Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 15, 2014

Photos of an NSA “upgrade” factory show Cisco router getting implant;  Four apps turn your phone into your workout buddy;  Five apps for functioning in a city you don’t know;  Four Twitter features you need to know about;  How to hook up a USB flash drive to your Android device;  Lifelogger: A poor man’s Google Glass;  Google gets tougher on suspicious Google Apps logins;  Vizio Showroom app finds the best TV size for your space;  Patches ready for Red Hat,  Ubuntu and others affected by Linux kernel flaw;  8 Ways to Toddler-Proof Your iPhone or iPad;  Get Zoner Photo Studio for free.

Photos of an NSA “upgrade” factory show Cisco router getting implant – A document included in the trove of National Security Agency files released with Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide details how the agency’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit and other NSA employees intercept servers, routers, and other network gear being shipped to organizations targeted for surveillance and install covert implant firmware onto them before they’re delivered. These Trojan horse systems were described by an NSA manager as being “some of the most productive operations in TAO because they pre-position access points into hard target networks around the world.”

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Five apps for functioning in a city you don’t know – Here are some free apps to help you summon a cab, locate fast food and coffee shops, and learn about local attractions when you’re on the road.

Pro tip: Send faxes with your Android device – Thanks to a free app called FaxFile, you can now send either PDF or doc/docx files to any fax number in the US or Canada (and some international numbers). With FaxFile, you can fax to contact numbers or enter a fax phone number. There isn’t a monthly subscription cost, but each fax will cost you fax credits (which are bought through an in-app purchase within the Google Play Store). Fifty credits is $2.49, and each fax to US and Canada costs 10 credits. That’s pretty easy math and well worth the cost, considering how easy faxing becomes while on-the-go.

These four apps turn your phone into your workout buddy – If you want a workout buddy but you’re friendless and alone, don’t fret: There are a couple of great options available to you. You can hire a personal trainer—hey, it’s half the reason they have jobs—or you can download an app (which, let’s be real, is a lot more affordable than the former). That’s right: An app. Thanks to social networks, you can sort of simulate the experience of having a work out partner with a fitness app that pits you against friends, acquaintances, and strangers. No workout partner? No problem. Here are four apps that use social networking—and perhaps a teensy bit of competition—to motivate you to work out.

Four Twitter features you need to know about – Twitter may seem like an outlet for people to complain, harass others, or post pictures of their food, but there’s more to the microblogging service. Twitter can be a great tool for discovering new things, connecting with others, and staying up to date on the latest news. The company has continued to add new features, and here at CNET we’ve told you how to get the most out of them. These are some new and old features that you need to know about.

Europe privacy ruling ‘struck the wrong balance’, says Google’s Schmidt – Google’s executive chairman says the European court that ruled individuals have a right to be forgotten has made a mistake. (It’s past time that U.S. Courts began to strike “the wrong balance.”)

Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales blasts ruling forcing Google to erase search results – Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales describes the European ruling as “wide-sweeping censorship” that “doesn’t make sense.”

The relative truth – as opposed to the creative “truth” as expressed by Schmidt and Wales.

TIME: You Have the Right to Be Forgotten – Make no mistake, this is a watershed moment in human history: mankind, after spending untold millennia looking for ways to be remembered by posterity, must now beg to be forgotten instead. It puts one in mind of the Cumaean Sibyl, who, after being granted a lifespan of a thousand years by Apollo, longed only to die. To the list of things that our ancestors would have found utterly unintelligible about the way we live now we can add, right next to the epidemic of obesity, its informational equivalent: an epidemic of memory.

Americans Will Never Have the Right to Be Forgotten – The U.S. has no privacy protections that even approach the broad aims of Europe’s laws. It’s not because Europe is the innovator on this front—former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis first introduced the “right to privacy” in the U.S. in an 1890 article in the Harvard Law Review that was globally influential. It’s also not because Americans don’t value their digital privacy. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 68 percent of American Internet users believe U.S. laws don’t go far enough to protect individual online privacy. But a variety of factors mean American privacy legislation will likely never reach the scope of Europe’s laws.

8 Ways to Toddler-Proof Your iPhone or iPad – Tips, tricks and general advice for parents with Apple-based tablets or smartphones and inexhaustibly curious 2-to-3-year-olds

How to hook up a USB flash drive to your Android device – Most (if not all) Android devices use a USB connection for changing and transferring files, and thus conveniently work with flash drives, too. So if you’ve got pictures and files to transfer—or video files to watch on a long plane ride overseas—you don’t have to limit yourself to a laptop or desktop computer, or wait for them to transfer over to your device. We’ll walk you through how to set this all up, but there is one caveat: You’ll need to have a rooted device. There are plenty of how-tos and walkthroughs that can help you figure out how to root a phone or tablet, and it’s a fairly simple process, for the most part.

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Credit: Michael Homnick

Facebook is teeming with 500 million soccer fans – Facebook intended this news to be for marketers, but soccer fans should also delight in the fact that nearly half of the site’s users are soccer fans. That’s right, of the social network’s 1.2 billion users, around 500 million are devotees of the beautiful game. What constitutes a soccer fan? According to Facebook, it’s someone who has liked a soccer player or team.

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Vizio Showroom app finds the best TV size for your space – You could buy a TV on a whim, hoping that it fits perfectly within your space—if you don’t mind forking out restocking charges if (OK, when) it doesn’t work out. Or you could always grab a tape measure and try figure it out with actual math. But c’mon, just because we’re nerds doesn’t mean we’re math nerds. Vizio has another option: The Vizio Showroom app allows you to do some research while staying perfectly lazy. Once you grab the free app for iOS or Android, you’ll print out a provided marker that helps the app discern the scale of your surroundings, and watch as it drops a virtual television into your living space. Just like that.

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Which Xbox One should you buy? – Microsoft’s initial vision for the Xbox One was so inextricably linked to the Kinect that the company didn’t even consider it a peripheral: if you bought an Xbox One, you had to pay for the Kinect whether you wanted it or not. That’s all changed with yesterday’s announcement of a new $400 (£350 in UK) Xbox One that offers exactly the same console without the Kinect peripheral. The cheaper Xbox One is already available for pre-order and comes out June 9, which means prospective Xbox One buyers now have to choose between the $400 and $500 models.

Lifelogger: A poor man’s Google Glass – Lifelogger is a wearable that will attempt to capture everything in your daily lives and catalogue it. The device will be able to recognize text, faces, and voices. The device starts at $169 USD.

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Samsung Gear Glass release tipped to take on Google – It would seem that Samsung is ramping up their release of “Gear Glass” just in time to take on the Google Glass general sale. As it’s been revealed that Google Glass’ sale to the public is being solidified, an anonymous tip suggests that Samsung’s own “Gear” branded wearable headset is close to being revealed.

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Betaworks-Backed Giphy Launches Gif Link Shortener For Twitter And Facebook – Giphy, the betaworks-backed search engine for gifs, has released a brand new tool that makes sharing gifs on social networks even easier and more efficient. Giphy is a search platform that is based entirely around gifs, with artist profiles so that creators can get more exposure and easy sharing tools for social media.

Insanely great Raspberry Pi devices you can build yourself – This credit-card sized computer has been used for smartglasses, smartphones, servers, tablets, and, believe it or not, supercomputers! That’s only the tip of the iceberg. There’s far more you can with Raspberry Pi SBCs than use them to duplicate the functionality of other kinds of computers. Here’s my pick of  projects I’ve found especially interesting.

Security:

Antivirus: Transformed beyond recognition – With the continuing rise of cloud services, security execs have been proclaiming the death of antivirus software. But, according to F-Secure, the security is not so much dead as changed beyond all recognition.

Giving cash machines the finger: New Polish network ditches bank cards for vein-scanning – Rather than using fingerprint readers, the technology scans the vein patterns beneath the user’s skin using near-infrared. The idea is that this kind of biometric identification is much harder to fool than traditional fingerprint scanners. Even the most desperate of bandits ready to cut off their victim’s fingers won’t have any luck fooling the system, as there won’t be any blood coursing through the veins — so no withdrawal can be made.

Korea’s CrucialTec develops new ‘vein recognition’ authentication – If you thought eye and fingerprint recognition technologies were cool, Korean mobile software company CrucialTec has a surprise for you: “vein recognition”, reports ZDNet Korea’s Jeong Hyeon-jeong.

Cell phone ‘kill switch’ bill signed into law in Minnesota – The Minnesota bill was signed in to law less than a week after the California state Senate approved a similar bill. On the federal level, a similar bill, the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, was introduced in the US Congress in February, but that bill is still in committee.

Microsoft offers up another reminder that it no longer supports Windows XP – Just in case it wasn’t clear on April 8th, Microsoft has posted a reminder on its Windows blog today that it no longer supports Windows XP and won’t issue any more public patches for the OS.

Google gets tougher on suspicious Google Apps logins – Don’t lose your smartphone: To thwart unauthorized access to Gmail and other services, Google is bringing aspects of dual-factor authentication to those who haven’t signed up for it.

Patches ready for Red Hat, Ubuntu and others affected by Linux kernel flaw – Patches are in the works for several Linux distributions affected by a newly-discovered flaw in the Linux kernel that could let a local user crash or run programs as an administrator. Admins running Ubuntu, some Red Hat systems, Debian, and other distros are advised to patch a moderately serious memory corruption flaw affecting the n_tty_write function in the Linux kernel up to 3.14.3.

Company News:

ADT partners with Life360 to expand home security beyond the home -  Home security giant ADT has announced a partnership with family-tracking app Life360, along with plans for joint development of a subscription-based mobile security smart phone app, to be released in late 2014. The partnership comes by way of an initial investment of $25 million that gives ADT a minority ownership stake in Life360. ADT senior vice president and chief innovation officer Arthur Orduña called the partnership “a perfect pairing,” and emphasized the two companies’ shared vision for providing peace of mind to families, wherever they may be.

Samsung apologizes for workers’ leukemia – Samsung offered its “sincerest apology” for the sickness and deaths of some of its workers, vowing to compensate those affected and their families. “Some of Samsung’s former employees have passed away after contracting leukemia or are coping with difficult-to-treat diseases after having worked at our manufacturing facility,” the company said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “It is truly sad and heart-breaking for us,” the company said, adding that it could have been more diligent in addressing the hardship and sorrow of former employees and the families of the deceased.

Mozilla holds its nose and supports DRM video in Firefox – The open-source browser gets a proprietary Adobe software so people can watch video from sites like Netflix over the Web. Supporting it is better than losing Firefox users, Mozilla says.

Comcast Wants To Put Data Caps On All Customers Within 5 Years – If you’re a Comcast customer living in one of the many states where they’ve imposed no real limits on bandwidth usage for the last few years… enjoy it while it lasts.

Games and Entertainment:

Mario Kart 8 review: One step forward, one step back – It’s too easy to dismiss the Mario Kart series as a past-its-prime throwback that’s holding Nintendo back, a family friendly nostalgia-fest that becomes more of a pale echo of the company’s golden era with each passing year. I’d argue instead that Nintendo has done a great job keeping the franchise fresh over the years, adding enough new ideas and tweaks to the solid core with each release to make Mario Kart a must-play rite of passage for each new piece of Nintendo hardware.

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Xbox Live Gold subscriptions can be refunded after app requirement is removed – Microsoft will offer refunds for people who subscribe to Xbox Live Gold if they used its just to stream apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus on the Xbox One and Xbox 360 console.

Time-bending first-person shooter Superhot hits Kickstarter – Originally created for the 7 Day First-Person Shooter challenge, Superhot brought a really fascinating mechanic to FPS gameplay: time only moves when you do, forcing you to think very carefully about where you move and how — because if you get hit by one bullet, you’re dead. Seriously, go have a play of the prototype (Unity player required). It’s stylistically stunning, with minimalistic environments and colour, paring the game right back to you and the action. It is, however, only a few levels long — although Poland-based developer Blue Brick has been working on a full version of the game since September last year.

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Geometric Puzzler Monument Valley Arrives on Android After Winning Fans on iOS – Monument Valley came to iOS a few weeks ago, and now it’s available on Android as well. This is a puzzle game, but it’s probably totally unlike anything you’ve ever played before. In fact, it seems almost too strange to exist at times with some of the most clever game design to grace a mobile device. You have to traverse a dreamy, impossible world in Monument Valley by changing your perspective. It’s like a living MC Escher drawing in video game form.

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Sony Pictures scores movie rights to Snowden saga – Sony Pictures Entertainment on Wednesday said it has purchased the rights to the Edward Snowden story as chronicled by award-winning national security journalist Glenn Greenwald in his recently published book No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. The story, which is to be produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, best known for their work on the James Bond movies Skyfall and Quantum of Solace, has been making its rounds through Hollywood for some time. Several studios have balked at the many difficulties Snowden’s ongoing and complicated saga presents, according to The New York Times.

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Child of Light – Did you know even big-budget studios can create small, quirky, somewhat experimental games? Apparently Ubisoft finally figured out not every game on the docket needs to reach summer blockbuster status, and so here we are: Child of Light, a 2D-sidescrolling game married to a JRPG-style, turn-based battle system and written in the style of a fairytale.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Alleged drug dealer takes Facebook selfie with drugs and, um, cop car – Florida man allegedly wants to show Facebook friends how easy it is to sell drugs in Port St. Lucie. The demo goes awry.

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Watch what happens when two neutron stars collide – A new NASA video offers up a computer simulation for the birth of a black hole. In the video, we see two neutron stars circling one another before the gravitational attraction becomes too much to bear. A combination of their energies via a merger creates the black hole.

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Clever Kinect Hack Brings This Guy’s Full Body Into Virtual Reality – It’s far from perfect (even as a spectator) but developer Oliver Kreylos [via Kotaku] has managed to pipe a super-glitchy, yet totally passable rendition of himself into his lil’ VR world. How? He took three Kinects, placed them carefully around his room, and pushed the combined video feeds through an algorithm that reconstructs a model of his body.

Deemed “disparaging,” anti-Muslim website denied trademark – A federal appeals court is letting stand a decision denying a trademark to a website’s banner because it could be perceived as disparaging to Muslims. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a 2011 decision from the US Patent and Trademark Office against “Stop Islamization of America”—a decision raising constitutional concerns. It wasn’t the first time trademark regulators enforced a little-referenced section of law that allowed them to refuse issuing a trademark if it disparages the “living or dead” or institutions, beliefs, or national symbols or places them in “contempt, or disrepute.”

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Mad at the FCC? Use this code to create your own “slow lane” on the Web – The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on a controversial “fast lane” proposal Thursday, and it’s inspired a bunch of people to protest by slowing down their own websites. Last week, a Web hosting company called Neocities throttled its home page, and MaxCDN gave customers the option of doing the same—but this only slowed websites down for people connecting from an FCC IP address. Now, there’s an easy way to throttle your website for everyone who visits. Venture capitalist Brad Feld announced the project Wednesday. There’s a Stop The Slow Lane page and a small bit of code on GitHub that inserts the “slow lane” widget on a website.

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Is That ‘iCloud-Locked’ iPhone on eBay Stolen? Probably! – If you’ve browsed eBay for an iPhone in the past few months, you’ve probably noticed the preponderance of auctions selling low-priced “iCloud-locked” phone. “iCloud locked?,” I hear you cry. “But I thought iCloud just synced contacts!” No, dear reader, it’s much more powerful than that, but in this case it means that these phones are almost certainly stolen.

Something to think about:

“The discovery of truth is prevented more effectively, not by the false appearance things present and which mislead into error, not directly by weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by prejudice.”

-   Arthur Schopenhauer

Today’s Free Downloads:

Get Zoner Photo Studio for free – For the next 48 hours, you can grab a copy of Zoner Photo Studio 15 PRO for free. A popular full-featured suite, Photo Studio is a regular favorite with our editors and audience. Both professional and amateur photographers can greatly benefit from this easy-to-learn image manager and editor. With a plethora of tools, settings, and customizability, Photo Studio is a great alternative to Lightroom.

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Chasys Draw IES – Chasys Draw IES is a suite of applications including a layer-based image editor with animation, vista-style icon support and super-resolution via image stacking (Chasys Draw IES Artist), a multi-threaded image file converter (Chasys Draw IES Converter) and a fast image viewer (Chasys Draw IES Viewer).

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Encrypted or not, Skype communications prove “vital” to NSA surveillance – Last year, Ars documented how Skype encryption posed little challenge to Microsoft abuse filters that scanned instant messages for potentially abusive Web links. Within hours of newly created, never-before-visited URLs being transmitted over the service, the scanners were able to pluck them out of a cryptographically protected stream and test if they were malicious. Now comes word that the National Security Agency is also able to work around Skype crypto—so much so that analysts have deemed the Microsoft-owned service “vital” to a key surveillance regimen known as PRISM. The memo, which was leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and released Tuesday by Glenn Greenwald to coincide with the publication of his book No Place to Hide, said the FBI’s Electronic Communications Surveillance Unit had approved “over 30 selectors to be sent to Skype for collection.”

Bruce Schneier: Espionage vs. Surveillance – According to NSA documents published in Glenn Greenwald’s new book No Place to Hide, we now know that the NSA spies on embassies and missions all over the world, including those of Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, the European Union, France, Georgia, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Venezuela and Vietnam.

This will certainly strain international relations, as happened when it was revealed that the U.S. is eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone — but is anyone really surprised? Spying on foreign governments is what the NSA is supposed to do. Much more problematic, and dangerous, is that the NSA is spying on entire populations. It’s a mistake to have the same laws and organizations involved with both activities, and it’s time we separated the two.

The former is espionage: the traditional mission of the NSA. It’s an important military mission, both in peacetime and wartime, and something that’s not going to go away. It’s targeted. It’s focused. Decisions of whom to target are decisions of foreign policy. And secrecy is paramount.

The latter is very different. Terrorists are a different type of enemy; they’re individual actors instead of state governments. We know who foreign government officials are and where they’re located: in government offices in their home countries, and embassies abroad. Terrorists could be anyone, anywhere in the world. To find them, the NSA has to look for individual bad actors swimming in a sea of innocent people. This is why the NSA turned to broad surveillance of populations, both in the U.S. and internationally.

New documents reveal NSA attempts to hoard Outlook.com, Skype and SkyDrive data – Today, Glenn Greenwald, the journalist behind the NSA revelations, released an excerpt from his new book, ‘No Place to Hide.’ The book mainly focuses on Greenwald’s relationship with Edward Snowden, the man responsible for leaking the information about the NSA’s spying programs, but also contains four interesting new slides detailing the NSA’s relationship with Microsoft and it’s data collection from Skype, Outlook.com and SkyDrive (now called OneDrive).

Discovered by TechCrunch, the new documents show that Microsoft was complict with the NSA in sharing user information, amongst other things, with the intelligence agency.

Privacy International believes UK intelligence nerve-centre may have helped infect millions – Privacy International has launched a legal bid to stop GCHQ and British intelligence agents from “unlawfully” spying on Brits using malware.

Its complaint [PDF] to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal is a formal challenge to snoops’ use of malicious software and hacking to surveil people. The campaigning charity fears millions of innocent people may have had their machines attacked and personal data slurped by British g-men.

A panel of 10 judges and QCs appointed by the Queen sit on the tribunal, which probes complaints about surveillance operations carried out by GCHQ, MI5, MI6, the government, local authorities and the police.

Its hearings are often held in secret, and there’s no way to appeal its findings short of going to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. If a complaint is upheld, the taxpayer-funded tribunal can order the destruction of records, or dish out financial compensation, among other measures.

Privacy International, in its filing yesterday, said hacking targets’ computers and gadgets, and infecting them with spy-ware, was tantamount to “entering someone’s house, searching through his filing cabinets, diaries and correspondence, and then planting devices to permit constant surveillance in future”.

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