Show of 01-26-2019

Tech Talk
January 26, 2019

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments taken from previous shows.

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Dennis in Baltimore: Dear Doc and Jim. I am trying to get a job in the technology and having trouble. They want experience and I cannot get experience without a job. This is a chicken and egg problem. What comes first, the experience or the job. I am stuck in a rut. Help. Dennis in Baltimore
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is the classic problem. You have also made the classic mistake. No one said that the experience has to be paid. You need to complete some IT projects that interest you.
      • Install a Linux OS and set up a firewall and router for your network
      • Install Apache web server with PHP and MySQL
      • Create a simple database driven website.
      • Install a VMWare on your laptop and create a virtual server.
      • Use Ethereum to create a Blockchain application.
  • Anything that interests you. An IT applicant without interests, or completed projects, is someone to avoid.
  • Join user groups (Linux, MAC, Oracle, MySQL, etc.) and help with the meetings. Ask for assistance with some of your projects. Never ask for a job. If they see you working on an interesting project (with enthusiasm), the jobs will find you.
  • Subscribe to industry magazines. You need to know where the field is going so you can talk intelligently about the future and what you will need to know.
  • Act like you are already a professional in the field. Act the part, get the job.
  • Message from Adelakun Akinsunlola on Facebook: Please educate me on how to protect my bank account against fraudsters using internet.
  • Tech Talk Responds: First, select a strong password that is not used on any other accounts. Second, enable two-factor authentication. Make certain that your second factor (email account or cell phone) is secured. Your second factor email account needs a strong password which is not used on any other accounts. Your cell phone account should be protected against SIM hijacking. Do not do banking on any public Wi-Fi or public computer. If you must use a public Wi-Fi, always enable a VPN before doing any banking. Never use a public computer.
  • Email from Richard in Rockville: Hello Richard and Jim. Thank you for a very informative and enjoyable Saturday morning show on WFED 1500AM. I also do not have cable TV. I do all of my TV viewing in over the air mode.using a simple rabbit ears hook up.  Since I live on an upper floor of a high rise with a window facing NE I am able to get many Baltimore TV stations. Best Regards, Richard in Rockville
  • Tech Talk Responds: So good you can get over-the-air HDTV is great. I like streaming my HDTV over my Wi-Fi so I can watch it on all devices in the houses without splitters or cabling. I love my Tablo for that purpose.
  • Email from Geosynchronous: Hey Doc and Jimbo, Been catching up on old shows by working backwards from your most recent offerings. Listening at 2X speed (highly recommended) via the podcast app I’ve made it to February 2018. Here’s the rub. All shows near or prior to that date come up as “Unavailable” via Apple podcast. Can you check and see if that can be fixed? Need my new favorite show! Ps – If it can’t be fixed might you have an existing FTP endpoint for bulk downloading? Much love, Geosynchronous
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can subscribe to the actual podcast feed:
  • Also note that all shows can be accessed directly with their link, which you can infer from the following link:
  • Thanks for listening. I will check out the Apple Podcast problem too.
  • Email from Lois in Kansas: Dear Doc and Jim. I am planning of giving my old Windows 10 laptop to my nephew. I would like to remove all personal data from the hard drive before giving it to him. How can I do that reliably? Love the podcast. Lois in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: It is difficult to do. Windows stores so much information in so many places, it is nearly impossible to know what to delete and from where.
  • By far the safest approach is to wipe the machine and reinstall Windows 10 from scratch. That is really the only way to be certain. You will have erased absolutely everything, including all personal data. You will then have to re-install all applications on the computer. I hope that you have the kept the licensing information.
  • If you don’t like the idea of a reformat-and-reinstall, the only solution I’d consider would be the following sequence:
    • Create a new Windows user account with administrative privileges.
    • Log out of your existing account and log in to the computer using that newly created account.
    • Delete the old account completely.
  • Then look for additional data you might have placed outside of Windows default locations. Look at the various applications you have installed on the machine, and see where they have been storing data. You may find it in several different places. But you might not find it all. You more secure option is wipe and re-install.
  • Brian in Kansas: Dear Doc and Jim. I just bought a new HDTV and was looking at all of the options. What does game mode on my monitor mean and what does it do? What Does “Game Mode” On My TV Or Monitor Mean? Brian in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: Modern displays have computer parts. That means that, unlike some of the simpler televisions and monitors, images don’t transfer instantly from whatever’s plugged into your screen to the screen itself. There is a delay between when the display receives the signal from the video cable and when it’s fully rendered onto the screen. That’s the amount of time it takes all those electronics inside your TV or monitor to process the image. We call this time the input lag.
  • Input lag is generally between five and ten milliseconds (ms) for most modern LCD screens. As long as your TV’s audio is synced correctly, your brain can’t notice a 1/100th of a second difference. But input lag can be a huge deal for playing modern PC or console games. 1/100th of a second in a fast-paced game might be the difference between a punch landing or not.
  • When you enable game mode on some monitors and televisions, it strips away some or all of the processing that the screen does to the image to get it from the source to the screen panel as fast as possible. Generally, this means going from 10ms of lag down to 6ms. Some high-end TVs or monitors can get that time down to 1 ms.
  • If it is not designed with gaming in mind, “game mode” might not be a setting related to the input lag at all. It might just be another color profile.

