Show of 10-16-2021

Tech Talk October 16, 2021

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz. I’ve been listening to your podcasts on Federal News Radio. In today’s podcast, I thought I heard you say something about the Stratford Tech Talk site with your written summary programs. Or was I imagining that? The last written summary I have is 18 September 2021, <techtalk.stratford.edu>. Is that the last Tech Talk written summary? Lots of interesting topics – as usual. Very informative. BZ, as they say in the Navy! Arnie, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: Arnie, we are up to date. I write the XML files and prepare the trasnscript as soon as the show is finished. Then I send it to my IT team. They were backed up a few shows, but now they are caught up. I had not heard BZ for a while. It is short for Bravo Zulu. The combination of the Bravo and Zulu nautical signal flags, also referred to as “BZ,” is a naval signal, typically conveyed by flag hoist or voice radio, meaning “Well Done” with regard to actions, operations or performance.
  • Email form Bob in Maryland: Dear Doc and Andrew. In my ongoing quest to dig up an idea or two to pass along for Doc’s consideration and possible inclusion in the show, I found this deceptively simple yet somewhat clever trick that hackers have been using to steal cryptocurrency. They use their network to mine cryptocurrency. Of course, they make lots of money in other ways too. What do you think, Doc? All the best, your faithful listener, Bob in Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: That has always been a threat with these botnet networks. This long-running botnet known as MyKings is still in business and has raked in at least $24.7 million by using its network of compromised computers to mine for cryptocurrencies. MyKings, also known as Smominru and Hexmen, is the world’s largest botnet dedicated to mining cryptocurrencies by free-riding off its victims desktop and server CPUs. It’s a lucrative business that gained attention in 2017 after infecting more than half a million Windows computers to mine about $2.3 million of Monero in a month. Always be wary to excessive activity on your computer.
  • Email from Julie in Madrid: Dear Doc and Andrew. I recently discovered your show online and now I listen every week. I live in Spain and I have a daily video conversation with a friend in the US on WhatsApp. Some days the connection is good, but on other days, the image freezes or we even lose the connection.  This happens even when I take my iPhone downstairs and sit right next to my WiFi router.  I have video conversations with other friends on WhatsApp and this never happens.  My friend in America, however, says the same thing.  He uses WhatsApp and Zoom and streams videos, but he only has this problem when we are together on WhatsApp.  Can you help us figure this out?  What’s up with WhatsApp? Julia in Madrid
  • Tech Talk Responds: Your battery saver and Bluetooth connection may also cause issues with WhatsApp calls. If your battery saver is turned on or Bluetooth is connected, please try disabling them. Additionally, please restart your device (with a hard reboot) and make sure no other application is using your microphone, earpiece or cameras.
  • Some third-party apps (VPN, for example) installed on your device could be interfering with WhatsApp, preventing you from making voice and video calls. Other security apps like anti-virus could also be interfering with your permission settings. You should try temporarily deactivating these conflicting apps to see if you can now make WhatsApp calls.
  • A few other things you can try:
    • Open your phone’s Settings > turn Airplane mode on and off.
    • Open your phone’s Settings > Wi-Fi > turn Wi-Fi off and on.
    • Open your phone’s Settings > Cellular > Data usage > turn Cellular Data on.
    • Reboot your Wi-Fi router.
    • Avoid peak data consumption hours, particularly for international calls.
    • Turn off video and made a voice only WhatsApp call.
  • If the problem still persists after trying the above tips, you should consider reinstalling the app. Before you do that, however, make sure you backup your WhatsApp chats to avoid losing them when you re-install the app.
  • Email from Linda in Palm Beach: Dear Tech Talk. I recently heard about a new Facebook feature called Face Recognition and I am not to happy with it because it could violate my privacy. Can I turn this feature off? Love the podcast. Linda in Palm Beach, Florida
  • Tech Talk Responds: Facebook’s new Face Recognition feature works like this. When another user uploads a new photo or video to his/her account Facebook will compare it to YOUR profile picture and any photos you’re tagged in to see if you’re in that new photo. If Facebook’s scan determines that your face is indeed included in that photo or video you will be sent a notification that someone has posted a picture/video that has you in it. That notification by itself isn’t really a concern to most people because they like the idea of being notified when someone posts a picture of them. But what if Facebook decides to expand the use of Face Recognition for other purposes at some point in the future? Your privacy would be toast.
  • In addition, scammers could potentially use malicious third-party apps that leverage the Face Recognition feature to scam you, your friends or your family. They could potentially even use it to damage your reputation or steal your identity. Many, like you, have made the decision to disable Face Recognition on our Facebook accounts.
  • If is easy to disable. If you’re using the Facebook app on a mobile device:
    • Launch the Facebook app and log in to your account.
    • Tap the Menu icon (it looks like three horizontal lines stacked atop one another).
    • Scroll down and tap Settings & Privacy.
    • Tap Settings.
    • Scroll down to the “Permissions” section and tap Face Recognition.
    • Tap Do you want Facebook to be able to recognize you in photos and videos?.
    • Tap No.
  • Face Recognition is now disabled on your account. BTW, I have uninstalled the Facebook app on my phone so they cannot track me. I cam simply view Facebook using my browser. It is not as convenient to upload photos, but I do not have someone looking over my shoulder.
  • Facebook is great for sharing family pictures. We have set up a private family group for this purpose. Members must be accepted to the group before they can see any photos. This takes advantage of what Facebook does best, but still protect your privacy and the privacy of your children.
  • Email from Bryan in Erie: Dear Tech Talk. I have always understood Windows’ built-in “Microsoft Defender” antivirus app to be inferior to other antivirus programs. But yesterday I heard that might no longer be the case. What is your opinion about Microsoft Defender? Brian in Erie, Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: When Microsoft first released their own antivirus protection (known as Microsoft Security Essentials in its early days) it quickly earned a well-deserved reputation for being a poor substitute for a commercial antivirus product. But to their credit, Microsoft stood by their antivirus product and invested time and resources into an ongoing effort to improve it. Virtually every version of the software performed better than the one before it. Now Microsoft routinely competes quite well against its third-party commercial competitors.
  • Like other typical antivirus products, Microsoft Defender does its best work defending your PC against viruses. Unfortunately, viruses are not the only form of malware that is attacking machines these days. We also have to be concerned with phishing attempts, drive-by downloads of Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) and other forms of non-viral malware. That’s why I always recommend that users augment their full-time antivirus software (including Microsoft Defender) by running frequent scans with the free version of Malwarebytes. Malwarebytes is the gold standard when it comes to apps that protect computers from the broad spectrum of non-viral malware. Link: https://www.malwarebytes.com/

