Show of 02-28-2015

Tech Talk

February 28, 2015

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Charu in India: Dear Doc and Jim. I love the Blackberry keyboard. It is so easy to use with my nails. However, Blackberry is sinking fast and my company is moving to iPhones. I need a keyboard for my iPhone other than the onscreen keyboard. What are my options? Help! Charu in New Delhi, India
  • Tech Talk Responds: Typo Keyboards makes a physical keyboard for your iPhone. It is part of the case. The company was started by Ryan Seacrest, Laurence Hallier, and Jonathan Goodrich. It is currently available for the iPhone 5/5S/6 and the Typo will soon be released for the iPad Air and iPad Mini. You can buy it here:
  • Email from Arnie: Hi Dr. Shurtz. Suspect you’re in Vietnam or some other place on the other side of the world now. When you return, please note this article in USA Today saying that banks want to open cellphones to robocalls. Hopefully, NOMOROBO will be able to handle this as well as land lines if the banks and debt collectors get their way with congress. Here is another person to feature on Tech Talk, and he’s a physicist too. The man who brought us the lithium-ion battery at the age of 57 has an idea for a new one at 92. Arnie, Crownsville , MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: Industry lobbyists have asked the Federal Communications Commission to exempt them from rules that largely bar computer-generated cellphone calls and texts to wrong numbers or without a recipient’s permission. Their goal: to be shielded from liability, specifically lawsuits. Complaints to the FCC about unwanted wireless calls and texts totaled 73,079 in 2013, the most complete year available. In the first nine months of 2014, the number was 48,562. The period for public comments on the requests is closed. Let’s hope that the FCC protects the consumers. Currently consumers must opt in for sales calls or texts. Let’s keep it that way. Only sales calls now go to home phone and I never answer that anymore and have blocked most offenders. Great idea about the man who brought the Lithium Ion battery. We will feature him next week.
  • Email from Alice in Wonderland: Dear Dr. Shurtz,  I’m watching videos on learning Adobe Acrobat Pro XI and I remember when I used to have a pc there was a AA tab in WORD and I can’t find this on the Mac version of MS Office 2011… “PDF maker inside office” 2011 on a mac? Hope you can help! Listen each and every Sat morning and learn a LOT from U :  ) Alice Wonderland  USA
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can install a Word to PDF converter and it will show up on the task ribbon. From the Adobe® Acrobat® XI task ribbon in Microsoft Office applications, Windows® users can convert to PDF Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files that are easy to share and reliably viewed. This extension has not been installed on your Mac. Adobe now charges for it. However, you can find many free Word to PDF conversion options on the web.
  • Email from Flummoxed in Baltimore: Doc. My mom bought a new HP Pavilion 500-424 last week and she is having issues. She has a Comcast email account and on her old computer, viewed her email on Outlook. I can’t set up Outlook because it keeps asking for a Microsoft email address, which she doesn’t have. What am I missing? Her old computer had Windows XP. Which version of Windows should she buy so she can work with her existing documents? Finally, she used her old computer to format disks which she uses in her Viking Designer 1 sewing machine. I can’t remember the last time I saw a computer that had a reader for this style disc. Can she buy some sort of external drive for this? Thanks Flummoxed in Baltimore.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Hopefully she left all her email on the mail server and did not delete it after download. If she configured here email in that fashion, all here past emails will be on the web and will not need to be transferred to the new computer through an export and import process. You should not need a Microsoft password to set up the Outlook client for Comcast email.  Here is a link to the specific steps to configure Outlook for Comcast email, including server names and ports.
  • She must have a 3.5 inch Floppy drive. The 5.25 inch drives are ancient. You can get an external 3.5 inch floppy from Amazon. SABRENT External USB 1.44 MB 2x Floppy Disk Drive SBT-UFDB (Black). Cost: $14.00, free shipping.
