Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – October 7, 2015

Your Antivirus Knows All About You;  5 things you should know about VPNs;  Three easy ways to speed up Windows 10;  Android 6.0 Marshmallow, thoroughly reviewed;  When will your phone get Android Marshmallow?  Take 9 minutes to watch Microsoft’s best product unveiling in years;  A list of all the Google Now voice commands;  You can now draw on photos that you upload to Facebook;  How to create a Facebook profile video;  Google Lets You Translate Text In 90 Languages Within Android Apps;  Krebs: Most Firms Fail to Take Simple Cybersecurity Measures;  Twitter Moments debuts for curating tweets, topics, and events;  Russia gives Google an ultimatum to unbundle mobile apps;  9 Video Games You’ll Want to Buy in October;  PS4 price drop is coming;  Microsoft Promises Windows 10 For Xbox One This Holiday;  Roku 4 is now official: 4 is for 4K;  US data storage leaves users open to surveillance, court rules;  Snowden Says Government Has Not Responded To His Offer To Go To Jail.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Your Antivirus Knows All About You – Your antivirus knows a heck of a lot about you. It knows what programs you run, because it has to make sure they’re legit. It knows the websites you visit, and steers you away from frauds and dangers. In addition, the antivirus company may learn a lot about you as you interact with sales, support, and so on. But that’s fine, right? Well, a recent attempt by free antivirus giant AVG to clarify its privacy policy caused quite a fuss. Wired reported on the new policy using the headline “AVG can sell your browsing and search history to advertisers.” As it turns out, that inflammatory headline wasn’t accurate. A little digging convinced me that AVG’s policy isn’t much different from that of its competitors—it’s just spelled out more clearly. I checked the policy for several other free antivirus tools, and also for Wired’s website.

5 things you should know about VPNs – Privacy and anonymity are now paramount online — so what do you need to know about one tool available, VPNs, to stay safe?


Three easy ways to speed up Windows 10 – Whatever your PC’s origin story, there are ways to make it faster. And I don’t mean faster at crunching complex spreadsheets or processing mammoth Photoshop edits; I’m talking about speedier startup, shutdown and Start-menu access. You know, the things that matter day-to-day. Give me five minutes, and I’ll save you precious seconds. (Wait, that sounds like a bad trade. But you’ll get those minutes back, and then some.)

How to enter Windows 10’s Safe Mode – Sometimes, whether you like it or not, you have to boot into Windows’ stripped-down Safe Mode. But with Windows 10, that gets complicated.

Microsoft by the numbers: 110M Windows 10 users, 1B visitors to the Windows 10 app store – Microsoft revealed a few key statistics about the state and future of Windows 10 — here’s a rundown.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow, thoroughly reviewed – While this is a review of the final build of “Android 6.0,” we’re going to cover many of Google’s apps along with some other bits that aren’t technically exclusive to Marshmallow. Indeed, big chunks of “Android” don’t actually live in the operating system anymore. Google offloads as much of Android as possible to Google Play Services and to the Play Store for easier updating and backporting to older versions, and this structure allows the company to retain control over its open source platform. As such, consider this a look at the shipping Google Android software package rather than just the base operating system. “Review: New Android stuff Google has released recently” would be a more accurate title, though not as catchy.


How to install Android Marshmallow on your Nexus device – The big 6.0 release of Android, named Marshamllow, will bring a whole host of new features and enhancements. If you have a recent Nexus device, you can download an image from Google and flash your phone to run the OS right now. Or, if you’re patient, just wait for the over-the-air update (it should roll out to all Nexus devices within a few weeks of general availability—figure mid-October at the latest).

When will your phone get Android Marshmallow? Here’s what we know so far – Whether you have a Samsung, Motorola, LG, HTC, or Nexus, we run down all the latest news and rumors about when Marshmallow is coming your way. Here’s what we know at this point about when your phone or tablet will get Android Marshmallow. We’ll update our list as the carriers or handset makers detail their plans.

Take 9 minutes to watch Microsoft’s best product unveiling in years – Earlier today, Microsoft pulled off its best tech event in literally years, exciting the group of Windows enthusiasts (and impressing the press) with a cavalcade of hardware announcements. We saw the return of Windows Phone with new Lumia devices that can double as mini-PCs when you hooks them up to a screen. We got a new version of the Microsoft Band fitness tracker (which, really, is looking more and more like a health-centric smartwatch). Of course, there was a new Surface Pro tablet with a greatly improved keyboard and trackpad attachment. And then the Surface Book. It’s that last one that has everybody talking — Microsoft finally made a laptop, and at first blush it seems like a really good one. And then: hit a button and remove the screen to turn it into a really thin tablet. Oh yeah, and we saw a new HoloLens demo that involved robots crashing through walls.


Microsoft Display Dock turns Windows 10 phones into a desktop PC – Microsoft’s event focusing on new Windows 10 hardware rolls on this morning, and along with revealing the two new Lumia 950 smartphones, the company announced an accessory that will let users pair them with a large display, keyboard, and mouse. The Microsoft Display Dock features three standard USB ports, a USB Type-C connector, a DisplayPort, and HDMI, essentially turning the Windows 10 phones into a desktop PC.


A list of all the Google Now voice commands – You pick up your phone and say “OK Google”… and then what? Your phone is listening. The microphone icon is pulsing. What do you say to your phone? What can you say to it? Google Now’s voice function has become surprisingly robust over the years. Here’s a list of just about everything you can say to Google Now. Try experimenting with different phrasing, you’ll be surprised how much it understands. The part of the phrase in [brackets] can be replaced with any similar term you choose.

How to edit YouTube videos on your iPhone before uploading – With the latest update to the YouTube iOS app, your iPhone has become a mini video-editing studio. Google has added in-app editing tools to its YouTube iOS app that let you trim a video’s start and end points, add filters to tweak the look of that video, and add music to the background for a more cinematic feel.

You can now draw on photos that you upload to Facebook – Facebook has let you edit, crop, and add filters to mobile photos for a while now, and now you’ll be able to draw on them, too. This is thanks to a new feature called “Doodle,” a simple pen tool that Facebook is rolling out to its mobile apps today. When you select a photo that you want to upload to Facebook, you’re presented with a dock of editing options. Doodle will slide right in to the right side of that dock, allowing you to pick a color and draw all over your upload. If you press and hold on a color and slide your finger to the left, you can adjust the size of the brush, too.


How to create a Facebook profile video – If you feel your Facebook profile is too static, Facebook is giving you 7 seconds to work with. Facebook is rolling out a number of new features to its mobile apps, including one that just arrived on my iPhone: profile videos.  After taking or uploading a video, you can then select a thumbnail from the video as your profile picture. The picture will show up in Facebook’s news feed. Only when people visit your profile page will they see your video, which helps people add a some flare to their profiles without making Facebook’s newsfeed overly distracting.

Native Facebook, Instagram, Messenger apps coming to Windows 10 – Microsoft’s long-awaited Windows 10 event has finally begun this morning, and the company isn’t wasting any time in revealing how well the new operating system is doing after launching this past summer. To start off, Microsoft is boasting of the developers that have committed to make universal Windows 10 apps, which will run natively and provide users the same experience on PCs, tablets, and phones. One of those big names is Facebook.

Twitter Moments debuts for curating tweets, topics, and events – Previous known as Project Lightning, Twitter has just rolled out a new feature that curates and collects tweets about important events and trending topics. Now called Moments, the feature compiles media and information from tweets in a user’s timeline that they may have missed into a single slideshow-like presentation. Moments seems to be Twitter’s solution to its problem of giving new users a quick and easy to discover new content, as well as offering experienced users more control over their timeline.


Google Lets You Translate Text In 90 Languages Within Android Apps Like LinkedIn And WhatsApp – With the release of Android’s latest operating system, Marshmallow, tons of new functionality is going to be introduced over the next few weeks. One of the more interesting new features rolling out now is the ability to translate text within popular Android apps like WhatsApp. That’s pretty huge if you only speak English and your friend only speaks Russian, for example.



Krebs: Most Firms Fail to Take Simple Cybersecurity Measures – Well-known security researcher Brian Krebs gave a fascinating but scary talk about the current state of cybercrime, arguing that there is a big “PR gap” between the perception and reality of cybercrime.

How to find and clean malware infections with Emsisoft Emergency Kit – Emsisoft Emergency Kit is the only free, fully portable dual-engine cleaning toolkit that scans for and removes Malware and Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) from your PC. It’s the tool of choice for a second opinion scan and works well in combination with any other antivirus- and anti-malware programs. Use it if you suspect your computer is infected, but other protection and cleaning software fails to get you out of your misery. It doesn’t take you a lot of time – a typical malware scan with Emsisoft Emergency Kit takes no more than a minute.

This tutorial provides step-by-step instructions on how to scan and clean your computer.

    Download and run the Emsisoft Emergency Kit

Check for the latest online updates

Run a scan and clean your computer

What to do if malware is found

For geeks: Emsisoft Commandline Scanner

For malware removal professionals: Emsisoft Emergency Kit Pro

Google Denies Motor Trend’s Claim That Android Auto Collects Key Automotive Data – Android Auto does not phone key automotive data back home, Google says. This comes after Motor Trend stated Porsche opted to not include Android Auto in the new 991/2 as Google’s system collects and transmits back to Google information such as vehicle speed, throttle position, coolant and oil temp, engine revs.

Google’s official statement:

Steering this story straight – we take privacy very seriously and do not collect the data the Motor Trend article claims such as throttle position, oil temp and coolant temp. Users opt in to share information with Android Auto that improves their experience, so the system can be hands-free when in Drive, and provide more accurate navigation through the car’s GPS.

Google patches second round of Stagefright flaws in Android – Google has issued patches for two new Stagefright-related vulnerabilities, one of which affects Android versions going back to 2008 and puts millions of users at risk. In an advisory Monday, Google said it didn’t appear that attackers have started exploiting the vulnerabilities yet.

Why every Android user should take the Stagefright leak very seriously – A vulnerability in Android called Stagefright was exposed at the 2015 Black Hat conference in early August. The media frenzy that followed claimed that hundreds of millions of phones could be hacked with a single text – but is any of that true? The reality is, an attacker only needs your phone number to conduct a successful attack. It only takes one text to put your whole digital life at risk. And the worst part? There is currently no successful patch against all the potential exploits of the Stagefright vulnerability. The best you can do is stay informed about the situation and take advantage of your limited safety options.

Company News:

Samsung predicts first quarterly profit growth in two years – Samsung Electronics expects it made about 7.3 trillion won ($6.27 billion) in operating profit off sales of 51 trillion won ($43.8 billion) in its third quarter of 2015. If confirmed once the final figures are available later this month, that means the company is back to profit growth after seven straight quarters of year-on-year decline. Last year in Q3 the company made 47.4 trillion won in revenue, meaning it’s likely to be up around 7-8 percent this year. Operating profit a year ago was a disappointing 4.1 trillion won, so Samsung is expecting a year-on-year boost of around 78 percent.

HTC’s downhill financial trend continues in Q3 2015 – If there were any doubt whether HTC was in deep trouble, the numbers from the previous quarter would probably be proof enough. The Taiwanese company just posted its financials for the months ranging from July to September this year and things aren’t looking good. To be blunt, they are looking terrible and almost hopeless. It revealed a net loss amounting to $138 million, which doesn’t spark much confidence in the manufacturer’s ability to turn its business around and put a curb on its consistently slumping profits.

Adobe shares tumble on revised 2016 revenue forecast – Adobe Systems on Tuesday revised its revenue guidance for fiscal 2016 with numbers well below Wall Street expectations. The creative software giant expects revenue of $5.7 billion and earnings of $2.70 per share, below a consensus of $5.93 billion and $3.19 per share. On a GAAP basis, Adobe now expects earnings of $1.80 per share. Adobe shares tumbled as much as 11 percent in after market trading following the news.

Twitter Shares Pop 5.7% On News Of @Jack’s Return – Providing proof that markets are silly, shares of Twitter stock are up around 5 percent today following news that Jack Dorsey will again be its CEO. Dorsey will retain his role at Square, making him a rare double executive. Here’s the chart:


Sony image sensor division spun off into new company – Sony has said that as part of a restructuring effort, the company’s image sensor division is being spun off into a separate company, now called Sony Semiconductor Solutions. The image sensor operations have been among Sony’s fastest growing and most successful businesses in recent years. The company’s announcement details that Sony Semiconductor Solutions will focus on image sensors, and be separate from groups that work on Sony devices.

Facebook And Eutelsat Partner To Deliver Internet To Africa From Space – As part of, its initiative to bring billions of people around the world online, Facebook will partner with Eutelsat to launch a new satellite that will provide Internet access to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.’s network infrastructure already includes drones and a laser communication system that are now undergoing lab tests, but this is its first project to provide Internet access from space, said Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg in a post. The Facebook-Eutelsat satellite, called AMOS-6, is currently under construction and scheduled to launch in 2016. After it begins orbiting, the satellite will be able to connect “millions of people” in west, east, and south Africa.

Russia gives Google an ultimatum to unbundle mobile apps – It seems that Google has little recourse left in Russia, now that the government has put its foot down on the matter of the search giant’s bundling of its services, especially Search, on certified Android phones. The country’s anti-monopoly regulatory body is giving the Android maker until November 18 to comply with the instructions or face a fine that could cost Google millions of dollars. Google had hoped to appeal the matter, but it seems that Russia isn’t interested in a compromise, nor even some breathing space.

LinkedIn to Pay $13 Million in Spam Settlement – The professional networking site LinkedIn has agreed to a $13 million out of court settlement in a class action lawsuit that claims reputations may have been damaged by multiple emails the company sent on behalf of users. The suit originated in California in 2013, when LinkedIn users sued the company claiming its “Add Connections” feature hurt their professional reputation by relentlessly messaging their email contacts with requests to connect on LinkedIn, Fortune reports. In the complaint, users described being embarrassed by the emails and complained that it was very difficult to stop LinkedIn from sending more emails once the barrage had begun. The settlement affects users who signed up for LinkedIn’s “Add Connections” feature between September 2011 and October 2014.

Games and Entertainment:

StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void’s three-mission prologue free for anyone, starting today – Blizzard’s prepping to roll out the final piece of the StarCraft II trilogy next month with Legacy of the Void, but you can get a small taste right now with Whispers of Oblivion. The three-mission mini-campaign deals with the Dark Templar Zeratul and bridges the gap between Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void. The missions have been accessible by people who preordered Legacy of the Void for a few months now, but with today’s Patch 3.0 they’re open to anyone. Yes, anyone—even if you’ve never, in your entire life, played StarCraft II. You’ll need, but after that you just go to the StarCraft II section and install the starter pack. Boom—free missions.


Metal Gear Solid 5’s traditional multiplayer mode goes live – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain expands today with the release of its free multiplayer mode, Metal Gear Online. The squad-based component is available now for all console versions, while the PC edition “remains on course” for its previously scheduled arrival in January 2016.

9 Video Games You’ll Want to Buy in October – The biggest and most-promising video games of 2015 hit stores and digital shelves this fall. October, in particular, is loaded with excellent titles, with genres that include beat ’em up action, first-person shooting, and rhythm games. We’ve parsed through October’s massive catalog of video game releases and have organized a list of nine of the very best titles the month has in store. Yes, nine promising games won’t be easy on your wallet, but can you really afford to miss out?

Far Cry Primal coming to XB1/PS4 February 23, PC in March – Much like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, this spinoff entry in the series transports the series’ general gameplay formula to an entirely new, unrelated location and era—though this time, instead of a neon-soaked warp to a violent super-future full of robotic dinosaurs, Far Cry Primal will take players to a prehistoric era that, according to today’s new teaser trailer, will be inhabited by saber-tooth tigers and wooly mammoths. Also, like Blood Dragon, Primal will be sold as a standalone game as opposed to an expansion—but unlike Blood Dragon, Primal will receive a retail, boxed release version for both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on February 23, 2016. (A PC version will follow in “March.”)


