Show of 01-23-2016

Tech Talk

January 23, 2016

Best of Tech Talk Edition
  • Segments replayed from previous shows
Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Deborah from Baltimore: Dear Doc and Jim. I have Windows 10 on my laptop at him. I would like to share photos and MP3s across all my devices. I tried to install Apple iTunes and iCloud. I get an error message that says it cannot install Apple applications on this OS. What can be done? Love the show. Deborah from Baltimore
  • Tech Talk Responds: Apple has created Windows applications for both iTunes and iCloud. I have them installed on my Windows 10 computer. You apparently downloaded the applications written for the Mac and not for Windows. If you try and install a Mac application on a Windows computer, you will receive the error message that an Apple application cannot be installed on a Windows machine. Delete those apps. Go back to the download site and download the correct version of iTunes and iCloud.
  • Email from Annet from West Virginia: Dear Tech Talk. How can I increase my bars on my cell phone? I need to boost my cell phone reception at home and sometimes in the car. Thanks. Annet-Patrice Van York in West Virginia
  • Tech Talk Responds: After years of research low cell phone coverage, the FCC approved the use of cell phone signal boosters to extend the range of cell networks. Cell phone signal boosters (also known as cell phone repeaters) are designed to amplify a weak outside signal and bypass any obstructions to provide a strong inside signal to an area that was originally lacking. The system works by mounting an outside antenna in a location that currently has signal, which is typically on the roof. The signal is passed from the outside antenna, by a cable to a signal amplifier inside the building. Once the signal is amplified, it is then sent to an inside antenna, where it is broadcast out to the area which needs better reception. The system also works in reverse, with the signal from your phone being amplified and broadcast back to the tower, ensuring strong, two-way communication. 
  • Cell phone signal boosters only amplify specific frequencies of radio waves, which pertain to specific carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc.) and networks on those carriers (2G, 3G, or 4G LTE). Most North American carriers (except for T-Mobile and Nextel) use the same frequencies for 2G and 3G networks (which handle voice calls and 3G data), so the same signal amplifier can be used to amplify all of those carriers at the same time. The 4G LTE networks (which currently only handle fast data, no voice) on each carrier use different frequencies, so if you want to boost 4G LTE, then you’ll need an amplifier that is specifically designed for that carrier.
  • You’ll want to use an omnidirectional (Omni) outside antenna, which can send and receive from all directions at once. If you only need to support one carrier, then you can use a stronger Yagi directional antenna, which you can aim at the closest cell tower. The last piece of information that will determine which type of signal booster you need is the size of the area that needs to be covered in boosted signal, as well as the layout of the area. The combination of outside signal strength and the size of the area to be covered will determine how strong of an amplifier you’ll need.
  • There are also vehicle signal boosters for cars, trucks, RVs and even boats. While the principles are the same, the outside signal strength and coverage area come less into play, as those are constantly changing as the vehicle moves. Rather, the choice really depends on which carriers and networks you need to support.
  • Email from Alice: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I’d like to suggest that you please consider showcasing LinkedIn in an upcoming program. Recently accessed Recruiter Corporate via a trial. This plan is the full access to their 380 million global profiles.  LinkedIn candidate participation is very high and has apparently been growing at a healthy clip. I am unaware of any competitor that has the brand recognition. It has a free profile and three levels of connections on a fee-basis. I would be grateful if you showcase/review of LinkedIn helps shed insight on how this tool actually works on the back end and any other technical understanding you can bring forth that can enable my usage to be more fully effective and understood. Looking so forward to this. I do love your program and listen weekly. Also, what can be done about embellishment of profiles? I have seen far too much of that, even from my own company. Alice
  • Tech Talk Responds: LinkedIn has the free basic account, plus four premium paid accounts. The paid plans relate to your ability to search and contact others in the LinkedIn. The broader your reach and the better the search tools, the more expensive the plan. They have Premium account options for job seekers, sales and talent professionals, as well as the general professional who wants to get more out of LinkedIn. The premium accounts are designed for: Job Seeker ($29 per month), Sales Navigator ($59 through $129 per month), Recruiter ($119 through $899 per month), and Business Plus ($59 through $99 per month). Accuracy is a problem. The best way to judge accuracy is by reading the recommendations. They are usually not faked because they are traceable. Our recruiters use LinkedIn extensively. We get many inquires through LinkedIn.
