Show of 01-24-2015

Tech Talk

January 24, 2015

Email and Forum Questions
  • Dear Dr. Shurtz. I took your advice and downloaded MPlayer OSX to play Windows Media Video on my iMac. It works!  You are WonDerFul and I am grateful. You are a true asset. I listen weekly and value all the sharing and entertainment. Best, Ms. Desirable
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the response. You now understand the inconvenience when big corporations battle over standards.
  • Hac from Bowie Maryland: Dear Dr. Shurtz. We currently have our home phone, internet and cable TV service through the Verizon FIOS triple-play bundle. We keep hearing from family and friends that we could obtain cheaper cable TV service through a TV over internet service.  We might also consider dropping the home phone service – but our understanding is we need to have a home phone service for our connection with our home alarm monitoring service. Is there a way to substitute another phone service for the home alarm monitoring service? Back to the cable TV over internet issue: There seem to be so many options here, and it would be great if you could run through the pros and cons of the various options. Thanks.  Love your show! Hac, a loyal listener in Bowie, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: Competition is a wonderful thing. The cable industry is becoming unbundled. The first to go was the phone. You can use a VoIP system like Ooma for your phone system. After the initial cost of around $200 for the Ooma box, I pay around $20 per year for my phone service. This could be used by the alarm system if you connect your home wiring to the Ooma system. As for replacing your cable entertainment package, you need to use a service. Netflix or Hulu for movies. Apple TV has an interesting channel mix. The main problem is that all channels are not available. Over-the-air broadcasts are not available because of arcane FCC rules that limit competition to cable providers (these may be changed soon). When these rules change, TV will be available by streaming (just like radio is now through TuneIn Radio or iHeart Radio). So for now, I use Ooma and still have the minimum cable package for conventional TV and some cable channels. Within two years, I believe that I will be dropping the entertaining package, with its ridiculous bundling.
  • Email from Alice in Wonderland: Dear Dr. Shurtz. I am using an iMac running Yosemite. I have the sound feature on for when I get new email, but, it also sounds when the mail is junk and went into the junk folder. Is there a way to change this notification Sound to only occur when the new mail is ‘regular’ mail and not junk mail? Thanks, Alice in Wonderland 
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can easily adjust your computer’s alert sounds. Open the Sound Effects pane of Sound preferences (choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Sound, then click Sound Effects). Choose an alert sound. Click a sound in the list. You can also preview an alert sound by clicking it in the list. Adjust the alert sound. You can adjust any of the following: Output channel, volume, whether anything is heard, etc. This is an easily configured feature in the iMac.
  • Email from Tom in Crofton: Dear Doc and Jim. I am an HP Officejet 8500 Wireless. A couple of months ago, the printer stopped printing blue. I changed the ink cartridge and still have the same problem. Last week it stopped printing red. This printer costs over $600 and is too new to replace. I need help. Also, is there a way to print to my printer from my iPhone or iPad? I really enjoy listening to your podcasts. Tom in Crofton, MD.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The Officejet 8500 has four ink cartridges (Magenta, Yellow, Cyan, and Black). The ink cartridges to not include the print head. The print heads are located on the carriage and are connected via tubes to the ink cartridges. There are two print heads in the 8500 (Black/Yellow and Magenta/Cyan). They are around $65 each and are available on Amazon. To change the print heads, you will have to open the printer body and press the “*” key for ten seconds to move the print heads all the way to the left.
  • As for printing to the Officejet 8500 Wireless. This particular printer does not support AirPrint. Many of the more recent HP models do support AirPrint. You can down the iPhone app, HP ePrint, and easily print from your iPhone. Not that you can only access photos directly. Any documents will have to be saved to the cloud before printing (Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, or MS OneDrive). The app is free and easy to set up. It will print emails, but you will have to reduce the security setting on your email accounts to talk with this third party app. I chose not to do this.
