Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 1, 2014

7 Tips Every Smartphone Owner Should Know;  Spring cleaning for your Gmail; Three ways to increase your computer’s performance;  Facebook Announces New Privacy Controls;  Google Releases Dedicated Docs and Sheets Apps for iOS and Android;  Quick Guide to Running Linux From a USB Drive;  Smart Home Kits Easily Hacked;  Voice phishing campaign targets customers at dozens of banks;  Hacks on widely used traffic control gear could cause gridlock and chaos;  Microsoft quietly cleanses Skype of offensive emoticons;  New secure OS will put Tails between NSA’s legs.

7 Tips Every Smartphone Owner Should Know – Whether you use an iPhone, an Android phone or a Windows phone, some tips are universal. Follow this advice, and you’ll save a lot of time, money and heartache in exchange for just a little extra effort. Here’s what you need to know to get more out of your smartphone, regardless of who made it.

Three ways to increase your computer’s performance – It’s something we can all relate to: that dreaded moment when you realize your once super-fast computer is now bogged down by renegade files, programs, and services. I mean, the most exciting part of buying a new PC is the first time you turn it on and experience its amazing speed. “I’m going to be more productive than ever” you exclaim. And then after a few months of usage — perhaps a few years — the productivity and computer have both slowed to a crawl. It’s time to take action and restore some speed — some productivity. Here are three quick, easy, and cheap ways to improve your computer’s performance.

Spring cleaning for your Gmail – Spring cleaning month is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean you should stop optimizing the tech in your life. Gmail can be a source of stress if you don’t have a good system in place for responding to email, or the ability to easily locate contact information. Fortunately, these changes are just a few clicks away. Here’s seven tips to make Gmail work at its best for you.

Five file managers to empower your Android smartphone – Looking for an Android file manager with enough power and flexibility to tackle your tasks? Here are five tools that will most likely meet — or exceed — your needs.

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Facebook Announces New Privacy Controls for App Logins, Plus Full Anonymous Mode – Facebook took the rare step of actually tightening user privacy controls with an update to its app login system. At the F8 conference, the social network announced a new version of its app login system for enhanced control over what information is shared with apps. One version will give users more granular options, and the other keeps you anonymous.

How to scan and archive your old printed photos – Chances are you have a stack of photo albums collecting dust in a closet somewhere. Maybe they make for a fun coffee table chat, but if you want to share your memories with friends and family online, or simply create a backup of your photos, where do you start? There are several ways to go about digitizing your printed photo collection. Depending on how many photos you have and how DIY-eager you are, your choice will vary.

Two tricks to take the hassle out of managing Windows 8 Wi-Fi connections – Windows 8.1 has some great little goodies in it, and Microsoft gave us a few more with the recent Windows 8.1 Update, which greatly boosted the operating system’s usability on traditional PCs. Speaking of goodies, two features buried in the recent versions of Windows are particularly useful for taking the hassle out of some pretty hassle-prone Wi-Fi management tasks.

Google Releases Dedicated Docs and Sheets Apps for iOS and Android – Google already has an official Drive app on both iOS and Android with access to document editing, but now the company is going a step further. New apps for Docs and Sheets are now on both platforms, with a dedicated app for Slides coming soon.

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Microsoft releases its first video-editing Windows Phone app, Movie Moments – Microsoft has released its first video-editing app for Windows Phone 8.1. Movie Maker, which is also available on Windows 8.1, is now available for download in the Windows Phone Store.

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Snapchat Adds Ephemeral Text Chat And Video Calls – Snapchat is slowly adding features on top of its highly successful ephemeral messaging platform. Today’s two new features are a good old chat interface and a new FaceTime-like video calling feature. Text messages could greatly change the nature of the app.

Microsoft quietly cleanses Skype of offensive emoticons – You probably know that Skype lets you insert emoticons into your chats, but you may not have been aware of the hidden rude emoticons. Microsoft knew all about them, and they finally decided that they had to go. So you can no longer flip someone the animated bird in Skype.

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Quick Guide to Running Linux From a USB Drive – Live Linux environments work just like a typical operating system but run entirely from a CD or USB stick — the latter being the most common choice these days. Since nothing is written to the host computer’s local storage, when you’re done using the machine all you need to do is remove the media, reboot, and everything will be exactly as it was.

