Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 18, 2013

Windows’ secret GodMode;  The 50 best tech products of 2013;  Two  months of Skype group calling – free;  Block Facebook’s Annoying New Autoplay Video;  Microsoft trims prices on Xbox 360 games;  How to migrate your free SugarSync account;  Free NAPS2 makes documents scans easier;  SHUT UP on the plane!  Chromebook 11 chargers recalled;  India to launch ‘Netra’ for online surveillance;  PC Browsing Loses to App-Happy Mobile Users.

Easily find far-flung customization options with Windows’ secret GodMode – Like putting a personal touch on your PCs? Enter GodMode—a handy, hidden folder well-known to IT pros who want to quickly get at a wide range of customization options on the desktop, but one few everyday users know about. Whether you want to adjust your monitor’s resolution, tweak your folder options, or customize your taskbar’s notification area, it’s all a single click away in GodMode.

Microsoft is giving away 12 months of Skype group calling and other features for free – Microsoft is running a new promotion called the ‘Skype Collaboration Project’ that is allowing Skype users to make free group calls, free group screen sharing, no advertising and access to live customer support, for free. All of these features are typically reserved for premium account holders but you can get them free for 12 months by hitting the link at the bottom of this post.

How to migrate your free SugarSync account to another service – Now that SugarSync’s freebie accounts are going away, you’ll need a new home for your cloud-stored stuff. Here’s how to make the move.

Ed Bott: The case against Gmail – Gmail was a breath of fresh air when it debuted. But this onetime alternative is showing signs that it’s past its prime, especially if you want to use the service with a third-party client. That’s the way Google wants it, which is why I’ve given up on Gmail after almost a decade.

20 great apps for your new iOS device (pictures) – If you’re one of the lucky people to receive a new iOS device over the holidays, I have put together a great collection of iOS apps to get you started.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Grading the Big Four: How did your wireless carrier rate in 2013? – The big wireless carriers have few qualms about charging customers for sending and receiving texts, despite the fact that providing the service costs them virtually nothing. Though the carriers clearly have no respect for their customers, they do have to compete for our business. So let’s take a look back at 2013 to see which companies made things a little bit easier for consumers and which introduced unnecessary annoyances into our lives.

The 50 best tech products of 2013 – Notebooks, tablets, and other mobile devices feature prominently in this year’s list, along with a fair number of peripherals and gadgets designed to make you more productive. But since all work and no play would render us all dull, we’ve also included a handful of tech toys, entertainment devices, and games as well. Read through the list and see which of your favorites made the cut.

YouTube Launches on Roku 3 – It’s a Christmas miracle: YouTube is finally streaming on the Roku 3. Users in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Republic of Ireland can now watch their favorite viral videos on the latest-generation set-top box.

How to Block Facebook’s Annoying New Autoplay Video Ads – Before I tell you how to block Facebook‘s new autoplay video ads, a word about autoplay video ads: they’re a bad idea. They are not the price you should have to pay to keep using a service without opening your wallet. And they certainly shouldn’t be foisted on people only after a company’s signed up subscribers in the gazillions. That’s called bait-and-switch: using “free” as the lure, then pulling the rug out after everyone’s good and snookered to fulfill investor fantasies.

Free NAPS2 makes documents scans easier – Scanning documents in Windows doesn’t have to entail extra steps or extra cost. NAPS2 is an old-school tool that keeps things as simple, free, and open-source as can be.

Apple’s tearjerker holiday ad: Self-absorbed teens care after all – You’re familiar with the iPhone. It’s the one that everyone carries around in order to take pictures of everything they see. All the time. Without cessation. A new ad for the holidays shows the Harris family getting together. You know the Harrises. They live somewhere cold and the wife had that fling with the famous fiction writer.

Google and HP recall all Chromebook 11 chargers after overheating reports – In November, HP and Google suddenly stopped selling their $279 Chromebook 11 notebook, and urged current owners to ditch the charger included with the laptop in favor of other micro-USB chargers. Today, the companies issued a formal recall of all of the Chromebook 11 chargers via the US Consumer Product and Safety Commission along with a more detailed explanation on the reasons behind the decision.

