $13.99 in the store.
  • Email from Kenneth Bogle in Miami: You mentioned in a previous show the Rules of Critical Thinking you teach. How can I get this download? Respectfully, Ken in Miami, FLA
  • Tech Talk Responds: Ken, I like the model proposed by the Foundation for Critical Thinking (www.criticalthinking.org). A graphical summary of their model is show here (http://www.criticalthinking.org/ctmodel/logic-model1.htm). This model is very useful when thinking about a problem.
  • Critical thinking includes: purpose for the thinking, the question at hand, the required information, the conclusion or inferences, the underlying model to analyze the data, the underlying assumptions, the implications of the conclusion, the point of view.
  • These principles have been applied to business decisions in the book Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. This book was required reading for my entire executive team.
  • Email from Aisha in Virginia Beach: Dear Tech Talk. Someone received an email apparently from my Gmail email address, but I have never sent such a mail. Now, I received a letter from the attorney of this guy accusing me of harassing his client. What can I do to help clarify this misunderstanding? Thanks, Aisha in Virginia Beach, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: Most of our messages are accurate, but it is easy for someone to make email look like it came from someone it did not. Spammers do this all the time as a result the From: line is actually a fairly unreliable indicator of who actually sent an email.
  • It is more difficult to change the headers in email. These are the additional information (which you do not normally see) that accompanies every email message. Typically, it includes the server-to-server path that the email took from when the message was sent to when it arrived in your inbox. It might even include more, such as the machine name, the real email address, or the IP address of the sender.
  • The problem is that this information the full message header is in the hands of the person that is accusing you. You have to get it somehow. It is not enough for them to just forward the message; all that would do is give you the From line that you know can be faked.
  • They need to do the equivalent of a View Source or View Headers or View Original on that message, depending on their email program, to show the entire technical details of that specific email message that they claim is coming from you. That is what you or your attorney will need to see.
  • Once again, much of that information can also be spoofed, and fake headers are possible. Ultimately, only a technical analysis of what is there will give you chance of proving or disproving anything.
  • Email from Ngoc in Houston: Dear Tech Talk, I am attending a convention in Houston and would like to record some comments about a few of the sessions on using my iPhone. What are my options? Love the show, Ngoc, normally from Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can, of course, always make a video of a session. That takes a lot of memory and may not be practical using the iPhone. You can make voice comments using Voice Memos. This is a great app for recording voice notes of the sessions. It is frequently used to record songs or other musical information. You can also use Notes to write notes. I like to use the voice recognition feature with notes. Just click on the mic symbol on the keyboard to activate voice recognition. It is quite accurate.
  • Email from Stephen in Jamaica: Dear Tech Talk. I have a question about Safari on my iPhone. I have an account with an online service that I’ve been accessing for over a year with my iPhone. I just bought a new laptop and I want to start accessing that website on it instead of my iPhone. The problem is I can’t remember the password because Safari has been automatically filling it in for me. Is there any way I can view that stored password in Safari so I can use it to log into the account on my laptop? Stephen in Jamaica
  • Tech Talk Responds; Apple has made it very easy to view stored passwords in Safari on iOS devices. Just follow the steps below and you’ll have your password in hand in no time:
    • Tap the Settings icon to launch the “Settings” app.
    • Sign in when prompted to do so.
    • Tap on the name of the website/online service that you wish to retrieve the password for.
  • The login name and password for the account should now be displayed on the screen.

 

Profiles in IT: Phillip Donald Estridge

  • Don Estridge led the development of the original IBM Personal Computer and is known as the father of the IBM PC.
  • Estridge was born June 23, 1937 in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1955 and received a BSEE from the University of Florida in 1959.
  • Estridge joined IBM in June 1959 as a junior engineer and held various positions in the Federal Systems Division, including programming support for NASA/Goddard.
  • In 1969 he joined the General Systems Division and from 1975 to 1979 he was the Series/1 programming manager.
  • The IBM PC project started as the outgrowth of a presentation that William C. “Bill” Lowe made before IBM’s Corporate Management Committee, including IBM President John Opel and Chairman Frank Cary, in July 1980.
  • Lowe convinced the committee that a small group focused on putting together pieces from the outside industry, rather than creating something new within IBM, could indeed create a new computer within a year. The project would become known as “Project Chess.”
  • Don Estridge took control of the small Entry Level Systems division in 1980. He led the IBM PC “skunk works”, leading a team of only 14 people.
  • He was tasked to compete against the offerings from Apple Computer, Commodore International, and other perceived IBM competitors.
  • To create a cost-effective alternative to those products, Estridge realized that it would be necessary to rely on third-party hardware and software.
  • Previously every IBM computer was built with IBM parts. Estridge was a renegade who chose off-the-shelf components to keep down costs.
  • This was a marked departure from previous IBM strategy, which centered around in-house vertical development of complicated mainframe systems.
  • Most importantly, he made the decision to make the PC “open” – to provide sufficient information about its specifications to let other manufacturers build on what IBM.
  • Estridge also published the specifications of the IBM PC, allowing a booming third-party aftermarket hardware business to take advantage of expansion card slots.
  • Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) was the bus standard for IBM computers.
  • While IBM was the largest software company in the world, he opted for open, “third-party” software, including signing Microsoft to provide the languages and the operating system.
  • Later versions were distributed to other software companies, allowing for the creation of such initial packages as the VisiCalc spreadsheet, a series of accounting programs from Peachtree Software, and a word processor called EasyWriter.
  • By the end of 1980, the team had 150 employees, and by January 1981, the machine was first demonstrated within the company.
  • On August 12, 1981, almost exactly a year after Project Chess was given the go-ahead, IBM introduced the IBM Personal Computer 5150—which was almost immediately dubbed the IBM PC.
  • Sold at Computer Land outlets and Sears Business Centers, the initial PC had a base price of $1,565, including an 8088 CPU, 16K of RAM, and no floppy disk or monitor, but the ability to plug in your home TV and a cassette recorder. A more configuration with 64K of RAM, and a single-sided, 160K floppy disk drive had a list price of $2,880.
  • The company originally estimated it would sell 250,000 units over a five-year period, but some members of the development team have reported that the company built and delivered that many systems in certain months.
  • The PC architecture created by the Boca Raton team had already become the industry standard, resulting in thousands of applications, a huge variety of add-in boards, and PC-compatible machines from dozens of vendors.
  • By the time he gave up the reins of the PC Division, known then as the Entry Level Systems division, the division had 10,000 employees and revenue of $4.5 billion.
  • In 1983, he turned down a multimillion dollar offer from Apple to become its president.
  • In 1984, Estridge became IBM Vice President, Manufacturing.
  • Estridge and wife Mary Ann were killed when the plane they were traveling on crashed at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on August 2, 1985.
  • He was 48 years old.
  • Estridge has been honored many times. In 1999 he was identified in CIO magazine as one of the people who “invented the enterprise”.
  • In 2004, IBM exited the desktop and laptop arena when it sold its personal computer division to Lenovo, a major Chinese PC manufacturer.

