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Episode 1450 December 31, 2017

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Audience Questions

Audience QuestionsHour 1

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Watch Vernon from Pennsylvania Comments

Vernon was told by his insurance company that they would be sending him documents via email, and the first two times, he didn't receive it. The third time they sent it, it arrived. They told him the document was encrypted, but he could put anything in the password field to open it. He's now concerned that his personal information could be out in the wild.

Leo says that they should be using second factor authentication to do this, and it sounds like they just don't understand encryption. Many companies use DocuSign for this type of thing. The company does have a tech note on how they do this.

Image by Kārlis Dambrāns [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Check out the original question from January 8, 2017 here.

Watch Deborah from Rancho Comments

Deborah knows that when you log into website, it gets logged somewhere. Leo says it's in the browser history. Deborah is wondering if her daughter could use that information to prove that she attended a class that her professor is claiming she was not there for. Leo says the browser history would only prove that she was on that specific site, which she could have been on from home. Deborah says that if it keeps track of when the site was refreshed, the timing of that refresh could prove that she was there. Leo recommends looking at the browser history, but she should do this sooner rather than later because it usually only keeps the data going back a few months.

Deborah says that if they can't prove her daughter attended this class, it would ultimately keep her out of med school for two years. Leo thinks this is a flimsy policy by the professor, and they should be able to appeal to a higher authority on this.

Another way to try and prove that she was in class would be to use her phone's location data.

Check out the original question from April 2, 2017 here.

Watch Deborah from California Comments

Deborah knows that when you log into website, it gets logged somewhere. Leo says it's in the browser history. Deborah is wondering if her daughter could use that information to prove that she attended a class that her professor is claiming she was not there for. Leo says the browser history would only prove that she was on that specific site, which she could have been on from home. Deborah says that if it keeps track of when the site was refreshed, the timing of that refresh could prove that she was there. Leo recommends looking at the browser history, but she should do this sooner rather than later because it usually only keeps the data going back a few months.

Deborah says that if they can't prove her daughter attended this class, it would ultimately keep her out of med school for two years. Leo thinks this is a flimsy policy by the professor, and they should be able to appeal to a higher authority on this.

Another way to try and prove that she was in class would be to use her phone's location data.

Check out the original question from April 2, 2017 here.

Watch Alan from West LA, CA Comments

Alan wants to know if an antivirus utility is any good anymore for malware. How about on a mobile device? Leo says that all too often, an antivirus leaves people more vulnerable because most malware is a zero day exploit. Antivirus can't stop users from themselves, either. All antivirus utilities have to hook themselves into the OS at a very low level and the virus can actually use that as a door to more exploits. So at the end of the day, an antivirus really is only of limited benefit.

Windows 10 comes with a decent free antivirus that's good enough. At the end of the day, Alan's best defense will be his own behavior. He should keep his PC updated, and shouldn't open attachments or click on links, especially from friends or coworkers. What about using Malware Bytes occasionally? Leo says he doesn't use it. It works, but it can also cause more damage and still won't protect him from what Malware Bytes doesn't take off. It, too, creates a false sense of security.

Check out the original question from May 21, 2017 here.

Watch Frank from Tullahoma, TN Comments

Frank is frustrated because his Windows 10 screen is unreadable. It's frustrating because the white background and the blue letters make it difficult to read. Leo says that in the Accessibility settings of Windows 10 there is a high contrast mode which he can turn on and off by holding down the left "Shift," "Alt," and "Print Screen" keys. He can also choose to turn it on permanently in the settings.

Image: Cryptic C62; article: Wikipedia authors, see history of w:Boldering (screenshot) [CC BY-SA 3.0, GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Check out the original question from June 11, 2017 here.

Watch Jeff from Apple Valley, CA Comments

Jeff is getting strange random key strokes appearing in his browser bar. Leo says to try a different browser. Windows comes with both Edge and Internet Explorer. If it happens in both browsers, it could be a failing keyboard. Jeff should unplug his keyboard and try a new one. If he still has the issue, then it's a Windows problem, which could be malware or a browser hijack. He could try resetting his browser first. If that solves the problem, then he's fine. If not, then it may be that he'll need to reinstall Windows from a known good source. He should backup his data, format the hard drive, and then reinstall and update.

Check out the original question from June 24, 2017 here.

Watch Michelle from Northridge, CA Comments

Leo says that all traditional spinning hard drives are basically the same. They're basically like record players, but instead of vinyl, they use spinning metal plates. Those plates are magnetic, so they can be magnetized. They also have read heads, at least one per platter, which are like the needle on the record player. Except instead of reading the grooves in vinyl, they're reading the magnetic signals coming off the spinning platter. Because it's a computer, everything is recorded as 1's or 0's, and it's very easy with magnetic material to have a charge or no charge. Those platters spin very fast. On spinning drives, the slowest ones are 5400 rpm, and the fastest are 10,000 rpm. The heads move very quickly using an actuator. The problem with this setup is that there are a lot of moving parts that can be damaged, and the spinning and moving of the heads take time. Even at the fastest RPMs, the head has to wait for the platter to come around to read each sector of data. That time it takes is called "seek time."

