Show of 12-26-2020

Tech Talk December 26, 2020

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments taken from previous shows.

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Tom Schum: Dear Richard and Jim. It was very interesting to hear about Thomas Reardon on today’s show (April 4, 2020). He sold his neuroscience company to Facebook and is now working on virtual reality. This reminded me of my idea for a “Visual Imagination Translator” I dreamed up in about 1970. It would use feedback from brain signals to develop an image over time.  The user would look at a screen and the system would develop an image.  It is nice to think that this might become a reality in my lifetime.  I’m sure it would have many uses beyond simple fantasy. Like many of us, I got many ideas over my lifetime that never went anywhere, were too difficult or complex to implement, or there simply weren’t resources for development.  This sort of thing could be an area of research, to tabulate these ideas from a large population.  Who knows where it might lead? Tom Schum
  • Tech Talk Responds: Tom, you were ahead of your time. Glad to have you as a listener.
  • Email from Bob in Maryland: Dear Doc, and of course Jim, and particularly, the ever-present Mr. Big Voice: I LOVED your show of 04.04.2020. I caught the reference to my hero, Freeman Dyson and wondered if Doc threw that in the “Profiles in IT” segment just for me. Anyway, I changed stations as soon as your show was over, and there, thanks to the “magic” of radio, on that other radio station, was the incredible Traffic Reporter Jim giving us a traffic update. It was amazing…literally a couple of seconds later after I had heard the “Tech Talk Jim”, presumably live, I caught what I THOUGHT was the live “Traffic Reporter Jim”. Maybe this is a quantum effect? Love the show Bob in Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the kind words. Explain will continue to produce live programs, with you in a remote location until further notice. The Jim Russ traffic news that he hears on “the other station” are recorded in advance to help fill out the weekend traffic reports.
  • Email from Tung in Ohio: Dear Doc and Jim. I save all of my family pictures and party pictures on thumb drives. I have over a dozen thumb drives containing several thousand photos. One of my co-workers told me it is a bad idea to keep files I do not want to lose on a thumb drive because they can get lost or go bad. She told me to transfer them to some other kind of storage. What is your opinion on this? Tung in Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Your co-worker is right, Tung. USB flash drives come in handy as temporary storage devices. They really make it easy to transfer photos and other files from one computer to another. However, a USB flash drive should never be used to store important files on a long-term basis, for these reasons:
    • USB flash drives are notoriously unreliable.
    • They are easy to misplace.
    • They are easily “corrupted”.
    • They are typically quite fragile.
  • You need to copy your files to a more secure storage location. You have several operations.
    • You could copy all your pictures to an an external USB hard drive. USB hard drives are much more reliable than thumb drives, and they also typically have a lot more storage space available.
    • Burn them onto blank optical discs. Optical discs still make excellent storage devices for photos. Just make sure you back them up to secondary storage media as well.
    • Store them in the cloud. It’s always a good idea to augment any type of local storage media by backing up the files to a cloud storage service as well. Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, Carbonite and many other cloud storage services are easy to use, generally secure from hackers, and extremely reliable.
  • Question from Ken in Reston: Dear Doc and Jim. I upgraded my Windows 7 computer to Windows 10 shortly after it was released and did not write down the license key for it. The hard drive in my laptop went bad and I replaced it with a 500GB SSD. The bad drive appears to be completely dead because it doesn’t make any noise at all. After I installed the new drive, I downloaded the Windows 10 files and put them on a CD. I know I will need the license key to activate Windows 10 after I install it, but I do not have it. Is there any way to retrieve the Windows license key from a hard drive when Windows won’t even recognize the drive when its plugged into a different computer? Ken in Reston
  • Tech Talk Responds: If the drive is truly dead, you would have to send it off to a data recovery company and pay them to retrieve the files for you. Data recovery companies typically charge several hundred dollars to retrieve the files from a hard drive. If you don’t need to recover any of your actual files you won’t need to do anything further with the bad drive just to reinstall Windows 10 on your PC. Windows 10 handles the Windows activation process much differently than Windows 7 and earlier versions. When you install Windows 10 on a PC that Windows installation is assigned a license that’s digitally tied to that specific device. As long as it’s the same version of Windows 10 (Home, Pro, etc.) you’ll be able to download the Windows ISO file from Microsoft and reinstall it on that same machine as many times as you want without ever having to enter a license key.
  • Email from Lacy in San Francisco: Dear Doc and Jim. I heard that you could speed up the Internet by selecting a better DNS server. How can I do it? It sound too good to be true. Enjoy the podcast. Lacy in San Francisco.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Changing your DNS servers can speed up the amount of time it takes to resolve a domain name, but it is not going to speed up your overall internet connection. For example, you will not see an improvement in your average download speeds for streaming content or downloading large files.
  • The DNS is like the internet’s phonebook, mapping website names like to a specific computer (or computers) where the site is hosted. When you try to access a website, your computer has to look up the addresses, and your choice of DNS server can affect how fast a website loads.
  • The network settings for your computer, router, or access point allow you to specify which DNS servers (primary and secondary) to use. By default, these are likely set by your internet service provider, but there may be faster ones to use.
  • You can use the free open-source namebench utility to find the best DNS server for you. Download and install the namebench utility.
  • Link:

When you first start it up, you’ll be asked to enter your current name server. If it is not entered for you automatically, you’ll have to find it yourself. Wait for a new browser page to open with your benchmarking results. It might take several minutes or longer.

Profiles in IT: Bill Nguyen

  • Bill Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American technology serial entrepreneur.
  • Nguyen was born in 1971 in Houston, the son of Vietnamese immigrants.
  • He consistently disappointed his parents, earning mediocre grades in school. He earned a GPA of 1.4 his senior year.
  • At 16, he moved out of his parents’ house to sell cars. He later took classes at Houston Baptist University, but never graduated.
  • His real first name is Vu, but the mom of a girlfriend misheard it as “Bill.” The name stuck.
  • Nguyen headed business development and product management at the ForeFront Group, which was founded in 1992 and had their initial public offering in 1995.
  • He served as VP of products of FreeLoader (founded in 1995 and sold in 1996)
  • In 1998 Nguyen launched an e-mail technology company called Onebox. It was acquired for $850 million in 1999 by (now part of Openwave).
  • In May 2000, Nguyen founded Seven Networks, a wireless e-mail firm, and served as its co-chief executive officer until April 2005. At the time it claimed 1.4 B users
  • Nguyen quit Seven, the day after he and his wife adopted a baby boy from Ohio.
  • He then began a rare, yearlong stretch when he was not building a company.
  • In 2002, Nguyen was named to the MIT Technology Review TR100 as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35.
  • Two friends from the rock band Fountains of Wayne challenged him: Do not have your son grow up thinking Dad is unemployed. Fix the music industry.
  • Nguyen then co-founded La La Media Inc. in 2005 in Palo Alto, California. The company bought and sold compact discs and served as a social media site. La La developed one of the first, free streaming music services.
  • On December 5, 2009, was acquired by Apple Inc. for $80 million, with $80M in stock options for employees. Apple shut down La La in on May 31, 2010.
  • He was on the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders list in 2010.
  • In 2010, Nguyen c-founded Color labs, Inc. in 2010 and served as its CEO. He raised $41M in Venture Capital without one customer.
  • His pitch was to create a social media site for the mobile phone. Color would create ad hoc groups based on who was within 150 feet of your location.
  • But Nguyen’s biggest asset is his image as a free-thinking magnet for other creative types. His office furniture at Color is a white ceramic bathtub placed on his office window sill. He sits in the tub to work, prompting passersby to snicker.
  • The launch was a bust with not enough users to create an ad hoc network. It needed to sit on a platform with a user base. He checked out and vacationed in Maui after July 2012.
  • Apple acquired Color labs for their engineering team and the Color service was closed in 2013. He was sued by employees and investors for abusing and misleading them.
  • His reputation plummeted. His style worked before the dot-com crash not after. He never know how to operate lean with a small team and pivot quickly. He could throw money at a an expensive team and hope they can come up with the next great idea.

