Show of 02-14-2015

Tech Talk

February 14, 2015

Best of Tech Talk Edition
  • Segments replayed from previous shows
Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Desirable in Bathesda: Hi Dr Shurtz, I can’t get a .wmv file to play. Seems Apple would like me to buy Telestream (see below) and I don’t want to buy it if another way is free. I did download & install a video converter app but it still didn’t let me play the .wmv file. Any experience with this?  Thanks. Bethesda Listener
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a very common problem encountered when Mac users have to play a Windows Media Video (WMV) files. When your Mac tries to open WMV files by default in QuickTime, you’ll receive an error message. The reason behind this it the fact that WMV files use Microsoft proprietary codecs that don’t work in OS X. Microsoft discontinued Windows Media Player for Mac in 2006, meaning there’s no longer a tailor made player for the WMV format for OS X. Here a are a few free solutions.
    • Flip4Mac Plugin — This is probably the easiest solution to watch WMV files because it enables QuickTime playback of WMV files.  This plugin, created by Telestream, allows you to import, export and play Windows Media video and audio files on your Mac. Download Flip4Mac Plugin:
    • VLC Media Player — VLC media players lets you play WMV files without the Flip4Mac Plugin, although it’s only a playback solution; it doesn’t let you edit WMV files in QuickTime supported apps including iMovie and Final Cut. The great thing about VLC Media Player, however, is that it’s lightweight and fast. Download VLC Media Player:
    • MPlayer OSX — MPlayer OSX is a simple but powerful video player designed specifically for Mac and can handle WMV playback. It features more options and preferences than VLC Player, with the only drawback being that the first time it plays a video, it has to build a font cache, which can take a while. Download MPlayer OSX:
  • Email from Tung in Ohio: Dear Doc and Jim, I would love to record a song for my family using my PC. Is there a simple way to do the recording using my iPhone? Can I send them the recording using iMessage or Text Message or Email? We love to listen to songs at our Saturday night parties. Love the show, Tung in Ohio, a loyal podcast listener
  • Tech Talk Responds: Fortunately, you can easily create audio files on your iPhone using the Voice Memo utility. Simply open the utility and click the red button and start singing your heart out. It is normally used for memos. However, it can record songs quite well. After you record the memo, save it and then click the share button. You can send it as an email attachment to or as an iMessage. Have a great Saturday night party with your songs.
  • Email from Linda in Myrtle Beach: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a new laptop, but I wasn’t able to get true installation media, only recovery disks. How can I create a backup image of my new machine? A happy podcast listener. Linda in Myrtle Beach.
  • Tech Talk Responds: In the old days, you would get an actual CD or DVD of the operating system with each new machine. Now it is not available. You only option is create a new machine image as soon as you get your machine.
  • Initially disconnect your machine from the network. It still does not have all the security patches needed to be safe in its initial state. 
  • I would recommend using the free version of Macrium Reflect to make the initial system image. Download it from here: It may be a large download (~450 megabytes). The default options are fine for Macrium, though you don’t need to register unless you want to.
  • A system image will be large enough that you don’t want to use CDs or DVDs. I strongly recommend using an external hard drive to hold the image we’re about to create. Get a USB external hard drive. They are cheap and quite reliable. Just click the make image icon and follow the instructions. It is straight forward. Reflect images are stored as “.mrimg” – for Macrium Reflect IMaGe – files. Rename the back file with some like: Laptop New Image. It’s probably a good idea to save more than one copy of this image in a couple of different places.
  • Email form Nhan in Atlanta: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I have a laptop that I use for work at home. When my son visits, he wants to use it to check email and surf the web. Is there a simply way to give him access so that he can’t see all of my files and activity. Love the show, Nhan in Atlanta.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Of course, physical access means that he can get at everything quite easily because he could boot using a tool that would allow him to reset the Admin password. If he is trustworthy and you don’t think that we would be that sinister, you could simply create a guest account. You can then log out of your account and let him log into the guest account. This is what we do at home. I have two three accounts on my laptop: Rick, Mary Ann, and guest. This has worked quite well over the years. Of course I always have the latest version of anti-virus installed and operating.
  • Email from Lilly in Fairfax: Dear Doc. I have so many pictures on my iPhone. Is there a quite way to delete the ones that I don’t want anymore? I take many duplicate shots and need to weed them out. Thanks for a great show. Lilly in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: I do the same thing: take many and keep a few. There is a new app available called Purrge. With Purrge, you can delete photos faster, with less tedious tapping and more swiping. The app is currently discounted at 99 cents.
  • After launching Purrge and agreeing to let it access your photos, the app will play a quick 45-second tutorial video. Then you’ll see a grid of thumbnails that looks similar to the layout of the stock Photos app, although your photos are ordered in reverse, with the newest photos at the top.  Tap the Select button in the upper-left corner and then you can tap to select individual photos or swipe to select four across a row. Selected thumbnails received a big X. When you are not in Select mode, tapping on a photo expands it. You can swipe sideways to browse photos and swipe up to delete a photo. When viewing expanded photos, you can also shake to undo the last photo you deleted.
