Show of 06-26-2021

Tech Talk June 26, 2021

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Bob in Maryland: Dear Doc, Jim, and the professional Mr. Big Voice, Here is a news clip I came across today. In 1948, today, Prof. Tom Kilburn ran a testing program on the first stored-program computer, SSEM. It took 52 minutes to run and Kilburn then proceeded to propose modifications to another early computer, ENIAC. I checked the Stratford University Tech Talk website and it does not appear that you have featured Kilburn on Profiles In IT. Is this possible? I cannot believe that you missed featuring this guy! Anyway, All the best, your faithful listener, Bob in Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a great suggestion. I will feature him on a future show.
  • Email from Tuc in Chantilly: Dear Doc and Jim. I recently heard how to hide my friends list from the public on Facebook. I thought it was a good idea so I followed the instructions and hid mine, but I just found out that all of my friends can still see a list of the friends we have in common (i.e. our mutual friends). The problem is I’m friends with several people who are jealous of one another and they get upset because I’m friends with those people too. And of course that makes ME upset. Is there any way to hide the list of our mutual friends from the people I am friends with on Facebook? Tuc in Chantilly, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: Unfortunately, there’s no setting available that will prevent your Facebook friends from seeing who your mutual friends are. While you can easily hide your entire friends list from strangers, Facebook won’t allow you to hide your mutual friends list from the people you’re friends with. Evenif you could hide your mutual friends that wouldn’t really prevent your friends from figuring out which friends the two of you have in common. All they would have to do is look at your Timeline to see who is interacting with your posts.
  • While hiding your Facebook friends list from the public is a great idea (and I strongly recommend it), it really wouldn’t help all that much to hide your list of mutual friends from the people you’re friends with. Therefore, Facebook does not even make that option available.
  • Dear Doc, Jim, and the elusive Mr. Big Voice. I came across this recent news about what seems to be a heist or a scam associated with bitcoin: Bitcoin Exchange Founders Missing After “Hack.” So Is $3.6 Billion. This is the biggest heist in the short history of cryptocurrencies. What do you think, Doc? All the best, Your faithful listener, Bob in Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: Brothers Ameer and Raees Cajee started Africrypt in South Africa in 2019. The company provided its users with updates on cryptocurrency trading and allowed them to create portfolios of cryptocurrency investments. By April last year, Africrypt had purchased 69,000 bitcoins, which is roughly worth $4 billion, for its customers. Ameer, the COO, then informed their clients that Africrypt had been hacked and their wallets and accounts had been compromised. He also asked the clients to not report this to authorities since it would delay the recovery process.
  • A few suspicious clients contracted attorneys to look into the matter but the Cajee brothers were untraceable and involved the federal crimes unit. Further investigations found that Africrypt employees had lost access to the back-end platforms, seven days before the alleged ‘hack’. South Africa’s financial regulator, Finance Sector Authority does not consider cryptocurrency to fall under its jurisdiction.
  • Block chain applications are very good for the world. However, regulation has to be ramped up.
  • Email from Caleb in Ashburn: Dear Tech Talk. I just bought a new Chromebook and to my amazement there is no ‘Delete’ key on the key board. What’s up with that? Caleb in Ashburn, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: Google made the decision to streamline and slim down the Chromebook experience as much as possible, and part of that effort was reducing the number of keys on the keyboard to the bare minimum necessary to function as a modern laptop. Unfortunately, one of the commonly-used keys they decided to drop was the ‘Delete’ key.
  • Google does provide a way to delete the character after the cursor, but you have to press two keys instead of one.
    • The ‘Backspace’ key works the same as it does on Windows PCs and Macs. Pressing it will delete the character that’s located immediately before the cursor.
    • To delete the character that’s located immediately after the cursor you’ll need to press Alt+Backspace.
  • I never really got used to having to use Alt+Backspace in place of the ‘Delete’ key. It just seems so unnatural after having used other types of machines for so many years.
  • Email from Allen in Glen Allen: Dear Tech Talk. What is the Difference Between Windows 10 and Windows 11? Just when I was used to Windows 10, I heard that I will have to move to Windows 11. What is going on? Allen in Glen Allen, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds; Microsoft has been updating Windows 10 for years, adding features and tweaking the interface. Windows 11, a whole new operating system, which will be released in late 2021. Some Windows 10 PCs are eligible to upgrade to Windows 11 when it arrives around the end of 2021. If your PC can run Windows 11, the upgrade will be free.
  • It all depends on your PC’s hardware. Windows 11’s system requirements are more stringent than Windows 10’s. For example, Windows 11 will only run on 64-bit PCs. In addition, your PC will need a TPM 2.0 chip and UEFI firmware with Secure Boot capability. PCs from the Windows 7 era will almost certainly not be eligible.
  • You can check if your PC can run Windows 11 by running Microsoft’s free PC Health Check app. If the tool says your PC will not run Windows 11, there is a chance your TPM or Secure Boot are disabled in your computer’s UEFI firmware settings. You can try visiting your UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) firmware settings (BIOS) and enabling these features.
  • If your existing PC doesn’t support Windows 11, or if you just prefer Windows 10 and would like to stick with your existing operating system, you can keep running Windows 10. Microsoft says Windows 10 will be supported with security updates until October 14, 2025.
  • Windows 11 can run the same applications Windows 10 can. On top of that, Windows 11 can run Android apps. Windows 11 includes some actually useful new features that will help you multitask with multiple windows and even work with multiple monitors. The Start menu has been simplified, and live tiles have been removed. Updates will be 40% smaller, and Windows will install them in the background.
  • The taskbar is getting a widgets pane, and Microsoft is integrating Microsoft Teams into the taskbar for easy chatting and calling.
  • Email from Alice in Alexandria. Dear Doc and Jim. I went to the mall this morning and when I got home, my phone wasn’t in my purse. I checked both my car and my apartment from one end to other and it just is not here. I am not too concerned about the phone itself. It is an older Straight Talk phone that I was planning to replace soon anyway. The thing that worries me is my Gmail was open. I have a lot of sensitive info and photos in my emails that I really don’t want anyone else to see. Is there a way to use my computer to remotely sign out of Gmail on the lost phone? Alice in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can easily use your computer to sign that device out of your Gmail account. Just follow the steps below:
    • Log into your Gmail account in a web browser on your laptop or desktop computer.
    • Click on your profile photo (or avatar) in the top-right corner of the window.
    • Click Manage your Google Account.
    • Click the Security link in the left-hand column.
    • Scroll down to the “Your devices” section and find the lost phone in the list.
    • You might need to click the +X more link to see the device in question.)
    • Click More details.
    • Click Sign out.
  • That’s all there is to it, Carrie. Your lost phone should now be logged out of your Gmail account.

