Show of 10-29-2016

Tech Talk

October 29, 2016

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Ngoc in Ohio: Dear Doc and Jim. I have recently heard quite a bit about TinyURLs as a way to trick people during a Phishing attack. What exactly are TinyURLs? The whole thing seems confusing to me. Love the show. Ngoc in Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: TinyURL is a URL shortening web service, which provides short aliases for redirection of long URLs. It web address is: Kevin Gilbertson, a web developer, launched the service in January 2002 so he would be able to post links in newsgroup postings which frequently had long, cumbersome addresses.
  • The TinyURL homepage includes a form which is used to submit a long URL for shortening. For each URL entered, the server adds a new alias in its hashed database and returns a short URL such as in the following page. If the URL has already been requested, TinyURL will return the existing alias rather than create a duplicate entry. The short URL forwards users to the long URL.
  • Short URL aliases are seen as useful because they are easier to write down, remember or pass around, are less error-prone to write, and also fit where space is limited such as IRC channel topics, email signatures, microblogs. People posting on Twitter make extensive use of shortened URLs to keep their tweets within the service-imposed 140 character limit.
  • Starting in 2008, TinyURL allows users to create custom, more meaningful aliases. This means that a user can create descriptive URLs rather than a randomly generated address. This is the service the phishers are using to trick unsuspecting targets.
  • Email from Jim in Michigan: Dear Tech Talk. I have heard you talk about your Amazon Echo and how much you like it. How does it compare with Google Home? I am planning on purchasing one of these and can’t decide. Please help me. Enjoy the podcast. Jim in Michigan.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Google home is $130 and Amazon Echo $180. Google Home is due out on November 4, 2016. Google uses the Google Assistant, which can provide context sensitive conversation. Probably one of the best assistants available and currently powering the Google Pixel phone. Amazon has Alexa, who with the blue light seems more approachable, but not as flexible. You can sync multiple Google Home devices together to play the same song or play in stereo. You can’t do this with Echo. You can customize the color of Google Home. Amazon Echo only comes in black. However, Echo has many more connections with other devices (called skills) because they have a two-year head start. This will be a great competition and the consumer will win. If you have an Android phone (especially a Pixel), Google home may be a better choice because its integration will be more complete. If you’re not an Android user, it’s a toss-up. I’m sticking with Echo because it has become part of my daily routing.
  • Email from Nhan in Atlanta: Dear Doc and Jim. I have to buy a laptop and am trying to decide between a Chromebook and a Windows 10 laptop. I need it for school and will be using primarily Microsoft Office for my project. The Chromebook is quite a bit cheaper, but my friends say that it is really not a laptop and that I can’t install applications. What do you recommend? Love the show. Lauren in Atlanta
  • Tech Talk Responds: A Chromebook is basically an operating system based on the Chrome browser. It must be connected to the Internet through Wi-Fi to be useful. The only offline applications that can be installed are Google docs. Everything else must be accessed via the Web. One the other hand, a Windows 10 laptop allows you to install applications, like MS Office. These applications can be used even when not connected to the Internet. So a laptop is more versatile. Laptops are more expensive that Chromebooks because they need more processing power, more RAM, and larger hard drives. With the limited applications that you mentioned, you could easily use Office365, a web-based office suite from Microsoft, with Chrome. That would meet all of your needs. You could also use the fully integrated Google docs. In your case, I would recommend a Chromebook.
  • For instance, you can get a Samsung, 11.6″ Chromebook 3, with Intel Celeron, 4GB Memory, 6GB eMMC flash memory for only $179. You could get an Acer, 2-in-1, 11.6″ Touch-Screen Chromebook, with an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB RAM, 16GB eMMC Flash Memory Drive for $279. If you top of the line performance, I would get 8GB RAM and 32GB flash drive. This upgrade will future proof and will support the installation of more offline applications. But you will pay slightly more.
  • Email from Margaret in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. I recently travelled to Europe and logged into my Facebook account at several hotel business centers. I am afraid that I failed to log out of my account. It there a way to check what devices are currently logged into my Facebook account. I need some peace of mind. Love the show. Margaret in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: Fortunately, Facebook tracks where you’re logged in, so you can see every device logged into your account, and end any sessions you don’t want active. Facebook provides data on the location, the device or browser used, and the last accessed date or time for every active login session. If you see any unfamiliar devices or locations, you can end those sessions from your current one.
  • To find out where your account is currently logged in, open a web browser, log into Facebook, and go to the Facebook account settings page. Then, click “Security” on the left side of the browser window.
  • On the Security Settings page, click on the “Where You’re Logged In” section. There’s an “Edit” link, but you can click on any part of the section to view and edit it.
  • The Where You’re Logged In section expands. All your logged in sessions are listed under headings for each platform or device, showing the number of active sessions on that device. Click on a heading that has at least one active session to expand it and see the details of each session.
  • Pay close attention to the access time, location, and device of the session. If it matches one you know you initiated, then it’s okay–but if you see a session from an iPad and you don’t own an iPad, you know something is fishy (and you may want to change your password.)
  • If there was only one active session under that heading, the section closes automatically. Open each of the headings and see if there are any other active sessions you want to end. If you want to end all the sessions, click “End All Activity” at the top of the Where You’re Logged In section.
  • When you’re finished ending active Facebook sessions, click “Close” at the bottom of the section to close it.
  • Now that you see how easy it is to check on your active Facebook sessions, you can keep a close eye on your account, making sure you’re not logged in where you don’t want to be.


