June 30, 2018
Best of Tech Talk Edition
- Segments replayed from previous shows
Email and Forum Questions
- Email from Carl Tyler:Â Dear Dr. Shurtz: What is â€œCoinhiveâ€ and should we be worried about them using our computing resources to harvest the Monero cryptocurrency? Are there some websites that we go to that uses our computing power to mine other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoins in the background? And how can we prevent this by using adblockers? I use uBlock Origin. Will this prevent them from using my computing power? Have you done a â€œProfiles in ITâ€ about Brian Krebs? I get his newsletter via email and he really informs me about a lot of the cyber criminal activities going on out there. Does Mr. Big Voice ever get a vacation? I think itâ€™s time. Loyal listener for a long time, Carl Tyler
- Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the Profiles in IT suggestion. Coinhive is a brilliant idea to monetize internet traffic that seems to be going off the track. We have previously discussed it on Tech Talk. Coinhive first released its cryptocurrency miner in September 2017 as a novel way for websites to generate revenue. Once embedded into a website, the code mines the digital currency Monero by borrowing visitorsâ€™ CPU processing power. The more visitors, the more money earned. Site owners take a 70 percent share, while Coinhive grabs the rest.
- However, the Coinhive code doesnâ€™t tell website visitors that any mining is taking place. It can simply borrow CPU processing power via the browser, without any warning. One of Coinhiveâ€™s earliest adopters was The Pirate Bay, a site that already has a rather notorious reputation. In September, visitors to the site noticed it was hogging CPU resources, prompting complaints.
- The crypto miner has been found in over 30,000 random sites. These sites were hacked and Coinhive code was installed to generate revenue for the hacker.
- Thereâ€™s a reason why hackers gravitate toward Coinhive: itâ€™s easy to use.
- AdGuard also found the Coinhive miner on over 30,000 sites and estimates the code generates $150,000 in Monero every month. For Coinhive, which takes a 30 percent cut, that amounts to $540,000 per year.
- Last month, Malwarebytes blocked 248 million attempts by the miner to borrow PC resources from company users.
- Ad blockers will not protect you from crypto hijacking. I have Malwarebytes installed on my computer. It does a pretty good job.
- Email from Azra in Fredericksburg:Â Dear Tech Talk. I love to use the Facebook platform and have all my connections there. I would like to expand my presence on the site with blog style posts. What is the best way to create a blog using the Facebook platform? I want an easy way to format text and insert pictures. Enjoy the podcast. Azra in Fredericksburg.
- Tech Talk Responds: Facebook Notes is an excellent option for you. It is is a re-imagined version of the note taking feature that Facebook launched years ago on its site.
- Unlike the previous version, it has been designed more like a basic blog editor than a simple note taking application that does not look or feel that different from jotting down status updates on the site.
- To open Notes on Facebook, click on the Notes entry listed on the left sidebar.
- A click on â€œwrite a noteâ€ opens the editor interface which looks like many other blog editing tools out there on first glance.
- You can add a cover photo to the article, a title, and use a handful of formatting options such as adding headlines, more photos or bullet points to it as well.
- It has basic formatting options (two headline levels, quote insertion, bulleted and numbers lists, bold and italics fonts, embedded objects, images).
- While that is sufficient in many cases, it lacks basic options such as adding video to the note or changing the formatting in basic ways, for instance by not allowing you to change text alignment, indenting text or changing font type or colors.
- Photos are added directly from the uploaded image archive on the site with an option to upload photos from the local system as well.
- Once you are done writing, you may save the note as a draft, or publish it to your account.
- While that is useful initially, Notes will hold you back as you grow as you donâ€™t get analytics, options to install plugins to extend the blog platform or use advertising or the majority of other monetization options when using notes.
- Email from Stu in Kilmarnock:Â Dear Doc and Jim. Every time I put my phone in my pocket, I make â€œbutt calls.â€ How can I keep my iPhone from dialing by mistake or from deleting icons? Stu in Kilmarnock
- Tech Talk Responds: Stu, you are not locking your phone before putting in your pocket. Simply pushed the home button is not enough. Push the power button briefly to lock the phone. They it canâ€™t take any action, until you unlock it. Hopefully, you butt calls didnâ€™t bet you in trouble.
