Show of 05-04-2019

Tech Talk

May 4, 2019

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from June in Burke: Question about ExpressVPN. I noticed my public WiFi is was still active. Does that make me vulnerable to anyone on that network at a hotel? Just checking. This is important if I want to use this as a hotspot. Do not want to put others at risk. June in Burke
  • Tech Talk Responds: Once to activate the ExpressVPN application, if logs onto the proxy server and establishes an encryption data stream using either Wi-Fi or cellular connections. At this point your are not vulnerable. If you use your phone as a hotspot, the connection is made using cellular because Wi-Fi is used to connection to any hotspot clients. The connection to the Internet is still managed by ExpressVPN.
  • Question from David in Chantilly: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a DSL Internet connection. I want to switch to something else because my download speeds are only averaging about 2Mbps. Cable is not available in my area. HughesNet satellite Internet say they have unlimited data with no hard data limits. What exactly do they mean by that? David in Chantilly
  • Tech Talk Responds: Unlimited Data just that. As long as you are subscribed to a HugesNet data plan you can use all the data you want every month without having to worry about your Internet access being cut off. If you happen to exceed your plan’s data threshold at any time during a given month, your download speed will instantly drop from 25 Mbps to the 1-3 Mbps level for the remainder of that billing cycle. When your download speed drops to the fallback level your Internet experience will suffer.
  • Email from Tuc in Chantilly: Dear Tech Talk. Is there a way to see all of the friend requests I’ve sent out that haven’t been acted on? I’d like to send reminder messages to those people and ask them to accept my friend request. Tuc in Chantilly
  • Tech Talk Responds: If they ignore or delete your friend request you’ll never know it unless their name shows up in the “People you may know” section. There is a simple way to view all of your outstanding friend requests on one page, and here it is: This procedure only works with the full desktop version of Facebook.
    • Log in to your Facebook account.
    • Go to your Timeline page by clicking on your name.
    • Click the Friends button.
    • Click the Find Friends button.
    • Click the View Sent Requests link.
  • You should now see a list of all the people you have sent friend requests to that have not yet responded to them.
  • Question from Jeanie in Pittsburgh, PA: Dear Doc and Jim. Someone told me that hiding the Wi-Fi network name in my router would prevent my neighbors from finding and connecting to the Internet over my network. I live in an apartment building and I’m pretty sure I have this same problem right now. What do you think about this? Jeanie in Pittsburg, PA
  • Tech Talk Responds: The short answer is yes. You will just have to enter the network name or SSID manually every time you attempt to connect with a new device. This is no big deal as long as you can remember the name you gave your network.
  • However, I do not think that hiding the name of your network is the best solution to your problem. If someone is piggybacking on your Wi-Fi connection, you either have it set up as an open, non-password protected network or your password is so weak that they were able to hack it.
  • While changing the SSID and then hiding it would prevent the average person from finding your network and connecting to it, a hacker would still be able to in minutes. I would recommend that you do two things to protect your Wi-Fi network:
    • Enable the strongest encryption method supported by your router.
    • Change your Wi-Fi password to one that is easy to remember yet extremely difficult to crack.
    • Use free Fing app to check for unknown devices on your network.
  • Email from Mike in Florida: Dear Tech Talk. I have is a 4 year old laptop that had Windows 7 on it before the hard drive died. I would like to replace the bad drive and install a different operating system on it since I do not have a Windows disc. I have been reading a lot about Chromebooks and have tested a few. I like them. Can I install Chrome OS on my laptop and use it as a Chromebook? Enjoy the podcast. Mike in Florida
  • Tech Talk Responds: Chome OS will work on most recent laptops, but not all of them as there are some hardware devices that aren’t currently supported with working drivers. It is worth giving it a try.
    • Replace your laptop’s bad hard drive with a new solid state drive (SSD). The smallest one you can find should work fine since Chrome OS stores your user files in the cloud. A small one may cost as little as $30.
    • Use CloudReady, an enhanced version of Chrome OS that’s optimized to work with a wide variety of older laptops. Get the Free Version button.
    • Link to website:
    • Follow the instructions provided to build an installer onto a USB flash drive and install CloudReady onto your laptop.
    • Your old laptop should be converted into a fully-functioning Chromebook in just a few minutes.
  • CloudReady works just fine with many recent laptops, there’s no guarantee that it will work with yours.
  • Email from Chris in Atlanta: Dear Tech Talk. I just sent an email to the wrong email address. I am positive that the email I sent it to was wrong as I read it once it left and it asked if I wanted to add it to my contacts after I sent it! The part of the address was my work. I am 100% certain that there is no one at work with that address. Where could possibly have gone and is someone going to be able to read it? I am really worried as it was quite personal. Chris in Atlanta
  • Tech Talk Responds: There is just no way to know. Unless someone did get it and then tells you they did.
    • You may get a bounce telling you the message was undeliverable. This is probably the best possible situation.
    • It may be silently discarded. No human may ever see it and you wouldn’t get notification one way or another.
    • It may have been forwarded to a “catch-all” mail address. Many email servers have the ability to forward email sent to an invalid address to one central address.
    • The bad address may be valid. Worst case for you.
  • Remember also that system administrators can see all mail, valid or not. Whether they do is unknown, but they could.
  • Email from David in Oklahoma: Dear Tech Talk. I would like to get a job in technology and am told that I need experience. How can I get experience if I don’t have a job? It seems like the impossible requirement. What is your advice? David in Oklahoma
  • Tech Talk Responds: I hear this question all the time. The key is to behavior and attitude. No one said the experience had to be paid.
    • You can complete a project at home. Install a LinuxOS, create a webserver with Apache, create a database driven website with PHP and MySQL. Find a project to your interested in and do it.
    • Join a user group. There are dozens in your area devoted to many topics. Windows, Oracle, Linux. Professionals are at these user groups. Talk about your project. Do not look for a job.
    • Read industry magazines so you know the latest trends.
    • Get some informational interviews to learn about the field. You can get some great advice the Dick Bolles book, What Color is Your Parachute.
  • The key is to behave like a professional already working in the field, not like someone who needs a job to begin working in the field.

