Show of 02-26-2022

Tech Talk

February 26, 2022

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Bob in Maryland: Dear Doc and Andrew. Today I read about a couple of mysterious failures of the internet in Europe, caused in one case by a father trying to make sure his kids got some sleep, and in the other by an old TV set. The father, who used a signal jammer to reign in his children’s’ Internet use managed to wipe out an entire town’s connectivity by mistake. The second outage was caused by an individual who was turning on an old, secondhand television set at that time every day. The TV was sending out electrical bursts capable of disrupting signals. What do you think, Doc? All the best, your faithful listener, Bob in Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: Both of these examples show how vulnerable our system is to intentional jamming. This same vulnerability is in space too, with our satellite. Signal jamming will become a common feature of modern warfare.
  • In the first case, the father has purchased a multi-band jammer to prevent his teenage children from going online at night without permission. It is illegal to sell or to buy such jammers (without a permit) in most countries, including the United States. That being said, I can buy a cellular jamming on the Internet for around $200. A jammer simply emits a noisy signal in the signal band of the device that you wish to jam. I the case of the TV, a spark gap was probably generating broadband noise that covered the cellular bands.
  • The only approved application for jammers in indoors (like theaters). In that case the signal level of the jammer is adjusted so that it does not travel very far.
  • Email from Donald in Richmond: Dear Tech Talk. I am producing a website and have found the perfect picture. Unfortunately, it on another website. I do not want to simply copy it; I want to buy it. I have searched for the vendor that licenses this photo, but cannot find it. What do you suggest? Donald in Richmond, Virginia
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can search for an image on the web using Google Image search (https://www.google.com/imghp?hl=EN). Simply click on the Camera in the search box to do an image search. You can either upload a picture or paste in the URL of a picture on the web. It will search the web for your picture in seconds. I recently used it to locate the source of a licensed picture. I found it in second on iStock Photos and was able to purchase it for only $9.60. This is a better option that simply lifting it.
  • Email from Sophia in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Andrew. I watched the Freedom Express trucking protest in Canada. I was dismayed by the fact that the Canadian government could freeze crypto currency accounts. I thought that they were private and only under the control of the owners. What am I missing? Sophia in Fairfax, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: If you have set up a cryptocurrency wallet and have secured it with a strong password, you own it and no one can take it from you. You must download a crypto wallet to your computer. You can store a copy on a thumb drive, hard drive, or on the cloud. Some place their copies of their thumb drive in a safety deposit box.
  • If you have a crypto account with an exchange, like Coinbase or Binance, you have account them, but they actually control the crypto wallet. You rely on their honestly and reputation. In the case of the truckers, they had accounts with exchanges. Those exchanges froze their accounts under pressure from the Canadian governments. Beware of exchanges, if you wish to retain absolute control.
  • Good luck with your crypto exploration. However, beware of volatility.
  • Email from Frustrated in Burke: DOC, a problem I have seen on my account is that I am receiving emails addressed to myname@gmail.com and emails addressed to aol accounts I do not have. Is there a way I can stop this.  I also noticed this happening on someone else’s account too. Any ideas. Frustrated in Burke
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can get different types of unwanted emails in your Gmail inbox. They could be either promotional messages trying to sell you something or typical scams trying to lure information and or money from you. Below is how you can permanently get rid of spam from your Gmail.
    • Bock Email Addresses
      • Open the spam email you want to block.
      • Tap the three-dot menu at the top right corner.
      • Click on Block <sender’s name>.
      • Their emails will automatically be moved to your spam folder.
    • Report Email as Spam
      • Open the spam email in Gmail.
      • Tap the three-dot menu at the top right corner.
      • Click on Report Spam.
      • If asked whether you want only to report or unsubscribe and report, click on Report spam & unsubscribe.
      • Any upcoming messages from the same sender will be automatically flagged and sent to the Spam folder. Reporting also helps improve the spam filter.
    • Use Custom Spam Filter in Gmail
      • Click the Three Lines at the right of the search bar.
      • Type the keywords in the field that you want to filter.
      • Now, tap Create Filter at the bottom of the dialog box.
      • Set the filters based on your preferences.
      • Once you’ve set parameters, finish by clicking the Create Filter button.
      • You’ve now created yourself a custom filter that will automatically archive, delete, label, or categorize emails with particular keywords.
  • John in Washington: Dear Tech Talk. The hard drive in my computer died and I replaced it with an SSD per your suggestion. I have read that SSD’s are a lot more reliable than hard drives and that they rarely go bad. My question is do I need to back up my SSD like I did my hard drive? John in Washington, DC
  • Tech Talk Responds: The short answer to your question is yes. While solid state drives (SSDs) are in fact more reliable and less prone to failure than a traditional hard disk drive, they can and do fail. And unlike hard drives, SSDs rarely give any advance warnings or clues that the drive is getting ready to go belly up.
  • A solid state drive is basically just a circuit board populated with flash memory chips, and like all electronic components they are subject to failure. If your SSD fails and you don’t have a recent backup, your data will be gone forever. Data can often be recovered from a bad hard drive, but when an SSD dies it typically takes the data stored on it right along with it.
  • Both Windows PCs and Macs are very easy to back up these days. Simply plug in an external USB hard drive and click the mouse a few times, then go about your business as the backup gets created in the background. With external USB hard drives so cheap, it really makes sense in my opinion to make regular backups of your SSD.

