Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 28, 2014

New hole in Internet Explorer already under attack to hijack PCs;  US judge: our digital search warrants apply ANYWHERE;  Uninstall preloaded Windows 8 apps in bulk with this program;  3 Free Personal Safety Apps That Can Call for Help;  How Ubuntu can help a computer in distress;  Great tips and tricks for Android;  Five things to consider before buying LED bulbs;  Men More Vulnerable to Mobile Malware;  MediaHuman YouTube to MP3 Converter (free).

US judge: our digital search warrants apply ANYWHERE – In a case that will exacerbate concerns in non-American countries about the extra-territorial reach of US laws, a magistrate in the District Court of Southern New York, Judge James Francis has ruled that the tech giant “cannot refuse to turn over customer information and emails stored in other countries when issued a valid search warrant from U.S. law enforcement agencies,” according to Reuters.

Protect your privacy while you browse – It once sounded like paranoia; now it’s more like common sense. Steve asked for safe and secure ways to access the Internet without being tracked by crooks, corporations, and governments. There’s no such thing as complete, 100-percent perfect privacy or security. The Heartbleed vulnerability made that patently clear. But you can lock down your Internet access, making a security breach much less likely.

3 Free Personal Safety Apps That Can Call for Help – Thankfully, if you own a mobile device, you’re never truly alone. If you have an ongoing concern for your safety, there are personal safety services that offer live monitoring, connecting you to a 24/7 dispatch service for $12 – $20 per month. But if you just want a way to warn your contacts if you fail to check-in or otherwise need to send out an SOS, there’s no need to pay. Here are three great, free options for providing a little bit of extra piece of mind.

Uninstall preloaded Windows 8 apps in bulk with this program – Removing all those pre-installed “Metro” apps in Windows 8 hasn’t been so easy, and boy, does Microsoft pre-install a lot of them. (Around 20 in the Windows 8.1 Update, if you’re counting.) For the most part, the only option was to go through each modern app one-by-one, right-clicking the ones you didn’t want, and then selecting “uninstall”—not too difficult, but very manual. A new, free program aims to change all that. Called Windows 8 App Remover, this desktop program automates the process of uninstalling modern UI apps by letting you remove them all at once with just a few clicks, kind of like a Live Tile-hating version of PC Decrapifier.

Six clicks: Great tips and tricks for Android – Android is probably the most versatile mobile platform ever produced. It is so broad there are layers of features buried deep under the facade. These tips will help peel back those layers.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Hulu bans VPN access over copyright concerns – Hulu has started blocking streams when it detects that you’re connecting from an anonymous VPN. That’s obviously bad news if you’re not a U.S. resident and you’ve been relying on a VPN to gain access to Hulu’s geofenced content. It’s not just envious Canadians (like yours truly) and Europeans who use VPNs and watch Hulu, however. There are plenty of privacy-minded Americans who do — and they’ll be getting blocked, too.

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Microsoft mashes up Wikipedia and Bing in new Windows 8.1 app – Microsoft has released a new Windows 8.1 app called Bing Wikipedia Browser that combines all of the content in the user-created encyclopedia with Bing search engine features.

Samsung Galaxy S5 owners hit by fatal camera error problem – Samsung’s latest phone the Galaxy S5 has a fatal flaw that has been appearing in the wild. The flaw has meant that some owners report that after a few days of using the phone they are confronted with a “Warning: Camera Failed” message that makes the earslab’s high-quality camera stop working. US carrier Verizon acknowledged the flaw in a post to Twitter on Friday, and said it would replace devices affected by the flaw.

Linux to the rescue! How Ubuntu can help a computer in distress – This may sound like sacrilege, but it’s not: Ubuntu Linux can be useful even if you’re a hardcore Windows user. That’s because there’s no way to boot a full Windows system from a USB stick to troubleshoot your PC—well, not without an Enterprise version of Windows and Windows To Go—but anyone can make a free Ubuntu USB drive, CD, or DVD. A Ubuntu live drive can be used as a digital Swiss army knife to troubleshoot all sorts of problems with any PC, whether you need to recover files from a failing computer, diagnose hardware problems, perform a deep virus scan from outside Windows, or even reset a forgotten Windows password.

Haiku Deck: a painless PowerPoint alternative that’s fun to use – We live in a PowerPoint world, but despite Microsoft’s best efforts it’s not that easy to put together a professional looking slide deck with the powerful Office presentation app. The learning curve for more than a few slides with simple bullet points is simply too steep. But a free browser-based alternative called Haiku Deck does a credible job of empowering even novices to create slick presentations with a few mouse clicks. It does this with a wizard-like approach that presents you default slides and several options that you can try out by clicking them.

