Show of 04-28-2018

Tech Talk
April 28, 2018

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments replayed from previous shows

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Jim in Bowie: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a Windows 10 laptop and recently the updates have failed in install properly. What could be the problem? Enjoy the show. Jim in Bowie
  • Tech Talk Responds: Failure to install could be caused by a couple things. First I would check whether your hard drive is filled to capacity. This stops updates in their tracks. Second, I would check whether your registry has been corrupted. You can fix the registry error by performing a system restore, using a restore date prior to the last successful update. You don’t need any type of registry cleaner software, none of which are recommended by Microsoft.
  • Email from Susan in Baltimore: Dear Tech Talk. I have enjoyed your journey to cut the cord. I would like to operate without any paid streaming services and use only OTA television and whatever I can stream for free over the Internet. What are my options for free services? Love the show. Susan in Baltimore
  • Tech Talk Responds: You will need to install a streaming device to the television, which do cost some money. Your choices are: Apple TV, Roku Ultra, Amazon Fire TV. They all have installable applications and are easier use than Google Chromecast. The best free movie sites include: Freeform, Crackle, The CW, Vudu, and Tubi TV. They all have ad-supported movies. If you are an Amazon Prime member, Amazon Prime video is free and has a great selection of movies. The best free news sites include: SkyNEWS, newsy, Newsmax TV, and Haystack TV. The best paid movie site continues to be Netflix.
  • Email from Valerie in Occoquan: Dear Tech Talk. I enjoyed you segment on cutting the cord to save money. I would now like to know how to save money on our exorbitant cell phone bills. What do you suggest? Valerie in Occoquan.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Cell phone bills have become an increasingly difficult problem. The carrier would like you to autopay so you don’t see the steady increase in charges. Verizon changed me to unlimited data, without asking, and my bill went through the roof. When we called, they said they were concerned that I would exceed my data limit so they changed the plan.
  • You best bet to get a prepaid plan from your carrier. You will pay cash for you phone whenever you want to upgrade. You can change carriers at will and the price is the best. They don’t push these plans because they make less month. For instance, I can get a prepaid plan with Verizon, with unlimited text and minutes and 10GB of data, for $45 per month. Two phone would be only $90 per months. I am currently paying $160 per month for two phone, with unlimited text and minutes with a total of 10GB. I was over $200 when they upped me to unlimited data. When my contract expires in May, I am getting a prepaid plan. The pre-paid plans are similar to Walmart’s Straight Talk where you can get 10GB of data for $45 per month. Walmart will, however, finance you phone on their credit card with zero percent interest. The contract price always includes payments for your “free phone.” And then you are forced to upgrade every two years. I plan to keep my iPhone6S for another two years, after getting the $29 battery replacement from Apple.
  • Email from Jacob in Ashburn: Dear Tech Talk. I was given an old Windows 7 laptop for school. I would like to upgrade the OS to Windows 10, but the free offer for upgrade has expired. What are my options? Enjoy the show. Jacob in Ashburn
  • Tech Talk Responds: Windows 10’s free upgrade offer is officially over. But, unofficially, free copies of Windows 10 are still available. While you can no longer use the “Get Windows 10” tool to upgrade from within Windows 7, 8, or 8.1, it is still possible to download Windows 10 installation media from Microsoft and then provide a Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 key when you install it.
  • You will need your product key. If you don’t have access to it from your computer label or associated documents, you can retrieve it from the registry. Unfortunately the key is encrypted and difficult to find.
  • They Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder program is a free utility that retrieves product keys from the registry. It also has the ability to find product keys for Microsoft Office programs, along with product keys from many other non-Microsoft programs.
  • Windows will contact Microsoft’s activation servers and confirm the key to the previous version of Windows is real. If it is, Windows 10 will be installed and activated on your PC. Your PC acquires a “digital license” and you can continue using and reinstalling Windows 10 on it in the future.
  • Email from Lynn in Ohio: Dear Doc and Jim. Can I use any charging block to charge my cell phone? I have so many of these in my house and all have USB output. Are they interchangeable? Enjoy the show. Lynn in Ohio
  • Tech Talk Responds: Most mobile phone chargers came in two varieties: 5V/1A and 5V/2.1A. The smaller chargers were built for smartphones, and the larger for tablets. Any phone charger could be used with any phone, and most tablet chargers would work on any tablet.. All Micro-USB chargers are rated for 5V, so you never really have to worry about accidentally plugging your phone into a charger with too high of a voltage. You can use any charging block you wish. The 1A will just charge slower.
  • There are several quick charging methods form a variety of different manufacturers and they are not cross-compatible. That means just because your device supports some form of “quick charge” technology and your buddy’s charger does too, you can’t automatically guarantee you’ll get a faster charge. If they are not using the same quick charge technology, it will still charge you phone—it’ll just do it a bit slower.
  • Laptops are often a different story. If it has a proprietary charging port, I would not use anything outside of the stock charger.
  • Email from Lois in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk. We watch lots of Netflix movies and have recently been told that our data usage will be capped by our ISP. How much data is used when we watch a Netflix movie? Enjoy the show. Lois in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: The data used depends on the resolution of the movie. Most videos you play on Netflix should be 23.976 frames per second, so the following table should apply for most of what you play.
      • 480p (720×480) is 792 MB per hour
      • 720p (1280×720) is 1.3 GB per hour
      • 1080p (1920×1080) is 1.9 GB to 2.55 GB per hour
      • 1440p (2560×1440) is 2.8 GB per hour
      • 4K (3840×2160) is 3.5 GB to 7 GB per hour
  • Here’s the problem: If you use the “High” setting, Netflix will stream at the highest possible resolution available to your TV. But if you have a 4K TV, that’s a lot of data—up to 7GB per hour! If you want to use less than that, Netflix basically makes you drop all the way down to standard definition with the “Medium” setting, which isn’t ideal.

