Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 2, 2014

What Does Your Security Suite Know About You?  Secure OS Tails Emerges From Beta;  Microsoft Patches Latest Internet Explorer Security Flaw — Even For XP;  Google Search Android App Can Find Your Parked Car;  5 steps to troubleshoot Google Apps;  Quick-start intro to Google’s AdWords;  Sneak a peek at the Simpsons Lego episode;  Puzzle Piece’s $19 Tablets Help Children With Autism Learn Social Skills;  Tech firms to increase alerts about police requests for data.

What Does Your Security Suite Know About You? – You installed that security suite to protect your computer, and your privacy, but just what is it reporting to its maker? Could your suite itself be a security risk? A pair of German computer magazines commissioned AV-Comparatives to find out. Their results are now publicly available, and the report makes interesting reading.

Obama panel supports warrant requirement for e-mail, cloud content – On Thursday, a panel commissioned by President Barack Obama to examine the implications of “big data” concluded that cloud and e-mail content should be constitutionally protected—a recommendation that Congress is seemingly unwilling to adopt. The panel—which included White House counselor John Podesta, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, the President’s Science Advisor John Holdren, the President’s Economic Advisor Jeff Zients, and other senior officials—recommended that an aging law be changed to require that authorities obtain warrants to seize cloud-based content and e-mail. Such data, when it is stored on third-party servers and older than 180 days, is not constitutionally protected.

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Worldwide tablet sales drop 35.7% after the holidays – People are just not that excited about tablet devices anymore or they gorged themselves during the holidays. Even taking that into consideration, year-on-year tablet sales growth for the first quarter is only 3.9% and Apple is taking the biggest hit.

Secure OS Tails Emerges From Beta – If you want to give super-secure, relatively anonymous computing a shot, then the operating system used by famed NSA leaker Edward Snowden might be for you. The Linux-based, open-source operating system — created by a team of developers who have kept their identities secret throughout its development — is designed to give normal people a considerable security arsenal sans hassle. Tails lists a number of areas that the operating system’s security can’t address, including one’s use of weak passwords for online sites, one’s susceptibility to man-in-the-middle attacks, and the fact that ISPs and servers will be able to detect that you’re using both Tor and likely Tails when browsing.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

All U. S. Microsoft Store locations to give away Windows Phones this weekend – All of the retail Microsoft Store locations will be giving away eight Windows Phone devices on Saturday, May 3rd and again on Sunday, May 4th via a game called Opportunity Rings.

Google Search Android App Can Find Your Parked Car – It can happen at a concert, an amusement park, or the mall. You walk back to the parking lot after a great day and then — bam — panic sets in as you look out over a sea of vehicles, realizing you have totally forgotten where yours is located. If this happens to you a lot, Google’s newly updated Search app for Android can be your saving grace. Instead of wandering around aimlessly, just fire up the app and a new Google Now card will show the approximate location of your vehicle.

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Exploring Google Docs and Sheets on iOS – Google released standalone apps for its documents and spreadsheet tools for iPhone and iPad users. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

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Vhoto Launches App Capturing Still Images From Video – The Vhoto app uses proprietary technology to find the best images in any video and turn them into stills. There’s also a social component so users can tag, share, and search others’ photos. Users can shoot video through Vhoto’s camera app or upload video from their library to Vhoto, where the company’s software scans the video based on twenty different metrics — including blur, contrast, faces, smiles, user intent, and what chief executive Noah Heller calls a “novelty detector” that searches video for the still frames that are most different from any preceding frame.

Redbox Instant Android App Gets Chromecast Support – If you’ve been waiting for Redbox Instant to make its way to Google Chromecast, we have some good news. The Redbox Instant Android app received an update this week, which includes support for Google’s Chromecast dongle, meaning you can now send movies from your phone or tablet to your home television. The update also brings some unspecified bug fixes, so the app should work better overall.

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DryBox looks to make a splash, drying out wet smartphones – No matter how advanced smartphones become, one simple truth remains constant: Water and high-tech electronics generally don’t mix. But should your phone ever take an unexpected plunge into a pool, bathtub, or—heaven forfend—a toilet, a company named DryBox thinks it can make bringing your mobile device back to life as convenient as renting a DVD from Redbox.

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You&Me is HowAboutWe’s take on messaging for the ‘modern couple’ – You&Me isn’t just a run-of-the-mill messaging service—after all, no one needs a special app just to text a partner. The app instead offers a slew of media-rich features, like Snapchat-esque disappearing photos—complete with steam your lover has to “wipe away” to see the image before it clouds up again—a photo booth, video and voice messages, and song-sharing via Rdio and Spotify.

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Facebook app gives glimpse into life with dementia – Alzheimer’s Research UK has developed an app called FaceDementia, which creates an experience that replicates the symptoms of dementia — memory loss, difficulty in communicating, and confusion. The app uses a Facebook user’s information like location and photos of friends and family to create an interactive presentation. When photos flash on the screen, the app points out information that a person with dementia would not remember. The app does not store any personal data.

10 reasons why legacy apps are doomed – Escalating support costs, lengthy rollouts, vendor lock-in, and problems adapting to today’s mobile world… is it time to retire your aging enterprise software?

5 steps to troubleshoot Google Apps – “In 2013, Gmail was available 99.978% of the time,” according to a March 2014 post by Nicolas Lidzborski to the Official Google Enterprise blog. Gmail — and other Google Apps services — consistently provide uptime and availability numbers that most organizations can’t match. Sometime, though, things don’t work as expected. The following tips may help you — and your colleagues — identify and resolve any Google Apps-related issues.

Quick-start intro to Google’s AdWords – There are a number of digital advertising options out there for the small business owner that don’t require learning a lot of complicated computer geek stuff and best of all, you don’t need to spend a fortune. We decided to take a beginner’s look at one of the more popular digital advertising platforms – Google’s AdWords.

Security:

Microsoft Patches Latest Internet Explorer Security Flaw — Even For XP Users – Microsoft is issuing an update to Internet Explorer today that patches a very serious security issue in its browser. This issue came to light over the weekend and what made it especially problematic was that it involved every version from IE 6 forward. Windows XP users, however, can’t update their browser beyond version 8 and Microsoft isn’t patching XP anymore at this point in its life cycle. For this bug, however, Microsoft has made an exception and it is patching IE on Windows XP as well.

Bogus tool for hacking your Friends’ Facebook account hacks you instead – The seed of the scam is a video on Facebook that claims to offer a tool for obtaining login credentials for friends’ accounts. Instead, it hacks the person’s own account, said Satnam Narang, security response manager for Symantec, in a blog post. The video directs potential victims to a document on Google Drive that contains a piece of JavaScript code. Users are instructed to paste the code in their browser’s console window—a feature used by developers—and execute it. If they do, their Facebook account is hijacked and used to “like” other pages and follow lists, which drives up the illusion of popularity of those pages.

Yahoo is the latest company ignoring Web users’ requests for privacy – Yahoo yesterday announced that it will stop complying with Do Not Track signals that Web browsers send on behalf of users who wish to not be monitored for advertising purposes. “As of today, web browser Do Not Track settings will no longer be enabled on Yahoo,” a company blog said. “As the first major tech company to implement Do Not Track, we’ve been at the heart of conversations surrounding how to develop the most user-friendly standard. However, we have yet to see a single standard emerge that is effective, easy to use and has been adopted by the broader tech industry.”

Australians’ private government details at mercy of hackers, say IT security experts – The private records of millions of Australians – including their doctor visits, prescription drugs, childcare and welfare payments – are at the mercy of cyber criminals because of flimsy IT security around a critical federal government website, IT security experts warn. And they say the risk will increase from the middle of the year, when the government will make it compulsory for Australians to use the my.gov.au website to lodge their electronic tax returns, potentially also exposing their financial and banking records to hackers. (recommended by Mal C.)

Cops Must Swear Silence to Access Vehicle Tracking System – It’s no secret that police departments around the country are deploying automated license plate readers to build massive databases to identify the location of vehicles. But one company behind this Orwellian tracking system is determined to stay out of the news. How determined? Vigilant Solutions, founded in 2009, claims to have the nation’s largest repository of license-plate images with nearly 2 billion records stored in its National Vehicle Location Service (NVLS). Despite the enormous implications of the database for the public, any law enforcement agency that signs up for the service is sworn to a vow of silence by the company’s terms of service. Vigilant is clear about the reason for the secrecy: it’s to prevent customers from “cooperating” with media and calling attention to its database. (recommended by Aseem S.)

Company News:

LinkedIn Beats The Street In Q1 On Sales Of $473M, EPS Of $0.38, Raises Outlook – Amid a market correction that has seen many tech stocks lose value, LinkedIn, the social network for the working world, today reported Q1 earnings that beat analyst estimates. Sales came in at $473 million, with EPS of $0.38. Those sales beat both First Call and its own guidance — $467 million and $455-$460 million, respectively.

DOJ reaches settlement with eBay to end no-poach hiring deals – The U.S. Department of Justice would prohibit eBay from entering into agreements with other tech firms to not recruit each other’s employees, in a settlement announced by the agency Thursday. The settlement would bring to an end a long DOJ investigation into anticompetitive hiring practices at several tech companies, including Google, Apple and Intel.

T-Mobile Adds Record 2.4M Customers – No contract? No problem! T-Mobile added 2.4 million customers during the first quarter, including 1.3 million postpaid and 465,000 pre-paid users – a new company record. The company still managed to lose $151 million for the quarter, which is a bit of a reversal from the $106 million in profit it announced at the same time period last year. Nevertheless, Wall Street applauded T-Mobile’s growth, sending the company’s stock up 8.3 percent to $31.73 (a $2.44 increase) immediately following T-Mobile’s announcement.

Sony to Open 350 Shops Inside Best Buy Stores, Emphasizing 4K TV – Starting in mid-May, about a third of Best Buy stores in the U.S. will be reconfiguring their home entertainment departments to make away for a new feature: “The Sony Experience at Best Buy.” It’s the latest instance of the electronics chain introducing a flashy store-within-the-store dedicated to one brand–something it did last year with both Samsung mobile gadgets and PCs running Microsoft’s Windows.

Games and Entertainment:

Sneak a peek at the Simpsons Lego episode – For nearly two years, the crew behind The Simpsons has been cooking up something special: the Lego spectacular. This Sunday, Brick Like Me will finally air… and you can take a sneak peek at what’s in store right now. Fox has posted a two-minute trailer on YouTube. Don’t worry about it spoiling the episode. There’s a whole lot more in store than what’s revealed in this little snippet.

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Dark Souls 2 review: An addictive puzzle wrapped in a nightmarish PC action game – It’s no secret the original Dark Souls was lacking when it came to the PC port. Locked at a blurry 1024×720 resolution and a subpar 30 frames per second, the Dark Souls port hearkened back to lackluster PC ports of old. It wasn’t long before the mod community fixed the problems, but From Software’s initial effort was, frankly, bad. So we thought it prudent to check in on Dark Souls II for the PC release and see if From Software learned its lesson. Verdict: Absolutely.

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Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare revealed via Xbox One trailer, with Kevin Spacey – Activision teased gamers earlier this week with images and a documentary-style trailer to promote the reveal of the next game in the popular Call of Duty shooter series. Now the publisher has released the first gameplay trailer from the title, which has the sub-title Advanced Warfare.

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I’m paying for what? How Xbox Live Gold must change for a new age of free – A new chief executive, a new head of Microsoft’s Devices business, a new corporate philosophy. But Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold subscription service, especially on its new Xbox One game console, seems stuck in the past. Some of the included services are still arguably worth the money, but the rapid evolution of free cloud services in recent years surely has some Gold customers asking: “Why am I paying for this again?” It’s time for a change. Whether Microsoft’s ready to mess with this cash cow is the big question.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Puzzle Piece’s $19 Tablets Help Children With Autism Learn Social Skills – Almost as soon as the iPad came out, parents and therapists began incorporating apps into autism therapy. The devices have been found to be highly effective for teaching children social skills and helping with schoolwork. Many parents, however, cannot afford to buy a tablet for their child. New startup Puzzle Piece hopes to make tech ubiquitous for all families with autistic children by making and selling an Android tablet for just $19. Instead of monetizing off hardware, Puzzle Piece sells subscriptions for educational apps that also cost $19 per month.

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Did the Internet Just Make the World Smarter? – It’s easy to hate on the Internet. We used to read books. Today, we read Twitter feeds. Before the web, we used our time wisely. Today, we waste time constantly. Twenty years ago, we had thoughtful, in-person conversations, focusing for hours on a single, worthy topic. Today, we fire off nasty, anonymous YouTube comments, laced with sarcasm and typed from the lonely sanctums of our bedrooms, dorms and cubicles. We have, you might say, gotten lazier, meaner and dumber. Or have we?

Startup jargon: 10 terms to stop using – Startups are especially prone to playing word games and overusing clichés when it comes to defining their work. In fairness, many times that’s because there is no existing phrase that accurately explains what they do. Still, some startups exhaust the same phrases like they’re going out of style. Let’s take a look at 10 terms that could safely be removed from the startup lexicon.

Google deals made Android phones more expensive, lawsuit claims – A lawsuit filed Thursday accuses Google of strong-arming device manufacturers into making its search engine the default on Android devices, driving up the cost of those devices and hurting consumers. The consumer class-action complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges Google does that by making secret agreements with manufacturers that also require applications such as YouTube and Google Play store to occupy prime real estate on the devices’ screens.

Police force plans to live-tweet its prostitution sting – The Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland decides it’s public-spirited to live-tweet a round-up of those who solicit prostitutes, pictures and all. It calls its move “progressive.”

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Something to think about:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

-     Charles Darwin

Today’s Free Downloads:

LastEnd Blackjack – New to the game of 21? Still trying to figure out when to hit and when to stand? Don’t waste your money learning at a real casino table. Play LastEnd Blackjack first is a much smarter option to improve your strategy and have a real chance of winning; because LastEnd Blackjack does not use real money. LastEnd Blackjack features an online high scoreboard that allow you to compare your skills against other players from around the world.

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Hardwipe – Hardwipe can be used to permanently erase, or to “hard wipe”, data on disk and portable storage media to prevent personal and sensitive business information from ever being recovered. It can wipe entire drives, wipe files individually, and sanitize unused drive space. It supports right-click context menus within Windows file explorer, or can just be used as a standalone application.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tech firms to increase alerts about police requests for data — report – Despite Justice Department objections, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft plan to expand their policies on notifying customers whose data has been requested by law enforcement, says a report.

The news comes as a digital-rights organization gets set to release an influential privacy scorecard, and as bad publicity still hangs in the air regarding potential cooperation between tech firms and the US National Security Agency.

The customer notifications apparently wouldn’t apply to requests made by the NSA, or requests involving national security letters — administrative subpoenas — issued by the FBI, says a Washington Post report.

“The changing tech company policies do not affect data requests approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which are automatically kept secret by law,” the Post notes, referring to the special court that oversees the NSA’s controversial surveillance programs. (Those programs, of course, were made commonly known by Edward Snowden’s leaking of top secret agency documents last summer). National security letters are also kept mum by default, the Post adds.

But other police requests for email records and online data would be covered, unless accompanied by a court-approved gag order.

The US Department of Justice says the notifications could tip off criminals and help them avoid prosecution, but a tech lawyer quoted by the Post says the change in policy would provide a check on wanton searches. “It serves to chill the unbridled, cost-free collection of data,” the Post quotes attorney Albert Gidari Jr. as saying.

Global press freedoms fall in wake of Snowden revelations – Press freedoms sunk to a decade low across the globe, thanks to major regressions in the Middle East and to the Edward Snowden leaks, according to an annual media watchdog report. Both Britain and the United States edged lower because of government crackdowns like the one the Guardian reported in the wake of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations, according to Freedom House’s report of 2013 global press trends.

Consider what the report said about the United States, for example, which is among the world’s “Free” countries:

The limited willingness of high-level government officials to provide access and information to members of the press, already noted in 2012, remained a concern, and additional methods of restricting the flow of information became apparent during the year. For example, there was an increase in the number of Freedom of Information Act requests that were either denied or censored on national security grounds. Journalists who endeavored to cover national security issues faced continued efforts by the federal judiciary to compel them to testify or to hand over materials that would reveal their sources in a number of cases—the James Risen case being the most prominent ongoing dispute. Finally, the practices disclosed by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, regarding mass surveillance and the storage of metadata and digital content by the NSA, coupled with the targeted surveillance of the phones of dozens of Associated Press journalists, raised questions regarding the ability of journalists to protect their sources and cast a pall over free speech protections in the United States.

Snowden blocked from traveling to Germany, testifying to Parliament – Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor turned leaker and whistleblower, won’t be able to travel to Germany to testify about NSA surveillance, according to a report from The Guardian.

Snowden asked for asylum in Germany last summer, but his application was rejected because he didn’t file it from German soil. Theoretically, a trip to Germany could have been a second chance to file an application. But plans for the trip broke down, with sharp disagreement among German political parties about the propriety of allowing Snowden into the country.

Unnamed government officials wrote a letter to the parliamentary committee that invited Snowden, saying that the invitation would “run counter to the political interests of the Federal Republic” and “put a grave and permanent strain” on relations between the US and Germany. The letter was obtained and published by Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s largest newspaper.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: General Keith Alexander Extended Interview (HBO) – John Oliver interviews General Keith Alexander, former head of the NSA. General Alexander discusses Edward Snowden and helps John rebrand a national security organization. (If it takes 100 years, this POS will eventually be vilified. Rightfully so.)

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Former NSA director Mike Hayden: No “probable cause” in Fourth Amendment – In this clip from Keith Olberman’s old MSNBC program, we see reporter Jonathan Landay (now of McClatchy DC) interviewing former NSA director Michael Hayden (now of the Chertoff Group, Motorola Corporation, and George Mason University) about the Fourth Amendment. This was in 2006, after the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program was exposed to the public. Hayden’s remarks display a shocking ignorance of the law. (recommended by Aseem S.) (Another POS who fails to understand that he’s on the wrong side of history.)

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4 Comments

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

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

  1. info@alandonson.com

       Bill…100 percent agreement with your-alexander-hayden remarks….