  • Email from Mary, a Long Time Listener: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I am on a proposal team and was sent a link to shared documents by our partner. It actually came from MS but says that a person at the Partner firm is inviting you to his site. I get walked through 4-5 screens that are asking me if this is a personal or Work authorization for Office 365. I tell it it is a Work Authorized Office 365 acct. I enter my WIN live ID and I just never get to the end of the access. I get an error 401 banner across the top of the endgame screen. If you can educate me on how to resolve this I’d be so grateful. If U need to see the series of screenshots I’m presented with after I click on the MS invitation let me know. Thanks, Mary. A long time listener.
  • Tech Talk Responds: I cannot tell what the error was caused by. I would be mindful that such emails could be Phishing email trying to get your UserID and Password. Such emails frequently look official and have an embedded link that goes to a data gathering site. I never user an embedded link. I always put in my own link directly to make certain that I am not being phished.
  • Email from Mike in Maryland: Hello, It seems like today’s media players (like Roku) requires a credit card to set it up and be able to use it. There are thousands of people that do not have a credit card. Are there any media streaming boxes that do not require a credit card? What options do they have? I love your show! Mike from Maryland 
  • Tech Talk Responds: You don’t have many options here because the streaming services need revenue. You best option will be to use PayPal. You can set up PayPal to directly debit your bank account. Roku will accept a PayPal account. The others will too. The only streaming service I could find that did not require any payment information was Crackle. It embeds ads in the movies. I have not used it, but the reviews are not good. Movies are choppy, have lots of buffering delays, and the commercials are annoying. The only good thing is that no credit card needed.
Profiles in IT: James T. Russell
  • The digital compact disc was invented in the late 1960s by James T. Russell.
  • Russell was born in Bremerton, Washington in 1931.
  • At age six, he invented a remote-control battleship, with a storage chamber for his lunch.
  • Russell went on to earn a BA in Physics from Reed College in Portland in 1953.
  • He went to work as a Physicist in General Electric’s in Richland, Washington.
  • He was among the first to use a color TV screen and keyboard as the sole interface between computer and operator. He designed and built the first electron beam welder.
  • In 1965, he joined Battelle Memorial Institute’s Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Richland, Washington. He title was Senior Scientist.
  • Russell was an avid music listener. He was continually frustrated by the wear and tear suffered by his vinyl phonograph records.
  • Alone at home one Saturday, Russell began to sketch out a music recording system, which could record and replay without physical contact using only light.
  • He saw that if he could represent the binary 0 and 1 with dark and light, a device could read sounds or indeed any information at all without ever wearing out. Battelle let Russell pursue the project.
  • After years of work, Russell succeeded in inventing the first digital-to-optical recording and playback system (patented in 1970).
  • He had found a way to record onto a photosensitive platter in tiny “bits” of light and dark, each one micron in diameter; a laser read the binary patterns, and a computer converted the data into an electronic signal — which it was then comparatively simple to convert into an audible or visible transmission.
  • This was the first compact disc.
  • Although Russell had once envisioned 3×5-inch stereo records that would fit in a shirt pocket and a video record that would be about the size of a punch card, the final product imitated the phonographic disc which had been its inspiration.
  • Through the 1970s, Russell continued to refine the CD-ROM, adapting it to any form of data.
  • Like many ideas far ahead of their time, the CD-ROM found few interested investors at first; but eventually, Sony and other audio companies realized the implications and purchased licenses.
  • By 1985, Russell had earned 26 patents for CD-ROM technology.
  • He then founded his own consulting firm, where he has continued to create and patent improvements in optical storage systems, along with bar code scanners, liquid crystal shutters, and other industrial optical instruments.
  • His most revolutionary recent invention is a high-speed optical data recorder / player that has no moving parts. Russell earned another 11 patents for this “Optical Random Access Memory” device, which is currently being refined for the market.
