Show of 12-08-2018

Tech Talk

December 8, 2018

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Jim in Michigan: Dear Doc and Jim. Is there a way to send a text message without a cell phone? Sometimes I need to text my wife and only have my computer because the cell phone coverage in my neighborhood is so bad. Love the show. Jim near Lake Michigan.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can email the SMS Gateway from your computer. All you need is the email address of the gateway. Below are three common ones. You can get a complete list by search for “SMS Gateways”
  • Email from Jim in Michigan: Dear Tech Talk. I recently downloaded a game and the file has an ISO extension. Windows keeps saying that it doesn’t know how to open it. Someone told me that I need to burn it to a disc. How do I do that? Thanks. Jim in Michigan.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The ISO format is a popular way to distribute large packages of files that would normally appear on a CD or DVD. The name “ISO” is taken from the ISO 9660 file system used with CD-ROM media but the term ISO image can refer to any optical disc image, even a UDF image. ISO is the International Standards Organization.
  • ISO files are typically exact copies of the data that would otherwise be placed onto a CD or DVD. There’s no compression performed, so an ISO file that contains the contents of a 640-megabyte CD would itself be 640 megabytes in size.
  • ImgBurn is free software that handles all of the features you need to burn data, ISO, and even audio disks, easily and efficiently. Download ImgBurn and install it, but be certain to certain to click the right download link (there are some misleading ads). When installing, opt out of all other installations it tries to push. Do not accept Express Installation.
    • Run ImgBurn. Click on Write image file to disc.
    • Click on the Select File button. This opens a file selection dialog box.
    • Insert a blank, writable disc and click the burn button.
  • Another good option is Active@ISO Burner by Soft Technologie. This program has received good reviews.
  • Email from Margaret in Oakton: Dear Tech Talk. I am getting low memory messages in my iPhone. I have many pictures. I transferred my pictures to my laptop and deleted most of my photos. But I am still getting the low memory message. What is wrong with my phone? Love the show. Margaret in Oakton.
  • Tech Talk Responds: When you delete photos or videos on your phone, they are transferred to the deleted folder and kept for 30 days. They still consumed memory while in that folder. If you are certain that your photos are safely transferred to you empty the deleted items folder to free up the memory. Open the Photos app and select albums from the bottom menu. Open the Recently Deleted folder and click on Select on the top. Then choose Delete All from the options.
  • A better way going forward would be to store you high resolution photos on iCloud and only keep low resolution copies on your iPhone for viewing. To do this, go to Setting/Photos & Camera. Turn on iCloud Photo Library. Select Optimize iPhone Storage. Warning: you may have to pay for additional iCloud space. You only get 5GB free.
  • Email from Carol in Sterling: Dear Tech Talk. I am starting a new business and need to get a low cost phone number. I have heard about Google Voice but don’t understand how it works. Please explain. Carol in Sterling, Virginia
  • Tech Talk Responds: Google Voice is a good option for you. Google Voice is a telephony service that provides call forwarding and voicemail services, voice and text messaging, as well as U.S. and international call termination for Google Account customers in the U.S. and Canada. The service was launched by Google on March 11, 2009, after the company had acquired the service GrandCentral.
  • Google Voice provides a U.S. telephone number, chosen by the user from available numbers in selected area codes, free of charge to each user account. Calls to this number are forwarded to telephone numbers that each user must configure in the account web portal. Multiple destinations may be specified that ring simultaneously for incoming calls. Service establishment requires a United States telephone number. A user may answer and receive calls on any of the ringing phones as configured in the web portal. During a received call the user may switch between the configured telephones.
  • Users in the U.S. may place outbound calls to domestic and international destinations. Calls may be initiated from any of the configured telephones, as well as from a mobile device app, or from the account portal. As of August 2011, users in many other countries also may place outbound calls from the web-based application to domestic and international phone numbers.[4]
  • Many other Google Voice services—such as voicemail, free text messaging, call history, conference calling, call screening, blocking of unwanted calls, and voice transcription to text of voicemail messages—are also available to U.S. residents.
  • Email from Rita in Maryland: Dear Doc and Jim. I recently set up a new computer and tried to be very clever and created a difficult password. Now I can’t remember it and am locked out of my Windows 10 HP computer. I don’t have any CDs available. This computer was never used and I do not have any documents that need saved. The store wants $100 to fix the problem. There must be a cheaper option. Love the show. Rita in Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: The process of recovering your password in Windows 10 is much the same as it has been in Windows 8. If you are using a Microsoft Live Login, you can use the Microsoft Password Reset Website ( You’ll find three choices, and for this particular case, you’ll want to follow the “I Forgot My Password” selection if you’re attempting to recover any accounts that are tied to your online identity.
  • Once you make it through these steps, you will be greeted with the generally familiar recovery process that most major companies will use when attempting to verify that you really are who you say you are. If you have registered an external email or a cellphone number with your account, you can receive a code which will pop your account open without any extra hassle.
  • If you do not have live login, you will need to restore your computer to its initial state. The good news is that you do not have any documents that need to be saved. While the computer is booting, press F11. Select Trouble Shoot from the menu. Then select Reset Your Pc from the menu. You will be warned that this will remove all document data. Click OK and it will reset. It will take quite a bit of time. Then you will have to install all the security updates.
  • By the way, you can reset the password by booting on a utility like Hirens Boot CD. However, the files will still be encrypted and not readable. Without the password, the OS will not have the correct key to decrypt the files.
  • Moral of the story. Don’t forget your password or else link your password to your Microsoft account so it can be reset.
  • Email from Ngoc in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk. I travel frequently between Ohio and Virginia and plane. I always carry my laptop with me. Do airport X-rays damage flash media, floppy diskettes, or laptop computers? Love the show. Ngoc in Ohio
  • Tech Talk Responds: Many users who travel or plan on traveling may be concerned about damage to their portable devices, or storage media when putting them through an X-ray machine at an airport. As the name indicates, these machines emit X-rays, which are not magnetic, and do not damage or destroy electrical equipment or data that is sensitive to magnetism. However, taking a laptop, hard drive, flash media, or other magnetic sensitive device through a metal detector can cause damage. The inductive current caused by metal detectors can be very damaging to sensitive electronics

