Show of 07-14-2018

Tech Talk

July 14, 2018

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Jim in the studio: Dear Doc. I’d like to recover my long lost iTunes account. It’s been a while (as in years) since I’ve accessed it. I’ve reached the maximum number of devices on the account, none of which exist anymore. What do I do? Please help me recover my ABBA, Bee Gees and Spyrogyra songs that are now lost out in the ether. Signed: Jim, The Troglodyte on the other side of the audio board.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You need to de-authorize those old devices so that you can install iTunes on a new device. Normally, you need the old device to perform this task. I suggest. You iTunes user name and password are the same as the iCloud. You need at least one authorized device to perform this action. Go to iTunes Store/View My Apple ID/Manage Devices. Remove the devices that you are no longer using. If that does not work call, Apple support and they can remove the devices for you.
  • Email from Alex in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. What is an RTF file and how do I open it. Someone at work gave me an RTF file and I am at a loss. Alex in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: A file with the .RTF file extension is a Rich Text Format file. While a normal text file stores only plain text, RTF files can include extra information about font style, formatting, images, and more. They are great for cross-platform document sharing because they are supported by lots of apps.
  • RTF was created by the Microsoft Word team back in the 1980’s. It was intended as a universal format that could be used by most word processors, making it easier for people to share Word documents with people who don’t use Word. Microsoft discontinued the development of RTF in 2008, but it’s still widely supported by apps on almost every operating system. If you’ve got any word processing app installed—Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, OpenOffice, AbiWord, and so on—you can open an RTF file with it.
  • Email from Jeannie in Pittsburgh: Dear Doc and Jim. I have DirectTV (without Internet or Phone) and my monthly bill is over $160. My subscription includes HBO and other movie channels. I have had DirectTV for over twenty years and it just keeps going up and up. I have a Verizon Fios box in my basement. I need to get a better deal what are my options. I am not very tech savvy, but I know that I could do better. Jeannie in Pittsburgh.
  • Tech Talk Responds: First of all, you need to get the Internet and Programming bundle. Not to have any Internet is a sin. You might consider just using DirectTV for the Internet and then using DirectTV Now for your programming. You can add HBO to DirectTV Now for only $5/month. Your ace in the hole is Verizon Fios. If you switch to Verizon Fios, you will get the new subscriber rate for two years. After two years, you can switch back to DirectTV. In all likelihood, DirectTV will try to keep by offering their new subscriber rate. You just have to be a tough negotiator and get connected to the recovery specialist.
  • Email from Betty in Oakton: Dear Tech Talk. I avoid Facebook. There are too many problems associated with it, plus it’s just not my thing. Can someone create a Facebook account in my name without my permission or knowledge? How do I check for any? What unique identifier does Facebook use? An email address? If found, how do I delete an erroneous account in my name? Enjoy the podcast. Betty in Oakton
  • Tech Talk Responds: A Facebook account is no different than any other online account. Your “unique identifier”, as you call it, is your email address, and indeed, you are required to set a password on the account. You log in to your Facebook account with your email address and password.
  • When you associate an email address with a Facebook account, you must verify that you actually own that email address. Facebook sends an email to that email address, containing a link you must click to confirm that ownership. While you can associate multiple email addresses with a single Facebook account (a good idea for account recovery), you cannot use the same email address on different Facebook accounts.
  • What people can do is create Facebook accounts in your name using some other email address. It’s not your email address that was used; it’s someone else setting up their own Facebook account and making it look like you.
  • It’s very easy to set up imposter accounts. Somebody can set up an email address using a free email service like or Gmail, and then create the Facebook account using your name and other information. Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, they can use any information they know or are able to find to make their fake account look more like the real you.
  • You should definitely contact Facebook; they have a Report an Impostor Account page. If it starts to cross the line into illegal activity, defamation, or worse, you can try to contact law enforcement.
  • Email from John in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk. My Windows 10 computer installed the latest updates. Now is is stuck on “Don’t Turn Off” During Windows Updates. I have waited a day and it is still stuck. Can I turn off the computer? Will that damage my files? John in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: The “Getting Windows ready, Don’t turn off your computer” message appears while Windows is installing updates. Windows will normally finish the installation process if you give it time—but, if it’s been hours, you may just need to restart your PC.
  • The update installation process will fail if you restart your PC during this process. But how badly will it fail? Will it cause problems with your computer?
  • If you turn off your computer and the install progress is less than 30%, Windows will restart normally. You will see the “We couldn’t finish installing updates” notification.
  • If you restart you computer and the update is over 40% installed, your computer will restore the previous version of the OS on reboot.
  • If the “Do not Restart” screen in on for over two hours, I would recommend restarting.
  • Email from Ralph in Reston: Dear Tech Talk. I have been adding additional features to my high performance PC at home. Sometimes I have trouble installing the correct Window10 drivers for these device. What do you recommend? Ralph in Reston
  • Tech Talk Responds: All your computer hardware, from the motherboard to the webcam, needs drivers to function properly. If your PC and its connected devices are working properly, you probably don’t need to download drivers. When you install Windows on a computer or connect a peripheral to your PC, Windows automatically downloads and installs the appropriate drivers. Device manufacturers upload these official drivers to Windows Update so Windows can install them automatically.
  • If you have just installed Windows on a PC or plugged in a peripheral and something isn’t working properly, it’s time to get the official drivers from the manufacturer’s download site.
  • Install the latest graphics drivers for your system’s NVIDIA, AMD, or Intel graphics hardware if you play PC games. The drivers available from Windows Update tend to be older, which means they won’t work as well with newer games. The Windows drivers don’t have useful tools like NVIDIA GeForce Experience and AMD ReLive that you get from the manufacturer, either.
  • To manually download a driver for a piece of hardware, you’ll need to know the manufacturer of the hardware, as well as its model number. If you purchased a desktop computer or laptop, you just need to know which manufacturer and model number of computer you have.
  • If you built your own PC, you’ll need to know which internal components you used. You’ll have to get each hardware component’s drivers from that manufacturer’s website.
  • We recommend you get your drivers straight from the hardware manufacturer’s official websites. Skip the scammy “driver downloader” apps you may see online.

