Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 3, 2014

8 Things You Need to Know About Windows 8.1 Update;  Amazon Officially Unveils Amazon Fire TV;  Streaming Hub Showdown: Amazon Fire TV vs. Roku;  Android: Bitdefender Better Than Ever;  Laptop makeover: 5 ways to extend its useful life;  Google Voice: Configuring a complex home office;  Samsung launches “Smart Home” Android app;  Windows XP still going strong;  Get your hands dirty with new network security tools;  Your LinkedIn e-mail address is officially vulnerable;  Is high-resolution audio really as good as it sounds? Smarter People are More Trusting;  Force OneDrive to sort your files in a specific order across all your devices.

8 Things You Need to Know About Windows 8.1 Update – The latest version of Windows doesn’t even get a new version number, but it has some key tweaks that should finally appease desktop and laptop users—and it’s better than ever on tablets.

Laptop makeover: 5 ways to extend its useful life – No matter how hard you try or how meticulously you care for it, your notebook is going to show signs of age over time. Keycaps wear down and get that off-putting, shiny-plastic look. Dirt, crumbs, and gunk get stuck in the keyboard and other crevices, while lint and dust build up in virtually every crack, seam and open port. Don’t forget those inevitable scratches and nicks, either. The same degradations are going on inside your laptop, too: Dense heatsinks become clogged with gunk. Thermal interface materials weaken and loosen the bond between said heatsink and your processor. All of it conspires to cause your laptop to overheat, whir loudly, or become instable or even fail (in extreme-enough conditions).

Android: A Fresh Coat of Paint Makes Bitdefender Better Than Ever – I’ve looked at a lot of Android security apps, and finding an app that does it all is pretty tricky. It needs to be easy on your smartphone’s limited resources, but also robust enough to defend against malicious applications. It also needs to go further, and protect your device with anti-theft tools since loss and theft are still the biggest threats to Android users. Oh, and one more thing: it needs to look the part. Bitdefender has done a good job in most of these departments for a while, but I was especially pleased to see a recent update that battened down all the hatches and put a new coat of paint over this powerful security app.

Force OneDrive to sort your files in a specific order across all your devices – OneDrive is a great cloud storage service, but sometimes it organizes your files on Android and iOS tablets in ways you didn’t expect. Here’s how to fix that.

Google Voice: Configuring a complex home office – Here’s how you can set up a complex home office with two phone line and Google Voice. This is the Mark I attempt at a solution. It works, but we found better options, especially since Google is deprecating the XMPP protocol.

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Get your hands dirty with new network security tools – Network monitoring tools have slowly evolved into one of the most important allies for those looking to keep connectivity secure and garner the knowledge needed to protect their networks.

Microsoft’s universal Windows apps run on tablets, phones, Xbox, and PCs – The holy grail is real: At Wednesday Build conference keynote, Microsoft CVP of operating systems David Treadmill announced that universal apps are coming to the Windows ecosystem, thanks to Windows RunTime coming to Windows Phone 8.1. In other words, developers will be able to write one app using common code and have it work across phones, tablets, PCs, and yes, even the Xbox One—something that Apple and Android can’t claim. Developers will also be able to create tailored experiences for each device type, if they so choose, but reuse the bulk of the code for all the apps.

Amazon Officially Unveils Amazon Fire TV, A Tiny $99 Media Streaming Box Available Today – The ecommerce giant Amazon has delved even further into the hardware space with the launch of a long-rumored streaming media device called the Amazon Fire TV. It said that it has watched these devices sell on its platform for a long time now, so it knows what is and isn’t working for customers, hence its decision to try to do this better than anyone else out there, by “invent[ing] and simplify[ing].”

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Streaming Hub Showdown: Amazon Fire TV vs. Roku – Amazon finally took the wraps off of its latest bid for living room dominance—the Fire TV. With Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and a plethora of other media services on tap, Amazon’s streaming media box looks as well-equipped as any, but enters a fairly saturated field. Though Apple TV and Google Chromecast have their own following, the big name and long-established leader in the streaming media arena is Roku. So is the Amazon Fire TV ready for primetime and how does it compare with the latest Roku 3? Read on for our side-by-side comparison.