Profiles in IT: Demis Hassabis

  • Demis Hassabis is a British artificial intelligence researcher who founded DeepMind and created AlphaGo.
  • Demis Hassabis was Born 27 July 1976 in London, England. He is of Greek Cypriot and Singaporean descent.
  • A child prodigy in chess, Hassabis reached master standard at the age of 13 and captained many of the England junior chess teams.
  • Hassabis was educated at Christ’s College, in East Finchley in North London.
  • After completing his exams at the age of 16 two years early, he was hired by Bullfrog Productions, where he co-designed and programmed Theme Park video game.
  • Theme Park, a celebrated simulation game, sold several million copies and won a Golden Joystick Award, and inspired a whole genre of management sim games.
  • In 1994, Hassabis then left Bullfrog to attend Queens College at the University of Cambridge, where he studied the Computer Science. He graduated in in 1997.
  • After graduation, Hassabis worked as a lead AI programmer on the Lionhead Studios title Black & White
  • In 1998, he founded Elixir Studios, a game developer. Its first game, Republic was greeted with lukewarm reviews. Evil Genius, a Bond simulator, fared much better.
  • In April 2005 the intellectual property and technology rights were sold to various publishers and the studio was closed.
  • In 1999, aged 23, he won the Mind Sports Olympiad – an annual international multi-disciplined competition for games of mental skill. He won it a record five times.
  • Hassabis returned to academia to obtain his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from University College London (UCL) in 2009.
  • Hassabis published several influential papers concerning memory and amnesia.
  • After graduation, he was hired as Research Fellow at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, University College London.
  • In 2010, he co-founded DeepMind Technologies, a London-based machine learning startup, specializing in building general-purpose learning algorithms.
  • In January 2014 DeepMind was acquired by Google for $625 million, where Hassabis is now Vice President of Engineering leading their general AI projects.
  • In March 2016, AlphaGo beat Lee Sedol, one of the highest ranking Go players in the world, winning 4 games out of a 5 game series.
  • In December of 2018, DeepMind’s tool AlphaFold won the 13th Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction (CASP) by successfully predicting the most accurate structure for 25 out of 43 proteins.
  • Google uses AI to understand search queries providing context awareness, allowing users to talk to the computer as they would a human, by voice or by keyboard.
  • Hassabis was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) in 2009 for his game design work. He was awarded the Mullard Award by the Royal Society in 2014.

