Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 29, 2013

Black Friday survival guide;  Narrate online slideshows;  Lockdown: How to secure your PC without going crazy;  How to buy the right sound bar;  Firefox add-on graphs the trackers;  Turn your Chrome browser into a fantasy portal;  Steam Autumn Sale kicks off;  Upgrade PS4′s hard drive;  Men do more holiday spending;  PDF Shaper – free PDF converter;  Free video Gif creator from Microsoft Research Lab.

Black Friday survival guide: 11 tips and useful apps – There’s no way to make Black Friday a completely pleasant experience, but our survival guide can help make the deal-hunting more palatable with apps to download and tips for weeding out the good deals from the bad. Let’s start with some great free Black Friday apps. I recommend that you download the ones that interest you before Thanksgiving to get familiar with them before you’re pinned by a mad crush of shoppers.

Hobbits, trolls and elves invade Google Chrome – Turn your Chrome browser into a fantasy portal complete with dwarves worthy of Bilbo Baggins. Journey through Middle-earth is an interactive Chrome browser experience inspired by the new movie “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and developed by North Kingdom. Explore Hobbit locales such as Trollshaw Forest, Rivendell, and Dol Guldur. Other locations, such as Thranduil’s Hall, Lake-Town, and Erebor, will be unlocked as the movie’s December premiere gets closer.

Automated video looping with progressive dynamism – Extract a 5 second looping Gif from any video automatically with this Gif creator from Microsoft Research Lab. Also a viewer application to enable both interactive control over the level of dynamism of the output video, as well as manual editing of which regions animate or are static.

Here’s what Windows 9 could look like, in pictures – With Windows 8.1 just out the door, Windows 9 is slated for a late 2014 release. With little to go on except sheer creativity and a bevy of ideas, designers and enthusiasts have published what they think the next-generation desktop, notebook, and tablet software should look like.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Make money via online rebate sites while shopping for Black Friday deals – Online rebate sites like Ebates and Swagbucks will give you a small percentage of your online purchases back in cash or gift cards, but you must jump through some hoops first.

Free Firefox add-on graphs the trackers – Mozilla’s Lightbeam creates a visual map of the tracking cookies deposited on your PC by the sites you visit.

How to buy the right sound bar to go with your TV - Your HDTV has crappy speakers. Don’t feel bad, they all do. There’s only so much they can do in that thin enclosure with a tiny bezel around the screen. It’s easy to get great sound in your living room, though. All you have to do is buy a receiver, a center channel speaker, a subwoofer, front and surround speakers. Then you take a bunch of speaker wire, and run it from your receiver… Hey wait come back! I was only kidding about all the speakers and wires.

Getting Down: Go from friends to friends with benefits with the stroke of a finger – In early November, the popular Facebook game relaunched as the Down (iOS, Android) app. After testing the iOS beta version, I am already convinced that it’s a major improvement on its predecessor in every way.

Kiddology: A platform for reading books to your kids from far away – Whether you’re using FaceTime, Hangouts, or something else, video chat can be a powerful tool as a parent. While it’s a nice starting point, this interaction could certainly be better. If you’re really brave, or have a really great connection, you might even try a bed time story during this brief video experience. Kiddology wants to try and improve on this particular experience with a video chat platform that brings bedtime reading into the mix.

Live.pics.io lets you narrate online slideshows in the moment – A Ukrainian startup launches an online service that lets people converse as they peruse a photo gallery together.

Microsoft releases fix for failed Exchange Server 2013 backups – Microsoft is urging admins running Exchange 2013 to deploy an update for the email platform which fixes a bug that caused backups to fail.

Cyber Monday 2013: The best deals (so far) – The Monday after Thanksgiving is the biggest online shopping day of the year — and the time to clean up on some amazing deals. Here are the best ones we’ve found so far.

US Government to pay $50 million for using pirated software – The US Government has been sued by software maker Apptricity for running unlicensed copies of their military software, for which the Government has agreed to pay $50 million as damages for settlement.

New Creative Commons license gives users more flexibility – Authors and artists seeking to release works under a Creative Commons license now have more flexibility and choice when they want to share their works, Creative Commons said Thursday.

Security:

Lockdown: How to secure your PC without going crazy – This is a guide for practical folks. People who want a healthy amount of PC security with a minimum of hassle. I can’t promise you a completely pain-free experience, but we will show you how to get up and running with a pretty good security set-up that keeps your passwords, email, hard drive and sensitive USB drives as secure as possible without going overboard.