Kodak Moments HD for iPad Plugs into Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram to Make Neat Photobooks – Kodak might not be the photographic powerhouse it once was, but it’s still kicking and releasing apps. The new Kodak Moments HD app makes it easy to build a custom photo book or choose prints that are shipped right to you, or printed at local stores. This is an iPad-only app that combines features from several of Kodak’s iPhone apps into one package.

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Microsoft Updates IE11 With Enterprise Mode On Desktop, Reading And Data-Saving Modes On Mobile – As part of its Windows 8.1 Update, Microsoft today also announced an update to its Internet Explorer 11 browser. While the changes on the desktop are mostly about enterprise users, the F12 developer tools and bringing the interface up to par with the overall Windows update, this is the first time IE11 comes to mobile.

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Future Windows 8.1 update will finally bring back the Start menu – The new Windows 8.1 update coming out next week introduces some features friendly to mouse and keyboard users, but another future update is bringing back the one thing that people have complained about most when it comes to Windows 8: it will introduce a new version of the classic Windows Start menu that combines features from the pre-Windows 8 menu with new Windows 8 concepts like Live Tiles.

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OKCupid pulls Firefox boycott letter – Firefox users are no longer being urged to boycott the browser after OKCupid protested the anti-gay views expressed by Mozilla’s new CEO.

Microservers: What you need to know – Businesses are experimenting with clusters of high-density, low-power servers known as microservers, which are suited to the growing number of hyperscale workloads found inside modern data centers. Here’s why they matter.

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Canonical Shuts Down Cloud Storage Service Ubuntu One – Ubuntu One accounts were used in other parts of the Ubuntu ecosystem. These accounts won’t cease to function. You will still be able to log in with your account, attach a credit card in order to buy apps and more. Starting today, users can’t buy more space. On June 1st, syncing will stop. And on July 31st, Canonical will wipe out all the data from its servers. You will still have all your data on your local hard drive as long as it’s up to date. Annual subscribers will get a refund.

USB-IF posts first photos of new reversible Type-C connector – These are the different types of connectors you have to be aware of to use your current USB-equipped computers, phones, tablets, printers, and whatever other accessories you might have. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) wants to simplify this problem by rallying behind the new Type-C connector, a new specification designed to replace current Type-A and Type-B plugs of all sizes. While we already knew that the USB Type-C connector would be smaller than many existing connectors and that (like Apple’s Lightning cables) it would be reversible, we didn’t know exactly what it would look like before today.

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Windows XP still going strong despite looming end of support deadline – The latest numbers from NetMarketShare show Windows XP is going strong, powering 27.69 percent of all worldwide PC usage during the month of March. That’s a very small drop from January, when XP actually grew by 0.25 percentage points for 29.23 percent of worldwide PC usage. First introduced in 2001, Windows XP is still the second most popular version of Windows, surpassed only by Windows 7.

Microsoft issues mea culpa in wake of Hotmail email probe, seeks to restore customer trust – Microsoft’s criticisms of Google for scanning email to serve ads ring hollow with disclosures that the company probed a blogger’s email account. Will Microsoft’s TOS changes restore customer trust?

Productivity is low on US mobile user priority list as gaming and social networks dominate – Smartphones and tablets seem to be everywhere today, but a recent Flurry study shows most of the time US users spend with those devices is for gaming, social networking, and entertainment.

Security:

Your LinkedIn e-mail address is officially vulnerable – A browser extension called Sell Hack which is available for Firefox, Safari and Chrome allows you to uncover a user’s e-mail address, regardless of whether or not you are connected to him/her. The tool was supposedly created for marketing professionals, however in reality that professional could simply use LinkedIn paid version. Sell Hack have said that they aren’t doing anything illegal, instead they insist that they are simply the ones doing the heavy lifting so that you don’t have to. LinkedIn don’t seem to be seeing things that way, making sure that they do everything in their power to shut down Sell Hack.

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See global cyberthreats mapped in real time – Where does your country rank when it comes to malware infection rates? A cool-looking but scary interactive map from Kaspersky Lab has answers – You spin the 3D globe using a mouse and zoom in or out with a scroll wheel. Click on a country, and you’ll see the number and type of threats detected there since 12 a.m. GMT and the position that nation holds on the world’s “most-infected” list. (The US showed up at No. 3 at the time of this writing, with Russia and India holding the first and second slots, respectively; the rankings shift depending on the time of day, however.)