 

Profiles in IT: Charles Hoskinson

  • Charles Hoskinson is the founder of Cardano and co-founder of Ethereum, which are both blockchain platforms.
  • Charles Hoskinson was born November 5, 1987 in Hawaii.
  • Charles Hoskinson was born into a family of medical doctors, but steered clear of a medical degree. He is very private and does not talk about his personal life.
  • He studied analytic number theory at Metropolitan State University of Denver and University of Colorado Boulder.
  • He dropped out of his academic trajectory before finishing his PhD and joined Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in 2008.
  • Attracted by Austrian economics and libertarian thinking, he instantly recognized Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper as a revelation.
  • He called Bitcoin “the spiritual successor to what Ron Paul was talking about”.
  • In 2013, Hoskinson quit a consulting job to begin a project called the Bitcoin Education Project. According to Hoskinson, the limited supply makes Bitcoin like a digital form of gold.
  • Hoskinson joined the Ethereum founding team as one of eight original founders with Vitalik Buterin in late 2013.
  • Charles wanted to form a for-profit company to develop Ethereum and raise VC money in return for equity.
  • Vitalik wanted to crowd-sell Ethereum, accept Bitcoin as payment, and have an open source, quasi-leaderless organization.
  • Key developers threatened to leave if Charles was to remain CEO of the Ethereum Foundation, forcing Buterin to remove Hoskinson from Ethereum in 2014. He even removed his founde status (one of eight) did not include him as a founder, even though he had worked on the project without pay for a year.
  • The battle-scarred ex-chief executive took a sabbatical from crypto and moved to Hong Kong. Former Ethereum colleague Jeremy Wood soon approached him and together they started blockchain company IOHK for Input Output Hong Kong.
  • IOHK’s major project became the Cardano blockchain named after Italian Renaissance mathematician Gerolamo Cardano. It token ADA is named after Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer who worked for Charles Baggage.
  • Hoskinson saw a chance to pursue the project in his own spirit, unhindered from the objections he encountered when working on Ethereum.
  • Led by a for-profit company, Cardano nevertheless did a public ICO, mainly pitched to Japanese investors and raised $62M.
  • IOHK research produces academic papers that it sends to conferences for peer review. Once reviewed, developers code the concepts laid out in the papers using Haskell, a functional programming language.
  • In another round of peer-review, researchers audit the code. IOHK’s approximately 50 scientists have produced 51 peer-reviewed papers with 22 under review.
  • Cardano is a Proof of Stake blockchain that is very energy efficient and uses its own unique Ouroboros consensus algorithm.
  • Hoskinson calls it a third generation block chain. Bitcoin was first gen (only trade Bitcoin). Ethereum was second generation (smart contract, De-Fi). Cardano is third generation (adds scalability, sustainability, rigor).
  • The plan was to build cryptocurrencies and Blockchains for academic institutions, government agencies and private corporations. They particularly are focusing on developing countries (the unbankable).
  • In 2017, Hoskinson and IOHK sponsored research labs focusing on blockchain technology at the University of Edinburgh and the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
  • Cardano ($91bn) is gaining on Ethereum ($388bn) in terms of market capitalization and the two currencies are currently number three and two, respectively.
  • Cardano is loved for its pragmatic, mature approach to developing a decentralized, global payments system. Its team emphasized the inclusion of the African continent and countries with little blockchain exposure.
  • Smart contracts launched on Cardano in September 2021. We will see what the community will build and if De-Fi loves Cardano.
  • In September 2021, Hoskinson donated $20 million to Carnegie Mellon University to build the Hoskinson Center for Formal Mathematics.
  • Charles Hoskinson’s new worth is estimated to be $500 to $600M, making his initial wealth on Bitcoin investments, selling at the peak.

Observations from the Faculty Lounge

  • Inside the Macedonia fake news complex. What can we learn from this small town?
  • The small town of Veles, Macedonia has more fake news sites than any other town in the world. A small group of young entrepreneurs has learned how to milk the system, or newsfeeds that seek engagement and pay per click advertising.
  • Mirko Ceselkoski began his websites in the early 2000s. He built seven or eight websites, about muscle cars or celebrities or superyachts, all oriented toward the American reader. For five or six hours of daily toil, Ceselkoski says, you can earn approximately $1,000 a month.
  • Aleksandar and Borce Velkovski, who both drive BMWs, are so renowned for the health food website they started that they are known as the Healthy Brothers.
  • com is a collection of diet and beauty advice, natural remedies, and other fantasies. The website’s Facebook page has drawn 2 million followers; more than 10 million unique visitors come to HealthyFoodHouse.com every month. Boris followed their lead and never looked back.
  • The town became notorious during 2016 presidential election. It started with Boris (not his real name). Back in 2016, Boris had found the article somewhere online, and he needed to feed his web­site, Daily Interesting Things, so he copied the text. He posted the link on Facebook, seeding it within various groups devoted to American politics. In February 2016, Boris made more than $150 from the Google ads. He stopped going to high school. Between August and November 2016, Boris earned nearly $16K form his two websites. In the final weeks of the US presidential election, Veles, a Macedonian town of 55,000, was the registered home of at least 100 pro-Trump websites, many with sensationalist, utterly fake news. President Barack Obama even discussed Veles and its digital gold rush.
  • Pay per click combined with the echo chamber designed to increase engagement have created this new lifeform. It might make money, but it does not help with civil discourse or harmony.

Tip of the Week: Free Office 365 for Educators and Students

  • Students and teachers can use Microsoft Office 365 for free thanks to an program called Office 365 Education. If you meet the requirements of the program, you can download and run MS Office 365 on your PC, Mac and mobile devices without charge. There are no complicated hoops to jump through to sign up for the Office 365 Education program. All that is required to qualify is a verifiable and valid school-supplied email address. If you qualify and sign up for Office 365 Education, you get:
    • The latest version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for up to five PCs or Macs and up to 5 mobile devices
    • Office Online for in-browser editing, collaboration and co-authoring
    • Microsoft Teams
    • Free OneDrive storage
  • Link: https://products.office.com/en-us/student/office-in-education

The Music of Proteins

  • Peng Zhang, Postdoctoral Researcher in Computational Biology, The Rockefeller University, and Yuzong Chen, Professor of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore, developed a method to represent proteins using music.
  • A protein chain can be represented as a string of these alphabetic letters, very much like a string of music notes in alphabetical notation.
  • Protein chains can also fold into wavy and curved patterns with ups, downs, turns and loops. Likewise, music consists of sound waves of higher and lower pitches, with changing tempos and repeating motifs.
  • Protein-to-music algorithms can thus map the structural and physiochemical features of a string of amino acids onto the musical features of a string of notes.
  • The resulting music is complex, with notable variations in pitch, loudness and rhythm.
  • Because the algorithm was completely based on the amino acid sequence and no two proteins share the same amino acid sequence, each protein will produce a distinct song.
  • For example, music generated from the receptor protein that binds to the hormone and neurotransmitter oxytocin has some recurring motifs due to the repetition of certain small sequences of amino acids.
  • Link: https://cdn.theconversation.com/audio/2282/music-oxtr.mp3
  • On the other hand, music generated from tumor antigen p53, a protein that prevents cancer formation, is highly chromatic, producing particularly fascinating phrases where the music sounds almost toccata-like, a style that often features fast and virtuoso technique.
  • Link: https://cdn.theconversation.com/audio/2281/music-tp53.mp3
  • Protein music is an example of how combining the biological and computational sciences can produce beautiful works of art.