Show of 03-16-2019

Tech Talk

March 16, 2019

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Dennis in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk. I have been using the Dropbox free account for many years. The limit me to only three devices and 2GB. There must be better options out there for someone who does not want to pay.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You have some great cloud storage options
  • Google Drive – Google Drive is a great storage service. It offers 15 GB of free storage, although that’s shared with your Gmail account and can sync to an unlimited number of devices. Google’s Backup and Sync software even lets you easily back up and sync other folders on your computer outside the Google Drive folder. Google Drive is integrated with Google Docs so you can easily create and work with documents. Google provides mobile apps so you can access your files on Android, iPhone, and iPad. And you can access your files anywhere in a browser.
  • Microsoft OneDrive – Microsoft’s OneDrive service offers 5 GB of free storage. OneDrive is particularly convenient because it’s built right into Windows 10. It also uses a “Files On-Demand” system that will store your files in the cloud while showing them in File Explorer on your PC. They will be downloaded when you double-click them to open them. Microsoft also offers OneDrive clients for macOS, Android, iPhone, and iPad.
  • Apple iCloud Drive – Apple’s iCloud Drive offers 5 GB of storage for all your device backups, photos, and files and there are no device limits. While iCloud Drive is built into macOS, Apple also offers iCloud Drive for Windows.
  • Paid Options — Dropbox charges $99 per year for 1 TB of storage space. Google Drive charges $1.99 a month for 100 GB and $99.99 per year for 2 TB. Microsoft OneDrive charges $69.99 per year for Office 365 Personal, which gives you 1 TB of storage as well as Microsoft Office. Apple charges only $0.99 per month for 50 GB of storage, while $9.99 per month will get you 2 TB.
  • Email from Dan in Kansas: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a vintage whole-house audio system with powered with a 200W stereo amplifier. This system was installed before Wi-Fi or streaming music the net. I would like to use it it to stream Pandora music over the whole house. I am currently using several Amazon Echo’s for music. What is my best option for this? Dan in Pittsburg, Kansas.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Since you already have invested in Amazon Echo’s, I would suggest the Amazon solution for you. You have other wireless pre-amps from Yamaha and Sonos in about $350, but I would not recommend them for you.
  • Amazon Echo Link Preamp for $200 is your best option. If you have a solid Echo smarthome setup, then the Amazon Echo Link preamp may be the device for you. It’s basically a glorified Echo Input. The Echo Link can stream audio from voice commands, but you have to have an Alexa-Enabled device nearby because the Link doesn’t have a microphone.
  • You can wire audio sources (CD players, record players) through the Link. Pair the Link with a few Echo Inputs or Echo Dots, and bang, you can broadcast the audio from your record player around your house.
  • Email from Lois in Kansas: Dear Doc and Jim. Recently a friend of our died and his family had trouble taking control on his Facebook account. I don’t want that to happen to me. How can I specify what happens to my Facebook account if something happens to me? Love the show. Lois in Kansas.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Facebook gives you two options for such an eventuality. You can either choose to delete your account when you die, or have it memorialized.
  • Memorialized Account —When you memorialize your account, you leave someone you trust in charge of making sure that your account is curated after you’re gone. Memorializing an account allows friends and family to get together and share memories of you, and has some key features. You name will have the word “Remembering” placed next to it.
  • In order to set your account so that it can be memorialized after you pass, you need to appoint a legacy contact. This would be any friend or family member who you trust to tend to your wishes. To set a legacy contact, first open the Settings and click on “Security” then “Legacy Contact”. Now, you simply need to appoint a friend to serve as your legacy contact.
  • Your legacy contact won’t gain these new powers until after your account is officially memorialized, which someone must request for you after you have died. Facebook will require your name, the date you died, and optionally, some kind of proof such as link to obituary or a copy of your death certificate.
  • Deleted Account — The simpler option is to have your account deleted upon your demise. This isn’t the same as deactivating it. When deleted, everything goes away. To do this, open the Security settings, click on ” Contact” and this time click “Request account deletion”. After you have passed away, someone will need to notify Facebook, which they can do using a special request form. It’s best that you appoint someone, regardless of whether they’re your legacy contact, to take care of this matter. Be sure to communicate to them your wishes for how your Facebook account should be handled.
  • Email from Lynn in Orland: Dear Tech Talk. I frequently work from home and need to set up conference calls. I only have an iPhone at home. Is there any service that I can use for conference calls? Love the show. Lynn in Orlando.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Your iPhone allows you to call up to five people at once, making it easy to set up a quick conference call. The other people don’t need anything special, just any cellular or landline telephone.
  • Start your conference call by calling one of the participants normally from the Dialer app. You may want to tell the person that you’re going to add more people to the call. While in the call on your iPhone, tap the “Add Call” The first call will be placed on hold while you place the second call. Dial the second person’s number or choose it from your contacts.
  • After the second person answers the call, you’ll see the first call on hold and the second call active below it. If you have the names of the people in your contacts, their names will be displayed here. Otherwise, you’ll just see their phone numbers. Tap the “Merge Calls” button and you’ll now have a conference call involving you and the two people you called.
  • Repeat this process several more times if you want to add other callers. Just tap “Add Call”, dial the next person, and then tap” Calls” after they answer. You can call up to five people at once.
  • Email from Tung in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk, I have a new Mac computer. It uses a Bluetooth mouse. I can’t seem to connect my Bluetooth speaker at the same time. I am listening to some audio files that my sister sent me. Does Bluetooth allow two devices to be connected at the same time? Please help me. Love the show, Tung
  • Tech Talk Responds: A single Bluetooth device can communicate with up to eight different devices within about a 30-foot radius simultaneously. Bluetooth 4.0 randomly chooses from 40 frequencies 1,600 times every second to minimize interference among devices. You may be having trouble connecting with your Bluetooth speaker because it is already paired and connected with another device, like your iPhone or iPad. If that is the case, turn off Bluetooth in those devices so that only the Mac is discoverable. Press the button in the speaker to make it discoverable. Then try again. It should work because the technology supports it.