Latest Microsoft Zero-Day Targets XP, Unpatched Adobe Reader – Originally reported by researchers at FireEye, the the issue is an elevation of privilege flaw which allows an attacker to run arbitrary code in kernel mode. Microsoft also said the attackers must first log in with valid account credentials to launch the exploit, and the vulnerability cannot be triggered remotely or by anonymous users.

Only 24% of Europeans use different passwords for different websites – According to a large-scale survey which questioned over 27,000 people across the European Union on their internet use, security attitudes and experiences, many are put off using online services by the potential dangers, but few are taking all the necessary steps to carry out their online business in safety.

Hackers trot off with RacingPost.com customer records – Aaaaaaaaand they’re OFF! Encrypted (unsalted? unhashed?!) passwords are out of the gate, heading into the first turn toward potential decryption by cybercrooks. Anybody care to place bets on how many of those passwords are reused on other sites?

Yahoo helps scammers phish by ignoring open redirect vulnerability – Instead of closing one of the top 10 most common web vulnerabilities on its site, Yahoo has said that an open direct flaw is ‘working as designed’.

87% of SMBs suffered a cyberattack last year, only 44% see security as a priority – The risk of cyberattacks on SMBs has been examined in detail in a recent Sophos-sponsored report by the Ponemon Institute. The report – The Risk of an Uncertain Security Strategy – surveyed over 2,000 IT security managers within organisations employing up to 5,000 people.

Forensics Method Quickly Identifies CryptoLocker Encrypted Files – A researcher may have found the quickest route to learning which files are encrypted in CryptoLocker ransomware infections.

Company News:

Apple iPhone-tracking lawsuit dismissed – A lawsuit against Apple over iOS location tracking and infringed privacy has been dropped after two years, with the same judge that recently awarded the Cupertino firm $290m in damages from Samsung ruling that outraged iPhone users hadn’t demonstrated any legitimate violations.

Launch of Google Partners to help SMBs in India – Google on Thursday announced the global launch of Google Partners, a program designed to help agencies and web professionals succeed online making it easier to access Google resources, training, and support all in one place.

Dutch Authorities Find Google Violates Its Private Data Protection Act – Google’s decision to share user data across Google services, revealed in an update to its policy back in March 2012, isn’t strictly kosher with Dutch privacy law, the Dutch Data Protection Authority said Thursday. Google doesn’t “properly inform users which personal data the company collects and combines, and for what purposes,” according to a statement by the DPA issued via press release.

Google Hangouts infringes trademark, says US company Hanginout – Google’s video-chat service Hangouts wilfully infringes on the still pending trademark of Hanginout, the company said in a lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on Tuesday.

Firefox OS phones arrive in Serbia, Hungary, Montenegro – Norwegian operator Telenor is launching its Firefox OS phones, hoping to catch Christmas buyers in three new countries.

Games and Entertainment:

Sony: Euro PlayStation 4 to miss PSN features at launch – Sony will disable several PlayStation Network features for the European launch of the PS4 on Friday, the company has confirmed, temporarily blocking access to the functionality in the hope of avoiding a crash as gamers rush to use their new consoles.

Steam Autumn Sale kicks off with massive discounts on great PC games – The Steam Autumn Sale is here, and as usual, there are some great games on sale for a fistful of pennies.

Blackbar review: Simple, witty, and politically engaged word-based puzzle game for iPhone – A self-confessed ‘artsy’ game with plenty to say about censorship, Blackbar is nevertheless a legitimately fun puzzler that will get you scratching your head for a few hours.

How to upgrade or replace your PS4′s hard drive – Want a bigger hard drive in the PlayStation 4? How about a faster one? Not a problem, it’s relatively simple to swap out drives in Sony’s latest console. Here’s how to do it.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Presto! iBalance magic trick makes smartphones float in midair – Spectators won’t believe their eyes when you make your phone — or theirs — defy the laws of physics.

Violent video games may stop crime by keeping criminals busy playing violent video games – Economist Steve Levitt posits a fascinating theory on why the crime rate has plummeted over the past two decades.

UK man throws away hard drive containing over $7.5 million in Bitcoins – A UK man claims to have thrown away an old hard drive that he later realized contains a digital wallet with over 7,500 Bitcoins, which are currently worth over $7.5 million.

To live under the sea for 31 days – Next spring, Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the legendary Jacques, will lead a monthlong mission below the Florida Keys. And you’re invited to come along.

