Show of 10-21-2017

Tech Talk Radio
October 21, 2017

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments replayed from previous shows

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Jean: Dr Shurtz. You speak often about Philips Hue and Alexa and how they work together. I need simplification as I am intrigued by smart home technology. I need a back to the basics explanation about practical possibilities. I am an Amazon prime member but missed the half-price sale on Alexa as I would definitely have been interested if I had seen that. How did you receive that info? I love to discover the secrets of the technology that I have in my possession and not been aware of until you mention them. Feel like a kid an a candy store! Thanks. Jean
  • Tech Talk Responds: You three smart home ecosystems: Google Home, Apple Home Kit, and Amazon Alexa. Many smart devices now work this Alexa (lights, webcams, thermostats, smoke alarms, door locks, etc.) and the list keeps growing. If you get one of these devices you will need to enable the skill using the Alexa app. Then you will need to ask Alexa to scan for active devices. These devices can be groups for easy controls. Some of the prominent devices that support Alexa are Nest, Phillips Hue, WeMo. Here are a few options and their prices.
  • Lifx Color 1000 smart bulbs ($59.88). They don’t need a hub.
  • Philips Hue White LED bulbs starter kit ($69.99). This kit includes the hub.
  • Ecobee4 smart thermostate ($249.00)
  • August Smark Lock ($199.99)
  • SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell ($169.65). This includes free online video storage.
  • Nest Cam Indoor ($194.00)
  • Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug ($34.99)
  • Lutron Caseta In-Wall Wireless Smart Swirtch ($159.90)
  • Nest Protect Smoke and CO2 detector ($119.00)
  • Lutron Serena Remote Controlled Shades ($349.00)
  • You simply need to enable the associated Alexa skill using the Alexa app on your phone. Then you need to tell Alexa to scan for smart home devices. You will just need to say, “Alexa, discover new devices.” You can group the devices for easy control. This may require some experimentation, but it is fun. The skill description will tell you what command to use to activate the device.
  • Lilly in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a Widows Laptop and leave it plugged continuously. A friend suggested that this may damage the battery. What do you recommend? Enjoy the podcast. Lilly in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: The short answer is that unplugging it won’t make all that much difference. What will shorten battery life is temperature. If the battery gets hot, it will shorten the battery life. Thus the best thing to do, if you are able, is to remove the battery while you are at home and keep it somewhere cool.
  • If it is a Li-ion battery, then they do not like to be completely discharged, so make sure you charge them regularly. Lithium-ion batteries should notbe frequently discharged fully and recharged (“deep-cycled”), but this may be necessary after about every 30th recharge to recalibrate any electronic charge monitor (e.g. a battery meter). This allows the charge monitoring electronics to more accurate.
  • Email from Jim in Michigan: I live in an area with poor cell coverage. I have to be outside receive a call. How can I boost my cell phone reception when I am in the house. Enjoy the podcast. Jim in Michigan
  • Tech Talk Responds: You have three options: Wi-Fi calling, Microcell, and Cellular Signal Amplifier.
  • WiFi-Calling — If you have Internet access, your best bet is Wi-Fi calling. Wi-Fi calling allows your smartphone to make calls and send text messages over a Wi-Fi network. When your phone is on Wi-Fi and has a poor cellular signal, it will connect to the Wi-Fi network and your phone calls and text will be sent and arrive over the Wi-Fi network. When you leave the Wi-Fi network, your phones and calls will be sent over the cellular network as usual.
  • If you have an iPhone 5c or any newer iPhone, you can use Wi-Fi calling. It’s also built into many modern Android phones. This is the best solution if your phone and cellular carrier supports it. In the US, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, MetroPCS, and Vodafone support Wi-Fi calling.
  • To enable Wi-Fi calling on an iPhone, head to Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling. To enable Wi-Fi calling on an Android phone, head to Settings > Wireless and Networks > More > Wi-Fi Calling.
  • Femtocell or Microcell —A second option is to create your own cellular connection. A femtocell, or microcell, is a small, low-power cellular base station that connects to the cellular network via your broadband Internet connection. Essentially, it is a small cellular signal tower that will provide a signal in and near your home. It connects the larger mobile network over your Internet connection. This makes it ideal for situations where you do not even have a signal bar of coverage you can boost at home. The only catch is that your Internet connection must have a high enough download speed. Different carriers require different minimum speeds, but you should be fine as long as you have a solid broadband connection. As with boosters and repeaters, a femtocell may be available at a steep discount from your carrier in areas they know they have poor cellular service. For instance, a Samsung Network Extender for Verizon is $249.Unfortunately, these are carrier specific.
  • Signal Booster —A third option is a signal booster may also be an option for you. zBoost Microcell supports virtually every cell provider and has many different models and options to choose from depending on the size of the house. They even have an optional antenna you can install on your roof (or in the attic) to give cell coverage everywhere around your house. It is the best choice, and cheaper than most carriers will offer you. You can get a zBoost for around $200 on Amazon. You will need some cellular signal strength to amplify.
  • Email from Feroze in Fredericksburg: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a Nikon DSLR that takes beautiful pictures. Unfortunately, they are hard to share and post immediately to Facebook. I am being left out by iPhone photographers and posters. How can I transfers my pictures to my iPhone easily. Enjoy the show live in Fredericksburg
  • Tech Talk Responds: One of the handiest features you’ll find on newer digital cameras is built-in Wi-Fi connectivity that allows you to transfer files to a computer on your local network or to a nearby smartphone via an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network. If you have an older camera (or newer one that simply did not ship with the feature), do not worry, you are not out in the cold. A Wi-Fi SD card can add Wi-Fi connectivity to any camera you have, as long as it has an SD card slot.
  • Eye-Fi Mobi Pro ($50) is a good option. Download the appropriate software for your smart device. There are verisons for iOS, Android, and Windows phones. Run the application and then plug in the registration code from the physical card that came with the packaging of your Eye-Fi. Once you have entered it, click “Install Profile”.