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Hulu, Now With 6 Million Subscribers, Will Make Some TV Episodes Free On Mobile – Today at Hulu’s upfronts, the company announced a major change for its business with the reveal that it would begin streaming a selection of ad-supported TV episodes for free on mobile devices beginning this summer. Until now, viewers have only been able to watch Hulu’s free service on the desktop, while its Hulu Plus mobile offering remained a premium experience.

Google in NOT EVIL shocker as it bins student email ad scanning – Google has taken the astonishing decision to stay partly true to its founding promise after deciding to stop scanning kids’ emails. Until now, Google automatically rooted through all users’ mails so they could be targeted for advertising. But now Mountain View has decided to abide by its “don’t be evil” maxim and stop the scanning of students’ emails, although everyone else is still fair game. Bram Bout, director of education, told the Washington Post that it will no longer scan email accounts used by about 30 million teachers and students. Its decision follows a court case in which students sued Google for scanning their email accounts.

Event Flow: The best calendar widget money can buy – There are, of course, a number of widgets available. It seems with every new calendar app I try, they promise to deliver the single best widget on the market. Most fail. Event Flow Calendar Widget, on the other hand, succeeds. Although it isn’t stuffed to the rim with features, Event Flow offers just the features you need with an interface that makes it not only useful, but elegant.

Security:

Microsoft confirms workarounds for Internet Explorer’s major vulnerability – Microsoft has clarified techniques in which users can protect against the major vulnerablity for Internet Explorer; the revised security advisory page also reveals the damage the exploit can cause.

After Heartbleed, 39 Percent of Web Users Took Action – It seems that many people take the “that will never happen to me” approach to Internet security. In fact, only 39 percent of Internet users have done anything to protect themselves from the recent Heartbleed bug, according to a Pew Research study. To be fair, Pew found that only about 19 percent of adults said they had heard “a lot” about the situation; another 41 percent said they’d heard “a little” about Heartbleed.

Tracking People from Smartphone Accelerometers – It’s been long known that individual analog devices have their own fingerprints. Decades ago, individual radio transmitters were identifiable and trackable. Now, researchers have found that accelerometers in smartphone are unique enough to be identifiable.

Smart Home Kits Easily Hacked – After installing a smart home kit, you can control and monitor your house in many ways. Turn the air conditioner on before you get home, make sure doors and windows are closed, switch lights on and off; these are just a few of the possibilities. However, researchers at AV-Test found some smart house kits to be extremely lax in their security. A back door in the software might literally let a crook remotely open your back door!

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Warning: Voice phishing campaign targets customers at dozens of banks – Cybercriminals stole debit card information from customers of dozens of financial institutions in a phishing campaign that combined rogue text messages and with VoIP calls. The vishing—voice phishing—campaign was discovered by researchers from cybercrime intelligence firm PhishLabs while investigating a recent attack against customers of an unnamed midsize bank.

Company News:

Twitter’s Stock Slumps Despite Adding New Users More Quickly – Twitter added more active users and generated more revenue during the first quarter than analysts had expected, but that wasn’t enough to stop its stock from tumbling in after-hours trading on Tuesday following its first quarterly earnings report as a public company

AdSense leaker rebuts Google’s denial, claims to hold proof – When an alleged former AdSense employee claimed Google robbed its AdSense clients, Google issued a fast denial. Now the accuser is back with more information.

Alibaba stocks up on patents before US IPO – Chinese e-commerce giant secures 102 patents in the United States, adding to the 20 it acquired from IBM last year, as the company possibly looks to avoid legal potholes before its U.S. IPO.

AT&T Mulls $40 Billion Merger With DirecTV – AT&T would love to own DirecTV’s satellite-TV business. DirecTV wants to bolster its broadband position. The talks were reportedly prompted by Comcast’s intention to buy Time Warner Cable, which already faces intense scrutiny from the Justice Department.

Games and Entertainment:

Nintendo offers free game download to entice Mario Kart 8 buyers – It’s been quite a while since there were any Wii U retail games worth buying (November’s Super Mario 3D World, for those counting), but Nintendo seems determined to get people back into the buying mood with a special offer alongside next month’s release of Mario Kart 8. Consumers who buy the game and register a copy online before July 31 will be able to download one of four Wii U titles: New Super Mario Bros. U, Pikmin 3, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, or Wii Party U.

