Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 5, 2014

Snowden sounds call to action for Reset the Net web protest;  Mobile spying apps fuel domestic violence U.S. senator says;  Reset the Net Privacy Pack (free);  10 digital tools to help you learn foreign languages;  Free game alert: Sniper Elite V2 free on Steam for one day;  Razer Surround: 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound Software (free);  Myspace emails cringe-worthy old photos to lure users back;  Get Folder Marker Home (Win) for free;  20 contemporary enterprise collaboration tools;  Botnets coming soon to a smart home or automated building near you;  Comodo Battery Saver (free);  World of Warplanes (free);  Microsoft Calls On US Gov. To End Bulk NSA Data Collection.

Snowden sounds call to action for Reset the Net web protest – The NSA document leaker joins Google, Mozilla, Reddit, and many others in a campaign and day of action that aims to help Internet users “take back” their privacy.

Reset the Net Privacy Pack – This June 5th, I pledge to take strong steps to protect my freedom from government mass surveillance. I expect the services I use to do the same.

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Apple, Google, Microsoft And Others Call On The Senate To Strengthen NSA Reform – At the roughly one-year anniversary of the NSA leaks, Reform Government Surveillance, a group backed by a number of notable tech companies, is publishing a letter demanding the Senate strengthen the NSA reform bill that recently passed the House. According to the letter, in the coming weeks, the upper chamber of Congress has the “opportunity to demonstrate leadership and pass a version of the USA Freedom Act that would help restore the confidence of Internet users.”

China escalates rhetoric in campaign to ban Windows 8 – China’s state-run television today took new shots at Microsoft’s Windows 8, using a two-and-a-half-minute segment on a national show to blast the OS as a data thief.

China lashes out at Google, Apple for allegedly stealing state secrets – China is once again blasting the United States for cyberspying but is aiming its latest outburst at US tech companies. On Wednesday, Chinese media criticized Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Cisco Systems for cooperating with the National Security Agency’s Prism program to monitor China, Reuters has reported. Media outlets including China’s People Daily and China Daily pointed to such companies as threats to Chinese users, thereby requiring punishment.

Comcast to start encrypting email – Following Google’s encrypted email revelations, Comcast has followed in step with the announcement that it will start encrypting its subscribers’ email, keeping them secure in a digital world lacking privacy. The encryption is said to be currently in testing, and that it’ll be rolling out soon.

At $100, this Windows 8.1 tablet is going head-to-head with Android – A new Windows 8.1 tablet has been announced at Computex and it will have a price point of $100. The device, built by Emdoor, has a quad-core Intel Z3735E ATOM processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage, and an 8in 1280×800 IPS display. We are quite pleased to see an IPS display in a tablet at this price point, and even an Intel CPU under the hood makes us suspect this device may not be a dog in the performance department. One issue with the device is that there is roughly 8 gigs of free storage out of the box and that’s because it’s running the full version of Windows 8.1. But, for $100, that’s about what you should expect, as this device meets the minimums for running Windows 8.1.

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Toshiba Encore 7 Windows 8.1 tab takes on Android low-end – Toshiba is bringing the Windows 8.1 battle to Android, with a new 7-inch tablet – the Toshiba Encore 7 – developed with Microsoft and Intel to try to show that you don’t necessarily need ARM for an affordable slate. Unveiled at the first time at Computex this week, the collaboration runs Intel’s 1.33GHz Atom quadcore, and has 16GB of onboard storage. With the Encore 8 priced at $200, whispers of a roughly $150 price point for the Encore 7 certainly look realistic. At that level, it could present a truly affordable alternative to Android without compromising on the Windows apps many are used to; Microsoft says it’ll go on sale in “the coming months.”

Free game alert: Sniper Elite V2 free on Steam for one day – EA’s been using a new “On the House” initiative to dole out free games via its Origin gaming service—ostensibly just to give back to the gaming community, but secretly to promote the sequels and premium content for those freebie titles. Really, it’s a clever way to get you to buy into the game series, but at its core: Free game! And now, Steam gamers can get in on the gratis action by snagging a copy of Sniper Elite V2—but only if you act fast. (The download is supersized – 6.0GB as seen in the screen capture below.)

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Getting to know Instagram’s new editing features – On Tuesday, Instagram announced version 6.0 of its Android and iOS apps. The update brings with it 10 new photo-editing tools, giving users more control over the look and feel of their photos. There are a couple different methods for accessing the new controls, both of which are simple to use.

