Show of 01-14-2017

Tech Talk

January 14, 2017

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Mike in Maryland: Hello Mr. Big Voice, I’m not sure, but I think one of your employees, Richard just brought a new TV. What is Richard and Jim thoughts on Calibration of a TV? Is calibrating the sound also part of the process? Is calibrating a TV even a real service, or is calibrating just someone try to take our money? Is the Average viewer even going to notice a difference? With our diminishing vision and hearing senses, will us Senior Citizens even notice a difference in sound or picture quality? I Love your podcast. Oh, P.S. Is Mrs. Momma Big Voice single ? Thanks, Mike from Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: In many cases, if someone isn’t familiar with what a calibrated TV looks like, they’re probably not going to like it. A correctly calibrated TV will appear, to the uninitiated, as reddish and soft. This is because the accurate color temperature is far warmer (redder) than how most TVs look out of the box. Proper calibration is a color temperature of 6500K. The sharpness control–often set very high–adds an artificial edge to everything. This artificial edge enhancement masks real detail, but when you take it away, the image appears soft (even though it’s actually showing more fine detail).
  • With calibration you’re getting a trained professional to check over your TV’s settings and setup, and a fine tuning of its color temperature to be more accurate. The cost of this varies, but a few hundred bucks is common. The result is that the TV performs and looks the best it possibly can.
  • Is this worth it for you? I can see both sides of this, though it’s hard for me to be unbiased, as I can calibrate my own TV. On one hand, and this is despite what proponents of calibration tell you, the difference between most TVs calibrated and uncalibrated isn’t huge. If you put the TV in the “warm,” “low,” or in some cases “medium” color temperature and it’s going to be fairly close to accurate. For many people, this “close enough” is more than adequate.
  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz, Is there anything individuals can do re DNS-based Blackhole List (DNSBL) or Real-time Blackhole List (RBL) to protect themselves on the net? Or is this above the private internet user’s capability? Many thanks. Great show with lots of good info. Arnie, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: A DNS-based Blackhole List (DNSBL) or Real-time Blackhole List (RBL) is an effort to stop email spamming. It is a “blacklist” of locations on the Internet reputed to send email spam. The locations consist of IP addresses which are most often used to publish the addresses of computers or networks linked to spamming; most mail server software can be configured to reject or flag messages which have been sent from a site listed on one or more such lists. The term “Blackhole List” is sometimes interchanged with the term “blacklist” and “blocklist”.
  • This used of this blacklist is performed by a Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) and hence must be configured by your email provider. You cannot configure this at the client level. At Stratford, we have spam filters that utilized these lists, but they are implemented using our mail server software. Program like Gmail do an excellent of spam protection because the data is crowd sourced, which is actually better than blacklists.
  • Email from Carl Tyler: Dear Dr. Shurtz: My cell phone contract with Verizon Wireless will be ending around the first of February. I have a iPhone 6. What are my options with Verizon Wireless if I want to stay with them and with the same amount of data? What happens if I don’t do anything? Do I have to call them or visit one of their stores at the end of my contract? What happens to my old phone if I want a new one? My wife and I are on the “More Everything” plan and her phone is also in my name. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks for the great podcast. Never miss it. Carl Tyler
  • Tech Talk Responds: You are grandfathered in with your plan. You can change your data plan by either calling Verizon or logging into your account. If you do nothing, the data plan stays the same. It you opt out of this plan, you may get data at a lower rate, but not much lower. If you don’t upgrade you phone every two years, you make want a plan without a contract. The contract includes about $20/month to cover the free phone every two years ($480 plus the $100 charge). You might consider Walmart’s Straight Talk, as an option. The specific answer to your question depends on your data usage. If you are a high data user, greater than 8GB per month, you might consider changing to get a lower data rate. Verizon has a great FAQ on their website to help you decide.
  • Follow up answer for Richard in Kilmarnock, VA: Does HDMI support 4K video? Richard in Kilmarnock, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: The HDMI protocol supports 4K video. The only issue may be the HDMI cables if the run length is too long. Be wary of cheap cables. They may not be able to carry the high data rate. But cable failure is rare. And the very expensive cables are a rip-off.
  • Email from Wendy in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. How can I control my TV with my Amazon Echo? Love the show. Wendy in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can use Amazon Echo to control a Logitech Harmony Hub. I’ve been using the Harmony device for years. In January 2017, Logitech enhanced the skill that integrates the two devices. The Echo’s Harmony integration isn’t all-powerful, but it’s capabilities are continuously growing. It can control “activities” that you have set up on your Harmony Hub, which means it can turn any number of devices on and off. Alexa can also adjust the volume, play or pause whatever you’re watching, set a sleep timer, and even switch to specific channels (either when viewing live TV or using Roku).
  • Once that’s done, you’ll need to install the Harmony Alexa skill, which you can do within the Alexa app. We have a guide that shows you how to install Alexa skills (as well as some useful ones you should try out), but the gist of it is this: open the Alexa app, tap on the sidebar menu button in the top-left corner of the screen, select “Skills”, search for a skill, and then tap on “Enable Skill” to install it. Keep in mind that there are two Harmony Alexa skills to choose from. You’ll need to install the newer one with the red logo.