- Kim in Ohio: Dear Doc and Jim. I am confused by cloud backup and cloud file syncing. Can you explain the difference and let me know which I should be using. Love the show. Kim in Ohio
- Tech Talk Responds: Thereâ€™s a big difference between file syncing tools and online backup services, when it comes to backing up your important files.
- Youâ€™re probably familiar with services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive. These services provide a special folder, and anything you place in that folder is synced with your online storage, as well as between other devices you have set up. Your files are also available via web browsers.
- Because these services are designed for syncing, if you delete or change a file on another device, that change will sync and the file will be deleted or changed on all your computers. Most services do provide ways to restore old versions of files and recover deleted files from the trash, but you canâ€™t just restore all your files to the state they were in at a point in time.
- Dedicated backup services work differently. They do not automatically sync your files between all your devices. They work more like a traditional backup tool, which would back up all the files on your PC or Mac. However, instead of backing up those files to an external hard drive or another computer on your local network, they back it up to the backup serviceâ€™s online storage.
- The backup software can back up files stored anywhere on your computer, so you donâ€™t have to put everything all in one folder.
- Backup services generally cost money. You can use Backblaze, Carbonite, or iDrive. All are inexpensive. For instance, Backblaze provides unlimited storage for $5 per PC or Mac per month.
- Susan in Alexandria;Â Hi Dr. Shurtz. On todayâ€™s show, you mentioned that you use Malwarebytes. Does Malwarebytes interfere with Windows Defender? If so, what do you recommend? Susan in Alexandria, VA
- Tech Talk Responds: You can run Malwarebytes in addition to Windows Defender. It is not a resource hog.
- Email from Raymond in Kansas:Â What is IFTTT? How can I trigger events with it? Love the podcast. Raymond in Kansas
- Tech Talk Responds: IFTTT stands for IF This Then That (IFTTT). I really like this app. It supports many devices. For instance, it supports my garage door internet link, Nexx Garage. It set up a trigger to close my garage door at 9PM. The trigger reads If it is 9PM EST, then ask Nexx Garage to close the door. Nexx Garage has created. To set it up, I downloaded the IFTTT app on my iPhone and searched for Nexx Garage. I found several Applets already created, including the close trigger. I simply activated that Applet, after linking to my Nexx device by providing the password. You can ask it to send you a text message if the temperature is below zero or a reminder to take an umbrella if it is raining. Just download the IFTTT app and search the available applets.
- Email form Jim in the Studio:Â Dear Doc, I bought a new thumb drive to use as a back-up for one Iâ€™ve had in use for several years. I dragged the files and folders I wanted to back up from the old drive to the new one. I have only had it for a couple of weeks and several folders containing .mp3 files have become corrupted. One entire folder is bad. Another has numerous corrupted audio files within the folder. Iâ€™ve tried to scan and repair the drive but that doesnâ€™t work. Iâ€™ve tried to delete the corrupted files and folders from the drive and reload them. I canâ€™t delete them. Is there a way to wipe the drive and start over, or is it even worth the effort? By the way, its a PNY 32GB driveâ€¦and yes, I know I should be using an external drive. Signed â€“ The luddite sitting across from you.
- Tech Talk Responds: You probably pulled the USB drive out before all the files had been transferred. Some were probably still in the buffer. Insert the USB drive into the USB port of your system. If you are using Windows 10.
- Go to My Computer>Removable Disk Icon.
- Right click the Removable Disk Icon and open its Properties.
- Click on the Tools tab.
- Click â€œCheckâ€ button.
- Click the â€œScan and Repairâ€ button
- If that fails, Right click on Removable Disk Icon
- Click Format in the drop-down menu.
- Click Restore Device Defaults in the popup window.
- Click Start to begin the format process. You can uncheck the Quick format option if you want the computer to deep scan the drive/card for errors but this will take time. So, uncheck it only if you fail in the first attempt.
- Click Ok in the next dialog box which will warn you that the data will be lost.