AlphaZero Teaches Itself How to Play Games

  • A team of researchers with the DeepMind group and University College, both in the U.K., has developed an AI system capable of teaching itself how to play and master three difficult board games.
  • Starting from random play and given no domain knowledge except the game rules, AlphaZero defeated a world champion program in the games of chess and shogi (Japanese chess) as well as Go.
  • In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their new system and explain why they believe it represents another big step forward in AI systems development.
  • It has been over 20 years since a supercomputer known as Deep Blue beat world chess champion Gary Kasparov, showing the world just how far AI computing had come.
  • In the years since, computers have grown ever smarter and now beat humans at such games as chess, shogi and Go.
  • But such systems have all been tweaked to make them really good at just one game.
  • The new system, called AlphaZero, is a reinforcement learning system, which, as its name implies, means it learns by repeatedly playing a game and learning from its experiences.
  • This is, of course, very similar to how humans learn. A basic set of rules is laid out and then the computer plays the game—with itself.
  • Over time, it improves. Eventually, it becomes so good it can beat not just humans, but other dedicated board game AI systems.

Waymo One, the First Self-Driving Taxi Service

  • Waymo, the self-driving subsidiary of Alphabet, launched its first commercial autonomous ride-hailing service here in the Phoenix suburbs.
  • Waymo’s new self-driving taxi service, called Waymo One, will only be available to “several hundred” members of the Early Rider program.
  • Since April 2017, the Early Riders have been testing the company’s autonomous vehicles for trips to work, school, and various errands.
  • Some of these people will now migrate to Waymo One, while others will stay in the Early Rider program. Those who move to Waymo One will continue to use the company’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans in much the same way they did while in the Early Rider program, except now they will be charged for the rides.
  • The cars aren’t fully driverless yet: they will include “trained drivers” behind the steering wheel until Waymo decides to pull them out.
  • While Waymo insists its cars will drive themselves a majority of the time, the human driver can take control should the vehicle become confused.
  • Waymo’s most advanced vehicles are still occasionally confounded by certain traffic situations, which suggests the tech is still not quite ready for the real world.
  • Taking human monitors out of the vehicle is Waymo’s ultimate “vision.
  • As expected, Waymo One will only be available in four Phoenix suburbs where the company has been testing its vehicles for the last two years: Chandler, Mesa, Tempe, and Gilbert. The service area roughly equals 100 square miles.
  • The company’s vehicles have traveled 10 million miles autonomously on public roads, with an additional 7 billion miles in virtual simulation.

Amazon Targets Airports for Checkout-Free Stores

  • Amazon is looking at bringing its checkout-free store format to airports.
  • For months, the Amazon has been expanding Amazon Go, where customers scan their smartphones at a turnstile to enter, and then cameras identify what they take from the shelves. When shoppers are finished, they simply leave the store and Amazon bills their credit cards on file.
  • Amazon has opened seven of the stores to the public since January: in Chicago, San Francisco and its hometown Seattle, mostly catering to workers in nearby offices looking for a quick lunch.
  • Amazon is evaluating top U.S. airports for new locations, according to public records requests to several airport operators.
  • A person familiar with the strategy confirmed that Amazon is studying how to get the checkout-free stores into airports and that an employee with experience in business

What is 5G Cellular Technology?

