Show of 03-11-2017

Tech Talk

March 11, 2017

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Doug in Baton Rouge: Dear Dr. Shurtz and Jim (Hey, to Mr. Big Voice also). There is a problem with my Lenovo Tablet. I get messages that the memory is just about out of space. The tablet is used for listening to podcast, keeping up-to-date with my emails and some online browsing only. It is NOT used for games, music, watching movies, downloads (other than system updates), pictures or any other purposes. I have gone into the settings and FORCED STOPPED some of the applications and deleted other items. Any Google applications / updates on such files are now being denied. Also, the FILE MANAGER is used to CLEAN out any accumulated “junk” that winds up stored on the tablet. But it is to no avail. The out-of-memory messages are still there and the table is sluggish. Long-ago, I inserted an 8-GB SD card, but it is not being used by the system very much. I am not sure how to get the tablet to use the SD for system memory that it needs. Then, I see something in the system called “USB STORAGE” which, again, I am not how it is used. The memory usage in both the USB and SD card is underutilized while the SYSTEM MEMORY is bloated. WHAT IS GOING ON???? How do I get things back to “normal” so that I can us it again without memory shortages? I see in the system settings a FACTORY RESET button and I am just about ready to click it and start over; but I want to see if you can help first. Thanks – Doug / Baton Rouge, LA
  • Tech Talk Responds: I assume that you tablet is an Android tablet. The internal storage is quite small of some devices forcing users to uninstall apps to keep from running out of space. By default, Android apps install to your phone’s internal storage, which can be quite small. If you have an SD card, you can set it as the default install location for some apps, thus freeing up space for more apps than you would have otherwise been able to install. You can also move almost any currently installed app to the SD card. There are a few different ways to do this, and which you use depends on your version of Android and which apps you want to move. Android 6.0 Marshmallow lets you “adopt” your SD card as internal storage, automatically installing allowed apps to the SD card. Some pre-Marshmallow devices may let you move apps manually, but only if the developer allows it.
  • Email from Mike in Maryland: Hello Mr.Big Voice, Last week I wrote in asking your team about cellphone service. I want to know if “Locked-in contract customers” receive a better voice connection verses “Non-contract customers”. I am a AT&T non-contract customer. Some days my voice quality is great, but some days the voice quality is terrible. I do not want to be Locked into a contract, but if it improves the quality if my calls, I would consider it. I listened to last week’s Podcast several times, but I did not understand the specific answer. Yes or No. Your employee Richard did go into detail, but I usually fall asleep, when Richard talks! Oh, P.S. Your employee Jim is trying to set me up on a date with your Aunt. Or is Jim just setting me up for trouble? Thanks from a dedicated listener, Mike from Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: Pre-paid accounts are cheaper than post-paid accounts. You do not get a subsidized phone, but the costs overtime are about 50% of the post-paid account. According to AT&T, pre-paid accounts use the same network and towers as those on the traditional plans. However, prepaid customers aren’t given priority. That means that during peak times, pre-paid customers may experience slower data speeds than those on a regular plan. In other words, they have not scaled the network to handle the peak for these devices.
  • Email from Roger in Washington: Dear Doc and Jim. I recently had a company check my house for thermal leaks. They used a thermal imager. How does thermal imaging work? Where can I get one? Enjoy the podcast. Roger in Washington
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thermal imaging is used in all sorts of different scenarios—utility and energy companies use it to see where a house might be losing heat through door and window cracks. Police helicopters use it to locate suspects at night. Weather stations use it to track storms and hurricanes. It’s used in the medical field to diagnose different disorders and diseases.
  • In the most basic of terms, thermal imaging allows you too see an object’s heat radiating off itself. Thermal cameras more or less record the temperature of various objects in the frame, and then assign each temperature a shade of a color, which lets you see how much heat its radiating compared to objects around it.
  • Colder temperatures are often given a shade of blue, purple, or green, while warmer temperatures can be assigned a shade of red, orange, or yellow. Some thermal cameras use a grayscale instead. Police helicopters, for instance, use a greyscale to make suspects stand out.
  • Thermal cameras detect temperature by recognizing and capturing different levels of infrared light. All objects emit some kind of infrared radiation. The hotter an object is, the more infrared radiation it produces. Thermal cameras can see this radiation and convert it to an image that we can then see with our eyes, much like how a night vision camera can capture invisible infrared light and convert it to an image that our eyes can see. Inside of a thermal camera, there are a bunch of tiny measuring devices that capture infrared radiation, called microbolometers, and each pixel has one. From there, the microbolometer records the temperature and then assigns that pixel to an appropriate color. Most thermal cameras have an low resolution compared to modern TVs and