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Playon gives Chromecast 100 new channels including Amazon Instant Video and HBO Go – Google’s Chromecast was already one of the best gadget buys around, and it’s just gotten a whole lot better. Thanks to the crew at PlayOn, there are now more than 100 channels you can easily stream to your HDTV via Chromecast. Some of the PlayOn channels are duplicates. Apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Crackle, and Vevo had already integrated Chromecast support. MLB.TV also recently updated their app. PlayOn’s update does, however bring loads of new content — everything from ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox to ESPN, Comedy Central, Adult Swim, and HBO Go.

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Five things to consider before buying LED bulbs – More than ever, there is also an overwhelming number of LED varieties, and choosing an LED is entirely different from picking up an incandescent. Before you head to the store, find out what you need to know about choosing the right LED bulbs.

Security:

New hole in Internet Explorer already under attack to hijack PCs – Microsoft roused its security teams on a Saturday to issue an advisory about a nasty flaw in its Internet Explorer web browser. The flaw means the browser “may corrupt memory in a way that could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user within Internet Explorer.” If that were to happen, “An attacker could host a specially crafted website that is designed to exploit this vulnerability through Internet Explorer and then convince a user to view the website.”

Understanding The Top 5 Mobile Banking Trojans – With thousands of unique malware samples being created every day, it’s easy to forget that many of them are variants of existing malware out in the wild. Researchers group them into malware families to track how they evolve. Poking at mobile malware families felt like falling down the proverbial rabbit hole. Where are we going next? We asked Web intelligence company Recorded Future to help us out.

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Crypto Stick is an ultra-secure flash drive that can also replace your passwords – Right now, the device is in its beta stage. Inside that nondescript, black plastic housing hides a small PCB with a microSD slot and a smart card reader. Storage is fully encrypted, and all decryption operations take place on the device. None of the three private keys (signature, encryption, authentication) are ever at risk of being exposed because they never leave the Crypto Stick. To access your data, you simply punch in a PIN when prompted. CryptoStick also fully supports hidden encrypted volumes (like the ones you can create with TrueCrypt). You can create up to four on a single stick. The goal is to provide you with “plausible deniability” even if you have to turn over your primary PIN to the bad guys. They might be able to see your root folder, but not the hidden volumes — which you could claim you had no idea were there in the first place.

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Men More Vulnerable to Mobile Malware – We love the things our smartphones are capable of: playing music, checking bank statements, or updating Twitter statuses. Losing your phone now is like losing your wallet—or worse. So why aren’t more people concerned about protecting their mobile data? AVAST’s recent survey about smartphone ownership and use reveal

Mozilla to strengthen SSL certificate verification in Firefox – Mozilla plans to more strictly enforce industry best practices for SSL certificates in future versions of Firefox with a new certificate verification system. The new system will be implemented as a library called “mozilla::pkix” and will start being used by Firefox 31, which is expected to be released in July.

Company News:

Microsoft’s Windows as a Service comes in to focus with new job posting – Microsoft’s Windows as a Service is the next big platform for the company as they move away from tradtional sales models and move it’s most coveted piece of software, Windows, to a subscription model.

Apple’s lawsuit against Google is REVIVED – A US Federal Court has issued a ruling that will allow Apple and Motorola Mobility to assert certain patent claims against each other. The ruling also opens the door for Cupertino to try to seek a ban on sales of certain Android handsets.

RadiumOne CEO who attacked and abused girlfriend is fired by his board – RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal has been fired by the company’s board of directors following his domestic abuse charges and conviction, according to Recode. Chahal recently faced 45 felony charges of domestic violence but was convicted of only two misdemeanors, and he has vigorously defended himself over social media and on his own website.

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Microsoft is now a phone company, as Nokia deal closes – As announced earlier this week, Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia’s Devices and Services division has closed almost four months later than expected. Redmond is paying about $5 billion for the Nokia division, now named Microsoft Mobile Oy, and some 8,500 design patents. The software giant is also paying another $2 billion for a ten-year license for 30,000 utility patents, with an option to renew the licenses in perpetuity.