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Netflix starts telling customers when ISP throttling is killing their stream – The team at Netflix seem ready to take the kid gloves off when it comes to letting their customers know why a video isn’t loading correctly, and that can only be a good thing for everyone. Well, everyone that isn’t in charge at an ISP anyway.

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Free Download Razer Surround: 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound Software – Razer Surround is an advanced 7.1 virtual surround sound engine that allows anyone especially gamers to get the best virtual 7.1 channel surround sound experience with any stereo headphones. According to the gaming peripherals company Razer, Razer Surround goes above and beyond existing multi-channel simulation packages by providing a calibration system that tunes the effect for individual listeners. The result, the company claims, is the ability to accurately pinpoint the location of any given sound as though using a true surround-sound system – but without having to upgrade from traditional stereo hardware. (recommended by Delenn13)

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$100 Sony SmartBand Makes U.S. Debut – Sony’s SmartBand SWR10 hit U.S. shelves today, available for $99.99 at brick-and-mortar Sony stores and online. The waterproof wearable, which debuted at this year’s CES, looks like any other silicon wristband activity tracker, but goes beyond the promise of physical pursuits to include social activity. By connecting to Sony’s lineup of entertainment assets, including the PlayStation console, users can track personal gaming milestones alongside exercise achievements. Pair the SmartBand with the Android Lifelog app to collect data about fitness, location, weather, photos, music, personal notes, and more on both devices.

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Mobile spying apps fuel domestic violence, U.S. senator says – The U.S. Congress must pass legislation to ban mobile spying apps in order to protect victims of domestic violence, a senator said Wednesday. Groups aiding victims of domestic violence report growing numbers of clients being stalked through mobile apps secretly installed on their phones by abusers, said Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat. Tens of thousands of U.S. residents are stalked each year through spy apps, he said.

Get Folder Marker Home (Win) for free – This handy utility, normally $24.99, lets you assign colors and icons to Windows folders for easy at-a-glance identification. Through Friday, you can get ArcticLine Software’s Folder Marker Home (Win) for free.

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10 digital tools to help you learn foreign languages – Each day, the business world becomes more of a global society. Whether online or on your phone, here are 10 tools that can help you learn a foreign language.

20 contemporary enterprise collaboration tools – Innovation in enterprise collaboration software continues unabated, to the point that there are nearly too many to keep track of. Here are 20 interesting new or established players you may not have heard of.

Myspace emails cringe-worthy old photos to lure users back – Myspace is sending users one or two photos in a seemingly desperate attempt to convince people that it still exists, to intrigue former users, to embarrass them, and/or to send them hurtling back to the site on search and destroy missions.

Security:

Botnets coming soon to a smart home or automated building near you – Security researchers say it’s only a matter of time before organized crime will master a new class of botnets on smart homes and smart buildings. Remote attacks on automated systems might target an entire region of hospitals, set off fire alarms in airports, could take aim at server room climate control to destroy servers, hold the elderly for ransom in an automated building, or covertly target a trader in a “smart” building like a stock exchange.

Gmail reveals how much of your email is secret – Just added to Google’s Transparency Report this week is Gmail, with a section called “Email encryption in transit”. This report shows, “generally speaking”, how much of your email is encrypted going in and out of Gmail. While Google appears to have some control over this, responsibility for security also lies in the hands of the email client you’re communicating with.

How the “Get Safe Online” password checker fails users—badly – An educational website that bills itself as the UK’s top source for “unbiased, factual and easy-to-understand information on online safety” isn’t living up to its promise. Not only is the password strength meter for Get Safe Online completely unreliable, it also transmits user-supplied candidates in address URLs, where they are vulnerable to hackers and shoulder surfers alike.

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Google Data Shows Encryption Trending In the Right Direction – The past year has seen a tremendous amount of change and turbulence in the security and privacy communities, much of it related to the NSA surveillance revelations. One of the things that has come out of all of the discussions and debates is a greater focus on the importance of encryption, especially encrypting email and other sensitive traffic while it’s traversing various networks.

Games and Entertainment:

Total TV viewing up 246% with help from apps – Online TV is growing rapidly in popularity, according to a new study. The findings suggest our mobile video viewing habits are up 57% over this time last year. Overall online video is up 43%, while our TV intake in general is up a staggering 246%.

Temple Run hits One Billion download milestone – Temple Run has passed one billion downloads, developers Imangi Studios have announced, with the hit mobile game collectively racking up more than 32 billion games to-date. Players of the “endless runner” title – which has most recently seen Temple Run 2 launch on iOS and Android, and Temple Run on Windows Phone – have altogether run over 50 trillion meters in-game.

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Microsoft integrating Twitter into Xbox One, releasing 35 new entertainment apps – Microsoft will soon integrate Twitter into the Xbox One’s TV programming guide, allowing users to interact with tweets during TV broadcasts. Additionally, 35 new Xbox One apps have been announced.

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PSA: Uncharted 3 currently free for all North American PS3 owners – If you own a PS3 but somehow still haven’t gotten around to checking out 2011’s Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception yet, today is the day. The game is currently available as a free 40GB download on PlayStation Network for all North American PS3 owners. Uncharted 3 was offered gratis to PlayStation Plus members about a year ago, but today’s offer seems to be available to anyone in North America with a free PlayStation Network account. The download only includes the single-player portion of the game, but the multiplayer mode has been free-to-play since February 2013, so that’s not really a big issue.

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Microsoft: Software update unlocks more GPU bandwidth on Xbox One – The June system update rolling out to Xbox Ones worldwide this week includes surface-level features like external hard drive support, as we mentioned this morning. But Microsoft says the new firmware will also help developers extract more power from the system’s Graphical Processing Unit (GPU), even though the base hardware in the system is obviously staying the same.

Shooter Ultimate brings kid-safe free play to PS4 – This week the folks at Pixel Junk have teamed up with Sony to bring the game Shooter Ultimate to the PlayStation 4 for free. This game is digital-only and free to all subscribers of PlayStation Plus. Inside you’ll find yourself piloting a tiny spaceship that’s tasked with picking up tiny humans.

Rovio’s Angry Birds Stella Arriving in September – The game will take players to the treetops of Golden Island, where Stella and her friends reside. The gang — each with their own powers — must battle Gale and her army of pig servants for control of the island. “Angry Birds Stella is going to challenge even the most experienced bird flingers!” Rovio said. The company’s CMO Blanca Juti added that Angry Birds Stella will be fun for everyone, but also “celebrates female heroism.”

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Experience gunpoint robbery firsthand with a head-mounted GoPro – It’s difficult to mosey around the internet on any given day without running into a multitude of first-person videos shot from a GoPro camera. Normally, these videos are of people jumping off things, or getting extremely close to either adorable or dangerous (or both) wildlife. Sometimes, though, the videos are more similar in content to Russian dash cams, capturing unintentional, occasionally harrowing events. YouTube user Lucky Jakkals captured one of these such events when he was robbed at gunpoint.

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The iPhone-Controlled Visiobike Will Take You For A Ride – Zoom zoom! A Croatian company wants to put your butt onto a new kind of bike, a sort of electric/mechanical hybrid that uses battery assist to help you up the hills and includes an automatic transmission system that ensures you rarely have to use the battery. Called the Visiobike, the $5,303 bike is made of carbon fiber and has a dock for your phone. Special software gives you a speedometer, transmission control and other treats as you scoot around town. It also has a camera in the seat for rear-facing views of traffic behind you in real time and for recording if someone rear-ends you.

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Google Maps kicks off the World Cup with Street View flair – The Web giant takes viewers inside all 12 of Brazil’s World Cup stadiums, while also ramping up transit data in the tournament’s host cities.

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Secret Service Wants Sarcasm-Detecting Web Tool – Wanted: Easy-to-use sarcasm-detecting software to help the U.S. government recognize mockery. In a work order posted online Monday, the agency said it is looking for a social media analytics tool that must, among a host of other requirements, have the ability to “detect sarcasm and false positives.” Other essential qualities include sentiment analysis, audience segmentation, and influencer identification, as well as the ability to analyze data over a given period of time and create custom reports without involving IT specialists.

Something to think about:

“One failed attempt at a shoe bomb and we all take off our shoes at the airport. Thirty-one school shootings since Columbine and no change in our regulation of guns.”

-    John Oliver

Today’s Free Downloads:

Comodo Battery Saver – Comodo Battery Saver makes your phone/tablet battery last a whole lot longer and slashes how often you need to put it on charge.

Through it’s intelligent optimization feature, energy saving tweaks are automatically applied as your battery moves towards exhaustion. The application lets you quickly switch between power saving modes and to disable power-hungry applications with a single tap.

Comodo Battery Saver also generates alerts when, for example, the battery needs to be unplugged from charge and gives you a detailed breakdown of exactly which applications are using the most power.

Features:

Intelligent Save – Automatically switches from normal mode to economy modes when the battery power reaches low levels

Power Profiles – Easily create custom profiles that suit the precise needs of your device usage patterns

Advanced Battery Notifications – Reminds you when your battery has reached full charge and should be disconnected from the power supply

Quick Actions – Enable or disable features with a single touch to quickly extend the life of your battery

Utilization Stats- At-a-glance statistics tell you which apps and features are drawing the most power

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World of Warplanes – World of Warplanes is a multiplayer online game dedicated to the “golden age” of the world’s combat aircraft. This project continues the “war saga” that began with the award-winning online sensation World of Tanks and gives players the freedom to lift off, leaving battlefields laden with smoke and destruction, getting a first-hand opportunity to engage in an endless number of battles for air superiority.

The main game mode in World of Warplanes organizes battles between two teams of 15 players who meet in air battle over a variety of locations. Victory can be achieved by destroying all the opposing planes or earning advantage points by eliminating the enemy’s ground targets. At the same time, both approaches to victory — teamwork and a player’s individual contribution — are important, because any pilot has the power to turn the tables in World of Warplanes.

The period represented in the game is one of the most captivating and challenging in the history of aircraft engineering. One may start a piloting career with biplanes of the 1930s, move on to legendary WWII warplanes, and end up with jet fighters of the Korean War, predecessors of modern aircrafts.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Microsoft Calls On US Gov. To End Bulk NSA Data Collection – Marking the one year anniversary of the NSA leaks saga, Microsoft today called for broad change in how the United States Government and its intelligence agencies operate, and what they collect.

Microsoft is not alone among technology companies in calling for reform. Its blog post today, however, is interesting given its breadth and specificity.

The company wants the government to end bulk collection of phone records in the United States, and states the USA FREEDOM Act should be “strengthened to prohibit” the “bulk collection of Internet data.” Also, the FISA Court needs to be reformed, in its view, to increase transparency and also to “introduce the adversarial process that is the hallmark of a fair judicial system.”

Microsoft goes on to demand that the United States Government stop abusing warrants to force data out of companies when that data is stored overseas. The company is challenging that on legal grounds, planning an appeal of its case after an expected first loss.

Court fight heats up over 52 pages of still-secret surveillance info – The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s long quest to make key rulings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) public is nearing its end.

EFF lawyer Mark Rumold faced off with Department of Justice attorney Steven Bressler yesterday in the same courtroom they had sparred in 14 months ago. They were overseen by the same judge, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers.

Things weren’t the same, though. The lawsuit has changed dramatically, due in part to the Snowden leaks about government surveillance, which began to appear in newspapers last June.

And the scope of the case has narrowed. That’s partly because the EFF has focused its demands on what it believes are the most important documents: several still-secret FISC opinions, as well as one memo from the White House’s Office of Legal Counsel, comprising some 52 pages. It’s also narrowed because the Department of Justice has released some of the documents that were asked for. One batch was revealed in November and another was released in March, both posted to the Tumblr blog “IC on the Record,” part of the Obama Administration’s response to the Snowden leaks.

The most striking revelation from those documents was that some FISC judges sharply criticized the National Security Agency’s record of compliance with rules the court had set out for handling its giant database of phone calls and other data.

An essay concerning a post-Snowden utopia: Stop the surveillance state – It’s been almost a year since the June 5, 2013 revelation that the US government was collecting, in bulk, the telephone metadata of every telephone call to and from the United States. The National Security Agency leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden would eventually expose surveillance programs, including Prism, XKeyscore, Tempora, and Muscular.

Yet despite the global outrage, the US electronic surveillance state continues unabated a year after Snowden became a household name. All the while, just one piece of reform legislation cleared the US House, and that legislation allows the telephone snooping to continue, with a few added caveats, despite a federal judge ruling that the nation’s founders would be “aghast” at the program.

“The greatest fear that I have is that nothing will change,” Snowden said in a recent interview. He remains holed up in Russia and faces espionage charges if he returns to the United States.

Thursday marks an exact year from Snowden’s first revelation appearing in the Guardian. That leak, and subsequent ones, have underscored that the United States is undertaking the biggest surveillance campaign the world has ever seen from a democratic society.

Changing the NSA policies is unlikely as long as the Obama administration and its successors continue playing the terror card, and the public acquiesces and turns a blind eye. After all, the realpolitik rules. Perhaps one day the government’s policy will allow the free flow of electronic communication without Big Brother listening.

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3 Comments

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

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

  1. delenn13

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Secret Service Wants Sarcasm-Detecting Web Tool : I wish them luck. I have been begging for such a tool/font..whatever…. since 1994.

    • Hey Delenn13,

      I agree. It’s often very difficult to assess a comment for “sarcasm” – or, sheer stupidity. More often than not, it’s a tossup. :)

      Have a super weekend.

      Best,

      Bill