  • Your photos aren’t deleted until you tap the button in the upper-right corner. Doing so will open a dialog window asking if you are truly ready to “purrrrrrge.” Photos you delete with the app are placed in your Recently Deleted folder in the Photos app just as if you had used the Photos app itself; they are kept for 30 days before being permanently deleted.
  • Email from Don in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. My son just graduated from a name school with a degree in computer science and it having trouble landing a job. All of the companies want experience and he has never worked. He is getting frustrated and I would like to give him some advice. What do you suggest? I enjoy listening to the podcast each week on the way to work. Don in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: What he needs to create is a portfolio of projects. Going to school and getting A’s is not what employers need. They want to see the ability of someone to complete a few technical projects. He could create a database application using MySQL. He could create a database driven website using PHP, MySQL, and Apache web server. He can get student versions of Oracle and create applications. He can create virtual servers; install open source software like Linux. He needs to pick a project that interests him and just do it. He can then joint user groups in the area and talk about his project at those meetings. He can also volunteer for projects at the users group. He must not ask for jobs, but when other users see his enthusiasm, opportunities may arise. He should subscribe in the free industry magazine to keep abreast of the field. Finally he should use the techniques in What Color is Your Parachute to conduct informational interviews with people in his desired field.  All of these techniques will place him ahead of the pack.
Profiles in IT: John V. Blankenbaker
  • John Blankenbaker created Kenbak-1, the world’s first personal computer, advertised for $750 in Scientific American.
  • The Kenbak-1 was designed in 1970 and pre-dated microprocessors.
  • John Blankenbaker was born in Berkley County, South Carolina on July 4th 1933.
  • He received a BS in Physics and Math from Oregon State College in 1952 and an MS in Physics from UCLA, and an MSEE from MIT.
  • John Blankenbaker started the design of a computing device in 1949, when he was a freshman at OSC, to calculate logarithms for his weekly physics lab.
  • In the summer of 1951, John worked for NBS on the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC).
  • After graduation from OSU in 1952, he worked at Hughes Aircraft Company and was assigned to a department working on digital computers.
  • At Hughes, he found that a computer design needed at the most one flip-flop if it had the appropriate memory. This was a spur to design a computer for private use.
  • After the Hughes business data processor unit was terminated, he returned to school and earned earned an MSEE from MIT
  • After a short period of consulting, he worked eight years at Scantlin Electronics, an early pioneer in real time communications to bring stock market prices to brokers.
  • In 1970, he founded Kenbak Corporation and designed a small computer, the Kenbak-1, which was based on small-scale integrated circuits.
  • Using standard medium-scale and small-scale integrated circuits, the Kenbak-1 relied on switches for input and lights for output from its 256-byte memory.
  • Instead of being microprocessor based, Kenbak-1 was built almost entirely from TTL.
  • Intel 4004 (the world’s first microprocessor) was introduced the next year in 1971.
  • Kenbak-1 was a true stored-program computer that offered 256 bytes of memory, a wide variety of operations and a speed equivalent to nearly 1MHz.
  • One year later he sold the first two of these to a private girl’s school.
  • Approximately 40 of these machines were built and sold for $750, mostly to schools.
  • The largest program Blankenbaker ever wrote for the Kenbak-1 which took the very last byte of memory was a program to play 3D tic-tac-toe (4 x.4 x 4).
  • Actually, it was a bit short of memory as there was not room for the program to recognize when someone had won.
  • The world just wasn’t quite ready for personal computing and the Kenbak-1 lacked some critical capabilities (such as expandability and I/O).
  • The slot on the front panel was presumably intended to account for these deficiencies.
  • In 1973, after selling only 40 machines, Kenbak Corp. closed its doors.
  • Kenbak-1 was purchased by CT. Educational products and renamed CTI 5050.
  • The Computer Museum of Boston judged this to be the first commercially available personal computer.
  • Blankenship worked for International Communications Sciences on a system to transmit voices over 9600 bps line and for Symbolics Coporation to create LISP computer.
  • He retired in 1985 and works with Germana Colonies, a genealogy organization.
  • You can still buy a Kenbak-1 Series II kit for $999 (
Dr Shurtz’s Drone Crash (from February, 1 2014)
  • Doc tries to fly in 10 degree weather and his Iphone shuts down.
  • BMW Studies Car-to-Car Communication (from February 9, 2009)
  • On a frosty morning, imagine if the car 100 feet ahead of you could somehow alert you to black ice on an off-ramp. You’d slow down, and your car’s electronic stability system could even take preliminary steps to anticipate the situation.
  • Car-to-car communication, the next step in safety technology.
  • The Center for Automotive Research have discusses this for years.
  • There is even a federal program called Intelligent Transportation Systems.
  • According to VP of engineering Tom Baloga, BMW’s progress toward car-to-car communication is moving forward very well.
  • U.S. automakers have agreed upon a standardized frequency 5.9 GHz regardless of the car. 5.9 GHz is the same frequency European cars use.
  • The car is going to act like a data-collection probe. The car’s location will be transmitted to other cars and to an infrastructure.
  • This data will be used to identify traffic flow, slippery conditions, and bottlenecks.
  • Maintenance crews could find pothole-ridden areas based on suspension kinematics data, while salt crews could deduce which streets were especially icy using data from antilock braking or electronic stability systems.
  • Naturally, there’s another side to this: How much do you want on the public record about your car and, by extension, your driving habits?