SHUT UP on the plane! But DOT may save us from FCC cellphone rule – The Federal Communications Commission proposes a new rule, permitting cellphones in the air. Unsurprisingly, many are unhappy about the prospect of sitting next to a loud yapper for hours. However, help could be at hand, in the form of the Department Of Transportation. It may prohibit voice calls, for being unfair to consumers. In IT Blogwatch, frequent bloggers whip out their gold cards and head to the lounge. Then they pre-board and fill up all the overhead bins.

How to switch to Outlook.com using the new Gmail import tool – Switching e-mail providers can be a point of consternation for some people. Outlook.com now has an import tool to make switching from Gmail a worry-free task.

Geeky holiday gifts for people you secretly hate – It’s better not to give gifts to people we don’t like. But sometimes we’re forced into it, for familial or political or public relations reasons. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with gift-giving shenanigans. Here are some of our best ideas for special gifts that say, “Merry Christmas #%!$-hole.”

Christmas 2013 online shopping deadlines – There’s still time to get those last-minute tech gifts delivered to you by Christmas, but the cutoff dates are coming up fast.

Security:

Android antivirus apps CAN’T kill nasties on sight like normal AV – and that’s Google’s fault – Android users expecting Windows levels of performance from Android-specific antivirus packages are likely to be disappointed because only Google can automatically delete dodgy apps on Android devices, say malware experts. Anti-malware bods agree that antivirus programs on Android can’t remove viruses automatically, meaning that the process needs to be carried out manually by the user in each and every case.

How do I remove myself from a machine? – The scenario looks like this: you’re ending a long and successful relationship with your employer (or maybe a not so long or successful one). But while you were there, you were allowed to make use of your assigned computer to do things like check your personal email, use an instant messaging client, check in on Facebook, and maybe even surf the web occasionally for non-work related things. Now on your way out the door, you’d like to make sure that your personal account information isn’t left behind. And perhaps clean up a few other traces of your activities as well.

If you think just because you use different passwords for different services you’re safe, think again – Adding numbers, reversing or using ‘l33t speak’ to differentiate passwords on different accounts does avoid password re-use, but it’s an ineffective way of adding security to online accounts. New research shows there’s a high chance non-identical passwords only deviate slightly from one account to another — and they were probably created using one of seven transformation rules that can be modelled to aid an online password attack.

Malwarebytes 2013 Threat Report – The past year turned out to be an interesting introduction into the new types of threats users are facing as well as what they will continue to face, at greater levels, in the coming years.

Vietnam, China and India gamers among most prone to cyberattacks – The number of attacks could spike as millions are expected to receive games as presents in the holiday season, especially with the launch of newer consoles like PlayStation and Xbox, says Kaspersky Lab.

No anon pr0n for you: BT’s network-level ‘smut’ filters will catch proxy servers too – BT’s new network-level nudie no-no filter system will block access to sites promoting proxies and anonymisers, The Register has learned. However, the one-time national telco has insisted that it won’t choke VPN connections over its network now that its Parental Controls service, using DNS lookup technology, is in place.

Telepathwords: A New Password Strength Estimator – Telepathwords is a pretty clever research project that tries to evaluate password strength. It’s different from normal strength meters, and I think better. Telepathwords tries to predict the next character of your passwords by using knowledge of: common passwords, such as those made public as a result of security breaches – common phrases, such as those that appear frequently on web pages or in common search queries – common password-selection behaviors, such as the use of sequences of adjacent keys.

India to launch ‘Netra’ for online surveillance of keywords – In another measure against possible terrorist attacks, the Indian government is launching an Internet spy system capable of detecting words in a matter of seconds across social media and online messages.

Company News:

Yahoo, NBC extend digital pact to 2014 Winter Olympics – In addition to live steams and highlights, the two will partner on digital segments of news and analysis.

Microsoft: CEO to be selected in early 2014 – Microsoft has stated that they will not be naming a new CEO in 2013, defying speculation that the board wanted to make the announcement before the end of the year. The announcement came via a post on the official Microsoft blog by John W. Thompson, a member of Microsoft’s board of directors.