- The format process will complete in a few moments, and you will have your error-free SD card or pen drive.
- Email from Arnie in Colordo Springs:Â Hi Dr. Shurtz, Iâ€™m using â€œdslreportsâ€ for speed testing as you suggested a while back. Interesting that sometimes Iâ€™m lucky to get 300kilobits, other times 130megabit/s, and in most cases, â€œBufferBloatâ€ is â€œF.â€ (Boy I sure miss Verizon FIOS like you have). So how can I decrease BufferBloat? Reboot router? Router & modem? Buy an app to decrease it? Comcast broadband is so fickle here in the Springs, I could shout. Really like Tech Talk show with all your info. Now for BufferBloat. Arnie in Colorado Springs, CO
- Tech Talk Responds: Bufferbloat is high latency (or lag) that occurs when thereâ€™s other traffic on your network. If tests show bufferbloat, your router is letting bulk traffic (uploads/downloads) interfere with (and slow down) your time-sensitive traffic (gaming, Skype, Facetime, etc.) Changing your QoS might help, but a faster internet connection probably wonâ€™t help at all. You will need to find a way to fix the router.
- A good router that protects against bufferbloat will hold the induced latency (extra latency above the no-traffic levels) below 30 msec. Above 100 msec, people will notice that the network feels slow: voice calls begin to sound bad, web browsing feels sticky, and you start to lag out when gaming.
- You will need a router whose manufacturer understands the principles of bufferbloat, and has updated the firmware to use one of the Smart Queue Management algorithms.
- If your router has SQM settings, you can measure latency under load without SQM, then turn on SQM and iterate: adjust the router settings and measure latency until the latency gets as low as possible while retaining good speeds. Some commercial router vendors will offer SQM in their stock firmware. Here is a list of those that do:
- The IQrouter provides a good setup wizard for configuring SQM, and automatically tuning its settings.
- Other routers that support QSM codes (fq_codel)
- The Untangle NG Firewall
- org has fq_codel settings
- Call your router vendorâ€™s support line. With the information from the DSLReports Speed Test or the Quick Test for Bufferbloat in hand, you can mention that the ping times get really high when up/downloading files, and that it really hurts your network performance. Ask if theyâ€™re working on the problem, and when theyâ€™re going to release a firmware update that solves it.
Profiles in IT: Reynold Johnson
- Reynold Johnson was inventor of the first computer hard drive.
- He was born in 1906 in Minnesota.
- He attended the University of Minnesota, achieving his B.S. in education administration in 1929. He then began teaching science and math at a local high school.
- His life changed in 1933, when he lost his teaching job and began shopping around an idea he had for an electromechanical device for automatically marking and grading pencil-marked multiple choice tests.
- One of the companies he attempted to interest was IBM, which initially refused the design. But in 1934, the company reassessed the machine and saw in Johnson great potential. They offered him a position as an engineer in their Columbia University and Endicott laboratories in New York.
- In 1952, he assembled the team, which began examining magnetic disk storage systems. IBM asked the team to use their research to develop a mass random access memory (RAM) storage system within two years.
- Johnson and his team based their work on magnetic disk storage experiments conducted by Jacob Rabinow of the National Bureau of Standards.
- In late 1955, Johnson and his team presented the first-ever working hard drive to IBM management.
- The RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting Control) was very large, weighing in at one ton, but it met IBMâ€™s original specifications, with access time to any given file averaging at about one second.
- It used fifty 24-inch magnetic disks rotating at 1200 RPM on one shaft, with two read/write heads that could quickly access the files.
- In 1956, IBM introduced the first commercial magnetic disk drive, the RAMAC 350, and even today, all disk drives are based on Johnsonís basic system.
- Johnson obtained 90 patents over the course of his career, many in the field of card handling, punching and reading devices.
- He also worked with Sony to invent the process of storing video on video tape that was half the width of normal video tape, leading to the creation of the VCR.
- Johnson retired in 1971 and continued to work at his Education Engineering Associates consulting company, where he created a microphonograph, used in Fisher-Priceâ€™s "Talk to Me" books. He died in 1998 at the age of 92.