Profiles in IT: Kevin Systrom

  • Kevin Systrom is CEO and co-founder of Instagram, the photo-sharing application that was purchased by Facebook for $1B.
  • Kevin Systrom was born in 1984 in Holliston, a town 20 miles west of Boston.
  • He got his first computer at 12. His interest in computers was triggered by Doom 2.
  • His first programming languages were QBasic and Visual Basic.
  • He graduated from Middlesex School, a private school in Concord, MA, in 2002.
  • He was accepted to Stanford and initially focused on computer programming.
  • He was one of twelve chosen to participate in the Mayfield Fellows Program for entrepreneurs, leading to an internship at Odeo, the company that spawned Twitter.
  • He was offered a job at Facebook in 2005, but turned it down to finish school.
  • Kevin graduated from Stanford in 2006 with a BS in Mgmt. Science & Engineering.
  • He spent two years at Google. During the first, he worked on Gmail, Docs, Google Reader, and other products. He left after two years because he was not programming.
  • After leaving Google to join Nextstop, a location recommendation startup founded by ex-Googlers that was acquired by Facebook in 2010.
  • In 2009, he decided to launch, It was a competitor to FourSquare. It was check-in software with picture posting. He raised $500K in startup funds to launch.
  • Systrom and Mike Krieger, a fellow Stanford grad, built Burbn, a HTML 5 check-in service, into a product that allowed users to do many things: check into locations, make plans (future check-ins), earn points for hanging out with friends, post pictures.
  • They worked seven months on Burbn, but switched to Instagram in 2010, photo-sharing app, because they were so undifferentiated in the check-in space.
  • While on vacation in Mexico with his girlfriend, he decided to add filters to make photos look better. His girlfriend wanted to take awesome photos instead of snaps.
  • Instagram solved three problems: photo sharing, making photos gorgeous, photo sharing, and quick uploads. They started the upload while user was still picking filter.
  • Initially marketing was via email to his tech contacts in California. They loved it.
  • They showed it to Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter. He twitted that he loved it.
  • Instagram took just eight weeks to build. It racked up 25,000 users in 24 hours, 200,000 in the first week and 1 million in less than three months.
  • In February 2011, Instagram had 1.75 million users posting 290,000 photos a day. In 2011, raised $7 million from Benchmark.
  • In 2012, Instagram, along with 13 employees, was sold to Facebook for US$1 billion in cash and stock. Systrom’s 40% netted him $400M.
  • Under Systrom as CEO, Instagram grew to 800M monthly users in September 2017.
  • He resigned as CEO of Instagram on September 24, 2018.

