Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 20, 2013

The Best FREE Antivirus for 2013;  What To Expect After the Target Card Data Breach;  50 Apps That Can Make You More Productive;  Complete guide to making the most of Android;  Rated XXX: 10 Adult Toys for Xmas;  Protect your Android device from malware;  The best 15 games of 2013;  The most disappointing games of 2013;  The 5 Worst Tech Purchases;  Turning old photos into new calendars;  NSA? It’s Facebook that’s watching you.

The Best Free Antivirus for 2013 – Not using antivirus protection isn’t just a personal choice, as your unprotected computer could be used as part of a botnet or DDoS attack. There are plenty of free antivirus tools, some quite good, so protect all of your computers now.

What To Expect After the Target Card Data Breach – Unfortunately, beyond being careful and frequently checking your banking and credit card statements for suspicious transactions, there really is not much consumers can do. The vigilance needs to last beyond this month and January, though, as the impact of this theft will be felt for months, if not years, experts warned. There may also be phone and email-based scams on the way taking advantage of the breach.

Protect your Android device from malware – Mobile malware is on the rise and your device could be at risk. These tips could help you stay safe and keep your personal information out of the hands of cybercriminals.

Forget the NSA: Orwell’s 1984 is alive and well in private industry – State-sponsored surveillance and repression should not be your concern. Social networks, providers and employers you trust to safeguard your data and livelihood is what worries me most.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to share Internet service with your neighbors, and why you shouldn’t – You can do this, and depending on your homes’ geography, it might even be relatively easy. I’m going to tell you how to do it, but I’m also going to tell you why you probably shouldn’t.

Android power! Your complete guide to making the most of Android – In the sections below, you’ll find some of the most noteworthy tips, tricks, and advice I’ve shared via Android Power and other related publications over the past months. Jump to the section that best suits your needs this holiday season, and get ready to have a fun and productivity-filled end to 2013.

Microsoft releases ‘Project Siena’ and you should probably take notice – Microsoft has released a new app called Project Sienna and it’s about to become a staple app for Microsoft. The reason why this app is important to Microsoft’s mission is that it allows you to create apps, within the app, that can easily be published to the Microsoft Store and can be done so, for free. Here is how it works, you download Project Siena and when you open it up, with a little bit of know-how (and we stress little, here) you can create a new app in minutes.

50 Apps That Can Make You More Productive – Get the most out of yourself and your time with these productivity and efficiency apps for mobile devices, desktop computers, and the Web.

BitTorrent serverless chat replaces usernames with crypto keys – BitTorrent, Inc. is developing a serverless instant messaging system that relies on public key encryption to protect the privacy of communications, identifying users not with traditional usernames but with cryptographic key pairs. The company, which develops the BitTorrent peer-to-peer protocol as well as the BitTorrent and μTorrent file sharing software, announced the forthcoming chat software in September and revealed some details on how it will work in a blog post today.

The ‘Awww’ factor: Turning old photos into new calendars – It’s the gift that fits everyone, especially sentimental types. We take you step-by-step, from digging out the albums to scanning and uploading the images.

Twerking and Side-Eyeing: 2013′s Best Memes – America’s attention span is as short as our waistbands are wide, which is why memes are a perfect pastime. The viral little buggers are built out of any easily mocked photo or video, captioned with a snarky phrase, and sent off on their merry way to be recycled all over social media.

Awesome stocking stuffers for your new iPhone – Accessories make great companion gifts that are not only thoughtful, but are super useful to boot. Here are a few handy accessories to make that new iPhone even more awesome. In fact, they’re so handy that they’ll fit perfectly inside that stocking hanging from your fireplace mantle.

Rated XXX: 10 Adult Toys for Xmas – We’ve tried to keep the following slides classy, but one person’s class is another person’s crass, so don’t view these at work, on the train/plane/bus, or with the bedroom door open. Click on to see the latest and greatest combinations that can make for a rousing time in the digital boudoir.

The 5 Worst Tech Purchases – Arm yourself with the knowledge to avoid tech duds the next time a salesperson pushes a receipt-padding purchase — you’ll know when to walk away. With that in mind, here are five of the worst tech purchases you can make today and why you should avoid them.

Essential tools for building, repairing, and upgrading PCs (and other electronic devices) – Every system builder needs a number of tools to complete any PC build or upgrade with the efficiency and precision of a surgeon. Some of the tools will be obvious, others less so.

Security:

Target hack confirmed: 40m cards potentially hit – Target has confirmed a credit and debit card hack potentially affecting up to 40m customers shopping in its US stores, with the stolen data including everything thieves could need to make fraudulent purchases. The hack, rumored earlier today, impacts any shoppers at Target’s stores between November 27th and December 15th this year the retailer says, as it kicks off an investigation into the breach.

