Show of 12-04-2021

 

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from John in Baltimore: The hard drive on my 5 year old laptop died and I bought a 480GB SSD to replace it. Since I have to reinstall the operating system anyway I’m seriously considering installing Linux on it instead of Windows. The only thing I use this laptop for is keeping up with several of my favorite websites so I’m not really worried about running any Windows programs on it. I’d really like to install the version that looks and works the most like Windows. Can you tell me which version that is? John in Baltimore
  • Tech Talk Responds: There are several Linux distros that look and work a lot like Windows. Linux Mint with the Cinnamon desktop has gotten rave reviews from the Linux community. Linux Mint is a very fast and full featured Linux distro that’s based upon Ubuntu. But unlike Unbuntu’s Unity desktop, Mint’s Cinnamon desktop has a lot in common with Windows. It has a “Menu” button in the same exact place where Windows’s “Start” button is located, and it does virtually the same thing. The desktop has a “Computer” icon for accessing the disk drive(s) and the files and folders it contains. It also has a “Trash Can” that works like Windows’ “Recycle Bin”. You can also place program icons and user files on the desktop just like you can on a Windows PC. There’s a “Quick Launch” bar that allows you to launch programs with a single mouse click, and it’s in the same exact place as the Quick Launch bar in Windows 7.
  • Go to the Linux Mint Website and check out all the details. If you like what you see you can click the download link and download the ISO file and burn it onto a blank optical disk or USB flash drive. Once you have a Linux Mint DVD or flash drive in hand you can boot your laptop from it and give it a try. You can put Linux Mint through its paces right from the LiveCD/flash drive. There’s no need to install it to the SSD until you’re sure you like it. If you decide you like it just click the “Install” icon and follow the prompts. In just a few minutes you’ll have a fully functioning Linux laptop that “looks and feels” a LOT like Microsoft Windows!
  • Link to Linux Mint 19 “Tara” Cinnamon: https://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=3597
  • Email from Brian in Pittsburg: Dear Tech Talk. Someone stole my daughter’s picture from my Facebook photos and they are using it as their profile picture. She is only 14 and I don’t like it at all. Can you tell me how to report the stolen picture to Facebook? Brian in Pittsburg, KS
  • Tech Talk Responds: Facebook is full of content thieves. Fortunately, reporting a stolen photo is easy. And Facebook does take action on reports of stolen content if they can be convinced that the content is truly stolen. Follow the steps below for the device you’re using to report the stolen image to Facebook.
  • If you use the Facebook app on a mobile device:
    • Scroll to the stolen photo on the person’s Timeline or in their “Photos” section.
    • Tap on the photo to open it on its own page.
    • Tap the Options icon in the top-right corner of the screen (it looks like three vertical dots).
    • Tap Find support or report photo and follow the prompts that follow.
  • The actions are similar if you are using Facebook on a web browser with your laptop. Facebook should review the reported photo and (hopefully) remove it from the thief’s account. Just be aware that Facebook might request additional information and/or documentation from you to help prove that the photo is actually of your daughter and is not the property of the thief.
  • Email from Hac in Bowie: Dear Doc and Andrew. I recently dropped my old Yahoo email address and switched to Gmail. But every time I load a page with Chrome the old email address keeps popping up in forms that ask for my email address. I can delete the old address and type in the new one but I’d prefer not having the old one to pop up at all. How can I fix this? Hac in Bowie, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: Chrome has your old Yahoo email address stored in its “Autofill Form Data” browser cache. All you need to do is clear out the obsolete Autofill Form Data and your old Yahoo email address will be…well, history!
  • Following the instructions below could potentially clear ALL autofill form data, not just the autofill email address. Therefore, I recommend that you proceed with caution…
    • Launch your Chrome browser.
    • Press the Ctrl+H key combination.
    • Click the Clear browsing data link over in the left-hand column.
    • Remove the check marks for any items you don’t want to have cleared out along with the form data.
    • Select the Advanced tab.
    • Once again, remove the check marks for any items you don’t want to have cleared out along with the form data.
    • Check the box beside Autofill form data.
    • Change the setting in the “Time range” field to All time.
    • Click the Clear data button.
  • That’s all there is to it. Your old Yahoo email address should no longer pop up when web forms ask for your email address.
  • Email from Doug in Kansas: Dear Doc and Andrew. What is your take on public Wi-Fi? Is it still as dangerous as some people maintain. I cannot imagine someone hacking me a Starbucks. What do you think? Doug in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: Public Wi-Fi is much safer and more private than it used to be thanks to the widespread use of HTTPS on the web. Other people on the public Wi-Fi network cannot just snoop on everything you are doing. Man-in-the-middle attacks are not as easy as they used to be. Even, the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) recently declared it safe.
  • There are still some risks. A malicious public Wi-Fi hotspot itself could perform a “man in the middle” attack, modifying the web pages sent to you. That is why I never connect any random Wi-Fi free hotspot at the airport. It could be a malicious.
  • For maximum protection on public Wi-Fi networks, we still recommend a VPN. I and used ExpressVNP for years and love it, both for my cell phone and my laptop. This particularly true at hotel in foreign countries. These tend to be hotbeds for hackers.
  • Email from Doug in Kilmarnock: Email from Jim: Dear Tech Talk, I want to explore to new interests, relating to web design and photography, and need some advice. How does one register a url? Does it cost anything? How does one start a blog? Thanks, Doug in Kilmarnock, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can obtain a domain name for about $35 per year or less. GoDaddy.com is one of the cheapest registries. Once you select your domain name and register it, you will have to have it hosted at an ISP in order to it to become active.
  • When it comes to starting a blog, your biggest decision will be whether you want to host the blog yourself, or use a free blogging service that is hosted for you.
    • Free Blogging Services. When you start a blog with a free blogging service, you do not get your own domain. You get something like mygreatblog.blogspot.com (where there are a million other blogs at blogspot.com) and you do not actually own the blog. If you ever do decide to move to your own domain, you have no way to take your readers with you, because you have no control over the site.
    • Host your own blog using WordPress free Blog software. This is the method I suggest, because it offers much more flexibility and freedom to do what you want. You will have your own domain name, like mygreatblog.com. WordPress is excellent free blog software that allows you flexibility and room to grow. It has paid extensions that offer advanced features.

