Show of 05-20-2017

Tech Talk

May 20, 2017

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Steve: A few comments of the show. The idea of towing an iceberg from the arctic/Antarctic to where it’s needed is quite old. I first read about a in “Engineers Dreams” by Willy Ley. Also, Charles de Gaulle took France out of NATO in the ’60s. Very respectfully, Steve
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the feedback. The significant difference is that this time the UAE has actually scheduled the trip for 2018. It is much closer to actually happening now. Thanks for the history correcting regarding France.
  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz, What’s going on with Verizon & it’s email functions? Understand Verizon bought AOL & Verizon is ceasing Verizon email. So are Verizon email holders automatically transferred to AOL? Some of my friends use Verizon email. Only a couple have changed their email addresses & they are not AOL. So how long before the others’ Verizon email addresses are cancelled? Great show with lots of good info. Thanks, Arnie Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: According to Verizon’s FAQ, over the next several weeks Verizon be notifying all customers who have a Verizon Email address that they are preparing to leave the email business. However not all customers will be notified at the same time. All customers will be given two options on how to handle their email going forward, including the ability to keep their email address. Each customer will be provided their own date and timeline to take action to ensure their access to email is not interrupted. Other than this change, no other Verizon services will be impacted.
  • If you take no action, you will no longer be able to send or receive email using your email address. In addition, you will lose your current contacts, calendar(s) and email. Also, after 180 days of inactivity Verizon will delete the account. Doing so helps us reduce our server storage needs and electrical consumption. If you want to keep your email address, you must follow the migration process.
  • Email from Frustrated in Burke: Dear Doc and Jim. HELP ME PLEASE! I have an iPhone 6 Plus and just noticed how many webpages I have open in the background. I started trying to close them all but I felt like they went on forever.  Help help.  Is there a way I can close all of them at the same time. Frustrated in Burke.
  • Tech Talk Responds: In iOS 10, Safari supports an unlimited number of tabs. However, if you find yourself with too many tabs open and want to start fresh, there’s a shortcut to close all your tabs at once. Prior to iOS 10, you had to close each tab separately. If you have tons of tabs open, that can be very time consuming. We’ll show you how you can now close all your open tabs in Safari at once in iOS 10. While viewing a webpage or the Favorites page, tap and hold on the tabs button in the lower-right corner of the screen. To close all the tabs, tap “Close X Tabs” on the dialog box that displays, where “X” is the number of tabs you currently have open. This new feature is very useful.
  • Email from Tuc in Virginia Beach: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a small Yacht and cruise the Chesapeake Bay. What are my best options for Internet access while I am cruising? We like to surf the web will on the water. Listen to your podcast while on the boat. Tuc in Virginia Beach
  • Tech Talk Responds: You have several options. If you stay close to the shoreline (less than three miles), you use range extending antennas and amplifiers for both Wi-Fi and Cellular. Units that are more expensive may extend your range to five miles. If you move to blue ocean, you only have two choices: satellite (most expensive, around $4K with $50 monthly subscription, up to $30K) and single side-band (SSB) radio (very low bandwidth, but cheap). SSB Radio is around $600, but the installation could be up to $2,000. You will need a modem ($300) to send email over SSB.
  • SSB has a range up to a few thousand miles, requires a tuned antenna, and patience to select the right frequency. All that’s required is a valid Ship Station license and a lifetime Restricted Radiotelephone Operator’s permit. A marine SSB system operates on a marine radio spectrums called shortwave, medium frequency and high frequency (2 MHz-26 MHz). Lower frequencies have shorter ranges because they don’t bounce as well. The higher frequencies can propagate up to four thousand miles. It is an important blue water safety backup.
  • Once you get the signal on-board, you can use a Wi-Fi router to provide access to multiple devices at the same time. In your case you only need Wi-Fi and Cellular boosters because you are always within 5 miles from shore while cruising the Chesapeake Bay. Here is a suggested equipment suite.
    • Coastal Marine WiFi Anntena connected via Ethernet cable to the POE device that comes with it ($465)
    • Peplink Pepwave Surf SOHO MK3 Router with 1 USB 4G LTE/3G WAN port with automatic failover ($200). Excellent iOS management software.
    • Wilson Electronics Marine Dual Band Cellular High Gain Antenna mounted connected via low-loss coax cable ($99).
    • weBoost Drive 4G-X Cell phone Signal Booster mounted inside the boat ($479).
    • Aircard Sierra 340U USB Modem with unlocked SIM ($199). The USB modem/dongle is then connected to the Wi-Fi Router failover USB port.
  • The last piece of this solution was a SIM card, which you will able to acquire through your cellular provider. You can probably add another SIM card to your existing cell phone plan for an additional $10/month and share the data you already have. If you into another country, you can either buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM card or roam at higher rates with your provider.
  • If you want a turn key operation (with reduced capability, but still pretty good), you can use the Wirie Pro, for WiFi and 2G/3G/4G/LTE cellular. ($699).
  • Email from Joy in Sterling, Virginia: Dear Doc and Jim. I use incognito mode in my web browser to keep my online activities private. I mentioned that to a friend and he said it wasn’t private at all. If he’s right … what’s the point? Love the podcast. Joy in Sterling, VA.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Incognito affects only the information stored in your computer. Information stored or seen elsewhere is completely unaffected by Incognito.
    • Incognito disables extensions. Browser extensions are one way your activities can be exposed, so disabling them by default makes a lot of sense. You can then choose which extensions you trust.
    • Incognito deletes history. The primary function of Incognito mode is that it doesn’t save any history (websites, downloads, searches, cookies, cache).
    • The idea is that once you exit an Incognito window, no trace of the activity that happened within that window is left on your computer.
  • Incognito does not hide what you are doing from others. Incognito only affects the data that is kept on your PC. The websites you visit know about you, your IP address, your history, etc. If you want anonymous browsing you will have to use a VPN (most famously the Onion Router).