Profiles in IT: Ivan Edward Sutherland

  • Ivan Edward Sutherland is an American computer scientist and Internet pioneer, widely regarded as the “father of computer graphics”.
  • He was born May 16, 1938 in Hastings, Nebraska.
  • In 8th grade he built a gantry crane with surplus motors brought home by his father. His favorite subject in high school was geometry.
  • His first computer processing experience was with a computer called SIMON, a relay-based computer with six words of two-bit memory.
  • Its 12 bits of memory permitted SIMON to add up to 15. Sutherland’s first significant program allowed SIMON to divide.
  • For 12th grade science fair, he made a magnetic drum memory with 128 2-bit words.
  • After graduating from Scarsdale High School in 1955, Sutherland attended Carnegie Mellon University on a full scholarship, which made it affordable for him.
  • He received a BS from Carnegie in 1959, an MS from the Caltech in 1960, and a PhD in EE from the MIT in 1963.
  • He invented Sketchpad in 1962 while at MIT. Sketchpad was a groundbreaking interactive computer-aided design system. Its innovations included hierarchical drawings, constraint-satisfaction methods, and an interactive GUI.
  • After graduating from MIT in 1963, Sutherland accepted a U.S. Army commission.
  • In 1964, at age 26, First Lieutenant Sutherland replaced J. C. R. Licklider as the head of the DARPA Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO).
  • From 1965 to 1968, Sutherland was an Associate Professor of EE at Harvard.
  • In 1968, with the help of student Bob Sproull, he created the first virtual reality and augmented reality head-mounted display system.
  • From 1968 to 1974 Sutherland was a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Utah. Among his noted students there were Jim Clark (founder of Silicon Graphics, Netscape, and WebMD, Alan Kay (creator of the Smalltalk language and 2003 Turing Award recipient and Edwin Catmull (co-founder of Pixar).
  • In 1968 Sutherland co-founded Evans & Sutherland, which focused on real-time hardware, accelerated 3D computer graphics, and printer languages. Former employees included the founder of Adobe (John Warnock).
  • Starting in the mid-1970s, Sutherland was affiliated with the RAND Corporation, and investigated making animated movies—an undertaking well ahead of its time.
  • From 1974 to 1978 he was at Caltech, where he was the founding head of that school’s Computer Science Department.
  • In 1980 he founded Sutherland, Sproull and Assoc., which was purchased by Sun in 1990 to form its research division. Sutherland became a Fellow and VP at Sun.
  • He was a visiting scholar in Computer Science at UC Berkeley from 2005 to 2008.
  • During his career Sutherland has obtained more than 60 patents.

Illusion of control: Placebo Buttons

  • Have you ever pressed the pedestrian button at a crosswalk and wondered if it really worked? Or pressed the “close door” button in an elevator, while suspecting that it may, in fact, have no effect whatsoever?
  • The world is full of buttons that don’t actually do anything.
  • They are sometimes called “placebo buttons” — buttons that are mechanically sound and can be pushed, but provide no functionality. Like placebo pills, however, these buttons may still serve a purpose. They provide the illusion of control.
  • In New York City, only about 100 of the 1,000 crosswalk buttons actually function.
  • Worsening traffic may be behind the shift. Crosswalk signals were generally installed before congestion had reached today’s levels, and, over time, they started to interfere with the complex coordination of traffic lights. So they just disabled them.
  • Other cities, such as Boston, Dallas and Seattle, have gone through a similar process, leaving them with their own placebo pedestrian buttons. In London, which has 6,000 traffic signals, pressing the pedestrian button results in a reassuring “Wait” light.
  • So what about the “close door” in elevators? If you live in the US, it almost certainly does not work. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires that an elevator’s doors remain open long enough for anyone with disability or mobility issues, to get on board the cab safely. Outside the US, there’s a higher chance, that the button will work.
  • Thermostats in hotel rooms are known to limit the temperature range available to users, thus reducing energy costs. Sometimes thermostats can be deceptive by design. Some models even include a “placebo function” option. Dummy thermostats, those not wired into the system at all, can also be found in offices

