Show of 12-10-2016

Tech Talk

December 10, 2016

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz. This is a bit of interesting news. Some cheap US Android smartphone secretly are sending personal data to China every 72 hours. Now what does China do with all the calls/data? Arnie, Colorado Springs, CO.
  • Tech Talk Responds: This feature was first discovered on the Android BLU R1 HD that sells for just $50. The firmware was created by Shanghai Adups Technology Company. The company has confirmed that code written by their company runs on more than 700 million devices thanks to their partnership with two of the largest cellphone manufacturers in the world, ZTE and Huawei.
  • BLU Products in the process of removing the firmware from their devices to correct the problem. They were not aware of the data collection activity. In addition, Adups assured BLU products that the collected data has been destroyed.
  • Adups released a document claiming that an unidentified Chinese manufacturer asked for the code to be written so that they may store call logs, text messages, and other data which could then be used for “customer support.” However, many believe the data is being collected for marketing purposes. American officials are investigating to determine whether or not the Chinese government was involved in any way.
  • Email from Mike in Maryland: Hello “Classroom of the Airways”, I usually work Saturdays and try to enjoy your show at a later time. March 2016, I sent an e-mail to you asking how I could watch a Recorded Video of the show. With enthusiasm, I even set up my VCR! With no help on your end, I only hear Jim keep Chirping about Periscope-Live. Periscope-Live does not work for me as I need to focus on my work. Imagine my shock when, by accident, I discovered Recorded Video versions of Periscope! What’s up with that? We are not receiving the full package experience. I want my money back! Love your show, Mike from Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can listen to recorded Periscope shows. Simply go to this link ( Sorry for not letting anyone know. Thanks for listening.
  • Email from Valerie in Occoquan: Dear Doc and Jim. I would love to learn how to use Linux, but don’t want to devote a computer to it. How can I create a bootable Linux USB Flash Drive to play this operating system? Love the show. Valerie in Occoquan.
  • Tech Talk Responds: A bootable USB drive is the best way to install or try Linux. But most Linux distributions, like Ubuntu, only offer an ISO disc image file for download. I assume that you want an installation with persistence, one that will remember any changes that you make during the session.
  • You’ll need a large enough USB drive to set up persistence. Ubuntu itself claims it needs 2 GB of storage on the USB drive, and you’ll also need extra space for the persistent storage. So, if you have a 4 GB USB drive, you can only have 2 GB of persistent storage. To have the maximum amount of persistent storage, you’ll need a USB drive of at least 6 GB in size.
  • You will need to download an ISO file to do this, which can be downloaded from the Ubuntu download page. By the way, an ISO Image is a file saved using the ISO-9660 format. ISO stands for International Standards Organization. You’ll need a third-party tool to turn that ISO file into a bootable USB drive.
  • Now download Linux Live USB Creator (
  • Insert the USB drive you want to use into your computer’s USB port and launch the LiLi USB Creator application.
  • You simply select the USB drive you want to use, the ISO source file, how much space you want to assign to persistence (at least 2 GB). Then hit create. When the process is done, you’ll see a “Your LinuxLive key is now up and ready!” message.
  • You can now either reboot your computer and boot from the USB drive or unplug the USB drive, take it to another computer, and boot it there.
  • Email from Wendy in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. I have started buying many products online, especially from Amazon. I tend to rely on the reviews, but recently I have heard that companies pay for fake reviews. How can I tell if a review is fake? Love the show. Wendy in Fairfax.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You are right, many reviews are fake. Companies have been known to hire fake reviewers to praise products and boost sales. If you’re browsing Amazon or Yelp, and suspect the reviews you’re seeing are fake, there’s a quick way to support your suspicion: ( This site analyzes the comments and works out whether the reviews are likely to be fake.
  • Copy the product URL form any Amazon or Yelp page you think has suspicious review. The site will scan all the reviews and give you an adjusted rating, with reviews that are likely fake removed.
  • Fakespot scans the language used in every review, and also checks the profile of every reviewer, then uses a number of factors to decide whether a given review is likely to be fake or not. This site is quick and easy to use. I highly recommend it.
  • Email from Frank in Fredericksburg: Dear Tech Talk. I have been using a PIN on my computer. How can a PIN be as secure as a password? It is only four digits long. I am confused. Enjoy the podcast. Frank in Fredericksburg.
  • Tech Talk Responds: On the surface, signing in to Windows using a PIN feels less secure than a traditional password. It’s possible that it might actually be more secure.
  • The single biggest difference between using a PIN and a Microsoft account password to sign in to your machine is that the PIN only works on the specific machine for which you set it up.
  • What that means is that even if someone knows your PIN, the only thing they’ll have access to immediately is your machine.
  • Keyloggers are a form of malware that, when installed on your machine, secretly record your keystrokes and send the recording to hackers elsewhere on the internet.
  • They can record a PIN sign-in all they like, and it won’t get them anything. The PIN only works on your machine. Even if you use it to log in to your Microsoft account on your machine, that PIN is completely useless everywhere else.