Profiles in IT: Timothy John Berners-Lee

  • Tim Berners-Lee is a computer scientist best known as the inventor of the WWW.
  • Tim Berners-Lee was born 8 June 1955 in London, England, United Kingdom.
  • He attended Sheen Mount Primary School and Southwest London’s Emanuel School.
  • In 1976, he received a BA in Physics, First Class, from Queen’s College in Oxford.
  • While he was at University, he made a computer out of an old television set.
  • After graduation, Tim worked as a telecomm engineer Plessey in Poole, Dorset.
  • In 1978, he joined D. G. Nash, where he created type-setting software for printers.
  • In 1980, Berners-Lee worked as an independent contractor at CERN in Geneva.
  • While in Geneva, he developed a system named ENQUIRE, based on the concept of hypertext to facilitate sharing and updating information among researchers.
  • After leaving CERN in late 1980, he went to work at John Poole’s Image Computer Systems in Bournemouth, where he .worked on was a “real-time remote procedure call” which gave him experience in computer networking.
  • In 1984, he returned to CERN as a fellow. Since CERN was the largest internet node in Europe, Berners-Lee saw an opportunity to join hypertext with the internet.
  • He just to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the Transmission Control Protocol and domain name system ideas to create the World Wide Web.
  • Most of the technology involved, like the hypertext, like the internet, multi-font text objects, had all been designed already. He just had to put them together.
  • It was a step of generalizing, going to a higher level of abstraction, thinking about all documentation as being possibly part of a larger imaginary documentation system.
  • He used similar ideas to those underlying the ENQUIRE system to create the World Wide Web, for which he designed and built the first Web browser.
  • The first website ( at CERN went live on 6 August 1991.
  • In 1994, Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at MIT. W3C decided that its standards should be based on royalty-free technology.
  • In December 2004, he accepted a chair in Computer Science at University of Southampton, Hampshire, to work on the Semantic Web.
  • Berners-Lee admitted that the initial pair of slashes (“//”) in a web address were “unnecessary”. He could have designed web addresses without the slashes.
  • In November 2009, Berners-Lee launched the World Wide Web Foundation in order to empower humanity by leveraging the Web as a medium for positive change.
  • Berners-Lee is one of the pioneer voices in favor of net neutrality and has expressed the view that ISPs should supply connectivity with no strings attached.
  • In 2016, he joined the Department of Computer Science at Oxford University.
  • In 2018, he announced a new application made by open-source startup Inrupt called Solid, which aims to give users more control over their personal data.
  • In 2017, he received the 2016 ACM Turing Award for his work on the WWW.

