Show of 10-08-2016

Tech Talk

October 8, 2016

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from loyal listener: Dear Doc and Jim. On a past program you talked about a long range Wi-Fi I cannot recall the name of product. I am IT challenged. when you have the time would respond with the name. Thank you. A Loyal Listener
  • Tech Talk Responds: If need an expanded range for your Wi-Fi in the house, I would look at the new product that Google just announced, Google Wi-Fi. You can purchase up three units and they will form a mesh network that can cover the entire house. I have seen any test results yet, but this looks like a really good solution. Google Wifi offers a dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 802.11ac wireless connection, and one extra Ethernet port for a wired device. Google Wifi is $129 for a single unit or $299 for a set of three. You have to wait until early December to get one. However, but you can preorder in November.
  • The show that you were talking about could have related to the Wi-Fi router that I am using at my house. It has a adaptive antenna and two Wi-Fi radios (2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz). It is the TP-Link AC1900 Wireless Long Range Wi-Fi Gigabit Router. It is $115 on Amazon.
  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz. This year’s physics Nobel prize went to three physicists for their research in extreme states of matter. This research could lead to the next generation of electronics & superconductors. With your background in physics, what is this all about? Not an IT or computer question, but interesting just the same. Thanks, Arnie, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics recognizes three scientists “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.” In the 1980s, these physicists together and separately published a series of theoretical papers describing the behavior of extremely thin layers of matter, and even one-dimensional threads of matter, in topological terms. In mathematics, topology describes objects that can be deformed but not broken or stuck together. Invoking topology allowed the prizewinners to explain why the electronic and magnetic properties of these thin layers and threads of matter are quantized, that is, they can only change in integers. Three decades later, the wide-reaching implications of these topological behaviors are being explored in materials, electronics, and even quantum computer design.
  • Email from Lynn in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk. I frequently an jog and listen to streaming music using my iPhone and ear pods. It is annoying when I get a call and have to look at the phone to see who is calling. Is there a way to have the caller announced to me. It would make life much easier. Love the podcast. Lynn in Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: On iPhones with iOS 10, Siri can now announce who’s calling. You can tell her to do so whenever you’re wearing headphones, whenever you’re in the car, or all the time. Now, instead of fumbling to retrieve your phone from your pocket or angling your armband to see your screen, Siri will just tell you and you won’t miss a beat.
    • To turn this feature on, open the Settings on your iPhone and tap “Phone”.
    • In the Phone settings, tap the button that says “Announce Calls”.
    • Now you have three choices. You can have Siri always announce calls, which could be a little too revealing in public, but we can see the appeal at home when the phone is on the other side of the room. The other two items–headphones only or headphone and in the car–will likely be your go-to choice.
  • Email from Alex in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. I’m planning a trip abroad this summer. Someone at work mentioned Google’s Project Fi as an inexpensive alternative to a traditional carrier when traveling. I’m a Verizon customer with an iPhone 6. Should I switch from Verizon and sign up for Project Fi ahead of my trip? Love the show. Alex in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: Google’s Project Fi wireless service is great for international travelers. But it might not be a good fit for everyone. The service uses a combination of cellular coverage from T-Mobile and Sprint and local Wi-Fi networks. A key aspect of Project Fi’s service is technology that determines which network offers the best connection, allowing it to seamlessly switch among these networks if one connection weakens.
  • The biggest benefit of Project Fi is its low cost. Users in the US pay $20 a month for unlimited calls and texts. Adding data costs $10 for each gigabyte used. If customers don’t use their allotted amount in a month, they get a credit for unused data the next month. If you go over your data allotment, you’re charged for the additional data. This is appealing to a lot of people, because you truly pay for what you use.
  • The great news for international travelers is that you can still get unlimited text messaging and Project Fi doesn’t charge roaming rates for data usage in more than 120 countries. This means it still costs $10 per gigabyte of data. This is a huge benefit considering that Verizon charges $2.05 per megabyte of data. Voice service is charged on a per minute basis, and prices vary depending on the country, but they are around 20 cents a minute.
  • Because Project Fi is always looking for the best network connection and the service tries to connect you to a Wi-Fi signal, you may actually use less data than you would on a traditional cellular carrier, which will reduce your costs even more.
  • The biggest downside for you is that Project Fi is available only on LG’s Nexus 5X, Motorola’s Nexus 6 and Huawei’s Nexus 6P. This means you’d have to buy a new phone and leave the Apple iPhone ecosystem if you wanted to switch to Project Fi. The other potential downside is that when you’re in the US and Wi-Fi isn’t available, you’ll be roaming on either Sprint or T-Mobile. Their networks aren’t as widespread as Verizon’s.


