Show of 05-21-2022

Tech Talk

May 21, 2022

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Peter from Bethesda: Dear Tech Talk, I want to advance in my IT career. I am currently working at the help desk, but would like to do more. What do you suggest? Love Tech Talk. Thanks, Peter from Bethesda
  • Tech Talk Responds: You need to anticipate where the field is going and learn what will be needed in the future. A few suggestions would be VMWare (virtualization is here to stay), Cloud Computing (virtualization with load balancing on the web), security (SANS is the gold standard in security training), open source software (Linux, Apache can be installed at home), database management (Oracle student packs can be installed at home, mySQL), programming languages (Visual Basic for scripting in a MS environment, C is a great foundation language, Java or C++ for object oriented, Python for machine learning and data science), internetworking (open source Cisco simulators allow you configure devices without any hardware).
  • Ask your employer to pay for some certification courses for you. You are then billable at a higher rate. But most importantly, set up you own IT lab at home and play around.  Show initiative. Join user groups. Subscribe to industry rags.
  • Email from Geoff in Arlington: Dear Tech Talk, I would like to clear off/erase all of the programs on my hard drive and clean it up before I donate my computer. What do you recommend? It is a Windows machine. Geoff in Arlington
  • Tech Talk Responds: The best way is to re-format the hard drive and then reinstall Windows. Do not do a quick format. Do the full format. A quick format creates an empty root directory on the hard disk and adds a label. The rest of the disk is left alone. Many commonly available disk recovery tools will be able to recover data from a “quick” formatted disk. You will need to either install the disk in a different machine to be able to reformat it or boot from something else.
  • A safe, practical approach: DBAN, which stands for “Darik’s Boot And Nuke”, is a free utility. It is a CD that you boot from that then “nukes” the information on the drive. You can download it at
  • Download the DBAN CD image, burn it to a CD, and then boot from the CD. DBAN will automatically and completely delete the contents of any hard disk that it detects. DBAN does this not by simply deleting files, but by performing a careful overwrite of the entire hard disk surface. When it’s done, everything is erased.
  • Then you can reinstall Windows. You might even perform a security update.
  • Email from Grover in Kilmarnock: Dear Tech Talk. I am thinking of cutting the cord. What are my options? I am a novice at this. Love the podcast. Grover in Kilmarnock, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can get content to your TV without a cable box. You will need a streaming device that connects to WiFi. You may be able to use the applications within your smart TV. However, the smart TV interfaces are not easy to navigate. He are my favorite streaming sticks.
    • Roku – very convenient use, if you are not an Apple fanboy
    • Apple TV – used on all my TVs, maximum RAM for pausing
    • Google Chromecast—use occasionally. Does not support apps. More for screen sharing from laptop or smart phone.
    • Amazon Fire TV streaming stick is not my preferred interface.
  • You can also stream over-the-air TV over your WiFi using a device like Tablo. It can also record over the air TV on a hard drive. It can connect to your mobile device and stream TV remotely. You can download the Tablo app to your streaming stick for convenient viewing. You will need a good antenna and perhaps an amplifier. I have been using the Tablo for a couple of years at two locations.
  • Content options: Hulu, DirecTV Stream, Sling TV, Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max, Disney+, and many ad-supported sites (used as apps on your streaming device). Look for cheaper paid tiers with ads.

Profiles in IT: Ben Silbermann

  • Ben Silbermann is an American Internet entrepreneur who co-founded and is CEO of Pinterest, a social media network and self-described ‘visual discovery engine.
  • Silbermann was born in 1982 and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. His parents were both ophthalmologists with a family practice.
  • Silbermann collected dried insects which he then would pin on cardboard.
  • In 1998, Silbermann attended the Research Science Institute at MIT.
  • In 1999, he graduated from Des Moines Central Academy and Des Moines Roosevelt.
  • Silbermann was accepted into Yale and spent the next two years taking science classes and prepping for the medical-school entrance exams.
  • He changed his mind and decided that a career in business was the thing. He spent his last year of college applying for consulting jobs.
  • He graduated from Yale in 2003 with a degree in political science.
  • After graduation, he landed a job at the DC-based Corporate Executive Board.
  • He tried to be a good consultant, but his interests drifted again. It was the mid-2000s.
  • Silbermann and his girlfriend quit their jobs and moved west. At the end of 2006, he landed a job doing customer support for Google’s advertising division.
  • He spent two years at Google before striking out on his own in 2008.
  • Silbermann’s first product, which he launched with a college friend, Paul Sciarra, was a shopping app called Tote. They raised a small amount of seed funding.
  • Tote failed to take off, but it did reveal something interesting: Rather than buy things, people used Silbermann’s app to email themselves pictures of products to view later.
  • This struck a chord with Silbermann. His boyhood hobby was collecting bugs.
  • In the fall of 2009, Silbermann met Evan Sharp, a student at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture. They started talking about digital collecting.
  • This triggered a new idea that evolved in Pinterest. The trio began work immediately.
  • Silbermann’s wife came up with the name over Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Sharp coded much of the site sitting in a Whole Foods on the Upper West Side of Manhattan while Silbermann and Sciarra, worked from an apartment in Palo Alto.
  • Sharp developed and coded 50 working versions of the site, experimenting with various column widths, layouts, and ways of presenting the pictures.
  • When the site launched in March 2010, Sharp dropped out of architecture school. He took a job at Facebook and moved to Palo Alto. Silbermann raised VC funding.
  • In January 2012, Pinterest surpassed 10 million monthly unique visitors in the United States; by April, that figure had nearly doubled.
  • Nearly 80% of Pinterest’s users are women, most between the ages of 25 and 54.
  • Pinterest ultimately raised a total of $1.5B in funding over 25 rounds.
  • Silbermann hired Tim Kendall, an engineer and Stanford MBA. Kendall is credited with creating Facebook’s monetization strategy.
  • Pinterest makes its money via advertising, specifically, promoted pins. These promoted pins are ads that look similar to user-generated pins (posts).
  • The company has integrated a “buy it” button which permits users to buy pinned products directly from Pinterest, rather than visiting a separate merchant site.
  • The company held its IPO in April 2019 which valued the company around 12B dollars. At the time of the IPO,
    • The total number of monthly active users was above 300 million
    • There were over 200 billion Pinterest Pins!
    • The total number of Pinterest boards was more than 4 billion
    • 2 million people saved shopping pins on a daily basis
  • Silbermann owns an 8% stake in the company, which had 454 million users worldwide as of June 2021.
  • His Pinterest shares make up the majority of his $3.8 billion fortune.
  • Silbermann is married to Divya Bhaskaran, with whom he has two children. He resides in San Francisco, California.