  • Email from Lynn in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk. I have lots of parties in my basement and we love to play Pandora radio using my iMac with a Bluetooth speaker. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi connection in the basement is not very good except in one corner. Is there a way to improve the Wi-Fi signal? We really enjoy listening to your show. Lynn in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can extend the range of your Wi-Fi in two ways: a high gain antenna or a range extender. You can get a 10dB antenna for your router for around $30. This will increase signal strength by a factor of 8 if it is pointed in the right direction. Make certain that it supports your router frequency (2.4 or 5.8 GHz). I have successfully used this approach when I had a Wi-Fi connection in the basement for my son. In that case I used the high gain antenna on his computer and pointed it at the router.
  • The second approach is to use a Wi-Fi extender. You can place this in the basement at a point that has the strongest signal from the router. This will give you a very strong signal. You must also match the frequency of your router (2.4 or 5.8 GHz). You can get a 2.4 GHz extender for around $60. This is probably your best option. Just Google for Wi-Fi Range Extender and get one with a good rating.
  • Email from Craig in Oakton: Dear Doc and Jim. I burned DBAN to a CD and then rebooted my Windows 8 machine with the CD inserted in the drive. To my surprise, it just booted right back into Windows. What gives? How do I get the computer to boot up from the CD? I enjoy listening to the show each Saturday morning. Craig in Oakton
  • Tech Talk Responds: By the way DBAN is Darik’s Boot And Nuke, a free software package to wipe your hard drive, including all data. This boot problem is a common issue. Your computer’s BIOS needs to be instructed to check for a bootable CD or DVD before it tries to load whatever is on the hard drive. Right now, your computer is configured to either ignore the CD/DVD at boot time or check the hard disk first. If you have a new machine, you have UEFI instead of a BIOS. UEFI, an acronym for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, is a new type of BIOS that includes several enhancements. One of those is something called “secure boot”.
  • Secure boot matters because there’s a glaring security hole that’s been present in almost every PC since day one, and it’s very simple, and very powerful. If you have physical access to the machine and if you can reboot that machine and if you can boot that machine from a CD/DVD or USB device then you can gain total access to that machine. 
  • Secure Boot, when enabled, prevents this from being possible. It can prevent changes in the boot order, and it can restrict booting to only “official” boot images. Windows 8 is the first version of Windows that can take advantage of UEFI and Secure Boot. That means that if your Windows 8 system has UEFI and has Secure Boot turned on, then it’s very possible that in order to boot from something other than the hard disk you’ll need to turn Secure Boot off first.  Click on the power option (either on the Start Screen or the Charms Bar) and then hold down the shift key while clicking on Restart. This will reboot into a “Choose an option” screen: Windows 8 Reboot Choose Options. It’s possible that on some machines you may be able to reboot from a device such as a CD or USB drive by clicking on Use a device at this point. I recommend you give it a try at least once. If it works, no further changes are necessary. If your machine uses UEFI and Windows 8 recognizes it, there will be an additional option on this screen: UEFI Firmware Settings. Click on that to be taken to the UEFI interface for your computer. In that interface should be the option to disable Secure Boot. 
  • Like the BIOS before it, UEFI also controls the boot order – which devices the computer will look to boot from first. Look for the settings to ensure that the USB or CD/DVD drive is earlier in the sequence than the hard disk, so that the system will boot from your recovery drive before booting from the internal hard drive.
Profiles in IT: Peter Andreas Thiel
  • Peter Andreas Thiel co-founded Paypal and has become a key player in Silicon Valley venture capital, known as “Don of the PayPal Mafia.”
  • Peter Thiel was born October 11, 1967 in Frankfurt, West Germany.
  • Thiel moved to the United States with his parents when he was one year old, and was raised in Foster City, California. Thiel was a US-rated Chess Master.
  • He received his BA in Philosophy from Stanford in 1989 and a JD in 1992 from Stanford Law School in 1992.
