May the Force (4th) Be With You!

Today is May 4th and many promos may say “May the 4th be with you” as play on words of a popular line from Star Wars. So where did this punny way of saying it come from?

An early use comes from an ad in the London Evening News on May 4th in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher was first elected as British Prime Minister. The ad read “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.”

It was used a second time in 1994 when Harry Cohen of the parliament made a joke in the House of Commons. In 2008, groups celebrated “Luke Skywalker Day” with the same phrase. It has been more popular since 2011 when the Star Wars Day event at the Toronto Underground Cinema.

May 4th is considered “Star Wars Day”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_Day

Some New Changes from Microsoft We Came Across

Technology is all about change. Thinkgs are in constant state of flux as you have to get used to changes as they come around.

One change we have recently found was that Microsoft will start flagging double spaces after periods. The new norm is one space after sentences. Back in the day of typewriters, we were always taught to make 2 spaces after a sentence. In the world of web development, when you try to put in two spaces, it will ignore one of them in most cases unless you use an editor, then it might force the second space in with code.

If you run a search about using one or two spaces, you will see there is a lot of controversy about this subject. Most of the ones against 2 spaces say only old people (over 40) use 2 spaces. Then people cite older versions of APA guides that say to use 2.

Another change we came across was kind of weird. We had recently updated a PC’s software and then every time we do a restart, it opens up MS Publisher. I looked in the startup programs and it wasn’t there. It must be I had MS Publisher open when I started the update. It turns out that a new setting can cause this. To fix this, go to Settings >> Accounts >> Sign-in options >> Privacy – toggle off “Use my sign-in info to automatically finish setting up my device and reopen my apps after an update or restart.”

Some Ways Covid-19 has Changed the World

There are too many ways to count how this pandemic has changed the world. Here in America, it is like life has come to a stand-still. Many establishments are closed including schools, churches, libraries, dine-in restaurants, to name a few. Sometimes while we wallow in our own self-pity, we forget how it is affecting others, especially children, teenagers, and college students who are missing once in a lifetime milestones. We want to talk about how tech can be used to help.

First, the high school seniors are missing out on prom. Some have taken the initiative to try to have a virtual prom on Instagram or TikTok.

One college in Japan is holding their graduation via robots. The robots, dressed in cap and gown, have the students faces via Zoom showing their faces where the robot faces would be.

Our church has been able to bring services weekly during this crisis by keeping band members at least 6 feet apart. We were streaming every week anyway so we had everything in place for this to begin with. Our small groups have all moved to using online virtual meetings using software such as Webex or Zoom.

There are also new cautions about using Zoom. You need to make sure your settings are set up correctly as it could be hacked. Meetings are being “Zoombombed” and intruders putting in awful posts and images.

Zoom vs Skype vs Webex

We need to follow our government orders and stay at home. Many of us are fortunate enough be able to work from home, some already having been working remotely. Some of us already have some favorite tools to use. I only need a chat program but a lot of them have gone by the wayside: AIM, Googletalk, Yahoo messenger, Windows Live messenger, to name a few. ICQ is still around but who can stand “UH OH” every time a message comes in? Some messengers come with many more tools such as Slack.

Some groups or workforces need to have meetings where everyone can be in on the call. With the Covid-19 pandemic people are looking for ways to meet. Most people these days are using Zoom. ZDNet saw the trend of people using Zoom and did an informal survey to find out why people were Zooming and not Skyping.

Here is what they found out:

It seems that Zoom is easier to use, especially for non-technical people.

Next, they found people found Skype buggy, especially the apps.

Third issue was spam. Unless you have your settings locked down, you will be contacted by a lot of people you don’t know, or people trying to sell or get you to do something.

Webex, by Cisco, is a little trickier for some to use. They recently enhanced their free tier to allow up to 100 participants in each meeting instead of 50; they have allowed the meetings to be as long as you want up from 40 minute limit.

Some organizations that have regular meetings, like Bible studies or other meetings have had to find alternate ways to meet. Personally, we have tried Skype but as mentioned above, there were too many issues. We have moved to Webex ourselves.