  • 5G is the fifth generation of wireless networking technology.
  • Speed is the first advantage.
    • Most people see maximum 4G speeds of about 16.9 megabits per second.
    • 5G promises to deliver Gigabit speeds. 5G will make it possible to stream 4K HDR content—and more.
  • Number of connections is the second advantage.
    • Today’s networks rely on 200-foot towers to blanket large areas with signal. About 25,000 are in the U.S.
    • There will be far more 5G cell sites, each covering a smaller area.Those 5G sites will be able to connect many times more devices to the network at once.
  • Reduced latency is third advantage.
    • The third goal of 5G is to lower latency, or how long it takes the network to respond to a request.
    • Today, latency is about 9 milliseconds (ms). With 5G, that will drop to 1ms.
    • Latency is particularly critical in autonomous vehicle applications. The distance a car travels at 60mph in 9 ms compared to in 1 ms.
  • 5G uses more spectrum.
    • There are two basic sets of airwaves being prepped for 5G, those above 6 GHz, called millimeter wave (mmWave), and those below 6 GHz.
    • In the U.S., mmWave airwaves are centered in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands, while sub-6 GHz will fall in the 3.5 GHz band. There is more availability in the high-spectrum airwaves.
  • Which carriers will offer 5G.
    • The major U.S.-based carriers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, are all working on 5G networks. Each has a different launch window, but those launches are nearly here.
  • Qualcomm and Intel are leading the way with 5G modems, while Ericsson and Nokia are creating tower and backhaul gear that will be used in the U.S.
  • LG hopes to launch the first 5G-enabled phone early next year, while Motorola has developed a 5G modem that can be attached to its modular Moto Z3 smartphone.
  • Verizon’s 5G service is fixed and only available in small parts of four markets (Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.) Fixed 5G serves as a fiber or cable replacement.
  • AT&T plans to launch mobile 5G in as many as 19 markets by the end of the year.
  • T-Mobile says it will offer 5G mobile service to an unknown number of markets during the first half of the year and reach the entire country at some point in 2020.
  • Sprint has been less specific about its 5G network plans, but says it will be first to offer a 5G phone during the first half of 2019.

Uber files for IPO, Wall Street Journal reports

  • One day after Lyft submitted paperwork to the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering, Uber sent in its own confidential filing.
  • The move puts Uber and Lyft in a race to Wall Street.
  • Analysts hadn’t expected Uber to go public “until the middle of next year,”
  • The filings now put both Lyft and Uber on pace for a public offering in the first three months of 2019.
  • As of October, Wall Street banks projected that Uber could raise $120 billion in its IPO, Bloomberg News reported at the time. Lyft has been valued at $15 billion.

Linus Torvalds returns to Linux Development

  • Linus Torvalds, the software engineer and Linux kernel creator, has returned to oversee the open source project following a self-imposed break last month designed to help him adjust his controversial behavior.
  • Torvalds, who has a reputation for being rude and aggressive to other members of the community, said at the time that wanted to address his “flippant” actions and proclivity for personal attacks.
  • Torvalds said, “I need to change some of my behavior, and I want to apologize to the people that my personal behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development,” Torvalds wrote at the time.
  • Interim Linux chief Greg Kroah-Hartman has announced that he’s “handing the kernel tree” back to Torvalds.
  • Linux is an open source project, but Torvalds oversees the Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) and he and Kroah-Hartman receive funding from the non-profit Linux Foundation to maintain kernel development and manage its community of contributors.
  • As part of Torvalds return to the Linux community, the Linux Foundation has officially instated its revised code of conduct. Torvalds announced the new code of conduct in his initial note about stepping back.