Profiles in IT: Joseph Frederick Engelberger

  • Joseph Frederick Engelberger developed the first industrial robot, Unimate. He has been called “the father of robotics” for his contributions to the field of robotics.
  • Joseph Frederick Engelberger was born on July 26, 1925, in Brooklyn, New York.
  • He grew up in Connecticut during the Great Depression, but later returned to New York City for his college education.
  • Engelberger received his BS in physics (1946) and MSEE (1949) from Columbia U.
  • He worked as an engineer with Manning, Maxwell and Moore, where he met inventor George Devol at a Westport cocktail party in 1956, two years after Devol had designed and patented a rudimentary industrial robotic arm.
  • Manning, Maxwell and Moore was sold and Engelberger’s division was closed.
  • In 1956, Engelberger co-founded Unimation, the first robotics company, with Devol.
  • In 1957, he also founded Consolidated Controls Corporation. As president of Unimation, Engelberger collaborated with Devol to engineer and produce an industrial robot under the brand name Unimate.
  • The first Unimate robotic arm was installed at a GM Plant in Ewing, NJ, in 1961.
  • The introduction of robotics to the manufacturing process effectively transformed the automotive industry, with Chrysler and the Ford Motor Company soon following.
  • After selling the first Unimate at a $35,000 loss, as demand increased, the company was able to begin building the robotic arms for less, selling them at significant profit.
  • Engelberger was a key player in Japanese manufacturing quality and efficiency.
  • In 1966, Engelberger and a Unimate robot appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where the robot poured a beer, sank a golf putt, and directed the band.
  • Engelberger published articles and gave congressional testimony on the value of using automation in space. He consulted for NASA on the use of robotics in space.
  • Automotive companies that had been Unimation’s earliest and most reliable clients began moving away from the use of hydraulically powered robotic arms in the early 1980s in favor of electric motors, a change that Engelberger vehemently opposed.
  • Sales fell, and the company was acquired by Westinghouse in 1982 for $107 million.
  • In 1984, Engelberger founded Transitions Research Corporation. He introduced the HelpMate, a mobile robot hospital courier, Within a decade, well over 100 hospitals worldwide operated HelpMates. HelpMate was acquired by Cardinal Health in 1998.
  • The 2000 World Automation Congress was dedicated to Engelberger.
  • He notably discouraged the notion of legged robots, arguing that robots should use wheels for locomotion, although he supported the use of robotic arms.
  • Engelberger died on December 1, 2015, in Newtown, Connecticut at 90.
  • Engelberger published Robotics in Practice in 1980. The book became a classic.
  • Engelberger’s most famous co-invention, the Unimate industrial robotic arm, was among the first inductees into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2003.