Observations from the Faculty Lounge

  • Six key skills required of a startup CEO

It is perhaps one of the hardest jobs to do in the business world, given the wide range of skills required to excel.

  • A startup CEO needs to
    • Set the vision. In order to create the clear vision, you need to have a good sense to what is going on in the industry and with competition. 
    • Monitor key trends and pivot accordingly. He or she must stay on top of key trends in their industry or competition to navigate the ship over time. 
    • Keep the team focused on the same goal. Another job of the CEO is to make sure all employees are clear on the vision, and that all staff are sailing in the same direction. 
    • Evangelize and motivate. CEO must be its Chief Evangelist.  This includes cheerleading the staff, from top to bottom, and getting prospective business clients and investors excited about getting involved with the company. 
    • Manage to key targets and budgets. Keeping the business on plan, on budget and liquid is a requirement for any startup CEO.  The CEO needs to set achievable proof-of-concept points, and put key managers in place for hitting those goals. 
    • Keep the company liquid and in business. The worst thing that can happen to any startup is running out of capital mid-launch or prior to full proof-of-concept, that would attract additional capital.
  • There is no single right answer for “who makes for the best startup CEO. Moreover, as the company grows, the investors frequently replace the founding CEO.
  • In the case of Pinterest, the same CEO took it from startup to IPO.

Two Military Satellites Communicated Via Lasers (like Starlink)

  • Two satellites recently exchanged more than 200 gigabits of data over a distance of about 60 miles (100 kilometers) using laser communication in space.
  • The two satellites, named Able and Baker, were launched last summer by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as part of its Blackjack project.
  • DARPA is seeking to build a constellation of small satellites in low Earth orbit for the purpose of supporting military operations.
  • The two satellites successfully pulled off the 40-minute laser communications experiment on April 14, 2022.
  • Infrared lasers transmit data by encoding the message into an optical signal, which is then carried to a receiver.
  • The experiment, known as Mandrake 2, was funded by the Space Development Agency (SDA) and the Air Force Research Laboratory.
  • The Blackjack constellation aims to deploy an initial batch of 20 small satellites in low Earth orbit, which will connect with each other to form a mesh network in space.
  • The idea is not to compete with commercial satellite constellations such as SpaceX’s Starlink, but rather to have a government-owned constellation.

Canada will ban two of China’s biggest telecom equipment makers

  • Canada will ban Huawei and ZTE 5G telecom equipment.
  • Francois-Philippe Champagne says the move will improve Canada’s mobile internet services and “protect the safety and security of Canadians”.
  • Several nations – including the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand – have already put restrictions on the firms.
  • The four countries, along with Canada, make up an intelligence-sharing arrangement named “Five Eyes”. It evolved during the Cold War as a mechanism for monitoring the Soviet Union and sharing classified information.
  • Canada’s announcement was widely expected, as its allies had already barred Huawei and ZTE from their own high-speed networks.
  • The spokesperson for China also accused Canada of working with the US to suppress Chinese companies.
  • The Canadian government’s decision means that telecoms firms in country will no longer be allowed to use equipment made by Huawei and ZTE.
  • Companies that have already installed the equipment made by the Chinese manufacturers must now remove it.
  • In November, Joe Biden signed legislation that stops companies judged to be security threats from receiving new telecoms equipment licences in the country.
  • It means equipment from Huawei, ZTE and three other Chinese companies are banned for use in US telecoms networks.