  • You’ll be returned to the Keenai application where it will instruction you to place the Eye-Fi card into your camera and turn it on. Do so now. Take a few pictures to power the card and activate the Wi-Fi radio. Then open up the Wi-Fi settings on your phone or tablet. There, look for a new Wi-Fi network with a name that starts with “Eye-Fi”. Select it. You shouldn’t be asked for a password but if you are, the password is always the registration code off the card that came with your Eye-Fi card.
  • Now that you’ve established a direct connection between the Eye-Fi card in your camera and your mobile device, transferring photos is as simple as taking the photos while connected to the card and then looking in the Keenai app.
  • We recommend you enable selective transfer. Without it, your Eye-Fi card will just chug along in the background, attempting to transfer as many photos as it can from your camera to your mobile device.
  • Unfortunately, you can’t toggle on the selective upload function of the Eye-Fi Mobi Pro using the mobile application, you must use the desktop application. To do so, download the Eye-Fi card management software. Like the mobile software, the desktop software is also branded “Keenai”. Install the software and run it. After installation is complete, open up the “Options” menu again. You’ll see your Eye-Fi card listed. Click on the arrow under the “Advanced” column and then activate the toggle for “Selective Transfer.” Don’t change any other advanced settings. Click “Save” at the bottom of the Settings window.
  • Email from Tom Shum: I love your show, listen at 9AM on Saturdays. You are the new Car Guys. About cellphone cameras, a 41mp cellphone camera was in the Nokia 808, introduced in 2012. A big problem with most camera sensors is that each pixel has a different color filter in front of it. There are three: Green, Red, and Blue.  In a typical sensor, we have two green, one red, and one blue filter in a square array. So, to get a good idea about color and brightness of a picture element, you really need to put these four pixels together. If you do that your final picture has 1/4 the pixels that are in the sensor.  If the sensor has 24mp, and you do that sort of downsizing, your final image has only 6mp! It’s all about the quality of the pixels.  If you don’t downsize you get a 24mp image but it is full of guesswork.  The image processor has to guess about color and brightness for all the pixels and it frequently guesses wrong!
  • There is one sensor that does not guess, and it is the Foveon original sensor, made in the timespan between 2003-2010. Here is a brief quote: “Lyon performed theoretical research into the light absorption characteristics of silicon, determining a set of red, green, and blue spectral sensitivity curves for theoretical R, G, and B photodiodes at specific depths.” Recently Sigma has moved away from this pure idea in order to get more resolution, but continues to make similar sensors. Tom Schum
  • Tech Talk Responds: We are yet again mislead by marketing hype. A pixel is by definition a Picture Element. Each element should include all four sensors (two green, one blue, one red). Unfortunately manufacturers quote the number of detectors, rather than the number of pixels to get a bigger number (by 4X).
  • The Foveon sensor stacks the three detectors (red, green, blue), so that the pixel and the sensor become the same size. Foveon was purchased by Sigma in 2008 for use in their DSLR cameras.
  • Email from Dave in Everett, Washington: Hello Doctor! I hated the high cost of our cable service, so with great courage I cut the cable! My wife and I are now going through a difficult transition period, and my wife is about to cut me! The biggest problem is finding where are favorite shows are being streamed. Is there some master streaming guide that would direct us to shows streaming on Sling TV, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Netflix, etc. We hate to go searching through all of these to find the latest streaming of our favorite shows. We need a universal streaming guide. Does anything like that exist? I am in hot water! I’m a big fan of your show and listen to the Podcast every week. Sincerely, Dave in Everett, Washington
  • Tech Talk Responds: We are getting closer to cable cutting nirvana. Since local OTA television is not streamed, you will need a system that combines OTA television with OTT (of the top) streaming services (Hulu, Netflix). Then you need an integrated directory of all shows that is convenient to use. Finally you need a simple DVR to store shows. We are getting closer. Here are a few options for you to review.
  • The first is Mohu AirWave, which provides wireless over-the-air (OTA) and over-the-top (OTT) device that integrates live, local broadcast TV with free streaming channels across popular streaming devices, including Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Android, iOS, and more. Launching initially as an exclusive at Best Buy early fall 2017 for $149.99. AirWave was built to give cord cutters open, simple and complete wireless access to the live TV and streaming content they enjoy, all in one place and with no monthly fees. Combine this with the Mohu Leaf® 30 HDTV Antenna ($39) is recommended for customers who live within approximately a 30 mile range of the broadcasting towers or the Moju Leaf® 50 HDTV Antenna ($59) is recommended, for customers who live within approximately a 50 mile range of the broadcasting towers. This was announced earlier this year and is eagerly anticipated. Here is there website (
  • Another option is the TiVo Roamio OTA 1TB DVR and TiVo Mini with IR/RF Remote Bundle ($548 on Amazon). It integrated both OTA and OTT services. You can subscribe to an integrated directory service for $15/month, which seems a little a step. However, it is easy to use. You will also need an antenna, like the Mohu just discussed.
  • The Channel Master DVR+ is another option that’s pricey (starts at $250), but it comes with an integrated programming guide, HDMI output to your TV for pass-through viewing, and no fees at all for the box’s DVR capabilities. It comes with 16GB flash storage on-board (enough for about two hours of TV), and you can connect an external hard drive for more storage and recording time. It also connects to your home network via Ethernet (a Wi-Fi dongle is extra).
  • A final option is the Tablo 2-Tuner DVR for Over-The-Air HDTV with Wi-Fi. Two tuners for $210 and four tuners for $280. Discover new shows, schedule & manage recordings, and skip commercials using the Netflix-style interface of the Tablo Apps for iOS & Android mobile devices, computers, smart TVs, streaming media and gaming devices: Roku, Xbox One, Apple TV, Android TV, NVIDIA SHIELD and Amazon Fire TV, etc. All new Tablo OTA DVRs come with a 30-day free trial of the guide data subscription, including the Tablo Connect feature which lets you access your Tablo over the internet to enjoy live, local news and sports and recordings when traveling or on the go. Tablo connects to your home’s router using Wi-Fi & Ethernet so you can stream your favorite live and recorded TV content to any screen, any time, anywhere.