Ford will Test Self-driving cars in DC

  • Ford announced October 22, 2018, that it would begin testing its self-driving cars on the streets of Washington, DC, early next year.
  • Ford currently has vehicles on the road in DC gathering mapping data, and will begin operating those cars autonomously in the first quarter of 2019.
  • A safety driver and a second engineer will remain in the vehicle at all times, Ford says, but the company plans to remove both when it feels confident enough in its technology.
  • Ford has also secured a fleet terminal for its autonomous vehicles within the district.
  • The facility will serve as a home base for Ford’s cars when they aren’t out on the streets and a place where they can transfer data and have their sensors cleaned and calibrated.
  • Washington will be the fourth city for Ford’s AV testing, in addition to Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Miami.
  • The automaker has said it expects to launch its commercial service of robot taxis and delivery vehicles at scale in 2021.
  • As for “equitable deployment,” in its negotiations with the municipal government of DC, Ford agreed to operate its vehicles in all eight of Washington’s neighborhoods, or “wards,” in an effort to reach different types of residents as it nears a commercial launch of its self-driving service.
  • Ford will also spend cash to train local residents for auto technician careers that could involve self-driving vehicles in the future.
  • But first, Ford needs to build a working map of the city. That includes gathering data on Washington’s uniquely complicated topography
  • The company is working with Argo, the self-driving startup that Ford is backing with a $1 billion investment.

Idea of the Week: Drones as Flying Sheepdogs

  • A new algorithm could allow drones to reduce collisions between birds and planes
  • Collisions between planes and birds create all sorts of problems. They mostly strike the aircraft in the engine or windows of the cockpit.
  • In the UK alone, there were 1,835 confirmed bird strikes in 2016. In North America, bird strikes cost airlines an estimated US$500 million a year.
  • Scientists at Imperial College London, together with researchers from Caltech and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, may have a better way.
  • The effort began with mathematical modeling of the way flocks of birds behave. This involved the dynamics of how the flocks behave when threatened.
  • Based on this modeling, the team then built a herding algorithm that programs flight paths for a drone, specifically laid out to drive birds away from a designated airspace.
  • The algorithm was tested flocks of loons and egrets, with the drone carrying out a series of maneuvers around the flock to push them away from protected airspace.
  • The team found the approach worked well, successfully shepherding flocks of different sizes away as desired.
  • The next steps involve looking at how multiple drones can both be used to shepherd larger flocks, and multiple flocks at the same time.

Going to the Bird: Electric Scooter Backlash Has Started

  • Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists may be pouring billions into electric-scooter startups, but companies like Bird, Lime, and Spin are already facing backlash.
  • The electric-scooter startup model involves dropping hundreds of dockless scooters into a city and then hoping people will use them. Despite the startups’ racking up huge valuations, that approach hasn’t always been successful.
    • Bird pulled out of Louisville, Kentucky, a day after launching because it put scooters into the city without first asking officials.
    • Nashville earlier this year filed a cease-and-desist letter, saying Bird users were abandoning scooters by the sidewalks.
    • San Francisco was forced to issue permits to a handful of scooter companies to clamp down on the increasing numbers of scooters clogging up the city streets.
  • Bird scooters have been dropped into 30 US cities, including DC and Baltimore.
  • To ride a Bird Scooter, download the app, set up an account, locate a Bird, and go. It costs a flat fee of $1 to ride the scooter plus 15 cents per minute used. The scooters go up to 15 mph and they can travel about 15 miles on a single charge.
  • You can earn money as a charger ($5 to catch, charge, and release a Bird). It takes about 7 cents of electricity to charge a Bird. Charges can make $100 per night, if they care for 20 Birds.

Joke of the Week: Space Probe Juno’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 Jupiter’s rampant infidelity.
  • When a Renaissance astronomer named Simon Marius claimed that he had discovered that the planet Jupiter had four large moons (we’ve since found several more), he took Johannes Kepler’s suggestion to name them for four of the god’s most famous lovers: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
  • When NASA named their solar-powered spacecraft for Jupiter’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 what’s really going on.