Australia rebukes Apple for ‘false or misleading representations’ – Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has slapped Apple and extracted an “enforceable undertaking” from the company that will result in fines – or worse – if the company continues to ignore its own warranty and return polices. At issue are Apple’s 12 month warranty and 14 day return policies, which weren’t being applied consistently or were applied in ways that breach the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), the antipodean code describing how business has to deal with its customers.

Facebook tries to tackle the news with SportStream buy – The social network touches down with a purchase designed to bring real-time sports insights to media partners.

Motorola fails to reverse Microsoft’s patent litigation victory in the US – Motorola has failed to get a reversal on the import ban imposed on certain Android devices after losing a patent lawsuit against Microsoft last year. According to the opinion published by the court, “both the judge and Commission found no clear and convincing evidence of any synchronization component in the Apple Newton MessagePad, regardless of whether that component actively managed synchronization or simply facilitated it.”

Sprint and DISH Network Cut the Broadband Cord – Sprint and DISH Network announced this week that they are forging a groundbreaking partnership.

Games and Entertainment:

Candy Crush Saga tops iTunes app download list for 2013 – The puzzle game tops download charts for the year, while Beyonce’s week-old release skyrockets to No. 2 best-selling album.

Xbox 360 users rejoice: Microsoft hasn’t abandoned you – Microsoft appears to be keeping scares at bay. What the company is doing instead is reassuring the public that they’ll be continuing to push not only support for the thousands and thousands of Xbox 360 users in the world today, they’ll be unveiling new projects in the near future. This begins with the 2014 Xbox 360 game countdown.

Star Wars: Attack Squadrons game enters closed beta early 2014 – There’s a new free-to-play Star Wars game coming to a system near you. It’s a classic dogfighting game based on classic Star Wars fighter vessels like X-wings, TIE fighters and, if the teaser trailer is to be believed, the Millennium Falcon. The game is entering a closed beta selection process right this instant; you can sign up at the Star Wars: Attack Squadrons site.

Microsoft trims year-end prices on Xbox 360 games – The Countdown to 2014 promotion discounts downloadable games with a new deal every day until the new year rings in.

Build your own starship with new ‘Star Wars’ combat game – Disney Interactive’s upcoming multiplayer game, Star Wars: Attack Squadrons, will soon hit the Internet. Fans can sign up to test it out.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Cornell researchers print 3D audio speaker – Researchers at Cornell University have successfully fabricated a working loudspeaker using a 3D printer. The speaker’s plastic body, conductive coil, and magnet were all printed using a “Fab@Homes” printer at the university. and the speaker was almost ready for use as soon as printing was finished, the university said.

Cabela’s ColorPhase temperature sensitive color changing camouflage matches the season – If you are an avid hunter or if you just like to wear camo clothing, you will be familiar with the name Cabela’s. The company makes all sorts of camouflage clothing and other accessories for hunting and outdoors. Cabela’s has announced a very cool new line of camo clothing called ColorPhase that will save hunters some money.

Tiny Houses Filled With Rage: Spite Houses, Ranked by Spite-ness – A spite house is a house built for the express purpose of pissing someone else off. Personal comfort, adequate living space, and compliance with local zoning laws all come second to this all-important goal. Spite houses come in all shapes and sizes, but the best are absurdly small and very angry indeed. Here are a few of my favorites, ranked from least- to most-spiteful. (suggested by Michael F.)

The Napwell Knows When You Are Sleeping, Then Coaxes You Awake – Is this the year of the sleep mask? Napwell thinks so. The Boston-based company is creating a napping mask that allows you to grab some shut-eye and wake up gently as lights inside the mask slowly rouse you from your slumber.

PC Browsing Loses to App-Happy Mobile Users – Digital media isn’t getting any younger, but it is certainly getting more useful, according to Nielsen. The research firm on Monday highlighted some of the year’s biggest trends in Web and mobile usage. Most notably, computer-based Web activity has declined among all of the top 10 U.S. sites, including Google, Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, and Wikipedia.

Woman falls into bay while browsing Facebook – A tourist in Melbourne, Australia, walks off a pier, because she’s far too busy looking at her news feed.

Get an inside look at a secure data center – What’s it really like inside a fortified colo? This virtual tour will give you an idea.

