Show of 11-26-2016

Tech Talk

26 November, 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: Jacobus Cornelis Haartsen

  • Jacobus Cornelis Haartsen is a Dutch electrical engineer best known as the father of Bluetooth communication.
  • Jaap Haartsen was born 13 February 1963, in The Hague, Netherlands.
  • In 1986, he received an MSEE with honors from Delft University of Technology.
  • He worked briefly for Siemens in The Hague and Philips in Eindhoven.
  • In 1990, he received a PhD in EE from Delft University of Technology with honors.
  • His thesis dealt with the design of programmable filters in silicon surface acoustic wave devices.
  • In 1991, he was hired by Ericsson, working in Raleigh-Durham, NC. In 1993 he was transferred to the Ericsson Mobile Terminal Division in Lund, Sweden.
  • He was tasked with finding solutions for short-range (3m to 4m) radio connections to enrich mobile phone functionality. Cost and power were driving factors.
  • Because the frequency band was shared with many consumer devices, he initially decided to use frequency hopping. He already had a working solution in the 2.45 GHz range using frequency hopping communication.
  • Bluetooth devices change frequencies within the designated band, ‘hopping’ around on 79 frequencies 1,600 times each second.
  • While Dr. Haarsten was working initially alone, a team was quickly built. In 1995, he was joined by Sven Mattisson. The team eventually grew to 30 people.
  • The name in the initial development phases was MC (Multi-Communicator) Link.
  • By 1997, the team had a workable solution and Ericson realized that it needed to collaborate with other firms to ensure adoption.
  • In 1998, a Special Interest Group (SIG) was formed by five founding members: Ericsson, Nokia, Intel, Toshiba and IBM. Intel was selected as the lead.
  • Jim Kardach, representing Intel, suggested the name Bluetooth. Harold Bluetooth was a 10th century Danish king who united Denmark. The symbol is based on his initials.
  • The Bluetooth SIG has formed a patent pool for Bluetooth, defined the standard, provided licenses to manufacturers and examined devices for compliance.
  • Five patents, filed by Dr. Haartsen can be considered fundamental for the Bluetooth standard. In total, Dr. Haarsten has filed more than 200 patents. The SIG patent pool was essential for the early success of the technology.
  • In 1999, Bluetooth 1.0 was released.  In 2000, the first mobile phones with Bluetooth appeared, as did first PC cards and prototype mice, keyboards and USB dongles.
  • In 2001, the first Bluetooth-enabled printers, laptops, and car kits were introduced.
  • In 2011, the SIG had 15,000 member firms. Bluetooth V4.0 was released.
  • In 2010, he became CTO of Tonalite in the Netherlands, a company which creates wearable wireless products.
  • In 2012, he was hired by Plantronics as Senior Expert, Wireless Systems.

Food Science: Frozen Turkey

  • Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D. has a new way to roast your Thanksgiving turkey: put it in the oven frozen solid.
  • Snyder is the president of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul , Minnesota .
  • A common problem on Thanksgiving is waking up on Thanksgiving morning and realizing that the turkey has not been thawed, and there is not enough time to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator or in flowing water at 70ºF, which takes hours.
  • However, there is a very simple solution ? cook the entire turkey from the frozen state.
  • The FDA Food Code allows this. The HACCP-based procedure for cooking a 12-to-13-lb. frozen turkey is shown below.
    • Start 5 to 5 1/2 hours before you want to serve the cooked turkey. Set the oven temperature at 325ºF. It is much better that the turkey be done 30 minutes before mealtime than to rush and serve an undercooked turkey.
    • Remove the wrapping from the turkey and put the turkey on a rack on a pan that has been covered with foil to make cleaning easy.
    • In the first 2 to 2 1/2 hours, the legs and thighs get up to approximately 100ºF. The breast, about 1 inch into the flesh, is still at the soft ice point, about 25ºF. At this point, begin to monitor breast temperature.
    • After about 3 1/2 hours, the legs and thighs will be around 150 to 160ºF, and the breast, about 40 to 50ºF. The bag of heart, liver, etc. and the neck can be removed.
    • At 4 1/2 to 5 hours, the turkey is nicely cooked. Check the temperature. The leg and thigh should be tender and at a temperature of 175 to 185ºF, while the breast will be moist at a temperature of 160 to 170ºF.
  • Cooking a turkey from the frozen state has benefits over cooking a thawed turkey.
    • If one thaws a turkey in a home refrigerator, there is a significant risk of raw juice with pathogens at high levels getting on refrigerator surfaces, other foods in the refrigerator, countertops, and sink, thus creating a hazard and a need for extensive cleaning and sanitizing.
    • The second benefit is that, because the breast has greater mass, it takes longer to thaw. Therefore, the thigh and leg are well cooked and tender, while the breast is not overcooked and dried out. The breast will cook to a juicy 160-to-165ºF endpoint without difficulty.

Food Science: Gravy without Lumps

  • Grains have both starch and protein. Starch provides food when the seed begins to grow. If you remove the protein from corn flour, for instance, you get corn starch. Most sauces and gravies are thickened with some kind of starch. The most common are flour and cornstarch, though potato starch, arrowroot and tapioca flour also work well. When starch is in liquid it gels around 130-160 F. The transition is dramatic. The key is to manage this gelling process to keep from getting lumps.
  • If you attempt to thicken a pan sauce or gravy by simply stirring flour into the simmering liquid, you will inevitably end up with lumps. This is because the starch around each lump of flour expands rapidly when it comes into contact with hot liquid, forming a sort of waterproof gel that prevents the granules from separating properly. The same is true for any other starch.
  • To prevent this, you need to separate the granules before adding them to the sauce so that they can slowly disperse and expand to create the desired thickening effect.
  • You can accomplish this in several ways. The first is to use what’s called a roux. Made from a mixture of fat — either pan drippings or butter — and flour, a roux is slowly cooked on its own before it is added to the sauce. The fat helps the starch to expand and separate, and it lubricates it so it can be smoothly incorporated into the liquid. A roux should be cooked, then cooled slightly, then whisked into the sauce when you’re ready to thicken it. The precooking also eliminates the unpleasant raw-flour taste that sometimes occurs if a sauce isn’t simmered long enough.
  • Another method is to use kneaded butter. This is essentially the same as a roux, only the flour is worked into the butter by hand or with a fork, then formed into small balls and added, uncooked, to a sauce.
  • If you want a medium-thick sauce or gravy, you should add about 2 tablespoons of flour per cup of liquid. If you’re using cornstarch, use 2 to 2 ½ teaspoons per cup.