Profiles in IT: Virginia Marie Rometty

  • Virginia Marie “Ginni” Rometty is the current Chairwoman, President and CEO of IBM, and the first woman to head the company.
  • Ginni Rometty was born July 29, 1957.
  • She liked math and science, and never wanted to memorize everything. She wanted to understand where it came from.
  • She took Latin in high school, because she felt if she could understand the root of everything, then she could understand why it worked.
  • This same drive took her into engineering. Engineering teaches you to solve problems. It teaches you to think.
  • In 1979, Rometty graduated from Northwestern University in with high honors, receiving a BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.
  • In 1979 after graduating, Rometty went to work for General Motors Institute.
  • In 1981, she joined IBM as a systems engineer in its Detroit office.
  • When I went for her interview with IBM, she didn’t have a blue suit. So she went out and bought one. She had a great interview and when she came home and took her jacket off, she realized the price and size were still on it.
  • In 1991, she joined IBM’s Consulting Group in 1991.
  • In 2002, she championed the purchase of the big business consulting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, for $3.5 billion.
  • In 2009, Rometty became Senior Vice President and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy in 2009 and is credited with spearheading IBM’s growth strategy by getting the company into the cloud computing and analytics businesses.
  • She was also at the helm of readying Watson, the Jeopardy! playing computer, for commercial use.
  • On October 25, 2011, IBM announced that she was to be the company’s next president and CEO.
  • Rometty’s appointment marks the first time a woman has been CEO of IBM.
  • On September 26, 2012, she took on the additional role as Chairman of IBM.
  • One of her goals is to focus company efforts on the cloud and cognitive computing systems, such as Watson.
  • IBM is only tech company that is 105 years old, the only one that has transformed multiple times. IBM existed a good 50 years before mainframes.
  • She feels a big part of IBM’s reinvention is Watson. It’s a service. It runs on the IBM public cloud, and you get it via an API. Her favorite term is “cognitive computing.”
  • However, in 2015, IBM issued its 17th straight quarter of declining revenue. It’s tough to transform a huge company and be a nimble a Google.
  • In Fortune’s September 15, 2015 issue, Rometty ranked 3rd on their Most Powerful Women List.

Trading Algorithm Creates Flash Crash in British Pound

  • A rogue algorithm caused havoc in the foreign exchange market. Get used to it because their deployment has grown exponentially.
  • An algorithm is a set of rules to be followed in calculations, or for that matter solving other problematic operations, often used to execute a sequence of moves towards achieving an end goal.
  • An algorithm, used by an Asian trading house, was programmed to pick-up overnight news flow and execute trades. It picked up the words hard Brexit.
  • It then deemed the warning worthy of shorting the pound. It placed bets that the British currency should trade lower, and caused a “flash crash”.
  • Chances are President Hollande, the Financial Times and those calling for a “hard
  • Since algorithms form the bedrock of the asset management AI strategy for better returns and cheaper operating costs, expect more unpredictable behavior.

IoT Could Become Playground for Botnet DDOS Attacks

  • The source code for Mirai, the malware behind the botnet that launched a massive attack on the Krebs on Security website — the largest DDoS attack on record — has been released in the wild, according to Brian Krebs, author of the blog.
  • A hacker who goes by the handle “Anna-senpai.”
  • The code release has increases the chances that the Internet of Things will be flooded with attacks from new botnets.
  • Mirai exploits Telnet, a very old protocol that’s incredibly insecure. Telnet “allows Mirai to jump around from IoT device to IoT device. IoT device makers select a default password from a list of 62 that are very insecure. Mirai tries those passwords against IoT devices until it finds one that accepts it. If the device also runs BusyBox, then Mirai has an in.
  • Stories about hackers accessing baby monitors have surfaced over the years, along with concerns over the vulnerability of Internet-connected toys and smart home appliances.
  • About 11 billion devices are connected to the Internet, according to Vernon Turner, IDC senior VP of enterprise systems.
  • That number will increase to 30 billion by 2020 and 80 billion by 2025, he added, and the IoT market will be worth US$1.46 trillion by then.
  • And there are not IoT security standards.
  • Another problem is the current approach to software development.
  • Everyone’s responsible for security on IoT devices. But who does a security for their Wi-Fi enabled thermostat or smoke detector.


