Show of 12-26-2015

Tech Talk

26 December 2015

Best of Tech Talk Edition
  • Segments replayed from previous shows
Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Alice Lane: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I have subscribed to Verizon for decades. Was an early adaptor and had dial up, then DSL and now FiOS. But I don’t get TV from them and have OOMA for my home phone. During the course of ONE year they have twice upped my bill by $8.00 at each increase. I could have sworn I heard that GOOGLE was entering the ISP business. It can’t happen soon enough. If you know about Google’s ISP status, please educate me. What is most upsetting is Verizon has deals all over the net for first time customers for a two year plan price lock of $50.00 for the bundle, which is less than I am paying for Internet only. Thanks. Alice Lane
  • Tech Talk Responds: Unfortunately, Google Fiber is not scheduled for the DC area. You can check on availability by going to: If you put in your address, you can get updates about availability. Google does offer the cheapest high bandwidth service. I would call Verizon and negotiate, particularly if your contract has run out. It is cheaper to give you a deal and keep you. Check out what your options to switch are. They may match or beat the competition.
  • Email from June in Burke: Dear Doc and Jim. We got an email about this today at work. Just thought it might be good for educating Stratford users. Love the show. June in Burke, a loyal listener.
  • Tech Talk Responds: June, this is good advice and may be worth revisiting for our listeners.
  • Internet access and protecting your computer
    • Avoid using publically available and non-secure Wi-Fi. If you must use it, do not go to sites where you put in your password or other personal data/information.
    • Enable encryption on your personal wireless routers; set a strong password.
    • Use firewall and antivirus programs on your home computers. Make sure they are updated, properly configured and running.
    • Install Operating System and browser upgrades when they are available. These updates often include significant security patches.
    • Do not allow anyone else to download software to your computer; they may inadvertently download malware.
    • Do not use USB thumb drives.
    • Procure and download software and other files from reputable sources only.
  • Surfing the web safely
    • Do not click on suspicious links or open attachments from unknown users.
    • Do not configure your computer to automatically open attachments.
    • Avoid questionable websites.
    • Choose security questions that have answers not discoverable on the Internet (e.g., do not choose the street you grew up on, your mother’s maiden name, etc.).
    • Choose web browsers known to provide more security (e.g., Chrome).
    • Beware of social media. Personal information allows hackers to harvest sensitive user photos, phones numbers, and email addresses for social engineering attacks.
  • Password security
    • Use 2-factor authentication every time you log into a commercial account (e.g., G-Mail will require not only a password but a code that is sent via text to a cell phone).
    • Use different passwords for every account.
    • Choose strong passwords.
    • If you must save your passwords to a file (whether in the cloud, on your device, or on your hard drive) password protect and/or encrypt the file.
    • Do not store passwords in the cookies of your browser; it may be more convenient but it puts you at increased risk.
  • Email from Leslie in Oakton: Dear Tech Talk. I know that all computers have a unique MAC address. But how traceable are they? If my laptop gets stolen, and I know my MAC address, can I get back to it if the person stole it gets connected to internet, even after formatting the machine and thinking that it’s safe to connect? Seems like this could stop laptop burglaries if that MAC address thing is traceable.  Love the show. Leslie in Oakton.
  • Tech Talk Responds: A MAC1 address, or “Media Access Control” address, is a unique 48-bit number assigned to every network interface. If your computer has multiple network interfaces – say both a wired Ethernet port and a wireless network adapter, each interface will have its own MAC address. In theory, it’s unique. In theory, every network card or network interface should have its own unique MAC address that is different from every other network card on the planet.
  • Unfortunately, manufacturers don’t always ensure they’re unique, so multiple network interfaces can in fact have the same MAC address. In many network interfaces, the MAC address can be set in software – meaning whatever the original MAC address, it can be overridden and changed. So the uniqueness on which we might want to rely is not completely reliable.
  • The biggest problem is that MAC addresses don’t travel very far. The MAC address is used by the network to identify which piece of hardware a packet of information is to be sent to. While the IP addresses involved indicate the original source and ultimate destination, a MAC address is used only on connections from one piece of networking equipment to the next.