  • Email from Desirable: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I heard about this on the radio and think it is fabulous. Why do MS, Apple and others believe software flaws ought to be acceptable and tolerated by the consumer and some for a very long time! Properly functioning software that is bug free ought to be the norm. I am tired of some of the strange things that happen in applications I routinely use to get work done. Bug ridden software and operating systems need the attention to detail that has been lavished on the design of the iPhone’s hardware. Gorgeous on the outside and buggy on the inside leave the user disappointed and grumpy. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on Project Zero.  Thanks, Desirable, a consumer with issues
  • Tech Talk Responds: Because of the state of software release, Stratford does not upgrade to new version immediately. We are always one release behind. Speed to market been the driver, with software quality losing. Apple had been better at quality in the past, but they seem to be losing it after the loss of Steve Jobs.
  • Project Zero was founded by the philosopher Nelson Goodman at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1967 to study and improve education in the arts. Goodman believed that arts learning should be studied as a serious cognitive activity, but that “zero” had yet been firmly established about the field; hence, the project was given its name. Over the years, Project Zero has maintained a strong research agenda in the arts while gradually expanding to include investigations into the nature of intelligence, understanding, thinking, creativity, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural thinking, and ethics. Their projects are very insightful and relevant to today’s worlds. We have found many of their results in alignment with what we are doing with culture, meditation, compassion, and leadership.
  • Email from Benoit: Dear Tech Talk, I applaud the recent listener who commented on the proper application of the Gay Lussac’s law with respect to utilizing absolute temperature. Actually the law also requires to use absolute pressure too. This is measured in PSIA and not the commonly used PSI as can be red on a pressure gauge (and therefore called PSIG). The difference between the two is the atmospheric pressure which is 14.7 PSIA at ambient conditions. This means that if a football pressure is 12 PSIG, it is equivalent to 12+14.7 = 26.7 PSIA. Consequently, a drop of one psi in a football pressure will be in absolute pressure, a drop from 26.7 to 25.7 PSIA (approximately a 4% drop in absolute pressure). According to the law, this would require a change in temperature from 90F to 68F.
  • One more thing: about the mass of air contained in a football. If one over-inflates the football by 1PSI, the mass of the excess air computes to 0.3 gram. I think the football weighs about a pound which is 454 g, so the additional mass of 0.3 gram is negligible. Love the show,  -Benoit, an Engineer and frequent listener from New Jersey.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thank you, Benoit. Now we have used both absolute temperature and absolute pressure. Great catch. That should be the last we hear of Inflate Gate.
  • Email from Azra in Fredericksburg: Dear Tech Talk. I cannot get Flash applications to run on my Mac. They ran last month. What is the problem? Love the show, Azra in Fredericksburg.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Adobe Flash Player was updated for OS X on February 5, 2015. OS X will not open an outdated player. You must upgrade you Adobe Flash Player. Just search for Adobe Flash Update for OS X and install. Here is a link to the file:
Profiles in IT: Frank Wang Tao
  • Frank Wang Tao is founder and CEO for DJI Innovations, the leading maker of the consumer drones including the Phantom Vision.
  • Frank Wang Tao was born in 1980 in Hangzhou, China. 
  • He saw his first model helicopter in a shop while still in elementary school. It cost the equivalent of several months’ salary for average people. After high school, his parents rewarded him with a model helicopter. 
  • He assembled it but wasn’t able to fly it properly. The helicopter immediately crashed. But Wang developed an obsession with helicopter drones.
  • He went to East China Normal University in Shanghai to study psychology but his keen interest in electrical engineering persisted. In 2003 he dropped out of that college, switching to Hong Kong’s University of Science and Technology to study how to make robots. He completed his BSEE in 2006 and his MSEE in 2011.
  • His idol is Steve Jobs. Steve is aggressive and so is he. He had trouble working with teams for two robotics competitions in college. He needed teammates who could deal with his personality. He thought he would change, until he learned about Steve Jobs.
  • While in school he was mentored by Professor Zexiang Li. Wang’s final-year undergrad project was a mini-helicopter drone. The helicopter collected data for Sichuan quake relief programs. He got a poor grade but his model.
  • But it was well received on an internet forum for drone fans in Shenzhen.
  • He launched a firm to make it called DJI in 2006, with two of his classmates.
  • He spent three months intensively working on the first prototype. He skipped all the courses and just went to his home in Shenzhen. I would wake up at 2PM and then work until 6AM for days at a time.
  • When he did go back to the university lab, he tried to use his ID card but it didn’t work. He thought he was kicked out of college, but they let him return.
  • In the beginning, they focused on flight-control systems. He felt a multirotor drone should be very simple, very small, very reliable and very cheap.
  • In DJI’s early stages Wang received assistance from his alma mater UST. But he also benefited from a later move to Shenzhen, China’s tech hardware capital.
  • DJI grew quickly from start-up to a leading maker of small-scale drones for civilian usage, with a workforce of 2,800. 
  • It has become the world’s largest supplier of civilian drones, and one of the first Chinese firms to achieve global leadership in a consumer product. Its market share in ‘civilian-use small unmanned aerial systems’ is about 70%.
  • DJI’s revenue topped $480 million in 2014. At a valuation of around $1.6B, Wang may become one of the richest Chinese tycoons under 40.
  • He has been hailed as the Pearl River Delta’s answer to Apple by his former mentor.
  • Disclaimer: I purchased and fly a DJI Phantom Vision 2 Drone…..and love it.
Lenovo faces huge backlash over Superfish adware
  • Lenovo has been forced to remove pre-installed software that injected  ads and made computers vulnerable to attack. 
  • The software, called Superfish, behaved in a similar way to malicious adware, effectively intercepting people’s internet connections to display different ads.
  • Lenovo said it had stopped installing Superfish on new laptops and had disabled it on those already sold. 
  • In order to put ads on encrypted pages Superfish installed its own root certificate onto a computer. This effectively allowed Superfish to replace a website’s security credentials with its own, meaning that encrypted information such as banking details could be easily intercepted. When conducted with criminal intent such actions are known as a man-in-the-middle attack.
  • When someone uses online banking, for example, Superfish could issue its own security certificate to replace the bank’s and intercept the encrypted data in order to display different adverts. Security experts warned that Superfish was so badly coded that it was easy to hijack and could be used to generate security certificates for criminal websites to make them appear legitimate.
  • Rogue security certificates are a major issue, especially on public Wi-Fi networks. Vulnerabilities created by Superfish could allow hackers to spy on everything a Lenovo user was doing and steal any of their private data. A user affected by this attack would be unaware that their security had been compromised.
  • Users first started complaining about the software in September 2014, with Lenovo temporally disabling it in late January. At the time Lenovo said it would disable Superfish while it released “a fix that addresses these issues”. The company has since said it will release a software update to remove “all traces” of the software. 
  • In a post on its US Twitter account on Friday the company said it was “sorry”, adding that it had “messed up”.
  • Superfish was installed on a huge range of Lenovo consumer laptops, but the company said it was not installed on its ThinkPad notebooks, desktop computers or smartphones.
  • The software is no longer being installed on any Lenovo laptops and the servers that run it have been turned off. 
  • To find out if your Lenovo laptop is running Superfish click here: Instructions are also available for those that want to remove Superfish immediately.
FCC Approves Major Net Neutrality Rules
  • After years of struggling and debate, the Federal Communication Commission voted to reclassify broadband providers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.
  • The FCC has applied a 1934 law to the Internet. It is a grab for more government control and power. That is why the vote was along party lines. Dems in favor. Republicans opposed.
  • Regulating the Internet like the phone system will mean that ISPs will need government approval for everything. It may even mean more taxes in the future.
  • We may have Net Neutrality, but there will be unintended consequences that we may not like.
  • The major bullet points of the ruling are clear: broadband providers will no longer be able to block access to any legal content, throttle speeds for users, or offer paid prioritization of traffic—i.e. “fast lanes” that allow companies to exchange money for faster speeds.
  • These rules apply to both wired and mobile broadband, the first time that the wireless Internet access has been brought on par with its wired counterpart. 
  • Verizon called the ruling a “throwback” move that “imposes 1930s rules on the Internet,” driving the point home by posting the statement to their website in Morse code.
  • Stirrings from broadband providers already suggest that they might mount a legal challenge, including a asking for a stay to prevent the order from going into effect. 
  • Hopefully the FCC can find a better way to deal with Net Neutrality.
4G Spectrum Auction Completed
  • The FCC auction of new 4G airwaves is finally over after two and half months. 
  • The provisional winning bids totaled $44.9 billion for 65 MHz of airwaves, the most the FCC has ever raised at an auction.
  • We won’t know that actual winners for a few days when the commission releases the official results.
  • The contest came to a close January 29, 2015, with the highest bids going for big cities: A single 20 MHz license in New York City metro region went for $2.8 billion, while the same license in Los Angeles went for $2.1 billion. Once you got past the third largest metro area, Chicago, winning bids fell under $1 billion. 
  • The cheapest license was a 5 MHz block in the territory of American Somoa, which cost just $2,800.
  • This auction centered on a band already widely used for LTE: the Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) band.
  • It’s where T-Mobile’s main LTE network lies as well as the new LTE overlays built by Verizon and AT&T. All three of those carriers participated in the auction, as they can easily add capacity to their networks with these new licenses.
  • The auction more than quadrupled the $10 billion reserve price the FCC set.
  • With nearly $45 billion in bids – and billions more in capex – this auction is yet another illustration of the significant economic impact that exclusive, licensed use spectrum provides taxpayers and the U.S. economy.
  • We need to be mindful of competition. Letting a few company sit on all this bandwidth is not good for the consumer. The FCC should beware.
Device of the Week: Bluetooth-Equipped Umbrella
  • Are you in the habit of leaving your umbrella behind at restaurants or in the car?
  • A new umbrella has a Bluetooth beacon built right in so you’ll get an alert on your phone if you take off without it. 
  • The Davek Alert Umbrella is looking for support on Kickstarter, though as a well-established umbrella brand, it probably doesn’t really need that $50,000 in order to bring it to market. 
  • The Bluetooth unit is built into the base, and should last a couple years depending on use, at which point you can just replace it with a standard watch battery. 
  • The umbrella itself looks like a sturdy one, with a steel frame and push-button opening and closing action. You can pre-order an Alert Umbrella for $79 right now, which is cheaper than Davek’s full-size model, but if you wait for retail, you’ll be paying $129.
Immigrant Founders Need Policy Reform To Keep Creating Tech Jobs
  • A 2008 Kaufman Foundation study concluded that between 1995 and 2005, more than half of all Silicon Valley tech companies were created by immigrant founders, employing 560,000 workers and generating $63 billion in sales.
  • But something changed in 2006. There was a commonly estimated 12 million illegals living in America at the time. New reforms that were supposed to make it easier for immigrants who’d been here a while to obtain worker visas seemed to be making it harder for those with startups.
  • The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 allowed those who’d been in the country for 2-5 years to stay, but would require them to return to their country of origin after 3 years. Meanwhile, those who’d been here less than 2 years would have to leave.
  • Vivek Wadwha suggested in his book ‘The Immigrant Exodus’ that the changes to U.S. immigration policy was causing a brain drain in Silicon Valley.
  • This was seemingly confirmed in a follow-up Kaufman study, showing that the number of immigrant-founded startups dropped from 52 percent to less than 44 percent in 2012.
  • U.S. employers can currently sponsor foreign workers with a temporary H-1B visa. However, those visas are capped at 65,000 a year. This limits the amount of workers able to stay and add to the economy here. Further, immigrants trying to start their own company have no such employer sponsorship.