Show of 04-30-2022

Tech Talk

April 30, 2022

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Lois in Erie: Dear Tech Talk. I bought a Brother laser printer about a year or so ago. The starter toner cartridge that came with the printer finally ran out so I ordered a third-party cartridge from Amazon. I installed it per the instructions but the printer’s LCD screen still says “Replace Toner”. The printer prints just fine with no problems whatsoever. I guess that message me has a little concerned. Should I be? Lois in Erie, Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can safely use your third-party toner cartridge with no worries. The printer companies try to get you to use their expensive print cartridges. In a nutshell, if your printer detects a cartridge that matches the exact specification, you’ll see that message even if your cartridge is perfectly fine. If it detects, a third party cartridge, it gives you the Replace Toner message. Keep using your third-party toner cartridge and ignore the “Replace Toner” message. I honestly believe it will all work out just fine.
  • Email from Hac in Bowie: Dear Doc and Andrew. I need your help with a very strange problem. I turned on my computer this morning and saw that somehow my Facebook had gotten switched to some language that I can’t understand. I can’t figure out how to change it back to English because I can’t read the menus. Can you help me get my Facebook account back to where it’s using English? Thanks, Hac in Bowie, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is actually a common issue with Facebook. It happens all the time in fact. All it takes is an errant mouse click. While you can change the language back to English via Facebook’s Settings menus, as you have found out, that can be difficult if you have trouble navigating the menus due to the unfamiliar language.
  • Luckily, there is an easier way that only involves a few mouse clicks.
    • In the right-hand pane, click the button at the far right end of the top line.
    • Click the arrow to open the drop-down menu, then scroll through the list of languages until you find English (US) or whichever dialect of English you use in your country, then click on it to select it.
    • Click the button that’s highlighted in blue to complete the switch back to English.
  • Your Facebook account should now be using English as the default language once again.
  • Email from Alex in Richmond: Dear Tech Talk. I would like to create my own high performance USB external hard drive. I have heard that it is difficult to buy one off the shelf. What is the issue and how can I do it? Alex in Richmond, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: It is difficult shopping for an external hard drive with reasonable performance. Many USB options use a slow hard drive technology called SMR that can be hard to spot. If you want good transfer speeds for a reasonable price, it is a good idea to make your own.
  • Since at least 2020, manufacturers of external USB hard drives have been using a technology called Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) in their products that increases capacity and lowers cost, but dramatically limits the performance of the drives. SMR uses a special method of partially overwriting previously written tracks on a hard disk platter (like shingles on a house roof). In contrast, Conventional Magnetic Recording (CMR) hard drives use conventional parallel writing methods that do not overlap tracks, so they don’t suffer the same performance penalties.
  • Manufacturers love SMR because the drives require fewer platters verses a CMR-based drive, and that saves them money. Many manufactures do not openly advertise this fact.
  • The heart and soul of your custom USB hard drive is a SATA internal hard disk, which uses CMR technology.  While some manufacturers aren’t open about which drives use SMR, Seagate provides a chart that shows which of its hard drive models use CMR or SMR technology. All IronWolf hard drives use CMR.
  • You can pick any 3.5? SATA hard disk you want. Just make sure it uses CMR for its recording technique. Note that  some manufacturers label it “PMR” instead, for Parallel Magnetic Recording. PMR is the same as CMR.
  • Now that you have your 3.5? SATA hard disk picked out, it’s time to buy a USB enclosure. There are dozens on the market available, mostly from generic OEM vendors with different badges. You could use a USB 3.0 enclosure here for price purposes, but it’s also possible to find enclosures that support the faster USB 3.2.
  • Email from Feroze in Fredericksburg: Dear Tech Talk. I bought a smart TV for my living room but the WiFi in there is too weak to maintain a solid connection. There’s enough signal in there for my laptop and tablet to use the Internet with no problem, but it just doesn’t allow the streaming to work as it should. I’ve been doing some research about ways to boost the signal on that end of the house and I keep seeing the terms “Wi-Fi Extender” and “Mesh Network Systems”. I’m really confused about these devices. What is the difference between them and which one should I get? Feroze in Fredericksburg, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: Both of those types of devices can help provide a stronger WiFi signal to the part(s) of your home where you need it, but they work in very different ways.
  • Wi-Fi Range Extenders
    • A WiFi Extender is basically a simple signal booster.
    • You plug the device into an electrical outlet located somewhere near the middle of your house and it will amplify the WiFi signal it receives at that location and transmit the stronger signal father into the home.
    • One problem, is that you need to use a different network name (SSID) than the one you use for your main WiFi network, and that can be a hassle when you move from one area of your home to the next.
    • A second problem, if your device is connecting to WiFi (say after you get home from work), it just might connect to the weaker network instead of the stronger one.
    • Finally, WiFi extenders are famous for dropping the signal for no apparent reason.
  • Mesh Network Systems
    • Mesh network systems are signal boosters as well, but they are typically “smarter” and more powerful than WiFi extenders.
    • A typical mesh system consists of a source router and additional satellite “nodes” that can be placed in strategic locations inside your home.
    • These systems always come with at least one satellite node, but that is usually enough only when the owner has a relatively small home.
    • A larger home usually requires a second (or even third) satellite node to completely blanket the entire house with a strong and stable WiFi signal.
    • Another advantage of a mesh system is your devices always connect to the same network, so there’s no need to switch from one network to another as you move about the house.
    • The WiFi signals provided by a well-placed mesh network tend to be rock-solid.
    • The only real disadvantage to choosing a mesh network system over a WiFi range extender is the price. You should expect to pay more for the convenience of a stable, single-network mesh WiFi system.
  • Given your situation as you described it, I believe this two-device mesh network system from TP-Link would be perfect for your home.
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Profiles in IT: Jack Patrick Dorsey