Profiles in IT: Chris Lattner

  • Chris Lattner is an American software developer, best known as the main author of LLVM and the programming language Swift.
  • Chris Lattner was born in 1978.
  • Chris received a BS in Computer Science from the University of Portland in 2000
  • While in Oregon, he worked as an operating system developer, enhancing Sequent Computer Systems’ DYNIX (dynamic Unix) operating system.
  • He received an MS in 2002 and a PhD in 2005 from the University of Illinois.
  • He was a competitive fencer and was president of the University of Illinois Classical Fencing club.
  • While at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he designed and began implementing LLVM (low level virtual machine), an innovative infrastructure for optimizing compilers, which was the subject of his Master’s thesis.
  • His PhD explored new techniques for optimizing pointer-intensive programs and adding them to LLVM.
  • In 2005, Apple Inc. hired Lattner to begin work bringing LLVM to production quality for use in Apple products.
  • Lattner built out the technology, personally implementing many major new features in LLVM, formed and built a team of LLVM developers at Apple.
  • Apple first shipped LLVM-based technology in the OpenGL stack as a just-in-time (JIT) compiler, shipped the llvm-gcc compiler and Clang compiler in later releases.
  • LLVM technologies are the core of Apple’s developer tools and the default toolchain on FreeBSD.
  • Lattner began developing Swift in 2010. Swift is an open source programming language with first-class functions for iOS and macOS development, created by Apple and introduced at Apple’s developer conference in 2014.
  • Swift is designed to coexist with the aging Objective-C, the object-oriented programming language formerly preferred by Apple, and to be more resilient against erroneous code. It is built with the LLVM compiler.
  • In January 2017, Chris Lattner announced he will be leaving Apple and will lead Tesla’s autopilot engineering team as Vice President of Autopilot Software.
  • He is leaving Swift in an excellent position and has set up an outstanding structure where Swift is driving by many individuals.
  • He is married to compiler engineer Tanya Lattner, who has been serving as president of the LLVM Foundation since 2015.
  • He enjoys woodworking, downhill skiing, swimming, and walking our dogs.
  • His homepage:

Inauguration Winner: Airbnb

  • The number of Airbnb guests for this year’s presidential inauguration is more than 75 times the number booked during the 2009 inauguration, when Airbnb was just a 1-year-old company.
  • Tens of thousands of travelers are expected to descend on Washington, DC, next week to see Donald Trump get sworn into office on January 20 or to attend the Women’s March on Washington on January 21. Many of these people are opting to stay in Airbnb rentals.
  • The home-rental company says more than 15,100 people will be staying in more than 5,200 houses, apartments and rooms booked thus far through its service in the DC area between January 19 and 21. That’s an increase of 235 percent from the previous week.
  • Venture-backed Airbnb is valued at $30 billion, which is almost $7 billion more than publicly traded hospitality chain Hilton Worldwide and $23 billion more than Hyatt.

Net neutrality threatened under Trump

  • The FCC is led by five commissioners, with three seats typically representing the party of the President in office.
  • President-elect Trump, an opponent of network neutrality. The new Commission will likely be to reverse the network neutrality rules that were finalized in 2015.
  • Current Federal network neutrality policy prevents Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon from charging websites like Netflix and Facebook a fee to reach Internet users at faster speeds.
  • Without network neutrality, internet providers will be able to create a two-way toll, charging subscribers to access the Internet (which it already does) as well as charging websites for prioritized access to reach their users.
  • Trump hasn’t named his pick for FCC chief yet, but the two advisers the president-elect appointed for his transition team, Jeff Eisenach and Mark Jamison, are both fierce opponents of network neutrality.
  • Popular websites vocally supported the FCC’s move to instate network neutrality rules, including Netflix, Google and Twitter.

Congress Will Consider Proposal To Raise H-1B Minimum Wage

  • Trump has promised big changes to the US immigration system.
  • The H-1B Visa program, which allows foreign workers to fill technology jobs, is a particular focus.
  • One major change to that system is already under discussion: making it harder for companies to use H-1B workers to replace Americans by simply giving the foreign workers a raise.
  • The “Protect and Grow American Jobs Act,” introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Scott Peters, D-Calif., would raise the wages of workers who get H-1B visas.
  • If the bill becomes law, the minimum wage paid to H-1B workers would rise to at least $100,000 annually, and be adjusted it for inflation.
  • Right now, the minimum is $60,000. The sponsors say that would go a long way toward fixing some of the abuses of the H-1B program, which critics say is currently used to replace American workers.
  • In 2013, the top nine companies acquiring H-1B visas were technology outsourcing firms, according to an analysis by a critic of the H-1B program.
  • The H-1B program offers 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have advanced degrees from a US university or college.