Solid state drives don't have any moving parts. Instead, they have little cells that can be electrically charged. It's almost identical to the way SD cards work that are used in cameras. They are more reliable, and there's no seek time because it seeks at the speed of light. It can find data anywhere inside that solid state drives instantly. This reduces the amount of time to get the data. This makes SSDs a better choice because of the speed and reliability. Nowadays, most computers come with SSDs. The overall speed of the computer is measured in a lot of ways. The processor may be very fast, but the bottleneck then could be the spinning hard drive.

Check out the original question from July 23, 2017 here.

Watch Michael from Grand Rapids, MI Comments

Michael wants to know if the internet is just one computer talking to another, why do we need to pay ISPs for the privilege? Leo says because someone has to build the roads between them. So he's essentially paying the toll. But our internet freedom is at stake as Net Neutrality is under threat. Service providers want to charge both ways and they want to prioritize traffic. Net Neutrality is the idea that bits are bits and it shouldn't be that way. Leo says to go to SaveTheInternet.com to get involved in protecting Net Neutrality.

Check out the original question from August 27, 2017 here.

Watch Deena from Manhattan Beach, CA Comments

Deena wants to track her family with her iPhone. Leo says that a smartphone has GPS, an always on internet connection, it's designed to be a surveillance device. Always remember to have permission of the person you're tracking. For the iPhone, there's Find My Friends. There's also Life360. But her husband's phone is on Android, so how does he keep track of their son? Google Maps will let you share your location. Open Google Maps, tap the blue dot and select share location. It will time out after awhile though. That's the best option because it's free and cross platform. There's also Google's Trusted Contacts. It sends alerts when they arrive at various locations.

Check out the original question from September 10, 2017 here.

Watch George from Santa Monica, CA Comments

George keeps hearing about BitCoin and how much the price keeps going up. What gives it that value? Leo says nothing but sheer belief. BitCoin is crypto currency, which are essentially digital dollars that don't exist outside of a computer. You can't really take it and spend it at the local store unless the store takes it. But even a dollar bill isn't really anything but a fiat currency that the government says it's worth. The value of a dollar, or any other currency, changes all the time. It's fluid. So BitCoin is just an extreme version of that. They are stored in a Bitcoin wallet or service, and can even be traded in for real dollars. Hackers tend to like bitcoin because it can be somewhat anonymous.

Is it real? Not really. But no currency really is.

Check out the original question from September 17, 2017 here.

Watch Joseph from New Jersey Comments

Ivan wants to know what he's giving away when he logs into a site using his Facebook ID. Leo says that's called Single Sign-on, which makes it easier to sign in. Many services, including Google and Twitter also offer it as a convenience. It's a user verification system that doesn't require him to create an account, nor does it give them access to his account. But it gives Facebook, Google, and Twitter access to more information about where he visits. It's safe to use it, but if he's concerned, he can create a dummy account that he'll only use for that purpose.

Check out the original question from October 14, 2017 here.

Watch Jack from St. Cloud, FL Comments

Jack is learning computer animation with Blender and wants to know what other computer software he can learn to do animation with. Leo says that Blender is a great power tool to get started on, but it's hard to use. A great place to learn more is UDEMY. It's on sale for $10 for a limited time, and there is a complete Blender course. Taking that can help give him tips and tricks to make using Blender a lot easier. Once he's mastered that, he can create a reel and send it to Pixar asking for an internship or even a job.

Check out the original question from October 15, 2017 here.

Watch Nancy from Tarzana, CA Comments

Nancy has an Android phone, her kids have iPhone. Which assistant should she get, Amazon Echo or Google Home? Leo says it doesn't really matter, but for Nancy, using the Google Home would be similar to Android's voice assistant. The Echo has been out for a few years now and it's a mature system, whereas Google Home just came out not long ago. Google Home is better for facts because of its search knowledge. Amazon Echo is better for home automation. It works well with a variety of Internet of Things devices. Google Home isn't quite there yet with Internet of Things. Both will allow her to make phone calls, though. Echo has an intercom feature to talk from Echo to Echo. Both are good at music. Google Home can trigger Chromecast and cast streams to the TV. Echo can also let her buy stuff. It really comes down to what she's looking for it to do.

Apple is going to come out with the HomePod with Siri, but it's going to be more for music than home automation. It's also going to be really expensive. High end audiophiles will like it.

Check out the original question from October 22, 2017 here.

Watch Bryan from Panama City, FL Comments

Bryan wants to know if Leo is for or against repealing the Net Neutrality rules. Leo says he's definitely against repealing it, as he believes it will benefit the big ISP companies and not the end user. Sure, it's government regulation, but if you trust the water coming out of your tap, why not trust regulating the internet to keep it open and neutral? By throwing out rules that keep ISPs common carriers under Title 2, it now gives ISPs the power to do whatever they want and charge whatever they want. Leo understands the mistrust of government. Many technology types are libertarians. But throwing out the rules is chaos. ISPs will make more money charging tolls, and they'll certainly do that.

Check out the original question from December 17, 2017 here.