Microsoft Promises Windows 10 For Xbox One This Holiday – At the Microsoft event this morning, the company’s No. 2, Terry Myerson, announced that the company will be upgrading all of its Xbox One systems to Windows 10. That means the company’s fanboys will be able to play Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One. The company is also introducing limited-edition consoles inspired by games. The Halo5 console, Myerson’s favorite, comes with 1 terabyte of storage and will retail for $499. Rumors have been that this will be dropping in November, but Myerson did not give a specific release date.

PS4 price drop is coming, according to retailer leak -With the second anniversary of the PlayStation 4’s launch quickly approaching and a recent unexpected price drop in Japan, the will they or won’t they speculation over a Western PS4 price drop has been rampant. Target may have spoiled all that guesswork, though, with a briefly leaked advertisement suggesting that a $350 PS4 is imminent. Yesterday afternoon, gaming deal hunter Wario64 was among the first to notice that the Video Games section of Target’s website was proclaiming a “$50 price drop on the PS4” in big letters next to box art for the upcoming Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection PS4 hardware bundle. “The best place to play. Now $349.99,” the ad continued, in case the price drop announcement wasn’t clear enough.


Roku 4 is now official: 4 is for 4K – With Apple’s new Apple TV, the pressure is on long-time players in the set-top box market to start gearing up for tougher competition. One of the oldest in the field is Roku, who is now revealing its play with the new Roku 4 player. As leaked before, the box, which is now really more of a box than a palm-sized trinket, does support 4K video playback. However, that is not the only trick that this new dog knows, a set that includes an upgrade to the Roku OS software as well.


Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 adding franchise-first ‘realistic’ difficulty – The trophy list for Call of Duty: Black Ops III has emerged, revealing new details about the latest entry in Activision’s blockbuster shooter series. Starting off, a franchise-first “Realistic” difficulty setting is mentioned in the list, published by Exophase. This would appear to be the game’s new toughest difficulty setting, above the existing Hardened and Veteran. No further details about the Realistic setting were divulged. Past Call of Duty games have featured Recruit, Regular, Hardened and Veteran difficulty settings. The name “Realistic” would suggest that there may be no health regeneration, but developer Treyarch has yet to confirm any specific details. We’ll have that information for you when it becomes available.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Everything to Know About the Huge Fantasy Sports Scandal – If anyone in America still hadn’t heard of DraftKings and FanDuel by way of their aggressive advertising assault, they will now. The New York Times has broken a story—and deemed it worthy of a mobile news alert—on a DraftKings employee winning $350,000 on FanDuel this week. Sports and technology folks—not just those that already follow these companies—are going nuts.

Every Chinese citizen will soon have a score based on how they live and conform – In Western countries most people understand what a credit score is. It’s a score an individual is awarded based on their assets, income, and credit history. It is a summary of how creditworthy you are and what potential risk you pose when, for example, a bank is deciding whether or not to loan you money. In China, the government has decided to take credit scores to a whole new level, turning them more into a life score by tracking anything and everything you do. And by 2020, this score will be a mandatory part of every Chinese citizen’s life.


Threatening to post sex tape on Facebook is not a crime, court rules – A man handed six years for threatening a local Georgia court clerk that he would post a sex tape of her on Facebook had his conviction overturned by the state’s Supreme Court. The justices ruled Monday that the Facebook postings did not constitute criminality or a “true threat” under the law, because the defendant did not express an “intent to commit an act of unlawful violence.” The case concerns a Georgia landlord named Lister Harrell who took to Facebook in 2013 and threatened a Dodge County court clerk that he would release a sex tape of her if, among other things, a bench warrant wasn’t lifted over his failure to appear in court regarding alleged landlord violations.

RunZoo game aims to foster Mideast peace through kids – A diverse team of developers wants Israeli and Palestinian kids — and children in other conflict zones — to find common ground through the shared experience of cooperative gaming.


Study: Heavy Internet Use Linked To High Blood Pressure In Teens – Researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit have found a link between heavy Internet use in teens and high blood pressure. Teens who spent over 14 hours a week on the Internet had “elevated blood pressure.” Of the 134 teens studied and defined as heavy Internet users, “26 had elevated blood pressure.”

From the report:

This is believed to be the first study to show a link between time spent on the Internet and high blood pressure. The findings add to growing research that has shown an association between heavy Internet use and other health risks like addiction, anxiety, depression, obesity and social isolation.Andrea Cassidy-Bushrow, Ph.D., MPH, a researcher at Henry Ford’s Department of Public Health Sciences and the study’s lead author, says the take-home message for teens and parents is moderation.

“Using the Internet is part of our daily life but it shouldn’t consume us,” she says. “In our study, teens considered heavy Internet users were on the Internet an average of 25 hours a week.

Cassidy-Bushrow recommends moderation in all things Internet, no matter how much the kids whine.

Lena Dunham says abuse on Twitter helped her appreciate Instagram – Lena Dunham revealed last week that she’s relinquished direct control of her Twitter account, but she still misses some aspects of what she considers one of the most toxic parts of the internet. “I love reporting people. It’s my main source of power. I used to love blocking people on Twitter,” Dunham said today at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco. “There’s no reason I should spend so much time reporting people except that it’s just a fucking joy.”

Something to think about:

“Once the game is over, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.”

–    Italian Proverb


Rainmeter: What’s on your desktop? – Rainmeter is the best known and most popular desktop customization program for Windows. Enhance your Windows computer at home or work with skins; handy, compact applets that float freely on your desktop. Rainmeter skins provide you with useful information at a glance. It’s easy to keep an eye on your system resources, like memory and battery power, or your online data streams, including email, RSS feeds, and weather forecasts.

Many skins are even functional: they can record your notes and to-do lists, launch your favorite applications, control your media player – all in a clean, unobtrusive interface that you can rearrange and customize to your liking.

There are thousands and thousands of skins available, crafted by a large and ever-growing community of Rainmeter users.

Rainmeter is not just an application, it is a robust toolkit. Create and modify your own skins in a simple language that’s easy to learn, with the help of our extensive documentation, getting started guide and skin tutorials. Skins call upon measures, a set of powerful built-in modules that do all the heavy lifting, and create interactive meters to display that information however you decide. In this way, Rainmeter brings productive innovation together with creative artistry like no other platform of its kind.

Rainmeter is a community. People in our forums are always happy to help you get started or answer questions. Over the last few years, a thriving community has built up around Rainmeter, as average users freely contribute their own original skins, their generous knowledge and support, and their inspirational ideas to a project whose scope and capabilities are constantly expanding.

Rainmeter is designed for YOUR system. Rainmeter uses very little CPU and RAM resources, has a tiny space footprint, and will run perfectly well on any hardware using Windows XP through Windows 10.

Rainmeter is free and open source. Rainmeter is open source software distributed free of charge under the terms of the GNU GPL v2 license. If you want to get involved, check the Rainmeter GitHub repository.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Facebook row: US data storage leaves users open to surveillance, court rules – The personal data of Europeans held in America by online tech corporations is not safe from US government snooping, the European court of justice has ruled, in a landmark verdict that hits Facebook, Google, Amazon and many others.

The Luxembourg-based court declared the EU-US “safe harbour” rules regulating firms’ retention of Europeans’ data in the US to be invalid, throwing a spoke into trade relations that will also impact on current negotiations on a far-reaching transatlantic trade pact between Washington and Brussels.

The ECJ, whose findings are binding on all EU member states, ruled on Tuesday that: “The United States … scheme enables interference, by United States public authorities, with the fundamental rights of persons…”

The verdict came as a direct result of Edward Snowden’s revelations, published in the Guardian, of how the US National Security Agency was obtaining mass access to data held by the big internet servers and telecoms companies in the US. As a result, an Austrian lawyer, Maximilian Schrems, took Facebook to court in Ireland, arguing the social media site was violating his privacy by retaining his data in the US, including material he had himself deleted.

The ruling will force the companies involved to rethink their operations and to relocate some of their operations, and also creates great legal uncertainty among the 4,400 European companies that use the safe harbour rules to transfer customers’ data to the US.

No need to panic: European Commission upbeat about Safe Harbor ruling – “Aside from taking an ax to the undersea fiber optic cables connecting Europe to the United States, it is hard to imagine a more disruptive action to trans-Atlantic digital commerce.”

That was the measured reaction of the Washington think tank the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation to the news that the Court of Justice of the European Union had torn up the Safe Harbor privacy protection agreement on the transfer of personal data from the EU to the U.S.

But the European Commission seemed unperturbed by the abrupt end of the agreement it struck with the U.S. government in July 2000 to ensure that the personal data of Europeans was granted the same legal protections in the U.S. as it was in the EU.

Global civil rights groups coalition wants changes to Facebook’s real-name policy – Facebook holds that its requirement that people use their authentic identities in their accounts helps keep the social networking site safe from terrorists, cyberbullies and other criminals from hiding behind their profiles.

But in a letter to the company on Monday, a large group of civil liberties organizations from across the world, have said that Facebook’s system “disregards the circumstances of users in non-western countries, exposes its users to danger, disrespects the identities of its users, and curtails free speech.”

Users are not required to submit a proof of identity to register an account, but if another user, well-intentioned or otherwise, reports the account holder for using a fake name, that is when problems begin, because then Facebook demands proof of identity, according to the groups.

“This is where things get difficult for many users who lack IDs or documentation featuring the name they’d prefer on the service,” wrote Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, in a blog post.

Snowden Says Government Has Not Responded To His Offer To Go To Jail – Edward Snowden said he wants to return to the United States — even if that means serving jail time.

The former government contractor fled the U.S. in 2013 after he leaked classified NSA documents to reporters. Snowden said in an interview with the BBC that aired Monday that Department of Justice officials had not responded to his offer.

“I’ve volunteered to go to prison with the government many times,” Snowden said. “What I won’t do is I won’t serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations.”

The U.S. charged Snowden with three felonies under the Espionage Act in 2013 that carry a jail sentence of up to three decades. Snowden told Wired Magazine in 2014 that he would volunteer for prison as long as his sentence “serves the right purpose.”

In the two years since Snowden’s revelations, his name has catalyzed politicized debates over whether he is a patriot or a traitor. Many in the patriot camp have been calling on President Obama to grant Snowden a full pardon. National security hawks often argue only a traitor would hide from the U.S. government in Russia. But in light of Snowden’s recent comments, these criticisms miss the mark.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – October 5, 2015

10 things taking up way too much space on your phone;  Email and social media blunders that could get you fired … or worse;  Everything you need to know about Google’s $35 streamer;  Windows 10 build 10558 leaked, tons of features await;  Automatically Animate GIFs In Your Google Image Search Results;  11 Ways Apple’s Health App Is Actually Really Useful;  11 Fitness Apps That Are Better Than a Personal Trainer;  The best rugged Bluetooth speakers;  How to properly decommission iOS devices;  Google Chromebooks: The most popular classroom computing device;  The 10 Greatest Android Phones in the Entire Universe;  2015’s biggest data breaches: CVS, Anthem, IRS, and worse;  Google Officially Becomes Alphabet;  Scottrade suffers hack; 4.6M customers notified of breach;  Oculus Rift will cost over $350;  Batman: Arkham Knight back onto Steam in time for Halloween;  Latest Xbox One bundle comes with Fallout 4 and 3;  Brevity: 3 tips for speaking less and saying more;  Drone Regulations: What You Need to Know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

10 things taking up way too much space on your phone – It doesn’t matter how much storage space your new phone has—or how much additional storage space you add with a microSD card—you somehow always find yourself bumping up against that limit. So what do you do? Go out and buy a $1000 512GB microSD card and try to cram it into your microSD-less Samsung Galaxy Note 5? Or…clean up your dang phone? Let’s go with the latter.

Email and social media blunders that could get you fired … or worse – From Anthony Weiner-style pics to simply hitting the caps-lock key at the wrong time, these communication blunders could cost you big. From the famous to the infamous to the utterly anonymous, sharing too much info digitally is a surefire way to mess up your life. Examples? We’ve got ’em.

Windows 10 build 10558 leaked, tons of features await – This yet to be made official preview contains more than a few new features awaiting desktop users, some of which might be very useful especially for low storage devices. Perhaps the biggest new feature in the upcoming app update will be the ability to install apps in other than the main “C:” drive or partition. This is going to be a life saver for many, especially those on tablets or laptop hybrids. While Microsoft has made considerable efforts to cut down the disk usage of Windows itself, it is no panacea, especially when apps are concerned. Now users will be able to install apps to, say, a permanently attached microSD card. Sadly, this is a global setting instead of a per app basis.


Automatically Animate GIFs In Your Google Image Search Results – Even though I’m a huge Giphy fan, I still use Google Image Search a lot to find fun imagery…especially animated GIFs. The problem with using Google Search for this is that the results aren’t animated. With this Chrome Extension, your world will change. Do a search and blammo…animation station:

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Chromecast FAQ: Everything you need to know about Google’s $35 streamer – Unlike every other media streamer, which ships with a remote control for moving through menus, Chromecast uses your phone or tablet as the remote. It’s a far-out concept that you’ll either love or hate. Now that Google has announced a brand-new version of the Chromecast (two Chromecasts, actually, but we’ll focused on the video model), it’s a fine time to go over the nitty-gritty. Here’s what you ought to know if you’re considering a Chromecast for your living room:


Google Chromecast Audio – Google has released the Chromecast Audio, a new variant designed solely to turn your speakers wireless for music streaming. It works just like the Chromecast, and has the same low $35 price tag, but it lacks video output and instead connects via a 3.5mm audio jack (with support for stereo RCA and optical audio). And, just like the original Chromecast, it does exactly what it claims to do, extremely well, and at a very reasonable price.


Google Chromebooks: The most popular classroom computing device – Lost in all the buzz about Google’s new Nexus smartphones and Chromecast devices was that Chromebooks are now schools’ favorite computer device.


Consumer Watchdog Groups Complain Updated YouTube Kids App Still Exposes Children To Deceptive Ads – YouTube announced changes to its kid-friendly YouTube Kids mobile application this week designed to better educate parents on how the app works and the protections it offers, following a number of complaints, including those to the FTC, from consumer watchdog organizations. But the groups today are saying that YouTube hasn’t gone far enough with the updated YouTube Kids app, calling the changes “superficial.” Of particular concern, the organizations feel that the advertising that takes place in the app is still “excessive and deceptive” in nature, and doesn’t meet the same guidelines as the advertising permitted on children’s television programs.

Pro tip: How to properly decommission iOS devices – Upgrading your iOS device? Learn how to properly wipe all personal data from your current device before selling or giving it away to protect it from data loss.

This Is the History and the Future of Tablets – Between Apple’s new iPad Pro, Microsoft’s Surface lineup and Google’s new Pixel C, it’s clear that tech companies aren’t giving up on tablets despite dropping sales. But where did tablets come from? Is there hope for them in hybrid designs that combine the best of tablets with the best of laptops, like the iPad Pro? What will the tablets of the future look like?

11 Ways Apple’s Health App Is Actually Really Useful – That Health feature Apple unleashed on every iPhone that uses iOS 8 is an odd and confusing beast that doesn’t appear to do much on its own — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly useful. The entries below prove that Health is anything but worthless. If you want to explore more, just search in the App Store for apps compatible with the Health app, wait for them to ask permission to sync with it, then open Health and select the “Sources” tab to determine how they send and receive information. Different apps may have different settings, so play around to make sure you’re getting everything you can out of them.

11 Fitness Apps That Are Better Than a Personal Trainer – Tech geekery and fitness have historically gone together like socks and sandals: they just don’t. But conventional wisdom no longer applies now that we’ve all got devices in our pockets. If the apps below are any indication, this geekery can help us get in the best shape of our lives. OK, fine, maybe just slightly better shape than we’re used to. But still. Check out the best apps to give personal trainers a run for their money.

The best rugged Bluetooth speakers – We searched for the top ultra-rugged, splash proof, portable, take anywhere Bluetooth speakers we could find. Here are some Bluetooth speakers that will take what you can throw at them.