 

 

Profiles in IT: Brian Armstrong

  • Brian Armstrong computer scientist best known as co-founder of Coinbase, a cryptocurrency trading company.
  • Armstrong was born on January 25, 1983, near San Jose, California.
  • Armstrong displayed an entrepreneurial streak as early as grade school. He was hauled into the principal’s office on charges of operating a candy-reselling venture on the playground.
  • While in High School, he started learning Java and CSS as he had developed an interest in computer technology.
  • He got his first paying jobs when he was still in High School and he was designing websites for small-scale business in the areas in of San Jose.
  • He attended Rice University in Texas, and earned a dual Bachelor’s degree in economics and computer science in 2005, followed by a Masters in Computer Science in 2006.
  • At Rice University, hd spent four months as an intern at IBM in San Jose, California, where he designed Java-based tools for Network Attached Storage devices.
  • Brian co-founded UniversityTutor.com with John Nelson in June 2003, while he was still a junior. The website helps tutors create a tutoring enterprise and offer their services to a host of potential student-client.
  • Brian remained at UniversityTutor.com as its CEO for eight years from August 2003 to May 2012.
  • After graduating, spent a year in Buenos Aires while working on the education company. While in Buenos Aires, he saw the effects of hyperinflation that were affecting Argentina at the time.
  • After returning to the US, he got a job at Deloitte and Touche as an Enterprise Risk Management Consultant.
  • In 2010, he came across the bitcoin white paper published under the alias Satoshi Nakamoto.
  • In 2011, he joined Airbnb as a software engineer, and was exposed to payment systems in the 190 countries Airbnb operated in at the time. While at Airbnb, he saw the difficulties of sending money to South America.
  • He began working weekends and nights to write code in Ruby and JavaScript to buy and store crypto coins. He was doing for the bitcoin network what an earlier generation of programmers had done for the internet by creating browsers.
  • In 2012, he entered the Y Combinator startup accelerator and received a $150,000 investment, which he used to found Coinbase.
  • In 2012, Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam co-founded Coinbase, as a way platform to trade bitcoins and other digital currencies. Armstrong was its first CEO.
  • If the grand vision for Coinbase is to be a gateway to decentralized finance of all sorts, the revenue for now is coming from more mundane things like trading commissions.
  • By 2016, 4.7 million people had accounts with Coinbase. By 2017, the number rose to 13.3 million,
  • A 2018 funding round valued the company at $8.1 billion, and in December 2020, the company filed with the SEC to go public through a direct listing.
  • Following a direct listing in April 2021, Coinbase’s market cap rose to $85B, and Armstrong’s total net worth passed $10B.
  • Armstrong appeared in the 2014 American documentary The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin.
  • Armstrong self-funded and founded the scientific research site ResearchHub, modeled on the GitHub code repository, as a way of making research papers available to the public.
  • Armstrong wrote a blog post in September 2020 calling Coinbase a “Mission Focused Company”, discouraging employee activism and discussion of political and social issues at work.
  • He offered severance packages for anyone at Coinbase who wasn’t comfortable with this policy. 60 employees left Coinbase
  • In 2017, at age 34, Armstrong was ranked #10 on Forbes’ 40 under 40 list.
  • In 2019, Armstrong was named to Time Magazine’s 100 Next list.
  • In 2021, Forbes named Armstrong #1 on its Crypto Rich List, with an estimated net worth of $6.5 billion as of February 2021.
  • In 2018, Armstrong was the first cryptocurrency executive to sign The Giving Pledge, when he pledged to give away the bulk of his wealth to philanthropic causes.
  • He also set up a philanthropic effort called GiveCrypto.org, to allow people to make public or anonymous donations to help others living in poverty.