Bitcoin-only poker site resets user credentials after 42,000 passwords leak – An online poker service that deals solely in Bitcoin has issued a mandatory password reset one day after someone published login credentials for more than 42,000 enthusiasts of the card game and digital currency.

Cryptolocker malware masterminds make around $30 million in ransom in 100 days – Think crime doesn’t pay? Tell that to the crooks behind the Cryptolocker malware. In just over 100 days, they’ve already managed to rake in somewhere around $30 million dollars. That’s according to numbers from Dell Secureworks, and their researchers think they’re being pretty conservative. The estimate is based on the assumption that just 0.4% of Cryptolocker victims have paid up

Target and 10 Other Major Hacks in 2013 – There were no shortages of Internet scams in 2013; check out 10 that made headlines.

Listen up: RSA keys snatched by recording CPU sounds with a phone – The co-inventor of the RSA algorithm has designed a scarily ingenious way of deciphering the unique sounds a CPU makes as it crunches RSA-encrypted content to extract the keys.

Company News:

Spain fines Google maximum amount for breaking data law over merged privacy policy – Spanish privacy watchdog said the merging of its 70 privacy policies into one broke the country’s law. But the fine amounts to nothing for Google, which can make it back in minutes.

Microsoft: 83 stores now open – Microsoft has offered an update on its retail store business, stating it opened 35 more locations in 2013, bringing the total number of stores to 83, with more on the way.

Instagram Says First Ad Results Are “Promising” With Recall Up 32%, Shows It Wants TV Brand Dollars – Instagram may prove a valuable platform for advertisers. Instagram released its first results on ads since they began appearing November 1st. Brands saw average ad recall up 32% while brand message awareness was up 10% across four campaigns, with Levi’s reaching 7.4 million US 18-34 year olds in 9 days while Ben & Jerry’s reached 9.8 million US 18-35 year olds in 8 days.

WhatsApp Now Has 400 Million Active Users – Popular messaging application WhatsApp on Thursday announced it now has 400 million monthly active users, a milestone it says no other mobile messaging service has reached.

Spotify’s mobile users skyrocket since free streaming launch – The music streaming service’s listener base is growing — four times as many people are downloading the mobile app than a week ago.

Former Microsoft exec charged with insider trading – Brian Jorgenson, who worked in Microsoft’s corporate finance and investments division, and friend Sean T. Stokke made $393,125 in total through the scheme, the SEC says; meanwhile, a parallel criminal action by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington has also been announced.

Games and Entertainment:

The best 15 games of 2013 – Video CNET gaming expert Jeff Bakalar rounds up his picks for the best 15 games of the year.

The most disappointing games of 2013 – Not every game is worth the price of admission. Find out which were the most disappointing games of 2013.

Infographic: A Who’s Who of Next Gen Publishing – The average U.S. household owns at least one dedicated game console, PC, or smartphone.

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood coming to Xbox One Friday – It looks like Xbox One owners will get an extra game to download and play before the end of the year. Today, Microsoft’s Larry Hryb revealed on Twitter that the 2D side-scroller game Max: The Curse of Brotherhood will be released for the console on Friday, December 20th. The game was previously targeted for launch in early 2014.

Cut the Rope 2 Drops Into Apple’s App Store – Developer ZeptoLab on Thursday gave iPhone and iPad gamers an early Christmas present, releasing Cut the Rope 2 exclusively in the Apple App Store for iOS devices. The $0.99 game features 120 levels of rope-cutting fun. It will be available as a free-to-play title on Android early next year, ZeptoLab said.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The History of Video Game Consoles: Part One – Everything you wanted to know about the video game consoles from your childhood. Check back for part two, which launches Thursday, December 26.

Web Design Industry Analysis: Professionals vs. Amateurs – The infographic below portrays the role of professionals vs. amateurs in the current web design market.

From donkeys to dongles: Google’s biggest hits and misses of 2013 – For every Chromebook Pixel or Auto-Awesomed Google+ GIF, there was a vaguely dystopian off-note involving government intrusions, a boondoggle at sea, or killer robots. With 2014 just around the corner, let’s take a look back at Google’s epic wins and monumental fails.

Robots of death, robots of love: The reality of android soldiers and why laws for robots are doomed to failure – A ban on smart robots on the battlefield might lay to rest our fear of Terminators, but our increasing use of robots is forcing us to ask difficult questions about the morality of technology.

Dvorak: The Hidden Agenda of Code.org – Supposedly coding is good for you and the initiative might actually get the young folks interested in computer science. I see it as a ploy to sell more computers to schools. For the most part, middle schoolers—and even high schoolers—do not need to be taking computer science classes. These kids can’t even balance a checkbook or write in cursive, and they don’t get out nearly enough as it is. What’s the point of teaching computer science when all they really want to do is go on Facebook and see what their friends are doing?

