Show of 1-15-2022

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Bob in Maryland: Dear Doc and Andrew. I came across this story about using an electric car to do crypto mining. This guy is just using the battery on his Tesla to power GPUs to do crypto mining. Siraj Raval said his Tesla Model 3 mines Bitcoin and Ethereum for around 20 hours a day. He called his car a “computer with wheels” and said he made between $400 and $800 a month. As ridiculous as this might be, it might be less ridiculous in the future as vehicles get more and more computational power on board. What do you think, Doc? All the best, your faithful listener. Bob in Maryland
  • Tech Talk Respond: He is grand fathered in on free charging at the Tesla Superchargers. It only works for him because the electricity is free. Otherwise, he would not make anything.
  • Email from Kevin in Gainesville: Dear Tech Talk. I am having trouble charging my iPhone. I think my charging port is dirty. What are my options? Kevin in Gainesville. VA.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The charging port at the bottom of all iPhones produced since 2012 is called a Lightning connector. If you try to insert a Lightning cable and the connection seems flaky—it disconnects if you tap the cable or phone lightly—or it won’t insert all the way, the problem could either be the cable itself or the Lightning port on your iPhone.
  • To see which component (phone or cable) is causing the trouble, borrow or buy a known-working Lightning cable, plug it into your iPhone, and see if the connection problem persists.
  • If the new cable fixed the problem, then your old cable is bad or dirty. Rub the flat contacts on the old Lightning cable with a pencil eraser to clean off dirt and gunk, and then try again. If that does not work, you will need to buy a new charging cable. If the new cable does not solve the problem, then your iPhone’s connector is at fault.
  • A common problem with iPhones is that they accumulate pocket lint or dust in the Lightning port over time, and that physically interferes with the Lightning cable connection.
  • To safely clean your iPhone’s Lightning port without accidentally causing shorts that might damage your phone, it is important to power off your device first. How you do it depends on which type of iPhone you have:
  • Now that your iPhone is off, you will need a small tool that can fit inside the Lightning port on your phone without causing any damage. Don’t use metal or compressed air.
  • A wooden toothpick works best: It does not conduct electricity, so it can’t cause an accidental short, and it’s soft enough to pose a low risk of damaging the connector pins inside the Lightning port.
  • To get started, gently insert the toothpick into the Lightning port at the bottom of your iPhone. Move it back and forth, then try to scoop lint or dust out. As you move the toothpick, try to keep it centered in the port to avoid damaging the pins located on the bottom side of the connector. Be sure to not use too much force with the toothpick.
  • If you’ve cleaned your iPhone’s charging port and it’s still not working properly, you might want to contact Apple service for help. They can repair or replace your iPhone for a fee.
  • Email from Jessica in Ashburn: Dear Tech Talk. My daughter started college this fall and she is living on campus. When she received her dorm assignment, they also gave her a list of rules that she must follow. One of those rules is she cannot use her own router in her dorm room. They told her she has to use the campus Wi-Fi network instead because a private router could cause problems with the school’s network. Why is that? It does not make sense to me. Jessica in Ashburn, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: Their rule makes sense. Many colleges and universities prohibit the use of private routers on their campuses because they can potentially cause problems with the school’s own wired and wireless networks. For example, the signals from dozens (or even hundreds) of student-owned wireless routers could potentially interfere with and disrupt the official wireless network on campus, not to mention the WiFi signals from all the other students’ routers.
  • Even routers without wireless capability can cause issues on the network for a variety of technical reasons, especially if one or more of them are configured incorrectly. As might imagine, this scenario would drive the school’s IT personnel bonkers.
  • As far as security is concerned, I do not think you will have to worry about the security of the official school-provided network on campus. Most institutions staff their IT departments with experienced technicians who are quite good at securing and locking down their IT infrastructure.
  • Email from John in Arlington: Dear Tech Talk. I have an old Android tablet sitting on the shelf. How can I use it for a digital picture frame? John in Arlington, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: These days most everyone has an old unused Android tablet sitting on a shelf somewhere. And chances are a good number of them still work just fine. You can easily turn most any unused working tablet into a digital picture frame simply by downloading a free app and copying a bunch of your favorite photos onto it. There are many good digital picture frame apps in the Google Play Store, some of which are free. Just be sure to choose an app that has good user ratings and permissions that are not too intrusive, and you will be in business.
  • After you’ve selected and installed a good picture frame app, simply load up your tablet with your favorite photos and then run the app to display a never-ending slideshow.
  • If you happen to have an unused iPad laying around, you are in luck as well. And you won’t even have to download an app since you can simply use the awesome “Gallery” feature of the Photos app! That’s all there is to it! Enjoy your awesome “new” digital picture frame!
  • Email from Alex in Richmond: Dear Doc and Andrew. Last week I was stuck in a hotel room with a weak WiFi signal and it was terrible. How could I have gotten a better Internet connection? I don’t like to be stranded. Alex in Richmond, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: If you really need to use the Internet during your stay, there are several things you can try in order to get a better connection when you’re stuck in a room with a poor WiFi signal:
    • Check to see if the room has an RJ-45 jack for a wired Ethernet connection. Many still do, even if they have added WiFi in recent years. If you need an Ethernet cable and you don’t have one with you, chances are the hotel front desk will have one they can loan you to use during your stay. You can pretty much count in it if the hotel provides wired Ethernet connections in its rooms.
    • Try moving your laptop to a different part of the room. Sometimes moving just a few feet can make all the difference in the world.
    • Carry your laptop out into the hallway and see if there is a strong WiFi signal there. If not, the hotel’s router might need to be rebooted. Call the front desk and ask them to reboot the router. Sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t, but it’s always worth a try.
    • If available, you can try using your smartphone’s tethering feature to create a portable hotspot.
    • And if all else fails, ask to be moved to a different room that’s closer to the router or one of the hotel’s WiFi repeaters.
  • Now all of the above being said, there will be times when you won’t be able to access the Internet at all from your hotel. That’s just the way life works. BTW, when I use WiFi at any hotel, I always use a VPN. I don’t trust the security of the network.