World Wide Web Turn 30

  • On March 12, 1989, Tim Berners-Lee submitted a proposal with the title “Information Management” to his superior at the European physics laboratory CERN.
  • It began by asking how future scientists would keep track of their increasingly large projects. “This proposal provides an answer to such questions,” he wrote.
  • The proposal described what, in just a couple years’ time, would transform into the World Wide Web: a connected system for sharing information that would revolutionize how the entire planet communicated.
  • At the time, connected networks of computers had been up, running, and growing for a couple of decades. People had sent emails, shared files, ran message boards, and even created the first emoticons.
  • But it wasn’t until the World Wide Web came along that the internet at large really began to take off. Web browsers, webpages, and hyperlinks made information easy to find and move between, and because the core code was open sourced, anyone could create a browser or website of their own.

A Brief History of Pi in Honor of Pi Day

  • Pi is the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter.
  • The earliest textual evidence of pi dates back to 1900 BC.
  • Both the Babylonians and the Egyptians had a rough idea of the value.
  • The Babylonians estimated pi to be about 25/8 (3.125), while the Egyptians estimated it to be about 256/81 (roughly 3.16).
  • The Ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse (287-212 BC) is largely considered to be the first to calculate an accurate estimation of the value of pi.
  • He accomplished this by finding the areas of two polygons: the polygon that was inscribed inside a circle, and the polygon in which a circle was circumscribed.
  • Archimedes didn’t calculate the exact value of pi, but rather came up with a very close approximation—he used 96-sided polygons to come up with a value that fell between 3.1408 and 3.14285.
  • Chinese mathematician Zhu Chongzhi (AD 429-500) used a similar method to approximate the value of pi, using a 12,288-sided polygon. His best approximation was 355/113.
  • In the 15th century, Indian mathematician Madhavan of Sangamagramam calculated pi to 13 decimal places using an infinite series of fractions.
  • Later, in 1707, Welsh mathematician William Jones was the first to use the Greek letter pi (Ï€) to denote the constant ratio.
  • The Ï€ symbol was taken from the Greek word for “perimeter.”

IBM Used Flickr Photos for Facial Recognition Training

  • IBM took nearly a million photos from Flickr, used them to figure out how to train facial recognition programs, and shared them with outside researchers.
  • People photographed on Flickr didn’t consent to having their photos used to develop facial recognition systems.
  • While the photographers may have gotten permission to take pictures of these people, some told NBC that the people who were photographed didn’t know their images had been annotated with facial recognition notes and could be used to train algorithms.
  • The photos are part of a larger collection of 99.2 million photos, known as the YFCC100M, which former Flickr owner Yahoo originally put together to conduct research.
  • Each photographer originally shared their photos under a Creative Commons license, which is typically a signal that they can be freely used, with some limitations.
  • IBM noted that the dataset could only be accessed by verified researchers and only included images that were publicly available. It added that individuals can opt-out of this dataset.
  • IBM is only one of several companies exploring the field of facial recognition and it is not alone in using photos of regular people without expressly asking for their consent.
  • Facebook, for instance, has photos of 800,000 faces open for other researchers to download.

Boeing Will Update 737 Max Control Software

  • The Boeing 737 Max will receive updated flight-control software in the coming weeks.
  • The announcement comes nearly five months after the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 and two days after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Both involved effectively brand-new Boeing 737 Max 8 airliners.
  • For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX.
  • This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals, and crew training.
  • The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.”
  • The Chicago-based aviation giant said the update would be implemented across the 737 Max fleet within weeks.
  • The company has not indicated it will make physical changes to the aircraft, which has been in service since 2017.
  • At the heart of the controversy surrounding the 737 Max is MCAS, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System.
  • To fit the Max’s larger, more fuel-efficient engines, Boeing had to redesign the way it mounts engines on the 737. This change disrupted the plane’s center of gravity and caused the Max to have a tendency to tip its nose upward during flight, increasing the likelihood of a stall. MCAS is designed to automatically counteract that tendency and point the nose of the plane downward.
  • Initial reports from the Lion Air investigation, however, indicate that a faulty sensor reading may have triggered MCAS shortly after the flight took off. Observers fear that a similar thing may have happened in Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines flight.