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Anti-media cybercrime spree continues: Al Arabiya hacked by NullCrew – After hacking and humiliating Comcast in February, NullCrew is back with HorsemenLulz in a successful hack on the mail servers of the second biggest media company in the Arab world, Al Arabiya.

DVR Infected with Bitcoin Mining Malware – Johannes Ullrich of the SANS Institute claims to have found malware infecting digital video recorders (DVR) predominately used to record footage captured by surveillance camera systems. Oddly enough, Ullrich claims that one of the two binaries of malware implicated in this attack scheme appears to be a Bitcoin miner. The other, he says, looks like a HTTP agent that likely makes it easier to download further tools or malware. However, at the present time, the malware seems to only be scanning for other vulnerable devices.

Researchers Divulge 30 Oracle Java Cloud Service Bugs – Upset with the vulnerability handling process at Oracle, researchers yesterday disclosed more than two dozen outstanding issues with the company’s Java Cloud Service platform. Researchers at Security Explorations published two reports, complete with proof of concept codes, explaining 30 different vulnerabilities in the platform, including implementation and configuration weaknesses, problems that could let users access other users’ applications, and an issue that could leave the service open to a remote code execution attack.

Company News:

Microsoft Will Slash The Price Of Windows To Zero For Phones, Small Tablets – Today at the tail end of its keynote, Microsoft announced two pricing decisions that were frankly surprising: Windows for devices that have a screen size of less than 9″ will cost nothing. Also, a future version of Windows for the ‘Internet of Things’ will be priced at zero. This means that Microsoft will not collect royalties from OEMs on Windows Phone handsets, or on small Windows 8 tablets. Not charging for Windows is a sea change for Microsoft. It’s a bet that spurring OEM support and competing on end-user price will help drive adoption of its platforms.

Greenpeace Dings Amazon, Hails Apple, Google And Facebook In New Green Net Report – Environmental watchdog agency Greenpeace is looking at the ecological performance of the world’s leading Internet companies once again, and this latest report finds that Apple, Facebook and Google are doing the most to lead the charge towards a sustainably powered Internet, while Amazon, and specifically AWS, is dragging everybody down. AWS is one of the world’s leading distributed hosting providers, but it doesn’t reveal any details about its energy footprint to either its customers or the public in general, which is what has it running afoul of Greenpeace’s rankings.

Samsung launches “Smart Home” Android app and two compatible appliances – Samsung is jumping into the nascent smart home market with the appropriately named “Samsung Smart Home” service. The service is launching in the United States and Korea today via an Android app and a small handful of compatible appliances. Samsung didn’t elaborate on what the app does right now, but the company did say that users can “manage” compatible devices that are connected to a home network.

“If We Lose, We’re Finished,” Said Aereo Investor Barry Diller – It’s win or go home for Aereo. “[Aereo] probably will not be able to continue,” key Aereo investor Barry Diller told Bloomberg TV about the company’s Supreme Court case. He added that there might be some salvageable material. There isn’t a plan B.

Games and Entertainment:

Amazon’s Fire TV Will Offer Gamers Many Ways To Play, And A $40 Dedicated Controller – Amazon has revealed its Fire TV streaming media home theater device, and it embraces gaming in a way that most of its competitors don’t. Amazon revealed that it’ll soon have thousands of titles available in its library, but these should expand beyond just casual titles, and will be playable using various types of input, depending on what kind of game you’re playing.

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Xbox One SmartGlass app gets a new beta version on Android, Windows and Windows Phone – The “second-screen” application allows Xbox One users to navigate the dashboard from their smartphone or tablet, along with accessing the console’s Internet Explorer so they can surf the Internet on their big screen TV and snap Xbox One apps to the side. The app also lets users view their Xbox One achievements and friends list and access special extra content for games like “Dead Rising 3″ and movies such as “Star Trek Into Darkness.” Microsoft has launched on the various app stores, a testing version of the SmartGlass app in addition to the stable version to get feedback from enthusiasts regarding new features and usage scenarios. According to the app’s listing, Microsoft suggests that the users try out the following scenarios while using the app and provide feedback.