Profiles in IT: Claude Elwood Shannon

  • Claude Elwood Shannon was a mathematician, electronic engineer, and cryptographer known as the Father of Information Theory.
  • Claude Elwood Shannon was born April 30, 1916 in Petoskey, Michigan.
  • The first 16 years of Shannon’s life were spent in Gaylord, Michigan, where he attended public school, graduating from Gaylord High School in 1932.
  • He constructed such devices as models of planes, a radio-controlled model boat and a barbed-wire telegraph system to a friend’s house a half-mile away.
  • His childhood hero was Thomas Edison, whom he later learned was a distant cousin.
  • In 1932, he entered the Univ. of Michigan, where he learned about George Boole.
  • He graduated in 1936 with two bachelor’s degrees (EE and Mathematics).
  • In 1936, Shannon began his graduate studies in electrical engineering at MIT, where he worked on Vannevar Bush’s differential analyzer, an early analog computer.
  • While studying the complicated ad hoc circuits of this analyzer, Shannon designed switching circuits based on Boole’s concepts.
  • In 1937, he wrote his master’s degree thesis, A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits. A paper from this thesis was published in 1938.
  • Shannon proved that his switching circuits could be used to simplify the arrangement of the electromechanical relays that were used then in telephone call routing switches.
  • Next, he expanded this concept, proving that these circuits could solve all problems that Boolean algebra could solve. In the last chapter, he presented diagrams of several circuits, including a 4-bit full adder.
  • Shannon’s work became the foundation of practical digital circuit design when it became widely known in the electrical engineering community after World War II.
  • He received his PhD from MIT in 1940, applying these concepts to genetics.
  • In 1940, Shannon became a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
  • Shannon joined Bell Labs to work on fire-control systems and cryptography during WWII.
  • In September 1945, he prepared a classified memorandum for Bell Labs entitled “A Mathematical Theory of Cryptography,”
  • In 1948, he published two part paper, A Mathematical Theory of Communication, which formed the foundation of information theory.
  • This work focuses on the problem of how best to encode the information a sender wants to transmit. Shannon developed information entropy as a measure for the uncertainty in a message while essentially inventing the field of information theory.
  • In 1949, he published “Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems”, a declassified version of his wartime work on the mathematical theory of cryptography.
  • He is also credited with the introduction of sampling theory, which is concerned with representing a continuous-time signal from a (uniform) discrete set of samples.
  • This enabled telecommunications to move from analog to digital in the 1960s.
  • He returned to MIT to hold an endowed chair in 1956.
  • After the breakup of the Bell system, the part of Bell Labs that remained with AT&T Corporation was named Shannon Labs in his honor.
  • Outside of Shannon’s academic pursuits, he was interested in juggling, unicycling, and chess.
  • He also invented many devices, including a Roman numeral computer, juggling machines, and a flame-throwing trumpet. He built a device that could solve the Rubik’s Cube puzzle.
  • He is also considered the co-inventor of the first wearable computer along with Ed Thorp. The device was used to improve the odds when playing roulette.
  • Shannon used to go on weekends to Las Vegas with MIT mathematician Ed Thorp, and made very successful forays in blackjack using game theory type methods.
  • Shannon and Thorp also applied the same theory to the stock market with even better results. These techniques were used by Warren Buffet.
  • Shannon died at the age of 84, on February 24, 2001, suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Observations from the Faculty Lounge