The Dreamwave Tremor army rugged outdoor Bluetooth speaker.

Adblock extension begins whitelisting ‘acceptable ads’ – The maker of a competing ad-blocking browser extension has joined up with the new program created by Eyeo, owner of Adblock Plus, under which an independent board will decide which ads are acceptable to be placed on a whitelist. The AdBlock browser extension for Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari—similarly named but independent of Eyeo’s product—claims 40 million users. Its developer  Michael Gundlach said Thursday that he had sold his company, as well. The move came about, he said, because German developer Eyeo had decided to distance itself from management of the acceptable ads program that allowed it to make money from its own ad-blocking browser extensions.


This Is How Most Of The World Uses Twitter – Blah blah blah, Twitter has 316M users or whatever and they’re not growing. Can it grow? Will it grow? Yes, there are a lot of questions that Twitter has to start answering if it wants to get some sort of momentum going with consumers and rebuild trust with its investors. General awareness isn’t Twitter’s problem. Plenty of people who aren’t on Twitter, and may never be on Twitter, know what Twitter is. It’s a place where people squawk. Where news sometimes breaks. And where sports teams talk trash to each other:

Now You Can Do a Google Reverse Image Search From Your Phone – A Web developer by the name of Amit Agarwal has done us all a huge favor and created a wrapper of Google Image Search for mobile devices.


The 10 Greatest Android Phones in the Entire Universe – The greatest thing about Google’s mobile OS: You have your choice of handsets on all the major wireless carriers.

10 ways Microsoft Office 2016 could improve your productivity – Microsoft wants Office 2016 to be the last office productivity suite you will ever need. Here are 10 things you should know about how it plans to make that happen.


2015’s biggest data breaches: CVS, Anthem, IRS, and worse – The chances are your data was leaked this year. In 2014 alone, more than one billion personal records were illegally accessed — including health, financial, email and home address data, and other personal information like Social Security numbers. That’s up more than 54 percent on the year prior, according to Gemalto. This year, there’s no sign of let-up.

Scottrade suffers hack; 4.6M customers notified of breach – Retail brokerage firm Scottrade confirmed Friday it fell victim to a cyberattack two years ago. In a brief statement on its website, the Missouri-based company said it was informed by federal law enforcement of “illegal activity involving our network” that occurred between late-2013 and early-2014. “Although Social Security numbers, email addresses and other sensitive data were contained in the system were accessed, it appears that contact information was the focus of the incident,” the statement read. As many as 4.6 million clients, whose contact information is thought to have been taken, are being notified by the brokerage firm.

Patreon was warned of serious website flaw 5 days before it was hacked – Five days before officials said their donations website was plundered by hackers, researchers at a third-party security firm notified them that a serious programming error could lead to disastrous results. The researchers now believe the vulnerability was the entry point for attackers who went on to publish almost 15 gigabytes’ worth of source code, user password data, and private messages. The inclusion of source code and databases suggests breach was extensive. The error was nothing short of facepalm material.


Detectify: Results of a Shodan search performed on September 11 made it clear Patreon was vulnerable to code-execution attacks.

David Jones online customer details stolen – David Jones has revealed that customer details have been stolen as a result of its website being hacked. In a notice on its website, the Australian department giant said that on September 25 its website was hacked, but assured that no customer credit card information, financial information, or passwords were stolen, as it does not store any credit card information or financial information on its website. It said the only customer details that were stolen were names, email addresses, order details, and mailing addresses.

New Malware Called YiSpecter Is Attacking iOS Devices in China And Taiwan – Once it infects a phone, YiSpecter can install unwanted apps; replacing legitimate apps with ones it has downloaded; force apps to display full-screen advertisements; change bookmarks and default search engines in Safari; and send user information back to its server. It also automatically reappears even after users manually delete it from their iOS devices. Palo Alto Networks says YiSpecter is unusual for iOS malware—at least ones that have been identified so far—because it attacks jailbroken and non-jailbroken iOS devices by misusing private APIs to allow its four components (which are signed with enterprise certificates to appear legitimate) to download and install each other from a centralized server.

T-Mobile customers got hacked: here’s what you should do – This week T-Mobile USA announced that a hacker had gained access to a set of credit applications handled by Experian. This company works for T-Mobile, and approximately 15 million people are at risk of having their personal information leaked at this very moment. If you were a new applicant with T-Mobile requiring a credit check for service or device financing between September 1, 2013 through September 16, 2015, there are a few things you should be doing right now. Grab a glass of water, sit down, be as calm as possible, and execute all the necessaries with authority.

Company News:

Google Officially Becomes Alphabet – According to a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Google has “implemented the Alphabet Merger.” That means Google stock has been converted into Alphabet stock (though the stock ticker symbol remains the same), with trading of Alphabet stock expected to begin when the market opens on Monday morning.

Sprint continues decline, plans job cuts and cost cuts of $2.5 billion – Sprint’s place among the big four US wireless carriers continues to be a precarious one, with news reports saying the company now aims to reduce its number of employees and cut between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in costs over the next six months. A memo from Sprint management to staff said there will be a hiring freeze and “job reductions,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Sprint announced days ago that it will skip a major auction of low-band spectrum, a decision that could push the company further behind its rivals.

Report: Apple Prepping Second Spaceship Office in Silicon Valley – The tech giant isn’t even close to completing its 2.8 million square foot “spaceship” campus in Cupertino, but the company has already “sealed a deal” for another piece of massive real estate in the area, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Apple has reportedly contracted with Bay Area development company Landbank Investments LLC for a “curvaceous, 777,000-square-foot project … that’s expected to look like nothing else ever attempted in Silicon Valley.”


Microsoft acquires Havok from Intel – Microsoft has acquired Havok, a game-development technology provider, from Intel for an undisclosed amount. Intel bought Dublin-based Havok, known for its physics engine, in September 2007 for $110 million. Havok has worked with the leading game publishers and developers, including Microsoft Games Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment, Nintendo and others, for 15-plus years. Havok’s physics technology is designed to provide real-time collision-detection in three dimensions.

Walmart’s latest e-commerce push could bring online grocery shopping to the masses – This week, Walmart announced it was significantly expanding its online grocery services and will now offer curbside pickup for groceries ordered online in eight new markets. Walmart already had been testing online grocery with free pickup and/or delivery in San Jose, Denver, Huntsville, Alabama and its home turf of Northwest Arkansas. The new locations include Atlanta, Nashville, Tucson, Colorado Springs, and Charlotte and Fayetteville, North Carolina. The move comes as Walmart’s competitors — namely Amazon and Target — test their own e-commerce grocery initiatives.

Games and Entertainment:

Android TV Adds Showtime, HBO Now – If you have an Android TV-based device, you can now find out what happens next on Homeland, The Leftovers, and The Good Wife with Showtime, HBO Now, and CBS All Access. All three services are available to download on Android TV, as are Disney Movies Anywhere, EPIX, the WWE and UFC channels. They join a growing list of more than 50 apps already available for download, including Sling TV, Crackle, Vevo, Pandora, TED TV, Plex, Netflix, and Hulu.


Ridley Scott: The Martian Is the ‘Ultimate Survival Story’ – Based on the best-selling novel, with a screenplay written by Drew Goddard (World War Z), The Martian features Matt Damon as the wisecracking and brilliant botanist Mark Watney. Watney is left for dead on the Red Planet, after a devastating storm forces his fellow crew members to evacuate and abandon the third Mars mission, Ares III. Damon is supported by Jessica Chastain as Commander Lewis with Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, and Chiwetel Ejiofor playing staff back at NASA headquarters and the Jet Propulsion Lab in California. How does it stack up? PCMag went to the Toronto Film Festival for the gala premiere and interviewed Scott to find out more.


Latest Xbox One bundle comes with Fallout 4 and 3 – Microsoft has spent the last week announcing a new Xbox One console bundle each day in anticipation of the holiday shopping season. Previous packages have games aimed at the more mature gamer, like the Rise of the Tomb Raider bundle, as well as kid- and family-friendly titles like the Lego Movie Videogame set. With the last console bundle being revealed today, Microsoft has wisely gone with one of the year’s most anticipated games: the upcoming Fallout 4. Priced at $399 and available for pre-order starting today, the Xbox One Fallout 4 bundle comes with the new 1TB model Xbox One, the standard, albeit recently refreshed controller with a 3.5mm headphone jack, a 14-day trial of Xbox Live Gold, and, of course, a copy of Fallout 4 via digital download.


Cortana coming to the Xbox One in 2016 – On Friday evening, Microsoft’s Larry Hryb—better known as Major Nelson—took to his blog to make a couple announcements. First, a new update to the Xbox Beta app for Windows 10 is on its way. We’ll get to that in a moment, but the big news is that Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant technology, will make its way to the Xbox in 2016. According to Major Nelson, beta testers will get a chance to try Cortana on their Xbox “later this year” when Microsoft releases it through the Xbox One experience preview program.

Batman: Arkham Knight swoops back onto Steam in time for Halloween – The Caped Crusader is almost done sitting in the penalty box. Warner Bros took to Steam Friday to announce the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight will be back on sale “at the end of October,” four months after it was originally yanked from sale because it was a terrible hackjob of a port.


Oculus Rift will cost over $350 so there are “no compromises,” says founder – The Oculus Rift VR headset will cost more than $350 (~£230), according to company founder Palmer Luckey, putting its price at the very top of early estimates. Earlier this year, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe hinted that a complete Rift system, including a suitably powerful computer, would cost about $1,500 (~£1,000). Obviously, the UK prices are just estimates; electronics tend to be more expensive in Europe than in the US, after various taxes and import levies are figured in.

Off Topic (Sort of):

I Do Not Want Your Stupid App

I do not want your stupid app

I will not use this siloed crap.

I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

I do not want this mobile spam!


Would you like them on your phone?

On your waking home screen shown?

No! And no and no and no!

I do not want your stupid app

I do not want these wares of crap.

Your interstitials make me mad!

My ad blockers will make you sad.

I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

I do not want this mobile spam!



Smart machines are about to run the world: Here’s how to prepare – From self-driving cars to drones to smartphones, artificial intelligence is here. Here’s how to prepare for a future with smart machines at the helm.

Taking a Ride in Google’s Self-Driving Car – When I got a chance to ride in the company’s pod-like self-driving car prototype on the roof of its facility in Mountain View, California earlier this week, it was easy to imagine it being a normal form of personal transportation in the future. Nextcar Bug artThe vehicle, which was fully autonomous—no human driver, steering wheel, or gas and brake pedals—reminded me of a (very slow) carnival ride. Maybe that’s because the Googler who made sure I was safely settled into the vehicle said, “Buckle up, hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times, and enjoy the ride!” before shutting the door.


Drone Regulations: What You Need to Know – You bought a drone. And you’re probably chomping at the bit to get the battery charged and take it out for the first test flight. But before you do, you need to be aware of the rules and regulations that the Federal Aviation Adminitration (FAA) has put in place for flying drones in the U.S. And you should also be aware of your rights and the rights of those around you.


Your viral glory of the week: Boxing kangaroos – Technically Incorrect: Almost 2 million people have flocked to Facebook to see an extraordinary video of two kangaroos performing very skilled, kickboxing-style pugilism in the middle of an Australian road.


Brevity: 3 tips for speaking less and saying more – People are inundated with information, and their brains have reached a saturation point. If you want to get someone’s attention, you must be brief, according to Joe McCormack, who spoke at IdeaFestival 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. There are three tendencies that keep most people from being brief:

Blerter aims to disrupt the workplace death toll – Every year, 4500 people die in US workplace accidents. In Australia the number is around 200. In New Zealand it’s between 50 and 70. Globally around 2.5 million are thought to die due to workplace injury or accident each year. The cost is enormous, to businesses and families and, when the loss of a breadwinner forces families into welfare dependency, to government and taxpayers as well. One company is out to change that — to disrupt those ugly numbers and make workplaces safer — through the use of mobile, social and cloud technologies.

Something to think about:

“Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.”

–     Stephen King


Prey – Getting your laptop or your phone stolen sucks, but there is something you can do about it. Prey is a lightweight theft protection software that lets you keep an eye over them whether in town or abroad, and helps you recover them if ever lost or stolen.


After installing the software on your laptop, tablet or phone, Prey will sleep silently in the background awaiting your command. Once remotely triggered from your Prey account, your device will gather and deliver detailed evidence back to you, including a picture of who’s using it – often the crucial piece of data that police officers need to take action.


When your data is at stake, bad things can happen. Prey allows you to remotely lock down your devices and delete your stored passwords, to ensure that no one will have access to your private stuff.

Cross platform

Devices connected


Prey works on all major operating systems, so it lets you keep track and trigger actions on all your devices from a single place. Like a universal remote control, but for laptops and mobiles.


When theft happens, time is always against you. That’s why every single thing Prey does is battle-hardened and made to work under the hardest conditions. This also means consuming the least possible amount of battery, always


We should mention that sensitive data is gathered only when you request it, and is for your eyes only ‐ nothing is sent without your permission. You can always check our source code if you want to make sure.


No trials, no gimmicks. You can always upgrade your plan to get better protection.



In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

California city mayor relinquishes electronics and passwords to agents at SFO – Stockton, California Mayor Anthony R. Silva attended a recent mayor’s conference in China, but his return trip took a bit longer than usual. At the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) this week, agents with the Department of Homeland Security detained Silva and confiscated his personal cell phone among other electronics. According to comments from the mayor, that may not even be the most alarming part.

“Unfortunately, they were not willing or able to produce a search warrant or any court documents suggesting they had a legal right to take my property,” Silva told SFGate. “In addition, they were persistent about requiring my passwords for all devices.”

The mayor’s attorney, Mark Reichel, told SFGate that Silva was not allowed to leave the airport without forfeiting his passwords. Reichel was not present for Silva’s interaction with the DHS agents, either. The mayor was told he had “no right for a lawyer to be present” and that being a US citizen did not “entitle me to rights that I probably thought,” according to the paper.

As of Friday, Silva had not yet received his property from the SFO detention. SFGate reports Reichel contacted the US Attorney’s Office in Sacramento, but they would not comment on whether they still had the mayor’s possessions. The paper also reached out to a spokesperson at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but that office also refused comment. (Ars has reached out to the mayor’s office for any new information, and we’ll update this story accordingly if we hear back.)

Forcing suspects to reveal phone passwords is unconstitutional, court says – Authorities demanding access to password-protected devices has become a hot-button issue across the country, highlighted in particular by the federal government’s ongoing battle with Silicon Valley over the lack of crypto backdoors in modern smartphones. At the end of last month, one US District Judge in Pennsylvania ruled that forcing suspects to surrender their passwords was unconstitutional on Fifth Amendment grounds.

The Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination would be breached if two insider trading suspects were forced to turn over the passcodes of their locked mobile phones to the Securities and Exchange Commission, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

“We find, as the SEC is not seeking business records but Defendants’ personal thought processes, Defendants may properly invoke their Fifth Amendment right,” US District Judge Mark Kearney of Pennsylvania wrote.

The decision comes amid a growing global debate about encryption and whether the tech sector should build backdoors into their wares to grant the authorities access to locked devices. Ars reported today that an Obama administration working group “considered four backdoors that tech companies could adopt to allow government investigators to decipher encrypted communications stored on phones of suspected terrorists or criminals.”