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This is what Half-Life 2 would look like in Unreal Engine 4 – An art project from an interested fan reimagines the opening level of Half Life 2 with all the visual fidelity of Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, and it looks amazing.

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Social Casino Games Are Among The Most Lucrative Mobile Gaming Categories – Though they receive much less attention than other apps, social casino games are one of the top-grossing categories in mobile gaming, says a new report by Distimo. The report used data from Distimo AppIQ to see how much revenue different publishers are making in the iOS App Store and Google Play.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Is high-resolution audio really as good as it sounds? – We look at whether the higher audio quality is really worth the extra cost of stocking your music library with high-resolution recordings.

Fingerprints can reveal gender, drug use, what was recently eaten – A pilot study in the UK has the potential to gather a huge amount of new information from a simple fingerprint — from gender to what the suspect had for lunch. The research is being conducted by scientists at Sheffield Hallam University, working closely with West Yorkshire Police. They aren’t interested in the pattern of swirls and arches in the print, but what substances might have been on the suspect’s fingers when the print was left. Even tiny traces of proteins and pharmacological compounds can be identified in the team’s mass spectrometer.

Google Maps traverses Cambodia’s centuries-old Angkor temples – While Cambodia is a difficult place for most people to get to, Google is letting people around the world take in Angkor’s jaw-dropping temples from their desktops and mobile devices. The Web giant launched its newest Street View trek on Wednesday — Temples of Angkor — which takes armchair travelers in and out of ancient structures hidden in Cambodia’s jungle.

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Generalized Trust and Intelligence in the United States: Smarter People are More Trusting – Both vocabulary and question comprehension were positively correlated with generalized trust. Those with the highest vocab scores were 34 percent more likely to trust others than those with the lowest scores, and someone who had a good perceived understanding of the survey questions was 11 percent more likely to trust others than someone with a perceived poor understanding. The correlation stayed strong even when researchers controlled for socio-economic class. This study, too, found a correlation between trust and self-reported health and happiness. The trusting were 6 percent more likely to say they were “very happy,” and 7 percent more likely to report good or excellent health.

Ad tracking: Is anything being done? – With online tracking on the rise and Do Not Track efforts moving ahead slowly, users and browser vendors have been taking matters into their own hands.

Demand for Pricey Premium Phones Dwindling – Phones are getting more and more extravagant with every new generation — bigger and better screens, faster processors, more features — but are consumers over it? According to a new report from Gartner, the answer could be yes. The market research firm on Wednesday said a major shift is occurring in the smartphone market as consumers increasingly turn their attention towards lower-priced handsets, instead of the pricey premium options. Buyers in mature countries, such as the U.S., now prefer “midtier premium phones” while demand for more expensive devices is dwindling. Meanwhile, those in emerging markets still favor low-end basic Android phones.

Something to think about:

“My favorite thing about the Internet is that you get to go into the private world of real creeps without having to smell them.”

-    Penn Jillette

Today’s Free Downloads:

Core FTP LE  – This free, secure FTP client gives you a fast, easy, reliable way to update and maintain your website via FTP. It also provides a secure method (via SSL, TLS, or SFTP) to upload / download files to and from FTP servers. Check out the list of features and you’ll find almost every feature you need, all in a free ftp program. There are no popup ads, advertising or spyware and you’re never asked or reminded to register.

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Homedale – With Homedale you can monitor the signal strength of multiple WLAN Access Points. You can view a summary of all available access points with their: signal strength, encryption [WEP/WPA/WPA2], speed, channel’’, other settings. You can also see the signal strength of selected access points in a graph over the time. With a right mouse click, you can start logging and create a screenshot.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Box wants to let businesses control cloud encryption keys “this year” – Government data requests might be thwarted if customers own the encryption keys – Box CEO Aaron Levie told Ars last September that the cloud storage company is trying to build a service that would let customers store data in Box data centers but would keep encryption keys in-house. Today, he said it might be available before the end of this year. Such a system could make it impossible for Box to turn customer data over to the government in a readable format. “In the history of our entire company this has never happened to an enterprise customer,” he said, referring to “blind subpoenas” in which the government demands access to a customer’s data without that customer being told. But government requests are still a risk.