Profiles in IT: Gavin James Wood

  • Gavin James Wood is an English computer scientist, co-founder of Ethereum and creator of Polkadot and Kusama, and the Web3 Foundation
  • Wood was born April, 1980, in Lancaster, England, United Kingdom.
  • Since his childhood, economics and game theory have always interested him, even to the point of co-publishing a strategy board game of his own design. He is behind the Milton Keynes board game, the Fractal Playground.
  • He attended the Lancaster Royal Grammar School and graduated from the University of York with a Master of Engineering in Computer Systems and Software Engineering in 2002. He taught fractals and art to kids in a school in Italy.
  • He completed his PhD entitled “Content-based visualization to aid common navigation of musical audio” in 2005.
  • When he first read about Bitcoin in 2011, he was largely uninterested, focusing too much on the currency aspect rather than the technology.
  • However, when he revisited it in early 2013, I began to realize new possibilities opening up between the fields of computer science and game theory, and the inevitable social change to which this would lead.
  • Prior to developing Ethereum, he consulted for Microsoft Research on technical aspects of embedded domain-specific languages, designed and implemented the first truly smart lighting controller for one of London’s top nightclubs, designed and implemented most of the world’s first C++ language workbench, and built the software systems of OxLegal, a smart text contract-editor.
  • A mutual friend made the introduction to Vitalik that year and blockchain/crypto has dominated his life since.
  • He co-founded Ethereum, which he has described as one computer for the entire planet, with Vitalik Buterin, Charles Hoskinson, and others during 2013–2014.
  • He coded the first functional Ethereum client in January 2014 and released the first proof of concept.
  • Shortly after, he authored the Yellow Paper, the first formal specification of any blockchain protocol and one of the key ways Ethereum distinguished itself from other blockchain-based systems.
  • He went on to co-design much of the Ethereum protocol including the EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine), gas and the caller-pays account model.
  • He also conceived/invented and designed much of what would become the Ethereum technology stack including the Solidity contract language, the RPC, the Whisper/Swarm protocols and the JavaScript API.
  • Whisper and Swarm are a decentralized communication protocol and a decentralized storage platform respectively.
  • His original ideas for a decentralized web date back to early 2013, but his first post on the topic was in April 2014, later followed by a less-techy version.
  • He served as the Ethereum Foundation’s first chief technology officer.
  • Wood left Ethereum in 2016 and founded Parity Technologies (formerly Ethcore), which developed a client for the Ethereum network and creates software for companies using blockchain technology, with Jutta Steiner, who also previously worked at the Ethereum Foundation.
  • The company released the Parity Ethereum software client, written in Rust, in early 2016.
  • He founded the Web3 Foundation, a nonprofit organization focusing on decentralized internet infrastructure and technology, starting with the Polkadot network.
  • Its mission is to nurture cutting-edge applications for decentralized web software protocols. The Foundation is focused on ldelivering Web 3.0, a decentralized and fair internet where users control their own data, identity and destiny.
  • In comparison to Ethereum’s Proof of Work mechanism, Polkadot relies on Proof of Stake mechanism and allows developers to create their own blockchain that can talk to other ledgers, forming a system of parachains.
  • Developers can decide what kind of transaction fees to charge and how fast to confirm blocks of transactions across the digital ledgers.
  • In 2019, he founded Kusama, an early stage experimental development environment for Polkadot.
  • He speaks Italian, some French and Spanish. When he gets the time, he also likes photography. He is proficient in taekwondo. To take the edge off, he snowboards.