However, there’s a trick to get around this. Let’s say you don’t want the high data usage of 4K video, but you’re okay with 1080p video—still high definition, but around half the data usage. To do this, you can change the resolution of your streaming box instead, so that it only asks for the 1080p stream from Netflix (and other streaming video services).

Profiles in IT: William Frederick Friedman

  • William Frederick Freidman is known as the Dean of American Cryptology
  • Wolf Frederick Friedman was born September 24, 1891 in Moldavia, Russia
  • His family moved to Pittsburgh, PA in 1892 and changed his first name to William.
  • Friedman was introduced to cryptography by “The Gold-Bug” by Edgar Allan Poe.
  • He studied at Michigan State and received a scholarship to Cornell in genetics.
  • He joined Riverbank Labs in September 1915 as head of the Department of Genetics.
  • One of his projects was to find secret messages in messages by Sir Francis Bacon. He met his future wife, Elizebeth, who was working on the same project.
  • He soon became director of Riverbank’s Department of Codes and Ciphers as well as its Department of Genetics. Friedman wrote a series of 23 papers on cryptography, including the first description of the index of coincidence.
  • Riverbank became the unofficial cryptographic center for the US during WWI.
  • Friedmans broke a code used by German-funded Indian radicals in the US who planned to ship arms to India to gain independence from England.
  • The US decided to set up its own cryptological service. To support the program, Friedman wrote a series of technical monographs, completing seven by early 1918.
  • He enlisted in the Army and went to France to serve as the personal cryptographer for General Pershing. He returned to the US in 1920 and published an eighth monograph.
  • In 1921 he became chief cryptanalyst for the War Department.
  • Friedman coined several terms, including cryptanalysis.
  • During the 1920s, he analyzed and cracked cipher machines based on using typewriter mechanics and basic electrical circuitry using statistical analysis.
  • In 1939, the Japanese introduced a new cipher machine for their most sensitive diplomatic traffic, called PURPLE. It was different and much more difficult.
  • After several months Friedman and his team figured it out. PURPLE did not use rotors but stepper switches. His team constructed an exact analog of the PURPLE.
  • It was used to decrypt Japanese messages before and after the Pearl Harbor attack.
  • Friedman developed SIGABA, which was immune to this attack which became the US’s highest-security cipher machine in WW II.
  • SIGABA was similar to the Enigma in basic theory, in that it used a series of rotors to encipher every character of the plaintext into a different character of ciphertext.
  • The US gave the British a PURPLE machine, in exchange for details on the design of the Enigma machine and on how the British decrypted the Enigma cipher.
  • In 1949 he became head of cryptographics of the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA) and in 1952 became chief cryptologist for the National Security Agency.
  • Friedman produced a classic series of textbooks, “Military Cryptanalysis”, which was used to train NSA students. He encouraged the NSA to develop super-computers.
  • Friedman retired in 1956 died in 1969, after a long illness. Elizabeth placed an encrypted message on his tombstone (Knowledge is Power).
  • Friedman has been inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame and there is a building named after William and Elizebeth at the NSA complex at Fort Meade.

Idea of the Week: Listen to a Video Game Soundtrack to Focus a Work

  • Over at Popular Science has a compelling argument for listening to video game sound tracks.
  • Listen to music from video games when you need to focus.
  • It’s a whole genre designed to simultaneously stimulate your senses and blend into the background of your brain, because that is the point of the soundtrack.
  • It has to engage you, the player, in a task without distracting from it. In fact, the best music would actually direct the listener to the task.
  • Link to article:

ICE Will Track License Plates Across the US

  • The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database.
  • The system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians.
  • The data came from Vigilant Solutions, the leading network for license plate recognition data.
  • ICE is not seeking to build a license plate reader database, and will not collect nor contribute any data to a national public or private database through this contract.
  • While it collects few photos itself, Vigilant Solutions has amassed a database of more than 2 billion license plate photos by using data from partners like vehicle repossession agencies and other private groups.
  • Vigilant also partners with local law enforcement agencies, often collecting even more data from camera-equipped police cars.
  • The result is a massive vehicle-tracking network generating as many as 100 million sightings per month, each tagged with a date, time, and GPS coordinates of the sighting.
  • ICE agents would be able to query that database in two ways. A historical search would turn up every place a given license plate has been spotted in the last five years, a detailed record of the target’s movements. That data could be used to find a given subject’s residence or even identify associates if a given car is regularly spotted in a specific parking lot.
  • ICE agents can also receive instantaneous email alerts whenever a new record of a particular plate is found — a system known internally as a “hot list.”
  • ICE won’t upload new data to Vigilant’s system but simply scan through the data that’s already there.
  • License plates on the hot list will also expire after one year, and the system retains extensive audit logs to help supervisors trace back any abuse of the system.

Ransomware Attacks Are Less Frequent

  • According to a report from Malwarebytes, hackers launched fewer ransomware attacks in 2017 starting in August.
  • Ransomware is malicious software that can lock up your files until you send hackers a ransom payment.
  • It featured in the WannaCry attacks in May and the NotPetya attacks in June, both of which swept through hospitals, banks and governments in several countries. But after July, the rates of ransomware infections dropped sharply, according to a report from Malwarebytes.
  • If the trend continues, it would mean a reprieve from an attack that targeted institutions where time is money, like banks, or where lives could hang in the balance, like hospitals.
  • So why would hackers ditch one of their favorite attacks? It turns out that computer users have a really valuable tool against ransomware: backing up their files.
  • That’s according to Chris Boyd, a malware analyst at Malwarebytes, who told ZDNet that publicity around the major ransomware attacks probably helped educate people about how to avoid needing to pay by uploading files to the cloud or a backup device.
  • That’s not to say hackers aren’t hacking. They’ve simply turned to other kinds of attacks to steal money, such as banking trojans and adware, both of which are old-school hacking tricks.

Texting While Driving May Affect Insurance Rates

  • Arity, a unit of insurance giant Allstate, is tracking in-car smartphone use so that insurance companies can either punish or reward drivers, depending on how they use their phone while driving.
  • The technology works by using the smartphone’s accelerometer and gyroscope to sense whether the device is being moved — likely in a driver’s hand — or lying flat on a surface. Arity can also tell whether the phone is unlocked and apps are being used.
  • Allstate (ALL) may soon use the technology to determine consumers’ car insurance rates. In a statement, it described the technology as a way to promote safe driving.
  • Arity analyzed data from 160 million trips by hundreds of thousands of Allstate drivers. What it found confirmed research showing that drivers on their phones are more dangerous.
  • Arity then went a step farther and used Allstate claims data to see how expensive distracted driving is. It says it found that the most distracted drivers cost insurance companies 160% more than the least distracted drivers.
  • Drivers using smartphones are more likely to get into accidents, and these crashes tend to be more severe. Paying out claims for these crashes racks up big costs for insurance companies.
  • Hallgren expects smartphone data to become commonly used by car insurers in the coming years. Insurance companies who don’t use this data risk losing their best drivers to other companies that offer discounts related to rates of distracted driving.
  • Arity still need regulatory approval from state insurance offices. And car insurance companies such as Allstate won’t be able to use the technology without drivers agreeing to it. Arity requires drivers to download an app so that it can track how a phone is being used while driving.
  • If a navigation app must be used, she suggests setting it before departing, and not touching it during the trip.
  • Arity’s software is less likely to identify a driver as distracted if the phone is mounted in a cradle, instead of being held in a driver’s hand.

Driverless Trucks are coming

  • A convoy of self-driving trucks recently drove across Europe and arrived at the Port of Rotterdam. This development will transform trucking.
  • Shipping a full truckload from L.A. to New York costs around $4,500 today, with labor representing 75 percent of that cost.
  • Where drivers are restricted by law from driving more than 11 hours per day without taking an 8-hour break, a driverless truck can drive nearly 24 hours per day. That means the technology would effectively double the output of the U.S. transportation network at 25 percent of the cost.
  • And the savings become even more significant when you account for fuel efficiency gains. The optimal cruising speed from a fuel efficiency standpoint is around 45 miles per hour, whereas truckers who are paid by the mile drive much faster. Further fuel efficiencies will be had as the self-driving fleets adopt platooning technologies, like those from Peloton Technology, allowing trucks to draft behind one another in highway trains.
  • This will also create safety benefits. This year alone more people will be killed in traffic accidents involving trucks than in all domestic airline crashes in the last 45 years combined. At the same time, more truck drivers were killed on the job, 835, than workers in any other occupation in the U.S.
  • The demonstration in Europe shows that driverless trucking is right around the corner. The primary remaining barriers are regulatory. We still need to create on- and off-ramps so human drivers can bring trucks to the freeways where highway autopilot can take over. We may also need dedicated lanes as slow-moving driverless trucks could be a hazard for drivers.