Show of 06-04-2016

Tech Talk Radio

June 4, 2016

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from James Messick:Dear Doc and Jim. All the podcasts work now, even the problematic April 16th New website looks great. Thanks James Messick
  • Tech Talk Responds: Glad you can finally get all the episodes. Thanks for being a loyal listener.
  • Email from Mike from Maryland:Hello “Classroom of the Airways”, For the home, Is there different internet speeds from the same internet provider? It seems like the marketers are just trying to mislead or trick us. Even if we pay them more money per month, is the speed just the same? How do I confirm the speed that I am paying for? On speed delivery, is there a government agency that is baby-sitting the Internet providers? If testing in my home, for accuracy, can I test the speed through my Wi-Fi, or do I have to do it through a physical cable? P.S. Please tell Mrs. Big Voice that I said hello. Thanks, Mike from Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can easily check you upload and download speeds. I like to use DSL Reports ( Just select speed tests from the top menu. Your speed will depend on the quality of your Wi-Fi router and of your actual Internet connection. Speed will vary by time of day. For consumers, the vendor only provides speeds up to a certain limit, but does not guarantee those speeds. If a particular segment is over-subscribed your speed will drop. Commercial connections (that cost much more) have a guaranteed provision and will always provide the actual the required speed (or exceed it). I would test the speed both through Wi-Fi and physical cable to see whether your router is the actual bottleneck. I recently upgraded my router because it was the bottleneck.
  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs:Hi Dr. Shurtz, Soon after reading your 7 May Tech Talk Podcast notes, I bought the ResetPlug on Amazon Prime ($49.00) you mentioned on Tech Talk. It arrived yesterday; I charged it & installed it. I didn’t get up at 0400 to see if it worked, but everything to be in order when I did get up. I’m concerned that such resetting would affect Ooma with so many resets over time, but since I have to reset the modem & router so often anyway. Agree the price is a bit high, and the display is very dim, but it should save a lot of manual rebooting I’ve had to do with Comcast here. Hopefully it handles power outages although we don’t have as many here in Colorado as we did in Maryland. Thanks for mentioning ResetPlug on Tech Talk. Let’s see now, Ooma, now ResetPlug from your show. Great! Thanks, Arnie, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: Glad to like the ResetPlug. Every time I reboot my router, I also reboot Ooma and my Phillips Hue controller in order to get a new IP address. Ooma reboots are not a problem.
  • Email from Mary Wilson:Shurtz, Apple has sent me the LaCie 1TB Porsche Design USB mobile drive to back up my documents. They now want me to reinstall El Capitan OSX. They say this can take from 45 minutes to 6 hours depending on my ISP speed! I have Verizon FiOS and am in Bethesda. I only have this one iMac so I’m a bit concerned about taking time to do this. Not to mention what ‘might go wrong’ though the Apple tech guy sounds competent. What do you think about doing this and benefits of doing this? Thanks much. Mary, a faithful listener and evangelist.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Apple must believe that you system is infected with a Virus or Malware and that the only solution is a clean install. They want you to back up your documents with a USB external hard drive and they offered to send it to you without charge. So they must know about this particular type of virus. I would talk their advice. You need to make certain that your documents are fully backed up and safe. You must also have the license numbers or disks for any additional software that you have installed. This is may be your biggest challenge. If you are uncertain about backing up your system, you could go to the Genius Bar at an Apple store. You will need backup software for the Mac, which should cost you around $50.
  • Email from David in Alexandria:Dear Tech Talk. I have several backup drives with critical data on them. Can data on hard drives degrade and be accessed without a warning about the damage? I would hate to be surprised with unrecoverable data corruption. Love the show. David in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: Yes, there is a thing called bit rot. But no, it will not affect a user unnoticed. When a hard drive writes a sector to the platters, it does not just write the bits in the same way that they are stored in RAM, it uses an encoding to make sure there are no sequences of the same bit that are too long. It also adds ECC codes (Error Correction Codes) that allow it to repair errors that affect a few bits and detect errors that affect more than a few bits. When the hard drive reads the sector, it checks these ECC codes and repairs the data if necessary (and if possible). What happens next depends on the circumstances and the firmware of the hard drive, which is influenced by the designation of the drive.
    • If a sector can be read and has no ECC code problems, then it is passed on to the operating system.
    • If a sector can be repaired easily, the repaired version may be written to disk, read back, then verified to determine if the error was a random one (i.e. cosmic rays, etc.) or if there is a systematic error with the media.
    • If the hard drive determines that there is an error with the media, it reallocates the sector.
    • If a sector cannot be read or corrected on a desktop’s hard drive, then the hard drive will engage in more attempts to read it. Depending on the quality of the hard drive, this might involve repositioning the head, checking to see if there are any bits that flip when read repeatedly, checking which bits are the weakest, and a few other things. If any of these attempts succeed, the hard drive will reallocate the sector and write back the repaired data.
  • At any rate, the hard drive will know if there has been bit rot, will typically recover from it, and if it cannot, it will tell the controller which will in turn tell the driver which will then tell the operating system. Then, it is up to the operating system to present the error to the user and act on it. If you get some errors, you can try a Disk Repair utility. If you get many errors, I would just replace the disk.
  • Email from Lynn in Ohio:Dear Tech Talk. I just got a new iPhone 6 because I needed more memory for my pictures. I am still having problems getting Verizon cell phone signal in my basement. I have Internet, but can get calls. I thought the new phone would help, but it does not. Is there anything I can do to boost the signal in the basement? It’s our party room and I don’t like to be out of contact. By the way, my battery doesn’t last throughout the day (especially when I take lots of pics). What battery pack do you recommend? Love the show, Lynn in Ohio
  • Tech Talk Responds: There is an easy solution to your connectivity problems. The Verizon iPhone 6 support Wi-Fi calling. That means that you can receive and make phone calls using your Wi-Fi data connection. The carriers that support GSM (ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile) have had this since the iPhone 5. Finally Verizon has gotten onboard. To activate Wi-Fi calling, go to Settings/Phone/Wi-Fi Calling. Then you can turn on Wi-Fi calling. You will be prompted to put in an address for 911 calls (probably your home address). Then you are good to go. When Wi-Fi calling is active you will see it in the upper left hand corner of the screen near the signal strength indicator. By the way, this will work even when you are travelling internationally. Just make certain Wi-Fi calling is active or you will be billed at a high rate. There a lot of third-party battery packs on the market. The all need a different charging cable and are not integrated with the OS. Finally Apple came out with one. I like the Apple Smart Battery Pack ($99). It uses the same charging plug, is integrated with the OS, and does not have any confusing buttons (to switch case on and off). Weight is the only drawback. The iPhone is 5 ounces; this case is 3.5 ounces. Together that weight a whopping 8.5 ounces (over half a pound).