He was known as someone who could take off a new venture with fund raising and land with it with a sale. He just could not fly the plane in between. His time has passed.

Idea of the Week: iPhone Face ID with a Face Mask

  • To prevent the coronavirus from spreading, the CDC now recommends people put on a mask or face covering when going outside.
  • The security built into Face ID is so robust that the software is designed to detect masks and any other type of face covering that would otherwise be used to fool the software.
  • Even trying to register a new appearance with Face ID while wearing a mask will simply yield a “Face Obstructed” message.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that security researchers recently figured out a way to get Face ID to recognize a face partially wearing a mask.
  • Face ID is designed to work with your eyes, nose and mouth visible. However, partial visibility will work.
  • A researcher folded a mask in half and covered just half of his mouth and nose during the process. Following that, he placed the mask on his face and was able to unlock the phone. Apple’s “alternate appearance,” which could be you with different glasses—or even a relative or spouse who you want to be able to access your phone—could also be used to enroll your face with this trick.
  • If you want to try to set up an alternate appearance in Face ID, you can do so by going to Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Set Up an Alternate Appearance

Website of the Week:

  • Does your web browser needs to be updated? Find out with just one click!
  • What many folks don’t know however is just how easy it is for a computer or mobile device (and the sensitive data stored on it) to become compromised simply by using an out-of-date web browser that doesn’t have the latest security updates installed.
  • In addition to adding new features and options, browser updates also patch any security holes that have surfaced since the browser was last updated. And these security updates are released all the time!
  • Simply visit and it will tell you immediately if there’s an update available for the browser you used to visit the site.
  • If there happens to be an update available, you can install it with just a click or two. Then visit the site again with every browser that’s installed on your system to ensure complete protection.
  • As you probably know, most modern web browsers have an auto-update feature that periodically checks to see if there’s an update for the browser available and automatically installs it if it finds one.

But those auto-update checks are sometimes either turned off, blocked by security apps or simply don’t work for whatever reason.

Observations from the Bunker

  • Bill Gates reflects on which critical skill is needed to thrive in the future.
  • To better prepare students for the future, Gates stressed the critical importance of curiosity as a framework for acquiring knowledge. He encouraged students to pursue subject areas of history, science, and economics, which he thinks will become particularly useful for a successful future.
  • A growth mindset as the foundation and drive to stay curious and keep learning, says Gates, will help prepare students for immense changes that will take place in health care and climate change.
  • Although Gates dropped out of Harvard and started Microsoft in 1975, he said he was so hungry for knowledge that he took extra classes just because they sounded fun and interesting.
  • Gates has maintained an incredible appetite for curiosity and learning new things over the years. In an interview with The New York Times, Gates said he reads up to 50 books each year.
  • Not only is curiosity key to the learning process, it’s also great for overall life satisfaction, according to science. Several research studies suggest curious people have better relationships, connect better, and enjoy socializing more. In fact, other people are more easily attracted and feel socially closer to individuals that display curiosity.
  • All it takes is having a genuine penchant to learn by being curious.

Elon Musk says Tesla Close to Developing Fully Autonomous Car

  • Tesla founder Elon Musk Tesla could achieve a fully autonomous car by the end of 2020.
  • Musk said, “I’m extremely confident that ‘Level 5’, or essentially complete autonomy, will happen, and I think will happen very quickly.”
  • In years past, Musk had said Tesla may develop the technology for a completely autonomous vehicle by 2018, and then last year he said it may come by early 2020.
  • The complexity and autonomy of self-driving car technology is classified up to “Level 5”. Lower levels feature some combination of autonomous decision-making by the vehicle, along with as-needed human intervention.
  • But Level 5 denotes a car that requires no human intervention at any time, allowing the passenger to sleep or watch a movie while the car handles all navigation as well as adjustments to avoid collisions.
  • Tesla already enables partial autonomy for its cars, but analysts say the road to full autonomy faces considerable legal and regulatory hurdles.
  • Tesla is competing with Waymo, Uber and traditional automakers to bring autonomous vehicles to market.