Observations from the Faculty Lounge

  • Web3: Hype or Hoax
    • Web 1.0 was static web pages delivered via a browser
    • Web 2.0 was interactive web pages (social media, Amazon, etc.). This was highly centralized with a few companies
    • Web 3.0 is a distributed system with trust enforced by a blockchain.
  • Web 3.0, or as might be termed the “post-Snowden” web, is a re-imagination of the sorts of things we already use the web for, but with a fundamentally different model for the interactions between parties.
    • Information that we assume to be public, we publish. Information we assume to be agreed upon, we place on a consensus ledger. Information that we assume to be private, we keep secret and never reveal.
    • Communication always takes place over encrypted channels and only with pseudonymous identities as endpoints; never with anything traceable (such as IP addresses).
    • It includes a system to mathematically enforce our prior assumptions, since no government or organization can reasonably be trusted.
  • Detractors contend that normal evolution will lead to centralization (like Open Seas NTF marketplace). We will just be replacing one set of overlords for another.
  • Supporters contend that we really decentralize (computation, storage, personal data, etc.) with crypto currency paying for the services.
  • The changeover will be gradual. On Web 2, we will increasingly see sites whose back ends utilize Web 3.0-like components. This is the battle of the century.

Website of the Week: Web3 Blockchain Fundamentals MOOC

  • The Web3 Foundation “Blockchain for Beginners” MOOC teaches blockchain from the very basics all the way up to building your own blockchain.
  • The course is led by Bill Laboon, Web3 Foundation’s technical education lead.
  • Beginning with the fundamentals – What is a blockchain? How is it stored? What are the different algorithms and protocols that are used in a blockchain? What’s the history of blockchain technology? It goes from absolute zero knowledge of blockchain or cryptography all the way to showing how to produce actual products on blockchain.
  • https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLxVihxZC42nF_MCN9PTvZMIifRjx9cZ2J

15th Anniversary of the iPhone – Now Big Tech Monopoly

  • Fifteen years ago, on Jan. 9, 2007, Steve Jobs announced the iPhone.
  • The iPhone has made a huge number of things easy, which were previously the province of techies.
  • Mobile social networking and image sharing apps, the great 4G applications, generally came to the iPhone first, transforming how we use our devices, interact with our friends, and see our world.
  • But with that has come a stifling feeling of control. Two companies, Apple and Google, now control pretty much all the mobile platforms in the US; two manufacturers, Apple and Samsung, sell the vast majority of phones.
  • Three platforms, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, manage much of our discourse.
  • The iPhone release helped herald in our current era of “Big Tech,” where a few huge platform companies control so much of our software and services.
  • Back before the iPhone, carriers dictated a lot of the software preloaded on phones. There were also a lot of carriers, which meant a lot of diversity and decentralization.
  • Apple broke the carrier control over software—in consumer’s favor!—by loading its own Google and Yahoo! relationships onto that first phone.
  • Big Tech now dealt with Big Tech. And as the iPhone’s influence spread, especially after it became available on all US carriers in 2011, Apple’s sole power to make those deals grew.
  • The next step came with the iPhone 3G, which introduced the App Store. Before the App Store, people bought their (relatively few) apps either from several independent stores.
  • Now, if you buy apps in the US, it’s almost always from one of two places: Apple or Google.
  • Having a single, clean API and a single store let software developers focus on making money, and it made apps easy to discover. Having a single interface shared by tens of millions of people let network effects spread the smartphone gospel, as people could share tips, tricks, and help with their friends and family.