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‘Dust: An Elysian Tail,’ ‘Saints Row: The Third’ are May’s free Xbox 360 games – Microsoft will let Xbox Live Gold members download two more free games for the Xbox 360 in May: the side-scroller “Dust: An Elysian Tail” and the open-world action game “Saints Row: The Third.”

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PS4 and PS Vita: dozen indie games inbound – Sony has announced a dozen upcoming indie titles for the PlayStation 4 and the PS Vita, among them being the relatively well-known side-scroller Nidhogg, as well as a variety of other games. Each developer introduced their title on the PlayStation Blog today, and we’ve a couple videos for you after the jump.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Report: Google Glass parts make up 5.3%—roughly $100—of $1,500 price tag – With the expansion of Google Glass’ Explorer program earlier this month came more digital-eyewear shoppers—and, not long after, more scrutiny. Once Glass’s second purchasing wave got its hands on Google’s wearable tech, a few cost-curious shoppers didn’t wait long to take their new, $1,500 devices apart. Who can blame them? For over a year, Google has stuck to Glass’s massive price tag, making it tempting to pick Glass apart and figure out how much its tiny, custom parts contribute to the sticker shock. Immaterial costs like research surely factored into the high price, but by what percent?

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DreamWorks CEO: Movie downloaders should pay by screen size – Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of film studio DreamWorks, has suggested that Hollywood should move to a new pay-per-screen-inch pricing model as movie downloads become more popular. Speaking at the Milken Global Conference in Los Angeles, Katzenberg said that in the next ten years he would like to see the movie industry move to the new pricing model. Under his plan, films would be released to cinemas for three weeks and then made available for download, with the price dependent on the hardware used to view them.

Study suggests that 4% of the people we put on death row are innocent – How well does the US justice system work? Given that many states still carry out the death penalty, it’s a rather significant question. Some biostatisticians have teamed up with lawyers in an attempt to provide a scientific answer to the question. Based on their figures, at least 4.1 percent of the individuals sentenced to death will eventually be exonerated. Given the high level of scrutiny that capital cases are subjected to, the authors conclude that the percentage of innocents stuck with life sentences is even higher.

Google’s self-driving car passes 700,000 accident-free miles, can now avoid cyclists, stop at railroad crossings – Google’s self-driving cars, of which there are usually a dozen on the roads of California and Nevada at any given time, have now logged 700,000 miles of awesome accident-free autonomous driving. To celebrate, Google has released a new video that demonstrates some impressive software improvements that have been made over the last two years: Most notably, its self-driving cars can now track hundreds of objects simultaneously, including pedestrians, an indicating cyclist, a stop sign held by a crossing guard, or traffic cones. You really should watch the video — it’s one of the coolest bits of tech that I’ve seen in a long time.

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Hacks on widely used traffic control gear could cause gridlock and chaos – Cesar Cerrudo of security penetration testing firm IOActive said he has identified more than 50,000 devices in New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and cities in at least seven countries around the world that can be hacked using inexpensive gear that’s easy and—at least in the US—legal to obtain and operate. The equipment Cerrudo used included a drone flying at heights of 650 feet and radio hardware that sells for $100. With more sophisticated transmitters, antennas, and other hardware, he said an attacker could be as far away as two miles from the targeted signals.

America’s nuclear arsenal still runs off of 8-inch floppy discs – People from all over the political spectrum are up in arms this week, following a 60 Minutes report on the state of the US nuclear arsenal. Particularly, the segment exposes the old and seemingly outdated technology that controls and underlies these most powerful of weapons. The phones are old, chunky physical types. The switch-boards have those big mechanical switches and flashy lights. And the paramount sin: Many of the records are kept on 8 inch floppy disks.

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Something to think about:

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

-    Arthur Schopenhauer

Today’s Free Downloads:

Prey – Prey lets you keep track of your phone or laptop at all times, and will help you find it if it ever gets lost or stolen. It’s lightweight, open source software, and free for anyone to use. And it just works. Basically you install a tiny agent in your PC or phone, which silently waits for a remote signal to wake up and work its magic. This signal is sent either from the Internet or through an SMS message, and allows you to gather information regarding the device’s location, hardware and network status, and optionally trigger specific actions on it.

