Monday, March 23, 2020

Clientless Skype Conference Call

In this time of "Shelter in Place" video conferencing has become a hot commodity. FaceTime is always an easy solution but for PC users that's not always available.

I came across this article that covers clientless Skype and have exercised it successfully.

Here's how it works.

Go to and click on "Create a free meeting".

Keep clicking until you get a response.

Then click on the little "copy" icon at the end of the URL.

Save that URL. It can be used over and over.

Share it with the people you want to participate.

It works on Windows 10 with Chrome and Edge (not Firefox) and on a smartphone with an installed Skype app.

The following is for Windows 10 with Chrome.

Click on the link you just created.

Click on "Cancel" and then "Join as guest".

Enter your name and click on "Join".

If you're the first in the meeting you may have to click on "Start call".

And then click on "Start call" to start the call.

This supports up to 50 concurrent users.

You shouldn't have to install anything or create an account.

You may get some prompts requesting permission to use the camera and microphone. Respond appropriately.

However, if you want to run your Windows Skype app, on the first screen click on "Open Skype". and login to your Windows Skype app.

Alternatively, if don't click on "Open Skype", you can click on "Sign in" and log into Skype with your Microsoft account using the web interface without an installed Skype app.

If you do this on a smartphone, it will try to launch a Skype app.

And it's free!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

iPhone X - Essential PH-1 Comparison

Here's how the iPhone X compares to my Essential PH-1.

Apple iPhone XEssential PH-1
Device typeSmart phoneSmart phone
OSiOS (13.x, 12.x, 11.x)Android (10, 9.0 Pie, 8.1 Oreo, 7.1 Nougat)
Dimensions5.65 x 2.79 x 0.30 inches (143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm)5.57 x 2.80 x 0.31 inches (141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8 mm)
Weight6.14 oz (174 g)6.53 oz (185 g)
MaterialsBack: Glass; Frame: Stainless steelBack: Ceramic; Frame: Titanium
Biometrics3D Face unlockFingerprint (touch)
Physical size5.8 inches5.7 inches
Resolution2436 x 1125 pixels, 19.5:9 ratio1312 x 2560 pixels
Pixel density459 ppi504 ppi
Screen-to-body ratio82.35 %84.85 %
Colors16 777 21616 777 216
FeaturesHDR video support, Pressure-sensitive, Oleophobic coating, Scratch-resistant glass, Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensorScratch-resistant glass (Corning Gorilla Glass 5), Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensor
RearDual cameraDual camera
Main camera12 MP13 MP
   FeaturesSapphire crystal lens cover, OIS, PDAF, CMOS image sensor, BSI sensorBlack and White, Laser and PDAF
Second camera12 MP13 MP
   FeaturesTelephoto, Sapphire crystal lens cover, OIS, PDAF, CMOS image sensor, BSI sensorBlack and White, Laser and PDAF
Video recording3840x2160 (4K UHD) (60 fps), 1920x1080 (Full HD) (240 fps), 1280x720 (HD) (30 fps)3840x2160 (4K UHD) (30 fps), 1920x1080 (Full HD) (60 fps), 1280x720 (HD) (120 fps)
   FeaturesOIS, Time-lapse video, Continuous autofocus, Video light, Video calling, Video sharingVideo calling, Video sharing
Front-facing camera7 MP8 MP
System chipApple A11 Bionic APL1W72Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 MSM8998
ProcessorHexa-core, 2390 MHz, Monsoon and Mistral, 64-bit, 10 nmOcta-core, 2450 MHz, Kryo 280, 64-bit, 10 nm
GPUApple 3-core GPUAdreno 540
Built-in storage64 GB128 GB
Capacity2716 mAh3040 mAh
TypeLi - Ion, Not user replaceableLi - Ion, Not user replaceable
ChargingUSB Power Delivery, Qi wireless chargingUSB Power Delivery
LTE (FDD)Bands 1(2100), 2(1900), 3(1800), 4(AWS-1), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 12(700 a), 13(700 c), 17(700 b), 18(800 Lower), 19(800 Upper), 20(800 DD), 25(1900+), 26(850+), 28(700 APT), 29(700 d), 30(2300 WCS), 66(AWS-3)Bands 1(2100), 2(1900), 3(1800), 4(AWS-1), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 12(700 a), 13(700 c), 17(700 b), 20(800 DD), 21(1500 Upper), 25(1900+), 26(850+), 28(700 APT), 29(700 d), 30(2300 WCS)
LTE (TDD)Bands 38(2600), 39(1900+), 40(2300), 41(2600+)Bands 38(2600), 39(1900+), 40(2300), 41(2600+)
UMTS850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz
Data SpeedLTE-A Cat 12/13 (600/150 Mbit/s), HSDPA+ (4G) 42.2 Mbit/s, HSUPA 5.76 Mbit/s, UMTSLTE-A Pro Cat 16 (1000/150 Mbit/s)
SIM typenano-SIMnano-SIM
Wi-Fi802.11 a, b, g, n, ac, dual-band; MIMO, Wi-Fi Direct, Hotspot802.11 a, b, g, n, ac, dual-band; MIMO, Wi-Fi Direct, Hotspot
USBLightningUSB Type-C (reversible)
   FeaturesCharging, Headphones portMass storage device, Video out, Charging, Headphones port