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – October 2, 2015

A billion Android phones vulnerable to new Stagefright bugs;  Ghost Push malware evolves in Android app infection spree;  How to find free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world;  Slander-as-a-service: Peeple app wants people to rate and review you;  Start menu secrets every Windows 10 pro should know;  Classic Shell (free);  Which Chromecast Is Right for You?  Best Android smartphones for work and play: October 2015 edition;  The best scanning apps for Android and iPhone;  Netflix has seven new original shows for kids inbound;  Skype brings real-time translation to Windows desktop app;  Rhapsody Targets Parents With Launch Of A Music-Streaming Service For Kids;  iOS 9 ‘Power User’ tips and tricks;  Five apps for more efficient web form usage;  6 new Google Drive features you need to know about;  Google and Microsoft make patent peace;  iOS 9.0.2 patch fixes lock screen security flaw;  Amazon will ban sales of Apple TV and Google Chromecast;  90 Movies and TV Shows Coming to Netflix in October;  ‘Back To The Future’ Trilogy Is Free For Amazon Prime Members In October;  The price of free: how Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google sell you to advertisers.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Slander-as-a-service: Peeple app wants people to rate and review you – whether you like it or not – This could be the most odious idea the internet manages in 2015: Peeple is an app that lets people rate other people, whether they like it or not, and plans to launch in November. The Yelp-like defamation-as-a-service – someone can put you in a database that you can’t be taken off, rate you 1-to-5, and comment on you as a person – was conceived by Nicole McCullough and Julia Cordray. Even The Washington Post, which got the PR drop, couldn’t manage to miss the nasty potential of Peeple.

“Unfortunately for the millions of people who could soon find themselves the unwilling subjects — make that objects — of Cordray’s app, her thoughts do not appear to have shed light on certain very critical issues, such as consent and bias and accuracy and the fundamental wrongness of assigning a number value to a person,” WashPo’s Caitlin Dewey writes.

How to find free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world – You don’t truly need Wi-Fi until you’re stuck in at a bus stop in west Tokyo, with no data plan and no idea how you’re going to get in touch with your brother who’s supposed to pick you up…sometime this evening. It’s one thing to find free Wi-Fi when you have access (even if it’s limited access that you’re paying for) to the Internet. Here’s how to find Wi-Fi when you’re traveling abroad.

Start menu secrets every Windows 10 pro should know – I’m not going to bore you with the easy stuff — pinning, resizing, renaming, moving groups, and the like. Instead, this guided tour takes you behind the scenes, to point out settings you may have missed and offer a few tricks that may save your bacon one day. Suffice it to say that the Windows 10 version of Start isn’t anywhere near as complex or malleable as the Win7 version — no custom folder hierarchies, for example, no drag-and-drop pinning to the left side. But it has inherent smarts you may find useful.

Which Chromecast Is Right for You? – Google’s Chromecast has been one of the most popular media streamers on the market for two years, thanks to its tiny design and $35 price tag. Google confirmed yesterday that sales have now topped 20 million. Now it’s getting replaced by two new $35 gadgets. The new Chromecast is rounder and more colorful than the original black key fob, while the Chromecast Audio is a different beast entirely. Let’s compare the two, and the original Chromecast, and see which is the best pick for you.

Best Android smartphones for work and play: October 2015 edition – There’s never been a better time to buy an Android smartphone. Not only is there a huge array of different handsets from a multitude of manufacturers to choose from, but what you get for your money is simply incredible.

The best scanning apps for Android and iPhone – Never bother with a scanner again. Thanks to high-quality cameras on today’s top smartphones and nifty behind-the-scenes tech, scanning a document or photo with great results is as easy as opening an app and snapping a picture. Here are CNET’s top picks for the best apps to turn your phone into a scanner.

Cortana can tell who you’re meeting with thanks to new LinkedIn integration – When getting together for a meeting with new people, it can be nice to know their background and what they do. Microsoft is aiming to make it easier for people to do just that with a new integration the company announced Thursday between its digital assistant Cortana and enterprise social network LinkedIn. When users connect their LinkedIn account with Cortana, the assistant will be able to look through their calendar and link the identities of people who are attending the same event with their LinkedIn profiles.

Skype brings real-time translation to Windows desktop app – Skype has just announced that its real-time translation feature has been integrated natively into the full desktop app for Windows. This allows users to conduct voice calls in their native language, with translated text appearing on the screen in real-time. For now, this live translation will only work with six languages (English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, and Spanish), but 50 languages are already supported for text messages.


Facebook Starts Letting You Add A 7-Second Looping Video As A Profile Pic – To keep its decade-old social network lively, Facebook is introducing five big changes to user profiles, which are viewed 4 billion times per day:

The option to pin Featured Photos to the top of the profile

Temporary profile pics

Easier visibility controls for About info, including a new 100 character Bio field

A mobile-centric design with centered profile photos plus big sections for photos and friends

The ability to use a 7-second looping video as your profile pic.

The features begin rolling out and testing today for some users.

Google will update YouTube Kids with improved parental controls – After being reported to the FTC twice by parent and child advocacy groups for not being family friendly enough, Google is preparing an update for YouTube Kids that it expects will address the content issues. The updated version of YouTube Kids will be outfitted with a more robust set of parental controls which will allow parents to turn off search access and set their own custom passcode for the service. YouTube Kids has also gained an explainer for parents on how to set up those controls, and Google says the app is gaining Chromecast, Apple TV and smart TV support as well. Google is also asking parents to flag any questionable videos that may get through YouTube’s filters.


Rhapsody Targets Parents With Launch Of A Music-Streaming Service For Kids – As the demand for digital music streaming services heats up, thanks in large part to Spotify’s traction and Apple’s more recent entry into the market, a number of competitors are working to differentiate themselves from the pack. In the case of the 14-year-old Rhapsody, the company is today going after moms and dads by launching a new service that claims to be the first-ever streaming offering aimed at kids. That’s more marketing spin than reality, however, as kids’ music is certainly available on competing platforms, including iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Rdio and elsewhere. And like those other services, the children’s music found in Rhapsody KIDS, as the new service is called, is available to any Rhapsody subscriber.


Netflix has seven new original shows for kids inbound – Earlier this year, Netflix announced a handful of new shows for young children, and now the company is back with more than half a dozen additional original shows, all of them aimed at kids in the tween and teen age groups. Counted among them are two shows concerning LEGO’s Bionicle and LEGO Friends products. Also notable with the new announcement is the maker’s first original animated show for Latin America called “Las Leyendas.”

iOS 9 ‘Power User’ tips and tricks – Here, in no particular order, are a selection of quick and simple tips and tricks to turn you into an iOS 9 power users. Master these and you’ll find your iOS 9 productivity will go through the roof.

Tinder ‘Super Like’ is now available for swiping worldwide – Less than a month ago, social dating app Tinder introduced a new “Super Like” feature for when users come across someone who just seems to good to be true, giving them a way to express their interest in meeting. Until now, the Super Like was limited to a beta test among Australian users, but Tinder says the feature is now rolling out to user around the globe. Swiping to the right or left to reject or show interest remains the same, while swiping up is used for the new Super Like. Tinder says the beta period showed the feature had a positive impact on users’ experience, with the Super Like resulting in three times the chance to find matches, and conversations that last an average of 70% longer.


Screenshots: Five apps for more efficient web form usage – Like many people, I spend a lot of time filling out online forms. And the forms are never ending. There are forms for online shopping, travel reservations, liability releases, and way too many other things to list them all. Fortunately, help is available. A number of applications are available that can speed up the process of filling out online forms.

6 new Google Drive features you need to know about – Just in time for the school year, Google’s added new features to Docs, Sheets and Slides, its online productivity tools. But you don’t have to be a student to use these cool new features, since they’re available to anyone with a Google account. Here are our favorite additions.


A billion Android phones are vulnerable to new Stagefright bugs – There’s a new round of Stagefright vulnerabilities that allows attackers to execute malicious code on more than one billion phones running ancient as well as much more recent versions of Google’s Android operating system. Stagefright 2.0, as it’s being dubbed by researchers from security firm Zimperium, is a set of two bugs that are triggered when processing specially designed MP3 audio or MP4 video files. The first flaw, which is found in the libutils library and is indexed as CVE-2015-6602, resides in every Android version since 1.0, which was released in 2008. The vulnerability can be exploited even on newer devices with beefed up defenses by exploiting a second vulnerability in libstagefright, a code library Android uses to process media files. Google still hasn’t issued a CVE index number for this second bug.

Ghost Push malware evolves in Android app infection spree – The Ghost Push malware continues to circulate in the wild and has been detected infecting Android apps to compromise user mobile devices. Researchers at Trend Micro say the new variations are more difficult to detect and are pushing the malware epidemic to another level, with earlier research suggesting Ghost Push is infecting 600,000 users per day. The malware enters mobile devices through users downloading malicious apps offered by third-party hosts rather than the official Google Play Store. In total, 39 original apps — including spoofed versions — facilitated the spread, including WiFi Enhancer, Amazon, Super Mario, Memory Booster and WordLock.

New credit cards aim to protect consumers, banks from hackers – A chip implanted in new cards is designed to stop cybercrime. Starting Thursday, stores that haven’t upgraded their card-reading terminals will be on the hook for fraudulent charges.

iOS 9.0.2 patch fixes lock screen security flaw – In the last 24 hours, Apple began rolling out the latest patch to its new iOS 9 operating system, this time version 9.0.2. Along with fixing a number of bugs, including issues with iMessage activation, iCloud backups, cellular data usage, and screens rotating at improper times, this latest release also addresses the recently discovered lock screen exploit that would allow someone to get past the PIN entry and gain access to photos and contacts.

Records Of 15 Million T-Mobile Customers Swept Up In Experian Hack – T-Mobile announced on Thursday the personal information of about 15 million customers was swept up in a hack on Experian, a vendor that processes the phone company’s credit applications. The breach affects new applicants who required a credit check for service or a new device between Sept. 1 and Sept. 15. Experian said the hack did not affect its consumer credit database. The hackers obtained encrypted information from the records, including Social Security Numbers, drivers’ license numbers and Passport information. The hack involved names and addresses, but bank information and payment card numbers were not swept up in the breach.

Kmart customer details hacked – Kmart has employed IT forensic investigators after the personal details of its online customers were hacked. The Wesfarmers-owned company said no customer credit card or other payment details have been compromised, however, customer’s names, email addresses, home addresses, telephone numbers, and product purchase details had been accessed in an “external privacy breach” in early September. “This breach only impacts a selection of customers who have shopped online with Kmart Australia,” a statement from Kmart said. “If customers have not received a message from Kmart Australia regarding this situation they have not been impacted.”

Cisco fixes privilege escalation flaws in AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client – The Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client was updated to fix vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to gain system or root privileges on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X computers.

Company News:

Google and Microsoft make patent peace – After five years of intellectual property and patent wars in the U.S. and Germany, Google and Microsoft announced they were settling approximately 20 lawsuits. In a joint statement, the two companies declared: “Microsoft and Google are pleased to announce an agreement on patent issues. As part of the agreement, the companies will dismiss all pending patent infringement litigation between them, including cases related to Motorola Mobility. Separately, Google and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers.”

Amazon will ban sales of Apple TV and Google Chromecast – Amazon plans to discontinue sales of Apple TV and Google Chromecast, two enormously popular streaming devices that compete with the company’s own Fire TV and Fire TV stick. Bloomberg Business first reported on an Amazon memo dispatched to all merchants on the e-commerce site, warning that both products will disappear on October 29th. New listings for either device are no longer permitted. “Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, and Fire TV are excellent choices,” the company said in a statement.

AMD to axe a few more staff as it struggles to get back to black – AMD has unveiled a belt-tightening plan that the struggling chipmaker hopes will get its finances back on track to profitability. We were told to expect changes after AMD’s latest dispiriting earnings report in July, although no specifics were offered at the time. You needn’t have been a fortune teller to predict that heads would roll, though. AMD has already shrunk its workforce by 8 per cent over the last year, and on Thursday it confirmed that there’s more to come. In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, AMD says it plans to give the axe to another 5 per cent of its approximately 9,700 employees, with most of those layoffs being completed by the end of fiscal 2016. It’s also planning to consolidate some of its real estate holdings, although it didn’t say where or how many buildings would be involved.

Twitter Will Reportedly Name Jack Dorsey As CEO, Bringing Back The Founder’s Instincts – The decisive leadership of a founder could be what’s necessary to bring Twitter’s value to the masses. And apparently that’s what it’s going to get, as Re/Code reports Twitter has made the decision to bring its co-founder and Square chief Jack Dorsey back as CEO. He’d been serving as Twitter’s interim CEO for four months since Dick Costolo chose to step down. The announcement could be made as soon as tomorrow, and head of revenue Adam Bain reportedly refused the CEO job as long as Dorsey wanted it. After months of confusion at Twitter among prevalent feelings its product must change to embrace mainstream usage, Dorsey could rally morale with the mandate only available to someone who started the company.

HP board sets corporate split for Nov. 1; HP Enterprise trades Nov. 2 – Hewlett-Packard on Thursday said its board has approved its split into two companies with one focused on the enterprise and the other on PCs and printers. The approval wasn’t surprising given HP outlined its split and financials for the HP Enterprise and HP Inc. last month. HP Enterprise will begin trading on November 2. Each HP shareholder will get one share of HP Enterprise for every share owned.

Samsung denies its TVs cheat on power consumption tests – Samsung Electronics has denied allegations that it designed its TVs to consume less energy during tests than they do in real-world situations.

Games and Entertainment:

‘Back To The Future’ Trilogy Is Free For Amazon Prime Members In October – Hold on to your 1.21 gigawatts. Amazon is offering the Back to the Future trilogy for free to Prime members for the whole month of October. This year marks the 30th anniversary for BTTF. Super fans may recall October 21, 2015, is also the date Marty McFly heads into the future to see what can be done about his kids. A partnership with Universal Pictures guarantees Amazon will be the exclusive subscription streaming home of BTTF – and it’s part of a push to add exclusive content to the platform. Both Hulu and Amazon plan to hook new viewers and sign-ups with special content. The “Everything store” is using this particular tactic to drum up interest in the 30th anniversary DVD/Blu-ray special edition bundle for the trilogy, set to launch on October 20.


Press Button, Skip Commercials on TiVo Bolt DVR – TiVo’s new Bolt DVR will, as the company puts it, let you “give commercials the finger.” The device’s SkipMode feature can bypass entire commercial blocks with the push of a button; no more fast-forwarding. At this point, it will work on select networks during primetime hours; where available, a note on the TV will say “Press to skip and resume show.” Participating channels include FX, HGTV, History, Lifetime, NBC, ABC, ABC Family, AMC, Bravo, CBS, Syfy, TBS, TLC, TNT, USA, Comedy Central, The CW, Discovery, Food Network, and Fox. QuickMode, meanwhile, lets you watch something 30 percent faster without making those on screen sound like chipmunks. “QuickMode’s pitch-corrected audio lets you comfortably speed through slow-moving programs like news, sports, and overly long award shows,” TiVo said.


Worlds Adrift preview: Surgeon Sim’s dev gets serious in floating island survival game – Worlds Adrift is “Survival Game on Floating Islands.” Er…plus flying boats and ancient ruins and a grappling hook and a wingsuit and some other crazy stuff. Here are the basics: You’ll spawn on one of the game’s innumerable floating islands (more will be seamlessly added and the map expanded as the game’s playerbase grows), gather resources, build your first flying ship, and then set off to explore. You can also glide around using a wingsuit, or swing around like Spider-Man thanks to an infinite supply of grappling hooks.


Rainbow Six: Siege and the sad death of the single-player FPS – Ubisoft is set to become the latest major publisher to leave a single-player campaign out of its next big first-person shooter. Rainbow Six: Siege, due for release in December, will not include a single-player story mode, according to an interview with art director Scott Mitchell that was recently published on WhatCulture. Of course, Rainbow Six: Siege is far from the only game to drop its single-player campaign. The new R6 game is in the same boat as Star Wars: Battlefront and, for owners of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. Last year’s Titanfall similarly eschewed a single-player campaign, as did Evolve earlier this year.

Microsoft announces Xbox One Lego Movie console bundle – Microsoft is continuing its announcements this week of new Xbox One console bundles for the upcoming holiday season. Following several other packages featuring a range of titles appealing to different audiences, today’s is one of the first child-oriented bundles: the Xbox One The Lego Movie Videogame Bundle. Priced at $349, the set includes a 500GB Xbox One console, along with a copy of the The Lego Movie Videogame, which is, obviously, an adaption from the popular Lego Movie.