Halo Drive: Lasers and Black Holes Could Launch Spaceships to Near Light Speed

  • A new study envisions firing laser beams that would curve around a black hole and come back with added energy to help propel a spacecraft to near the speed of light.
  • Study author David Kipping, an astrophysicist at Columbia University in New York, came up with the idea of the halo drive through what he calls “the gamer’s mindset.”
  • A key challenge to using rockets to fly through space is that the propellant they carry with them has mass. Long trips need a lot of propellant, which makes the rockets heavy, which in turn requires more propellant, making the rockets even heavier, and so on.
  • Spacecraft now regularly use “slingshot maneuvers,” in which the gravity of a body, such as a planet or moon, hurls the vessels across space and boosts their speed.
  • Kipping suggests that gravity might assist spaceships by increasing the energy of laser beams fired at the edges of black holes.
  • In 1993, physicist Mark Stuckey suggested that a black hole could, in principle, act like a “gravitational mirror,” in that the black hole’s gravity could slingshot a photon around so that it flew back at its source.
  • Kipping calculated that if a black hole was moving toward a photon’s source, the “boomerang photon” would siphon away some of the black hole’s energy.
  • Using what he called a “halo drive” — named for the ring of light it would create around a black hole.
  • The faster a black hole moves, the more energy a halo drive could draw from it.
  • His findings were based on boosts from pairs of black holes orbiting each other at relativistic speeds. He estimates that there are 10 million pairs of black holes in the Milky Way.
  • The halo drive works only in close proximity to a black hole, at a distance of about five to 50 times the black hole’s diameter.
  • The major drawback of a halo drive would be that one has to travel to the nearest black hole.

Good News: Quantum Computers May Not Break Encryption for Decades

  • A new paper by researchers from Kryptera says that it could take decades for quantum computers to break encryption.
  • The “Grover” algorithm could break an encryption key in quadratic time.
  • That means that a quantum computer could break a 128-bit symmetric encryption key in the time it takes classical computers to break a 64-bit symmetric encryption key (several hundred CPU cores could do it in a year).
  • According to the Kryptera, breaking AES-128 encryption should require a quantum computer with 2,953 logical qubits, while breaking AES-256 would need 6,681 qubits.
  • The “Shor” algorithm, which can break asymmetric encryption with twice as many qubits as the key size. For instance, breaking a 2048-bit RSA key would require a 4096-qubit quantum computer.
  • Neither Google nor IBM have built quantum computers with error-correcting logical qubits. When error correcting code is used in a quantum computer, many more physical qubits are needed to create a logical qubit.
  • According to the Kryptera paper, creating a universal quantum computer with 1,000 qubits would require millions of physical qubits.
  • Even if the number of qubits in a quantum computer could double every year, we’d still need to wait roughly two more decades before we get to the one million qubit mark.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has started a competition for quantum-resistant algorithms and has recently announced phase 2 of this competition. The agency has selected 26 of the initial 69 algorithms for phase two.
  • NIST is expected to select several of the candidates as the finalists.

Artificial Intelligence at the Fast Food Drive-Thru

  • Denver based fast food chain, Good Times, is now using an artificial intelligence voice assistant in place of cashiers in their drive-thru service.
  • The restaurant is using an artificial intelligence system created by the company Valyant AI to help the employees manage the restaurant more efficiently.
  • This trend will eliminate jobs and help make small business owners that own these restaurants more profitable.
  • The software is also used to increase the input and reduce mistakes commonly made by employees.

Ticket scalper Bots are Flooding the Market

  • According to new research out this week, 40 per cent of all online ticket booking is now done by automated software so they can be resold for more later.
  • There is a huge amount of money to be made in grabbing tickets to popular events and then reselling them with a mark-up.
  • Distil Networks warns that 78 per cent of bots are so sophisticated that they are not detectable: they emulate the same behaviors as human users, and so make it extremely difficult to cut them off, and allow actual people in.
  • While 40 per cent suggests you still have a good chance to grab a ticket for your favorite band, we’re told that’s only the average.
  • When ticket scalps are confident that an event will sell out, it becomes next to impossible to make it through.
  • Bots are also used to conduct seat map inventory scraping, fan account takeover, credit card fraud and other nefarious activities that directly harm consumers.
  • There is even an online store where people can buy ticketing bots to use themselves – something that apparently even legitimate corporations are doing in order to bag the best seats at events.
  • It is time for sellers to take control of the process and keep bots from ruining it for us all.