I have not personally used Zoom but have signed up on their site and it does look very easy to use for small meetings. Zoom has up to 100 participants in a meeting, 40 minute limits but unlimited number of meetings. There are plans that cost money for each of the video conferencing software programs with added features like cloud storage, recording transcriptions, numbers of users, ways to connect, for example.

Charges are usually per host. So if you have one lead person hosting each meeting, that will be the only charge. Webex charges go from $13.50/month to $26.95/month. Zoom paid plans start at $14.99/month to $19.99/month/host minimum 10 hosts or 50 hosts for the business plan. Skype is free up to 50 people for video calls.

ZDNET article

Spy Games

A game show in similar format to Big Brother, Bravo has a new show called Spy Games. The people live together in a house and are given secret dossiers and some notes to try to figure out who each of the secrets is about. There are also alliances set up just like Big Brother.

The contestants are given tasks to do, some physical, some technological, and some mental. Some of their tasks are things like infiltrating a black tie gala (after surviving a trek through the woods), lock-picking out of a room, break into a spy house and downloading secrets while being sabotaged. One person’s dossier is stolen.

Some of the secrets they have to figure out are things like – who is called Dr. Death, who is accused of racketeering, who lived in Qatar, just to name a few. If you are interested, you can catch this on Monday nights at 10:00pm on the Bravo network.

CNET Suggestions…

Don’t buy Amazon devices before November 22. Echo, Kindle, and Fire devices/tvs go on sale. This is one week before the actual Black Friday.

Here are some of the prices you can expect:
Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet: starting at $50 – savings of $30. Add $15 if you do not want offers on the lock screen.
Amazon Fire 8 Kids Edition tablet: $80 – savings of $50.
All-new Amazon Fire 7 tablet: starting at $30 – savings of $20.
Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet: $60 – savings of $40.
Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet: starting at $100 – savings $50.
Kindle Paperwhite: starting at $85 – savings of $45.
Fire TV stick 4k with Alexa voice remote: $25 – save $25
Fire TV stick with Alexa voice remote: $20 – save $20
Amazon Fire TV Cube: $90 – savings of $30.

November 27 will have some more savings
Ring Indoor Camera 2-pack: $100 – save $40.
Blink XT2 3-cam system (weatherproof security camera): $185 – save $65.
Amazon Smart Plug: will be offered bundled with many products for just $5 – a savings of $20!

November 28 you can get Echo speakers and smart displays
Amazon Echo Dot (third-gen): $22 for a savings of $28
Echo Dot with clock: $35 – save $25
Amazon Echo (second-gen): $60 – save $40.
Amazon Echo Show 5: $50 – savings of $40.
Amazon Echo Show (2nd-gen): $150 – save $80
Echo Auto: $25 – save $25.

Find out more about these amazing deals on CNet

For Your Entertainment – Microsoft the Musical

Here is a video of a walk through the years of Microsoft. In Microsoft the Musical, where they say “It’s all happening here!,” 150 interns spent their free time outside work hours (mornings, evenings, weekends) making this video in eight weeks from start to finish.

It brings you on a journey of Bill Gates and what he achieved. They acknowledge the problem with Vista, as well as the Windows Phone. Their mission is to empower every person to achieve more.

Google tricks and “Easter Eggs”

Once upon a time back in the beginning of HTML and website coding, there was blinking code and marquee code and a lot of other things that have gone by the wayside and become obsolete.

At one time you would just put around the code you wanted to show blinking and blink away it would.

There is a little “easter egg” in google search that can bring a little bit of it back in the search results. Just type in “blink html” in the search box and you will see all result words “html” and “blink” actually blinking.

We were curious of what other “easter eggs” we could find. One said to type “askew” in the search box. We found a link to https://elgoog.im/tilt/ which showed a tilted google page. When we entered a search term, it showed a mirror image of google results with it going from right to left.

Another said to type in “recursion” and the only thing we found is “Did you mean: recursion” which I guess in itself is a recursion. If you type “anagram” it will say “Did you mean nag a ram”.

