Show of 02-11-2017

Tech Talk

February 11, 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: William Shockley

  • Sixty years ago scientists at Bell Labs scientists built the world’s first transistor and nothing has been the same since.
  • The team was led by William Shockley. The three individuals credited with the invention of the transistor were: William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain
  • William Shockley was raised in Palo Alto. He did his undergraduate work at the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) in Pasadena and went on for his Ph.D. in physics at M.I.T. Specializing in quantum physics, he went to work for Bell Labs.
  • The transistor was successfully demonstrated on December 16, 1947 at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Sixty years ago.
    • Shockley had been working on the theory of such a device for more than ten years.
    • While he could work out the theory successfully but after eight years of trying he could not build a working model.
    • Bardeen and Brattain were called in to handle the engineering and development, which they did in the relatively short time of two years.
    • Shockley, as their supervisor, shared in the glory. What Bardeen and Brattain had created was the “contact” transistor.
    • The early radios had signal detectors which consisted of a fine wire, called a cat’s whisker, impinging upon a galena (lead sulfide) crystal.
    • Bardeen and Brattain used germanium instead of galena in that first transistor. They also used the equivalent of cat’s whiskers, but two rather than one.
  • Shockley subsequently designed a new type of transistor called the ”bipolar” transistor which was superior to the point- contact type and replaced it.
  • Thus the transistor was, in large part, Shockley’s creation.
  • The name transistor coined by John R. Pierce. It was formed by combining the words transconductance and varistor.
  • Texas Instruments started commercial production of junction transistors for portable radios in 1954. Sony produced the first transistor television.
  • In 1956 Shockley returned to Palo Alto to founded his own company. He brought talented engineers and scientists to his company but he was a very difficult person to work with and seemed to have bizarre notion of how to manage an enterprise.
    • For one thing, he insisted upon posting of the salaries of all the employees.
    • Ultimately the top staff joined together in leaving the company. They wanted to continue to work together in another company and Steven Fairchild of Fairchild Camera was induced to create Fairchild Semiconductor for the group.
  • In 1958 and 1959, Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce at Fairchild Camera, invented integrated.
  • In 1968, Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore left Fairchild Semiconductor to create their own company, Intel. Intel developed the first CPU in a chip in 1971 with 2,300 transistors.

What is USB?

  • USB stands for Universal Serial Bus
  • Consists of host controller and multiple daisy-chained devices.
  • Supports up to 127 devices per host
  • Dominant standards and speeds
    • USB 1.1 – 5 Mbit/s
    • USB 2.0 Full Speed – 12 Mbit/s
    • USB 2.0 High Speed – 480 Mbit/s
  • USB can also provide device power in addition to supporting data transfer
  • Used for printers, web cams, digital camera, keyboards, mice, thumb drives

Wacky Devices for the Geek

Martian South Pole Probed

  • The findings were presented this week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas.
  • The Mars Express probe used its radar instrument to map the thickness of Mars’ south polar layered deposits.
  • Enough water is locked up at Mars’ south pole to cover the planet in 36 ft of water
  • Based upon data from the Mariner and Viking projects, the polar layered deposits were considered to be accumulations of dust and ice.
  • The Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (Marsis) consists of two 20m-long (65ft) hollow fiberglass “dipole” booms to make a primary antenna.
  • It sends out pulses of radio waves from the antenna to the planet’s surface and analyses the time delay and strength of the waves that return.
  • The radar was successfully deployed in June 2005, after a delay of more than a year amid concerns that the booms might swing back and damage the spacecraft.

Martian Caves Revealed

  • Details were presented here at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas.
  • Scientists studying pictures from NASA’s Odyssey spacecraft have spotted what they think may be seven caves on the surface of Mars.
  • The candidate caves are on the flanks of the Arsia Mons volcano and are of sufficient depth their floors mostly cannot be seen through the opening.
  • Temperature data from Mars Odyssey’s Themis instrument support the idea.
  • The authors say that the possible discovery of caves on the Red Planet is significant.
  • The caves may be the only natural structures capable of protecting primitive life forms from micrometeoroids, UV radiation, solar flares and high energy particles that bombard the planet’s surface.
  • The researchers describe the candidate caves as “seven sisters”
  • The cave entrances are between 100m and 252m wide (330-828ft).
  • Mars Odyssey was launched in April 2001 to hunt for past or present water on the Red Planet.
  • Its Themis (Thermal Emission Imaging System) instrument uses the visible and infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum to measure the temperature properties of the Martian surface.