Google Jumps into Hardware in a Big Way

  • Google took an enormous leap into the hardware market, offering new products to compete with Sonos in the music streaming market, Roku in video streaming, Linksys in routers, Amazon in voice assistants, Oculus in virtual reality, and Apple in phones.
  • It’s a huge shift for the company. To pull it off it has hired top talent from outside.
  • The magic tie-in for Google is artificial intelligence and machine learning tools: they will be the secret sauce in these new devices. A marriage of hardware and software that only Apple has ever successfully pulled off.
  • And what a list. There is:
    • The Pixel phone: a direct challenge to the iPhone.
    • Google Home: Amazon’s Echo but in a smaller, curvier format.
    • Daydream virtual reality headset: cheaper and more comfortable than Oculus and others.
    • Chromecast audio and video streaming: with multi-room support.
    • Google Wifi: a mesh system of routers aimed at stealing an emerging market.
  • Google Home is an identikit version of Amazon’s popular Echo – the voice-powered speaker and assistant. It will cost less than the Echo – $129 compared to $179. Google’s version is smaller. It offers everything the Echo does: streaming music; answering questions, working with smart home products, but threatens to offer more. Google Homes will work with one another, allowing music to be spread into different rooms on command – like the very popular Sonos music system. And they will work with both Google’s AI systems, providing answers to questions, and its hardware – like the Chromecast.
  • Google believes we are moving from a mobile-first system to an AI-first system. This marks the future. HAL is getting closer than you think.

HP issues non-apology for blocking third-party ink cartridges

  • HP was recently caught in the act using a “security update” to prevent its printers from operating with a number of recycled and third-party ink cartridges.
  • After much outcry the company has relented and is issuing a rollback option.
  • HP says it was just trying to protect its users and provide the best possible experience.
  • That meant issuing an update in March, waiting 6 months, and then activating a feature with no warning that caused printers to stop working with cartridges they printed with the day before.
  • As a remedy for the small number of affected customers, we will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature. We expect the update to be ready within two weeks.

Google’s self-driving car involved in serious crash after van jumps a red light

  • One of Google’s self-driving cars has been involved in the project’s most serious crash to date.
  • The autonomous Lexus car was taken off the road after a human-controlled van went through a red traffic light and collided with the Google vehicle, according to the Silicon Valley company.
  • No one was hurt in the accident in Mountain View, California, which is the worst collision involving one of Google’s cars.
  • A witness confirmed that the crash, which left Google’s Lexus SUV with a crumpled right door and broken window, was caused by the commercial van and wasn’t the fault of the autonomous car.
  • “Human error plays a role in 94 per cent of [urban] crashes [in the US].
  • There have been numerous collisions between Google’s cars and more traditional vehicles, most of which have involved human-driven cars going into the back of the self-driving ones or vice versa.
  • Google revealed that human drivers had to take the wheel 341 times within 14 months in response to hazards and software failures. The intervention was needed to avoid a collision just 13 of those times. In 69 cases the driver took control to prevent dangerous driving, and in 272 a human had to takeover because of “software failures”.
  • Google is not the only company testing self-driving vehicles on the roads. Uber launched a driverless taxi trial this month in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A separate Singaporean company called nuTonomy is also testing self-driving taxis in the capital.

Hackers targeted voter registration systems in 20 states

  • With the US presidential election just over a month away, a Homeland Security official says voter registration systems in 20 states were the targets of hackers.
  • The Associated Press reports that an official from the department confirmed the activity over the last few months and explained that it hasn’t been determined if the threats were domestic or foreign.
  • ABC News reported this week that Russian hackers targeted the systems of 20 states and successfully infiltrated four.
  • This news follows an FBI warning in August that hackers outside of the US took aim at systems in Illinois and Arizona.
  • While it’s important to note that these attacks are on the voter registration systems and not the actual voting systems themselves, it’s still a major concern heading into the election.
  • There are already concerns that foreign hackers may try to influence the results of the process and the FBI has said it’s looking into Russian hackers that may try to do so.
  • As the AP notes, government officials say that accessing the polling systems to sway an election would be “nearly impossible” because they are decentralized and not connected to the internet in most cases.


Obama administration blames Russia for DNC hack

  • The Obama administration publicly attributed recent political hacking incidents to the Russian government, calling the thefts an intentional effort to interfere with the U.S. election process.
  • The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence publicly blamed Russia for the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other political organizations this year.
  • The hack and subsequent release of emails from the DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and former Secretary of State Colin Powell were widely believed by security experts and many in the intelligence community to be the work of Russian intelligence.
  • The decision to name-and-shame Russia is a historic one. Of the four countries officials cite as the U.S.’s key adversaries in cyberspace — Russia, North Korea, China and Iran — Russia was the only one against whom the U.S. had not yet taken some kind of public action over its cyber activity.
  • Washington has almost unanimously treated Russian involvement in the attack on the DNC and other Democratic groups as fact after several forensics firms avowed that all the digital fingerprints pointed to a well-known Russian intelligence group known informally as Fancy Bear.
  • Moscow used a diffuse network of outlets to disseminate the material it stole — all of which the administration confirmed Friday.
  • The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.
  • Security experts have long believed that the previously-unknown hacker Guccifer 2.0 was a front for Russian interests, despite his claims to be a single Romanian hacker.