The Soloshot Is A Robotic Cameraman For Your Video Selfies – Sometimes you just need a robotic cameraman at your side and when you do, the Soloshot is the gadget for the task. Just set it up, strap on a wristband, turn on your video camera and go surf, bike or ski. As long as you’re within about 2,000 feet of the device, it will automatically track all of your movements and capture them for posterity (or your next YouTube hit).

Something to think about:

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

-     Martin Luther King Jr.

Today’s Free Downloads:

ImageUSB – ImageUSB is a free utility which lets you write an image concurrently to multiple USB Flash Drives.

WMP Tag Plus – Integrates seamlessly into Windows Media Player to provide library and tagging support for FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, WavPack, Monkey’s Audio, Musepack and MPEG-4.

Free MP3 Cutter and Editor – This is an extremely simple and handy Windows software for editing mp3 files.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA flashes BIOS for 60 Minutes (the plot thickens) – American TV news magazine 60 Minutes (NYSE:CBS) is once again in the news, for allegedly reporting the news. This time, there were no additional revelations of Amazon’s schemes to drop tchotchkes from buzzing drones. Instead, during an interview by CBS correspondent John Miller with NSA officials, we learned of a nefarious plot worthy of the best Cold War era spy novels. NSA brass spoke of a Chinese “BIOS Plot”, designed to “brick” all computers and crash the global economy. The supposed evil plan was foiled by the NSA, with the help of a few good computer companies.

Mass surveillance prompts work on SSL deployment guidelines – A new working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force will develop best practices for deploying and using SSL/TLS with several Internet communication protocols.

Snowden speech to EU parliament could torpedo U.S. trade talks – Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan who is chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told reporters at the European Parliament that his thoughts on Snowden were “not fit to print” and that it was “beneath the dignity” of the E.U. institution to invite him to speak. Rogers added that such a move would damage ongoing dialogue between the U.S. and the E.U. on issues such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). TTIP, which is currently being negotiated, is estimated to benefit the E.U. economy by €119 billion a year and the U.S. economy by $130.7 billion a year.

Tech industry presents unified privacy front to White House – A veritable pantheon of top-ranking emissaries from some of the largest and most powerful tech companies in the United States descended on the White House today to press the Obama administration to move aggressively on reforming the NSA’s nearly universal surveillance of US citizens and the world. Their message was clear: Stop the spy agency from forcibly or stealthily seizing and storing bulk data about their customers. The message comes during an ongoing firestorm of public opposition to the agency’s bulk data collection programs, ignited and continually stoked by the revelation of Edward Snowden’s cache of an estimated 1.7 million stolen NSA documents detailing its ongoing quest for data omniscience.

Court’s NSA ruling sets stage for contentious battle over surveillance – U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon’s ruling in a case challenging the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records sets up what’s likely to be a contentious legal battle to impose limits on government surveillance in the U.S.

Read Snowden’s Appeal For Political Asylum To Fight The NSA From Brazil – Notorious National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden wants to move to the land of sunny beaches and micro-bikinis. In an open letter in the Brazilian newspaper Floha de Sao Paulo, Snowden argues that “permanent political asylum” would enable him to help the Brazilian government investigate unwanted spying from foreign governments.

German coalition favors German-owned or open source software, aims to lock NSA out – The new coalition government promised Monday to support German software and take steps to protect European data from spying.

7 Comments

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

7 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 18, 2013

  1. God Mode has been around for a long time and still works in Windows 8.1.

  2. delenn13

    Hi Bill,

    Between “GodMode” and “Take Ownership” you can pretty much make your PC do anything.

    That’s pretty awesome about the Roku Box. Guess I know what we are getting for Christmas. We have the 2 already; will just move that one to bedroom and take it camping with us too. That USB port comes in handy. Don’t have to take DVD’s anymore just convert movies to mp4s and put them on a USB stick.

    • Hey Delenn13,

      Agreed – must have little helpers.

      The options we now have when it comes to entertainment are awesome! I finally got rid of cable TV and I’ve been trying all sorts of alternatives (HDMI out from a tablet, HDMI out from a PC, USB stick in the TV, ……) – it’s been a blast.

      Like your idea re: the Roku Box. I should take a closer look at that.

      Best,

      Bill

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