90 Movies and TV Shows Coming to Netflix in October – The temperature is cooling and the sun is setting earlier. Why not, uh, Netflix and chill? Or at the very least watch lots of HGTV and Food Network shows because Netflix is adding the Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics Collection, Genevieve’s Renovation, and other shows that will get you in the mood for fall. But that’s not all; read on for all the titles landing on the streaming platform this month.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Edward Snowden didn’t turn off emails from Twitter and received 47GB of notifications – Sometime between joining Twitter and sending his first tweet, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden forgot to check his notification settings. If he did, he might’ve noticed that by default Twitter sends email notifications for pretty much every social interaction. For context, since joining Twitter roughly 27 hours ago, @Snowden has amassed over 1.19 million followers. His first tweet alone has so far been favorited 110,000 and retweeted 120,000 times. He accepts DMs from anyone, and has yet to respond to mine. He’s only used two hashtags, neither of which have ever been featured on @midnight. He only follows one Twitter account, and it’s probably not yours.


How Elio Motors Is Crowdfunding A Three-Wheel, 84 MPG Vehicle – Recently I had the chance to test drive the latest prototype version of Elio, a three wheel, two-seater built by Elio Motors. The vehicle, which is about half the width of a regular car and looks straight out of Silicon Valley, aims to eventually retail for a base price of around $6,800. As background, Elio Motors was founded in 2008, and is in the midst of fundraising to start manufacturing vehicles in a recently purchased old GM factory in Louisiana. The car, which is technically classified as a motorcycle because of its three wheels, has already received about 45,000 preorders.


Selfies are America’s new pastime – On Wednesday night, about a dozen members of Arizona State’s chapter of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority went to a Major League Baseball game. Two MLB announcers noticed that the women seemed to be enjoying taking selfies with their churros and texting more than they were enjoying the game. The announcers, enthralled, spend the next two minutes watching the girls and mostly ignoring the baseball game themselves, providing voiceover like: “That’s the best one of the 300 pictures I’ve taken of myself today,” “There’s my first bite of the churro… there’s my second bite of the churro,” and ultimately / weirdly bemoaning the chore that is parenting in 2015.


The price of free: how Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google sell you to advertisers – Because the latest version of Windows is always asking for information in the guise of being helpful, it’s easy to think that Microsoft’s the poster child for the collective attack on your digital privacy. But it’s not. In fact, there are plenty of other companies who feel perfectly entitled to require you to hand over your personal info before they open their doors. And while Microsoft has thrown itself on the ground, begging for forgiveness, you can make the argument that other companies are doing as much or more to mine your data. Let’s take a look.

From Kodak To Google, How Privacy Panics Distort Policy – When a new technology comes out, people are generally good at seeing through the hype that is associated with it. Many technological inventions, after all, are not immediately revolutionary — despite what clever marketers might want you to believe. While these fears often never materialize, and the public comes to accept the new technology as they become familiar with it, time and time again people fall into the trap of believing exaggerated claims about privacy risks for new technologies. To be sure, some technologies have challenged traditional notions of privacy, or even presented new risks to consumers, and to the extent that there are legitimate risks of consumer harm, these concerns should be taken seriously. However, it is important to recognize that the privacy panic cycle is a detrimental one — with a long historical precedent.

Something to think about:

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”

–    George Bernard Shaw


Classic Shell – Classic Shell™ is free software that improves your productivity, enhances the usability of Windows and empowers you to use the computer the way you like it.

The main features are:

Highly customizable start menu with multiple styles and skins

Quick access to recent, frequently-used, or pinned programs

Find programs, settings, files and documents

Start button for Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

Toolbar and status bar for Windows Explorer

Caption and status bar for Internet Explorer

Classic Shell has been in active development for 5 years and has over 25 million downloads.

The latest stable version of Classic Shell is 4.2.4


Screenshot from a personal machine – Windows 10 Home Premium 64 bit.

NoMachine – Turn your computer into your personal cloud. Take what’s important where you go, whether it’s at home or at the office. Wherever your desktop and your data is, you can reach it from the other side of the world in a few simple clicks. Did we say NoMachine is free? No strings attached.

Your own personal server

Private and secure

Access any time, anywhere

Share with who you want

Travel to any desktop – Travel from your desktop to any NoMachine-enabled computer at the speed of light. NoMachine is the fastest remote desktop you have ever tried. In just a few clicks you can reach any computer in the world and start working on it as if it was right in front of you.

Work with any content – Don’t feel limited. Enjoy live audio and video from your remote PC. Watch DVDs, the TV, Hulu or YouTube videos from wherever you are. Or render your animated models. Whether you are an artist or an engineer, your favorite software is always with you.

Meet with others where you work – Your desktop is where you work. Open your desktop for others to join in. Let your friends collaborate on the documents you are working on, share the files you need, help troubleshooting the problems you are experiencing. All securely and under your control.

Use any device – Your folders, drives and devices, travel across machines in a snap. Print a file located on the remote computer to a local printer. Or do the opposite. Plug in any device into the other desktop. Pendrives, scanners and all your disks are ready to use as if they were physically there.

Record what you do – Make a video of what you do on-the-fly. Capture that pesky bug or create recordings of your workflow to play back later. Show others how to get there, ask for suggestions, make presentations of your software and demos. Or record your preferred TV episode in a click.


ScreenSnag – ScreenSnag provides a quick and easy way to take a photo of your computer screen. Capture the entire screen, a region of the screen, a window, or an element on the window with a single hotkey or click. You can also use Timer option to perform captures at intervals that you define. Save any combination of your preferences as a profile and make the capture process quicker and more efficient. ScreenSnag is fully portable, which means you can easily install it on a USB removable drive and use it on the go.

Key Features:

Capture the entire screen.

Capture a rectangular area.

Capture a window or an element on the windows.

Perform captures at defined intervals.

Save the capture to a file (PNG, BMP, JPEG).

Save the capture to the clipboard.

Save any combination of your preferences as a profile.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Australian university dumps Google for Microsoft over data hosting location concerns – It’s little surprise that European governments prefer to host their data in Europe than in the U.S. — but now even Australian academics are expressing a preference for the Old World over the New.

On Monday, the CIO of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, told staff that Google can no longer be entrusted with their email and calendars because it plans to host them in the U.S., and not the European Union.

“Data security is our top priority at Macquarie University, and following a decision made by Google to move our stored data from Europe to the United States, we initiated a market search to look at alternative options,” CIO Mary Davies wrote in a letter to staff.

Macquarie’s choice is another U.S. company, Microsoft: By year end, staff mailboxes and calendars will migrated to Office 365, hosted in Microsoft’s Australian data centers.

Google has no data centers in Australia: Its nearest to Sydney are in Taiwan and Singapore, and it also has four in Europe and eight in the Americas.

But Google makes no promises to Google Apps users about where their data will be hosted. “Your data will be stored in Google’s network of data centers. Google maintains a number of geographically distributed data centers,” is as close as the service’s support pages come to answering the question “Where is my organization’s data stored?”

Company representatives in London were not immediately able to explain why Macquarie’s data would have been hosted in Europe, nor why it might be moved to the U.S.

The big secret that makes the FBI’s anti-encryption campaign a big lie – To hear FBI Director James Comey tell it, strong encryption stops law enforcement dead in its tracks by letting terrorists, kidnappers and rapists communicate in complete secrecy.

But that’s just not true.

In the rare cases in which an investigation may initially appear to be blocked by encryption — and so far, the FBI has yet to identify a single one — the government has a Plan B: it’s called hacking.

Hacking — just like kicking down a door and looking through someone’s stuff — is a perfectly legal tactic for law enforcement officers, provided they have a warrant.

And law enforcement officials have, over the years, learned many ways to install viruses, Trojan horses, and other forms of malicious code onto suspects’ devices. Doing so gives them the same access the suspects have to communications — before they’ve been encrypted, or after they’ve been unencrypted.


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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – September 30, 2015

How to prepare for the nightmare of losing a smartphone;  Microsoft tries to clear the air on Windows 10 privacy furor;  Apple: Here’s how we try to protect your privacy;  Microsoft Excel vs. Google Sheets: The 4 key ways Sheets beats Excel;  Facebook ‘Entry Price’ Rumor Is a Hoax;  Pro tip: Add website shortcuts to your home screen with Opera; Google releases improved Chromecast for the same $35 price (hands-on);    How to reinstall default apps in Windows 10;  Ransomware: To pay or not to pay;  Google Wants to Take Your Kids on Virtual Field Trips;  Newly found TrueCrypt flaw allows full system compromise;  Google Photos Users Have Already Uploaded 50 Billion Photos And Videos;  How to port bookmarks and favorites to Edge;  Thousands of medical devices are vulnerable to hacking;  140 Movies and TV Shows Leaving Netflix in October;  Microsoft’s Project Spark Goes Free Oct. 5;  New 1 TB Xbox One bundle comes with these three games;  Tinder Irked by Ad Linking App to STDs;  Edward Snowden is now on Twitter.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Microsoft tries to clear the air on Windows 10 privacy furor – Executives in Redmond were caught flat-footed after this summer’s Windows 10 launch by charges that the new operating system is spying on customers. Several new statements for consumers and IT pros today aim to explain why those accusations are unfounded.

How to prepare for the nightmare of losing a smartphone – Smartphones can alleviate many burdens for us thanks to the conveniences they provide – which means if they are lost or damaged that can also place a hefty burden upon their owner. In fact, it’s safe to say this could pose a serious problem for many people; not only does a smartphone loss represent a loss of the above-mentioned features, but could represent a financial hardship, expose private data to untrustworthy individuals, or even result in identity theft or fraudulent activity. It happened to me a while back and I survived the experience, though not entirely unscathed. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you reduce the burden of a lost smartphone as much as possible, both before and after the unthinkable occurs.

Facebook went down for the third time this month – At approximately 3:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, (EDT) the popular social network went down. This is the third time in September that the site has failed. The other incidents, however, lasted for only a few minutes. Downdetector, a Web site that tracks Web site problems, reported a spike in Facebook problems. The DownForEveryoneOrJustMe site also reported that Facebook was dead in the water. Users took to other social networks, such as Twitter and Google+ to vent their frustration. Most of them were taking the failure with a sense of humor.  Others were really annoyed.


Most people took Facebook’s hour long blackout with a sense of humor.

Facebook ‘Entry Price’ Rumor Is a Hoax – By now, most of us have been around the Internet block time or two, and can easily spot a hoax when we see it. So if you saw posts in your Facebook News Feed yesterday claiming that the social network will soon change its privacy policy or charge for service, you probably knew it was bogus. But despite being a common ruse, enough people fell for the latest Facebook hoaxes that the social network itself chimed in to say they’re not real.

Microsoft Excel vs. Google Sheets: The 4 key ways Sheets beats Excel – The battle lines are drawn. Is either really better? We’ll make this argument easier for you. We took a close, impartial look at both programs (as we did with Microsoft Word and Google Docs), and there actually are certain things Sheets offers that Excel does not, and some things Excel can do that Sheets can’t touch. Which is “best” really depends on what job you need it to do. Here we’ll give you the four reasons Google Sheets users can lord it over Excel users.

Google news: Do you ever get the feeling that Google has taken over the World?   Sad smile

Google Wants to Take Your Kids on Virtual Field Trips – The search giant on Monday announced a new service, called the Expeditions Pioneer Program, that will deliver virtual field trips to students at thousands of schools across the U.S. Starting this school year, Google will deliver to schools Asus smartphones, a tablet for teachers, a router to connect to the Expeditions program if the class doesn’t have a readily available Internet connection, and either Google Cardboard or Mattel View-Masters. Together, the products will put kids into a virtual-reality environment to explore what they’re learning about in class.

Google releases improved Chromecast for the same $35 price (hands-on) – A new Chromecast is here, and it’s still dirt cheap. The latest version of Google’s popular streaming dongle offers a host of improvements, to better allow users to “cast” video, audio, games and other apps from their phones, tablets and computers to their TVs. It’s available today in 17 countries for the same price as the old Chromecast: $35 in the US, £30 in the UK and AU$49 in Australia.


Google Introduces Google Play Music Family Plan, $14.99 For Up To 6 People – Google is expanding its Google Play Music service with a new family plan. The company announced at its big event that families will be able to subscribe to Google Play Music for $14.99. For this price, you get 6 different profiles so that you can get music recommendations that work for your tastes. These plans will be available “later this year.”


Google Photos Users Have Already Uploaded 50 Billion Photos And Videos – Today, Google Photos announced that users have already uploaded 50 billion photos and videos. The product launched about four months ago, being pulled out of Google+ as a standalone product. The team is also announcing three new features. Finally, the whole Google Photos experience will now be available on Chromecast; you can now cast your Google Photos to the device. It customizes your Chromecast experience and gets the random photos of mountains out of the way. You can even cast animated GIFs. It comes out this week on Android and iOS later on.

This is Pixel C: Google’s premium Android 2-in-1 – Google has revealed a high-powered tablet by the name of Pixel C, exemplifying the best in what the Google hardware ecosystem can do. Like the original Chromebook Pixel, this device has a high-definition display and is meant to lead the way for smart devices within its software’s ecosystem, in that case Chrome. In the case of the Pixel C, Google is leading the way with an Android tablet. This tablet works with a magnetically-connecting display that connects to a keyboard below.


Pro tip: Add website shortcuts to your home screen with Opera – It’s time to sing the praises of Opera. Finally! The Android version of Opera has a feature that makes the web browser a worthy contender for your Android device. It allows you to easily create home screen launchers for websites, so that your most-used sites are just a tap away. Of course, there are other features that make this browser a worthy contender. Opera actually has some unique options available, but it’s this newest feature that truly raised my eyebrows.

How to port bookmarks and favorites to Edge – Usually, when you start a new browser, a dialog box asks you if you want to import bookmarks (called favorites in Microsoft browsers) from elsewhere. Edge doesn’t do that. Nor can you import an HTML file containing your bookmarks. But the transfer is actually pretty easy—provided you’re not using Firefox. A transfer from Mozilla’s browser is a bit trickier.

Amazon Flex Is Uber for Package Delivery – Need some extra cash ahead of the holiday shopping season? Amazon has a new gig for you. The company’s Flex on-demand delivery service replaces traditional couriers with everyday people. Earn $18 to $25 per hour simply by delivering packages using your own vehicle and an Android smartphone app. Initially available in Seattle, the program is open seven days a week to fulfill Amazon Prime Now one-hour deliveries. The company urged workers to “be your own boss,” distributing packages as much or as little as you want, when you want. Flex will soon roll out in Manhattan, Baltimore, Miami, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlanta, and Portland. Amazon may extend the types of packages delivered by its non-certified carriers in the future.


Ditch Linux for Windows 10 on your Raspberry Pi with Microsoft’s IoT kit – The $75 (~£50) kit comes comes complete with an SD card preloaded with Windows 10 IoT Core, a Raspberry Pi 2 case, full size 40-pin breadboard, miniature WiFi module, BMP280 environmental sensor, RGB colour sensor, eight channel 10-Bit ADC with SPI interface, and a whole host of different resistors and LEDs. Those who needed Raspberry Pi 2 can pick up a $114.95 (~£70) with one included. A full list of the included components is below.


Microsoft deploys first major server application on Ubuntu Linux – Microsoft’s love affair with Linux continues as the company releases HDInsight, Microsoft’s big data Hadoop-on-Azure service for Ubuntu Linux on its Azure cloud.

Report: YouTube Subscription Service (Finally) Arrives in October – YouTube’s long-awaited subscription service might finally arrive next month. Re/code, citing people with knowledge of YouTube’s plans, reported that the service will cost at least $10 a month and remove all ads from the service’s videos. The free, ad-supported YouTube will remain.

How to reinstall default apps in Windows 10 – Did you go a little crazy uninstalling all of the default apps in Windows 10? Luckily for you, getting them back is as easy as…well, uninstalling them in the first place.


Ransomware: To pay or not to pay – There is no need to tell victims of digital extortion how successful it is. What is needed is a way to help victims respond to the ransom demands.