YouTube TV Apologizes For Outage During World Cup Semifinals

  • England and Croatia played the semifinal match of the FIFA World Cup, a match that would determine who would go to the Finals.
  • Unfortunately, YouTube wasn’t up to the task, cutting out multiple times during the match, including during the ending of the match. Some users were cut off from the broadcast for as long as an hour.
  • YouTube TV’s tweet said the timing was “horrible” is underselling it.
  • YouTube TV wants to make it up to users. The service is offering a week’s worth of service—which, at the current $40/month plan, comes out to about $10—for free.
  • If you missed the game, recordings of the game are now available in your Library tab, so you can at least watch it after the fact.

Amazon Echo vs Google Home

  • There are only two ecosystems worth building a smart home around: Amazon Echo and Google Home. Which one should you choose?
  • The biggest advantage the Amazon Echo system has over Google Home’s might be the simplest: it’s so much easier to say “Alexa” than it is to say “Ok, Google.”
  • You can use your Amazon Echos as a makeshift intercom system, communicating from one room to another. Google Home currently has something like this, but you can only broadcast to every device in your house.
  • While Amazon and Google both let you make calls with your smart speaker, only Amazon can send messages with your voice.
  • Perhaps most important to Amazon users is the ability to order things through Amazon.
  • Google is playing catch up in the smart speaker market, no matter how you slice it.
  • Google does have one big advantage over Amazon: your Google account.
    • If you use Google to manage your calendar, you can call up your events.
    • If you use Google Maps to get to work, you can get information about your commute. If you have a Chromecast, you can cast to your TV with Home.
    • If you have multiple people in the house tied into the Google ecosystem, it still works. Google has voice recognition software to detect who is talking.
  • If you ask general questions of Google Home, you’re more likely to get an answer.
  • Amazon Echo normally just quotes Wikipedia. Alexa can answer some questions, but it will likely never match what Google can do.
  • If you use Android, it’s even easier. Google Assistant on your phone is (mostly) the same as what you’ll find in a Google Home device.
  • Amazon and Google’s smart speakers are pretty similar. Even when there are differences, they are mild. Broadly speaking, you can set timers, listen to music, control your smart home, and ask basic questions with both.
  • So, which should you choose? Whichever one you feel like. If you want to choose Google’s ecosystem because you like that it works with Google Calendar, go for it. Want an Amazon Echo because you’d rather say “Alexa” instead of “Hey Google”?

MacBook Pro Refreshed: A Good Time to Buy

  • Apple has rolled out a refresh on the MacBook Pro line of laptops, bringing quieter keyboards and 8th-generation Intel processors. If you’ve been waiting to buy one, now’s the best time to buy.
  • In April, Intel released its 8th-generation Intel processors, dubbed “Coffee Lake,” but Apple has held off on making use of the new tech in its MacBook Pro lineup.
  • The upgraded processor isn’t available for every MacBook Pro, though. You’ll need to opt for the Touch Bar-enabled models, which start at $1,799.
  • The base 13″ model comes with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 2.3GHz quad-core Core i5 Coffee Lake processor.
  • If you’d rather go for the 15″ display, the laptop starts at $2,399 for 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 2.2GHz 6-core Core i7 Coffee Lake processor.
  • However, you can also upgrade the RAM, processor, embedded graphics card, and built-in storage, if you’ve got the cash and want a little more power.
  • Apple claims that the keyboards on the new MacBook Pros are much quieter than they were before.
  • The newest MacBook Pros will be the first to feature always-listening “Hey Siri” functionality. While you’ve been able to talk to your laptop for a while, you’ll now be able to do it without ever touching your laptop at all.