Profiles in IT: Edgar Frank “Ted Codd

  • Edgar Frank “Ted” Codd was computer scientist who is best known for inventing relational model for database management, the theoretical basis for relational databases.
  • Codd was born on August 19, 1923, on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, England.
  • He attended Poole Grammar School and studied math and chemistry at Exeter College in Oxford.
  • He served as a pilot in the RAF Coastal Command during the Second World War.
  • In 1948, he moved to New York to work for IBM as a mathematical programmer.
  • In 1953, angered by Senator Joseph McCarthy, Codd moved to Ottawa, Canada.
  • In 1957 he returned to the US working for IBM.
  • Codd received a PhD in 1965 from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His thesis was about self-replication in cellular automata, extending on work of von Neumann and showing that a set of eight states was sufficient for universal computation.
  • In 1967, he moved to San Jose, CA, to work at IBM’s San Jose Research Laboratory.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s he worked out his theories of data arrangement, issuing his paper “A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks” in 1970.
  • Initially, IBM refused to implement the relational model to preserve revenue from IMS/DB. Codd then showed IBM customers the potential of the implementation of its model, and they in turn pressured IBM.
  • IBM finally included it in its Future Systems project, but assigned it to developers who were not thoroughly familiar with Codd’s ideas and isolated them from Codd.
  • They did not use Codd’s Alpha language but created a non-relational one, SEQUEL.
  • After SEQUEL was presented at conference, SEQUEL was copied in 1979 by Larry Ellison for his Oracle Database. The name was from SEQUEL to SQL because of trademarking. Oracle reached the market before IBM with the product.
  • He was appointed IBM Fellow in 1976 and continued to develop and extend his relational model, sometimes in collaboration with Christopher J. Date.
  • As the relational model started to become fashionable in the early 1980s, Codd fought a sometimes bitter campaign to prevent the term being misused by database vendors.
  • He published his 12 rules to define what constituted a relational database. This made his position in IBM difficult, so he left to form his own consulting company.
  • During the 1990s, his health deteriorated and he ceased work.
  • In 2004, SIGMOD renamed its highest prize to the SIGMOD Edgar F. Codd Innovations Award, in his honor.
  • Codd received the Turing Award in 1981, and in 1994 he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery.
  • Codd died of heart failure in Williams Island, FL, at the age of 79 on 18 April 2003



Amazon Go and the Future of Work

  • Amazon has created a small Seattle grocery store that allows customers to just take what they want off the shelves and leave, without having to wait in line or check out with a cashier.
  • In addition to traditional grocery items, Amazon Go will also feature meal kits with fresh ingredients to be prepared at home.
  • For now, the 1,800 square foot Amazon Go store is only open to Amazon employees, but the company plans to open the doors to the public in early 2017.
  • The company didn’t announce further expansion plans. Earlier this year, Business Insider reported that Amazon was planning a grocery store pilot program, and may ultimately aim for 2,000 markets around the US in the next decade. They may very well have been talking about Amazon Go plans.
  • When you enter the store, you start up the Amazon Go app on your smartphone. The store then uses a lot of cameras and LIDAR sensors (lasers) to track everything you do once inside the store. As well, through “deep learning,” sensors are trained to detect very specific movements and variations in weight, so that you can grab a cupcake from a shelf, and the store knows exactly what you took, and whether or not you put it back a second later.
  • What about the cashiers? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cashiering is the second most-common occupation in the United States, with 3.5 million employed.
  • A 2013 study found that 47% of American workers had jobs considered a “high risk” for potential automation. This includes not just the more obvious categories, like truck drivers, manufacturers or cashiers, but some occupations thought to be a bit safer and more insulated, such as accountants, architects and management.
  • Lawmakers have started to pay attention to the issue as well.

Michigan is First State to Pass Comprehensive Self-driving Regulations

  • Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed four bills into law on December 9, 2016, that would create the first comprehensive statewide self-driving regulations in the U.S.
  • One of the bills shows that only motor vehicle manufacturers are allowed to operate an on-demand network of self-driving cars.
  • That means Apple, Uber and Google, can’t launch an Uber for self-driving cars in Michigan unless the companies work with traditional automakers.
  • According to MDOT Intelligent Transportation Systems program manager Matt Smith, non-traditional automakers like Google, Uber, and Apple will be allowed to test and deploy their vehicles on public roads if the companies either work with a motor vehicle manufacturer to develop and produce those cars or get their vehicle or prototype approved by NHTSA.
  • Under the new laws, which go into effect immediately, MDOT will require automakers that are operating a ride-hail network to take full liability for accidents in which the vehicle was driving itself and was found at fault.

Russia Hacking and Politics

  • American intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and promote Donald J. Trump, according to Obama officials.
  • The Obama administration contends that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.
  • In the months before the election, it was largely documents from Democratic Party systems that were leaked to the public. Intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russians gave the Democrats’ documents to WikiLeaks.
  • Officials from the Republican committee have consistently said that their networks were not compromised.
  • One senior government official, who had been briefed on an FBI investigation into the matter, said that while there were attempts to penetrate the Republican committee’s systems, they were not successful.
  • Many believe that the primary motive of the Russians was to simply disrupt the campaign and undercut confidence in the integrity of the vote.
  • Intelligence officials and private cybersecurity companies believe that the Democratic National Committee was hacked by two different Russian cyberunits. One, called “Cozy Bear” or “APT 29” by some Western security experts, is believed to have spent months inside the D.N.C. computer network, as well as other government and political institutions, but never made public any of the documents it took.
  • APT stands for “Advanced Persistent Threat,” which usually describes a sophisticated state-sponsored cyber intruder.
  • The other, the G.R.U.-controlled unit known as “Fancy Bear,” or “APT 28,” is believed to have created two outlets on the internet, Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, to make Democratic documents public.