  • Jack Patrick Dorsey technology entrepreneur best known as co-founder and CEO of Twitter and the founder and CEO of Square, a financial payments company.
  • Dorsey was born November 19, 1976 in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • He attended the Catholic Bishop DuBourg High School. In his younger days, Dorsey worked occasionally as a fashion model and massage therapist.
  • By age fourteen, Dorsey had become interested in dispatch routing. Some of the open-source software he created in the area of dispatch logistics is still used.
  • Dorsey attended the University of Missouri–Rolla for two-plus years, before transferring to NYU, but he dropped out in 1999, one semester short of graduating.
  • In 2000, Dorsey used his dispatch software to start a company in Oakland to dispatch couriers, taxis, and emergency services from the Web.
  • In July 2000, building on dispatching and inspired by AOL Instant Messenger, he had the idea for a Web-based real time status/short message communication service.
  • He pitched the idea to Odeo. Dorsey and Biz Stone decided that SMS text suited the status-message idea, and built a prototype of Twitter in about two weeks.
  • The idea successfully attracted many Odeo users. In 2005, Evan Williams, Odeo co-founder, provided angel financing.
  • Williams, Stone and Noah Glass co-founded Obvious Corporation, which then spun off Twitter, Inc., with Dorsey as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
  • As CEO, Dorsey saw the startup through two rounds of VC funding.
  • As the service began to grow in popularity, Dorsey chose the improvement of uptime as top priority, even over revenue.
  • He says his three guiding principles are simplicity, constraint and craftsmanship.
  • On 2008, Williams took over as CEO, while Dorsey became Chairman of the Board.
  • He reportedly lost his position for leaving work early for yoga and fashion design.
  • In 2011, he returned to Twitter as Executive Chairman after Dick Costolo replaced Williams as CEO.
  • In 2015, Costolo resigned as CEO and Dorsey assumed the post of interim CEO.
  • He was named permanent CEO on October 5, 2015.
  • In May 2016, Dorsey announced that Twitter would not count photos and links in the 140-character limit to free up more space for text, to entice new users.
  • In March 2018, Dorsey announced that an improved version of the verification system would be coming to Twitter.
  • Dorsey announced that, as of November 22, 2019, Twitter would ban all political advertising. The policy applies globally to all political campaigns.
  • In October 2020, Dorsey was one of several tech firm CEOs subpoenaed by the US Senate Commerce Committee about the legal immunity the tech platforms receive under Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934.
  • In May 2010, Dorsey, and Jim McKelvey, released a small business platform to accept debit and credit card payments on a mobile device called Square.
  • The small, square-shaped device attaches to a mobile device via the headphone jack.
  • Square is also a system for sending paperless receipts via text message or email.
  • The company grew from 10 employees in December 2009 to over 100 by June 2011.
  • Square’s office is on Market Street in San Francisco. In September 2012, Business Insider magazine valued Square Inc. at US$3.2 billion.
  • Dorsey is CEO of Square, Inc. On October 14, 2015, Square filed for an IPO to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. As of that date, Dorsey owned 24.4 percent of the company.
  • In March 2020 the FDIC permitted Square to open a bank. It announced plans to launch Square Financial Services in 2021.
  • In 2012, Dorsey moved to the Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco. He walks five miles to work each morning and calls it a “very clearing time”.
  • He has a strict regimen of eating on one meal and taking two ice baths each day.
  • On April 7, 2020, Dorsey announced that he will move about $1 billion of his equity in Square, Inc., just under a third of his total wealth, to Start Small, LLC, and to relief programs related to the coronavirus
  • In 2008, he was named to the MIT Technology Review TR35 as one of the top 35 innovators in the world under the age of 35.
  • In 2012, The Wall Street Journal gave him the “Innovator of the Year Award” for technology.
  • Dorsey announced his departure from the role of Twitter’s CEO on November 29, 2021. Dorsey was replaced by the company’s former CTO Parag Agrawal, who took over as CEO effective immediately.
  • Dorsey will continue to lead as the CEO of Block, Inc.
  • In April 2021, Elon Musk offered to buy twitter for $44B. His offer was reluctantly accepted by the Board, subject to stock holder approval. Jack Dorsey with a 2.4% stake will make nearly $1B in the transaction.
  • Jack Dorsey has endorsed the takeover as the best way to save twitter.