Apple: Here’s how we try to protect your privacy – Apple is trying to ensure its loyal users that it takes their privacy seriously. In an update to its privacy webpage, the company highlighted several of its products and explained how it uses encryption and other methods to shield your privacy, stating: “We build privacy into everything we make.” Trying to address privacy concerns, the page runs down a list of various Apple products and services, including Apple Pay, iMessage, FaceTime, Apple’s Health and Fitness app, Safari and iCloud.

Novel malware dupes victims with fake blue screen of death – Malware creators are hijacking Microsoft Windows’ infamous BSOD in a fresh malvertising campaign.


Thousands of medical devices are vulnerable to hacking, security researchers say – Thousands of medical devices, including MRI scanners, x-ray machines and drug infusion pumps, are vulnerable to hacking, creating significant health risks for patients, security researchers said this week.

Newly found TrueCrypt flaw allows full system compromise – Windows users who rely on TrueCrypt to encrypt their hard drives have a serious security problem: a researcher has discovered two critical flaws in the program. James Forshaw, a member of Google’s Project Zero team that regularly finds vulnerabilities in widely used software, has recently discovered two vulnerabilities in the driver that TrueCrypt installs on Windows systems. The flaws, which were apparently missed in an earlier independent audit of the TrueCrypt source code, could allow attackers to obtain elevated privileges on a system if they have access to a limited user account.

Company News:

Apple Music, iTunes Movies And iBooks Launches In China – China is already Apple’s largest market for app downloads and the company hopes consumers will be just as eager to try out Apple Music. The streaming music service launched there today, along with iTunes Movies and iBooks. After a three-month trial membership, Apple Music will cost 10 RMB per month, or about $1.60, which means it is the same price as a premium membership on Tencent’s QQ Music. The service will also be available for Android (which holds a 70 percent market share in China) later this fall. Apple Music’s competitors in China already include services from Tencent, Baidu, and Netease, but all face the challenge of convincing listeners who have spent years downloading pirated music that on-demand streaming is a more attractive alternative.

Evernote cutting dozens of jobs, closing three offices – Evernote announced a number of operating cutbacks on Tuesday, just a few months after the productivity software maker saw a shuffle at the top of the executive deck. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company is cutting 47 jobs and closing three of its global offices, although which locations weren’t specified in the announcement. Evernote co-founder Phil Libin stepped down as CEO this past summer, although he remained with the company as executive chairman. Just a few weeks ago, Libin joined venture capital firm General Catalyst as a general partner.

BlackBerry releases first photos of Android-powered Priv phone – In a blog post, the Waterloo, Ontario, smartphone maker released photos of the Priv, which is expected to launch in the fourth quarter. Priv stands for both “privacy and privilege,” according to BlackBerry CEO John Chen, and it’s the company’s first product to run on Google’s Android mobile software. The device underscores a radical departure from BlackBerry’s history of selling products using its own homegrown software. After years of battling Android, the world’s most popular operating system for smartphones and tablets, BlackBerry is embracing what its much larger rival has to offer.


Box powers ahead with new app and services for businesses – Box is looking to punch above its weight in a ring that includes Microsoft and Google, and showed a bulked-up set of new products and services at its BoxWorks conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. Box needs more than just the 11 percent of paying customers that it has now, so appealing to enterprises is critical for the new products. They include a new app for the iPhone, and new capabilities that could make the service more attractive to businesses in particular markets.

Report: Twitter mulling posts with more than 140 characters – Twitter and some of its most enterprising users have found simple ways to get around the service’s major limit of 140 characters per post, whether by enabling full-Tweet embeds, offering username tags within photos, or making it easier to read images loaded with text. But according to a Tuesday report by Re/code, the 140-character wall itself may soon crumble.

Alibaba enters ‘strategic’ agreement with India’s Paytm – China’s Alibaba Group has entered into an agreement with the parent company of India’s payments platform, Paytm, in a bid to boost its footprint into the subcontinent.

Games and Entertainment:

Google’s new Chromecast has a new look, catches up to modern Wi-Fi standards – It might have been the worst-kept secret leading up to today’s Google event — aside from the new Nexus phones, that is — but Google has just announced two new Chromecast devices: a second-generation stick for streaming video, and a Chromecast Audio dongle that adds wireless music-streaming capabilities to any speaker with a 3.5mm auxiliary jack. Like the first Chromecast, which was brought to market in 2013, the new Chromecast for video plugs into the back of a TV set via an HDMI port, and it mirrors, or casts, content from the Chromecast mobile app to TV screens. And like the first one, it costs just $35, making it a less expensive option than any of the streaming devices that Apple, Amazon, or Roku have to offer.


Chromecast audio demo

New 1 TB Xbox One bundle comes with these three games – Microsoft’s week-long Xbox One bundle announcement campaign continues today with the reveal of another 1 TB system. This package, the Xbox One Holiday Bundle, includes a 1 TB system and copies of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Rare Replay, and Ori and the Blind Forest. The bundle will launch in October for $400. Unlike the Rise of the Tomb Raider system, this one does not appear to be exclusive to any retailers. It does not come with a Kinect camera.



Hitman’s new release date is March 11, here’s what will be included at launch – Following its recent delay, Square Enix has confirmed IO Interactive’s latest Hitman title will be released on March 11, and detailed what will be included in the digital launch package. The March 11 release will feature the “initial launch content,” which contains the Paris, Sapienza and Marrakesh locations, together comprising six campaign missions. These will all be replayable through the user-created Contracts missions, which allow players to designate new targets for assassination.

WildStar promises less grind as it goes free-to-play today – It was the most promising MMORPG of 2014. Then it was the most disappointing MMORPG of 2014. And now it’s (maybe) the most promising MMORPG of 2015? I’m talking about WildStar, which as of today is officially free-to-play. It’s the latest (and hopefully the last) MMO to launch with a subscription plan and then make the slow, arduous transition to a friendlier business model. Here’s how it works:


Microsoft’s Project Spark Goes Free Oct. 5 – Microsoft is transitioning Project Spark, which lets players create their own gaming experiences, into a free and open platform. Starting Oct. 5, Redmond will “automatically unlock previously paid downloadable content for new and existing Project Spark users,” the company said in a forum post. “Microsoft will pivot from producing DLC and active feature development to encouraging more user generated content and opening the Project Spark experience.” All players who purchased Project Spark content digitally or via a retail disc, and activated it by product key redemption on or after July 28, will be entitled to Microsoft Store credit. The same goes for folks with a balance of purchased in-game tokens. Credits will be awarded automatically within 30-60 days after Oct. 5.


The Simpsons tipped to finally end within the next 4 years – The Simpsons, the animated comedy that grew from having a small but loyal audience after its 1989 debut, to being the American television icon it is today, may finally have an end date. The show is widely considered to have peaked around season 10, and has been on a steady decline since then, albeit with the occasional highlight. Maybe that’s just what happens after over 25 years on the air? Either way, every fan of the show has wondered at some point when The Simpsons will come to an end, and now one of the show’s creators has given a timeframe.


140 Movies and TV Shows Leaving Netflix in October – The fall is upon us, and with it the ax falls on not 40 (like in August) or even 76 (like in September) but a full 140 titles leaving Netflix this October. Here’s a quick look at the three I feel most deserving of being missed, fellow geeks, but there are many, many more that will be missed. Likewise keep an eye out for real nerd-centric movies taking a powder, including a couple of Star Treks, World War Z, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and the entire single season of Caprica.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Tinder Irked by Ad Linking App to STDs – Mobile-dating service Tinder is not too happy about being included in an ad campaign that suggests it contributes to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Tinder has called on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) to take down ads that argue mobile dating apps, including Tinder, could expose users to sexually transmitted diseases. Tinder told the BBC that the ads represent “wholly unsubstantiated accusations” that are an attempt by the AHF to get people to “take an HIV test offered” by the organization. In a press release, AHF referenced a recent Vanity Fair article that portrayed the dating site as a haven for empty hook-ups. That article also prompted backlash from Tinder, which fired off a barrage of late-night tweets in defense of the app. It later apologized for overreacting, though. The AHF plans to continue its campaign. The organization currently has ads in Los Angeles, but says that it will bring them to other major cities, including New York and Miami, in the coming weeks.


We Drove Tesla’s Crazy Fast Model X SUV – I was hoping I might walk away from my short test drive in Tesla’s Model X without the desire to throw down $130,000 I don’t have… Alas. After years of the Model X being seemingly right around the corner, the first few cars are being delivered to drivers tonight. I got to take one for a spin — and yes, I got to stomp the gas pedal.


Smart glove translates sign language into speech, text – Saudi designer Hadeel Ayoub has developed the “SignLanguageGlove”, a so-called smart glove that wirelessly translates sign language as it is signed, doing so into speech or visual letters for those on the receiving end to understand. The idea is that someone who signs to communicate will have trouble doing so if the person with whom they are talking doesn’t read sign language. With the glove, what they sign becomes spoken language, removing the barrier. The sign language will be translated and shuttled to the other person’s mobile device. An array of five sensors in the glove’s fingers detect the finger motions, while an accelerometer tracks the signer’s hands. Ayoub made the accompanying software, which translates the motions into words. There’s also a text-to-speech chip for turning it into spoken communications.


Indian PM Modi visits US tech chiefs in wake of draconian encryption policy debacle – It is a testimony to the immense attractiveness of the Indian market that the leaders of some of the most powerful technology companies in the world rallied around to meet and indulge the leader of a country, one who wanted to effectively handcuff the same companies and the services they offer. Or at least, that’s what events that transpired over the last week or two indicated.

Tim Cook says businesses need to step up where governments don’t – Since taking over from Steve Jobs as CEO, one of the things Tim Cook has brought to Apple is a greater push to address social problems. On Tuesday at the Boxworks conference in San Francisco, Cook said he wants other companies to do the same. Apple has taken a few important steps along that road. Cook said the company’s U.S. operations are running entirely on renewable energy, and Apple is now focused on getting its supply chain to the same point — though that could be a challenge given the scale of its factory operations in China.

Photos: 15 innovative objects that changed daily life – The Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s Object Project exhibit showcases everyday items that were revolutionary once upon a time.


11 massive crowdfunding disasters – There’s no denying that crowdfunding has completely changed the way people do business, mostly for the good. For every brilliant idea that makes it to market smoothly, there’s one that runs into trouble. Whether it’s the result of new business owners not understanding the work that goes into producing and fulfilling or just unscrupulous scammers looking to take the money and run, many Kickstarters and Indiegogos end up with very unhappy customers. These 11 crowdfunding campaigns that resulted in nothing but heartbreak.

Something to think about:

“It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.”

–      Julius Caesar


PaperScan Scanner Software: Free Edition – The Free Edition of PaperScan Scanner Software allows users to benefit for free from the advantages of a universal scanning with post-processing capabilities tool.


Limited batch TWAIN & WIA scanning / import (10 pages).

Save as single page PDF/A, TIFF, JPEG, JPEG 2000, PNG, JBIG2, WEBP.

Post Image Processing: color adjustment, color space conversion, effects, filters, crop and more…

PDF Encryption support (read & write).

Flatbed and document feeder support.

Duplex scanning support.

Dictionary .NET – Dictionary .NET is a tiny and smart multilingual dictionary translating from/to 91 languages …

It integrates Google, Bing and Yandex services without installing and loading anything.

Auto-detect any language > Dictionary > Translate > Search with just One-Click or a Hotkey.

Dictionary .NET – Dictionary .NET is a tiny and smart multilingual dictionary translating from/to 91 languages …

It integrates Google, Bing and Yandex services without installing and loading anything.

Auto-detect any language > Dictionary > Translate > Search with just One-Click or a Hotkey.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Edward Snowden is now on Twitter – NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has joined Twitter, taking over an abandoned account at @Snowden. An accompanying Intercept piece described the move as part of Snowden’s ongoing role as a public figure. Snowden seems to have had help from Twitter HQ in acquiring the abandoned screen name, and the account is already verified. In less than an hour, he accumulated more than 80,000 followers, but as of press time, he is only following a single account: @NSAgov.


Feds say your hard drives are for the government’s keeping – The Justice Department is set to argue Wednesday before a federal appeals court that it may prosecute people for crimes based on evidence obtained from their computers—evidence that was outside the scope of an original probable-cause search warrant.

That’s a big deal in today’s digital age. Society has evolved to the point that many people keep all of their papers and effects co-mingled on their computer hard drives.

The highly nuanced legal dispute initially seems innocent enough. It concerns an accountant’s tax evasion conviction and two-year prison sentence in 2012 that was based on a court-authorized search and imaging of his computer files. Stavros Ganias’ files were copied as part of an Army overbilling investigation into one of his clients. Holding on to the imaged files for nearly three years, Connecticut authorities discovered fresh evidence unrelated to the initial search of the files and got new search warrants to investigate more of the accountant’s mirrored files that were already in the government’s possession. All the while, Ganias had subsequently deleted those files from his hard drives after the government had imaged them, according to court records.

The case asks how long the government can retain somebody’s computer files—files that are unrelated to a court warrant. The accountant’s lawyers said that once the government got what it needed regarding the accountant’s client, the remainder of Ganias’ files should have been purged. Federal prosecutors disagreed and said they retained the imaged files for numerous reasons, including for authentication purposes and to allow “the government to comply with its discovery obligations imposed by the Constitution.”

Who says that Canadians don’t write protest songs about politicians? Blue Rodeo drops anti-Harper tune – Who says that Canadian musicians don’t write protest songs about politicians? Well, the Toronto Star did in an article published Sunday. The article is correct in saying that topically political songs are not common in contemporary Canadian music, yet one of Canada’s most beloved bands released just such a song on Monday.

Blue Rodeo’s new song, titled Stealin’ All My Dreams, minces no words in making a target of Prime Minister Steven Harper.


In a news release, Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy said of himself and bandmate Greg Keelor: “Blue Rodeo does not always speak with one voice. However, we feel collectively that the current administration in Canada has taken us down the wrong path. We do not seem to be the compassionate and environmentally conscious nation we once were. As respectful as we are of the variety of opinions held by our audience, we felt it was time to speak up and add our voice to the conversation.”

The song is available as a free download and has racked up more than 76,000 views on YouTube as of Tuesday afternoon.


Click here.

US defends Safe Harbor, says it never uses “indiscriminate surveillance” – The United States Mission to the European Union has responded to the opinion by the Court of Justice of the European Union’s Advocate General Yves Bot that the current Safe Harbour scheme may be illegal because of NSA spying. It claims that the US “does not and has not engaged in indiscriminate surveillance of anyone, including ordinary European citizens.” As reported by Ars last week, the ability of companies to transfer the personal data of EU citizens to the US is under threat because Bot believes that the Safe Harbour’s privacy safeguards are inadequate. In particular, Bot was concerned about what he called the the “mass, indiscriminate surveillance” of EU citizens under the PRISM programme, which is believed to give the NSA direct access to all personal data held by Facebook and other US companies in their databases.


In a statement issued yesteday, The United States Mission to the European Union—effectively, the US embassy to the EU—desperately tries to refute the Advocate General’s logic. That’s because US companies will be unable to rely on the Safe Harbour framework, and their data transfers across the Atlantic will be illegal under EU law, if the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) follows his arguments, as usually happens. The US Mission writes: “The Advocate General’s opinion notes that it was required to accept the facts as found by the Irish High Court. There was, however, no actual fact-finding in this case; instead, the Irish High Court concluded, on the basis of exhibits to plaintiff’s affidavits that the accuracy of his allegations regarding U.S. intelligence practices ‘is not in dispute.’ But that is simply not the case.”