Collar uses Raspberry Pi to translate dog thoughts to human speech – Owners of pets and animal lovers everywhere talk to pets on a regular basis, and with certain animals — such as dogs — we can generally gauge how the animal responds. Dogs are the most emotive and responsive pet, but it would often be great to know exactly what is going on inside their adorable heads. ST, the research lab behind a crowdfunded rocking chair that charges your tablet as you rock, is now crowdfunding a collar that claims to translate a dog’s thoughts into human speech.

Bill Gates Reddit Secret Santa gift brings Cow-joy to one lucky recipient – Tis the season for giving, but for the one Reddit user so lucky as to be on the receiving end of a Secret Santa gift exchange with Bill Gates, it’s a really, really good year to be getting. This particular gift exchange is one done all around the world, but in this case set inside the United States, with user NY1227 getting another (unknown) person to send a gift to. Lucky her, a 7-pound gift full of packing peanuts was on her way early this week.

Gotcha! FBI launches new biometric systems to nail criminals – By adding palm print, face and iris image search capabilities, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) hopes to improve the accuracy of identity searches, make it easier to positively identify and track criminals as they move through the criminal justice system and provide a wider range of tools for crime scene investigators.

Something to think about:

“Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.”

-      Samuel Johnson

Today’s Free Downloads:

Microsoft Disk2vhd 2.0 – Disk2vhd is a utility that creates VHD (Virtual Hard Disk – Microsoft’s Virtual Machine disk format) versions of physical disks for use in Microsoft Virtual PC or Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines (VMs). The difference between Disk2vhd and other physical-to-virtual tools is that you can run Disk2vhd on a system that’s online. Disk2vhd uses Windows’ Volume Snapshot capability, introduced in Windows XP, to create consistent point-in-time snapshots of the volumes you want to include in a conversion. You can even have Disk2vhd create the VHDs on local volumes, even ones being converted (though performance is better when the VHD is on a disk different than ones being converted).

Microsoft Sysinternals Suite December 19, 2013 – The Sysinternals Troubleshooting Utilities have been packaged into a single Suite of tools. This file contains the individual troubleshooting tools and help files. It does not contain non-troubleshooting tools like the BSOD Screen Saver or NotMyFault.

CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor 10.0 – The CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor is a full-featured web design system. With built-in FTP uploading, wizards for tables, frames, fonts, and more, support for HTML5 and CSS3, and 100% valid code output, it’s a great tool for anyone who wants to design their own website.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Looks like NSA spying just cost Boeing $4.5 billion worth of fighter jets – Brazil needs to replace its fighter jet fleet and has been negotiating a contract to do so for over a decade. Boeing was the company expected to win the contract, but apparently that all changed with the NSA revelations. After that, and according to a Brazilian government source, Boeing didn’t have a chance because the trust had gone as they were an American company. The contract was instead awarded to Swedish company Saab who will supply 36 Gripen NG fighter jets to Brazil, which are set to be delivered by 2020.

Google accuses governments of attempting search censorship – Google has released its eighth transparency report, its public disclosure of how much content governments request be removed from the search giant’s database. 3,846 government requests were filed between january and june 2013, google says, covering a total of 24,737 items of content. That, Google legal director Susan Infantino wrote today, is a 68-percent increase over the preceding six months. As Infantino points out, it’s a sign of a “worrying trend” that remains.

Verizon to disclose government requests for customer data – Verizon Communications says it’s making an effort to offer more information to the public about how many requests it receives from law enforcement for customer data.

NSA reform panel: Foreigners actually have privacy rights, too! – One doesn’t have to wade deeply into the murky waters of surveillance policy to find people who have no problem with broad-based spying on foreigners’ phone calls and e-mails. Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago, for example, argues that we should only curtail such spying on foreign citizens—and even on friendly foreign leaders—if their countries can “offer us something in return for that protection.” Surveillance is just one more bargaining chip to be used between countries; since we can perform surveillance better than many other nation-states, unilaterally curtailing it would make us “suckers.”

NSA should stop undermining encryption standards, Obama panel says – A presidential advisory committee today recommended that the US government stop any efforts to undermine encryption standards or attack commercial software. The panel’s report (full text at Whitehouse.gov) comes in response to the National Security Agency leaks of Edward Snowden and makes 46 recommendations.

Gov’t review panel suggests NSA stop holding massive phone database – The panel set up by President Barack Obama to review widespread National Security Agency surveillance has produced a report in remarkably short order, and it contains a surprising suggestion: the NSA should stop collecting its massive trove of telephone data. Instead, the data should be kept by a third party, possibly the telephone companies, suggests the report from the five-person Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies.

The National Security Agency’s oversharing problem – In the days after the attacks on September 11, 2001, the National Security Agency underwent a transformation from an organization that operated on a “need to know” basis to a “need to share” culture. In the process, the agency threw out many of the procedures and controls that might have stopped Edward Snowden from walking out the door with thousands of secret documents.

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