Observations from the Bunker

  • Fumbling the Future at Xerox vs Focusing on the Market at IBM
  • In the sixties and seventies Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Company (PARC) invented just about everything you can imagine.
  • That includes what was recognized as the first true PC – The Xerox Alto.
  • This device had everything, Ethernet networking, graphical user interface, icons, bit mapping, scalable type, a mouse and the world’s first laser printer.
  • It was years ahead of its time. So what did Xerox management do with it? Nothing.
  • The main beneficiary of all the incredible stuff coming out of PARC was Steve Jobs.
  • Xerox gave Jobs a conducted tour of PARC, showing him everything they were up to, even watching him as he made notes of everything he was shown.
  • Within months he had hired away some of PARCS top talent and instituted a program that resulted in the Lisa, the forerunner of the Mac.
  • At the other end of the spectrum is IBM. Bill Lowe’s presentation made two points: (1) this industry was now a viable opportunity for IBM; and (2) getting into it would mean going outside IBM’s culture. The committee gave Lowe one month to prepare a design proposal. It also gave him funding to assemble a task force of expert IBM engineers at his Boca Raton base to build a demonstration prototype.
  • When Lowe reappeared with the prototype, he outlined the fundamental design philosophy IBM would have to follow to get into this rapidly changing market.
  • Implementing it would mean deviating significantly from traditional IBM practices, since nearly all the computer’s elements (even the operating system) would come from outside vendors.
  • Furthermore, the PC’s architecture would be open, which implied that other companies could connect non-IBM peripherals and software to it.
  • A dozen engineers, all with many years of experience at IBM, used the power entrusted to them to carry out whatever needed to be done to get the machine to market.

Intel on the Offensive: Secured Majority of TSMC’s 3nm Capacity

  • Intel has reportedly secured the majority of TSMC’s 3nm process node capacity for next year and is said to be using the technology to create three new CPUs and a GPU.
  • If true, such a move would put pressure on rivals AMD and Apple, who rely on the semiconductor giant for their chips.
  • According to Chinese publication UDN, production using the 3nm node is expected to start in the second quarter of next year, with mass production set to begin in the middle of 2022.
  • Production capacity is expected to reach 4,000 wafers by May 2022, eventually reaching 10,000 wafers per month.
  • Intel already has its own fabs and is allowing other companies, including Qualcomm and Amazon, to use its current and planned manufacturing capacity as part of its IDM 2.0 initiative.
  • CEO Pat Gelsinger recently announced that the firm would be building a $120 billion mega-fab comparable to a “little city” in a yet to be decided US location.

Man hunts down Stolen Scooter using Apple AirTags

  • Dan Guido’s electric scooter was stolen on the night of Aug. 2.
  • The cybersecurity CEO, located in Brooklyn, New York, had hidden two Apple AirTags inside the black scooter, concealed with black duct tape.
  • He set out the next day to locate the vehicle with help from the little Bluetooth trackers.
  • When Guido began his search the next day, he tried to enlist the New York City Police Department, but they were not willing to work with him if he entered stores or knocked on doors.
  • He had to move quickly. Apple said in June that it had started sending out updates to its AirTags that cause them to make noise if separated from their owner at a random time inside a window lasting between 8 and 24 hours. They had previously sounded after three days.
  • On his search, he spotted an e-bike store. After venturing inside, Guido received a ping, alerting him the elusive scooter was nearby. Then, he was finally reunited with it. After making the device sound, with his cell phone, he convinced the owner that the bike was his.
  • His advice is to hide the air tags with tape that blends in to make them hard to see. The tape will also muffle the beeping sound.