Profiles in IT: Ching W. Tang

  • Ching W. Tang is widely considered the father of organic electronics, built the first organic solar cell and the first organic light-emitting diode (OLED).
  • Ching W. Tang was born July 23, 1947 in Hong Kong.
  • Tang attended secondary school at Yuen Long Public Secondary School in Hong Kong and later received his senior high school education at King’s College.
  • He graduated with a BS in chemistry from the University of British Columbia, where he liked the organic chemistry class he took as a junior.
  • He subsequently earned his PhD in physical chemistry from Cornell University, where he studied the photoconductive properties of chlorophyll.
  • In 1975, he Eastman Kodak hired him as a postdoc to work on organic solar cells.
  • He learned about a technology using aggregate photoconductors, which is a mixture of a polymer, an absorbing dye, and a current transport molecule (holes or electrons).
  • The heterojunction photocells were inefficient. In 1981, he accidently discovered that reversing the voltage created an organic LED. He immediately pivoted to OLED.
  • He had to overcome many hurdles: efficiency, lifespan, and reliable contacts. To solve the contact problem, he used a metal nucleation layer (chromium), followed by a conductor (silver). It worked! He could make OLEDs reliably.
  • Unfortunately, there were no application at Kodak at that time, so he published his seminal paper on OLED technology in 1987 in Applied Physics Letters. With over 10,000 citations, it is the most cited paper in the journal.
  • All he major Japanese technology companies attempted to use flat-panel display OLEDs in their products. They took his ideas and tried to scale them to large size.
  • Kodak also decided to expand their OLED research effort. The need for higher density and resolution drove the development of active-matrix OLED (AMOLED).
  • In 2003, Kodak released the world’s first AMOLED product, a camera display.
  • AMOLED has since been widely used in electronics products such as smartphones, tablets, and televisions, in which it has improved the resolution of the display.
  • In 2003 he was named Distinguished Fellow of the Kodak Research Laboratories.
  • In December 2009, Kodak sold the OLED unit (with all patents) to LG for $100M.
  • Another lost opportunity for Kodak, following the digital camera invention by Steve Sasson in 1975.
  • In 2006 he joined the University of Rochester as the Doris Johns Cherry Professor.
  • Tang was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2006 for the OLED.
  • In 2011, he was the first Chinese recipient of the renowned Wolf Prize in Chemistry, for his discovery of OLED.
  • On 5 December 2015, Tang was elected as the founding member of the Academy of Science of Hong Kong.