Google getting slapped big for dodging French tax collector – Technology giant Google has been delinquent on its tax payments in France for the past few years, to the tune of more than $1 billion in missed payments, and it now may be hit with a sizable tax penalty by the French government. Google has been put on notice of its delinquency by the French tax authorities, and the company has acknowledged that it might be issued a large penalty for non-compliance by the French Direction Générale Des Finances Publiques, the French equivalent of the US Internal Revenue Service.

Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe settle conspiracy lawsuit with $324 million payment – Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe have agreed to settle a lawsuit that claimed the four companies were conspiring to hold down salaries with a $324 million payment.

Games and Entertainment:

Xcom: Enemy Unknown Now Available on Android for $9.99 – Many games have tried, but none have succeeded in replicating the compelling tactical gameplay of Xcom: Enemy Unknown. After taking consoles and the desktop by storm, this game came to iOS a while back. Now it’s finally on Android, and there are still plenty of aliens to take down.

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Sony demos AR and dynamic lighting technology with PlayStation 4 – A couple of videos released by Sony Japan showcases PlayStation 4 doing great Augmented Reality and lighting simulations. It’s the kind of technology that appeals to gamers across the board and caters to craze of virtual reality. From what we know at the moment, it is safe to presume that the AR lighting technology is developed using the PlayStation 4 camera.

Sore Call of Duty loser sics real-life SWAT team on opponent – We’ve all experienced it ourselves: being teabagged after getting killed in game, having an opponent send you extremely racist messages after you defeat them, or simply dealing with a veritable flood of “1v1 me bro” threats. They’re all annoying, but that’s as far as they go. However, one gamer got so mad that he managed to call the SWAT team to the house of an opponent.

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GameStop Plans Store Closures as Business Shifts – While the move will barely put a dent in GameStop’s overall inventory of 6,457 worldwide stores, the closures are intended to allow GameStop to shift its priorities a bit into diversifying its overall business model. This approach, which Raines dubs “Gamestop 3.0,” calls for GameStop to double the number of its Spring Mobile and Simply Mac outlets within the company’s fiscal year.

Missing Pieces: Wrapping up the week’s must-know gaming news – Yes, we are well and truly in the Spring dead zone—that period right before E3 when publishers are busy putting together presentations and carving up vertical slice demos and keeping absolutely silent ahead of the blitz of the big show. A few interesting tidbits did pop up in the barren games news wasteland, however. Here’s Prince of Persia, Gameboy’s big day, and the rest of the gaming news you may have missed this week.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Facebook Users Most Likely to Unfriend High School Pals – Why are people unfriending you on Facebook? Don’t worry; it’s probably just those people you went to high school with who you likely no longer care about anyway. You probably just friended them as part of the initial Facebook “land-grab” when you first join and start hunting for social connections. At least, that’s the impression we get from new research out of the University of Colorado Denver.

Phablets, big data, hactivism: How 10 terrible tech buzzwords were named – Here are ten tech buzzwords or -phrases, identified as some of the most hated on a number of online lists, along with their supervillain origin stories. Read on, and perhaps you’ll think twice before introducing the next “disrupt” or “phablet” into the tech vernacular.

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Watch NASA’s prototype Morpheus lander take off and land autonomously – The private space firm SpaceX isn’t the only one looking into vertical takeoff, vertical landing craft. NASA’s Morpheus project is an effort to create a lander that is capable of landing autonomously in rough terrain while also using a less hazardous fuel source. It also looks pretty cool coming in for a landing.

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Facebook In The Age Of Mobile-Only – Just 21% (268 million) of Facebook’s users access the service from desktop-only, and both that percentage and number are falling as Facebook grows, according to new stats from Facebook’s Q1 2014 earnings report this week. Meanwhile Facebook’s mobile-only user count is now at 341 million, or 26.7% of its total userbase, and those figures are quickly climbing.

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Why social networks are falling apart – Social networks are falling apart — breaking up into multiple sites and apps that do in a scattered way what used to happen centrally.

7 Internet fakes we wish were real – How many times have you seen a video or photo on Facebook that was so amazingly cool you just had to share it without thinking twice? It was only later that you discovered that not-to-be-believed image was an elaborate fake you shouldn’t have believed. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

Something to think about:

“As you journey through life take a minute every now and then to give a thought for the other fellow. He could be plotting something.”

-     Hagar the Horrible

Today’s Free Downloads:

MediaHuman YouTube to MP3 Converter – You like to listen to music on YouTube or Vimeo and want to save it for offline playing. Or you want to download soundtrack of a new movie. Then MediaHuman YouTube to MP3 Converter is the best choice for you. (Highly recommended.)