Profiles in IT: John Bannister Goodenough

  • John Bannister Goodenough is an American physicist widely credited with the development of the Li-ion rechargeable battery. Originally suggested by Arnie
  • Goodenough was born July 25, 1922 in Jena, Germany.
  • John Goodenough grew up in near New Haven, Connecticut, where his father, Erwin, was a scholar on the history of religion at Yale. His mother never wanted him.
  • When John was 12, he was sent on scholarship at Groton, a private boarding school in Massachusetts, and rarely heard from his parents again.
  • Suffering from dyslexia, Goodenough could not read at Groton, understand his lessons, or keep up in the chapel. Somehow everything finally came together.
  • He received a BS in Mathematics, summa cum laude, from Yale University in 1944.
  • After World War II, educators stumbled on unspent budget money and used it to send 21 returning Army officers through graduate studies in physics and math.
  • He was sent to the University of Chicago, home Edward Teller and Enrico Fermi. He completed his MS (1951) and PhD in Physics (1952) at the University of Chicago.
  • In 1952, he went to work at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, where he helped develop the ferrimagnetic memory cores for the first random-access memory (RAM.
  • In 1976, he continued his career as head of the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory at Oxford University, where he identified and developed LixCoO2 as the cathode material of choice for the Li-ion rechargeable battery.
  • In 1982, Mike Thackeray, a post-doc working under Goodenough, had created a manganese spinel cathode that was cheaper and safer than cobalt oxide.
  • Oxford had declined to patent the cathode. In the end, Goodenough signed away the royalty rights to the Atomic Energy Research Establishment
  • In 1991, Sony combined his cathode and a carbon anode into the world’s first commercial rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
  • In 1986, he became a Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. His group has identified LixFePO4 as a less costly cathode material safe for Hybrid vehicles. This was his third commercially viable cathode material.
  • Nippon Telegraph and Telephone stole the idea and tried to patent it. This led to $500M lawsuit. UT settled for $30M, and again Goodenough got nothing.
  • In March 2017, Goodenough announced a low-cost solid-state battery.
  • They used fiberglass sheets as the electrolyte matrix, and electroplated them with metallic Na (Li) as the anode. They pack the remaining cavities with carbon.
  • The new battery is will not form dendrites (which cause explosions), charges in minutes, has triple the capacity, and double the recycle times.
  • The team is looking to pair up with battery makers to scale the technology.
  • He received the prestigious Japan Prize in 2001 and the Presidential Enrico Fermi Award in 2009.

WikiLeaks says it releases files on CIA cyber spying tools

  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published thousands of pages of internal CIA discussions about hacking techniques used over several years.
  • Discussion transcripts showed that CIA hackers could get into Apple Inc iPhones, Google Inc Android devices and other gadgets in order to capture text and voice messages before they were encrypted with sophisticated software.
  • The materials, dated between 2013 and 2016, appeared to be legitimate according to several security experts.
  • The documents showed that the CIA was been able to bypass the encryption on popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.
  • There 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments.
  • It show a number of Day Zero operating system exploits that they have been hoarding.
  • One of the most significant disclosures shows how CIA hackers cover their tracks by leaving electronic trails suggesting they are from Russia, China and Iran rather than the United States. However, this may be misinformation planted by Russia.
  • In one case, U.S. and British personnel, under a program known as Weeping Angel, developed ways to take over a Samsung smart television, making it appear it was off when in fact it was recording conversations in the room.
  • The documents referred to means for accessing phones directly in order to catch messages before they are protected by end-to-end encryption tools like Signal.
  • The documents only include snippets of computer code, not the full programs that would be needed to conduct cyber exploits.
  • WikiLeaks said it was refraining from disclosing usable code from CIA’s cyber arsenal until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the C.I.A.’s program and how such ‘weapons’ should be analyzed, disarmed and published.
  • S. intelligence agencies have said that Wikileaks has ties to Russia’s security services. WikiLeaks has denied ties to Russian spy agencies.
  • The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.
  • Link to WikiLeaks Vault 7:

The iPhone’s Magnifying Glass Mode

  • A little known feature of Apple’s flagship device means users now have a magnifying glass in their back pocket.
  • It’s easy to access it, all you need to do is turn the magnifier on via the Settings menu.
  • Here’s how to do it:
    • Go to Settings > General> Accessibility
    • Click on Magnifer and flick it to on
    • Access the magnifying glass mode by triple clicking the Home button
  • You can then zoom in and out on objects, change the brightness and add different colour filters. Exit the magnifying mode by pressing the home button again.
  • The feature was designed to help people with vision impairments, helping them to read smaller labels more easily.
  • The feature was rolled out with Apple’s iOS 10 release.

Dumb Idea of the Week: Cybersecurity Perfume

  • Kaspersky is a company that creates software to protect homes and businesses from viruses and internet threats and now they will also be making perfume.
  • The company is partnered with Scarlett London, a well-known fashion and lifestyle blogger based in the U.K.
  • Together, they have created a dialogue around the importance of cybersecurity and just how devastating a cyberattack can be for those who are not properly protected.
  • Threat de Toilette, the perfume line, is supposed to serve as a symbolic, physical reminder that you need to protect yourself online. Kaspersky claims that the scents smell ‘like fear,’ not in actuality, but in an effort to make people aware of cybersecurity risks.
  • That being said, they didn’t provide a solid description of what the perfumes smell like.
  • “Fear is no longer felt only in the physical world – it’s all around us in our connected lives too and we need to make sure we’re constantly protected,” Kaspersky’s principal security researcher, David Emm, said about the perfume.
  • “The men and women who wear Threat de Toilette understand today’s online threats and protect themselves against them.”
  • The Register also reports that Threat de Toilette comes in multiple different scents, such as Social Enginoir, Mal-wear and Phish.

IBM Improves Speech Recognition Accuracy

  • IBM says it’s achieved a 5.5 percent word error rate, down from its previous record of 6.9 percent.
  • Microsoft claimed to reach a 5.9 percent word error rate last October using neural language models resembling associative word clouds. At the time, the company believed 5.9 percent was equivalent to human parity.
  • However, IBM believes that human speech recognition is actually 5.1 percent.
  • IBM reached the 5.5 percent milestone by combining so-called Long Short-Term Memory, an artificial neural network, and WaveNet language models with three strong acoustic models.
  • It was then measured using a collection of telephone conversations that’s been used as a benchmark for speech recognition software for decades.

Google’s Sues Uber over Self-Driving Technology

  • The biggest challenge in building an autonomous vehicle is giving the car the ability to see the world.
  • It requires a thorough understanding of LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging), the radar-like system of lasers that creates the digital map each car needs to navigate the world safely and competently.
  • Mastering LIDAR is essential to the technological and commercial success of self-driving cars.
  • Most automakers are still figuring out how to make it robust enough for automobiles, and cheap enough for consumers.
  • Waymo, Google’s self-driving car outfit, says hundreds of its engineers spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars perfecting the company’s LIDAR. And it accuses Uber of stealing its work.
  • In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Waymo claims former Google employee Anthony Levandowski downloaded 14,000 technical files from a company server, then used the information to launch the autonomous truck startup Otto.
  • Uber acquired Otto a few months later and hired Levandowski to lead its self-driving car program.
  • LIDAR maps the world by firing millions of laser beams every second and measuring how long it takes them to bounce off nearby objects. That data creates a 3-D “map” of the area around the car.
  • Using more than one LIDAR sensor—Google uses three, Uber seven, Ford four—you must combine the data from each of them into a big picture, accounting for the position of each and the movement of the car.