Beware: WannaCry Rasomware In the Wild

  • WannaCry is the largest ransomware attack in history, and it isn’t over yet. It was unleashed on 300,000 computers in more than 150 countries on May 12th, briefly locking down the United Kingdom’s National Health Service and thousands of other major institutions around the globe.
  • Most of those affected are running Windows 7 without the latest security patches.
  • WannaCry searches for and encrypts 176 different file types and appends .WCRY to the end of the file name. The ransomware demands $300 (in bitcoin) to restore the infected device’s files, and it gives victims one week to pay.
  • WannaCry infects computers running outdated versions of Windows — Microsoft released a patch for the exploit in March, but that doesn’t protect people or businesses who don’t automatically update, or anyone using pirated software.
  • Hackers lifted the program from the National Security Agency, which originally called the vulnerability “Eternalblue.” A group named The Shadow Brokers claims to have stolen hacking secrets from the NSA and has been publishing these tools online.
  • Copycat hacks have been popping up since WannaCry went live, and the program itself is evolving as security firms attempt to block it.
  • Because of a bug in the software, the creators of the malware cannot tell who has paid the ransom in Bitcoins. All payments are credited to one of three fixed accounts. The code that assigned individual accounts did not run properly. They tried to fix the bug with subsequent release. So paying will probably not save your files. As of May 19, $89K has been paid in ransom. No file restorations have been reported.
  • There’s a glimmer of hope for a specific subset of victims in the WannaCry hack. Security researchers have released a fix that gets rid of the ransomware and restores a device’s files, though it only works on Windows XP to Windows 7, and only on computers that have not been rebooted since the infection.
  • The fix is called wanakiwi and it comes from security researcher Benjamin Delpy. The program scours a computer’s memory for prime numbers, the foundation of encryption, and then uses those to generate unlock keys for the encrypted files. Restarting the computer could erase these prime numbers.
  • Get the latest security patch from Microsoft and you will be safe.

Non-commercial Drones Do No Need FAA Registration

  • If you buy a new drone in the U.S. to fly non-commercially, you no longer have to register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a decision issued by a federal court in Washington, D.C.
  • The court ruled that the FAA’s drone registration rules, which have been in place since 2015, were in violation of a law passed by Congress in 2012. That law, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, prohibited the FAA from passing any rules on the operation of model aircraft.
  • Now, if a person buys a new drone to fly for fun, they no longer have to register that aircraft with the FAA. But if flying for commercial purposes, drone buyers still need to register.
  • The lawsuit was won by John Taylor, a model aircraft enthusiast, who brought the case against the FAA in January 2016.

British Prison Creates Drone-proof Shield Around Jail

  • A British prison has become the world’s first to use a new system designed to stop drones flying over perimeter walls to drop contraband into jails.
  • The device creates a 2,000ft shield around and above a prison that will detect and deflect the remote-controlled devices.
  • It uses a series of “disruptors”, which are sensors to jam the drone’s computer, and block its frequency and control protocols. The operator’s screen will go black and the drone will return to its launch point.
  • Drones have become a major security problem in Britain’s prisons and are increasingly used to smuggle in drugs, weapons, phones and other valuables.
  • The new system, called Sky Fence, is being introduced at Les Nicolles prison on Guernsey, where around 20 “disruptors” will be installed on the perimeter and inside.
  • Sky Fence was been created by UK companies Drone Defence and Eclipse Digital Solutions.

Police Target Distracted Drivers Who Are Texting

  • In Bethesda, Maryland, a police officer disguised himself as a homeless man, stood near a busy intersection and radioed ahead to officers down the road about texting drivers. In two hours last October, police gave out 56 tickets.
  • And in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, south of Boston, an officer regularly tools around town on his bicycle, pedals up to drivers at stoplights and hands them $105 tickets.
  • But many safety advocates say crashes involving cellphones are vastly underreported because police are forced to rely on what they are told by drivers.
  • Forty-six states have laws against texting while driving that typically also ban sending or reading email, using apps or engaging in other internet activity. Fourteen states bar drivers from using handheld cellphones for any activity, including talking.
  • While efforts to discourage texting have increased in recent years, the consensus among police, safety advocates and drivers is that the problem is only getting worse.
  • Drivers have also become sneakier. Instead of resting their phones against the steering wheel, they hold them down low to make it more difficult for police to see what’s going on.

Federal agents used a Stingray to track an immigrant’s phone

  • Investigators from Immigration and Custom Enforcement as well as the FBI have been using cell-spoofing devices to secretly track down undocumented immigrants.
  • FBI and ICE agents in Michigan used a Stingray device to ensnare a restaurant worker from El Salvador in March.
  • The devices were originally intended for counter-terrorism use. However, there are currently no clear rules governing when law enforcement is allowed to deploy them.
  • Even in cases where authorities have a clear target in mind, they run the risk of exposing personal information of other innocent people in range.
  • A bill currently working its way through the House called the Cell Location Privacy Act would require all law enforcement get a probable cause warrant before using one of these devices to track suspects.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation is concerned that the case hints at a new use for the devices in the wake of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown and suspended travel ban.