Profiles in IT: Karlheinz Brandenburg

  • Karlheinz Brandenburg is frequently called the ?father of MP3.?
  • He worked with Professor Dieter Seitzer, University of Erlangen, who was interested in the transfer of music over a phone line.
  • Their work was based the MP3 on an audio compression technique could not be perceived by a human. They used quiet tracks such as Susan Vega’s ‘Tom’s Diner’ as their test bed. Therefore Vega can claim to be the first artist of MP3.
  • The word MP3 stands for Moving Picture Expert Group Level 3 Compression.
    • Part of the MPEG (Motion Picture Expert Group) Compression Standard
    • The audio is MPEG Audio Layer 3?..hence MP3
    • It can reduce a CD sound file by a factor of 12.
    • It has become second only to ‘sex on the world’s most popular search engines
  • Brandenburg was born June 20, 1954, in Erlangen, Germany.
  • He attended Erlangen University and received a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1980 and in Mathematics from in 1982.
  • He received a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg in 1989. His dissertation dealt digital audio coding and perceptual measurement techniques.
  • From 1989 to 1990 he worked with AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, U.S. on MPEG-1 Layer 3.
  • In 1990, he returned to the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.
  • In 1993, he became head of the Audio/Multimedia department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits in Erlangen.
    • The Frauenhofer Institute is one of Germany’s most prestigious research facilities. Equivalent of MIT Media Labs.
    • FI now licenses the patent rights to the audio compression technology.
    • German patent issued April 1989
    • US Patent "digital encoding process" issued November 1996
    • First portable MP3 player appeared in 1999
  • Brandenburg is head of the AES Standards Committee working group SC-06-04 Internet Audio Delivery Systems.
  • He has been granted 27 US patents as a co-inventor; all patents have multiple inventors.
  • Brandenburg claims that he is satisfied with his work and has not personally profited from the fortune that has since been spun around the standard.
  • He claims that he owns not one share in any Internet company or any other firm involved in the MP3 standard.
  • He draws his entire salary from the state for his work at FI and at the University.

David Burd Drops By

David Burd pays a visit to discuss the roll of using social media and other digital resources to track terrorists, digital TV and the cloud.