Idea of the Week: Turning a Parking Spot into a Coworking Space

  • WePark is a project led by San Francisco-based web developer Victor Pontis, which uses a parking place to create a coworking space.
  • Pontis said he got the idea from a Twitter exchange in which Github’s Devon Zuegel pointed out that eight bicycles could fit in one park spot instead of a car.
  • Urbanist Annie Fryman, responded, suggesting that the metered parking spot be used as a coworking space instead.
  • Pontis turned that hypothetical into a reality, choosing popular real estate like Santa Monica’s Ocean Avenue.
  • The set-up was simple: he paid for a day’s worth of parking meter, then charged users people per hour. He said 30 people showed up on the first day in the three cities, paying the $2.25 per hour fee that WePark charged for a spot at a parking lot desk.
  • Paying for a desk at a regular coworking space, like WeWork is approximately $50 per day plus a monthly membership fee.

Facebook Bans Controversial High Profiles Users

  • Facebook Inc. said it’s banning a number of controversial far-right figures, including Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer, for violating the social-media company’s policies on hate speech and promoting violence.
  • The company is also blocking religious leader Louis Farrakhan, who is known for sharing anti-Semitic views; Paul Nehlen, a white nationalist who ran for Congress in 2018; and conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson.
  • All of these individuals and accounts that represent them are also banned from photo-sharing app Instagram.
  • When it comes to dangerous individuals who promote hate speech or violence, Facebook can ban users for actions they take in the real world, or on other services, like Google’s YouTube video site.
  • When Facebook bans an individual or organization, it typically also removes posts from other users who praise or support them.
  • In this case, a Facebook spokesperson said that people will be able to post about or praise these banned users, though they won’t be allowed to share any of their views or opinions that Facebook considers hate speech or calls for violence.
  • This is a double-edged sword: Freedom of speech vs controlling propaganda.

Dems Want to See Big Tech Budgets for Curbing Extremism

  • Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee pressed major tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Google, to submit their budgets to curb content from terrorists and extremists on their platforms.
  • Committee chairman Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) first pushed the companies for a briefing in March after the white nationalist terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, was live-streamed to Facebook.
  • According to the committee, no company was able to adequately comply with the committee’s requests.
  • In April, lawmakers pressed companies again for more details. Some replied to these requests, but lawmakers didn’t find their answers to be sufficient.
  • The committee wants more answers from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google.
  • The tech companies and reluctant to share their budgets or their methodology.

Putin signs law to create an independent Russian internet

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law new measures that would enable the creation of a national network, able to operate separately from the rest of the world. The legislation takes effect in November.
  • In concept, the new law aims to protect Russia from foreign online restrictions by creating what the Kremlin calls a “sustainable, secure and fully functioning” local internet.
  • The law calls for the creation of a monitoring and a management center supervised Russia’s telecoms agency. The state agency will be charged with ensuring the availability of communication services in Russia in extraordinary situations.
  • During national emergencies, it would also be empowered to cut off external traffic exchange, creating a purely Russian web.
  • Activists fear an independent Russian internet would involve the creation of a Chinese-style national firewall to monitor and censor content passing in and out of the country.
  • The new law comes after Russian lawmakers advanced a package of legislation in March aimed at curtailing internet freedom.

Python Programming Language Powers Netflix

  • According to Python developers at Netflix, the language is used through the “full content lifecycle.”
  • Python is used for Netflix’s security tools, recommendation algorithms, and its proprietary content distribution network (CDN) Open Connect, which ensures that content is streamed from network devices that are as close as possible to end users.
  • Prior to the Python Software Foundation’s, the Netflix has been detailing how it uses the open-source language. This may be a play to attract developers.

Right to Repair Legislation

  • Legislators in about 20 states have been working on some form of this legislation, but their efforts have been stymied by a number of tech companies, including Apple, Lexmark and Verizon.
  • CompTIA and 18 other trade organizations associated with big tech companies — including CTIA and the Entertainment Software Association expressed opposition to the bill.
  • If passed, manufacturers would have to share codes, tools and supply chain access to anyone who purchases a product.
  • This is largely about controlling the service revenue stream, which is currently holding up Apple’s sliding financials. It’s more profitable to lock users into manufacturers resources.
  • Right to repair laws would lower user costs and increase reuse while reducing premature disposal. As a result, they would sharply reduce both service and replacement sales revenues.