OtherNFC, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA syncNFC, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA sync
SensorsAccelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, BarometerAccelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Barometer

Sunday, March 15, 2020


Every now and then my propeller beanie comes out.

Here I go again.

Recently ESET was researching KRACK ( vulnerabilities in Amazon's Echo. This has been fixed by Amazon (

But ESET's research turned up another broader vulnerability they call Kr00k.

The deep dive presentation by ESET is on YouTube. Watch it when you're not sleepy.

An explanation for mere mortals is here ( Steve Gibson covers it here. Some of the coverage has lists of vulnerable devices. Your Wi-Fi device not being on this list does NOT mean you're safe. It just means that they didn't test your device.

The short explanation is to update your devices if/when you can. Phones and tablets that are being updated will probably be updated automatically. The device you need to look into is your home router.

Login into the administrator page and see if it offers you a firmware update. If not, go to the manufacturer's support page and look for firmware updates.

This isn't a "The sky is falling" problem as the hacker has to be within Wi-Fi range of your router. And using https defeats the exploit. But updating your firmware is always a good idea.

The Wired article concludes with:
Despite the limited threat posed, readers should ensure their devices have received updates issued by the manufacturers. This advice is most important for users of vulnerable Wi-Fi routers, since routers are often hard to patch and because vulnerable routers leave communications open to interception even when client devices are unaffected or are already patched.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Windows 10 Updates

This is a real quandary. On one hand you want to keep your Windows 10 system up to date for protection from exploited vulnerabilities. On the other hand, remember the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

But then you have to wonder about the quality of the Microsoft updates.

Some people have made a career out of pointing out all of the foibles, I think Woody Leonhard does thorough research and has a capable staff but I never run into the problems he reports on. I guess I'm just lucky.

Clearly there are many Windows users impacted by problematic updates. And Microsoft struggles with explaining what causes them.

And here's an example of just how confusing this problem is.

Yep, 2 articles on KB4535996. The first one ( saying that it fixes "search and printing problems" and the second one ( saying that it "causes freezes, installation issues." Admittedly, for now, this is an "optional" update but it demonstrates the underlying issues with Windows updates.

What to do?

Take a system image backup. Cross your fingers. Apply them.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Steve Jobs Sent Me a Message

I change phones like most people change underwear. I've stuck with the Essential PH-1 longer than usual - 2 years.

But the good ride had to come to an end. Essential announced it was shutting down February 12, 2020.

I started considering what was going to be my next phone.

I've liked the face unlock of the Lenovo Tab M8. I started watching for iPhone Xs on Gazelle. After Valentine's Day, Gazelle had a 20% off sale on iPhone Xs and I went for it.

But even when I had it in hand, I was still reticent to switch. Then on one of my morning walks, I dropped the Essential and cracked the screen around the edge in 2 places.

I tried to convince myself that it wasn't too bad. I took my thumb and rubbed the cracked screen.

That's when I got the message from Steve.

So I moved my SIM to the iPhone X.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

What is 5G?