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – September 28, 2015

Keeping your kids safe online? Follow these 5 tips;  One in every 14 Americans fell victim to identity theft last year;  Back to basics: The three easiest ways to back up your files;  Five Android apps that prolong your smartphone’s battery life;  How to uninstall default apps in Windows 10;  Eight apps optimized for 3D Touch on your new iPhone 6S;  Turnkey Linux 14: Small business server Linux made easy;  Google Update Promises More Accurate, Faster Voice Search;  13 iPad Apps to Make You a Way Better Cook;  How to make Cortana search with Google instead of Bing in Windows 10;  Here’s the 1 Device Every Road Warrior Needs in Their Kit;  How hackers can access iPhone contacts and photos without a password;  Hackers restore PlayStation TV compatibility;  Use Tinder Or Grindr? This Billboard Suggests Getting Tested For An STD;  Size matters: Are your speakers too big or too small for your room?  Apple is obviously a cult (and Samsung isn’t), says cultural historian;  Is Android a monopoly?  Saudi Arabia came close to buying Hacking Team;  Here are the coolest things you can do with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

British spies cast net to monitor every web surfer, everywhere, leaked documents show – British surveillance center GCHQ monitored network traffic around the world in order to build up a browsing profile for every Internet user, leaked documents show.

Keeping your kids safe online? Follow these 5 tips – It’s a nightmare come true – your (grand)children are sitting at the dinner table or lying around in the living room, vulnerable to unknown threats. Your mind spins as you wonder, what in the world are my children looking at? Are they downloading explicit content, or planning to meet with sexual predators? And most importantly: isn’t our home the one place my kids should be safe?

One in every 14 Americans fell victim to identity theft last year – Almost 18 million people were victims of identity theft in the United States last year, with the majority of crimes targeting credit cards and bank accounts, the Department of Justice said Sunday. The figure represents 7 percent of the U.S. population aged 16 or older and is a rise of 1 million people from 2012, the last year for which the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics published a similar report. The latest report counts instances where a person experienced misuse of a financial or other account — not simply a breach of their personal information. Just over two in every five cases involved a credit card account and just under two in five involved a bank account. About half of all victims first became aware of a problem when they were contacted by a financial institution with a further one in five noticing fraudulent charge in their account.

Pro tip: Easy file encryption on your Chromebook with miniLock – Your files saved on Google Drive are encrypted by default. However, when you you need to send a file to a user, you download (to a specific file format) and then send that file to the user. That file you just sent is unencrypted. So how do you manage to send an encrypted file to a user? You take advantage of a simple Chrome addon called miniLock.  This add on makes file encryption very easy and doesn’t require you to sign up for a service or plan. It’s free and takes all the guesswork out of encryption.

Back to basics: The three easiest ways to back up your files – Creating a backup of your precious and important files is crucial. It minimizes the risk that you’ll lose your tax documents, baby’s pictures and school work in the event of theft, fire or hard drive failure. Backing up files and photos isn’t hard, but with several different ways to go about it, it can be confusing to get started. This guide gives you the basics on the various choices you have to back up your files and the tips to make it easy.


How to uninstall default apps in Windows 10 – Some default apps can be uninstalled easily from the Start menu. To do this, find the default app you want to uninstall in the Start menu, right-click on the app, and choose Uninstall from the drop-down menu that appears. Apps that can be uninstalled this way include Get Started, Get Skype, Get Office, Microsoft Solitaire Collection, Money, News, Phone Companion, Sports, Optional Features, Windows Media Player, and Windows DVD Player. But for other apps — including Calculator, Calendar, Mail, Camera, Maps, Movies & TV, People, Photos, Store, and Weather — you’ll need to use the PowerShell. (Some apps, such as Cortana, Microsoft Edge, and Windows Feedback cannot be uninstalled at all.) Here’s how to do that:

Five Android apps that prolong your smartphone’s battery life – I often spend time exploring battery-saving apps and have become quite fond of a few in particular. Here’s a list of five of my favorite apps for prolonging the life of your Android’s battery. Note that there are a few common settings that overlap across the apps, but in this piece, I’ve tried to highlight some of the features that help separate each app from the pack.

Eight apps optimized for 3D Touch on your new iPhone 6S – So, you’ve got a new iPhone 6S. You’ve turned it on; maybe you’ve restored it from iCloud. You firmly press on the display to try this new, magical, 3D Touch feature (the first time, you probably do it wrong, and your apps wiggle just like they used to). You can “peek” at Mail! Cool. Now what? It’s not just Apple’s native apps that will work with 3D Touch; today a bunch of third-party app makers started rolling out updated versions of their apps that support the feature as well. Below is a list of apps you can reliably use with 3D Touch. Keep in mind, these aren’t the best apps, per se — it’s too soon to tell which ones are actually the most useful. But these will give you an idea of how app makers are thinking about using 3D Touch.

Here are the coolest things you can do with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus – The arrival of the new phones also brings with it a handful of must-try apps that take advantage of the new hardware and software improvements. We’ve broken down all of the steps required to dive head first into the iPhone 6S, organized into three neat categories: apps to download, iOS 9 features to try, and settings that help you stay in control. Let’s dive in!


Adobe debuts Photoshop and Premiere Elements 14 – Just as they do every year, Adobe has announced new versions of its Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements software, their consumer-level photo and video editing applications. Both packages have received brand new tools and features, as well as improvements to the existing set, making editing easier for those not interested in the full-blown professional suite of software. Both Photoshop and Premiere Elements will be released later this year on both Mac and Windows, for $99 each or together for $149.


Google Update Promises More Accurate, Faster Voice Search – The search giant this week said it has built “better neural network acoustic models,” which means your phone should better understand what you’re trying to dictate. “In addition to requiring much lower computational resources, the new models are more accurate, robust to noise, and faster to respond to voice search queries,” the Google Speech Team wrote in a blog post. Google gave voice search a big upgrade in 2012 by adopting something known as Deep Neural Networks (DNNs). But three years is an eternity in tech terms, so this week’s upgrade means better results that are “blazingly fast,” Google said.

How to make Cortana search with Google instead of Bing in Windows 10 – Windows 10’s Cortana uses Bing for web searches by default with no official option to change it, but there are ways to get Cortana to embrace Google.

Turnkey Linux 14: Small business server Linux made easy –  Let’s say you want inexpensive, open-source server applications that are under your control… but you don’t have the tech chops to install Linux server programs from packages, never mind source code. If that’s you, then you need Turnkey Linux. This Linux distribution, based on Debian 8.2 (Jessie), makes it easy for you to install complete, working Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl/PHP/Python (LAMP) servers on your own servers, the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud, and soon Linux Docker containers. The key word is “easy.” Turnkey makes it possible for anyone who’s Linux savvy, as opposed to a system administrator, to get over a hundred different Linux server applications up and running.


Turnkey Linux makes setting up Linux server apps easy.

13 iPad Apps to Make You a Way Better Cook – Between the enormous amount of food media in the world—from food bloggers and recipe websites to television shows and glossy magazines—cookbooks, and our tried-and-trued recipe collections, it’s hard to know exactly where to begin to look for recipes, let alone cook from them. And organizing them is a challenge all its own. These apps are doing a lot of heavy lifting. We’re not saying that you should give up on your cookbook shelf, but we are saying that our apps are suddenly the most helpful kitchen companions since our grandmothers (or Julia Child). Here are the 13 cooking apps we find essential in the kitchen and out:

10 enthralling TED Talks sure to mesmerize tech enthusiasts – These inspiring, sometimes frightening presentations detail how technologies from bionics to big data to machine learning will change our world for good or ill — and sooner than you might think.


Use Tinder Or Grindr? This Billboard Suggests Getting Tested For An STD – I’d like to point out that there is no scientific evidence saying that just using the apps Tinder or Grindr will cause an STD. However, what happens after using those apps as partially intended may. The site and AIDS Health Foundation is leveraging the popularity of these dating apps to get the word out about getting yourself checked out for a sexually transmitted disease.

Here’s the 1 Device Every Road Warrior Needs in Their Kit – There’s never been a wireless hotspot that looks as good as the Karma Go, a coaster-sized device that offers pay-as-you-go, never-expires data service. At the same time, it’s never been easier to get connected via your phone or broadband provider’s hotspots without having to carry around yet another gadget. So the question is, does anybody really need one of these things? The Go, which started shipping over the summer, provides high-speed connectivity over Sprint’s 4G LTE network. The hardware costs $149, while data service starts at $14 for 1 GB with discounts for the more data you buy. (1 GB doesn’t get you very far; you’ll probably end up buying more.)


Karma Go

Size matters: Are your speakers too big or too small for your room? – It’s an audiophile conundrum: are your speakers too big for your room, or is your room too small for your speakers?


How hackers can access iPhone contacts and photos without a password – iPhone users have yet another screenlock bypass vulnerability to watch out for, according to a new video demonstration that shows how the bug can be exploited to gain unauthorized access to photos and contacts. The hack reportedly works on iOS version 9.0.1, which Apple released Wednesday, although some people say they are unable to reproduce it. The vulnerability makes it possible for someone who gets even a brief moment with an iPhone to rifle through contacts and photos without entering the password. Here it is in action.


Beware! iOS 9 & iOS 9.0.1 – Security Flaw – Passcode Bypass. Turn Off Siri on Lockscreen to be Safe.

Cookie handling in browsers can break HTTPS security – Man-in-the-middle attackers can inject cookies over HTTP connections in order to extract information from encrypted HTTPS traffic.

US reaches economic cybersecurity agreement with China – Today, President Obama, appearing with Chinese President Xi Jinping, announced that the United States and China had reached an agreement to curb “cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property” between the two countries. Obama, at the announcement, said he had “indicated it has to stop,” and that the two had come to a “common understanding.” According to a statement from the White House, the two countries now “agree that neither country’s government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors.”


Win McNamee/Getty Images

Analysis: China-US hacking accord is tall on rhetoric, short on substance – The accord President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Friday—a “common understanding” to curb state-sponsored, corporate cyber espionage toward one another—inches us toward that goal if we assume both sides would uphold their end of the bargain. It’s a momentous first step at a historical stage in which the battlefield is evolving online—from the real world to the virtual world. And it comes as both sides are engaged in finger pointing on the topic and accusing the other of cyber transgressions. But even assuming both sides would follow the pact, the accord is tall on rhetoric and short on substance.

Don’t Panic Over The Rise In Personal Data Theft – Instead of freaking out and retracing our steps, we must take the necessary precautions to save our personal and corporate lives. Perhaps the silver lining in all these attacks is that it has raised awareness among companies and governments, and many countries are considering passing laws that bind service providers to protect user data.

10 weird and wild cutting-edge security threats – When you think of security vulnerabilities, the first thing that likely comes to your mind are flaws in Windows or apps like Adobe Reader that let hackers wreak havoc on your PC. But computers are everywhere these days, and with more computers come more security headaches. Join us as we look at ten hacks and vulnerabilities that take threats to the next level. Somehow, things have gotten even crazier since our last look at shocking security exploits.

Company News:

It’s official: Blackberry’s Android phone—the “Priv”—will launch this year – Blackberry is finally joining Team Android. During the company’s latest earnings report (PDF), the company officially announced it would release an Android phone.

John Chen, Blackberry’s executive chairman and CEO, confirmed the earlier rumors. “Today, I am confirming our plans to launch Priv, an Android device named after BlackBerry’s heritage and core mission of protecting our customers’ privacy,” he said. “Priv combines the best of BlackBerry security and productivity with the expansive mobile application ecosystem available on the Android platform.”


Google Announces Plan To Put Wi-Fi In 400 Train Stations Across India – Today, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai shared details on a new plan to bring more Indian residents online. He notes that there’s still over a billion of them in his native country that aren’t connected. The key? India’s train system. And a plan to bring Wi-Fi to its 10 million rail passengers a day. And it’s free (to start). Pichai shared Google’s plans, while sharing his own story about his days using Chennai Central station to get to school.

We’d like to help get these next billion Indians online—so they can access the entire web, and all of its information and opportunity. And not just with any old connection—with fast broadband so they can experience the best of the web. That’s why, today, on the occasion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to our U.S. headquarters, and in line with his Digital India initiative, we announced a new project to provide high-speed public Wi-Fi in 400 train stations across India.


Lyft Moves Customer Support Team To Nashville To Combat High-Priced SF Market – Lyft is building out its new customer service headquarters in Nashville, where overhead such as rent and salaries are cheaper. It will also help Lyft’s east coast support. The ride-sharing startup is asking customer service reps in San Francisco to work out of the capital of country music, instead. The move is part of a growing trend in Silicon Valley to find cheaper space and lower overhead elsewhere. Average office rent in San Francisco nearly doubled from $30 in 2013 to $70 per square foot today. Compare that to the $18-$22 average per square foot rental price in downtown Nashville.

Sprint Fined $1.2M for 911 Outage – If you’re a hard of hearing Sprint customer and you called 911 between March and September 2014, you were probably a little shocked to find that your captioned telephone service didn’t work. The Federal Communications Commission has slapped Sprint with a fairly hefty $1,175,000 fine for the outage, as the system—which basically gives a person captions to read when making a call—is a pretty integral part of the emergency calling process.

Games and Entertainment:

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 will only be half a game on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 – Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, set to land on November 6 this year, will be a five platform affair, shipping on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. But Activision today dropped some bad news on the owners of the older consoles who were hoping to enjoy the latest iteration of the cinematic shooter series. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 aren’t going to get the full game. They’ll get the conventional multiplayer game, and the multiplayer zombie mode, but that’s all; the campaign mode, which will support both single player and co-operative multiplayer, won’t be available.


Fully-featured Twitch apps are coming to PlayStation platforms – Twitch announced today at its first ever TwitchCon conference that it’s launching an improved suite of apps for Sony’s PlayStation platforms. PlayStation 4 users have been able to record directly to Twitch’s game-streaming platform using the console’s share features, as well as watch other PS4 content. But there hasn’t yet been an app that lets you watch any Twitch channel regardless of platform and enjoy the full features of the desktop website or mobile app. Twitch is launching its new PS4 app alongside versions for the PlayStation 3, the PlayStation Vita handheld, and the PlayStation TV micro-console this fall.


Hackers restore PlayStation TV compatibility that was blocked by Sony – When we gave our impressions of Sony’s Vita-based PlayStation TV microconsole last year, our biggest complaint was with the tiny unit’s widespread lack of compatibility with existing portable software. Hundreds of games that work just fine on the portable PlayStation Vita just refused to load on a PlayStation TV. Now, some enterprising hackers have apparently gone a long way toward fixing this problem by increasing the PlayStation TV’s software compatibility with a simple hack. The method, as outlined on HackInformer, exploits an error in the PlayStation TV’s e-mail app that lets users write files to the system memory by attaching them as fake images in a message. Using this method and a specially built “whitelist” file, players can unlock the ability to play many (but not all) previously incompatible Vita games and apps on their PlayStation TV.

Mega Man successor Mighty No. 9 gets a February release – The oft-delayed successor to the Mega Man franchise, Mighty No. 9, now has another release date. (One that we hope it sticks to). Developer Comcept and publisher Deep Silver announced today that the game will hit American PS4s, Wii Us, and Xbox Ones next year on February 9th. The rest of the world will be able to enjoy it on February 12th.


‘Oculus Ready’ PCs will be guaranteed to meet virtual reality’s demanding needs – In case you missed it, the minimum specs for the Oculus Rift are:


Nvidia 9800 or AMD 4870 graphics card with 1 GB dedicated RAM

2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU or 2.4 GHz AMD Phenom 9850 Quad Core CPU


While the recommended specs are a bit beefier:

Nvidia GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater

Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater


Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output

Off Topic (Sort of):

Is Android a monopoly? – A report from Bloomberg this morning suggests that US antitrust regulators are looking into whether Google has engaged in anticompetitive practices with its Android operating system. It seems a preposterous question to ask, but might Android constitute an actual monopoly? Google doesn’t make any phones, and it doesn’t force Android on anyone — phone makers choose to ship devices with that software on board. Google also isn’t fully in control of Android, as evidenced by the hundreds of millions of Android smartphones being sold in China without Google’s apps or blessing. Android is famed as the open-source alternative to Apple’s closed iOS, and the two are locked in a healthy and balanced competition in the United States, with Google’s software claiming 59 percent of the market and Apple taking 38 percent. From a consumer perspective, it’s a fair fight with no monopoly in sight.