  • He co-founded The Stanford Review in 1987. The Stanford Review is now the university’s main conservative/libertarian newspaper.
  • From 1993 to 1996, he traded derivatives for Credit Suisse Group. In 1996, he founded Thiel Capital Management.
  • In 1998 Thiel co-founded PayPal, an online payments system, with Max Levchin. 
  • PayPal went public in 2002, and was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion later that year.
  • Thiel’s 3.7 percent stake in PayPal was worth approximately $55 million at the time.
  • Thiel viewed PayPal’s mission as liberating people throughout the world from the erosion of the value of their currencies due to inflation.
  • Immediately after selling PayPal, Thiel launched a hedge fund, Clarium Capital.
  • After significant losses starting in 2009, Clarium dropped from $7 billion in assets in 2008 to around $350 million in 2011.
  • In August 2004, Thiel made a $500K angel investment in Facebook for 10.2% and joined Facebook’s board. This was the first outside investment in Facebook.
  • Facebook’s IPO was in May 2012, with a market cap of nearly $100 billion ($38 a share), at which time Thiel sold 16.8 million shares for $638 million.
  • In August 2012, immediately upon the conclusion of the early investor lock out period, Thiel sold almost his entire remaining stake for between for $395.8 million.
  • In 2005 Thiel created Founders Fund, a San Francisco based venture capital fund. 
  • Thiel has made early-stage investments in dozens of tech startups.
  • Thiel founded Palantir Technologies funded by the CIA’s In-Q-Tel. Palintir uses the fraud detection technique pioneered at PayPal, using data visualization techniques.
  • In February 2013, Thiel was TechCrunch’s Venture Capitalist of the year.
  • In June 2012, Peter Thiel launched Mithril, a late-stage investment fund with $402 million at the time of launch.
  • Thiel carries out most of his philanthropic activities through a nonprofit foundation created by him called the Thiel Foundation.
  • Thiel concentrates the bulk of his philanthropic efforts on what he sees as potential breakthrough technologies, including anti-aging.
Physics of Ball Deflation
  • Since the scandal broke the morning after the game, Patriots fans have been passing around a theory that the balls naturally deflated because of the cold weather.
  • While a decrease in temperature would lead to a decrease in air pressure, it wasn’t cold enough during the game to account for the type of under inflation that was measured in New England’s game balls. 
  • In addition, the Colts’ game balls would have been underinflated too if it was all about the weather, but they weren’t.
  • NFL footballs have to be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch. Each team brings 12 balls to the game and uses its own on offense.
  • Two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff, the officials tested the Patriots’ balls with a pressure gauge and they were all legal. 
  • But when the officials tested the balls at halftime, 11 of the 12 Patriots balls were at least two PSI below the minimum limit of 12.5.
  • New England’s game balls went from 12.5 PSI to 10.5 PSI in a matter of hours. 
  • All 12 Indianapolis game balls were still within the legal range when they were tested at halftime, according to SI’s Peter King and other reports.
  • Let’s turn to the science, specifically Gay-Lussac’s Law on pressure and temperature.
  • In short, pressure is proportional to the temperature (P1/T1  =  P2/T2)
  • We know the air pressure of the ball before the game was 12.5 PSI. We know that the temperature outside at kickoff was 52 degrees Fahrenheit, an unseasonably warm night in New England. 
  • If we assume the ball was inflated in the locker room at a room temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the ball would have undergone a 18-degree temperature change.
  • When you do the math, that temperature difference can only account for about ~0.9 PSI of deflation. 
  • A 20-degree temperature change could account for a one PSI decrease in air pressure.  But for the ball to decrease naturally by two PSI, it would have to undergo a temperature change of 40 degrees.
  • On the night of the game the temperature never dipped below 48.9 degrees before the balls were tested at halftime. For temperature to account for air pressure change, the balls would have had to have been inflated in a 90-degree room.