Use Multiple Phone Numbers with Verizon App

  • Verizon is now allowing its customers to add up to four additional numbers to one smartphone with its new “My Numbers” app.
  • After downloading the app, you will be able to set up the feature. You will be asked to authenticate your Verizon phone number, and can then purchase additional virtual numbers by selecting them in the list provided.
  • Each of the virtual numbers includes unlimited domestic calling and text messaging, and will cost $15 per month, which is billed to your Verizon account.
  • You can choose from different ringtones to help you identify which number someone is calling, a different icon that others will see when you call them.
  • Text messages and voicemails are organized into separate boxes as well.
  • My Numbers can be downloaded via the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store.
  • In 2016, T-Mobile came out with Digits which gives its users the ability to tie up to five phone numbers to one device.
  • Google’s call service, Google Voice, also allows users to forward phone calls from one single number to from multiple devices.

Voice Recognition Is Nearly Flawless: What is Next?

  • Voice recognition has really gotten good.
  • Take, for instance Microsoft’s Cortana achieved a 5.1 percent error rate in speech recognition. This puts Cortana on par with professional human transcribers.
  • Google is using its virtual assistant to carry on live conversations with real people at the other end of a phone call. This incorporates both voice recognition and natural language creation, which makes it an even more compelling example.
  • So with speech recognition now existing at a nearly flawless level, what is next for this technology? What more can we do?
  • We can start by looking to harness the power of voice recognition for new applications, in industries like retail, marketing, and even education.
  • Next, we the software will be able to read emotions to add context. When when speaking with a chatbot, it is useful to know when a user is irritated, or when he is amused. The chatbot can provide better contextual results and possibly, a more pleasing conversation.
  • Some companies are already working on emotional recognition, but there are some major challenges in this area to overcome; recognizing emotions through voice alone is difficult even for a human to do (since we’re so used to reading facial expressions), and the amount of data required to perform a reasonable analysis is massive.

How Hackers Are Stealing High-Profile Instagram Accounts

  • Social engineering has been very effective to highjack accounts.
  • In early October, a publicist received a message via email offering $80k to post a single picture. However, the number of followers must be verified.
  • The publicist hastily agreed. The hacker asked the influencer to log into a third-party Instagram analytics tool, Iconosquare—a common request; many brands use tools such as Iconosquare to track the success of their influencer campaigns.
  • But link he sent wasn’t to—it was to, a cloned version of the site et up for phishing.
  • Once the influencer logged in with the Instagram username and password, the hacker seized control of the account. Within minutes, he was spamming the influencer’s millions of followers with offers for a free iPhone.
  • He has targeted several YouTubers, Instagram stars, and meme pages and used the stolen pages to promote scammy-looking apps and fake offers for free products. I
  • n the past month alone, he has seized @Fact, with 7.2 million followers, @Chorus, with 10.1 million, and @SnoopSlimes, with 1.9 million.
  • After the accounts are seized, the hackers update the account’s bio to say “managed by SCL Media,” and begin reaching out to brands via direct message, telling them to negotiate sponsored content deals with SCL, not the previous account holder.
  • Influencers as young as 13 are entering into brand deals with zero experience in negotiating high-value business partnerships. It is all too easy for a scammer to entice them with the promise of a big paycheck, then hack their accounts or escape without

Marriott’s Starwood Hotels Suffer Mega-Hack

  • Marriott has admitted that a breach of its Starwood subsidiary’s guest reservation network has exposed the entire database – all 500 million guest bookings over four years.
  • “On September 8, 2018, Marriott received an alert from an internal security tool regarding an attempt to access the Starwood guest reservation database in the United States.
  • Marriott learned during the investigation that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network since 2014.”
  • Around 327 million of those guest bookings included customers’ “name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest (‘SPG’) account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences.”
  • For an unspecified number, encrypted card numbers and expiration dates were also included, though Marriott insisted there was AES-128 grade encryption on these details.
  • Marriott and its investigators found an encrypted database online in an unspecified location. After decrypting it, they discovered a full copy of the entire Starwood guest reservation database.
  • All twelve Starwood hotel brands have been affected.
  • Law enforcement in the US has been notified. The hotel chain is emailing customers now to inform them.