The science of freezing rain

  • The phenomenon of freezing rain: What causes the dangerous winter weather element that can paralyze cities?
  • Why is it raining when temperatures are below freezing? What is going on? This phenomenon is simply called freezing rain. 
  • Freezing rain is simply rain that falls through a shallow layer of cold temperatures at or below 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) near the surface. 
  • When this rain becomes supercooled, it can freeze on contact with roads, bridges, trees, power lines, and vehicles. 
  • When freezing rain accumulates, it can add a lot of weight on trees which can result in numerous power outages and damage to homes. 
  • Freezing rain is typically the weather threat that creates the most car accidents, injuries, and deaths in winter storms. 
    • Snow forms when the entire layer of air is sub-freezing. Snow consists of ice crystals and is white and fluffy. 
    • Sleet forms when the layer of sub-freezing air is fairly deep, 3,000 to 4,000 feet. This allows time for the water droplet to freeze into a tiny piece of ice and become sleet as it falls to the surface. 
    • Freezing rain forms when the sub-freezing layer is very shallow. 2,000 feet from the surface, temperatures are above freezing, so any precipitation that falls is liquid. 
  • Bottom line: Freezing rain is simply rain that falls into a shallow layer of cold temperatures that is below freezing. When this supercooled droplet hits an object, it then freezes and becomes ice. Freezing rain is the most dangerous winter weather element as it can paralyze cities and cause a lot of damage. 
How to Build the Best Snowman in the Neighborhood
  • Start with good snow. You need the slightly wet snow. Not slush, but the kind of snow you get when it’s just above or just below freezing. Slightly wet snow packs easier and holds onto buttons and coal lumps better.  You’re also going to need about 4 inches of snow on the ground to avoid hitting dirt.
  • Make the balls. Start with a big snowball you pack in your hand and then roll it on the ground, allowing it to pick up snow and get bigger. Remember to roll it in different directions so that you don’t wind up with a cylinder instead of a nice sphere. Keep the ball from making contact with the snowless ground.
  • The bottom ball is the biggest. Place it where you want the snowman to reside. Try to pick a place that’s shaded and not in direct sunlight.
  • Stack the balls. Flatten the top of the first ball. Then when you make the middle segment ball, flatten the bottom of that ball.  If you’re building a gigantic snowman and find that you cannot lift the middle or top ball to be placed, get a plank and roll the ball up it.
  • Once you have all the balls stacked on top of one another, pack snow in-between the segments to add further stability to the structure.
  • A carrot for the nose and coal or rocks for eyes, and mouth.  Place some sticks in the side for arms. Face your snowman away from the sun.
Numerical Weather Prediction
  • Numerical weather prediction uses current weather conditions as input into mathematical models of the atmosphere to predict the weather.
  • Although the first efforts to accomplish this were done in the 1920s, it wasn’t until the advent of the computer and computer simulation that it was feasible to do in real-time.
  • A number of forecast models, both global and regional in scale, are run to help create forecasts for nations worldwide.
  • Use of model ensemble forecasts helps to define the forecast uncertainty and extend weather forecasting farther into the future than would otherwise be possible.
  • The atmosphere is a fluid. The basic idea of numerical weather prediction is to sample the state of the fluid at a given time and use the equations of fluid dynamics and thermodynamics to estimate the state of the fluid at some time in the future.
  • British mathematician Lewis Fry Richardson first proposed numerical weather prediction in 1922. Richardson attempted to perform a numerical forecast but it was not successful.
  • The first successful numerical prediction was performed in 1950 by a team composed of the American meteorologists Jule Charney, Philip Thompson, Larry Gates, and Norwegian meteorologist Ragnar Fjörtoft and applied mathematician John von Neumann, using the ENIAC digital computer.
  • They used a simplified form of atmospheric dynamics based on the barotropic vorticity equation. This simplification greatly reduced demands on computer time and memory, so that the computations could be performed on the relatively primitive computers available at the time.
  • Later models used more complete equations for atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics.