This link shows the Google page backwards: https://elgoog.im/
This one does a barrel roll: https://elgoog.im/doabarrelroll/
This is a zerg rush that shows little circles erasing the page and then shaping two G’s. You are supposed to click on the little circles before it destroys the whole page. https://elgoog.im/zergrush/
Zip apart the Google page: https://elgoog.im/zipper/

Do you have a Chromebook?

Some of us may have purchased a Chromebook. It may have been out of curiosity or maybe you just wanted a lightweight “laptop” to just scan your email and surf the Internet. There really isn’t much more you can do with it. If you are “techie” you can install a flavor of Linux to run along with the Chrome OS. The thing about a Chromebook is that the OS is Chromium.

When you do anything on a Chromebook, it is all in the cloud – nothing is on the computer. Now, when it updates, you just get a little message that says to push a button to restart and it comes right back, you log into Chrome again and it’s updated very quickly.

There are limitations on what you can do with them. For instance, I can stream Netflix through the Chrome browser on it, but Prime Video won’t play. The only place you can save files is in your Google Drive.

Google has an Auto Update Policy about their updates. As technology advances and hardware becomes old or outdated, they cannot guarantee the software updates will run any longer. With that in mind, they have set a time limit on updates for Chromebooks. If you have a Chromebook, you can check the date here. It has a list by Manufacturer then Model. I happen to have an HP Chromebook 14, which looks like I cannot get updates past June this year. If it still runs, then that’s fine. If not, I can always install Linux over it and see if that will run.

Happy Pi Day!

Pi Day is coming up this week. The date is 3/14 and happens every year. Some places even offer Pi Day deals. People celebrate it in various ways. Maybe they will make a pie with the pi symbol on top; perhaps they will go out for pizza pie; maybe even participate in pie throwing contests.

Pi Day was founded in 1988 by Larry Shaw, a physicist. Why 3/14? Well, duh – Pi is approximately 3.14159… It also happens that it is the birthday of Albert Einstein. Pi is a number that is used in calculating the circumference of a circle.

Sources:
https://www.piday.org/
https://www.history.com/news/where-did-pi-day-come-from

What’s Your Favorite Browser?

My mind is like my Internet browser – at least 19 tabs are open, 3 of them are frozen, and I have no idea where the music is coming from.

~ Anonymous

What browser do you use? Do you use the default browser that comes with your computer? Or do you immediately download your favorite browser and use that? If you have a Mac, you get Safari browser. If you get a PC, you get (these days) Microsoft Edge. Many people use Chrome or Firefox in addition to the default browser. Did you know there are many more browsers out there?

At one time, many used Netscape or Lynx – Lynx was the first browser. Netscape went away in 2008. Other defunct browsers were Chimera which became Camino, Mozilla, which became SeaMonkey, Phoenix, which became Firebird.

In addition to the above browsers, there is Opera, IE (for users with older PCs), Maxthon, Lunascape, Firefox for Developers, and NetSurf.

There are some lesser known browsers as well like Brave; Vivaldi; Dillo; Konqueror; Epiphany, the Gnome web browser for Linux; Midori; K-Meleon; Pale Moon, forked from Firefox; AdBlock has their own browser; and you can also browse within some applications on your mobile device like in LastPass.

Lynx has been around since 1993 and Opera since 1994. IE came out in 1995. In 1996, Mac came with Mac IE. Firefox has been around since 2002. Chrome came about in 2008.

Wikipedia – timeline of browsers

Kids and Alexa

There are a lot of funny videos of kids trying to get Alexa to do things. Sometimes they are hard for even humans to understand so they are harder for Alexa to understand.

Here is a boy asking Alexa a math question from this past week:

Here is a girl checking her homework:

Here is a boy checking his homework from about 2 years ago:

Here is a little boy trying to play music but gets more than he bargained for:

Here is a little girl asking for Baby Shark:

Here is a compilation of kids talking to Alexa:

This young lad wants Alexa to tell him if she likes Christmas, to clean the kitchen and remember when he was younger:

Why NORAD tracks Santa

We already knew that NORAD would track Santa every year but didn’t know the story behind the “why”.