  • The mind of Claude Shannon
  • Big picture first, details later — In his mathematical work, Shannon had a quality of leaping right to the central insight and leaving the details to be filled in later. As he once explained it, “I think I’m more visual than symbolic. I try to get a feeling of what’s going on. Equations come later.” It was as if he saw solutions before he could explain why they were correct.
  • Do not over specialize – Shannon avoided being trapped in one area. He followed Shannon’s natural curiosity even if it didn’t produce anything useful. His master’s thesis combined his interests in Boolean logic and computer-building, two subjects that were considered entirely unrelated until they fused in Shannon’s brain. His information theory paper drew on his fascination with codebreaking, language, and literature. Shannon felt that working on three different ideas simultaneously was more productive than sticking to one problem. He kept his mind agile by taking up an array of hobbies: jazz music, unicycling, juggling, chess, gadgeteering, amateur poetry.
  • Consider the content of your friendships — Shannon was never one to get caught up in jockeying for status, play office politics, or try to win over every critic. The pleasure of problem solving was worth more to him than all of that, and so when it came to choosing his relatively small number of friends, Shannon deliberately chose those who took pleasure in the same thing and who helped bring out the best in him.
  • Fancy is easy. Simple is hard. — Shannon wasn’t impressed by his colleagues who wrote the most detailed tomes or whose theories were the most complex. What impressed him the most was radical simplicity. According to Shannon, almost every problem that you come across is befuddled with all kinds of extraneous data of one sort or another. If you can bring this problem down into the main issues, you can see more clearly what you’re trying to do.
  • Do not look for inspiration—look for irritation. — Shannon believed a idea might come from a good conversation, tinkering in the workshop, or the kind of aimless play he indulged in for much of his life — but above all, it came from doing, not waiting. Shannon’s was always seeking a slight irritation when things don’t look quite right, or a “constructive dissatisfaction.

H-1B Visa Reform is Critical to solving the US Talent Shortage

  • Boosting immigration of high-skilled workers is the best approach to dealing with a severe talent shortage that’s affecting American employers, according to a new report.
  • One in four American employers is struggling to fill empty positions due to a lack of available talent.
  • Nearly two thirds (64%) of employers say workforce skills don’t align with their firms’ needs. If the US doesn’t narrow that gap, productivity could be halved.
  • The solution: update H-1B visa guidelines, which haven’t been changed in 14 years.
  • The tech sector has long relied on H-1B visas to hire high-skilled workers for roles it can’t fill with Americans because of a shortage of STEM workers.
  • Those in support of the program say it’s been critical in bringing creativity and innovation to Silicon Valley.
  • Opponents of increased immigration argue that those measures would take jobs away from Americans. Critics have also said companies take advantage of the H-1B program to hire immigrants at lower-than-market rates.
  • Immigration will support a US workforce that doesn’t have the technical skills needed to fill available high-tech positions.
  • Additionally, many high-skilled workers who immigrate to the US end up starting their own businesses, which creates more jobs.
  • Around 250,000 computer science jobs are available in the US at any given time.
  • The US Department of Labor forecasts 1.4 million jobs will be open in computer specialist fields in the near future.
  • American universities only produce enough skilled degree-holders to fill 29 percent of these positions. Providing more H-1B visas could mitigate this problem.