Observations from the Bunker

  • Are Crypto Currency and Block Chain for real?
  • Cryptocurrencies have crashed, losing more than half their value. China has banned crypto mining and has forbidden financial institutions from accepting cryptocurrency.
  • Cryptocurrencies may or may not persevere as speculative investment vehicles, but they are triggering transformative changes to money and finance.
  • The prospect of competition from such private currencies has prodded central banks around the world to design digital versions of their currencies.
  • The Bahamas has already rolled out a central bank digital currency, while countries like China, Japan and Sweden are conducting experiments with their own official digital money.
  • The dollar bills in your wallet—if you still have any—could soon become relics.
  • Even transactions such as buying a car or a house could soon be managed through computer programs run on cryptocurrency platforms.
  • Digital tokens representing money and other assets could ease electronic transactions that involve transfers of assets and payments, often without trusted third parties such as real estate settlement attorneys.
  • Governments will still be needed to enforce contractual obligations and property rights, but software could someday take the place of other intermediaries, including bankers, accountants and lawyers.

App of the Week: NVIDIA Canvas App

  • In 2019, NVIDIA revealed what the company called a “smart paintbrush” tool that looked like magic. Today, over two years later, that project finally comes to life with the all-new Canvas app. It’s available as a beta and will literally turn your doodles into works of art.
  • NVIDIA’s Canvas app uses artificial intelligence to turn each little brush stroke into a photorealistic stroke. The app lets you paint by material, like trees, rocks, or clouds, rather than colors. As a result, users can easily create beautiful paintings with life-like details that even Boss Ross would appreciate. It’s hard to explain, but the video below will show you all you need to know.
  • It’s available to download today as a free beta. One major downside is you can only enjoy it if your machine is equipped with one of NVIDIA’s RTX GPUs.

Warning of the Week: Western Digital WD My Book Hack

  • Users of WD My Book Live hard drives are reporting finding that their storage devices had been completely wiped by a remote factory reset.
  • WD My Book Live products, which are manufactured by Western Digital and can have anywhere from 2TB to 24TB of storage, can be accessed remotely over the internet through their My Cloud function.
  • On Thursday, owners of the devices began posting on Western Digital’s forums that their data was being wiped.
  • Western Digital released a statement confirming that the devices’ internet connectivity was what allowed them to be remotely wiped and recommending that users disconnect their drives from the internet.
  • “Western Digital has determined that some My Book Live and My Book Live Duo devices are being compromised through exploitation of a remote command execution vulnerability,” the statement read. “In some cases, this compromise has led to a factory reset that appears to erase all data on the device.
  • The My Book Live and My Book Live Duo devices received its final firmware update in 2015. We understand that our customers’ data is very important. We are actively investigating the issue and will provide an updated advisory when we have more information.”
  • The statement also referred to the National Vulnerability Database, where it stated that all versions of the WD My Book Live have a bug in the remote command function that can be accessed by anyone who knows the device’s IP address.

Government Has No Explanation for UFOs

  • The government still has no explanation for nearly all of the scores of unidentified aerial phenomena reported over almost two decades and investigated by a Pentagon task force.
  • An official documents all data gathered since 2004 was released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said.
  • Of those, 21 reports of unknown phenomena, involving 18 episodes, possibly demonstrate technological capabilities that are unknown to the United States: objects moving without observable propulsion or with rapid acceleration that is believed to be beyond the capabilities of Russia, China or other terrestrial nations.
  • There is no evidence that any of the episodes involve secret American weapons programs, unknown technology from Russia or China or extraterrestrial visitations.
  • The nine-page document essentially declines to draw conclusions. The report said the number of sightings was too limited for a detailed pattern analysis.
  • While they clustered around military training or testing grounds, the report found that that could be the result of collection bias or the presence of cutting-edge sensors in those areas.
  • The government intends to update Congress within 90 days on efforts to develop an improved data collection strategy.