Profiles in IT: Ray Kurzweil

  • Raymond Kurzweil has been a pioneer in the fields of optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition, and electronic keyboard instruments.
  • He is the author of several books on health, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism.
  • He was born February 12, 1948 and grew up in Queens, New York City.
  • 1963, at the age of fifteen, he wrote his first computer program to process statistical data at a summer job. IBM distributed it to researchers.
  • In high school he created a pattern-recognition program that analyzed musical pieces and then synthesized its own songs. He won first at the International Science Fair.
  • In 1968, during his sophomore year at MIT, he used a program to match high school students with colleges. The program compared thousands of different criteria about each college with questionnaire answers submitted by each student applicant. When he was 20, he sold the company to Harcourt, Brace & World for $100,000.
  • He earned a BS in Computer Science and Literature in 1970 from MIT.
  • In 1974, Kurzweil started the company Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc. and led development of the first omni-font optical character recognition system.
    • He decided that the best application would be a reading machine for the blind.
    • This required the invention of two enabling technologies–the CCD flatbed scanner and the text-to-speech synthesizer.
    • On January 13, 1976, the finished product was unveiled during a news conference with the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind.
  • Stevie Wonder personally purchased the first production version of the Kurzweil Reading Machine, beginning a lifelong friendship between himself and Kurzweil.
  • In 1978, Kurzweil Computer Products began selling a commercial version of the optical character recognition computer program. Two years later, Kurzweil sold his company to Xerox.
  • In 1982, after meeting with Stevie Wonder, Kurzweil founded Kurzweil Music Systems to create synthesizers capable of duplicating the sounds of real instruments.
  • The Kurzweil K250 was unveiled in 1984. The machine was capable of imitating a number of different types of instruments. Kurzweil Music Systems was sold to Korean musical instrument manufacturer Young Chang in 1990.
  • Concurrent with Kurzweil Music Systems, Ray Kurzweil created the company Kurzweil Applied Intelligence (KAI) to develop computer speech recognition systems for commercial use. KAI still exists today as Nuance.
  • Kurzweil started Kurzweil Educational Systems in 1996 to develop new pattern-recognition-based computer technologies to help people with disabilities such as blindness, dyslexia and ADD in school.
  • During the 1990s he started KurzweilAI (, a website devoted promoting futurist-related discussion.
  • He predicted in his 1999 book,The Age of Spiritual Machines that computers will one day prove superior to the best human financial minds.
  • The Singularity is Near, including his concept of exponential growth, radical life expansion, and how we will transcend our biology.

Singularity is Near

  • A Book Published by Kursweil in 2005
  • Linear versus Exponential Growth and the Law of Accelerating Return
  • The Singularity is defined as the point where man creates a computer more intelligent than himself. The future cannot be seen beyond that point just like you cannot see into black hole created by a singularity in mass.
  • The Six Epochs
    • Physics and Chemistry(Information in Atomic Structure)
    • Biology(Information in DNA)
    • Brains(Information in Neural Patterns)
    • Technology(Information in Hardware and Software Designs)
    • Merger of Technology and Human Intelligence(Methods of Biology (including Intelligence) are integrated into human technology base
    • The Universe Wakes Up(Patterns of matter and energy in the universe become saturated with intelligent processes and knowledge)

Website of the Week: The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

  • Web Address:
  • Mission Statement:In the coming decades, humanity will likely create a powerful artificial intelligence. The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI) exists to confront this urgent challenge, both the opportunity and the risk.

Way Back Machine: Tech Talk Listener’s Dinner, February 27, 2014

  • Jim Russ talks to Stratford University’s Jordan Lichman about the recent Tech Talk Listener’s Dinner held at the Falls Church Campus.
  • Jordan discusses theCulinary Arts Program at Stratford and how you can get involved.

The Technology Behind the Compact Disc

  • Dr. Shurtz discusses the process of converting audio from analog to digital format, audio sampling and mp3’s.
  • On Aug. 17th, 1982, the Compact Disc was born, when Phillips Audio released a CD which contained music recorded by the pop group ABBA.
  • It was originally designed to play 60 minutes of audio. Sony extended it to 74 minutes to accommodate Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
  • The technology invented by James Russell in the 60s (Profiles in IT, Dec 29, 2007)