It depends.

Briefly, there are actually 3 bands being used with 5G technology.

The 5G low band (600-700MHz) can cover hundreds of square miles with service that ranges from 30 to 250 megabits per second (Mbps) in speeds. That frequency also readily penetrates buildings; think old analog TV signals.

The 5G mid band (2.5/3.5GHz) can cover a several-mile radius that currently ranges from 100 to 900Mbps. That frequency is close to Wi-Fi so think about what Wi-Fi can penetrate, e.g. interior walls and brick but not so much concrete.

Finally the 5G high band (millimeter wave/24-39GHz) works within a one-mile or lower radius to deliver roughly 1-3 gigabits per second (Gbps) speeds. That frequency won't penetrate your hand! This is pretty much only useful in arena type scenarios, e.g. football games.

So the speeds of the low and mid band signals are Ok (250Mbps) to nice (900Mbps) but the real high speed band is very limited in penetration. Think too that to get 900Mbps to even one device will require a gigabit backhaul.

Oh, and not all "5G" phones (don't get me started on AT&T's "5Ge") have radios in all three bands.

Double oh, not all "5G" carriers use all three bands.

Don't rush into 5G mobile phones.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Lenovo Tab M8 FHD

That's one of the worst product names I've come across.

You'll remember that I wasn't thrilled with the Amazon Fire HD 8.
[It] would be tolerable if it was blazingly fast but it's not. 
It only has 1.5 GB of RAM so apps are constantly restarting. The launcher "fix" works by letting the Amazon launcher run then running the alternate launcher so you get a noticeable flash every time you press the Home button. 
I'm just not sure.
So I came across the Lenovo Tab M8 FHD for $120 and went for it. There are several variants. In addition to the FHD there's an HD model with lower resolution.

It's pretty much everything that the Amazon Fire HD 8 isn't.

LAUNCHAnnounced2019, September
StatusAvailable. Released 2019, October
BODYDimensions7.84 x 4.80 x 0.32 in
BuildGlass front, aluminum back, aluminum frame
DISPLAYTypeIPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size8.0 inches (~76.5% screen-to-body ratio)
Resolution1080 x 2160 pixels, 16:10 ratio (~189 ppi density)
PLATFORMOSAndroid 9.0 (Pie)
ChipsetMediatek MT6761 Helio A22 (12 nm)
CPUQuad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A53
GPUPowerVR GE8320
MEMORYCard slotmicroSDXC (dedicated slot)
Internal32GB 3GB RAM
eMMC 5.1
FeaturesLED flash
3.5mm jackYes
COMMSWLANWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth5.0, A2DP, LE
RadioFM radio
USBmicroUSB 2.0, USB On-The-Go
FEATURESSensorsAccelerometer, proximity
BATTERYNon-removable Li-Po 5000 mAh battery
MISCColorsIron Grey, Platinum Grey

I don't think it will be getting regular security updates nor Android 10.

Still good enough for a bedside table.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Windows as a Service

Oh, you didn't know that Windows was a service? Just keep reading.

Windows users have been complaining about a problem with the search box for months. There was even an out of band cumulative update ( offered for it in January 2020. I thought that this was the search box in Windows Explorer but it's not.

The search box in question is the one that shows up on the taskbar. That's one of the first things that I disable on a Windows 10 installation.

So I turned it back on and looked to see what build I had.

Since I'm not using it I wasn't familiar with the various build numbers.

The point here is that Microsoft is capable and is, in fact, updating the build of Windows Search over the Internet WITHOUT notification nor interaction. Read this Computerworld article ( about the details. And there's more here ( with examples of dynamic changes.

Folks, that's called "Windows as a Service."

What else is Microsoft updating silently?

That's not what I signed up for.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Acer Spin 1

I'm a sucker for bargains.

I've got several laptops and several tablets but I haven't really ever had a TOUCH laptop.

When this Acer Spin 1 came up for $149, I just couldn't resist it.