  • In conclusion: It wasn’t cold enough for the balls to deflate as much as they did. 
Turn Any Monitor Into A Windows or Linux
  • The Intel Compute Stick, a 4-inch long dongle that turns any HDMI display into a Windows 8.1 or Linux machine.
  • Intel Compute Stick is offered for $149 with Windows 8.1, or $89 for a Linux version running Ubuntu.
  • It includes an Intel Atom quad-core CPU, Windows 8.1, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage and a microSD slot to extend that capacity, Bluetooth 4.0, Wireless 802.11b/g/n connectivity, and a full-size USB port.
  • It can run all Windows 8.1 apps. You can browse the web and send emails via the TV in your hotel. Businesses could use it as a very inexpensive thin client.
  • Add Logitech’s K400 Wireless Keyboard and Touchpad combo for $19.99 and you have an entry-level, highly portable PC-on-a-stick for a grand total of $169.
  • The Linux version of Intel’s Compute Stick will run Ubuntu for $89, and ship with 8GB of storage and 1GB of memory.
LizardStresser hacked and customer revealed.
  • Hacking group Lizard Squad made a name for itself with high-profile attacks on Sony and Microsoft’s online gaming networks. Now the group appears to have been hacked itself, as it tried to profit from its fame by selling a service to take other websites down.
  • The group unveiled LizardStresser at the end of 2014, after its Christmas attacks on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live which took both offline over the holiday period.
  • It charged between $6 and $500 in the bitcoin cryptocurrency to help people launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on any website or internet service they chose.
  • Since then, online security researcher Brian Krebs has claimed that the service was using a network of “hacked home routers” to launch its attacks. 
  • “A copy of the LizardStresser customer database obtained by KrebsOnSecurity shows that it attracted more than 14,241 registered users, but only a few hundred appear to have funded accounts at the service.
  • All registered usernames and passwords were stored in plain text. Also, the database indicates that customers of the service deposited more than USD $11,000 worth of bitcoins to pay for attacks on thousands of Internet addresses and Web sites.
  • The news follows several arrests made as police investigate the original PlayStation Network and Xbox Live attacks.
Boy Builds Braille printer with Lego kit
  • 13-year-old Shubham Banerjee, a California eighth-grader, has launched a company to develop low-cost machines to print Braille, the touch-based writing system for the visually impaired.
  • Last year, Shubham built a Braille printer with a Lego robotics kit as a school science fair project after learning that current printers cost at least $2,000 — too expensive for most blind readers.
  • After his Lego-based printer won numerous awards and enthusiastic support from the blind community, Shubham started Braigo Labs this past summer with an initial $35,000 investment from his dad.
  • In November, Intel Corp. invested an undisclosed amount of venture capital in Shubham’s startup, making him perhaps the youngest entrepreneur to receive such funding.

The Museum of the Future Is in NYC

  • Every visitor to the Cooper Hewitt, the Smithsonian’s recently reopened design museum, will receive a giant pen. This pen is not really a pen. 
  • Next to every object on-display at the Cooper Hewitt is a small pattern that looks like the origin point of the coordinate plane. When the pen touches it, the digital record of that object is added to the visitor’s personal museum collection. 
  • When they leave, they will have to return the pen, but information about and high-resolution photos of the object will be waiting for them. The pen bridges the digital and the physical.
  • Every object, every designer, every nation, every era, even every color has a stable URL on the Internet. Everything is designed to support the digital world and be connected to the Internet.
  • The Cooper Hewitt welcomed visitors again after a three-year-long closed-door renovation. . The Cooper Hewitt resides in Andrew Carnegie’s old Manhattan.
  • The Cooper Hewitt’s API connects to the museum’s two operational databases—its vast collections database and its complex customer and ticketing databases—and fuses them. Then it makes the collections part public and accessible. 
  • What ‘digital’ in the museum means is really that everything is available whenever you want through standardized APIs.