Show of 05-16-2015

Tech Talk

May 16, 2015

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Benoit in New Jersey: Dear Doc and Jim,  I have an iPhone 4s and Verizon is my carrier. I love my iPhone4s but it has this annoying issue of disconnecting the data stream when I am using the phone. This is particularly frustrating when I drive: If I receive a phone call while using Waze. This is a fantastic GPS app that was a Tech Talk recommendation. Is there something I am doing wrong or is it a limitation of. Verizon or my phone? Thanks, Benoit, a regular listener from New Jersey
  • Tech Talk Responds: Benoit, I have good and bad news for you. The bad news is that this feature is not available for iPhone 5 and older devices. 
  • The good news is that you can get it if you upgrade. If you’re a brand-new owner of Apple’s iPhone 6 or 6 Plus on Verizon, then the cell phone carrier has some good news for you. Great news, actually, given how long its iPhone users have been waiting for a way to talk on their smartphones and access their data connections at the same time. 
  • The carrier has officially launched its Voice over LTE service (VoLTE). If you’re using one of Apple’s latest devices on Verizon, you’ll now be able to browse the Web and play around with apps while you talk—assuming the former isn’t too distracting for the latter. 
  • In addition to simultaneous voice and data, Verizon’s new “Advanced Calling 1.0” upgrade allows iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus users to enjoy what Verizon’s describing as “HD Voice.” The tweak runs audio on frequencies more matched to the human voice and uses double the audio samples of a normal call to better reflect the nuances of the voice on the other end of the line. It’s also completely free for Verizon users to take advantage of, so long as their smartphones support the feature.
  • Email from Tina in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk. Sometimes when I take pictures, part of the scene is very bright and the rest is very dark. This is particularly true if I am taking pictures of someone in front of a window. Is there a simply way to fix with problem with my iPhone5s camera. I hate bad party pictures. Love the show. Tina in Ohio
  • Tech Talk Responds: I have good news for your party pictures. Your iPhone5 has something called High Dynamic Range (HDR). When you open your camera, you will see HDR on the top of the screen. Click on HDR and you will have a choice (Auto, On, Off). I leave mine of Auto. By the way, HDR is disabled when you use flash. Now what is HDR? The camera will automatically take three photos with the exposure bracketed. Some exposures will be optimized for the highlights; some for the shadows. Then the camera will merge these pictures into a composite photo automatically.
  • Note that it takes longer to take an HDR photo than a regular one since it has to capture three separate images at different exposures. Therefore, it’s important to hold your iPhone very still or mount it on a tripod while taking HDR photos. It’s also important that your subjects are not moving while the photo is being taken – if they’re moving they may appear blurred.
  • In general, the iPhone’s built-in HDR is rather weak. If you want to get a stronger HDR effect, you have to use a dedicated HDR app. My favorite and the App Store bestseller is Pro HDR X, which costs $1.99 to download. It’s a really great app for HDR photography, with a variety of shooting and editing options, and it’s very easy to use.
  • Email from Feroze in Fredericksburg: Dear Doc. I have heard to talk a lot about your drone. I am thinking of buying a drone to take photographs on vacations. What are the legal limitations? How much do they cost? It sounds like fun, but I don’t want to get arrested. Love the show. Feroze in Fredericksburg
  • Tech Talk Responds: Individuals flying for hobby or recreation are strongly encouraged to follow safety guidelines, which include:
    • Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
    • Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
    • Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
    • Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying
    • Don’t fly near people or stadiums
    • Don’t fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs
    • Don’t be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft.
  • The final regulations are still being developed. Many Federal parks have banned the use of drones. They cannot be used in DC near the White House or on the mall.
  • You may want to join the DC Area Drone User Group (DC DUG), an organization for amateur and professional drone users that seeks to promote the responsible use of flying robots for community service, artistic, entrepreneurial, and recreational purposes. It has nearly 2,000 members. They meet at least twice a month.
  • I own a DJI Phantom2 Vision drone. I paid around $1,200. My unit is now available for only $730 on Amazon. It is a quadcopter with integrated camera (14MP photo, 1080p video, stabilizer gimbal). It will fly to around 1,000 feet. It has GPS and altimeter. It flies itself. I just move the set point. The prices are dropping quickly.