It seems back in 1955, Sears and Roebuck printed an ad but had an incorrect phone number in the ad asking kids to call Santa direct. When children called in, the number rang to a secret red phone on the desk of Colonel Harry Shoup of the Continental Air Defense Command, which has since been renamed to NORAD. Only a four-star general and Colonel Shoup had this number. They were afraid of something dire when that phone rang.

Colonel Shoup thought the call to be a prank when a child asked to speak to Santa, but then when the child that called started to cry, he realized there may be an issue. The child’s mother came to the phone to straighten it out. It has become a tradition and now NORAD tracks Santa and keeps track as Santa delivers every Christmas. You can get an app to track him or do it through the website: https://www.noradsanta.org.

Why NORAD Tracks Santa.jpg
By NORAD Public Affairs, Bob Jones – http://www.noradsanta.org/en/whytrack.html, Public Domain, Link

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE VICTOR CREW!

Gift Idea: Instant Pot

By now you must have heard of the Instant Pot. This is one pot with many functions. It is a slow cooker, a pressure cooker, a rice cooker, a yogurt maker, it steams, it sears, and a few more things. I’ve seen many recipes on Pinterest for the Instant Pot. I understand you can purchase other items that will fit in it, such as a small cheesecake pan. So should you get one? That’s still up for debate.

I myself have bought one three times – all as gifts. Right now I don’t feel I need one because I have a slow cooker, a pressure cooker, and a yogurt maker. All are in good shape and don’t need replacement any time soon. The people I’ve gotten the Instant Pot for didn’t have any of the appliances in the list so this would be a first for them.

Its name can be misleading as nothing is really instant. I believe the name focuses on the pressure cooking part of it because a pressure cooker does cook much faster than standard methods. For instance I can cook a 3+ lb chuck roast to make pot roast in about 45 minutes as opposed to about 2.5 hours on the stove or in the over or even longer in a slow cooker. What these times don’t include for the pressure cooker is the start up time to build up the steam or the time it takes for the pressure to release.

If the person you are buying for hasn’t done much cooking, I understand it may take a while to learn to do all the things that the appliance is capable of. You would have to read the manual and follow the directions.

Some more pluses are you can brown your meat and cook in same pot unlike using a slow cooker. You can start with your meat frozen and still cook in about the same amount of time.

Victor Crew

NextDoor

Have you joined nextdoor.com yet? We received a postcard in the mail about it, so we joined. The call themselves “The private social network for your neighborhood.” They have a website and an app. “When neighbors start talking, good things happen.”

Some of the posts we’ve seen are things like “does anyone have a recommendation for a ___” (fill in the blank). It could be a painter, a handyman, a babysitter, etc. You can see local events, yard sales, people can post things to sell, and a host of other things like lost pets, pets for adoption, elderly asking for help with yard work.

Some of the posts are a little more serious, like reporting breakins or robberies. Of course there are also ads.

On a lighter note, it is fun to see of the more obnoxious posts. Like “Crazies on motorcycles” or “Blue heron eating pond fish”. If you really want to have fun with it, you can follow @bestofnextdoor on twitter.com. They have culled some of the more outlandish posts from around the country and posted them for people to see. You will see some posts with added phrases such as “This is not a dating app” or “Nextdoor is twitter for old people”. Have fun.

https://nextdoor.com/
https://twitter.com/bestofnextdoor

Wi-Fi

We recently upgraded our Wi-Fi through our provider. What was new was we noticed two different bands to choose from. One was just a regular band (at 2.4 GHz) and a new one showing as 5 GHz. So what is the difference? Let’s find out.

Coming right to my mailbox, I received a newsletter and there was an article referenced to it. So let’s go over it.