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ProduKey – ProduKey is a small utility that displays the ProductID and the CD-Key of Microsoft Office (Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Office 2007), Windows (Including Windows 7 and Windows Vista), Exchange Server, and SQL Server installed on your computer. You can view this information for your current running operating system, or for another operating system/computer – by using command-line options. This utility can be useful if you lost the product key of your Windows/Office, and you want to reinstall it on your computer.

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iSpy – iSpy uses your webcams and microphones to detect and record movement or sound and provides security, surveillance, monitoring and alerting services. Any media that is captured is compressed to flash video and made available, securely over the web. iSpy can be setup to run on multiple computers simultaneously. iSpy is free, open-source software, so if you want it to do anything else, please download the source code and customise it to your requirements.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Supreme Court to rule on warrantless searches of electronic devices – The Supreme Court on Tuesday will take on the digital-age controversy over search and seizure of smartphones and other devices. In two cases coming before the court, warrantless searches of an electronic device not only provided the basis for criminal prosecutions but also strayed from the original reason for the arrests in question. President Barack Obama’s administration and prosecutors from states across the country have lobbied for police officers to be able to search arrestees’ gadgets—at or about the time of arrest—without a warrant. Such action, however, demands an examination of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” If nine out of 10 American adults own mobile phones and the devices have advanced to become virtual extensions of our personal and private lives, at what point does law enforcement’s access to their call logs, photos, and cloud-hosted data become “unreasonable” invasions of constitutionally protected privacy?

Microsoft Is Challenging The US Government’s Use Of Search Warrants To Access Data Stored Abroad – Microsoft lost its first challenge to the authority of the United States government’s use of search warrants to demand data stored abroad. Microsoft challenged a U.S. search warrant for emails stored in Ireland. The cloud does have a physical footprint, after all. The company was not surprised that it lost the initial test, noting in a blog post that “the Magistrate Judge, who originally issued the warrant in question, disagreed with our view and rejected our challenge.” The company states that it “knew the path would need to start with a magistrate judge, and that we’d eventually have the opportunity to bring the issue to a U.S. district court judge and probably to a federal court of appeals.” So, today’s setback for Microsoft is not really a dispiriting moment. Think of it more as a first step.

US Telco Firm [REDACTED] Gently Pushed Back Against Bulk Metadata Collection In January – In December Federal Judge Richard Leon indicated that in his estimation, the bulk collection of telephony metadata by the NSA was likely unconstitutional. He stayed his ruling, however, citing “significant national security interests” and “the novelty of the constitutional issue” at play. Less than two weeks later, an opposite ruling was handed down, calling the program constitutional. Given the first challenge, a United States-based telecommunications firm [REDACTED] that has to comply with the program specifically requested that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) explain its perspective on the ruling.

Hillary Clinton Excoriates Snowden’s Leaks, Mocks His Softball Putin Question – Former Secretary of State, Senator, and First Lady Hillary Clinton isn’t big on Edward Snowden. Clinton excoriated Snowden recently, hitting him for leaving the country, not availing himself of whistleblower protections here at home, and for asking Russian President a now widely mocked softball question. That Clinton isn’t a fan of Snowden itself isn’t news — we’ve known that for some time — but the severity of her remarks is worth noting, given that she is widely expected to run again for president. Put simply, there is a more than a decent chance that Clinton becomes president in 2016, and thus her tone on Snowden indicates what future policy regarding him, and what he revealed, could be.

So far, so SOPA: Web campaigners to protest world’s biggest ever free trade deal – Internet activists are planning a major on- and offline protest at what has been described as a “secretive, SOPA-like” agreement being hammered out as the world’s largest economies attempt to agree the world’s biggest ever free trade deal. They argue the pact will lead to greater web censorship, even though talks between the US and Japan stalled this week. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been in the pipeline since 2010 and involves liberalising agreements on trade and other issues between stakeholders including the US, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam. Amongst other things, the US-led treaty has proposed criminal sanctions on copyright infringement and – according to rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation – could force ISPs to monitor and censor content more rigorously and even block sites wholesale if requested by rights holders. As a result, the Internet Defense League is planning a high profile protest which will involve shining a “Stop The Secrecy” message on various “key buildings” in Washington DC on 30 April – when US President Barack Obama returns from his Asia trip.

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12 Comments

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

12 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 28, 2014

  1. Jerry Chance

    Bill – welcome back! Where have you been? I was wondering whether perhaps you were seriously ill. Have certainly missed your daily contributions. Very, very pleased that you are still fit and active. Welcome back dear fellow!