The Surface Go Competes with the iPad

  • Microsoft is releasing a $399 tablet that runs in Windows S mode.
  • It’s designed to be cheap and portable enough to throw in whatever bag you take with you.
  • The base model starts at $399, with a 10″ PixelSense display, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, and an Intel Pentium Gold processor.
  • The tablet ships in Windows 10 S Mode, which only allows you to install apps from the Windows Store and browse with Microsoft Edge. Of course, as with all Windows devices, you can simply turn off S Mode, so you could just use it as a regular Windows device.
  • However, Windows isn’t quite as intuitive in a touch-only mode as an iPad or a Chromebook is, so you might want the $99 Type Cover keyboard and case add-on.
  • You can get the upgraded version that comes with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD for the base price of $549, plus the $99 Type Cover ($650 total). Its not quite as powerful as a similarly priced laptop and not as cheap as a more powerful iPad.
  • The Surface Go goes on sale in stores on August 2nd with preorder taken now.

Food Science: Why Does Opened Wine Go Bad

  • When a wine bottle is uncorked, its contents are exposed to air, causing them to oxidize.
  • Bacteria naturally present in grapes can turn either the sugars in grape juice or the alcohol in wine into acetic acid, giving it a vinegar taste (and eventually producing a wine vinegar).
  • However, these bacteria need oxygen to grow. Wine’s fermentation process is usually oxygen-free because of the large amount of carbon dioxide produced when yeasts turn sugars into alcohol.
  • Uncorking the bottle introduces oxygen to feed the bacteria, and the flavor begins to change immediately.
  • Not all changes are undesirable: Expensive red wines, in particular, are said to improve in the decanter and in the glass over a short period. Some white wines oxidize in the bottle over years, producing a rich rather than sour quality.
  • Still, oxygen is the enemy of most wine, and there are several devices on the market to put a halt to the process. One way is with a vacuum pump that pumps air out of the bottle. A nitrogen sealant is another preservation method. Releasing nitrogen into the bottle displaces oxygen, theoretically keeping it from tainting the flavor.
  • Vacuum pumps and nitrogen sealants are priced from $10 to $20 from Zyliss and Cork Pops Inc., respectively. In a test by Popular Science, most wine drinkers could tell the difference between fresh and re-corked (even with these devices). to see if these gadgets work. The average wine buyer might be better off either polishing off the bottle when it’s opened or quickly recorking and refrigerating it for a few days.
  • Boxed wines are also a good option for drinking a glass at a time. They have a plastic pouch that shrinks as the wine is consumed. Oxygen is never let into the pouch so the wine last longer.

39% Of Viewers Choose Live TV as Default

  • In the latest edition of its annual “Decoding the Default” report, Hub found that only 39% of viewers tune into live programming from a traditional pay-TV provider, down from 47% last year. On-demand sources, collectively, were the first choice for 48% of viewers.
  • For viewers aged 18-34, the pattern is more stark — only about a quarter (26%) of the demo lists live TV as a default, compared with 35% a year ago.
  • One clear influence on consumer behavior is the increase in TV sources — the average person has 4.5 distinct sources to choose from (including linear TV, DVR, VOD, Netflix, etc.). That number is up from 3.7 in 2014.
  • Hub found that 50% of 18-34-year-olds subscribe to at least two of the big three: Netflix, Amazon or Hulu.
  • Even older generations accustomed to the “clicker” have turned away from live TV as a default. About 56% of viewers 55 and older listed live as their first choice, but that’s down from 66% a year ago.
  • The study is based on data collected in June from 1,933 US consumers with broadband who watch at least one hour of TV per week.

China’s ZTE Moves to get US to Lift Ban

  • ZTE Corp is expected to deposit $400 million in an escrow account in a U.S. bank. This the last step that must take before a ban on U.S. suppliers can be lifted.
  • ZTE, which makes smart phones and networking gear, agreed to pay a $1 billion penalty and put $400 million in escrow as part of a settlement.
  • The escrow account in the new settlement is designed to allow the U.S. government access to the $400 million if ZTE violates the latest deal.
  • ZTE, China’s second-largest telecommunications equipment maker, ceased major operations after the United States imposed the ban in April.
  • The company had broken a prior agreement by making false statements about disciplining executives involved in illegally shipping goods to Iran and North Korea.
  • The decision to lift the ban was made by Donald Trump. The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate passed legislation this week that would overturn the settlement.
  • ZTE paid Qualcomm and over 200 other U.S. companies more than $2.3 billion in 2017, including over $100 million each to Intel, Broadcom and Texas Instruments.
  • Under the new Commerce Department settlement, ZTE agreed to numerous conditions beyond monetary penalties, including changing its board and leadership.