First we learn that 2.4 GHz will support up to 450 Mbps or 600 Mbps dependent on router class. That comes with the standards you may see on router boxes as 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, or 802.11ac. Not sure what mine was since it’s not printed on the box itself, I found the manual for it online and found it has all the above! So let’s chase this rabbit and find out what the difference between these classes are.

802.11b was better than the original 802.11 standard in July 1999. It brought the speed up to 11 Mbps. 802.11g, brought about in 2002, is supported by all devices and network equipment and supports up to 54 Mbps bandwidth. It is the least expensive to buy and run. 802.11n came about in 2009 and gives up to 800 Mbps bandwidth, an improvement over 802.11g but a little more expensive than 802.11g. 802.11ac has the fastest maximum speed and best range but more expensive. It uses dual-band wireless – thus the 2.4 and 5 GHz we can now see. Its bandwidth is 1300 Mbps on 5 GHz and up to 450 Mbps on 2.4. This is also called Wi-Fi 5. There are a few other 802.11 standards. 802.11ad is fast but the device must be within 11 feet. 802.11ah is a lower energy but goes beyond the reaches of 802.11ac.

So now I’ve learned that I am seeing two bands because of the 802.11ac standard. The 2.4 GHz band happens to be used by other things as well. Old cordless telephones as well as garage door openers and baby monitors for instance. The 5 GHz band has fewer connections and higher speeds, however the shorter waves makes it harder to penetrate walls. You may need to use extenders for this band. If your device can use ethernet, then that will be the best connection you can have. The 5 GHz band is best used for streaming where you would experience less interference.

802.11 Standards Explained
Difference Between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz

Google turned 20

Google recently had it’s 20 year anniversary. We found this interesting video of where it got its start. It was uploaded by Google’s sixth employee, Harry. It shows the garage where they got their start in 1998. At the end you will see Larry Page, one of the founders.

Larry Page is no longer CEO of Google as he has become CEO of Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

Halt and Catch Fire

In computing, Halt and Catch Fire is a mnemonic for HCF, a code instruction to stop operation. The machine would then need a restart.

Halt and Catch Fire is also the name of a series that ran on AMC. It was a depiction of the how the World Wide Web grew in the 80s and 90s. A fictional series, it follows several characters and their struggles along the way trying to outpace others in development and ideas. Some of the struggles were with hardware and others were with software. It really is fun to see how far we’ve come when we see some of what happened and see some of the hardware that was used then.

It aired for 4 seasons. You can catch all four seasons on Netflix. Here is the trailer for the first season:

Remember the Y2K issue? There’s another issue coming!

The Y2K problem, or bug, or just Y2K refers to when the year 2000 hit, there was a scare put into some people as computers weren’t set up for the rollover from the year 1999 to 2000. All sorts of rumors went around that time. Some thought there would be no electricity and that the power grids would come down. Many went into survival mode and bought gold, canned goods, and other commodities they thought they would need in the case they needed to barter for goods.

So this leads us to what the next “crisis” that is looming. The year 2038. We have plenty of time to prepare for this crisis but here is the gist. When digital systems started, they began with the date of January 1, 1970. So having it as 32-bit binary integer, time cannot be implemented after 03:14:07 UTC on January 19, 2038. Strings for storage are limited to 2147483647 and that would be the same as that time in January 2038 in bytes in a 32-bit system. 20 years from now, you would hardly still be running a 32-bit system you might still be running today.

Tech Mystery Box

$250 for $1,932 worth of tech! So the Victor crew came across this YouTube video of someone opening up 2 boxes filled with tech returns to Amazon. It shows him unboxing 2 big boxes of tech products from Bluetooth speakers, earbuds, headphones, car speakers, and a lot of other miscellaneous products. Some of the items were clearly used and ready for the trash but some could be resold on eBay or Craig’s list. Some items were worth more than the $250 he spent on it.

So we were wondering how to purchase something like this. It turns out there are liquidators that get these types of items and sell them to people that go back and resell them again (even on Amazon). (See links below for more info.)

https://www.directliquidation.com/liquidation-102/buy-amazon-customer-returns-pallets-online/
https://www.directliquidation.com/liquidation-102/buy-resell-amazon-customer-return-pallets-electronics/

Chrome browser

Did you know there are a lot more settings and pages to your Google Chrome browser than you find just in your settings? To find them just type into your address bar “chrome://about” (without the quote marks) and you will find a list of pages you can access.