  • Operational numerical weather prediction (i.e., routine predictions for practical use) began in 1955 under a joint project by the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Weather Bureau.
Saginaw County Michigan Tracks snow removal trucks with GPS technology
  • Anywhere from 40 to 45 trucks make up the fleet of the Saginaw County Road Commission.
  • You can keep track of them online.
  • Global positioning software shows you where the trucks are heading and what they’re doing.
  • A color chart explains a yellow truck is one that is plowing and spreading salt, black is only salting, blue is only plowing, and red means the vehicle is off.
  • In days like these when the snow is coming down at a rapid rate, the technology helps determine the best plan for snow removal.
Chicago using technology to remove snow, avoid blowing budget
  • Chicago uses technology to track snow progress.
  • Sensors on the trucks will tell camera-monitoring supervisors how much salt is being spread, how many tons are still in the truck and whether the blade on a plow is up or down on the street clearing snow.
  • And by using safety cameras, the city will be able to track the movement of snow plows without putting nearly as many supervisors on the street.
  • Why the efficiency expert’s approach to snow removal?
  • The goal is to make the operations more efficient.
Science of Snowflakes- Is Every Snowflake Unique?
  • Can you ever be sure that no two are alike?
  • The short answer to the question is yes, since it is indeed extremely unlikely that two complex snowflakes will look exactly alike. Notice I said complex snowflake.
  • Variations caused by isotopes
    • If we restrict ourselves to water molecules which contain two ordinary hydrogen atoms and one ordinary oxygen atom, then again physics tells us that all such water molecules are exactly alike
    • However about one molecule out of every 5000 naturally occurring water molecules will contain an atom of deuterium in place of one of the hydrogens.
    • One in 500 will contain an atom of O (with an atomic weight of 18) instead of the more common oxygen (with an atomic weight of 16).
    • Since a typical small snow crystal might contain 1018 water molecules, we see that about 1015 of these molecules will be different from the rest.
    • The probability that two snow crystals would have exactly the same layout of these molecules is very, very, very small.
    • Even with 1024 crystals per year, the odds of it happening within the lifetime of the Universe is indistinguishable from zero.
    • However, if we consider a crystals of only 10 molecules, here’s a reasonable probability that two would be exactly alike.
  • Variations caused by stacking faults
    • When a crystal grows, the molecules do not stack together with perfect regularity, so a typical snow crystal contains a huge number of crystal dislocations, which again are scattered throughout the crystal in a random fashion.
    • One can then argue, like with the isotopes, that the probability of two crystals growing with exactly the same pattern of dislocations is vanishingly small.
    • Again one has the exception of few-molecule crystals, which can easily be free of dislocations.
  • Variations caused by variable growth dynamics
    • The number of possible ways of making a complex snowflake is staggeringly large. Now when you look at a complex snow crystal, you can often pick out a hundred separate features if you look closely.
    • Since all those features could have grown differently, or ended up in slightly different places, the math is similar to that with the books.
  • Thus the number of ways to make a complex snow crystal is absolutely huge.
Driving on Slippery Roads Speed- Speed is Your Enemy on Slippery Roads.
  • Kinetic energy is increases as velocity squared. Doubling the speed increases kinetic energy by four. This makes stopping distance four times longer.
  • Stopping Distance – In slippery conditions, the coefficient of friction is as much as eight times lower than it is for dry conditions. This means that stopping distance, compared to dry conditions, is eight times longer.
  • Recovering from Skidding – If the care skids to the one side, steer the car in that direction until you get some traction. Then gradually steer the car back on track.
  • ABS — Maximum traction between the road and the tire is the point just before the tire begins to slip. The Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) keeps near that point by releasing the brake as soon as the wheel locks and then immediately reapplies it. It is the electronic equivalent of “pumping” the brakes. If you have ABS brakes, apply constant pressure. You will feel vibration when they are active.
  • Positraction Differential – The differential divides the power between the left and right wheels. If one wheel begins to slip, the positraction differential immediately transfers all power to the other wheel. If the positraction light comes one, slightly ease off on the gas petal to maintain traction with both wheels.