It has:
  • Processor: Intel® Pentium® Silver N5000 Quad-Core (Up to 2.7GHz)
  • Display: 11.6" HD (1366 x 768) Widescreen LED-backlit Multi-Touch
  • 4GB LPDDR4 Onboard Memory
  • Hard Drive: 64GB eMMC
  • Audio: Two Built-in Stereo Speakers
  • Built-In Digital Microphone
  • Ports: 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI® 2.0 port with HDCP support, 1 x 3.5mm combo jack (headphone/speaker), 1 x DC-in jack for AC adapter
  • Webcam: Webcam (640 x 480)
  • Wireless: Intel Wireless-AC 9560 802.11ac Gigabit WiFi which can deliver up to 1.73Gbps throughput when using 160Mhz channels (Dual-Band 2.4GHz and 5GHz)
  • Up to 10 Hours Battery Life
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Dimensions: 11.46" (W) x 7.95" (D) x 0.67" (H)
  • Weight: 2.76 lbs
  • Graphics: Intel® UHD Graphics 605 supporting Microsoft® DirectX® 12

I upgraded to Windows 10 Pro and installed Microsoft Office 2016 Pro.

I wish it had a fingerprint reader. I wish it used USB C charging.

But for $149!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Office Deployment Tool

Recently I bought a new laptop. It didn't come with Microsoft Office.

I used to have a TechNet subscription that gave me a number of Office licenses but those have all been used up.

I found one of those gray market key vendors and bought a Office 2016 Professional key for less than $30. It came promptly and even included a link to a Microsoft download site.

I downloaded the bits and ran it expecting to get the old fashioned dialog that would let me choose which application and features would be installed.

I usually use that dialog to omit all the Office apps except Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

But that's not what happened.

The download installed installed all the Office apps without give me any options. As the new laptop only has a 64GB SSD, I wanted to minimize the space used.

I searched for a while and came across several articles on Microsoft's Office Deployment Tool. The instructions were primarily aimed at enterprise installs. After a couple of failed attempts, I came across MS Guides.

The article (.png) is written mainly to describe how to use the Office Deployment Tool to add/change languages within Office. But a few obvious changes tailored it to just what I wanted to do.

The process even automatically downloaded the Office bits.

Sunday, January 19, 2020


Are you worried about what Google knows about you? Here's a way to reduce that AND what the web sites you visit know about you.


Their tagline is:.
The world's most private search engine.
While that's not a very high bar, every little bit helps.

Startpage is headquartered in the Netherlands so it operates under the European Union's privacy regulations.

If you've tried alternative search engines, you've probably been disappointed with the results. However Startpage has an arrangement with Google  This is done without saving the users' IP addresses or giving any personal user information to Google's servers.

But the part I really like of Startpage is the anonymous surfing feature. Here's an example.

Here's where the Anonymous View took me.

Notice that the page is framed so that you know you are anonymous. You can break out by clicking on the "door" in the bottom right corner.

I was interested in why there was this big blank space so I loaded the page normally.

The site was trying to get the user to give them credentials.

Good job Startpage!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Happy New Year

The start of a new year is a good time to review a few things and make sure everything is right. Here's my list of things I think you should check once a year.
Some of the steps may be a little out of date but I think you can find your way around. If not, leave me a comment and I'll help.

PayPal Preapproved Payments
Offline Backup
Certificate Store
Router Configuration
Windows Defender and Windows Defender Offline
Controlled Folder Access
System Restore

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Mobile Data History

I track my mobile data monthly and have been doing this since early 2010.

Pretty interesting.

You can certainly see where the smartphone data picked up in April 2011 when I got a Samsung Galaxy S. My wife's data picked up later that year when she got an iPhone.

The spikes generally correlate to travel where either I'm using my smartphone for tethering or where we use mobile data rather than Wi-Fi.

The bright green bars are from Android Auto or Car Play. The spikes there are when we are traveling and using both the mapping capabilities and streaming Memphis radio.

AT&T's plans have been outstripping my mobile data usage. For the last 12 months, my average was less than 2GB. The highest month was less than 4GB when we were traveling. My AT&T plan is 35GB with one month rollover.

I regularly review AT&T's plans but lowering the data plan doesn't significantly reduce the monthly cost. Their incentives are to drive customers to unlimited data plans. This is often at the loss of tethering.