You will find you are actually on the first page: chrome://about. If you click it there won’t be a change. chrome://chrome will give you the update page. Some of the other pages may or may not look familiar. I clicked on chrome://dino to see what that was – it’s the dinosaur you see when you don’t have an internet connection.

The chrome://flags page will allow you to access some experimental items; chrome://bookmarks will let you see all your bookmarks. Just use caution if you make any changes to the browser.

Does 2-Factor Authentication Keep You Safe?

Not always. The Victor crew found an article/video that demonstrates how you have to be very careful even if you use 2-factor authentication in place. The trouble can occur when a user clicks a link sent in a phishing attack. The email may look legitimate but it may have the real site name misspelled.

The most important take away it to stop and think before click a link even if you think it comes from a legitimate source. If you receive a message from a major site, most likely you can just go to that site, log in, and see any notifications someone may have sent rather than looking at emails that are generated.

You can see how it 2-factor authentication is bypassed in this demonstration by Kevin Mitnick from KnowBe4.com.

BattleBots

“It’s robot fighting time!” That’s what you hear at the of BattleBots. People make robots and fight each other in an arena.

The show started on Comedy Central in 2000 and ran for five seasons ending in December 2002. It was briefly revived in 2015 for six episodes on ABC. It ran for a seventh season in 2016. It then found itself on both Discovery Channel and Science channel for its eighth season just this month.

Many of the robots are back again. They are run by engineers, MIT students, plumbers, just to name a few. BattleBots is an offshoot of Robot Wars. When Robot Wars disappeared, some of the robot builders left behind started BattleBots, Inc.

Just like other matches, there are weight classes. Lightweight is about 60 pounds, Middleweight is 120 pounds, Heavyweight is 220 pounds, and Superheavyweight is 340 pounds. They last three minutes per round and are done in a 48′ x 48′ glass box. Not only do the robots battle each other but there are a few obstacles in the arena as well such as a sledgehammer in the corner, spinners and spike strips and in floor, augurs that roll around on the sides that opponents try to push the robots into.

Some contestants have mini-bots that roam around too. Sometimes you will see sparks, flames, smoking, or even tears (from the drivers.) It’s a fun watch so try to see it sometime.

Blast from the Past

Websites have changed over the years. The Google.com of today isn’t quite like the one of yesteryear. Same with Amazon.com or Netflix.com or Facebook.com and many others. A video editing company by the name of Kapwing has been curating websites for their Museum of Websites. You will also find Reddit.com, NewYorkTimes.com, Twitter.com, and Pinterest.com and more!

They have a section within their website with a gallery of how famous websites have changed over the years. They are slowly working on getting more and more. The oldest one is Yahoo!, which has been around since 1995.

Somehow, we don’t think the earlier craigslist.org will show much change over time. It seems its retro look hasn’t changed much since the first time we’ve seen it.

You can join the email list to know when they put new ones up

Beginning days of Email

Remember when people were first getting connected in the late 90s and early 2000s? Emails would travel round and round to everybody and their friends and family. No one would think twice about getting a joke and feeling the obligation to pass it on to everyone in their address book. Not so much anymore.

I wax nostalgic remembering all the emails and then going to Snopes.com to look up the stories to see if they were true. Snopes was the “fake news” buster everyone would check with. Fake news can come in different format these days. It can be a tweet, a post, or even a news article. Snopes still has it covered. They have changed the format of their website quite a bit. They have sections called What’s New, Hot 50, Fact Check, News, Video, and Archive. They even have a Random button that will bring a different item every time you click it.

While looking at their site, we found they are trying to raise some money to keep going. You can visit their GoFundMe page.

So whether it’s a preposterous post, nonsensical news, or a totally thin tweet, you can still look it up at snopes.com!