Profiles in IT: Gabe Logan Newell

  • Gabe Logan Newell is co-founder and managing director of Valve, a video game development company. He was producer of the first three releases of Windows.
  • Gabe Logan Newell, often nicknamed Gaben, was born on November 3, 1962 in Seattle, Washington.
  • Newell grew up in Davis, California and graduated from Davis Senior High School in 1980. He attended Harvard University from 1980 to 1983, eventually dropping out.
  • After dropping out of Harvard University, Newell was hired by Microsoft, where he developed the first three releases of Windows. He ultimately became a Microsoft Millionaire.
  • Gabe Newell’s favorite games are Super Mario 64, Doom, and Star Trek, played on a Burroughs mainframe computer.
  • Doom convinced him that video games were the future of entertainment, and Super Mario 64 convinced him that video games were art.
  • In 1996, Newell and another Microsoft employee, Mike Harrington, left Microsoft to found Valve, a gaming company. It operated out of Bellevue, Washington.
  • Newell and Harrington cashed in their Microsoft stock options to fund Valve.
  • The video game company launched with the science-fiction game Half-Life in 1998.
  • Other popular games developed by Valve are Portal and Left 4 Dead.
  • Through Steam digital store, Valve sells licenses to 125 million users of its own and other developers’ titles and collects a percentage of the sales. It functions like an iTunes store for gaming.
  • Forbes estimates that Newell owns just over half the company and is known for its flat organization and what some call “Valve Time,” a tendency to postpone releases until long after their initial announcement.
  • In 2007, Newell openly expressed his displeasure over developing his software for gaming consoles, particularly the PlayStation 3.
  • Nevertheless, in 2010, he discussed the open nature of Sony’s PlayStation 3 platform and announced Portal 2 for the console.
  • Newell has also criticized the Xbox Live service, referring to it as “a train wreck”. He was also intensely critical of Microsoft’s operating system Windows 8, calling it a “catastrophe” and a threat to the usually open nature of PC gaming.
  • In April 2016, Valve ventured into new territory with the release of Vive, a Virtual Reality headset developed with Chinese consumer electronics company HTC, which has become one of the more popular brands in the booming VR-market.
  • In March 2013, Newell received the BAFTA Fellowship for his outstanding and exceptional creative contribution to the video games industry.
  • In October 2016, Forbes estimated the net worth of Newell as $4.1 billion, ranking 134 on the Forbes400.

Google quietly made a major privacy policy change

  • Google promised to protect users’ privacy from advertisers by keeping personally identifiable information about its users, separate from its subsidiary DoubleClick’s database of web-browsing records.
  • But the company quietly updated its privacy policy in June to say that users’ activities on other sites “may be associated with your personal information.”
  • Google’s previous privacy policy had pledged to “not combine DoubleClick cookie information with personally identifiable information” without users’ consent.
  • Google purchased DoubleClick, an online advertising company, in April 2007 for $3.1 billion in cash, outbidding Microsoft in a months-long battle.
  • DoubleClick uses cookies to collect and store data about users from their browsing history to best place their clients’ advertisements.
  • Existing Google users were prompted to opt in to the new policy. But it was enabled by default for new users.
  • Users have the ability to elect or refuse these changes. They can access their “My Account” settings to opt-out of this feature.