  • Email from Fredrick in Alexandria: Dear Doc and Jim. I am trying to get a job and IT and keep sending out my resume to companies and am getting nowhere fast. I have a BS in computer science with a good GPA. I don’t have any experience and most jobs require experience. I am tired of living in my parent’s basement. What are my options? Love the podcast. 9am Saturday morning is too early for me to listen. Thanks, Fredrick in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: Frederick, you need to complete some tech projects. Now one ever said that your experience had to be paid. Set up a webserver; install VM Ware and set up a virtual Linux machine with Apache web service; create a database driven website with PHP and MySQL; write an app for the iPhone or Android; create an Oracle database using the student (free) version. Join user groups and go to meetings. Talk about your projects. Read the current literature on the web; subscribe to industry rags.  In other words, act like a professional in your desired field. This will give you something to talk about in an interview. It will also put your resume on steroids. Finally, you may just meet your future employer while you network. Get a copy of What Color is Your Parachute and follow Dick Bolles’ networking advice. Great question and don’t give up. The fact that you ask this question means that you thinking about your predicament in the right way.
  • Email from Tuc in Chantilly: Dear Tech Talk. I got a laptop last year. I use it to record songs. I have a high quality microphone for an audio input. Here is my problem. The virus protection that came with the laptop has expired and I don’t want to spend more money to renew it. The software that is installed on my machines seems to slow it down and I would like something faster. What are my options for free anti-virus and anti-malware software?  Thanks, Tuc in Chantilly
  • Tech Talk Responds: Tuc, the good news is that you have many free options. According to PC Magazine’s 2015 roundup for free AV, your top three options are (listed by ranking): Panda Free Antivirus 2015; Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition (2014); Malwarebytes. I personally like Malwarebytes. Get this installed immediately. Don’t surf the web until you are secure.
  • Email from Lois in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk. I am confused by the specifications given to me by my ISP. I want to figure out the download and upload speeds of my connection. They only give them something called bandwidth. What is this? Where the band and what is the width? Love the podcast. Lois in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: ‘Bandwidth’ describes the rate at which data can be transferred to your computer from a website or internet service within a specific time. Therefore the amount of bandwidth you have (the bandwidth ‘strength’) determines the efficiency and speed of your internet activity. Bandwidth is generally measured in ‘bits per second’ or not ‘bytes per second’. 
  • The name comes from Fourier analysis. The more frequencies that are transmitted in a certain frequency range (or band), the higher the information content. Think of a piano keyboard. The complexity of the music increases as the number of keys increase. In the beginning bandwidth had a specific technical definition. It has become corrupted to just mean data transfer rate because more frequencies in the band allow more zeros and ones to be transmitted.
Profiles in IT: Elon Reeve Musk
  • Elon Reeve Musk is cofounder of PayPal, the founder of SpaceX, product architect of Tesla Motors, and chairman of SolarCity. 
  • Musk was born June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, South Africa.
  • After his parents divorced in 1980, Musk lived mostly with his father in South Africa.
  • He taught himself computer programming and at age 12 and sold the computer code for a video game called Blastar for $500.
  • Musk attended Waterkloof House Preparatory School and Pretoria Boys High School.
  • In 1990, Musk was accepted into Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
  • In 1992, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where he received a BS in Physics and a second BS in Economics.
  • In 1995, Musk began a PhD in Applied Physics at Stanford, but left after a few days.
  • In 1995, Musk started Zip2, a web software company that developed and marketed an Internet “city guide” for the newspaper publishing industry.
  • In 1999, Compaq acquired Zip2 for $341M. Musk received 7% or $22M.
  • In 1999, Musk co-founded, a financial services and e-mail payment company.  
  • In 2000, merged with Confinity, renamed PayPal in 2001. PayPal was acquired by eBay for $1.5B in stock. $165M was given to Musk (11.7% stake).
  • In June 2002, using $100M, Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX. Musk served as CEO and Chief Designer (CTO).