Profiles in IT: Nikola Tesla

  • Nikola Tesla was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist best known for the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.
  • Nikola Tesla was born in July 10, 1856, in Smiljan, Croatia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father was a priest in the Serbian Orthodox church.
  • His mother managed the family’s farm and memorized poetry at site.
  • In 1863 Tesla’s brother Daniel was killed in a horse riding accident. The shock of the loss unsettled the 7-year-old Tesla, who reported seeing visions.
  • In 1870, Tesla moved to Karlovac to attend high school at the Higher Real Gymnasium where the classes were held in German.
  • Tesla became interested in demonstrations of electricity by his physics professor. Tesla was able to perform integral calculus in his head. He graduated in 1873.
  • After graduating Tesla returned to Smiljan but soon contracted cholera, was bedridden for nine months and was near death multiple times.
  • Tesla’s father promised to send him to the best engineering school (rather than the seminary) if he recovered from the illness. He quickly recovered.
  • He studied math and physics at the Technical University of Graz and philosophy at the University of Prague. He never graduated because of a gambling addiction.
  • Tesla moved to Budapest, Hungary, in 1881 to work at a telegraph company,
  • In 1882, Tesla was hired by the Continental Edison Company in Paris to repair a direct current (DC) power plant.
  • Two years later, he immigrated to the US, invited by his boss at Edison in Paris to work as an engineer at Thomas Edison’s Manhattan headquarters.
  • He worked there for a year, impressing Edison with his diligence and ingenuity.
  • Edison told Tesla he would pay $50,000 for an improved design for his DC dynamos. Tesla presented a solution. Edison declined to pay. Tesla soon quit.
  • He started Tesla Electric Light Company to perfect an arc lamp lighting system. His partners pivoted and took control of patents, leaving him nothing.
  • He was forced to dig Edison Electric ditches for $2 a day to support himself.
  • During that time, Tesla found backers to support his research into alternating current.
  • In 1887 and 1888 he was granted more than 30 patents and invited to address the American Institute of Electrical Engineers on his work and show his AC motor.
  • His lecture caught the attention of George Westinghouse, the inventor who had launched the first AC power system near Boston.
  • Westinghouse hired Tesla, licensed the patents for his AC motor and gave him a lab.
  • Buoyed by Westinghouse’s royalties, Tesla struck out on his own again.
  • But Westinghouse was soon forced by his backers to renegotiate their contract, with Tesla relinquishing his royalty rights. It cost him $12M ($300M in today’s dollars).
  • Six years later Westinghouse purchased Tesla’s patent for a lump sum payment of $216,000 as part of a patent-sharing agreement signed with General Electric
  • In the 1890s Tesla invented electric oscillators, meters, improved lights and the high-voltage transformer known as the Tesla coil.
  • He also experimented with X-rays, gave short-range demonstrations of radio communication two years before Marconi, and piloted a radio-controlled boat around a pool in Madison Square Garden.
  • Together, Tesla and Westinghouse lit the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and partnered with General Electric to install AC generators at Niagara Falls.
  • In 1895 Tesla’s New York lab burned, destroying years’ worth of notes and equipment. His radio communication patent was delayed by two years.
  • Tesla relocated to Colorado Springs for two years, returning to New York in 1900.
  • He secured backing from financier J.P. Morgan and began building a global communications network centered on a giant tower at Wardenclyffe, on Long Island.
  • But funds ran out and Morgan balked at Tesla’s schemes for powering the world.
  • Tesla lived his last decades in a New York hotel, working on new inventions even as his energy and mental health faded.
  •  His obsession with the number three and fastidious washing were dismissed as the eccentricities of genius.
  • He spent his final years feeding—and communicating with—the city’s pigeons.
  • Tesla died in his room on January 7, 1943, virtually penniless.
  • Later that year the U.S. Supreme Court voided four of Marconi’s key patents, belatedly acknowledging Tesla’s innovations in radio.
  • The AC system he championed and improved remains the global standard for power transmission.

Observations from the Faculty Lounge

  • The story of Nikola Tesla is one of the great personal tragedies of modern history.
  • Arguably, one of the greatest scientific geniuses of all time, Tesla faced poverty, slander and persecution during his lifetime.
  • His numerous inventions and discoveries offered the potential to revolutionize the world, and when and where they were implemented, they did so.
  • But Telsa came into conflict with Thomas Edison, America’s foremost inventor at the time, and Edison’s superior sense of business and advertising destroyed Tesla’s reputation and left him and many of his ideas frustrated and unfulfilled.
  • The tragedy of Tesla is profound. He was a genius and a visionary, and his death, alone and penniless, is heartbreaking. Tesla was a scientist wanted to help the world.
  • He sought electric power and lighting for all. He was not concerned with profit.
  • He was maligned and fleeced by businessmen who took advantage of his naiveté
  • Was his passion for science foolish or inspired?