Observations from the Faculty Lounge

  • First Amendment vs Censorship
  • The now-retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in an opinion on a 2017 First Amendment case, called the cyber age a revolution of historic proportions, noting that “we cannot appreciate yet its full dimensions and vast potential to alter how we think, express ourselves, and define who we want to be.”
  • Kennedy said cyberspace, and social media in particular, was among the “most important places … for the exchange of views.” He compared the internet to a public forum, akin to a public street or park.
  • Justice Kennedy’s believed that the public forum doctrine should not remain frozen in time, limited to protecting public squares and public parks, while new forums for public debate go unprotected.
  • This battleground raises serious concerns about the future of free speech, including attempts at censorship by government actors critical of comments on social media, the shifting standards of private platforms to censor online expression and the rise of hate and extremist speech in the digital world. There are three areas that must be addressed.
  • GOVERNMENT BLOCKING — When government officials block or remove critical comments online, this violates the core First Amendment principle that individuals have the right to criticize government officials.
  • PRIVATE CENSORSHIP — Much of the censorship on social media does not emanate directly from the government. Often, the censorship comes from social media companies that police content pursuant to their own terms-of-service agreements. Do these activities stifle free speech and how can they be regulated? Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 must be reviewed and revised.
  • POLICING HATE-FILLED CONTENT — If such private entities are not subject to First Amendment constraints, what should be the obligation of social media platforms when it comes to regulating private expression, particularly expression that advocates hate or includes calls for violence?

Elon Musk to Buy Twitter for $44B

  • Billionaire Elon Musk struck a $44 billion deal this week to buy Twitter.
  • On April 25, Twitter said Musk had agreed to buy the company at a price of $54.20 per share in cash.
  • The deal represents a 38% premium to Twitter’s closing stock price on April 1.
  • If the deal closes, Twitter will be taken private, ending its run as a publicly traded company.
  • Initially hesitant, the board came around after Musk secured more than $46 billion in cash and equity to pay for the deal.
  • Twitter shareholders still need to approve the deal, which isn’t expected to close for six months.
  • As he raised funds, Musk told banks he has a new CEO lined up for the social network.
  • Parag Agrawal, who took over from co-founder Jack Dorsey in November, is expected to stay until the sale is completed.
  • Musk also said he would rein in executive and board pay, in addition to figuring out new ways to monetize tweets. The chief censor, a lawyer who make $17M annually, is on the chopping block.
  • Musk is an avid user of the service but also one of its loudest critics.
  • He believes that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square and that its failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy.
  • He believes Twitter needed to be private to accomplish his goal.

How Twitter Makes Its Money

  • Hundreds of millions of people use Twitter to keep up on breaking news and follow events in the entertainment, sports, and political arenas. That relevance has helped the company earn a $12 billion valuation.
  • Twitter makes almost all of its money by selling advertisements — called promoted posts or promoted stories — that show up in its users’ feeds.
  • Ad revenue was $2.25 billion, accounting for 89% of the company’s top line last year. Twitter’s data licensing segment accounts for the rest.
  • In that way, its business model is essentially the same as Facebook’s. Both companies operate in a digital advertising industry that’s growing quickly as people consume more media online rather than through television, newspapers, and magazines.
  • Yet there are major differences that help explain why Facebook’s stock has been setting new all-time highs lately while Twitter’s is languishing well below its IPO price. The biggest is in the area of reach. Facebook recently passed 2 billion users as its active base jumped 17% year over year. Twitter, on the other hand, counted just 328 million users in late July, unchanged from the prior quarter and up just 5% from the year-ago period.
  • Facebook also has a much more engaged base of people who post status updates, pictures, and messages. That translates into additional opportunities to show ads and increased engagement on the ads themselves.