Tongue-driven wheelchair uses high-tech power piercing – Tongue piercings may be associated with rebellion, but one researcher is aiming for revolution instead, creating a Tongue Drive System that allows paralyzed wheelchair users to more easily navigate than traditional hands-free control options. The handiwork of a team at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the system uses a magnetic tongue stud which is wirelessly tracked by a headpiece, with up to six instructions differentiated by tongue position.

It’s men who do more holiday spending, survey says – An ESPN survey suggests that while women do more shopping and browsing, it’s the men who outspend the women during the holiday season.

Something to think about:

The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.”

-     Martha Washington

Today’s Free Downloads:

HostsMan 4.3.98 – Freeware application that lets you manage your Hosts file with ease. Features include online update of hosts file, enable/disable usage of hosts file, open Hosts file with one click, merge two hosts files, built-in hosts editor and more.

PDF Shaper 2.1 – PDF Shaper is a free PDF converter and extractor with easy-to-use user interface and many useful features such as multipage and batch PDF conversion, tab formatting, extraction of specified elements.

Samsung Smart Switch – Samsung Smart Switch is an intuitive and effective program that transfers content located on your smart phone to a Samsung device. Available for PC and Android.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Privacy, Human Rights Groups Form New Anti-Surveillance Coalition - A large group of privacy and digital rights organizations has put together a new effort to urge politicians to curtail the mass surveillance operations that have been exposed in the last few months.

Justice Department urged to make public secret surveillance documents – Federal appeals judges in Washington will soon decide whether the public has the right to see secret Justice Department documents setting out the legality of surveillance practices – which powerful senators say amount to a body of secret law.

WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange unlikely to face charges – US officials certainly don’t like that he published top-secret documents, but they say that legally, he hasn’t committed a crime – at least, not that they’ve determined so far. They’ve refrained from formally closing the grand jury investigation, though, so maybe they’re holding out hope.

Malaysia: We can protect classified data – Top government official says the country has the necessary system in place to protect classified information and communications, following reports Singapore had helped the U.S. spy on Malaysia, among others in the region.

Skype in China reportedly tweaked to remove censorship – Microsoft appears to have tweaked its Skype application in China to make it tougher to monitor communications delivered over the Internet phone service, according to analysis from GreatFire.org.

European Commission Urges U.S to Reform Surveillance Methods – The European Commission is urging the United States government to make some changes to the way it handles surveillance to help restore the trust in the relationship between the EU and the U.S. The commission is asking for the U.S. to promote privacy rights internationally, adopt the EU’s data protection reforms and respond to the commission’s problems with the U.S.’s surveillance reform process.

4 Comments

Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 29, 2013

  1. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    The article on TV soundbars interested me as I’ve been using one for about 5 years. The writer is correct, in my experience, in saying that so-called “surround” features are not much good. In stereo mode, though, the TV sound is improved significantly.

    On an associated topic, I’ve been trying to decide on the best kit for streaming music from my Android devices. I had considered Sonos but ruled them out as being too expensive. However, they’ve recently brought out a small speaker under the name Play1. I bought one and it came with a free “bridge”, their name for the control centre. Total cost £169 including delivery. For such a small unit, the sound is remarkable, but not true stereo, so I’ve ordered another one. Apart from ease of set-up and access to hundreds of online radio stations, a big advantage is that it is controlled by an app, available for iOS and Android, PC and Mac. Music is streamed “wirelessly” via a dedicated network using an Ethernet connection to the bridge (I put wirelesssly in quotes as the speakers do require a power outlet). So anyone with the app can stream their music on your system and vice-versa ie no docking required.

    I said this was connected, as Sonos also do a soundbar. They are certainly not the cheapest but they tick many of the boxes in my book.

    Kind regards,

    John

    • Hi John,

      Took a peak at the Play1 – very interesting, but a little pricey, I thought. Still, since I’m an advocate of the “Quality never costs as much money as it saves” perspective, you’ve put me on the path to “toys I need to consider.” :)

      Best,

      Bill

      • John Bent

        Just received my second Play1. Set them up as a stereo pair in 2 minutes and they sound excellent. I take your point about the price, but reckon I would have spent as much on an upscale bluetooth device.

        Am listening to a double album by Passenger as I write. Worth a listen if you haven’t heard it. Some tracks are “explicit”, so choose your listening companion wisely.

        Kind regards
        John