Idea of the Week: Smart Toilet with Butt Recognition

  • Stanford Researchers have developed “butt recognition” technology. The project is led by Sanjiv Gambhir, MD, PhD.
  • They are developing p a toilet that recognizes your exact, unique butt so that it can monitor you for health markers.
  • The point is to provide precise, individualized health feedback, so they needed to make sure the toilet could discern between users.”
  • The toilets are outfitted with scanners that read users’ anus signiture with what the researchers wittily call, “the polar opposite of facial recognition technology.”
  • According to Dr. Gambhir, your anal print is unique.”
  • This toilet is fitted with technology that can detect a range of disease markers in stool and urine, including those of some cancers, such as colorectal or urologic cancers..
  • The toilet also provides urinalysis data which can uncover all kinds of medical issues.
  • The smart toilet is the perfect way to harness a source of data that’s typically ignored and the user doesn’t have to do anything differently.

Using 3D Printers PPE to Fight COVID-19

  • Almost as soon as the virus began to overwhelm hospitals, people started mobilizing on the internet.
  • Sewing patterns for masks started circulating among crafters.
  • STL files (stereolithography, Standard Tessellation Language) for face shields started popping up on 3D printing sites.
  • People created Facebook groups to organize their efforts. Within days, collection and distribution networks started to take shape.
  • Masks 4 Docs Foundation already has 4,000 volunteers, operating on six continents and hundreds of cities around the world, making face sheilds with 3D printers.
  • “You can get started right away, and Masks 4 Docs can help connect you with the resources and the supplies so that you can 3D-print face shields,”
  • Already, designs for 3D-printed personal protective gear have been released, remixed, and refined by a giant network of online collaborators.
  • The schematics for one popular face shield component, originally released online in late March, is already in its third iteration.
  • The new-and-improved version uses less material, prints faster, and can be manufactured in stacks of four at a time.
  • Another design, which has already been reviewed and approved for clinical use by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), can be printed in under an hour.
  • Link:

Protecting You Smartphone’s Touch Screen

  • Your smartphone and other touch devices have a layer called an “oleophobic coating.” No matter how carefully you try to protect this, it wears away over time. Fortunately, you can restore it and make the touch screen feel like new again.
  • Apple pioneered the oleophobic layers with the iPhone 3S.
  • From the first day you start using your smartphone, that coating starts to wear away.
  • Using a screen protector is the only way you can really protect it. It will also probably have an oleophobic coating.
  • As the coating wears away, fingerprints tend to hang around longer.
  • To test the oleophobic layer, just put a drop of water on the screen. If it beads up and holds together in a sphere, the oleophobic coating is doing its job. If the water spreads and moves around the display in a big blob, you know the coating has worn away.
  • While this oil-repelling coating wears away through ordinary use, there are a few things you can do to help protect it.
  • First, always start by wiping your device with a soft, lint-free cloth. Dampen it with water and remove any visible dirt and grime.
  • To disinfect your smartphone, use an alcohol-based cleaning solution that contains a minimum of 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropanol. Apple recommends you use 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipes during the current coronavirus pandemic.
  • You can buy an aftermarket oleophobic coating kit (like Fusso by Crystal Armor) and apply it yourself. These kits cost around $10 or $20 for a single treatment, which is good for one device. It is available from Amazon and ships from Japan. Use 15 drops and wipe the a thin layer of liquid over the screen with a finger covered with plastic. Let it dry overnight.