  • That means when information leaves your computer, it has your computer’s network adapter’s MAC address. But when it arrives at your router, that MAC address is removed. When your router sends the information further upstream to your ISP’s router, it contains the MAC address of your router. When it moves from the ISP’s router to another router on the internet, it contains the MAC address of the ISP’s router. When it comes to data traveling over the network, your MAC address never makes it further than the first piece of networking equipment between you and the Internet.
  • Email from Peter in Maryland: Dear Doc and Jim. I would like to integrate my iPhone with my car navigation and entertainment system. How can that be done easily. I listen to your podcast each week. Peter in Maryland.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Peter, you must own a car that supports Apple CarPlay. CarPlay, will finally start appearing in new cars in 2015. The in-dash software is designed to not only make calling simpler but also to work with specific car-oriented iPhone apps via a consistent, easy-to-follow interface with larger graphics and buttons. The promise is that it will allow iPhone owners to use the features they want in the car without creating dangerous distractions. CarPlay will work with the iPhone 5 and later Apple phones. So that means the iPhone 5 and 5c, as well as the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. CarPlay also works with the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.
  • There’s no wireless Bluetooth option. To pair an iPhone with a vehicle you have to plug it into the dashboard with a Lightning cable. When your car detects that your iPhone has been connected, it will automatically pop up the CarPlay icon and update compatible apps. One important note: Once your phone is connected, its screen will be locked to eliminate any temptation to use it while driving.
  • A wide variety of luxury and budget vehicles will eventually have the CarPlay app. The first will be Ferrari, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. Ford is also demonstrating models with the software, such as the current Mustang. Starting with 2016 models, Buick’s Regal and LaCrosse will ship with CarPlay, eventually rolling out to the rest of Buick’s fleet over the following 36 months. GM also announced that the 2016 Canyon, Sierra and Yukon will feature CarPlay via its 8-inch IntelliLink infotainment system.

Profiles in IT: John von Neumann
  • Von Neumann was born in Budapest , Hungary , in 1903. Von Neumann was the oldest of 3 children of a banker.
  • John von Neumann was known for his contributions to the fields of mathematical logic, quantum mechanics, economics, game theory, strategic thinking, and computer architecture.
  • Dr. von Neumann was also a pioneer of modern computing, devising the computer infrastructure that is now known as the “von Neumann Architecture.”
  • At 6, he could divide two 8-digit numbers in his head; by 8 he had mastered calculus; by 12 he was at the graduate level in mathematics.
  • In 1925, he received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and in 1926, he completed his doctoral degree in mathematics at the University of Budapest .
  • In 1930 he joined the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. He became one of the 6 full-time people in the School of Mathematics (Einstein was one of the others).
  • His first book, published in 1932, was on quantum mechanics.
  • He became a US citizen in 1937, and during the Second World War distinguished himself with his work in weapons development.
  • During and after the war, he became one of the best applied mathematicians. When some of the best engineers in the world were at Los Alamos trying to decide how to bring the atomic fuel together quickly enough to create an explosion the (A bomb), he refined the technique for the implosion of plutonium by developing the “implosion lens” that would correctly compress plutonium.
  • His work is said to have accelerated the development of the hydrogen bomb.
  • In 1955 he was named a Commissioner of the Atomic Energy Commission, a position he held up to his death from cancer in 1957.
  • During the last part of the war he became involved with the development of computing machines. It was his idea to store the program (the sequence of instructions) in the machine as simply another kind of electronic data. Until then, in order to reprogram a computer a person had to physically rewire it.
  • Computers which perform their operations sequentially are called “von Neumann machines” as opposed to those perform several operations using “parallel processing.”
  • The four properties that characterize the von Neumann architecture.
    • Instructions and data are distinguished only implicitly through usage.
    • Memory is a single memory, sequentially addressed
    • Memory is one-dimensional
    • Meaning of the data is not stored with it
  • After the war, in 1945, von Neumann drafted a report and machine description that would lead to the construction of the EDVAC, or Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer.
  • As director of the Electronic Computer Project at Princeton ‘s Institute for Advanced Study (1945-1955), he developed MANIAC (mathematical analyzer, numerical integrator and computer), which at the time was the fastest computer of its kind. MANIAC was run on thousands of vacuum tubes.
  • He was appointed Atomic Energy Commission in 1955 and died of cancer in 1957.
Food Science: Champagne Bubbles
  • A team of scientists at the University of Reims have revealed the secrets behind the bubbles in Champagne, and why your glass might leave the wine as flat as a pancake or fizzing furiously.
  • A single bottle of Champagne contains 10 million bubbles. As the bubbles reach the surface of the wine they explode, and this phenomenon – known as the Worthington Jet – has been captured by the scientists on a 5000-frames-per-second camera.
  • It explodes, making a tiny crater on the surface. The crater closes up and then ejects a thread of liquid, which then breaks up in droplets that can fly up to 10 centimeters.”
  • They also figured out why strings of bubbles, known as the bead, rise from certain points in glass. It happens when microscopic fibers ¬– left by a kitchen towel or often just an airborne particle –  stick to the side of the glass, allowing molecules of dissolved carbon dioxide to coalesce and form bubbles.
  • The finding is important for Champagne lovers and for the restaurant industry.
  • Glasses that are retrieved from a dishwasher, where they have been washed and blown dry upside down, could be so ultra-clean that horribly few bubbles form.
  • Top-end glass manufacturers now use lasers to etch a tiny crown of spots at the bottom of the glass, creating flaws to make bubbles form and rise in a pretty ring. 
  • Should you drink Champagne from a tall, long-stemmed glass or a shallow cup?
  • The shallow cup loses CO2 one-third faster than a flute, so the flute is preferred.
  • Drinking Champagne from a plastic cup can be a drab experience because the sides are hydrophobic, or liquid repelling. The bubbles adhere to the sides through capillary action and inflate into the size of tiny balls.
  • “The easiest way to produce finer bubbles is to reduce the quantity of CO2 which is dissolved in the Champagne, and this is linked to the amount of sugar.
  • The tradition was to add 24 grams of sugar per liter of Champagne along with yeast to induce the second fermentation, but the trend now is 18 grams of sugar.
  • Although it’s carbon dioxide that dissolves in both wine and mineral water under pressure, the label on the bottle actually says “contains carbonic acid.” 
  • The reason for this is the chemical process that causes carbon dioxide molecules to combine with water molecules under high pressure to produce carbonic acid. 
  • Because carbonic acid is a very unstable molecule, it quickly disintegrates again when the bottle is opened and the pressure drops, and then bubbles up as carbon dioxide.
  • Scientists have named their new branch of science “blaseology” – the science of bubbles.
Live Champagne Bubble Demonstration
  • Demonstration Props
    • Bottle of Champagne (Brut)
    • Two crystal Champagne Flutes with etched bubble ring in bottom
    • Two Plastic Glasses
  • Observations
    • Bubbles originate from etched ring rough area in flutes
    • Bubbles stick to the sides of the plastic glasses
  • On air question: To drink or not to drink.
After Christmas Gift Guide for Geeks 
  • Didn’t Get What You Wanted for Christmas? Here Are Some Ideas While You Wait in the Return Line.
  • Sphero BB8 droid — It’s unlikely you’re going to get past this holiday season without hearing about the Sphero BB8 app-controlled droid — especially with the Star Wars movie on the horizon. Compatible with both iOS and Android devices, you let your child control their own droid through a smartphone, whether it be movements or commands such as sleep or run. If your child wants to see BB8 do their own thing, there is also an autonomous mode for the toy. An interesting feature is the augmented reality mode — which shows videos stored on mobile devices through projection. Price: $149.99
  • Microsoft Xbox One game console — Reduced in price ahead of the holiday season, Microsoft is offered the Xbox One gaming console with bundled games for as little as $299. Lots of  fitness and family games
  • Parrot Bebop 2 drone — Drones are some of this year’s hot presents. Parrot is well-known maker of hobbyist unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and has now come out with the Parrot Bebop 2 in time for the holiday season. Bebop 2 is a 500 gram quadcopter capable of flying for up to 25 minutes at over 300 feet at a rate of 37 mph horizontally and 13 mph vertically. Controllable via your smartphone, the drone’s embedded fisheye camera takes HD shots and video for you while off the ground quickly and at a decent quality — likely to appeal to any enthusiast this Christmas. Price: $550
  • DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter 4K UHD Video Camera Drone — 4k UHD video recording with fully stabilized 3-axis gimbal; Vision Positioning system allows stable flight indoors. Lightbridge digital streaming allows live viewing of 720p video (full resolution video is simultaneously recorded on the internal microSD card). Included flight battery and rechargeable remote controller means this system is ready to fly out of the box DJI Pilot app for iOS and Android allows live viewing and complete camera control (phone/tablet sold separately; see DJI’s website for compatible models). Flying this product is restricted within 15 miles radius of the White House. $1,232.00 on Amazon.
  • Nixplay Seed digital photo frame — For a personalized gift which displays photos of friends and family, Nixplay’s Wi-Fi digital photo frames make both fun and sentimental gifts for a loved one. The latest in the range, the Nixplay Seed, comes in 7, 8 and 10-inch models and a variety of colors. The high resolution display pulls images stored into a cloud-based account or shared through your mobile device in a slideshow format — and the Seed update now also includes motion sensors which turn on the device when you enter the room, or off when you exit. Price: $89.99 – $169.99
  • Apple iPhone6S – This is the obligatory item on the gift list. Make certain to get enough memory. I want it to get simultaneous data and voice with Verizon. Powered by Apple’s A9 processor, the iPone 6s is the latest flagship model. Available in 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models, and equipped with Retina display, TouchID and Apple Pay capabilities. Price: $649+
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 — Available in white, black or gold, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 is the firm’s flagship tablet. Equipped with an AMOLED display, 32GB internal storage, an octa-core processor and a set of apps to improve syncing between your devices, this tablet could make a great gift for someone looking for an upgrade. Price: $399.99
  • LED jewelry — The online marketplace Etsy is a great place to find unusual, handmade gifts. One that stands out for a female fan of tech is this LED sterling pendant, complete with LED lighting and circuitry. There is a wide variety of technology-inspired jewelry. This is the year that LEDs became widely affordable. Price: around $60 on Etsy.
  • Seagate wireless mobile storage — As we move towards streaming and downloaded content such as games and movies instead of physical mediums, we have more need for storage. One option which could make a great gift for gamers, streamers and professionals on the move is the Seagate Wireless mobile storage device. With 500GB of storage space, you can safely store movies, games, documents and music — while setting up the device as its own Wi-Fi hotspot without the need for cables. For such a small device the battery life isn’t bad either when on the go — lasting up to six hours per charge. Price $89.99
  • Fitbit activity trackers — If gyms are not an option, one gift you could give to help people keep track of their activity is something from the Fitbit range. The wearable activity and fitness trackers include mini gadgets and wristbands which monitor everything from heart activity to sleep patterns. Price: $80-$250.
  • Jawbone UP2 activity tracker — The Bluetooth-enabled wristband, which comes in a selection of colors, works with an accompanying app to track your fitness and sleep patterns, offer advice, display stats on your activity — including distances traveled and calories burned — and recommend ways to slowly edge towards a healthier lifestyle. Price: $99.99
  • Microsoft Surface Pro 3 — A gift to be appreciated for the working professional is Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3. The company has always said it wanted to replace the laptop with a viable tablet — and the Surface now seems to hit the mark. The 12-inch tablet runs on the Windows 10 operating system and comes with up to 8GB RAM, an Intel core i7 processor and up to 128GB storage. Price: $699
  • 13″ MacBook Air – Apples light weight and highly portable laptop. Battery life up to 12 hours. For those on the Apple ecosystem, this is a great option. With 128 GB SSD ($850.00), with 256GB SSD ($1,019.00)
  • Chromebook – Get 4GB RAM, 16 GB SSD is large enough because everything is store on the cloud. The 13 inch screen is a good tradeoff between usability and portability. 