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Marvel Heroes Online – Marvel Heroes is a FREE-TO-PLAY action-packed massively multiplayer online game created by David Brevik, the visionary behind Diablo and Diablo 2. Set in the iconic Marvel Universe, Marvel Heroes combines the core game-play style of Action RPGs and MMOs with the expansive library of heroes from the Marvel Universe. In the game, players can collect and play as their favorite Marvel Superheroes (including Iron Man, Thor, Wolverine, Hulk, Spider Man, Captain America and many others). Team up with friends and try to stop Doctor Doom from devastating the world with the power of the Cosmic Cube in a story written by Marvel comic super-scribe Brian Michael Bendis.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA on Heartbleed: ‘We’re not legally allowed to lie to you’ – ZDNet recently had the opportunity to sit down and discuss how the NSA approaches the difficult challenge of both protecting our security and supporting the American ideals of openness and transparency. The recent Heartbleed bug brought these issues to light in a particularly relevant way.

This article contains a transcribed version of that interview. Other than a few housekeeping clean-ups, the interview is verbatim.

British Spy Chiefs Secretly Begged to Play in NSA’s Data Pools – Britain’s electronic surveillance agency, Government Communications Headquarters, has long presented its collaboration with the National Security Agency’s massive electronic spying efforts as proportionate, carefully monitored, and well within the bounds of privacy laws. But according to a top-secret document in the archive of material provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, GCHQ secretly coveted the NSA’s vast troves of private communications and sought “unsupervised access” to its data as recently as last year – essentially begging to feast at the NSA’s table while insisting that it only nibbles on the occasional crumb.

The document, dated April 2013, reveals that GCHQ requested broad new authority to tap into data collected under a law that authorizes a variety of controversial NSA surveillance initiatives, including the PRISM program.

New secure OS will put Tails between NSA’s legs – Secure Linux distribution Tails has reached the milestone of a version 1.0 release, after its developers crushed a laundry list of bugs.

The Debian-based operating system is a “live OS” – it boots from removable media rather than a hard disk. It also funnels all data through Tor and uses a smattering of cryptography and anonymising tools to help users circumvent censorship and lock out snoops and spooks. For example, Tails encrypts storage devices using the Linux Unified Key Setup, uses the HTTPS Everywhere tool to encrypt web traffic, and locks down emails with OpenPGP and protects instant messages with Off The Record.

Canucks’ ISPs routing data through snoop heaven USA – A University of Toronto-led transparency project has criticised Canada’s ISPs for unnecessarily routing user traffic via the US, even when both the origin and destination of the traffic is within Canada.

In a study that mirrors, in part, European concerns about why traffic should traverse the US when it doesn’t need to, the Canadian transparency study blames an unwillingness to peer for sending traffic into the reach of the NSA.

The university’s Andrew Clement and Jonathan Obar have put together the report along with an interactive map, in which they rate Canadian ISPs on various transparency characteristics. The ratings, the report says, are based on how easily users can find information including an ISP’s compliance with data privacy legislation, how they report data access requests, how well they define personal information, information about where user data is stored.

Against the ten criteria used in the assessment, nobody scored highly: the best was Teksavvy, scoring just 3.5 stars out of a possible ten, followed by Primus on three stars.

None of the carriers tested provide transparency reporting, and the researchers say none of the 20 carriers they examined are in full compliance with Canada’s PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) privacy law.

Failed twice, revived again: CISPA returns despite concerns over privacy, data sharing – Summary: Privacy experts warned of catastrophic privacy invasions by the U.S. government, but the cybersecurity and data-sharing bill that just won’t die has been revived once again by the Senate.

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2 Comments

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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 1, 2014

  1. Dave B.

    RE: Three ways to increase your computer’s performance;

    1) adding RAM may or may not help depending on your current configuration.

    2) Deleting photos and documents will definitely not help unless your hard drive is full, in which case you’ll have to delete a boatload of those files to free up enough space to make a difference.

    3) disabling some startup items can help, as long as you don’t disable things that you shouldn’t like anti-virus software and drivers.

    4) The article missed the best way for a large speed boost, replace the hard drive with an SSD.