What is BleachBit? How Hillary Made it Famous

  • The latest focus point in Hillary Clinton’s long email controversy may be a little-known tool for freeing up computer storage space.
  • Her IT contractor us BleachBit to delete 30,000 emails.
  • It’s one of many services you can download online to free up space on your computer by removing old unused files and clearing out internet history and cookies.
  • An advanced version of the service also offers an option for “shredding files to prevent recovery.”
  • Jonathan Zdziarski, a computer security expert, characterized BleachBit as a fairly “amateur” tool that doesn’t raise any red flags.
  • He continued that “Someone trying to cover their tracks would likely pay for and use a much more expensive, specialized data destruction tool.”
  • “BleachBit is free of charge to use in any environment whether it is personal, commercial, educational, and government, and the cleaning process is not reversible,” according to BleachBit’s website.
  • Web address:

IBM cutting costs by deploying 100,000 Macs

  • At the JAMF Nation User Conference, IBM’s Fletcher Previn delivered an update on the company’s rollout of Macs internally.
  • In just over a year, IBM passed its original goal of deploying 50,000 Macs and is now at 90,000 internally. IBM plans to reach over 100,000 Macs by the end of the year and is now deploying 1300 a week on average.
  • Previn was speaking at the conference because IBM manages its fleet of Macs with Jamf’s software, a popular suite of tools for deploying and managing Macs and iOS devices.
  • He noted that Macs were helping it cut down on support employees needed. With cost of device, OS, support, resale value and deployment considered, IBM is saving a minimum of $265 per Mac on average versus a comparable PC:
  • And IBM employees are now overwhelmingly choosing Macs versus the competition.
  • Previn added that only around 3.5% of Mac users compared to 25% of PC users are currently calling the help desk, which is a major part of the reason the Mac deployment is significantly helping the company cut overall costs compared to PCs.

$7,500 IoT Botnet Available on the Dark Web

  • Hackers are selling access to a huge army of hacked Internet of Things (IoT) devices designed to launch attacks capable of severely disrupting web connections.
  • The finding was revealed days after compromised cameras and other IoT machines were used in an attack that took down Twitter, Amazon Web Services, Netflix, Spotify and other major web companies.
  • This is the first time security researchers have seen an IoT botnet up for rent or sale.
  • The seller claimed they could generate 1 terabit per second of traffic. That would almost equal the world record DDoS attack, which hit French hosting provider OVH earlier this month at just over 1 terabit.
  • For $4,600, anyone could buy 50,000 bots (hacked computers under the control of hackers), whilst 100,000 cost $7,500.

MIT’s Moral Machine and the Autonomous car

  • Self-driving cars have one major problem to deal with: who dies in a car crash? Does the car always, unequivocally, protect its passengers, or should it think about the best way to preserve humanity?
  • It’s a question that many organizations just don’t want to answer, with the US government’s new regulations on autonomous car tech avoiding the question of death entirely.
  • A new online activity from MIT known as the “Moral Machine”, you can solve the world’s problems through simple A or B choices.
  • Unfortunately, it’s not so straightforward: MIT’s online “game” isn’t about making obvious choices, but about making you question which option is morally right.
  • Would you kill the overweight occupants of a self-driving car if it meant saving the lives of three athletes?
  • What if the car was only going to hit one person walking four dogs, saving a mother and child in the process?
  • MIT’s 13 scenarios become increasingly distressing to choose between, drawing upon individual’s health, social class, profession and more.
  • In reality, there’s no right or wrong answer – highlighting just how tricky it is for a self-driving vehicle to decide who dies in any given situation.
  • MIT states that the goal of its little online activity is to “build a crowdsourced picture of human opinion on how machines should make decisions when faced with moral dilemmas”.
  • You’ll also receive a breakdown at the end of all the people and animals you chose to kill. This is then compared to other user’s choices, so you can see just how terrible a person you are.
  • Web address: