Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 26, 2014

MIT creates a system to “PRISM-proof” websites;  5 quick tips to get more from Google Now;  Secure your Google account with a little 2-step shuffle;  Add useful features to the Windows 8 Start Screen;  Admit It, You Don’t Care About Digital Privacy;  The ultimate guide to proper SSD management;  The 5 Best In-Ear Headphones;  Self-publishing e-books: How to get started;  The Most Helpful Travel Sites for Booking Hotels and Flights;  Just previewing email can give attackers control of your PC, Microsoft warns;  Wikipedia founder calls alt-medicine practitioners “lunatic charlatans”;  Obama’s New NSA Proposal and Democratic Partisan Hackery;  Bruce Schneier sneers at IBM’s NSA denials.

MIT creates a system to “PRISM-proof” websites – Created by MIT researchers and the Meteor Development Group, Mylar is a redesign of the architecture of Web applications that aims to protect confidential data against attacks. Data is encrypted in your Web browser before it goes to a server, and it is only decrypted on a computer on the other end. As MIT researcher and co-developer of the platform Raluca Popa explained, “There’s really no trusting a server.” Popa elaborated on how the system works, telling MIT Technology Review: “You don’t notice any difference… If the government asks the company for your data, the server doesn’t have the ability to give unencrypted data.”

Admit It, You Don’t Care About Digital Privacy – Americans have a rich history of expressing outrage over privacy violations, before trading it all away for greater convenience. Take a trip down memory lane. When former NSA analyst Edward Snowden revealed the U.S. government’s near-limitless ability to hoard and monitor private communications, it created shockwaves of indignation and forever changed the way we all conduct our digital business. Well, maybe not that second part. Even with the full knowledge that intelligence agencies can—with little effort—get all up in our various digital nooks and crannies, most of us haven’t altered our online habits in the slightest. No matter how loudly we proclaim the complete opposite

Secure your Google account with a little 2-step shuffle – Security has become a key factor for mobile computing. Jack Wallen shows how you can secure your Google account with the help of an Android app called Google Authenticator.

5 quick tips to get more from Google Now – Let’s face it, there’s only so much nagging a person can take: Don’t miss that meeting! Bring an umbrella today! Take out the trash! Like we need to be reminded to take out the trash? Useful? Maybe, but Google Now doesn’t have to be just a slew of tiresome reminders. With these five simple tips, you can make Google’s smart cards do more.

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Add useful features to the Windows 8 Start Screen – The Windows 8.1 Start Screen is populated with tiles to apps and a link to sign out, lock Windows, or switch users. You can customize the appearance of the Start Screen, but there’s not much you can do to add features or functionality. Start Screen Unlimited is a Windows 8 program that adds a few useful features to the Windows 8 Start Screen, like date and time, a link to the Windows control panel, and more power options. It also adds a Google search bar directly to the Start Screen.

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Photowall for Chromecast aims to liven up your next party – Photowall creates a collage of photos on the big screen; anyone can add their own images via their phones and tablets. Users must visit g.co/photowall from their browser and enter the access code shown on the TV set. They can then pick a photo or take a new one, doodling or writing a caption on the photo before uploading.

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Google Drive gets creative with image editing in Slides – Ever put together a slideshow presentation with Google Slides only to realize the photos needed a bit more tinkering with? Well, this process has just become a bit easier. Google announced Tuesday that users can now edit images right in Slides and Drawings. The Web giant is featuring a host of editing tools, including crop, shape masks, and borders. Before today, users would have to edit images in another program.

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The ultimate guide to proper SSD management – A solid-state drive will speed up everything that requires disk access, from boot times and application launches to in-game load screens. Upgrading to a SSD provides a more noticeable speed boost than a $1000 Nvidia Titan graphics card when doing most things. But SSDs aren’t the perfect replacement for a mechanical hard drive just yet, thanks to their far higher per-gigabyte costs compared to traditional drives and a few unique quirks. Read on for tips and tricks on how to put that rip-roaring SSD speed to best use.

How to disable Windows 8′s deep cloud integration, piece by piece – You could just use a local account to keeping Microsoft as far away from your PC as possible, but a lot of Microsoft’s services are actually pretty useful. What if you wanted to enable some and disable others? Here’s how to individually sever Bing and OneDrive’s deep tendrils into your system, along with info on how to keep general Windows apps from looking over your virtual shoulder.

The 5 Best In-Ear Headphones – Here are the five best in-ear headphones you can buy right now, based on data from our friends at FindTheBest. Each ranking is based on FindTheBest’s Smart Rating, which aggregates scores from gadget review sites along with specifications and audio ratings (impedance, sensitivity, high and low frequencies, etc.) for each set of headphones.

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Facebook’s Privacy Checkups Remind Users To Stop Posting Publicly – Facebook has begun running a “privacy checkup” campaign that prompts users on the desktop version of the website to check that they’re sharing their posts with the right audience – for example, “Friends,” or some specific list, instead of just everyone. Users tend to report seeing this new pop-up appear when their privacy settings are currently set to “Public.”

Self-publishing e-books: How to get started – Self-published e-books are all the rage. Authors are finding it much easier and much quicker to get their stories in front of a wide audience when they do it themselves, versus waiting to find an agent or traditional publisher willing to take them on. There’s also an advantage in having control over where your book is sold, what it looks like and other issues that a traditional publisher usually has the final say on.

NVIDIA launches $3,000 GeForce GTX Titan Z graphics card – We have seen graphics cards priced at hundreds of dollars or even $1,000 in the past, but today NVIDIA took that to a new level. The graphics chip company, which introduced its GTX 800M chips for laptops a couple of weeks ago, officially announced the GeForce GTX Titan Z, which will set the high end PC gamer, or anyone who wants a supercomputing rig, back $3,000. making it more expensive than even most personal computers.

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HTC Adds Sense 6.0 Apps from the HTC One M8 to Google Play – HTC just announced its new flagship smartphone, the HTC One M8. That’s not all that’s going on in HTC’s little corner of the Android ecosystem. The Taiwanese OEM has also started dropping apps into the Play Store that will plug into the new device and other HTC phones. Believe it or not, this is a big deal for HTC owners.

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As WinXP death looms, Microsoft releases its operating system SOURCE CODE for free – Retro-computing fans got a treat on Tuesday when Microsoft donated the source code of MS DOS 1.1 and 2 to the Computer History Museum (CHM), along with the first version of Word for Windows. The code isn’t being open sourced – that would be a step too far for Redmond – but is available under a research license. The code can be downloaded here for MS DOS and here for Word for Windows but not distributed further under the terms of the license. The museum’s servers were struggling at time of writing.

The Most Helpful Travel Sites for Booking Hotels and Flights – If you’re planning a family vacation or romantic getaway, you’re probably aware of the huge number of ways to search for the right flights and hotels. And while all of these search services work hard to show you the lowest prices, a lot of them miss the mark when it comes to helping you find the best trip. A new crop of travel sites is focusing less on cost and more on happiness to help you find the lowest price without impacting your enjoyment of your trip. We’ll walk you through the most helpful sites for booking your perfect vacation.

Security:

Just previewing email can give attackers control of your PC, Microsoft warns – Attackers are actively exploiting a newly discovered Microsoft Word vulnerability that could be used to gain remote access of your PC, Microsoft warned Monday—and even worse, the exploit can be triggered by opening or merely previewing a malicious email using Outlook’s default settings. The attack is delivered using booby-trapped Rich Text (RTF) files. Accessing or previewing a poisoned file with Word grants the attacker the same rights as the current user. Making matters worse, Word is the default document viewer in Outlook 2007, 2010, and 2013.

Symantec: Hackers already attacking ATMs as Microsoft’s Windows XP deadline looms – Just 14 days remain until Microsoft cuts off support for Windows XP and as we have reported before, the 12 year old operating system is used in 95 percent of all ATMs. Now a new report by software security company Symantec claims that hackers are already finding ways to attack these cash machines via a combination of malware and hardware.

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Wal-Mart is latest big company with mobile-app security problems – The evidence keeps mounting that companies that put out mobile apps are not paying nearly enough attention to security. Even big companies with large and experienced IT staffs are guilty. In fact, the latest evidence suggests that the iOS mobile app of the largest company in the U.S., by revenue, Wal-Mart, exposes users’ passwords, account names and email addresses, as well as many geolocation details.

Company News:

Facebook To Buy Oculus VR, Maker Of The Rift Headset, For Around $2B In Cash And Stock – Facebook has announced plans to purchase Oculus VR, the company behind the Rift headset, for around $2 billion in cash and stock. This includes $400 million, and 23.1 million Facebook shares. An additional $300 million earnout will be paid in cash and stock if Oculus hits certain unspecified milestones.

Candy Crush Maker King Prices Shares At $22.50, Puts Valuation At $7B – In the most anticipated gaming IPO of the last few years, Candy Crush Saga maker King priced its shares at $22.50 in an offering that will raise $326 million for the company and value it at slightly more than $7 billion. Shares will trade for the first time tomorrow. That valuation will put King at nearly four times its trailing annual revenue of $1.88 billion. The vast majority of that revenue came from the mega-hit Candy Crush Saga, which pulled in 78 percent of the company’s bookings.

eBay tells shareholders to ignore Icahn’s appeals – eBay is asking stockholders to stand by the company in its battle with activist investor Carl Icahn. Icahn and eBay have been duking it out in a war of words the past couple of months over the direction of the company. Icahn had been urging eBay to spin off PayPal as a separate entity as a way to increase shareholder value, a move that eBay has continually nixed. The activist investor has also been demanding that eBay add some of his own choices to the board of directors.

Google Announces Massive Price Drops For Its Cloud Computing Services And Storage, Introduces Sustained-Use Discounts – At its Cloud Platform event in San Francisco today, Google announced a number of massive price drops for virtually all of its cloud-computing services. The company has also decided to reduce the complexity of its pricing charts by eliminating some charges and consolidating others. Google Compute Engine is seeing a 32 percent reduction in prices across all regions, sizes and classes. App Engine prices are down 30 percent, and the company is also simplifying its price structure.

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Amazon sends money to Kindle readers affected by e-book price-fixing scandal – So why is Amazon giving you money? Well, because publishers raised prices, Amazon passed on that increase to you. If you bought a Kindle book published by Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, or Penguin between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012, you’ll probably see a credit show up in your e-mail. The credit is automatically applied to future Kindle purchases, and expires after March 31, 2015.

Actress in anti-Islam film seeks sanctions against Google – Actress who won a court decision ordering the removal of controversial film seeks contempt of court ruling against the Web giant for allegedly failing to comply with the order.

Games and Entertainment:

Minecraft Creator Cancels The Oculus Rift Version Because Facebook “Creeps” Him Out – Minecraft creator Markus Persson (aka Notch) has cancelled the Oculus VR version of the game, because, as he puts it: “Facebook creeps me out.” His studio, Mojang, had been in talks to bring a version of Minecraft officially to the VR gaming headset, but he said on Twitter shortly after the Facebook acquisition of Oculus VR was announced that he “cancelled that deal.”

NVIDIA Shield gets temporary price cut to $199, native version of Portal coming soon – NVIDIA launched its Shield portable Android gaming console in mid-2013 with much fanfare but since then, the company has been fairly quiet about the product. Today, it announced quite a few updates that will be coming to Shield owners in the next few weeks and months, and also cut the price of the console down $50 to just $199 from now until the end of April.

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Blizzard releases Diablo 3 expansion, Reaper of Souls – Today, Blizzard has released its first expansion to the Diablo 3 series, Reaper of Souls. The original Diablo 3, which was released nearly two years ago, set a record at the time for selling the most units in a 24-hour period. The franchise returns this year with a new entry into the series introducing some new features and a new class, the Crusader. The game also increases the player’s level cap to 70 and introduces players to a new Adventure Mode. Adventure Mode will have all way points unlocked and will have a greater emphasis on randomized environments. The new expansion will also include improvements to gameplay to allow for greater re-playability.

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BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea, Episode Two Now Available – Heads up, gamers. The final episode of BioShock Infinite has arrived. As promised, 2K and Irrational Games on Tuesday dropped Burial at Sea – Episode Two, the third and final BioShock Infinite add-on content pack. The new DLC is available for download worldwide (with the exception of Japan) on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows PCs. Those in Japan will get access later this year.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Facebook’s Oculus Buy Signals A Hardware Land Grab, And Company Fit Isn’t A Concern – There’s a gold rush on, and the people striking it rich are the ones building things — not apps, not software, but honest-to-goodness hardware, like the Oculus Rift, whose creator, Oculus VR, was just purchased by Facebook for around $2 billion in cash and stock. Earlier today, Intel closed its purchase of wearable health tech maker BASIS, and Google recently bought Nest for $3.2 billion. Google is also said to be nosing around wearable device makers for another purchase, and everywhere you look, Internet companies are spending money on things, not just platforms or virtual experiences. So what’s the story here?

Wikipedia founder calls alt-medicine practitioners “lunatic charlatans” – Several months ago, the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP), an alternative medicine non-profit, began a petition on Change.org asking Wikipedia to “create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing.” The petition reached 7,000 signatures in mid-January and then largely stalled. But this weekend, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales responded to the request, saying that no amount of signatures would get him on board with ACEP’s request.

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Gay Firefox developers boycott Mozilla to protest CEO hire (Updated) – Much of the public reaction to his promotion skipped past that “can a coder run a company” question, focusing squarely on another financial issue. In 2008, Eich donated $1,000 in support of California’s Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that sought to ban gay marriage in the state. So shortly after the announcement of Eich’s hiring, the reaction came swiftly. In particular, developers came forward with a mix of boycotts and reluctant acceptance.

Marc Andreessen on Warren Buffett: Old white guy who doesn’t get tech – At a Bitcoin confab, the VC and Web world veteran lumps the Bitcoin-dissing business magnate in with “old white men crapping on new technology they don’t understand.”

To replace drone strikes, US to give Yemen Hellfire-armed crop dusters – Looking to get out of the business of secret drone strikes against Al Qaeda members and others in Yemen, the US is preparing to give the Yemeni Air Force its own, somewhat lower-tech equivalent of the Predator and Reaper for carrying out “targeted killing” operations. According to documents obtained by Buzzfeed’s Aram Roston, the US will provide a squadron of 10 aircraft originally designed as crop dusters, which are now equipped for a wholly different sort of reaping.

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15 Crazy GoPro Stunt Videos You Must Watch – In previous eras, there were few options available to an aspiring insane person who wanted to share their rampant disregard for life and limb. However, thanks to the exhibitionist-enhancing power of technology, we can all take part in borderline-psychopathic endeavors. While mediums like YouTube have provided avenues for anyone to share their insane stunts, perhaps the most vital ingredient for this new generation of Evel Knievels are small, light cameras such as GoPro, which are dainty enough to capture all the action. All. The. Action.

Something to think about:

“I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.”

-     Woodrow Wilson

Today’s Free Downloads:

WindowsPatchLoader – WindowsPatchLoader will provide users with a very witty tool to rapidly gather all the updates for your Windows operating system and create custom packs that fit exactly your very own preferences. With WindowsPatchLoader, you will be handed a powerful application to perform numerous operations on Windows updates such as integrate them within the Windows installation disc.

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VirtualBox – VirtualBox is a general-purpose full virtualizer for x86 hardware. Targeted at server, desktop and embedded use, it is now the only professional-quality virtualization solution that is also Open Source Software. VirtualBox has an extremely modular design with well-defined internal programming interfaces and a client/server design. This makes it easy to control it from several interfaces at once: for example, you can start a virtual machine in a typical virtual machine GUI and then control that machine from the command line, or possibly remotely. VirtualBox also comes with a full Software Development Kit: even though it is Open Source Software, you don’t have to hack the source to write a new interface for VirtualBox.

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WinToUSB – WinToUSB is a free software that allows you to install and run Windows operating system on a USB hard drive or USB flash drive, using an ISO image or CD/DVD drive as the source of installation. If you have a Windows installation source (a DVD disc, an image file) and a valid Windows product key, you can use WinToUSB to install Windows on your USB drive.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Obama’s New NSA Proposal and Democratic Partisan Hackery – I vividly recall the first time I realized just how mindlessly and uncritically supportive of President Obama many Democrats were willing to be. In April 2009, two federal courts, in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, ruled that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) required the Pentagon to disclose dozens of graphic photos it possessed showing abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Obama administration announced that, rather than contest or appeal those rulings, they would comply with the court orders and release all the photos. The ACLU praised that decision: “the fact that the Obama administration opted not to seek further review is a sign that it is committed to more transparency.” This decision instantly turned into a major political controversy. Bush-era neocons, led by Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney, excoriated Obama, arguing that release of the photos would endanger American troops and depict the US in a negative light; Cheney expressly accused Obama of “siding with the terrorists” by acquiescing to the ruling. By contrast, Democrats defended Obama on the ground that the disclosures were necessary for transparency and the rule of law, and they attacked the neocons for wanting to corruptly hide evidence of America’s war crimes. I don’t think there was a single Democratic official, pundit, writer, or blogger who criticized Obama for that decision. But then – just two weeks later – Obama completely reversed himself, announcing that he would do everything possible to block the court order and prevent it from taking effect.

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Hold on, everyone … Prez Obama thinks he’s cracked this NSA super-snooping problem – After nine months of revelations about the extent of US government surveillance, the Obama administration is floating a plan that will curtail mass snooping by its intelligence agencies and reform the way individuals are investigated. “I said several months ago that I was assigning our intelligence community to bring me new options with respect to the telephone database program,” President Obama told a news conference in The Netherlands on Tuesday. “They have presented me now with an option I think is workable. It allows us to do what is necessary to deal with the dangers of a terrorist attack but does so in a way that addresses some of the concerns that people have raised.” Senior administration officials told The New York Times that the American government wants to end mass metadata collection of mobile phone records by the NSA, and let the phone companies store that data instead. Phone records will be held for 18 months, they suggested, rather than the NSA’s claimed hold period of five years. In addition, when the intelligence agencies want to investigate a specific number, each individual monitoring request will have to be approved by a judge, rather than the yearly blanket approval given currently.

World Wide Web founder supports Brazil’s “Internet Constitution” – The founder of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee has called for Brazil’s first set of internet governance rules to be passed “without further delay or amendment.” The Marco Civil da Internet, dubbed Brazil’s “Internet Constitution”, is due to be voted this week and the creator of the Web, who had previously voiced opinions about aspects of the Bill, released a statement of support. “If Marco Civil is passed, without further delay or amendment, this would be the best possible birthday gift for Brazilian and global Web users,” says Berners-Lee. “I hope that by passing this Bill, Brazil will cement its proud reputation as a world leader on democracy and social progress and will help to usher in a new era – one where citizens’ rights in every country around the world are protected by digital bills of rights,” he adds. The scientist pointed out that Marco Civil has been built by internet users in a “groundbreaking, inclusive and participatory process” and has resulted in regulations that “balances the rights and responsibilities of the individuals, governments and corporations who use the Internet.”

Bruce Schneier sneers at IBM’s NSA denials – Ten days ago IBM issued ”A Letter to Our Clients About Government Access to Data” that, as we reported, swore on all that is good and holy that it did not hand over data to the NSA and would never do such a thing. But the letter did not satisfy security commentator Bruce Schneier who’s penned an open letter of his own to Big Blue. Schneier first takes issue with IBM’s statement that it did not give the NSA anything under the PRISM program, because “PRISM” was an internal name used by the NSA alone. Schneier thinks that leaves wriggle room for IBM to have handed over data under another program. In a similar vein he notes IBM’s denial that it handed over bulk user data, but opines that IBM doesn’t hold the same kind of data as the likes of Google. That caveat again sees him ask if IBM complied with another program.

Petitions call on U.S. government to leave Snowden alone – U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration should reverse its decision to suspend the passport of U.S. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and end its efforts to prosecute him as policymakers push to change the programs he exposed, a group of activists said. It’s not rational for the U.S. Department of Justice to continue to push for Snowden’s prosecution on treason-related charges when Obama is poised to end the NSA’s bulk collection of U.S. telephone records, said Coleen Rowley, a former special agent, division counsel and whistleblower at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “It is extremely incongruent to be fixing what’s you’re forced to fix … and to say that the person who made this possible is somehow to blame,” she said during a press conference on Tuesday. “It doesn’t make sense at all.”

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 25, 2014

China seeks answers from US over alleged Huawei spying;  Windows 7 anti-malware products compared;  Every Android device vulnerable to privilege escalation;  Smart ways to secure your home;  Five portable apps for troubleshooting problems;  Hands-On: Zorin OS 8 Linux;  Linux MintBox 2 sells out in European debut;  Google Glass inks Ray-Ban and Oakley frame deal;  Malicious apps can hose Android phones, erase data, researchers warn;  Official ‘Star Trek’ beer;  Judge to porn trolls: IP addresses aren’t people.

China seeks answers from US over alleged Huawei spying – The NSA reportedly hacked the Chinese telecommunications giant’s servers to spy on company executives and government officials. Now, the Chinese government wants to know why.

Every Android device vulnerable to privilege escalation – Six new bugs uncovered in Google’s mobile platform shows how every Android-powered smartphone and tablet – more than a billion devices – are vulnerable to malware.

Windows 7 anti-malware products compared – Independent test lab AV-Test Institute compared 34 anti-malware/Internet security products for home and business users on Windows 7 64-bit. Trend Micro came out on top for business; Bitdefender, Kaspersky and Qihoo for consumer.

Be ready for anything: Five portable apps for troubleshooting problems – The world of computer administration requires you to be on your toes and prepared for just about anything. Along with that, you need to have tools that can get you out of nearly any jam — and that includes a set of portable diagnostic tools to help you when you don’t have the time or the ability to install (or track down) software to solve the problem at hand. Here are five portable tools everyone should consider as first options for solving the problems that plague your systems.

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Smart ways to secure your home – Clever implementation of smart devices and a smart lock can allow you to monitor and secure your home remotely. The cast of The Fix shows you how to use these devices to better secure your home.

4 Apps That Will Save You Time – Modern life comes with many hassles that eat up your precious time. There’s sorting through the daily influx of junk mail, waiting on hold for customer service and trying to find a parking spot when you’re late for an appointment, to name a few. Fortunately, there are apps to help you deal with all these inconveniences. We list the best ones that help you stop wasting your precious time.

Kingsoft Office bests Olive Office in Android office suite faceoff – In this Tech Republic Two Minute Drill, I’m pitting Kingsoft Office against Olive Office Premium in an Android office suite smackdown. What are the qualities I’m looking for? Simple — feature set and ease of use. We’re talking about working with documents and spreadsheets on a mobile platform, so everything needs to be as efficient as possible and work well with standard formats…all while on the go.

Tumblr boosts security with two-factor authentication – In an effort to deter hackers, the blogging platform introduces added security that requires users to log-in with both a password and cell phone code. The blogging platform announced on Monday that it has launched the added security measure via users’ Settings page. Now, Tumblr bloggers have the option of making it more difficult for outside actors to access their dashboards.

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Hands-On: Zorin OS 8 Linux – This is the distribution that is touted as the “easiest” transition from Windows to Linux, so how does it stack up? (Having tested this OS last year, I can say that it stacks up pretty well.)

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Linux MintBox 2 sells out in European debut – The CompuLab MintBox 2, a fanless mini-PC running Linux Mint is available to buy directly in Europe, but the first batch has already sold out.

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Pushbullet Instantly Blasts Alerts From Your Android Phone To Your Computer – Bzzzt. Your phone vibrates. The problem? It’s across the room. Maybe it’s a text. Maybe someone just liked your Facebook photo. Maybe some dumb game wants to remind you to buy fake food for your fake cat. You better go check, or curiosity is going to drive you up the wall. With Pushbullet, that notification — whatever it may have been — would have gone straight to your monitor.

Samsung’s online Smart Simulator showcases mobile devices, TVs, Blu-ray players, and even refrigerators – Device simulators can be helpful when you’re not able to check out the devices in person. They can show you what the device interfaces look like and how the features work. Simulators are also good training tools, especially for inexperienced users.

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Google Now notifications added to Chrome desktop browser – Google has added its Google Now notifications to users of its Chrome desktop web browser for both Windows and Mac, allowing them to see quick pop-up info for weather, traffic and more.

Droplet sprinkler uses cloud data for efficient lawn watering – Droplet takes the innovation of connected homes and applies it outside the home — to the lawn, specifically. The sprinkler can be connected to the Internet and controlled via a smartphone or tablet, gathering local weather information and using that to determine when to water the lawn.

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What USB Power Delivery means for you – A revolution is about to come to the most unlikely of places: those hundreds, maybe thousands, of USB ports scattered throughout your company. This revolution will be all about power distribution and management, the stuff that only interests IT infrastructure staff. But there are wider implications that should make the entire IT organization take notice. What was a data interface capable of delivering power will become a power provider with a data interface. Current USB ports provide only 10 watts; devices conforming to the new standard will transmit up to 100 watts. Larger, more complex devices will be able to run with only USB power. Here’s how USB PD will affect IT:

Security:

Malicious apps can hose Android phones, erase data, researchers warn – Apps that exploit the denial-of-service vulnerability work on Android versions 2.3, 4.2.2, 4.3, and possibly many other releases of the operating system, researcher Ibrahim Balic wrote in a blog post published last week. Attackers could exploit the underlying memory corruption bug by hiding attack code in an otherwise useful or legitimate app that is programmed to be triggered only after it is installed on a vulnerable handset. By filling the Android “appname” field with an extremely long value exceeding 387,000 characters, the app can cause the device to go into an endless series of crashes.

Microsoft issues security advisory and ‘Fix-it’ patch for Word exploit – Microsoft normally waits until the second Tuesday of each month, otherwise known as “Patch Tuesday”, to release security updates for its software products. Today, Microsoft has issued a out-of-schedule security advisory for an exploit that affects all current and older supported versions of its Word program.

ATM malware, controlled by a text message, spews cash – A group of enterprising cybercriminals have figured out how to get cash from a certain type of ATM—by text message. The latest development was spotted by security vendor Symantec, which has periodically written about a type of malicious software it calls “Ploutus” that first appeared in Mexico. The malware is engineered to plunder a certain type of standalone ATM, which Symantec has not identified. The company obtained one of the ATMs to carry out a test of how Ploutus works, but it doesn’t show a brand name.

Microsoft reminds us Office 2003 support ends with Windows XP April 8th – Microsoft has a new blog post and infographic that gives us a reminder that Office 2003 will lose its official support on April 8th, the same day that it ends support for Windows XP.

Basecamp falls to blackmail-fueled denial of service attack – Users of the popular web-based project management app Basecamp may have a hard time loggoing on the service Monday morning. The company behind the app, also named Basecamp (formerly 37Signals), says it is under a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack from extortionists hoping to make a quick buck. The DDoS attack means the company’s marquee product as well as its other services such as Backpack, Campfire, and Highrise may also be unavailable.

Company News:

Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook Refused No-Poaching Agreement With Google – The vast collusion between technology companies to prevent poaching and hiring among themselves, thereby limiting fair-market wages for the workers in question, has a new wrinkle today: Facebook refused to play ball, and we have a statement to that effect. In short, while other companies were being bullied by Apple and others to stop picking up talent from each other, Facebook wasn’t willing to participate.

Google Glass inks Ray-Ban and Oakley frame deal – Google has inked a deal with Ray-Ban and Oakley parent company Luxottica to develop a Google Glass collection, potentially pushing the wearable computing platform directly into the gaze of the mass market. The collaboration will see a joint team of Google and Luxottica eyewear and wearable tech experts collaborate on “the design, development, tooling and engineering of Glass products” to make sporting a computer on your face more fashion-friendly.

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Box IPO papers reveal it’s losing money in a big way – Box, the eight-year-old company that has taken on industry giants to become a leader in cloud storage and file sharing, will seek to raise $250 million by selling shares publicly for the first time. The Los Altos, California, company announced on Monday that it had filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed IPO (initial public offering) of its common stock.

AT&T promises to lower your Internet bill if FCC kills net neutrality – Are you an AT&T home Internet customer? If so, AT&T has just made a promise you’ll want to take note of. If the Federal Communications Commission lets Internet service providers charge Web companies like Netflix for faster delivery of content to consumers, AT&T will lower its customers’ Internet bills. That’s what AT&T said Friday in a filing in the FCC’s “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet” proceeding.

Games and Entertainment:

Castle Doombad Hits Android with Tons of Hero-stopping Traps – When kidnapping a princess to harvest her screams as a power source, you need to have the most secure evil lair possible. Castle Doombad from Adult Swim is a game all about making your lair impenetrable to even the most determined heroes. This game is essentially tower defense at the most basic level, but there’s a lot more going on than you’d find in a typical game of the genre. After debuting on iOS, this game is now available on Android.

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Redbox reportedly to offer next-generation gaming titles starting March 25 – A new report claims Redbox will begin offering next generation console titles on its kiosk and online rental service starting March 25 for Wii U and April 1st for the PS4 and XBox One.

AMD Mantle Performance Test in Thief & Battlefield 4 – AMD’s Mantle API claims to improve performance in games by allowing them to use your CPU and GPU more efficiently. Today we put those claims to the test with Eidos’ Thief and Dice’s Battlefield 4.

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The Elder Scrolls Online has 3 launch dates starting Sunday, March 30 – The launch of The Elder Scrolls Online seems to have crept up on us, but when you actually get to start playing Bethesda’s first foray into MMOs depends on how exactly you purchased the game. There’s actually 3 release dates for the online title, and 15 launch times if you count different time zones around the world. So it’s worth making it clear when exactly you will be able to play.

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Virtual Reality gaming going multiplayer: Oculus and PS4 on deck – So you want to enter a virtual landscape where you can play any and all games in a holodeck-like situation, but you want to bring your buddies, too? The next generation of virtual reality gaming has your back. As we experienced at GDC 2014 and as is being re-confirmed again this week, the next wave isn’t all going to be about you escaping from the rest of the world – you aren’t going in alone!

Off Topic (Sort of):

TV on Twitter: Tweets get you to tune in and click through, study shows – If you’ve seen a TV-related tweet, say, about a show you might be interested in watching, 92 percent of you acted in response to that tweet—by searching for the show, following one of the actors on Twitter, or retweeting some interesting fact about the show. A third of users surveyed actually changed the channel to watch the show.

Judge to porn trolls: IP addresses aren’t people – Adult film company Malibu Media has sometimes been called a “porn troll,” or “copyright troll,” because it has sued hundreds of people for allegedly illegal downloads of pornographic movies that it owns. Malibu is believed to have filed over 1,000 such lawsuits. Last week, a federal judge in Florida threw one of those Malibu lawsuits out of court with some remarkable legal reasoning. Just two months after Malibu filed its case, US District Judge Ursula Ungaro tossed the lawsuit Malibu filed against the user at IP address 174.61.81.171. Ungaro said that there’s no proof Malibu is even in the right venue, since “[t]here is nothing that links the IP address location to the identity of the person actually downloading and viewing Plaintiff’s videos and establishing whether that person lives in this district.”

Security black market as mature as any other free market: Juniper – A new report from Juniper has found that the black market for security exploits is as sophisticated, reliable, and resilient as any other free market within the economy.

Zombie-inspired beer is brewed with actual brains – Zombies generally don’t crave a nice, cold beer… but if they did, it would be this one: Dock Street Brewing Company’s Walker. It’s got one heck of a kick, and it’s brewed with real brains. It’s got cranberries in it, too. I’m going to assume you’re not fixating on the cranberries, though. Let’s talk about the brains.

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Official ‘Star Trek’ beer lets you drink like a Klingon – Sharpen the bat’leth, a Klingon-inspired beer is coming to our little corner of the galaxy. Warnog gets the official “Star Trek” blessing and comes from Tin Man Brewing Company in Indiana in partnership with the Federation of Beer, a company that already released a product called Vulcan Ale. Vulcan Ale has only been available in Canada, meaning Klingon Warnog will be the first official “Trek” beer available in the US. It should fuel many a “Star Trek” drinking game where you have to take a sip every time Captain Kirk violates the Prime Directive, Spock says “Fascinating,” and Sulu takes the con.

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Facebook use during sex? Many seem to ‘like’ it – A full 5 percent of folks have checked Facebook during lovemaking, a new survey finds. I’m not sure if I should be disturbed or impressed by such an apparent mastery of multitasking.

Something to think about:

“Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

-    Friedrich Nietzsche

Today’s Free Downloads:

Complete Internet Repair – With any repair utility, you will need to remember only two golden rules. Firstly; don’t try and repair something that is not broken, you might break it. Secondly; the utility can’t repair it all, we are not like the all-seeing and all-knowing Oracle, we cannot anticipate each and every situation, but this all said, this utility should be able to help with most situations. Rizone Complete Internet Repair is basically a combination of Internet Recovery KIT and Winsock Repair.

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HostsMan – Freeware application that lets you manage your Hosts file with ease. Features include online update of hosts file, enable/disable usage of hosts file, open Hosts file with one click, merge two hosts files, built-in hosts editor and more.

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Throughput Test – TamoSoft Throughput Test is a utility for testing the performance of a wireless or wired network. This utility continuously sends TCP and UDP data streams across your network and computes important metrics, such as upstream and downstream throughput values, packet loss, and round-trip time, and displays the results in both numeric and chart formats. TamoSoft Throughput Test supports both IPv4 and IPv6 connections and allows the user to evaluate network performance depending on the Quality of Service (QoS) settings.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

White House to propose law to end NSA bulk collection of phone data – Back in January, after receiving the recommendations of the panel he formed to examine the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, President Barack Obama said he wanted to end the NSA’s mass collection of Americans’ phone call records—without crippling its ability to conduct surveillance. The President gave the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence until March 28 to come up with a plan to make it happen. That date wasn’t just pulled out of the air—it’s also the date that the current Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order authorizing the collection program expires. Now, less than a week before the deadline, that plan is in the President’s hands. According to a report from the New York Times, the White House is getting ready to take the wraps off of a legislative package that will both eliminate NSA’s in-house phone call data store and create a new surveillance court to handle phone data requests. The new court would review requests for phone data directly from the phone companies, allowing records requests that go out two “hops” from a phone number of interest.

When gov’t spies fake your company’s website, what can be done? – A recent article by The Intercept showed how US and UK intelligence agencies have been impersonating the servers of companies like Facebook. In November, Der Spiegel noted that agencies created “bogus versions” of sites like Slashdot and LinkedIn to plant malware in targets’ machines. “We are not happy that our intellectual property is being used in that way,” LinkedIn’s general counsel told Wired when asked about the techniques. If whole-cloth copies of websites were used by competitors or scammers, they’d be—at a minimum—buried in lawsuits. But what, if anything, can companies do against government agencies about such impersonations? Turns out, there are avenues available to those who may be bold enough to use them.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 24, 2014

Swiss Army smartphone: 9 tools your phone can replace;  Electronic Frontier Foundation slams Microsoft for searching a blogger’s Hotmail;  Best laptops for kids: Portable power on the cheap;  Michelle Obama speaks out against censorship … in China;  The 12 pros and cons of a cellular smartwatch;  Six Clicks: Top ebook apps for iPad ;  This Android app will change the way you use your phone;  California DMV compromised, credit cards breached;  Microsoft slips WinXP holdouts $100 to buy new Windows 8 PCs.

Electronic Frontier Foundation slams Microsoft for searching a blogger’s Hotmail – The controversy over Microsoft searching through a person’s Hotmail account in September as part of a company investigation has now gotten the attention of the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation. As you might expect, the EFF thinks that Microsoft’s actions violate the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

10 Things I Know to Be True About This Microsoft Hotmail Privacy Case – It’s ugly. It’s complicated. And it’s a great opportunity for any webmail provider who isn’t Microsoft

Allegations of email pilfering fly at major Internet companies – Bloggers everywhere are checking it, along with the terms of service agreements of the companies providing it. News that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MS) riffled through an inbox to catch an alleged intellectual property thief has prompted a flurry of bloggy finger-pointing and I-told-you-so’s…

Michelle Obama speaks out against censorship … in China – Michelle Obama veered away from the usual niceties of matrimonial diplomacy on Saturday by arguing in a speech at Peking University that internet freedom should be a universal right. FLOTUS is in China with her mother and daughters on a week-long tour designed to build closer ties between the world’s two superpowers and their respective leaders. But she risked embarrassing her hosts with the speech to students at the university’s Stanford Centre, when she decided to opine on the topic of free speech. (Pot meet Kettle!)

Swiss Army smartphone: 9 tools your phone can replace – Just like “when all you’ve got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” (or “when your problem is a nail, every tool you’ve got looks like a hammer”), when you’ve got a smartphone, there’s a good chance there’s an smartphone app, case or accessory for whatever you want to do. Not just the easy or obvious things, like turning your smartphone into a GPS, mirror or mini-periscope, or providing damage protection. I’m talking about a wide, even seriously wacky range of tasks. Here are 9 ways to turn your smartphone into the hammer for your nail.

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Best laptops for kids: Portable power on the cheap – Laptops are tools for getting work done and managing the complicated lives we live, but sometimes kids need a portable computer too. You don’t have to hand over your pricey top-of-the-line laptop for the little ones to use and get all sticky. There are plenty of great laptop choices out there for kids of all ages to use as their very own. Let’s take a look at the best laptops to buy for kids right now.

A thin lifeline for XP users: New Malwarebytes suite will support the older OS – As Malwarebytes announces its new Anti-Malware Premium suite Monday morning, it comes with a nice present for Windows XP users: lifetime support.  Perhaps it isn’t entirely surprising given that, according to the company, 20 percent of its user base remains on Windows XP. Microsoft is actually extending malware support well beyond the XPocalypse date of April 8th, but knowing other companies have your back is a rare bright spot.

The 12 pros and cons of a cellular smartwatch – Given that Samsung is expected to create a similar standalone smartwatch device and the recent introduction of developer software from Google and Samsung, as well as smartwatches and smartwatch upgrades that connect to smartphones via Bluetooth from prominent vendors like Motorola and LG, it’s worth pondering the many pros and cons of a cellular smartwatch.

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This Android app will change the way you use your phone – The app, launched yesterday by developer Chris Lacy (the guy behind Action Launcher), really has the potential to change the way you use your phone or tablet. In short, it acts as a companion to your regular mobile browser by intelligently handling all the links you open from within other apps.

55 Apps That Can Make You More Productive – The 55 programs, mobile apps, plugins, and services in this list are among my favorites for helping anyone be more productive, from office workers to students. It’s by no means a comprehensive list, but I hope it lets you explore your options among the truly necessary productivity tools, as well as introduce you to some hidden gems that you might have missed while you were busy getting things done.

13 Amazing Apps That Will Ruin Your life – There are some “productivity” apps that will suck you in and never let you go. Day after day, you’ll return to them, enjoy them, and then wonder “Where the hell did the time go?” They’re the empty calories of the app world. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth downloading; just beware that these apps (like these 13 Websites to Avoid) don’t suck … but they will suck time.

How to avoid data overages on your Android phone – Well, that’s a shock! Your cell bill, one of those monthly statements that’s more-or-less predictable, seems unusually high. It’s no puzzle; a data overage is to blame. You can admonish the teenagers for listening to too much Pandora at Make Out Point, but it’s more productive to explore various ways and methods of curtailing your mobile data consumption. To meet that end, I present a few handy tips and suggestions.

Solo Launcher: An Android tinkerer’s dream come true – In his quest to find the perfect Android home launcher, Jack Wallen discovered an app that has the look and feel of KitKat but more options than many users will ever use.

Six Clicks: Top ebook apps for iPad – Apple’s iPad has arguably become the ultimate ebook reading platform, with several prominent reader apps that are now supported on the device. Here’s the lowdown so you can make the best choices in which ebook app software to use on your iPad.

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Security:

Android bugs leave every smartphone and tablet vulnerable to privilege escalation – Six new bugs uncovered in Google’s mobile platform shows how every Android-powered device – more than a billion devices in all – are vulnerable to malware thanks to privilege escalation issues.

In the big data breach era, the safety of your personal data is ultimately out of your hands – Identity theft is changing. Customer databases are a treasure trove of personal information and much more efficient for hackers to target than individuals. In this new landscape, the guidelines security experts—and journalists like me—espouse are really just damage-control measures that minimize the impact of a successful attack after the fact, but do absolutely nothing to protect your personal data or financial information from the attack itself.

Gmail’s new encryption doesn’t make your emails NSA-proof – Starting yesterday, Google turned on full-time HTTPS encryption for all Gmail accounts. No matter where you’re checking your Gmail inbox from, your connection back to Google’s servers is fully encrypted the whole time you’re reading or sending emails. The added security matters most for messages that you send from one Gmail user to another. Like most secure setups, the train comes off the tracks when you start communicating with someone on a different service. From what we’ve seen over the past year, if the NSA wants to see what’s going on inside your inbox, they’re going to.

California DMV compromised, credit cards breached – The California Department of Motor Vehicles has been the victim of a wide-ranging security breach which may have affected thousands of citizens, according to sources. Earlier this week, MasterCard issued an alert noting that credit cards used online in transactions with California’s DMV may have resulted in the theft of data and personal information – including credit card numbers, expiration dates, and three-digit security codes.

US saves self from Huawei spying by spying on Huawei spying – Maybe this is why the US government is so certain Huawei is bad news: Snowdenistas at The New York Times and Der Spiegel have reported another communiqué from their source-in-exile – this time to the effect that the United States National Security Agency penetrated Chinese networking equipment vendor Huawei and monitored its communications. The NSA’s attacks on Huawei are reported to have also yielded a tap on communications among senior executives.

Turkey Blocks Google DNS, YouTube Could Be Next – Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government called the ban a “preventive measure” after the service had been used by citizens to spread allegations of corruption within the government. “Twitter has been used as a means to carry out systematic character assassinations by circulating illegally acquired recordings, fake and fabricated records of wiretapping,” the government said in a statement. After Twitter users found themselves unable to access Twitter beginning Thursday, many turned to Google’s DNS service as a way to circumvent the ban. That proved only a temporary solution, however, as the government has removed access to that service as well.

Company News:

Microsoft And Nokia Now Expect Their Massive $7.2B Deal To Close In April – Nokia has informed the world this evening that it now expects its behemoth deal with Microsoft to close in April of this year, as opposed to the first calendar quarter of the annum, a timeframe that was reiterated earlier this year. The deal, worth $7.2 billion, has wound through most of the regulatory bodies of the world that an agreement of its scale must. Microsoft published a blog post on the current situation, claiming to be “nearing the final stages of our global regulatory approval process.” Close, no cigar, and so forth.

Leap Motion lays off 10 percent of workforce, motion gesture add-on misses sales targets – First announced in May 2012, the Leap motion gesture PC add-on from startup company Leap Motion got a lot of attention from the tech press before its release in July 2013, thanks to its potential for using hand and finger movements to control many desktop and Windows 8 actions. This week, it was revealed Leap Motion is making some economic cuts in face of lower-than-expected sales of the devices.

This changes everything: Microsoft slips WinXP holdouts $100 to buy new Windows 8 PCs – The money-off offer applies to PCs costing $699 or more that are bought from Redmond’s online shop. The deal – which throws in 90 days of tech support and a download of software to migrate files all for free – will run through 15 June, nine weeks after official support for Windows XP is set to expire on April 8.

Apple seeking streaming TV advantage with Comcast – Amidst growing concern over the Internet’s scalability in the face of rising online media consumption, Apple is rumored to be seeking a partnership with Comcast. If things go according to Apple’s plans, it will gain a huge advantage over other TV streaming rivals by having its content travel over a separate line along the “last mile”.

Games and Entertainment:

Ubisoft releases footage of Assassin’s Creed Unity – With the untimely release of leaked screenshots by Kotaku earlier this week, Ubisoft has now released an official trailer for its next installment of the Assassin’s Creed saga titled, Assassin’s Creed Unity. Indicated in the leaked screen shots it was suspected that the title would take place in France. The Ubisoft footage confirms this with two scenes of the city, which then pans to the main character overlooking a courtyard where a beheading is taking place.

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Microsoft says it has ‘renewed focus’ on PC gaming, details coming this summer – Microsoft Studios head Phil Spencer told an audience at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today that the company will be putting more effort into PC gaming, though he stopped short of offering any specific details. Polygon reports that Spencer made those remarks as part of an answer to an audience question concerning Valve’s Steam Machine-SteamOS plans. He praised Valve’s commitment to the PC gaming space, even admitting that Valve has focused more on that business than Microsoft.

Walmart selling ‘Titanfall’ Xbox One bundle for $450 – Microsoft recently began selling a bundled version of its Xbox One console with the first-person shooter “Titanfall” for the device’s standard $500 price, but now Walmart is taking the deal a step further and knocking off another $50.

DirectX 12 vs. Mantle: Comparing PC gaming’s software-supercharged future – What’s the difference between DirectX 12 and AMD’s Mantle? Why should you even care? Here’s the answers you need to know.

Off Topic (Sort of):

10 Google Glass Notions That Aren’t True (According to Google) – In a post on Google+, Google’s decided to debunk some of the taller tales floating around about its Google Glass headgear. You’ve probably heard at least one of these in the past year or so, whether you saw the story about the driver ticketed for wearing a pair while driving in California, or the stories about apps that let you snap pictures of people, unsuspecting, by winking.

What’s really behind Microsoft’s investigation into software leaks? – Microsoft is under fire for allegedly violating the privacy of a “French blogger” in the investigation of a 2012 leak of some of its most valuable trade secrets. Here’s the side of the story critics are missing.

Once upon a time, an Apple lover – A former Apple salesman and longtime Mac user forsakes the Apple platform for Windows. The post causes Mac fans to go nuts.

11 of the weirdest, funniest pages on Wikipedia – It’s late at night, you’re not tired, but you don’t have enough energy to do anything — even catching up on Netflix requires too much of your brain to focus. So, you end up mindlessly clicking through links you don’t care about on platforms like Reddit or 4chan. A few minutes later, that leads to an interesting page on Wikipedia, which you miraculously read in full, and in turn leads to another amusing article.

Genetic mugshot could make DNA an eye-witness – New facial reconstruction technology could help police predict a perp’s facial features from nothing more than a sample of DNA from the crime scene.

Google propels Linux to the top – Find out why Jack Wallen believes that Google has single-handedly helped Linux become one of the most popular platforms on the planet.

Every Teen’s Nightmare: Teachers Who Can Turn Off Your Phone Remotely – What do educators in the world’s most wired country do when students just can’t put down their phones in class? They develop an app that has the power to remotely control all devices when on campus.

Jimmy Carter uses snail mail to evade NSA – Former US president Jimmy Carter has said that he believes his email is monitored, and in order to avoid such surveillance, posts letters to foreign leaders instead.

Something to think about:

“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

-    Martin Luther King Jr.

Today’s Free Downloads:

Sim Aquarium III - Experience the most realistic coral reef you’ll find without having to purchase an actual aquarium. Sim Aquarium lets you choose among twelve intricately detailed 3D underwater scenes. You can populate your aquarium with up to 100 fish from the selection of 30 highly detailed species of fish with complex swimming behaviors and artificial intelligence. Using your mouse pointer, you can play with your fish pets and touch them by their tails or noses. They will stop to inspect or dart away into safety. You can also feed the fish, but unlike the real fish, they wont turn upside down and float up if you don’t feed them regularly.

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VirusTotal Scanner – VirusTotal.com is a free online scan service that analyzes suspicious files using 40+ Anti-virus applications. It facilitates the quick detection of viruses, worms, trojans, all kinds of malware and provides reliable results preventing any False Positive cases. ‘VirusTotal Scanner’ is the desktop tool which helps you to quickly scan your file using VirusTotal without actually uploading the file. It performs direct Hash based scan on VirusTotal thus reducing the time taken to upload the file. It comes with attractive & user friendly interface making the VirusTotal scanning process simpler and quicker. You can simply right click on your file and start the scan. It is fully portable tool but also comes with Installer for local installation & un-installation. It works on wide range of platforms starting from Windows XP to Windows7.

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WinPatrol – WinPatrol takes snapshot of your critical system resources and alerts you to any changes that may occur without your knowledge. WinPatrol was the pioneer in using a heuristic behavioral approach to detecting attacks and violations of your computing environment. Now, using our “Cloud” technology you can benefit from the experience of other WinPatrol users. WinPatrol continues to be the most powerful system monitor for its small memory footprint. WinPatrol’s easy tabbed interface allows you to explore deep inside your computer without having to be a computer expert. A one-time investment in WinPatrol PLUS provides a unique experience you won’t find in any other software.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Some Facts About How NSA Stories Are Reported – Several members of the august “US Journalists Against Transparency” club are outraged by revelations in yesterday’s New York Times (jointly published by der Spiegel) that the NSA has been hacking the products of the Chinese tech company Huawei as well as Huawei itself at exactly the same time (and in exactly the same way) as the US Government has been claiming the Chinese government hacks. Echoing the script of national security state officials, these journalists argue that these revelations are unjustified, even treasonous, because this is the type of spying the NSA should be doing, and disclosure serves no public interest while harming American national security, etc. etc. True to form, however, these beacons of courage refuse to malign the parties that actually made the choice to publish these revelations – namely, the reporters and editors of the New York Times – and instead use it to advance their relentless attack on Edward Snowden. To these journalists, there are few worse sins than “stealing” the secrets of the US government and leaking them to the press (just as was true in the WikiLeaks case, one must congratulate the US Government on its outstanding propaganda feat of getting its journalists to lead the war on those who bring transparency to the nation’s most powerful factions). But beyond the abject spectacle of anti-transparency journalists, these claims are often based on factually false assumptions about how these stories are reported, making it worthwhile once again to underscore some of the key facts governing this process…………….

Is Revealing Secrets Akin to Drunk Driving? Intelligence Official Says So – The intelligence community’s top lawyer on Friday defended the Obama administration’s hostility toward revelations of national security secrets — and likened the act of publishing them to drunk driving. Robert Litt, general counsel to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, used the drunk-driving analogy to excuse his inability to cite any specific harm to individuals by news stories based on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. “We ban drunk driving in this country,” Litt asserted, arguing on a panel with four top news editors that not every crime has an identifiable victim. Litt made the same argument earlier this week, at an event in Washington for Sunshine Week:  ”Not every drunk driver causes a fatal accident, but we ban drunk driving because it increases the risk of accidents.  In the same way, we classify information because of the risk of harm, even if no harm actually can be shown in the end from any particular disclosure.” But Litt’s analogy did not go over well with the other members of the panel on Friday. New Yorker editor David Remnick fired back, incredulously: “Is journalism drunk driving??”

Latest Snowden Revelations: NSA Hacks Huawei – The National Security Administration hacked Chinese networking giant Huawei and apparently gained access to the company’s source code, according to documents seen by The New York Times and the German publication Spiegel Online. These latest leaked documents indicate that the NSA began an operation called “Shotgiant” against Huawei, the world’s second largest supplier of networking equipment behind U.S.-based Cisco Systems. The U.S. has long been concerned that Huawei’s products were being used as a Trojan Horse enabling the Chinese government to spy on the networking company’s customers. Now, it appears that the U.S. government simply cut out the middleman in its own efforts to monitor the goings on around Huawei. Not only did the U.S. security agency manage to intercept emails, but it also gained access to the company’s source code of specific products, according to the Spiegel report. That’s the crown jewels of any tech company — laid bare by America’s technology espionage apparatus. Luckily for concerned netizens and corporations a spokeswoman for the U.S. assured the Times that any spying was only done for national security purposes.

Was FISC judge misled by gov’t lawyers in evidence-destruction spat? – In recent weeks, there have been a flurry of motions exchanged in two courts over what kinds of “telephony metadata” records the government should be keeping, or deleting. It’s a pretty confusing mishmash related to lawsuits that a few advocacy groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have been involved in regarding government secrecy extending back to 2006. On Feb. 25, Department of Justice lawyers told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that they needed special permission to hang on to their records for longer than the five years that they normally do in order to comply with evidence-retention rules for lawsuits brought by the activist groups. The FISC judge, Reggie Walton, denied their request, noting that there was no preservation order for that metadata. In other words, delete as you usually delete. But in fact, there were such orders in place—at least in the view of activist groups like EFF and ACLU, which filed lawsuits in San Francisco federal court. Those groups jumped to attention to stop any deletion and to alert Walton about existing orders in the lawsuits. Today, Walton has a new order suggesting he’s pretty upset that DOJ lawyers didn’t tell him about the existing orders. It’s an unusual expression of displeasure with the government by a FISC judge. Walton says his order to keep up the normal record-destruction regime “was based on the belief that no preservation requests or orders applicable to the data in question existed.”

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 21, 2014

7 best Chromecast apps for Android and iOS;  Gadgets to let you do more with your tablet/smartphone;  Recover files from a dead PC;  Google Voice: The SMS guide;  Voice-Activated Video, Pics Added to Google Search Android App; Gmail Traffic Between Google Servers Now Encrypted To Thwart NSA Snooping;  Free: Windows Firewall Control;  Why I’m quitting Microsoft Office forever;  Snoopy drone pilfers smartphone data; Sprint lays off 330 techs, shutters 55 stores;  Orange Gives All Of Its Data To France’s NSA;  Avast Warns of ‘Data Breach Crisis’ as XP Support Ends;  Inside the NSA’s Secret Efforts to Hunt and Hack System Administrators.

7 best Chromecast apps for Android and iOS – The Chromecast took a while to fully realize its potential, but Google finally set third-party developers loose on the streaming dongle earlier this year. There were only a handful of apps to begin with, but now there are hundreds, and more are being added all the time. Everyone knows about Netflix, Play Music, and the other big names, but there’s much more to the Chromecast if you go hunting. Who’s got time for that, though?

Voice-Activated Video, Pics Added to Google Search Android App – Part of the convenience of Google Glass is the ability to do things like snap a photo or record a video by saying “OK Glass” and speaking your command. Now that functionality is available on the Google Search for Android app as well. With the latest update, you can now either tap the microphone or say “OK Google” followed by “take a photo” or “take a video” and Google will launch your camera app in the preferred mode.

Recover files from a dead PC – Freeflowing89 has “a ton of music and documents on an HP laptop” that’s not “even close to starting up.” Fixing or replacing the computer is one thing, but in the meantime, Freeflowing needs to get those files back.

Facebook Reveals ‘Hack’ Programming Language – A team of Facebook software engineers has developed a new programming language, dubbed Hack, that’s intended to allow for fast changes and minimal glitches. Hack has already been deployed at Facebook, with the social network migrating “nearly our entire PHP codebase to Hack” over the last year, engineer Julien Verlaguet said in a blog post. But now it’s your turn to try it out, as Facebook today launched an open-source version of Hack.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Gadgets to let you do more with your tablet/smartphone – Mobile devices are great, but let’s face it, they’re a compromise. But with just a few well-thought-out accessories, you can boost productivity and get the most out of your mobile gear.

Resurface Your First Tweet With New Tool – To celebrate its eighth birthday, Twitter today released a new tool to help you easily surface your very first tweet — or anyone else’s, for that matter. Just head over to the site and type in your @username to see the first missive you ever posted, back when you were still trying to figure out what the heck this thing called Twitter was actually good for.

RoomScan instantly creates a floor plan with very little help – If you’ve ever been in a situation where you needed to draw up a floor plan or recreate a room’s dimensions, then you’ll appreciate what RoomScan can do for you. This deceptively simple iOS app can do all that for you and all you need to do is tap on the walls.

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SmartMio Offers Athletes Wearable Muscle Stimulation Controlled By Your Smartphone – Athletic wearable devices are not anything new, but a new product launching today on Indiegogo has a different take from the myriad activity trackers out there: The SmartMio connected sports muscle stimulator is designed to bring so-called electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) to enthusiast and professional athletes in a small, convenient and smartphone powered package.

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Microsoft ups OneDrive biz storage quotas following Google Drive increase – Specifically, Microsoft raised the quota storage limit for OneDrive for Business from the previous maximum of 100GB to a maximum of 1TB. (The default quota is 25GB per user.) Now, an administrator can set an upper quota of 50GB, 100GB, 250GB, 500GB, or 1TB.

Firefox’s massive overhaul moves to beta – Mozilla’s biggest browser remake since 2011, with a new interface and easier customization, begins to push away from the gate as Firefox 29 moves to beta.

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Why I’m quitting Microsoft Office forever – It’s not just about the money. Well, okay, it’s mostly about the money, but there are other reasons I’m bidding goodbye to Microsoft’s not-so-sweet suite.

Google Voice: The SMS guide – Summary: Here’s how you get the most out of sending and receiving text messages with Google Voice.

Security:

Gmail Traffic Between Google Servers Now Encrypted To Thwart NSA Snooping – Today Google announced that it has enhanced encryption for its Gmail email service, bolstering security to protect customers from prying eyes, especially those of governments. As of today, Gmail will “always use an encrypted HTTPS connection” whenever a user checks their mail, or sends a new missive. According to Google, the expanded protection will ensure that your mail is safe from being snooped on as it travels from your machine to Google’s data centers. This means you are protected regardless of what sort of network you are logged into, either a public connection or whatever else.

Microsoft frisked blogger’s Hotmail inbox, IM chat to hunt Windows 8 leaker, court told – Would-be whistleblowers, or anyone sensitive about their privacy, take note: the terms of service for Hotmail and other Windows Live things includes the line: “You consent and agree that Microsoft may access, disclose, or preserve information associated with your use of the services … [to] protect the rights or property of Microsoft or our customers.”

Microsoft alters Hotmail snoop policy amid fury at blogger inbox probe – Microsoft has quickly moved to address concerns caused by news it rummaged through a blogger’s Hotmail inbox as part of an investigation into an employee’s conduct. As we’ve reported, even though this is a tremendous PR cock-up, Microsoft was well within its rights to dive into a blogging hack’s private Hotmail account to root out an alleged Windows 8 leaker – all thanks to the terms and conditions attached to its Outlook.com and Hotmail services.

Tor Project claims ‘fake’ Tor Browser sat in iOS App Store for months – Following months of protests, Apple has apparently removed from its App Store software that claimed to be a Tor-friendly web browser yet was allegedly loaded with adware and spyware. Members of the Tor Project said that a rogue application on the iOS App Store was billing itself as a Tor Browser and serving up ads to users without a license or permission from the group. Numerous attempts to remove the “fake” app were ignored by Apple before the application was made unavailable on Thursday afternoon, US West Coast time, amid growing pressure on Cupertino.

Snoopy drone pilfers smartphone data – At the Black Hat Asia conference in Singapore next week, the folks behind a drone called Snoopy will showcase how they can intercept data from smartphones using their flying craft. The drone works by spoofing wireless networks and connecting to smartphones with the WiFi enabled, allowing them to remotely capture login credentials, personal data, and more.

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Avast Warns of ‘Data Breach Crisis’ as XP Support Ends – Ondrej Vlcek, Avast’s chief operations officer, took to his company’s blog a few days ago to discuss all of the trends that Avast is seeing — or pondering — as a result of Windows XP losing Microsoft’s support in a few weeks. While he’s not outright calling for Microsoft to reverse its decision, he does, as you might expect, go into a bit of detail about how Avast is working to patch that which Microsoft no longer plans to address.

Bitcoin’s software gets security fixes, new features – Bitcoin-QT, rebranded as Bitcoin Core, has more than six fixes for the so-called transaction malleability problem.

Researchers find cross-platform RAT for Windows, Android – A remote access tool used to commandeer a Windows PC has been found to also include an Android component, an indication that hackers are seeking cross-platform RATs for PCs and mobile devices.

Company News:

Netflix Blasts ISPs, Calls For “Strong” Net Neutrality And Explains Why It Pays Comcast – When Netflix agreed to pay Comcast as part of a peering agreement in the wake of the legal demise of net neutrality, the landscape of the Internet changed. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings today published an extensive blog post explaining his and his company’s views on net neutrality and why it now pays an ISP that it feels should be better regulated. The reason? Because it has to.

HP Planning To Enter The 3D Printer Space In June – HP CEO Meg Whitman casually noted that the company would have a “big technology announcement” in June related to the 3D printing space, a move that could place 3D printers into the hands of casual home and industrial users. Whitman also mentioned that the company has solved a number of 3D printing problems and expects that “the bigger market is going to be in the enterprise space.”

Intel returns to its roots with slew of overclocker-friendly desktop CPUs – For the last few years, Intel has focused primarily on its mobile CPUs—its chips for laptops, Ultrabooks, tablets, and phones have generated more attention than their high-end desktop lineup. But yesterday Intel threw a bone to the desktop-building, CPU-overclocking desktop set in the form of a few new high-end chips that will go on sale later this year.

In surprise move, Symantec fires CEO Bennett – For the second time in less than two years, Symantec Corp. has a new chief executive officer. In a that surprised observers, the Mountain View, Calif-based security and storage vendor Thursday fired president and CEO Steve Bennett and named board member Michael Brown as his interim replacement.

Sprint lays off 330 techs, shutters 55 stores – Not every store will be able to service a phone, but the company says the cuts were designed with customer in mind.

Games and Entertainment:

‘The Last of Us’ Earns Top Honors at GDC Awards – Video gaming has come a long way since Pong and Pac-Man, perhaps none as far as the visceral post-apocalyptic action title The Last of Us, which took home the title of Game of the Year at Wednesday’s Game Developers Choice Awards. Held during the annual Game Developers Conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the game also won the Best Design and Best Narrative categories.

Infamous: Second Son review: Pure, power-ful enjoyment – “Enjoy your power.” That’s the tagline for Infamous: Second Son. Before the game is even in the system, it’s clear that this is a game focused on pure fun—not frame rates, resolution concerns, or marketing buzzwords like “immersion.” It’s about simply enjoying yourself, a point repeated over and over through the powers you wield, the characters you meet, and the central protagonist of Delsin Rowe.

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Microsoft reveals DirectX 12 for PC, Xbox One and mobile – As promised, Microsoft has officially introduced DirectX 12, the next major version of its graphic API that will be supported by the PC, mobile and Xbox One platforms. As rumored, DirectX 12 will allow for developers to get lower level access to hardware and will spread the workload on the CPU and GPU so that their threads are better balanced and as a result increase performance.

Star Wars: The Old Republic Galactic Strongholds expansion lands this summer – The video game Star Wars: The Old Republic has had a difficult road. The game started out as a MMORPG that needed a monthly subscription. That changed quickly after launch when the number of players started to decline drastically. One of the good things about the game is that it is now free to play and many expansions for it are in the works.

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Watch: Valve’s ‘Free to Play’ Gaming Documentary – If you’re a fan of competitive gaming, video gaming in general, or you’re just really curious about what it takes to be at the top of a click-clicky-clicking, lane-based free-for-all, you owe it to yourself for check out Valve’s recently released documentary, Free to Play. The movie, which clocks in at around one hour and fifteen minutes, premiered in San Francisco last night. But you can check out the entire thing on YouTube right now (embedded below) or access it on Steam and iTunes.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Samsung attacks Microsoft Surface in new ad by calling it a laptop – Samsung’s new TV ad promoting its Galaxy Pro lineup slams almost every other tablet on the market, including Microsoft’s Surface, although that attack is pretty inaccurate.

Category:Missing aircraft – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – This category is about aircraft which have disappeared in flight and whose precise fate remains unknown.

New research could put a brain-like neural network in your smartphone – Still, artificial neural networks, and the “deep learning” they can allow, have traditionally been inaccessible to the very individuals whose brains were the model for these networks in the first place. Deep learning has always been far too hardware- and even software-intensive to bring into the home. Now, researchers at Purdue University claim that a combination of several innovations could bring deep learning to the common smartphone.

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Here’s how much Microsoft charges the FBI to legally see people’s data – When Microsoft complies with legal FBI requests to see people’s data, it doesn’t provide it for free — and the numbers can really add up. According to the hacker’s group the Syrian Electronic Army, here’s how much Microsoft charges.

Tech firms oppose fast-tracking of Trans-Pacific Partnership – A group of 29 technology companies has urged the U.S. Congress to reject a proposal to give President Barack Obama’s administration broad authority to negotiate a controversial trade agreement with countries in the Pacific region. The Obama administration shouldn’t have so-called fast-track negotiating authority in the Trans-Pacific Partnership because of expansive copyright enforcement proposals in the draft trade agreement, the tech firms said in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Without trust, innovation stalls – Trust. It’s gone missing. Privacy is getting all the attention and headlines. But trust is the foundation that privacy, and so much of the virtual world, stands on.

Something to think about:

“Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain.”

-     John F. Kennedy

Today’s Free Downloads:

Windows Firewall Control – Windows Firewall Control is a nifty little application which extends the functionality of the Windows Firewall and provides quick access to the most frequent options of Windows Firewall. It runs in the system tray and allows user to control the native firewall easily without having to waste time by navigating to the specific part of the firewall. This is the best tool to manage the native firewall from Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

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Recuva – Recuva (pronounced “recover”) is a freeware Windows utility to restore files that have been accidentally deleted from your computer. This includes files emptied from the Recycle bin as well as images and other files that have been deleted by user error from digital camera memory cards or MP3 players. It will even bring back files that have been deleted by bugs, crashes and viruses! This is the no installer, portable version. Extract it, copy to your portable device and run, delete when done.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Inside the NSA’s Secret Efforts to Hunt and Hack System Administrators – Across the world, people who work as system administrators keep computer networks in order – and this has turned them into unwitting targets of the National Security Agency for simply doing their jobs. According to a secret document provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the agency tracks down the private email and Facebook accounts of system administrators (or sys admins, as they are often called), before hacking their computers to gain access to the networks they control. The document consists of several posts – one of them is titled “I hunt sys admins” – that were published in 2012 on an internal discussion board hosted on the agency’s classified servers. They were written by an NSA official involved in the agency’s effort to break into foreign network routers, the devices that connect computer networks and transport data across the Internet. By infiltrating the computers of system administrators who work for foreign phone and Internet companies, the NSA can gain access to the calls and emails that flow over their networks.

Orange Gives All Of Its Data To France’s NSA – Orange has been cooperating illegally for years with France’s main intelligence agency (the DGSE). According to a newly found report by Edward Snowden and an investigation by Le Monde, the DGSE was given access to all of Orange’s data (not just metadata). Orange is the leading telecom company in France with more than 26 million clients. These clients have communicated with tens of millions of non-Orange clients. Nearly everyone in France is concerned by today’s revelation. No regulating agency has a say in this special relationship between France’s intelligence agencies and Orange. Data is shared with allies, such as the GCHQ in the U.K. While the state still owns 27 percent of Orange, Orange has operated as a private company for years. Yet, when it comes to data collecting, it still works as if it was a state-owned company. Orange employees help the DGSE create and develop new tools to collect and analyze data. Contrarily to PRISM, it’s not just an agreement between the government and big Internet companies, it’s an implicit “joint venture” that has been going on for around 30 years.

‘Arrogant’ Snowden putting lives at risk, says NSA’s deputy spyboss – Two days after NSA leaker Edward Snowden addressed the latest TED technology jamboree in robot form, the US intelligence agency has also made an appearance – with deputy director Richard Ledgett dialing in by video link. Ledgett said the NSA’s core problem was that it was lousy at PR, rather than that it was invading innocent people’s privacy. The bigwig said that the former US President James Madison, one of the key writers of the US Constitution, “would be proud” that the checks and balances he helped install still worked in today’s digital age. “I think there’s an amazing arrogance to the idea that [Snowden] knows better than the framers of the Constitution how the government should be designed to work in terms of separation of powers,” he told TED 2014. “That’s extremely arrogant on his part.”

Obama to meet again with tech leaders over surveillance – President Obama plans to meet with a select group of technology CEOs on Friday to discuss “issues of privacy, technology, and intelligence,” a White House official told Politico. A full list of chief executives was not made available by the White House, but industry sources told Politico that Google, Facebook, and Yahoo had been invited to the meeting. CNET has contacted those companies for comment on their participation and will update this report when we learn more. It’s the second such meeting Obama has held with Silicon Valley executives in recent months over the controversial US electronic surveillance programs. During a meeting in December with the president over ways to improve the beleaguered Healthcare.gov Web site, a congregation that included Apple CEO Tim Cook, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo urged the president to move swiftly on reforming the federal government’s surveillance programs.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 20, 2014

Boost Chrome security with these five add-ons;  NCAA App Released for Windows;  The 10 Riskiest Mobile App Types;  Fastest downloading smartphones revealed;  New anti-social app ‘Cloak’ helps you hide from friends;  How to turn an old phone or tablet into a PC productivity tool;  Tor warns of malicious Tor browser;  30-Second Tech Trick: How to Take the Best Selfies;   7 things every new Android user should know;  Facebook averages 375 million gamers monthly;  Titanfall XP Guide: Level Up Faster with These 6 Tips.

The 10 Riskiest Mobile App Types – The just-released study rated apps in five distinct risk categories: Privacy, Data leak, Account takeover, Device takeover, and Malware. Apps with Privacy problems leak personally identifiable information to third parties, while those that expose companies to loss of data fall in the Data leak category. Account takeover refers to apps that steal user credentials, while Device takeover means the app exposes data that would allow a malefactor to completely pwn or clone the device. Finally, apps that are purely malicious fall in the Malware category.

7 things every new Android user should know – An Android tablet is not a computer. An Android phone is not a computer. Sure, it’s technically a computer, but so is your microwave. You may consider yourself an old hand at using computers, but mobile devices have their own unique way of doing things. Understand these seven basic items, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming more familiar and comfortable with your new Android gizmo.

Fastest downloading smartphones revealed: Did yours make the list? – Researchers from Finland’s Aalto University have produced a list of top download speeds for 150 devices that consumers can reference to see if its the network – or their device – that’s causing slow speeds.

13 Streaming Music Services Compared by Price, Quality, Catalog Size and More – Forget for a moment how profitable streaming music services are (not terribly), or how much they’re paying in royalties to rights holders (or in particular, how much is ultimately trickling down to the artists). Those things couldn’t be more important when you get down to it, but they’re also intangible figures we’re left to speculate about, since full disclosure of a revenue network as complex and legally tortuous as the music industry’s is inconceivable.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

5 Tech Products Under $50 Everyone Should Own – When I look at the stuff I’ve actually paid money for, the items are definitely more reasonable price-wise. That doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable, though. In fact, they’re often the items I use every day and take wherever I go. And these are my top picks for tech products under $50 that everyone should own.

It’s time to give your privacy settings a spring cleaning – The three-part series I just finished up this week, the paranoid’s survival guide to privacy, includes 32 different things privacy professionals say you can do to protect your privacy both online and off. I haven’t done most of them. The problem is that protecting your privacy can be a lot of work. But the good news is that you probably don’t have to do everything.

Boost Chrome security with these five add-ons – Fortify your Chrome browser with add-ons that protect your passwords, identify secure sites, filter unwanted content, and track cookies. Google Chrome is my browser of choice. Its lightning fast rendering engine, incredible extension system, and cross-platform nature make it a winner. But is it secure? Unfortunately, in today’s world of too much information and too many nefarious users sniffing about, adding security to any browser is a must. Here are five extensions that will make your Chrome browsing experience is much safer. Each can be found in the Chrome Web Store and are a single click away from installation.

Chrome extension lets you save Facebook posts to read later – It may not the best-designed extension, but Facebook Favorite serves a useful purpose of providing a dashboard of Facebook posts you’d like to return to at a later time.

Basketball Fans Rejoice: NCAA App Released for Windows – Turner Sports Interactive has released an app for fans which can single-handedly watch live NCAA games, provide stats, and display game schedules in one shot.

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Xfinity TV Go App for Android Updated with New Live Channels and Improved Video Quality – Xfinity TV Go already provided access to live streaming for a fair number of channels, but over a dozen new ones have been added in version 2.2. The new channels are A&E, Cooking Channel, DIY, Food Network, HGTV, History Channel, MUN2 (companion to Telemundo), Sprout, Starz, TBS, TRUtv, TNT, and the Travel Channel. This is in addition to on-demand content, which is also available in the app.

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Klutch for iPhone Aims to Simplify Making Plans with Friends – Having a gaggle of indecisive or stubborn friends can be a curse. Maybe they’re all fun people, but actually agreeing on plans to go out and have fun can take up half of your free time. If you can get all of them to use Klutch (perhaps a herculean effort by itself), there may still be hope of formulating a plan before it’s too late. Klutch is a new iOS app that lets you collaborate and vote on plans with your friends, and it’s free.

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New anti-social app ‘Cloak’ helps you hide from friends – An iOS app called ‘Cloak’ has hit the app store, utilizing location data to allow users to avoid their friends in real life.

Social trivia that keeps you coming back – QuizUp (Android | iOS) is a trivia game that tests your knowledge of TV show quotes, world geography, cooking, and hundreds other topics (433 to be exact, according to the developers). You can challenge random strangers, or go head to head with your Facebook or Google+ friends to earn more points and level up. With an overwhelming number of topics, you’re bound to find at least one that you can conquer, whether it’s grammar and spelling or baseball and Disney movies. While it’s much easier to battle against strangers, it’s far more rewarding to challenge your friends, obliterate them in the “Name the Pop Star” category, and brag about it endlessly. But maybe that’s just me.

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Toshiba Canvio turns any external drive into a streaming hub – Realizing the growing need to have wireless access to data anywhere and everywhere, Toshiba has unveiled its Canvio Wireless Adapter. This small, pocket-sized device transforms any external hard drive that you might have into a your own personal cloud in a pocket.

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How to turn an old phone or tablet into a PC productivity tool – Your old phones and tablets don’t have to become e-waste. They can do real work as repurposed sidekicks for your PC. Think of them as bonus touchscreen displays and you’ll begin to see the possibilities. They just need to be plugged in, wiped of unneeded apps and notifications, and they’re ready to serve as desktop companions. Here are some of the best ways to reuse that old tech.

ArcSoft MediaConverter – ArcSoft MediaConverter is a powerful and easy-to-use all-in-one multimedia file converter. This utility quickly and effortlessly converts multimedia files into formats optimized for use on your mobile phone, PMP, TV, and many other popular devices. Newly added is the ability to turn your 2D photos and videos into 3D for playback on supported devices, as well as uploading to YouTube. (Here’s a shot of the results of running 2 conversions using the Trial version. While this is not a free application ($30 USD), I’m pretty impressed with the functionality.)

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How to run both Chrome OS and Ubuntu on a Chromebook – Google’s low-cost computers are capable of doing more than you think. Here’s how you can transform a Chromebook into a full-blown Linux laptop.

Non-Gmail users suing Google for “wiretapping” denied class action – Google scored a victory in a court ruling Tuesday against Gmail users attempting to sue the company. US District Judge Lucy Koh denied the plaintiffs class-action status for their case, writing that the issue of consent to Gmail’s practices is too important to the case and too different between many of the parties seeking class-action status together. The ruling that a class action won’t be allowed will almost surely mean a quick end to this case. While the plaintiffs are still free to sue on an individual basis, it won’t be practical to proceed with expensive litigation when each individual user’s damages claim would be so small.

MPs urge UK.gov to use 1950s obscenity law to stifle online stiffies – MPs want Britain’s network-level filters to do a better job of censoring access to pornography sites to keep the content away from the prying eyes of children. But, to do that, perfectly legal online smut peddlers need to cooperate. That was the conclusion in a report (PDF) published today by Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee, following a series of parliamentary hearings about internet safety.

The Netherlands paves the way for carrier-free SIM cards – If you live in the Netherlands, you’ll no longer have to be tied to a specific carrier, as it becomes the first country to legalize carrier-free SIM cards. While there may still be some technical kinks to be ironed out, getting carrier-free SIM cards legalized is a great first step. We’re only hoping the rest of the world doesn’t take too long to follow suit.

30-Second Tech Trick: How to Take the Best Selfies – How to check your light, set up your shot and ultimately do what’s in everyone’s best interests. Here’s the 30-second tech trick for taking better pictures of yourself.

Security:

Microsoft: Pirated software with malware will cost businesses $500 billion in 2014 – Microsoft’s Issues blog states that the study, conducted by IDC and the National University of Singapore (NUS), shows that worldwide, businesses will have to spend $500 billion in 2014 to fix problems with malware in pirated software. Individual consumers worldwide are predicted to spend $25 billion to fix issues from the same problem, along with spending a total of 1.2 billion hours to deal with malware.

Mozilla patches 20 Firefox flaws, plugs Pwn2Own holes – Mozilla on Tuesday patched five vulnerabilities exploited by researchers last week at the Pwn2Own hacking contest, where they were awarded $200,000 for their collective efforts.

Twitter reportedly drops plan to encrypt direct messages – The Verge reports that Twitter’s end-to-end encryption for DMs is done—for now. Why are social networks dragging their feet on security measures?

Tor warns of malicious Tor browser offered on the App Store – A public plea made on Twitter by Runa A. Sandvik, a (former?) developer with The Tor Project has turned the spotlight on a still unresolved issue of an apparently fake Tor Browser app equipped with spyware being offered for download on Apple’s App Store. The open ticketshe linked to on the project’s site show that for whatever reason, Apple is not moving fast enough to remove to address the concerns of Tor officials. They first complained about the fake and malicious app to Apple on 26 December 2013.

Most ATMs to stay on XP after Microsoft ends support – More than six out of 10 ATM machines in the country will be running on an obsolete operating system when Microsoft pulls the plug on Windows XP support on April 8, raising serious security and compliance issues for the systems’ operators.

Company News:

AMD moves desktop PC operations to China – Advanced Micro Devices has moved its desktop chip business operations from the U.S. to the growing market of China, adding to its research lab and testing plant there. The desktop market in China is growing at a fast pace and its shipments of desktops and laptops are equal in ratio, said Michael Silverman, a spokesman for AMD, in an email. “The desktop market in China remains strong,” Silverman said.

Icahn pushes eBay to sell 20% of Paypal via IPO – Carl Icahn won’t give up on nagging eBay over selling PayPal (among many other things), but a new suggestion demonstrates he might be backing down — albeit slightly. The American business magnate published yet another open letter to eBay shareholders on Wednesday, outlining a scheme in which eBay sells off 20 percent of PayPal through an initial public offering. As described by Icahn, the online marketplace conglomerate would then be able to keep the majority of PayPal. Aside from the rather lengthy proposal, Icahn reiterated his disappointment (to put it lightly) in eBay’s leadership:

Google may be aiming for 8.9-inch Nexus tablet – The product is expected to be “high-performance,” said Rhoda Alexander, director tablet and monitor research at IHS Technology in an email to CNET. “Volume production is expected to start in July or August,” she said. “The expectation is [that] this will be a lower volume product, carrying a premium price tag to support the specifications.” Alexander does not the know the pricing but said she “would not be surprised if it is higher than $299.” HTC may be the manufacturer, according to Alexander.

IBM launches services to tackle fraud, financial crime – The tech giant has announced the creation of services to help corporations use Big Data in the battle against fraud and financial crime.

Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal faces probe from US states – Some states have joined the effort to investigate Comcast’s proposed $45.2 billion buyout of Time Warner Cable. Despite any concerns among federal and state regulators, Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus believes the deal will go through. “I have every confidence that the deal will close,” Marcus said at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference last week. “We wouldn’t have signed the deal if we didn’t think it would get done.”

Games and Entertainment:

Titanfall XP Guide: Level Up Faster with These 6 Tips – Like any modern shooter, Titanfall isn’t just about killing opponents and winning matches. The meta-game of earning experience points, unlocking more items and leveling up is just as important; it’s the slow drip of progress that keeps us coming back. But unless you pay attention to how you play, ranking up in Titanfall can be a long slog. Here are some pointers for quickly reaching level 50 and beyond:

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Facebook averages 375 million gamers monthly – At the Game Developers Conference, Facebook has revealed it averages 375 million people playing games connected to the social network per month. This represents connected gamers playing games on both desktop and mobile devices, with the games receiving an average of 735 million referrals daily.

Bear Simulator: Take the world in your paw – Prowl the world, exploring, fighting, and making friends. It’s like Skyrim, only with bears – There’s a class that’s seriously under-represented when it comes to video games, always the mob, never the protagonist. We are, of course, referring to the magnificent, noble bear. While the bear occasionally gets a look-in — World of Warcraft and Enviro-Bear being two notable examples — more often than not, the poor misunderstood bear is treated as an enemy to be punched. Luckily, one brave game is attempting to redress the balance — by combining it with one of our favourite genres ever, the simulation.

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Epic Games Tries Something New, Licenses All Of Unreal Engine 4 For $19 A Month – Licensing a big 3D engine (like Unreal) to build your video game has always been… kind of hard. Pricing was done case-by-case. You had to explain what you were up to, negotiate for weeks; it wasn’t easy to just jump into. Then Unity came along and turned that market on its head. Today Epic is responding to change: their new Unreal Engine, source and all, will start at just $19 a month.

Titanfall For Xbox 360 Pushed Back Again, Now Launching On April 8 – Sorry, Xbox 360 owners. EA hates you. Titanfall is delayed again. According to a blog post published this morning, the mech FPS is now launching on April 8 in North America, and beginning on April 11 in Europe.

Paradox, Obsidian team up to publish Pillars of Eternity – Move over peanut butter and chocolate. Sayonara, Mountain Dew and Doritos. I have a new favorite combination: Paradox (Crusader Kings II) and Obsidian (Fallout: New Vegas). Yes, these two titans of PCdom are combining forces for Pillars of Eternity, Obsidian’s upcoming back-to-isometric ’90s throwback RPG that was Kickstarted to the tune of nearly $4 million.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Larry Page’s Wish To Make All Health Data Public Has Big Benefits — And Big Risks – Google co-founder Larry Page made a rare appearance at the TED conference and expounded on a few ideas he thinks will change the world. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to have anonymous medical records available to all research doctors?,” said Page, noting that it would save hundreds of thousands of lives. There’s some great evidence to show that Page is right.

Not tonight, darling, I’m online shopping – A survey suggests that Americans are beginning to use online shopping as an expression of not being, you know, in the mood. Here’s the kicker: men use the excuse more than women.

Google Maps hack turns any Street View into an urban jungle – A clever Google Maps hack overlays Street View with vines, trees, grass, and other vegetation for an altered view of reality.

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Preserved woolly-mammoth autopsy shows cloning is a real possibility – The discovery of the beast caused excitement when the scientists who unearthed her found that she was very well preserved — to the point that her blood was still liquid after all these years. Now, after a necropsy (an autopsy on an animal), the team has discovered that the mammoth’s soft tissues are in excellent condition, so much so that they may be able to extract enough high-quality DNA to perform an analysis — and maybe even a reconstruction.

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Man sends 17,424 texts to seller who scammed him out of PlayStation 3 – A U.K. man is sending the plays of William Shakespeare to a seller who scammed him out of £80 for a PlayStation 3 that was never sold. The catch? He’s sending the plays via text message.

Latest Photos Of Facebook’s New Gehry-Designed, Tree-Lined Campus Unveiled – Take a new look at Facebook’s upcoming tree-studded Engineering Building. Sprawling over 22 acres of Palo Alto, the 435,000 square feet compound is designed by famed architect Frank Gehry. These latest photos of the architectural models show updates to the understated expansion of Facebook’s headquarters. The design has evolved since the last time pictures surfaced.

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NASA’s ultra-composite image shows the Moon in 850 billion pixels of detail – NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned more than 10,000 shots of the Moon, and scientists have stitched them together into a map of unprecedented detail.

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Jesse Jackson says blacks inadequately represented in tech companies – U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is to lead a delegation to Hewlett-Packard’s annual meeting of shareholders on Wednesday to highlight underrepresentation of African-Americans in Silicon Valley companies. “Technology is supposed to be about inclusion, but sadly, patterns of exclusion remains the order of the day,” Jackson has written in letters to top Silicon Valley technology companies, including Apple, Twitter, Facebook, HP and Google, according to a statement this week by rights group Rainbow Push Coalition. HP said it looked forward to seeing Jackson at its shareholder meeting.

Something to think about:

“Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.”

-    Friedrich Nietzsche

Today’s Free Downloads:

Dropbox – Dropbox is a useful tool that will enable you to instantly store your files online and share them. It can also synchronize the files from your offline directories and online storage.

Free Video Call Recorder for Skype – Free Video Call Recorder for Skype is an absolutely free application for recording Skype calls without any limitations. It has a very simple interface. You don’t need to download or install any extra libraries to be able to use the program. You just need to specify the mode you like, choose the output folder and press “Start”. If you don’t want to record some moments during the conversation, just click on “Pause”. In order to finish the record select “Stop”.

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Avast! Free Edition 2014 – Based on the award-winning avast! antivirus engine, avast! antivirus contains all of the features you would expect in a modern antivirus program. It incorporates anti-spyware technology certified by West Coast Labs’ Checkmark process, as well as anti-rootkit and strong self-protection capabilities, but now provides even faster scanning with improved detection ability. It contains several real-time “Shields” which continuously monitor your email and internet connections and check the files on your computer whenever they are opened or closed.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tech giants KNEW about PRISM, web snooping, claims top NSA lawyer – The NSA’s general counsel Rajesh De says technology firms were fully aware of both America’s web surveillance program PRISM and the mass monitoring of upstream internet traffic. On Wednesday, De told a meeting in Washington, organized by the US government’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), that data collection by secret order under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act was carried out with the “full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained,” The Guardian reported. Internet giants, particularly Google and Facebook and Yahoo!, have over the past nine months blasted the intelligence agency’s methods and denied any involvement or collusion. Let’s tackle De’s statements in two halves.

Edward Snowden: Here’s how we take back the Internet – Appearing by telepresence robot, Edward Snowden speaks at TED2014 about surveillance and Internet freedom.

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The right to data privacy, he suggests, is not a partisan issue, but requires a fundamental rethink of the role of the internet in our lives — and the laws that protect it. “Your rights matter,” he say, “because you never know when you’re going to need them.” Chris Anderson interviews, with special guest Tim Berners-Lee.

ROBO-SNOWDEN: Iraq, the internet – two places the US govt invaded that weren’t a threat – Whistleblower Edward Snowden has appeared on stage at a TED conference in Canada via a remote-controlled robotic screen – and was hailed as a hero by the Web’s founding father Sir Tim Berners-Lee. “I grew up not just thinking about the internet but in the internet, and while I never thought I’d grow up to defend it in such a direct and practical manner, I think there’s something poetic about one of the sons of the internet has become close to the internet as a result of political expression,” Snowden told Sir Tim on stage. “I believe a Magna Carta for the internet is exactly what we need. We need to encode our values not just in writing but in the structure of the internet.”

Facebook security chief: We’re not encrypting everything between our data centers just yet – A couple of weeks ago Facebook scheduled a press powwow with its chief security officer Joe Sullivan to discuss defenses for the social network and its users. Then, a week later, Sullivan’s boss made an angry call to the White House to complain about intelligence agents using Facebook as a conduit for spying on people. “I don’t think anyone who focusses on security has been surprised by the specific things that we’ve seen,” Sullivan told us today about reports stemming from document leaked by NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden. Those documents suggested US intelligence systems were impersonating the Facebook website so as to silently infect victims’ PCs with snooping malware. “As security people, we’re paranoid, so we assume all of these things are happening, but when you actually see concrete evidence of an implementation, that moves it from paranoia to professional security advice.”

U.S. officials say NSA surveillance overseas is targeted, not bulk collection – A U.S. National Security Agency surveillance program focused on overseas telephone and email communications is targeted and narrow, and not the bulk collection portrayed in numerous news reports from recent months, U.S. officials told a privacy watchdog board Wednesday. Contrary to denials from many technology companies, the NSA’s foreign surveillance programs authorized by section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act have the participation of those vendors, officials with the U.S. intelligence community told the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). Internet service providers and other technology companies “would have received legal process” documents when the NSA wanted to conduct surveillance on their customers, said Rajesh De, the NSA’s general counsel. The NSA collects communications to and from certain email and telephone targets, with assistance from communications providers, and it also engages in upstream collection from the “Internet backbone,” De said.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 19, 2014

Snowden Leak: NSA Is Recording All Calls From At Least One Country;  Real Excel power users know these 11 tricks;  Best Cheap Tablets: Top 5 Tablets for Under $150;  5 tips to make Windows 8′s Metro UI more practical and less irritating;  Simple smartphone photo tips;  Get true multitasking goodness on your Android tablet;  The right way to set up a new PC;  The $13 accessory every Chromebook owner should carry;  How to Watch March Madness Online; 25,000 UNIX servers hijacked by backdoor Trojan;  Your next corporate computer might be a Chromebook.

NSA records 100% of foreign country’s phone calls – The latest Snowden-leaked information on the NSA arrived today by way of The Washington Post, where it detailed what is said to be a surveillance system capable of recording 100-percent of a country’s telephone calls. Which country this is was not specified, though it is said to be a foreign nation.

The right way to set up a new PC – You could use a new system as-is, of course, but performing just a handful of tasks can help ensure that your PC is lean, mean, fully compatible with your hardware, and all-around pleasant for the foreseeable future. Even if you did everything yourself—starting from scratch with a blank hard drive, installing only Windows and Windows Updates—there is still plenty of tweaking to do to optimize a rig and rid it of performance-robbing bloat. Ready? Good. Let’s get going.

How to spy on your lover, the smartphone way – A company called mSpy now can convey to you phones preloaded with spying software that could tempt you to monitor texts, calls and, well, pretty much everything. Now that’s caring.

Best Cheap Tablets: Top 5 Tablets for Under $150 – Here are the five best sub-$150 tablets you can buy right now, based on data from our friends at FindTheBest. Each tablet’s ranking is based on FindTheBest’s Smart Rating, which aggregates scores from gadget review sites along with specifications and benchmark scores for each device.

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Get true multitasking goodness on your Android tablet – Every once in a while I come across an app that makes my eyes go wide and mouth uncontrollably smile. Multitasking is one such app. With this app, you can easily break free of the boundaries forced upon you by the standard tablet interface. You’re no longer limited to a list of apps still in RAM that you can re-open (hopefully you weren’t fooled into thinking that you were actually multitasking).

How to Watch March Madness Online (When You Should Be Working) – If you happen to have a TV in the office, live games will be broadcast throughout the day on CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV (as an added bonus, this year’s Final Four match-ups will be simulcast with different channels broadcasting team-specific telecasts, which you can select based on who you’re rooting for). However, if you are unlucky enough to find yourself stuck at work during key match-ups with no TV in sight, there are still a number of ways to catch the action live on the webbernets.

Five must-have apps for March Madness – Whether you’re a casual fan or a hardcore hoops aficionado, some mobile helps can help you enjoy the mania. Use them to build your bracket, compete with your friends, and follow all of the action all the way to the Final Four and championships.

5 tips to make Windows 8′s Metro UI more practical and less irritating – Microsoft’s modern UI might be pretty to look at, but when most of us want to get some work done, the traditional desktop is really the best choice. But what if you have a touchscreen device where it makes more sense to use the modern UI—or if you just prefer the new interface? If that’s you, here are a few tips on how to spend more time away from the desktop in Microsoft’s touch-friendly universe.

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Your next corporate computer might be a Chromebook – Quick, name a personal computing device that’s simple and painless to operate, has a very low learning curve, is virus and malware resistant, is extremely secure, requires no extra software, and is inexpensive—less expensive than a phone, tablet, or laptop computer. Hint: It’s a Chromebook. It might be hard to imagine that there’s such a device available to you and your users, that is all those things, but it’s true. The Chromebook comes very close to being the perfect corporate computing device.

Facebook’s DeepFace Project Nears Human Accuracy In Identifying Faces – Facebook has reached a major milestone in computer vision and pattern recognition, with ‘DeepFace,’ an algorithm capable of identifying a face in a crowd with 97.25 percent accuracy, which is pretty much on par with how good the average human is (97.5 percent accurate) at recognizing the faces of other walking, talking meat sacks.

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The $13 accessory every Chromebook owner should carry – There’s just one problem with relying on a Chromebook while on the road: Most Chromebooks lack a good old-fashioned Ethernet port. And whether you’re in a hotel or at a conference (hello, I/O), there are plenty of times when reliable Wi-Fi access isn’t available but you still need to be online. Luckily, the solution’s pretty simple: All you need is a cheap little adapter that lets you connect your Chromebook to Ethernet via USB. I picked one up for about 15 bucks a couple years ago and haven’t traveled without it since.

Simple smartphone photo tips – Today’s smartphone cameras have become nearly as complex and feature-laden as the compact cameras they replaced. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but here are four simple tips for better photos that will work with virtually any modern smartphone.

Microsoft’s OneNote Flies To Top Of The Mac App Store – OneNote for Mac has become most popular free Mac app in the App Store in a single day, besting OS X update Mavericks, which was released in October. The app is now available across both major PC platforms and all three mobile platforms for free. Response has been strong so far. Racking up more than 600 reviews in a day, OneNote for Mac is overwhelmingly rated highly, with more than half of them being 5-star reviews. See if you can see what’s interesting in the below:

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Motorola unveils its first smart watch the Moto 360 – Motorola has finally released its own smart watch that utilizes a new design to create a watch that reflects the design of a traditional time piece with the functionality of a modern mobile phone

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Google officially announces Android Wear for smartwatches, launching this year – Google has officially announced Android Wear, a version of its mobile operating system made for wearable computing devices like smartwatches that will officially launch later this year.

Runtastic Six Pack for iOS Hits v2.0 with Body Fat Visualizer, Heart Rate Integration, and More – Runtastic makes some of the most well-known fitness apps on mobile devices, and today the Runtastic Six Pack app is getting a big update to version 2.0. This app, as the name suggests, focuses on workouts to strengthen your core, as they say. It costs a few bucks to get the full experience, but you can try it out free.

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iPad 2 discontinued, now replaced by 4th generation iPad – Apple has finally discontinued the iPad 2 and relaunched the cellular and Wi-Fi variants of the fourth generation iPad starting at the price of the current iPad mini with Retina display.

Nook Press self-publishing tool expands to global markets – The service was already available in the US, and allows aspiring authors to publish their own books and sell them through the Nook platform. Nook Press is now available in authors and publishers in the UK, France, and Germany, among other European countries, Barnes & Noble announced on Tuesday. Nook authors can upload their titles for sale on Nook devices and through Barnes & Noble’s e-reader apps. Authors share the revenue with Barnes & Noble, with royalty rates based on list price. All authors are paid in their local currency.

WhatsApp wants to “set the record straight” on privacy under Facebook – WhatsApp users freaked out after Facebook announced plans to buy the popular over-the-top messaging app for north of $16 billion. The world’s largest social network doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to privacy, and people were concerned that WhatsApp would start collecting user information and sharing it with Facebook. WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum published a reassuring blog post on Monday, but also backed up his words with an app update that added new privacy settings.

Real Excel power users know these 11 tricks – There are two kinds of Microsoft Excel users in the world: Those who make neat little tables, and those who amaze their colleagues with sophisticated charts, data analysis, and seemingly magical formula and macro tricks. You, obviously, are one of the latter—or are you? Check our list of 11 essential Excel skills to prove it—or discreetly pick up any you might have missed.

Cadenza: You play, and a full orchestra plays with you – Dream of playing along with world-class symphonies? Now, a Harvard-backed app heads to your mobile device to give you instant portable orchestral backup that adjusts to your playing in real time.

Security:

Avast: Windows XP users already attacked 6 times more often than Windows 7 users – The words of warning about Windows XP’s impending end-of-life are no joke. After April 8, Microsoft will stop supplying security patches for the 13-year-old operating system—and a recent blog post by Avast, provider of one of the more popular free antivirus solutions around, drives home just how dangerous using Windows XP beyond that is.

25,000 UNIX servers hijacked by backdoor Trojan – The attack, which has been dubbed “Operation Windigo” by security experts, hijacks servers, infects the computers that visit them and steals information from victims. The infected servers are then used to redirect half a million web visitors to malicious content on a daily basis. Servers located throughout the U.S., Germany, France and the UK are all among those infected. With more than 60 percent of the world’s websites running on Linux servers, ESET researchers are warning webmasters and system administrators to check their systems to see if they have been compromised. The company published a detailed technical report today presenting the findings of the teams’ investigations and malware analysis.

Shuttleworth: Firmware is the universal Trojan – Canonical boss Mark Shuttleworth has called on the world to abandon proprietary firmware code, calling all such code “a threat vector”. In this blog post, Shuttleworth makes the case that manufacturers are simply too incompetent, and attackers (including government security agencies) too competent, for security-by-obscurity in firmware to ever work. “Any firmware code running on your phone, tablet, PC, TV, wifi router, washing machine, server, or the server running the cloud your SaaS app is running on” is a threat, he writes, calling on the industry to abandon secret firmware entirely.

Online tool for browsing and analyzing web-based malware – Barracuda Networks launched Threatglass, an online tool for sharing, browsing and analyzing web-based malware. It allows users to graphically browse website infections by viewing screenshots of the stages of infection, as well as by analyzing network characteristics such as host relationships and packet captures.

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Report: Average of 82,000 new malware threats per day in 2013 – Malware has been around for more than 40 years,  but according to a report from Panda Security 20 percent of all of the malware that’s ever existed was created in 2013. That’s the equivalent of 30 million new malware threats in one year, or about 82,000 per day. Given that context, you should probably consider yourself lucky your devices aren’t constantly compromised. Even if you got infected by one malware attack per month, it would still mean you were spared from 99.9999 percent of all the possible new threats. Your antimalware must be doing something right.

Company News:

Google Tipped To Consolidate Communication By Killing Google Voice, Rolling Features Into Hangouts – The move makes sense not only because there’s already some overlap of functionality, but also because Google has been gradually turning Hangouts from a straightforward web-based video chat tool into a multiplatform chat client which supports text, video and audio communication, as well as rich media. Hangouts replaced the native Android messaging app for SMS and text in the most recent version of Android (4.4 KitKat) and it also previously killed both Messenger and Talk, too.

Microsoft’s stock surges up to 14 year high thanks to Office on iPad rumors – Microsoft saw its stock price surge up today by 3.94 percent to reach a new 14 year high, thanks to investors who are hoping the company will be making an Office on iPad announcement next week.

Viacom and Google settle $1 billion YouTube lawsuit – While the terms of the settlement remain undisclosed, the two sides say that the agreement reflects increasingly productive discussions between the two companies and a mutual willingness to work together. No money is reported to have changed hands during the settlement, which came in advance of oral arguments before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, scheduled for March 24.

Report: Amazon Set-Top Box Launching in April – The rumored Amazon set-top box may finally be arriving next month, according to the Wall Street Journal. Citing people familiar with the company’s plans, the Journal suggested that Amazon’s Android-based device will ship with apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Pandora—all of which are already available in similar products from Apple, Roku, and Google.

Group files complaint against Verizon on ‘forced’ VOIP conversions – Verizon is converting some traditional telephone customers to VoIP without their permission, advocacy group says.

Games and Entertainment:

Walmart introduces used game trade-ins, promises to pay more for your games – Walmart will next week launch its Video Game Trade-In program as part of its Gamecenter offering in-store. But why would you choose to trade-in at Walmart over visiting a dedicated games retailer? Because Walmart will take your games in return for a gift card, meaning you can use the cash to purchase anything in-store, online, or at Sam’s Club.

Unity Partners With Mozilla To Port Its Popular Game Engine To The Web – Unity and Mozilla today announced that they are bringing the Unity game engine to the web using the WebGL standard and Mozilla’s asm.js. With over 2 million users, Unity is one of the most popular game engines on the market. At the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco today, the two organizations will demo a version of the popular 3D shooter Dead Trigger 2 running in Firefox, the only browser that currently supports asm.js. With the release of Unity 5.0 later this year, WebGL support will become available as a Unity early-access beta add-on.

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Rescape wants to turn the world around you into a first-person shooter – Computer vision company 13th Lab has what it thinks is a better method, using the smartphone to create an augmented reality shooter that’s easily overlaid over a live image of your surroundings. Players stick a specially designed lens on top of their phone’s camera, then put the phone onto the end of a vaguely gun-like plastic shell (which looks and feels a bit like the Wii Zapper). As you walk around the room, the phone’s display shows the scene in front and lets you aim and shoot at virtual opponents layered on top.

GOG will bring classic PC games to Linux this fall – GOG says it has been working on Linux support for the last few months, and will add support for the Ubuntu and Mint Linux distributions this fall with at least 100 games at launch. This not only includes classic games that ran on Linux originally, but games that never had official Linux support to begin with.

Sony Project Morpheus: Virtual Reality headset for the PlayStation 4 – It’s time for Sony’s first PlayStation 4 Virtual Reality headset, one called Project Morpheus. This is unlike what Sony has shown before in any virtual reality headset for the public, one that covers the entirety of the eyes, front and sides, utilizing lights on the front outside edges to work with the Sony PlayStation 4 Camera.

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Microsoft reveals first 25 Xbox One games via ID@Xbox self-published program – Microsoft has announced the first 25 games that will be released for the Xbox One as part of the self-published ID@Xbox program, with the first titles to be released “in the coming weeks.”

SimCity updated to include long-awaited offline single player mode – It’s been over a year since developer Maxis and publisher Electronic Arts launched their revival of the SimCity franchise as an online-only multiplayer game. Today, Maxis and EA finally released “Update 10″ for the game that adds a way to play SimCity in a classic offline single player mode. While Maxis at first tried to defend their vision of an online SimCity after the game’s release, many fans of the original series still wanted to play the game the old-fashioned way by themselves without an online requirement. EA announced their plans to offer such a mode in January.

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Xbox One Headed to 26 More Countries in September – Redmond on Monday announced a major international expansion for its next-generation video game console. This coming September, the Xbox One will arrive in 26 more countries, including: Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UAE.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Kandu Teaches Kids How To Make iPad Apps, No Coding Required – Kandu, the latest venture out of betaworks, founded by David Bennahum and Gerry Laybourne, is looking to make computer programming as accessible as it’s ever been. Through a snappy, adorable little iPad app, kids can now learn about the overall structure of coding by developing their own games or animated pictures. To make things simple, the app doesn’t actually use any code — at least not the kind you’re used to. Instead of using educational curricula like on Codecademy, Kandu opens up to the child as a blank canvas. Toolbars on the right and left allow kids to add characters, objects, and backgrounds.

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NASA scopes show Earth dodged devastating solar storm by nine days in 2012 – “Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous,” said UC Berkeley research physicist Janet Luhmann. The 1859 storm, also known as the Carrington Event, after the British astronomer who recorded it, swept over the Earth at the end of August and is the largest recorded solar storm in history. The aurora borealis extended as far south as Cuba and telegraph systems burnt out across Europe and the US, in some cases shocking operators and continuing to send signals even when switched off.

Your new disease, America: Compulsive gadget-hoarding – According to a study, 68 percent of Americans keep their unused gadgets for posterity’s sake. Or something. Only 25 percent allegedly admit to it.

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I must confess – I have this model stored away in a kitchen drawer. Hey, you never know, right?    Smile

Android Wear: 6 big reasons to be excited about Google’s smartwatch platform – Google’s getting into smartwatches with its new Android Wear platform — and there are six big reasons to be excited about what’s in store.

Something to think about:

“Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.”

-    Friedrich Nietzsche

Today’s Free Downloads:

Panda Cloud Cleaner: Scan your PC for FREE with Panda Cloud Cleaner – Panda Cloud Cleaner is an advanced disinfector based on Collective Intelligence (scanning in-the-cloud) that detects malware that traditional security solutions cannot detect.

Rufus – Rufus is a small utility that helps format and create bootable USB flash drives, such as USB keys/pendrives, memory sticks, etc. It can be especially useful for cases where: – you need to create USB installation media from bootable ISOs (Windows, Linux, UEFI, etc.) – you need to work on a system that doesn’t have an OS installed – - you need to flash a BIOS or other firmware from DOS – - you want to run a low-level utility. Despite its small size, Rufus provides everything you need! Once downloaded, the application is ready to use — no installation or other files are necessary.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden Leak: NSA Is Recording All Calls From At Least One Country – The National Security Agency has the capability to replay all telephone calls for 30 days from an entire country, according to documents obtained from Edward Snowden by the Washington Post. “The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording ’100 percent’ of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place,” writes The Post. The Post withheld the name of the country currently being surveilled under code name “MYSTIC” to protect on-going operations. The report said that MYSTIC was begun in 2009 and reached full capacity in 2011. The NSA claims it needs this ability because emerging threats are “often hidden within the large and complex system of modern global communications, and the United States must consequently collect signals intelligence in bulk in certain circumstances in order to identify these threats.” Though the NSA is required by law to minimize the surveillance of innocent people, especially Americans, it is difficult to do with massive sweeps. “Present and former U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide context for a classified program, acknowledged that large numbers of conversations involving Americans would be gathered,” explains The Post.

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Snowden: Big revelations to come, reporting them is not a crime – Edward Snowden made a surprise appearance on the TED stage in Vancouver today—using a Beam telepresence robot from “somewhere in Russia.” Snowden, in his second remote talk in eight days after an appearance at SXSW Interactive in Texas, urged online businesses to encrypt their websites immediately. “The biggest thing that an Internet company in America can do today, right now, without consulting lawyers, to protect users of the Internet around the world, is to enable Web encryption on every page you visit,” he said. “If you look at a copy of 1984 on Amazon, the NSA can see a record of that, the Russians, the French can—the world’s library is unencrypted. This is something we need to change, not just for Amazon—all companies need to move to an encrypted browsing habit by default.” Snowden said the leaks from his document cache would continue. “There are absolutely more revelations to come,” he said. “Some of the most important [publishing] to be done is yet to come.”

After Snowden, Australia’s cops worry about people using crypto – Several Australian law enforcement agencies and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) have submitted proposals asking the country’s senate for more surveillance power, and state police have even asked that the government move to log its citizens’ Web browsing history. Several months ago, on the heels of revelations that Australian Intelligence had been sharing surveillance information with its partners in foreign nations, the Australian Senate opened an inquiry into whether the country’s Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act of 1979 should be revised to better protect AU citizens’ privacy. Unsurprisingly, the ASIO—along with Northern Territory, Western, and Victoria state police—has submitted commentary asking for more data retention and offering little in the way of more privacy protection. In particular, the ASIO said that Snowden’s leaks will make it more difficult for the organization to collect meaningful data about a person, so the organization should be given more leeway to perform its surveillance duties. In its proposal, the ASIO asserted that certain technological advances are detrimental to its spying on bad actors (a refrain that is not often heard, as it’s generally accepted that technology is making it easier to spy on citizens).

Push for Australians’ web browsing histories to be stored – Intelligence agency ASIO is using the Snowden leaks to bolster its case for laws forcing Australian telecommunications companies to store certain types of customers’ internet and telephone data for a period of what some law enforcement agencies would like to be two years. The federal spying agency is supported by the Northern Territory Police, Victoria Police, Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission and Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, who all say they are in support of a data-retention regime. What type of data should be stored by internet and phone providers is another question. Although storing “content” data has been ruled out under a retention scheme, at least two agencies – the Northern Territory Police and Victoria Police – want web-browsing histories stored. (recommended by Mal C.)

Inside Facebook’s Efforts To Fortify Security In A Post-Snowden World – Nine months after Edward Snowden revealed just how insecure the Internet is due to secret spying programs by various governments, Sullivan says Facebook hasn’t changed what it’s doing, it’s just being more public about it. For example, today Facebook invited a group of reporters to its Menlo Park headquarters to learn more about its protocols. There Sullivan said “We’re continuing to work on the same things we worked on before [the Snowden revelations].” Still, the presentation he gave implied security has become a great focus for the social network. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been speaking out against unauthorized government surveillance, saying the United Stats “blew it” on the NSA scandal. He even posted about calling Obama directly to express his frustration. The company asked the government to let it be more transparent around government data requests, and eventually was able to release a more detailed but still vague report.

Judge rebukes Feds for overbroad search warrant applications for e-mail – In a rare public rebuke of American prosecutors’ request on accessing a person’s e-mail, a federal magistrate judge in the District of Columbia has denied a government warrant request to search an unnamed user’s @mac.com e-mail address, citing the request as being over broad. The case appears to offer very little by way of public details for the time being. According to the March 7, 2014 court opinion and order (PDF), the case involves alleged corruption and conspiracy by a defense contractor, and “for purposes of this opinion, the details of the investigation—which remain under seal on the Court’s docket—are irrelevant.” Citing a key 2010 appellate ruling establishing a warrant requirement (at least in one United States federal judicial district), Judge John Facciola observed, “[T]he government continues to submit overly broad warrants and makes no effort to balance the law enforcement interests against the obvious expectation of privacy e-mail account holders have in their communications.” As a magistrate, Facciola has the power to grant search and arrest warrants—and he has done so numerous times in his nearly 17 years on the bench.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 18, 2014

Google Voice: The ultimate Android how-to;  Android phone battery suffering? Here’s a simple fix;  How to use Google Drive as a backup tool;  YouTube “super flaggers” include law enforcement;  Bypassing content filters:  How to see the web they don’t want you to see;  The best online services for tackling your 1040;  Your IP address: Who can see it and what you can do about it;  Mobile March Madness tips for staying in the game;  The Internet tsunami: 8 big insights on what it disrupts next.

Google Voice: The ultimate Android how-to – In this article, we look at how you can use Google Voice from your Android device, how you can display your Google Voice number as your Caller ID, and how you can make minutes-free Google Voice VoIP calls via WiFi.

Android phone battery suffering? Here’s a simple fix – You head out for the day and use your Android phone the same as usual. In the middle of the day your phone notifies you that your battery is almost dead. Here’s how to stop the drain.

Privacy outrage causes bank to ditch plans for targeted ads based on customers’ spending habits – Dutch bank ING has stepped back from a plan that would have seen its customers’ payment histories used to serve them targeted ads after consumer groups and customers objected.

This Man Has a Key That Can Shut Down the Entire Internet – In case you missed it, The Guardian ran an almost unbelievable story last month about individuals from around the world who hold keys that, when combined into one master key, have the power to reset the internet. (Yes, this is a real world thing and not the plot of an upcoming Dan Brown novel.)

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How to use Google Drive as a backup tool – All you need is Google’s desktop sync utility, which, not unlike Dropbox, adds a special folder to your hard drive that acts as a two-way conduit. Any files or folders you put there will get synced to your Google Drive, and any files or folders you add to your Google Drive will get synced back to that special folder on your PC. Here’s how to get started.

How to edit a PDF document in Word 2013 – Learn how to use one of Word 2013′s most asked-for features: how to open and edit a PDF file in Word.

Better manage downloads in Chrome with Downloadr extension – When you download a file in Chrome, the download shelf makes its appearance at the bottom of the browser. It keeps you apprised of a current download’s progress, but can get in the way of the page you are viewing, and it must be closed manually. If you aren’t enamored with managing your downloads from the download shelf, the Downloadr extension for Chrome adds a button to the right of Chrome’s URL bar that you can use instead to keep tabs on your downloads.

Mobile March Madness tips for staying in the game – No sweat! Here are some apps, and more, to help you stay on top of your bracket from the couch, car, or cubicle (don’t tell your boss we said that).

Outage hits Google Talk, Hangouts – After Google chat services go down for many users for about three hours, some find they actually have to talk to people in person.

Popcorn Time Is Hollywood’s Worst Nightmare, And It Can’t Be Stopped – Popcorn Time is just the start and it’s not the first to provide an easy way to consume pirated content. The entire program is on GitHub, where any developer can access the code and make it their own. Besides that, the program leans on an API released by a popular pirated movie site that has so far successfully evaded the MPAA’s wrath. Popcorn Time is simply a pretty face on a community-driven project. There isn’t a single entity here that Hollywood’s lawyers can attack. The developers can go underground and distribute their creations under multiple names. They’re not charging for the program or incorporating ads. Popcorn Time is Napster for video without a company that is trying to turn it into a business. It is the epitome of online guerrilla warfare.

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Microsoft’s Free OneNote Hints At Its Larger Strategy – This morning, Microsoft announced that it was making OneNote, its note-taking service that syncs across platforms, free. The PC app, the new Mac app, and a variety of small tools for the service are now available for anyone to use without cost.

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Bypassing content filters: How to see the web they don’t want you to see – The web is supposed to be open, but behind the scenes, content filters are often busy controlling what you see. The filters could be at your school or workplace, blocking sites such as the time-sucking YouTube from being accessed. It could be a media website that streams music and movies only to users located in specific countries. There are ways to bypass these restrictions, but be warned: Network administrators don’t want you to dodge their data blockades and won’t be happy if they catch you doing it. Use these tools at your own risk and responsibility.

Amazon’s Set Top Box Will Be A Dongle Like Chromecast, Could Feature OnLive-Style Streaming – Amazon is readying a game console/set top box of its own, and we’ve learned from multiple sources familiar with the device that the Lab126-produced gadget will have a form factor similar to the Chromecast, or in other words it’ll be a stick or dongle as opposed to something like the Apple TV. In addition, one source claims it should have support for streaming full PC game titles, and as such might be able to compete with consoles including the Xbox and PlayStation, instead of just Android-powered living room game devices.

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Stop the TinFoil Hat Misinformation About ICANN – The blogosphere is all ablaze with chatter over the announcement that the U.S. government will relinquish its Internet administrative duties to a global coalition comprised of private companies, “civil society, and other Internet organizations from the whole world,” according to Fadi Chehadé, ICANN’s president and CEO. The news has prompted overwrought, histrionic blogs and online comments about the end of free speech on the Internet as we know it. But that assumption is dead wrong.

YouTube “super flaggers” include law enforcement – YouTube is home to vast quantities of videos, many of which violate its terms of service and guidelines in some way or another. Anyone can flag a video they feel is in violation of the TOS, but some 200 individuals, organizations, and government agencies have so-called “super flaggers” status, giving their flags clout.

Twitter “Fave People” test offers selective timeline – Sorting through the glut of Twitter updates can be time consuming, particularly for those following hundreds or thousands of people, a problem one presently has to tackle with the use of lists. Building upon that foundation comes a new feature in testing called Fave People, which creates a separate timeline for favorited people.

Your IP address: Who can see it and what you can do about it – Melanie, concerned about online privacy, asked the Antivirus & Security Software forum who can see her IP address and how serious a problem that is.

LINE Voice Calls activated in USA and 7 other countries – The latest update of the LINE chat app has added a system in which users will be able to make use of free voice calls inside their own countries and abroad. This “LINE Call” system works inside a number of countries – Columbia, The Philippines, Spain, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, Peru, and the United States, and will be available to users who have registered their mobile phone number with the service. Which calls are free and which are available for “cheap domestic and international calls” is not yet entirely clear.

Kingston DataTraveler microDuo, First Take: USB storage for Android tablets and phones – If your Android smartphone lacks a MicroSD card slot and supports USB On The Go, this flexible flash drive could solve your storage expansion problem.

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Twitch Broadcasting Goes Mobile With Gameloft’s Asphalt 8 – Twitch launched its mobile SDK earlier this month, making the live broadcasting, capturing, and archiving of mobile games available to iOS and Android developers. Gameloft’s award-winning arcade racing game (pictured) is the first to jump on the bandwagon, turning its dynamic, high-speed aerial stunts into streaming action. “This first-ever mobile game integration with Twitch opens the door for gamers to broadcast and share game play experiences like never before,” Gameloft’s Daudouin Corman said in a statement.

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WhatsApp denies post-Facebook privacy changes – WhatsApp founder Jan Koum has spoken out on concerns about privacy and data protection following its acquisition by Facebook, insisting that nothing will change in what individual information it collects and how it uses it. “If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it” Koum writes of the $19bn deal announced last month. “Instead, we are forming a partnership that would allow us to continue operating independently and autonomously.”

Tax guide 2014: The best online services for tackling your 1040 – More than a dozen tax prep services promise to minimize hassles and maximize refunds. Here are our picks for every type of filer.

Smart recipe app Yummly expands its palate, launches on iPad – The app understands natural language, so if you type “vegetarian appetizers with no peanuts,” for example, it knows to find appetizers instead of meals and to eliminate meat, peanuts, and peanut oil from the list of ingredients. Seriously, this is a dream for people with food allergies or dietary restrictions. Yummly immediately starts to pull things for you, and the recipes cards spin and shuffle as they update with your results.

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Security:

Syrian Electronic Army attacks CENTCOM, but US Central Command denies it was hacked – SEA hackers targeted CENTCOM in response to US intentions to launch cyberattacks on Syria. Although the attackers tweeted a screenshot showing access to US Army data, US CENTCOM denied it was hacked. The US Army is embarrassed, but it’s in regards to Thrift Saving Plan spear phishing emails traced back to the Army three weeks later; the fake e-mail was part of a cybersecurity test, but it set off panic.

Sextortionist who hacked Miss Teen USA’s computer sentenced to 18 months – According to a press release published Monday afternoon by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, Abrahams “used the nude photos to extort victims by threatening to publicly post the compromising photos or videos to the victims’ social media accounts—unless the victim either sent more nude photos or videos, or engaged in a Skype session with him and did what he said for five minutes.”

Sally Beauty admits to payment card data breach – Sally Beauty Holdings confirmed Monday that it fell victim to a data breach, an incident that may have coincided with a project to update point-of-sale terminals at its U.S. stores, a recent regulatory filing shows. The Denton, Texas, based company, which has more than half of its 4,669 stores in the U.S., said it found evidence that fewer than 25,000 records containing credit card data were accessed and possibly removed, according to a statement. That follows its statement on March 5 that it was investigating “rumors” of a breach but had no reason to believe any credit card or consumer data had been lost.

Here Are All The Sites You Should Enable Two Factor Authentication On (And The Ones You Should Yell At) – Two-factor authentication! In this age of endless massive hacks we seem to be in the middle of, it’s one of the easiest ways you can dramatically boost security on your online accounts. But which sites actually support it? It can be a pain to keep track. Fortunately, a new, community-driven list keeps a running list of all the big sites that have some form of 2FA enabled (and encourages you to nag at those that don’t).

Malaysia Airlines mystery: Click here for the TRUTH …but FIRST, fill out this survey scam innocuous form – Scammers are asking truth-seeking conspiracy theorists to ignore the inherent irony and give up some of their private data in order to find out the “truth” about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. In reality, it’s a ruse to earn crooks a few cents in marketing affiliate revenues from dodgy online marketing firms that, at best, wastes a lot of people’s time and (very likely) coaxes victims into handing over private information.

Bitcoin-stealing malware hidden in Mt. Gox data dump, researcher says – Recently leaked Mt. Gox data archive contains a malicious application that steals Bitcoin wallet files, a researcher from Kaspersky Lab said.

Company News:

Apple rumored to launch cheaper 8GB iPhone 5c on Tuesday – A new rumor claims that Apple will begin selling a cheaper version of its iPhone 5c smartphone, with just 8GB of onboard storage, as early as Tuesday in Germany, and possibly other parts of the world.

Verizon’s still committed to Windows Phone as another device leaks – With the leak of another Windows Phone for Verizon, it would appear to state that the company has no plans of abandoning the platform and is committed to Microsoft’s mobile OS.

Dropbox Acquires Zulip, A Stealthy Workplace Chat Solution Still In Private Beta – Dropbox has quietly acquired Zulip, the makers of a workplace chat solution for desktop and mobile, which had yet to publicly launch. Though still in private beta at the time of the acquisition, Zulip had already developed a suite of applications for Mac, Windows, Linux, iPhone and Android, which allowed users to share both public and private messages with their co-workers.

Uncertainty Persists As The Nokia-Microsoft Deal Races Towards Deadline – Microsoft and Nokia told investors that their deal would close in the first quarter of 2014. They have two weeks to meet that guidance, which remains unchanged even in the face of Nokia’s recent legal setback.

Xbox Chief Product Officer Marc Whitten Leaves Microsoft For Sonos – Microsoft has just disclosed that Marc Whitten, Chief Product Officer for the Xbox division, will be leaving the company. His new gig? Chief Product Officer at Sonos. Microsoft notes that Marc’s team will now report to Terry Myerson, who, as the company’s VP of Operating Systems, already oversaw much of the Xbox team’s operations (along with those of Windows and Windows Phone)

Games and Entertainment:

Craving junk food or a smoke? Try Tetris instead – In a recent study, just 3 minutes of the highly visual game dramatically reduced participants’ cravings for food, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine.

Watch Dogs contains 100 hours of gameplay – Watch Dogs has now had its release date confirmed as May 27, meaning it’s almost done and Ubisoft can start to share more about what to expect from the much-anticipated game. And creative director Jonathan Morin has now confirmed how long we can expect to be playing the game for.

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The Elder Scrolls Online beta leaves us skeptical – The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO) always deserved skepticism. Was there any good reason to expect that the joys of the Elder Scrolls games would translate to a massively multiplayer format? I would love to be able to tell you that TESO manages to bridge those worlds of freedom and control, combining the best of both into a beautiful paradox. Unfortunately, after playing this past weekend’s semi-open beta while TESO prepares for launch in just a couple of weeks, I found that the opposite was true: it was the worst of both worlds. TESO takes the most predictable path, putting a superficial coating of The Elder Scrolls over a fairly conventional MMORPG.

Diablo 3 gold and real-money auction houses end-date: tomorrow – It’s time to be done with the longest-lasting experiment in real-cash trade for Diablo items in the history of the Diablo gamin franchise. It will be Tuesday, March 18th when the gold and real-money auction houses are taken down entirely, while the rest of the auction house ecosystem will remain in play. Until June 24th, players will be able to access their “completed” tabs – but we wouldn’t risk it.

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Microsoft: All Xbox One controllers will work on Windows… Eventually – Microsoft Xbox executive Albert Penello clairfied that Microsoft still plans to offer drivers for the Xbox One controller that will allow current models to work with Windows PC games in wired mode.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The Internet tsunami: 8 big insights on what it disrupts next – The disruptions that the Internet has unleashed on society have only just begun. Learn what the next stages will bring over the coming decade.

NSA can track every email, but it can’t find a plane – When a world that’s characterized by ubiquitous data collection and surveillance can lose sight of a jumbo jet, you start to question the worth of all that spying on us.

If You Gave Superman A GoPro – If anyone ever asks you what you’d use a personal drone for, you could say “Real estate photos”.. or “monitoring rhino populations”… or you could say “pretending to be freaking superman.” Armed with a personal RC drone, a GoPro camera, and fistfuls of crazy video editing talent, a team out of LA has recreated a first person view of a day-in-the-life of ol’ Clark Kent himself.

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Three Data Driven Nuggets From Nate Silver’s New News Site – Nate Silver, the famous New York Times statistics blogger who correctly forecasted 50 out of 50 states in the 2012 presidential election, has launched an entire news site dedicated to data journalism. Keeping the old blog name, 538, the relaunched site is dedicated to taking what Silver thinks is a more rigorous approach to writing about numbers. Flush with ESPN’s cash, Silver has hired writers who have skills in statistical analysis, data visualization, computer programming and data-literate reporting.

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Why I Don’t Want My Daughter to Work in Silicon Valley – Do we want a tech world defined by compassionless jerks? I’ve written before about the toxicity of the Silicon Valley/San Francisco cult of “disruption,” which has no empathy for the disrupted, and little place for any empathy at all. But my hackles were raised again by a BusinessWeek review of venture capitalist Ben Horowitz’s new book, which confirmed that Silicon Valley’s power brokers are passionately devoted to creating a society at war with itself.

Here’s How Tired People Were After Daylight Saving, According to Facebook Data – The Monday morning after the clocks sprung forward for Daylight Saving last week, Americans were feeling sleepy. Rather than take that statement at face value, the data scientists at Facebook decided to find out just how sleepy people were. (In non-scientific terms: They could have used an extra hour of shut eye).

Something to think about:

“One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between 2 “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Found at: Paul Eckstrom

Today’s Free Downloads:

CyberGhost VPN 5 – Join now one of the world’s most trusted and secure VPNs. For FREE. CyberGhost VPN lets you surf anonymously by hiding your IP address and replacing it with that of the server you choose to connect to, making it impossible for hackers, third parties or other organizations to track you or meddle in your business.

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Panda Cloud Antivirus 2.3.0 / 2.9.1 Beta – Thanks to Panda Security’s Collective Intelligence malware and goodware online database, Panda Cloud Antivirus detects more malware than traditional signature-based solutions which take longer to detect the most recent, and therefore most dangerous, variants. Panda Cloud Antivirus protects you while you browse, play or work and you won’t even notice it. It is extremely light as all the work is done online in the cloud. Panda Cloud Antivirus provides you with the fastest protection against the newest viruses thanks to its cloud-scanning from PandaLabs’ servers. Panda Cloud Antivirus is truly install and forget. Don’t worry about updates, configuration or complicated decisions ever again. (I took this one out for a test run (30 days) recently – impressive and very lightweight.)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Compare the NSA’s Facebook Malware Denial to its Own Secret Documents – On Wednesday, Glenn Greenwald and I revealed new details about the National Security Agency’s efforts to radically expand its ability to hack into computers and networks across the world. The story has received a lot of attention, and one detail in particular has sparked controversy: specifically, that the NSA secretly pretended to be a Facebook server in order to covertly infect targets with malware “implants” used for surveillance. This revelation apparently infuriated Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg so much that he got on the phone to President Barack Obama to complain about it. “I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government,” Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post Thursday. “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.” That wasn’t all. Wired ran a piece saying that the NSA’s widespread use of its malware tools “acts as implicit permission to others, both nation-state and criminal.” Slate noted that the NSA’s hacking platform appears to be “becoming a bit more like the un-targeted dragnets everyone has been so upset about.” Meanwhile, Ars Technica wrote that the surveillance technology we exposed “poses a risk to the entire Internet.”

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Reports of the Death of a National License-Plate Tracking Database Have Been Greatly Exaggerated – In a  February 19 front-page story, the Washington Post appeared to be breaking news of yet another massive federal surveillance program invading the privacy of innocent Americans. The Department of Homeland Security, the story said, had drawn up plans to develop a national license-plate tracking database, giving the feds the ability to monitor the movements of tens of millions of drivers — a particularly intrusive form of suspicionless bulk surveillance, considering how strongly we Americans feel it’s none of the government’s business where and when we come and go. The next day, however, the Post called off the alarm. The plan, the newspaper reported, had been canceled. Threat averted. Move along. But the Post had gotten it all wrong. DHS wasn’t planning to create a national license-plate tracking database — because several already exist, owned by different private companies, and extensively used by law enforcement agencies including DHS for years.

Good riddance to American internet oversight says Microsoft – Microsoft’s veep for technology policy David Tennenhouse has given Redmond’s good netkeeping seal of approval to the USA’s plans to stop acting as the ultimate regulator of the internet. Tennenhouse has posted to the effect that “The U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s recent announcement of its intent to transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multi-stakeholder community is a significant and welcome development.”

Australia – Asio and others seek more, not fewer, surveillance powers – Australia’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies are resisting calls to improve safeguards for intelligence-gathering and actively seeking more surveillance powers, including the ability to force users to decrypt information. Mandatory data retention, increased powers to gather intelligence from email or social media users, and compelling users to decrypt encrypted files are among an array of proposals from government agencies in submissions to a Senate inquiry into the operation of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act. The inquiry was sparked by calls from Greens senator Scott Ludlam to investigate the safeguards protecting personal data. They stemmed in part from the revelations from documents obtained by the former national security adviser whistleblower Edward Snowden that Australia offered to share metadata from citizens with overseas surveillance partners. But intelligence agencies are resisting a series of potential changes to the act, and taking the opportunity to argue for greater powers. (suggested by Mal C.)

US intelligence oversight group from 1975 says things are way worse now – On Monday, surviving members and staff of the Church Committee published an open letter (PDF) to Congress, President Barack Obama, and the American public, calling for a “Church Committee for the 21st Century—a special investigatory committee to undertake a thorough, and public, examination of current intelligence community practices affecting the rights of Americans and to make specific recommendations for future oversight and reform.” Notably, the letters authors offer this declaration: “The scale of domestic communications surveillance the NSA engages in today dwarfs the programs revealed by the Church Committee.” Given the CIA’s recent spat with Senate investigators, such an oversight committee may not have been as far off as it once seemed.

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