  • With the goal of creating a “true spacefaring civilization”,  SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles.  The company’s first two launch vehicles are the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets, and its first spacecraft is the Dragon. 
  • In September 2009, SpaceX’s Falcon 1 rocket, designed by Musk, became the first privately funded liquid-fuelled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit.
  • On May 25, 2012, the SpaceX Dragon vehicle berthed with the ISS, making history as the first commercial company to launch and berth a vehicle to the ISS.
  • In 2003, Musk co-founded Tesla Motors. In 2008, he became the CEO and product architect.  Tesla Motors first built an electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster.
  • In 2012, Tesla released its four-door Model S sedan. The Model X, aimed at the SUV market is scheduled to begin production in early 2015.
  • Tesla will allow its technology patents to be used by anyone in good faith in a bid to entice automobile manufacturers to speed up development of electric cars. 
  • Musk provided the initial concept, and financial capital for SolarCity, which was then co-founded in 2006 by his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive. SolarCity is now the second largest provider of solar power systems in the United States.
  • On August 12, 2013, Musk unveiled the Hyperloop transportation concept. The system would use a partial vacuum to reduce drag, which would allow for high speed travel at low power. In 2016, he is building 5-mile Hyperloop test bed in Texas.
Webpage of the Week: How Old is this Face
  • Link:
  • Simply upload a picture with faces. The application will use an algorithm to guess the ages of each person in the photo.
  • Make certain that the face is big enough to do a thorough analysis.
  • This is a fun party game. It accuracy is not perfect, but it is fun to play.
How to see the legendary green flash
  • You can see green flashes with the eye, when sky conditions are just right, if you are looking toward a very clear and very distant horizon. 
  • That’s why those who see green flashes most often see them over a sea horizon. 
  • You also must be looking just at sunset, at the last moment before the sun disappears below the horizon. 
  • And you have to be careful not to look too soon. Wait until just the thinnest rim of the sun appears above the horizon. If you look too soon, the light of the sunset will dazzle (or damage) your eyes, and you’ll miss your green flash chance that day.
  • There are many different types of green flash. Some describe a streak or ray of the color green … like a green flame shooting up from the sunrise or sunset horizon.
  • The most common green flash, which many people describe, is a flash of the color green seen when the sun is nearly entirely below the horizon.
  • The green flash is legendary, and some people think it is  a myth.
  • But green flashes are very real. You need a distant and very clear horizon to see them at the last moment before the sun disappears below the horizon at sunset.
  • We used to go the bar at La Jolla, CA to see the green flash every night over drinks. It is a good excuse to do research at the bar.
A Legal Challenge To Robo-Tracking Of License Plates
  • A man in Fairfax, Virginia is suing the local police department for indiscriminately scanning citizens’ license plates and storing that information in massive databases.
  • Neal Harrison, who is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, says his car’s license plate was unlawfully scanned twice in 2014.
  • The Fairfax County police department (FCPD) database “can be used to discover the location of thousands of vehicles at a particular date and time,” said the ACLU’s Rebecca Glenberg in a statement. “It is an unacceptable invasion of privacy.”
  • A growing number of law enforcement agencies and repo men rely on scanners that collect license plate numbers and the date, time and location of the scan. 
  • The technology uses cameras mounted on police cars and street signs to snap photos of passing license plates. The scans are untargeted, so your car could get scanned whether you’re a criminal suspect or not. The photos are then uploaded and stored in searchable databases.
  • While the information can potentially help in criminal investigations–say, spotting a stolen vehicle–it could also potentially be used to track your whereabouts.
  • The use and legality of these passive scans varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The ACLU wants to see strict and comprehensive laws regarding the technology’s use, and they’re getting the ball rolling in Virginia because they say the state’s Data Act of 1976 states that
  • “Personal information cannot be collected, stored, or disseminated unless the need for such collection has been clearly established in advance and the information is appropriate and relevant for the purpose for which it was collected. None of this is true of the thousands of license plate numbers stored in FCPD’s database.”
  • Harrison and the ACLU hope the court will put a stop to the untargeted scans.