Weird eBay Auction of the Week: Old FBI Surveillance Van
- Someone in North Carolina is offering up what is described as a restored 1989 FBI â€œsurveillanceâ€ van, complete with listening equipment, LCD monitors, and two DVD players, apparently.
- The Dodge Ram 350 van has low mileage (23,500 miles to be exact), one careful previous owner, double-locking doors, and its own toilet for long stakeouts.
- The seller, who looks legit and has dozens of good customers reviews, claims that while the van has recently been restored since leaving the bureau and being sold at government auction, the vehicle was in fact â€œused for FEDERAL DRUG INVESTIGATION and still has surveillance tapes inside with notebooks.â€ It includes other options:
- Rear AC/heat controls
- The ability to kill the engine from the back of the van
- On-board propane tanks
- An intercom
- A number of electrical sockets
- Two extra on-board batteries
- The seller is also offering to throw in manuals for all of the on-board surveillance equipment and full documentation to show that the van is legit, something that will no doubt come in handy should the local police inquire as to why youâ€™re driving around in a windowless van packed with stuff that resembles surveillance equipment.
- The current bid for the truck is $11,100, with 27 people having already made offers.
Creator of the Hashtag: Chris Messina
- Chris Messina, the former Google designer who first proposed that Twitter adopt the hashtag, or â€œpoundâ€ symbol, as it was called at the time.
- Messina first proposed that Twitter users use a hashtag to create â€œgroupsâ€ back in 2007.
- He suggested it in a tweet. how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp?
- Twitter rejected the idea. They told him that these things are for nerds. Theyâ€™re never going to catch on.
- Today, Twitter would be almost unusable without hot-linked hashtags.
- Even Facebook has adopted the hashtag as a news feed sorting mechanism.
- Messina chose to let the hashtag become a free device anyone can use and not a licensable product that he could have made money from.
- He said that claiming a government-granted monopoly on the use of hashtags would have likely inhibited their adoption, which was the antithesis of what he was hoping for, which was broad-based adoption and support across networks and mediums.
- He had no interest in making money off hashtags. They are born of the Internet, and should be owned by no one. The value and satisfaction he derives from seeing his funny little hack used as widely as it is today is valuable enough.
Beijing Wants AI To Be Made In China By 2030
- According to The New York Times, If Beijing has its way, the future of artificial intelligence will be made in China. The country laid out a development plan on Thursday to become the world leader in A.I. by 2030, aiming to surpass its rivals technologically and build a domestic industry worth almost $150 billion.
- China will be investing heavily to ensure its companies, government and military leap to the front of the pack in a technology many think will one day form the basis of computing.
- The plan comes with China preparing a multibillion-dollar national investment initiative to support â€œmoonshotâ€ projects, start-ups and academic research in A.I.
- This may be a bigger threat that nuclear weapons. The first country to reach The Singularity, when computers are smarter than people, will be unstoppable according the futurist ? Ray Kurzweil. We need to pay attention!
Elon Musk Wants to Merge The Human Brain and AI
- Elon Musk has made it clear that he is concerned about the extreme advancements being made in artificial intelligence (AI) research.
- Ultimately, he fears that AI will, one day, overtake humanity.
- In December 2015, Musk took his first major action, and announced the formation of OpenAI, a non-profit AI research company that hopes to advance digital intelligence in a way that will benefit humanity as a whole.
- Just a few weeks ago, details leaked asserting that Musk is backing a brain-computer interface venture that was founded in order to allow humans to keep up with the advancements made in machine intelligence.
- The company, called Neuralink, was still in the earliest stages of development.
- Neuralink is a brain-machine interface development company. They want to create cutting-edge BMIs.
- Doing this will support the growth of the company while also providing a perfect vehicle for putting their innovations to use.
- First they are planning bring something to market that helps with certain severe brain injuries (stroke, cancer lesion, congenital) in about four years.
- Musk thinks the technology is 8 to 10 years away for use by individuals with no disability.
- Musk believes that the development of AI could spell the end of the human race.
- It would take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldnâ€™t compete, and would be superseded.