    Jerry Chance

    • Hi Jerry!! Really good to hear from you. Trust all is well.

      The flu, I suppose, is not a serious condition – but, this particular episode has been a major bummer. But hey – life goes on, yeah? :)

      Best,

      Bill

  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re:Protect your privacy while you browse

    First, good to see you back on deck, I know what a filthy flu is like, and I don’t know how you put up with it for three weeks.

    I use Opera browser for most of my “anonymous” browsing. I have it locked down with most of what the author mentions in the article. One thing I added though, is a neat little extension called Filter Request Headers, which can block websites from retrieving a computers operating system and web browser, as well as blocking cookies from communicating with the server. I think this is good for the ultra private user (like me).

    I tested it on the website whatismybrowser.com and it worked very well indeed.

    Cheers
    Mal

    • Hey Mal,

      Sounds like Filter Request Headers is right up my alley – will definitely get on that. Sort of reminds me of the “user agent” switcheroo we used to be able to make in Firefox.

      Thanks Mal – you do a great job of keeping all of us on our toes.

      Best,

      Bill

  3. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    You know a few weeks back you posted a quote about “Worry” and I’ve been keeping that in mind as of late, Been a worry-wart my whole life. So just as with the last time it was a modem issue, this time, I figure, you’ve been busier than a bee. When I think back to how you used to do this blog SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. AND write the best reviews of software and all, I used to say to myself, “How does the man do it” Well even Superman couldn’t keep up that pace. And in another sense busy is GOOD.
    Well just wanted to say what a relief to sore eyes it was to see the blog back on. And, as always, filled with important and FUN stuff. And now a quote from one of my favorites: HAGAR THE HORRIBLE. And you know, he IS right, Bill. LOL
    My best to you as always,
    Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      Well hey, we worry warts are simply more cognitively aware than the average bear. Not such a bad thing. :)

      Almost over a debilitating shot of the flu – 3 weeks in and still below par. Sucks big time, I have to tell ya.

      Yep, Hagar is dead on – as usual. :)

      Best,

      Bill

  4. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    So glad to see you back and hope you will be up to full strength very soon. I get my flu jab every year and, touch wood, have avoided it thus far. This year, interestingly, a shingles jab was available for the first time and I jumped on it (not literally :)).

    On the subject of worrying, I am blessed in that I am able not to worry about things I can’t control. There is a quote that says “You can’t change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future”. I don’t know who said it but it more or less sums up my philosophy. Another one I like is “Set aside half an hour every day to do all your worrying, then take a nap during this period”.

    That’s enough philosophy for one day, Bill, great to see you back.

    Kind regards
    John

    • Hi John,

      I’ve been reading much about the shingles shot and, if it was available here, I’d jump on it too (not literally :) ).

      This flu business has kinda/sorta/maybe convinced me, that I’m not invincible after all. Major bummer, that. :)

      Agree with your worrying philosophy. As an old buddy reminded me years ago – worrying is kind of like fortunetelling – and, most of us are pretty bad at that. So, not much point to it.

      Best,

      Bill

      • Mal

        Hey John and Bill,

        I am right with you blokes. But sometimes it’s easier said than done. Most things worthwhile don’t come easy. But the fun is we keep trying, that’s what matters.

        Cheers
        Mal

        • Hey Mal,

          Right you are – “sometimes it’s easier said than done.” Worry, it seems to me, is only an issue if it puts the brakes on a proactive plan to deal with the underlying cause. And that, I’m afraid to say, is an all too frequent occurrence for some.

          Let’s hear what John has to add. Over to you John. :)

          Best,

          Bill

          • John Bent

            Hi Bill and Mal,

            Great to chat to you guys; can’t think of many better ways to pass the time while it’s raining outside and world championship snooker is on the box.

            I know I’m fortunate that I am generally positive by nature. Also bear in mind I’m talking about things I can’t control. I see absolutely no point in worrying about what might happen, as it just as easily might not. There is another school of thought which says “Think about things that you worried about in the past and see if your worries were justified”.

            I am a huge believer in the power of positive thought, as I think it has a kind of placebo effect. This belief could come from the fact I’ve been relatively fortunate in life, or it could be the other way round.

            To close on a lighter note; “Don’t worry,” they said “things could be worse.”. So I stopped worrying and things got worse.

            Have a great day guys,

            Kind regards,
            John