    • Acer, 15.6″ Screen, Intel Celeron, 4GB RAM, 16GB SSD – White ($269.00)
    • Toshiba, 13.3″ Screen, Intel Celeron, 4GB RAM, 16GB SSD, Silver ($249.00)
  • Amazon Echo — The Amazon Echo is essentially a voice-activated personal assistant for your home. People in the house can ask it questions, ask it to read books from Audible, ask for sports scores, set timers and even get it to tell terrible jokes. Some people set it up as an alarm clock, and have it read the day’s news from NPR when it wakes them up. It also is linked to Amazon Prime Music, which means it acts as a credible speaker that will play any music that’s available in your personal Amazon music library or the free music available for Prime members. Amazon launched with access to streaming music from TuneIn and iHeartRadio, but it now growing to other services including Pandora.
  • Sonos Starter Speaker System — Sonos is the smart speaker system that streams all your favorite music to any room, or every room. Control your music with one simple app, and fill your home with pure, immersive sound.
    • Sonos Play:1 is a stylish and exceptionally well-made wireless speaker. It offers the full Sonos experience, with support for most key services (including Spotify, Pandora, Rdio) and super-reliable wireless streaming. Sound quality is good considering the size and gets even better when paired with a second Play:1 for true stereo playback. And Sonos Controller apps are available for Android, iOS, Mac, and PC. Play:1 earned CNET’s Editors’ Choice Award in the category. $199.00 each.
    • Sonos Bridge creates a dedicated wireless network for your Sonos system so you get reliable performance, no matter how large your home or how many WiFi devices you use. Just connect a BRIDGE to your router using a standard Ethernet cable.  Then a simple button press will start SonosNet, a secure AES encrypted, peer-to-peer wireless mesh network that improves performance and range compared to your home WiFi network. $50.000
  • Streaming Media – Three good options are available for streaming media to your TV using Wi-Fi. They each have about the same content. Style is somewhat different
    • Chromecast — $35 This is the most popular. Cast from smartphone or laptop.
    • Roku — $58 With remote that has a port for ear phones
    • Apple TV – Third Gen ($65), Fourth Gen ($149 for 32GB and $199 for 64GB). Fourth Gen supports third party applications and games. Recommend Third Gen.
  • Wi-Fi LED Lightbulb – This is the latest addition to the smart household. Lights that can be controlled using a Wi-Fi connection.
    • Phillips HEU—This was the first to market and is the most expensive. Three colors and very bright. About $60 per bulb. Require a central hub for wireless control. The central hub connects to the Wi-Fi router. Integrated with Apple home kit and Amazon Echo. A starter kit with three bulbs and central hub is $199.
    • WeMo Smart LED Bulbs — WeMo Smart LED Bulbs are warm, bright light bulbs similar to traditional 60-watt incandescent, and they only consume 10 watts of energy and produce very little heat. One color only. These bulbs will help reduce the amount of energy you use and help with your cooling costs–saving you money. With a life expectancy of up to 23 years (based on 3 hours of daily usage), these may be the last light bulbs you ever buy. A starter kit with two bulbs and a central hub is $50.
       tech talk
  • Pebble Time Smartwatch — If you want to give someone a smartwatch this Christmas, it doesn’t have to be obscenely expensive. The Pebble Time Smartwatch, compatible with both iOS and Android, is equipped with an E-Paper display so the wearer can clearly see notifications such as missed calls and app alerts, the weather, news and sports updates. Price: $149.99
  • Amazon Fire 7” Tablet — 7″ IPS display (171 ppi / 1024 x 600) and 1.3 GHz quad-core processor. Rear and front-facing cameras.  8 GB of internal storage. Free unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content and photos taken with Fire devices. Add a microSD card for up to 128 GB of additional storage.  Up to 7 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching videos, and listening to music. ($50.00)
  • Newisland Selfie Stick — It works well, features a sturdy extendable arm, and includes a rearview mirror for when you’d rather use your phone’s higher-resolution rear-facing camera. It easily stands apart from the competition. A short, coiled cable with a 3.5mm connector protrudes from the tip of the arm. When you plug the connector into your smartphone’s 3.5mm audio port, it will recognize the stick’s shutter button as a Volume Up control, which is the default physical shutter button on iOS devices. CNET Editors’ Choice award. ($39.00)
  • Netflix Subscription – Its only $8.00 per year.