- Being able to systematically and intelligently work with our neural code is the most consequential and pressing opportunity in the world today.
- These advancements could allow us to merge with machines, they could also allow us to literally program (or reprogram) our neural code, which would allow us to transform ourselves in ways that we canâ€™t even imagine.
AI of the Week: Robot Lawyer Fights Parking Tickets
- The worldâ€™s first robot lawyer has saved drivers millions by helping overturn parking tickets.
- An artificial intelligence chatbot has successfully challenged 160,000 traffic fines, resulting in savings of over $4 million.
- The chatbot, dubbed â€œDoNotPayâ€, operates in both London and New York, and doesnâ€™t cost users a single penny.
- It was created by London-born Stanford student Joshua Browder, and has only been live for 21 months.
- Over 250,000 cases have been taken by the chatbot so far, resulting in an impressive 64% success rate.
- It works by working out whether an appeal is possible, asking users questions about whether there were visible parking signs or how big the parking space was, for example. The chatbot then uses this information to generate an appeal.
- Browder created his chatbot after being slapped with 30 separate parking tickets around London.
- The self-taught coder now plans to launch DoNotPay in a third city: Seattle, USA.
- The DoNotPay chatbot doesnâ€™t just appeal parking tickets, however. It can also work on compensation for delayed flights, and providing HIV legal support.
- Link to bot:Â http://www.donotpay.co.uk/signup.php
Joke of the Week: Space Probe Junoâ€™s Name
- The space probe now orbiting Jupiter has a name with a familiar ring: Juno.
- In myth, Jupiter (Zeus for the Greeks) was king of the gods, and Juno/Hera was his queen.
- Their marriage was a troubled one, mostly because of Jupiterâ€™s rampant infidelity.
- When a Renaissance astronomer named Simon Marius claimed that he had discovered that the planet Jupiter had four large moons (weâ€™ve since found several more), he took Johannes Keplerâ€™s suggestion to name them for four of the godâ€™s most famous lovers: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
- When NASA named their solar-powered spacecraft for Jupiterâ€™s jealous wife, Juno, it could be seen as all in favor of this grand joke.
- Jupiter would also drape himself in clouds to hide his extracurricular activities. So Juno, in return, would scour the heavens, hoping to catch that cheating Jupiter in the act.
- By skimming the tops of the clouds, NASA is hoping Juno gets a better view of whatâ€™s really going on.
Food Science: Wine Preservation
- Wine that isnâ€™t preserved properly will result in oxidation damage, which results when wine is exposed to air.
- Oxidation damage degrades the wine by causing the aroma, flavor, and color to change, thus affecting the consumerâ€™s ability to enjoy the wine properly.
- In as little as 2-8 hours, oxidation can occur upon opening the bottle.
- Wine preservation products are intended to reduce the amount of air that comes into contact with wine to prevent or slow down oxidation.
- Rebottling $0.Instead of purchasing preservation systems, some people transfer the leftover wine into smaller bottles and then put a stopper in the
- Marbles ~$1 or less.Instead of rebottling, some purchase marbles to fill up the unfinished bottle before putting a stopper in the bottle neck.
- Spray ~$10. This system uses 100% non-toxic inert gas to remove oxygen from the opened bottle. A tube is inserted into the nozzle of the spray bottle. Each can has 120+ uses. This method is said to extend the life of the bottle for up to a week.
- Vacuum Pump ~$15 â€“ $40.Vacuum pumps are designed to pump out the air from an open bottle. They are portable and usually fit any size or type of wine bottle. This method is said to extend the life of the bottle for up to five days.
- Argon Gas ~$70.Â Argon gas systems are designed to prevent the air from touching the wine. As soon as the bottle is opened, you inject the argon gas into the bottle with a nozzle and then insert the stopper. The stopper is specially designed so that you can pour directly through it into the glass. This method is said to extend the life of the bottle for days-weeks.
- Inert Gas ~$110.Â This system is popular amongst restaurants that serve wine by the glass. Insert gas is used to displace oxygen. A disposable inert gas tank connects to a serving spigot via a tube. The spigot is attached to the opened bottle.