Yahoo Bolsters Encryption Between Data Centers, Promises New, Encrypted Messenger In “Months” – Yahoo was one of two companies that the NSA targeted with its MUSCULAR program, which tapped data cables between the foreign data centers of Yahoo and Google. A similar program had been found illegal in the United States. Google has made similar efforts to bolster encryption. For users searching from the Yahoo homepage, and across most of its network, searches that are executed by users will be encrypted by default. Looking ahead, Yahoo will release a new version of Yahoo Messenger that will feature encryption in the “coming months.” This should cover video chatting, as well. In conversation, Yahoo’s chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, stated that the company’s goal is to have “all data” sent to and from its users safely encrypted. And “invisibly,” importantly, meaning that user friction relating to the changes will be minimal. Partner companies that can’t hack it and can’t meet Yahoo’s new encryption standards are being shown the door. Stamos stated that some providers of ads to Yahoo Mail have already departed, as they couldn’t meet new standards.

The Continuing Public/Private Surveillance Partnership – The U.S. intelligence community is still playing word games with us. The NSA collects our data based on four different legal authorities: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, Executive Order 12333 of 1981 and modified in 2004 and 2008, Section 215 of the Patriot Act of 2001, and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008. Be careful when someone from the intelligence community uses the caveat “not under this program” or “not under this authority”; almost certainly it means that whatever it is they’re denying is done under some other program or authority. So when De said that companies knew about NSA collection under Section 702, it doesn’t mean they knew about the other collection programs. The big Internet companies know of PRISM — although not under that code name — because that’s how the program works; the NSA serves them with FISA orders. Those same companies did not know about any of the other surveillance against their users conducted on the far more permissive EO 12333. Google and Yahoo did not know about MUSCULAR, the NSA’s secret program to eavesdrop on their trunk connections between data centers. Facebook did not know about QUANTUMHAND, the NSA’s secret program to attack Facebook users. And none of the target companies knew that the NSA was harvesting their users’ address books and buddy lists. These companies are certainly pissed that the publicity surrounding the NSA’s actions is undermining their users’ trust in their services, and they’re losing money because of it. Cisco, IBM, cloud service providers, and others have announced that they’re losing billions, mostly in foreign sales.

Turkish court deems country’s Twitter ban unconstitutional – Though Turkey’s Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, recently used his power to block Twitter in the country, local courts have piped up in opposition to this move. Turkey’s constitutional court ruled Wednesday that the ban on Twitter was a violation of freedom of expression and individual rights, according to Reuters. This is the biggest legal challenge the ban has yet received. At hearing the news, Twitter’s global public policy team tweeted, “We welcome this Constitutional Court ruling, and hope to have Twitter access restored in Turkey soon.” The Turkish government took Twitter offline for the country’s 76 million citizens on March 20 following actions by Erdogan. An unabashed critic of social networks, Erdogan threatened to “wipe out” the site in the wake of a political corruption scandal that has embarrassed the government through news, videos, and images posted on the microblogging site. “We will wipe out Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says,” Erdogan said last month. “They will see the Turkish republic’s strength.”

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5 Comments

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

5 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 3, 2014

  1. Good to see Windows is finally bringing back the start menu, Bill.
    As you know I’ve been a Linux user for a few years now but when I bought my new laptop I thought I’d give windows a try again. I didn’t like it at all, too confusing and fussy to use, especially the lack of an obvious start menu. So I installed Linux Mint. Never looked back.

    Hope all is well with you, my friend. :-)

    • Hi Paul,

      I love this story! It illustrates perfectly how, if one is prepared to invest a little time, Linux (especially Mint), can easily replace Windows.

      I remember some of the major issues you ran into with Windows, only to have them all disappear once you made the break to Linux (Fedora?)

      So good to hear from you mate! Trust all is coming up Roses since you made the big move.

      Best,

      Bill

      • I was on Fedora Bill but I’ve been running Mint for a while now, in my opinion the best Linux OS.

        Life is good. Off to Dubai tommorrow, with work; can’t complain at all.

        I hope life is treating you well, my friend.

  2. Windows XP still going strong despite looming end of support deadline
    Hey Bill
    Windows is selling XP extended support not to individuals but to govs!:

    Government signs £5.5m Microsoft deal to extend Windows XP support

    http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240217389/Government-signs-55m-Microsoft-deal-to-extend-Windows-XP-support