Apple is obviously a cult (and Samsung isn’t), says cultural historian – The idea that Apple is less a brand and more a religious cult has been around for a while. Not so long ago, Samsung mocked the living bejaysus out of Apple’s cultitude in very funny ads. It built the Galaxy franchise upon that pedestal of mockery. It takes, though, an intellectual to put a deeper stamp of authority on Apple’s cult status. Hosannas, therefore, to Atlas Obscura, which probed the views of NYU professor Erica Robles-Anderson. Robles-Anderson is a cultural historian who, when examining a Manhattan Apple store, declared, “It’s a cult. Right? It’s so obviously a cult.”

Indian Prime Minister Tells Zuckerberg Social Media Creates A New Form Of Diplomacy – Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Mark Zuckerberg that social media can show governments where they’re going wrong, and allow heads of state to connect more personably than ever before. During a townhall Q&A at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, the two leaders talked about the modernization of India and discussed topics from the 40,000 questions and comments submitted by the public. The talk can be watched here. As the world’s largest democracy and a massively lucrative market for tech companies, execs from several tech giants made time to meet with Modi during his visit to Silicon Valley this week, including Google, Apple, and Tesla, as Re/Code reported.


Facebook ‘unfriending’ is workplace bullying, Australia tribunal finds – As reports, Australia’s Fair Work Commission was hearing the case of Rachael Roberts, who worked for a real estate agency in Tasmania. Roberts’ allegation was that Lisa Bird, a sales administrator, and her husband James constantly “belittled and humiliated” her. Roberts claimed almost 20 incidents from her three years with the company. These included being forbidden from changing the temperature on the AC in the office. One of them, though, was deeply heinous: Bird unfriended Roberts on Facebook.

The Future Of Coding Is Here, And It Threatens To Wipe Out Everything In Its Path – APIs — the rules governing how software programs interact with each other — not user interfaces, will upend software for years to come. When Intel CEO Brian Krzanich doubled down on the Internet of Things at the company’s annual Developer Forum in August, he emphasized what many of us have already known — the dawn of a new era in software engineering.


CVS pharmacies in 12 more states will carry drug to treat heroin overdose – The medication, Naloxone, will now be available without a prescription at CVS stores in 12 additional states. Those states include Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin. Naloxone is already available over the counter at CVS stores in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. “Over 44,000 people die from accidental drug overdoses every year in the United States and most of those deaths are from opioids, including controlled substance pain medication and illegal drugs such as heroin,” Tom Davis, vice president of pharmacy professional practices at CVS, said in a statement. “Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses and by providing access to this medication in our pharmacies without a prescription in more states, we can help save lives.”

Dartmouth researcher building a cost-effective supercomputer using smartphones – Solving complex problems requires supercomputers, but most university research centers can’t afford to buy a supercomputer or rent time on one. A physicist wants to change that.

Something to think about:

“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

–     Yogi Berra


RawTherapee – RawTherapee is a cross-platform raw image processing program, released under the GNU General Public License Version 3. It was originally written by Gábor Horváth of Budapest. Rather than being a raster graphics editor such as Photoshop or GIMP, it is specifically aimed at raw photo post-production. And it does it very well – at a minimum, RawTherapee is one of the most powerful raw processing programs available.

High Image Quality

96-bit (floating point) processing engine.

Non-destructive editing.

Get the most details and least artifacts from your raw photos thanks to modern and traditional demosaicing algorithms: AMaZE, DCB, AHD, EAHD, HPHD, IGV, LMMSE, VNG4, Mono and Fast.

Advanced color handling from white balance to HSV (Hue-Saturation-Value) curves, color toning and color management.

Powerful CIE Color Appearance Model 2002 (CIECAM02) module.

Enhanced exposure and tonality tools: tone and Lab curves, highlights and shadows tools, tone mapping (HDR-like effect), etc.

Multiple denoising methods: luminance, chrominance (both rewritten in 2012), impulse (for salt and pepper noise) noise reduction.

Several tools to enhance details: unsharp mask, RL deconvolution, contrast by detail levels.


Multi-threaded algorithms for high performance (RawTherapee can utilize modern processor features, like SSE).

Quick thumbnails load lightning fast and are replaced later with live thumbnails.

Batch processing: convert all the developed images at once without loading the processor while you work.

Copy/paste editing parameters from one file to many other. Partially copying and/or pasting is also possible.

Basic tools immediately at your hands.

Parallel editing of multiple images in separate editor tabs, and/or all at once from the file browser.

An optional secondary display can be used.


Wide variety of supported cameras: almost all DSLRs and even some medium format bodies are supported.

Can load most raw files including 16-, 24- and 32-bit raw HDR DNG images, as well as standard JPEG, PNG (8- and 16-bit) and TIFF (8-, 16- and 32-bit logluv) images.

Can save JPEG, PNG (8- and 16-bit) and TIFF (8- and 16-bit) images.

Advanced control over the algorithms with many fine-tuning parameters and curves.

Can send to GIMP or the editing tool of your choice in one click (16-bit TIFF file).

Command line usage besides the normal graphical interface.

Various layouts: multiple tabs, single tab with filmstrip, vertical tab with filmstrip, dual monitor.

Freedom for Free

RawTherapee is free and open source software, meaning you can use it free of charge, wherever you like on whatever hardware you like, as long as you abide by the copyleft GPLv3 license. Download the source code, modify it, feel free to do what comes to mind. We believe in open software.

It is cross-platform: Linux, Mac, or Windows, be it 32-bit or 64-bit – you pick, we provide.

International: it is available in 25 languages!


Detail windows let you peek at a higher magnification at areas of interest. As this is a HDR DNG image, even the darkest areas show no noise.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

GCHQ tried to track Web visits of “every visible user on Internet” – If you used the World Wide Web anytime after 2007, the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has probably spied on you. That’s the revelation contained in documents published today by The Intercept, which detail a GCHQ operation called “Karma Police”—a program that tracked Web browsing habits of people around the globe in what the agency itself billed as the “world’s biggest” Internet data-mining operation, intended to eventually track “every visible user on the Internet.”

Karma Police—apparently named after the Radiohead song—started as a program to track individuals listening to Internet streaming audio “radio stations” as part of a research project into how radicals might “misuse” Internet radio to spread their messages. Listeners to streams that included Islamic religious content were targeted for more data collection in an effort to identify their Skype and social media accounts. The program gradually grew with its success. According to GCHQ documents, by 2009 the program had stored over 1.1 trillion “events”—Web browsing sessions—in its “Black Hole” database. By 2010, the system was gathering 30 billion records per day of Internet traffic metadata. According to another GCHQ document, that volume grew to 50 billion per day by 2012.

The Karma Police system and its Black Hole database log the IP addresses of individuals visiting Internet sites, as well as the cookies associated with their Web traffic. The users of specific sites can then be profiled by correlating recorded cookies from other sites, such as those used to deliver personalized ads (for instance, the Google “pref” cookie) or site login credentials.


Saudi Arabia came close to buying Hacking Team – The Saudi Arabian government came close to buying control of Italian surveillance software company Hacking Team, notorious for selling its product to undemocratic regimes, according to hacked emails posted by WikiLeaks.

The negotiations were handled by Wafic Said, a Syrian-born businessman based in the U.K. who is a close friend of the Saudi royal family, and also involved Ronald Spogli, a former U.S. ambassador to Italy, who had an indirect investment in Hacking Team.

The deal collapsed in early 2014 after the removal of Prince Bandar bin Sultan as head of the Saudi intelligence service. The former Saudi ambassador to Washington had backed the purchase but it was not supported by his successor.

Saudi Arabia has long had a reputation as a human rights violator and this week it emerged that a Saudi court had confirmed a death sentence on a young man convicted of participating in antigovernment protests inspired by the Arab Spring. Ali al-Nimr has been sentenced to be beheaded and then crucified for crimes he allegedly committed at the age of 17.

Eric Rabe, a spokesman for Hacking Team, said the talks had never been close to completion. Countries such as Saudi Arabia were allies of the West and it was important that they should receive instruments that enabled them to combat crime and terrorism, he said in a telephone interview.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – September 25, 2015

26 iOS 9 Tips for Apple Fanatics;  How to find free music online: We reveal our 5 favorite sources;  This Is How Many Apps You’re Really Using on Your Smartphone;  Young people think it’s OK to track your lover;  Firefox’s tracker-killing private browsing mode hits beta;  Snowden backs international campaign to outlaw mass surveillance;  Quickly create a VPN with the Hotspot Shield browser extension;  Facebook kicks off 360-degree video;  Firefox Gets Built-In Instant Messaging;  iOS 9 security flaw skips PIN to allow access to photos, contacts;  What’s the best free alternative to Microsoft Office?  Mobile devices are kids’ preferred gaming tools;  Ransomware pushers up their game against small businesses;  Sprint aims to undercut T-Mobile with $1-per-month iPhone deal;  The 16 best one-hand Android games for fun on the go;  Microsoft kills SafeDisc DRM on Windows 7 and 8;  How much are you worth to Facebook? About $48.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Snowden backs international campaign to outlaw mass surveillance – The former US National Security Agency worker who leaked NSA files to the press helped launch a campaign Thursday to pass what’s informally being called the Snowden Treaty. The proposed international agreement would outlaw mass surveillance and protect whistle-blowers like himself. “This is a global problem that affects all of us,” Snowden said via video from Russia to a room filled with reporters and activists. “We have to come forward with proposals to assert what our rights are, traditionally and digitally.” The Snowden Treaty has the potential to vastly change the way governments gather intelligence on their citizens and other countries. But it’s unclear whether such a sweeping regulation on information-gathering could win the support it needs from UN member countries.

Firefox’s tracker-killing private browsing mode hits beta – The latest Firefox Beta builds for PCs (Windows, Mac, and Linux) and Android come packed with a new featured called Tracking Protection. True to its name, Tracking Protection actively blocks third-party tracking. To do this, Tracking Protection prevents any element of a webpage from loading that may have code designed to track your browsing habits. Let’s say you regularly visit a news site that always displays an ad supplied by a third-party advertising company, and those ads always appear to the right of the news articles. With Tracking Protection enabled you may not see the ads if they contain browser cookies designed to follow you across the web.

Young people think it’s OK to track your lover, survey says – Technically Incorrect: An Australian survey of people from 16 to 24 years old suggests the world can’t end too soon. Almost half said tracking their partners using technology is just fine.

This Is How Many Apps You’re Really Using on Your Smartphone – Every other day it feels like there’s a new hot app on the market, but in reality people are plenty comfortable with their old standbys. A new study by comScore reveals that smartphone owners in the U.S. typically only use about three apps frequently. According to the study, the average American devotes about half their app time to a single app. The second-most used app gets about 18% of total app time, and the third most-used one gets 10% of the time. Combined these three programs total 80% of total app time.

Quickly create a VPN with the Hotspot Shield browser extension – Access blocked content and protect yourself at public hotspots with the Hotspot Shield extension for Chrome or Firefox. It’s free, easy and effective. I tried the Chrome extension, and it couldn’t have been easier to use. Hotspot Shield installs a button to the right of Chrome’s URL bar that when clicked provides a toggle switch to enable and disable the extension along with an option to set your virtual location. There are five countries from which to choose: Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the US. You can choose one of the five countries by clicking on its flag or choose the globe to have Hotspot Shield choose for you.


Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

26 iOS 9 Tips for Apple Fanatics – It’s time to upgrade to iOS 9. Here are the top tricks that make it a worthwhile upgrade. For anyone with the latest iPhones, the jump to iOS 9 is worth it. The following tips and tricks will help you make the most of it. Use this knowledge to become an iPhone (and iPad) master.


It’s time to upgrade to iOS 9. Here are the top tricks that make it a worthwhile upgrade.

How to find free music online: We reveal our 5 favorite sources for scoring free tunes – Free music is hard to come by these days. The industry seems obsessed with having us rent music via subscription services instead. Even Apple has done away with its Free on iTunes section (after bringing it back for a few months earlier this year) so it can push its new Apple Music service. But free, legally downloadable music still exists online; you just have to know where to find it. Here are five services that offer free tracks with few strings attached.

What’s the best free alternative to Microsoft Office? – From the Cheapskate: Before you plunk down money for Office 2016, consider whether you can get by with a free suite — or even Microsoft’s free online version!

Facebook kicks off 360-degree video with a Star Wars speeder ride – It’s a first day of fall surprise from Star Wars and Facebook! The latter is unveiling the capability to post 3D video on the site and have it pop up in New Feeds across the world. Videos from GoPro, Vice, Satruday Night Live and more debuted on the site, but it was the Star Wars reveal that stole the show. In a collaboration between Industrial Light and Magic’’ X-Lab and Facebook, users can now click and drag their way through a 360 video that depicts a speeder ride through the new Star Wars planet of Jakku from The Force Awakens. From the point of view of the back of the speeder ridden by Daisy Ridley’’s character Rey in the new Star Wars movie, the 58 second ride takes us past the downed Star Destroyer and around the back past a junk dealer.


Here’s how to get rid of Internet Explorer – You would think that, because Windows 10 comes with Microsoft Edge preinstalled, you’d be able to ditch Internet Explorer. But you’d be wrong. Because Internet Explorer 11 comes preinstalled on Windows 10 — and no, you can’t uninstall it. But you can turn it off. This Control Panel hack works in previous versions of Windows, too. Here’s how to do it:

When your Windows registry gets cluttered, here’s what’s worth doing about it – Your Windows registry may look like a big mess, especially if you install and uninstall a lot of software. But before you clean it, here’s something else to consider.

The new Gear VR will work with any new Samsung phone and cost $99 – The new Gear VR looks a lot like its most recent iteration, with the exception of a redesigned trackpad, which has a D-pad-style cross that could make it easier to feel when you’re in VR. But unlike the previous ones, it’s not being referred to as an “innovator edition.” It’s also half the price of the old Gear VR: $99. Koo says that the new Gear VR will ship in November — before Black Friday — in the US, and will head worldwide shortly after. Part of today’s news is also the amount of new content that’s coming out over the coming months — including Netflix, TiVo, and Twitch.


Mobile devices are kids’ preferred gaming tools – Modern children prefer to play video games on mobile devices, according to a new report from NPD Group. The survey looked at kids ranging in age from 2 to 17, and discovered the PC has been knocked down from its top slot, no longer being the preferred gaming device. More than half of kids surveyed said they play video games on mobile devices regularly, while less than half of those kids reported playing games on a PC. The latter represents a 22 percent decrease over 2013’s report.


Firefox Gets Built-In Instant Messaging – The latest version of the browser, Firefox 41, made its debut this week with a new built-in instant messaging feature, letting you send and receive IMs when you’re in a Hello video call. At this point, the feature is only available on the desktop version for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The feature comes after Mozilla in January officially launched the WebRTC-based Hello video-calling feature, developed in partnership with Spanish telecom giant Telefónica, in Firefox 35. Now, for the first time, Hello includes IM support as well.

Google Keep released to iPhone – Today Google brings one of its lesser-known super-helpful apps “Google Keep” to iPhone. This app has been out for Google’s own Android operating system for many months, just coming to iOS for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch for the first time today. This app will allow you to keep notes, save thoughts with audio, and keep images of odd objects in check in one colorful place. This app is out for free on iOS starting this afternoon and should work on most if not all iOS devices released over the past several years, just so long as they have all their requisite software updates from Apple.


Google is now better at listening to you than ever – Google had already been employing deep neural networks — the same stuff responsible for those freaky distorted pictures — to compute the most likely thing you’re trying to say to your phone, but now it’s evolved its approach and started using recurrent neural networks. The new voice modelling allows Google to account for temporal dependencies, which is to say that it’s now better at analyzing every snippet of audio by referring to the sounds on either side of it. The upshot for users is an even faster, more accurate, and efficient voice search experience. The company even claims it’s more robust to noisy environment. The Google search app for iOS and Android is already using the new improved voice input, which is also present when dictating stuff into Android.

How to make Cortana search with Google instead of Bing in Windows 10 – Windows 10’s Cortana uses Bing for web searches by default with no official option to change it, but there are ways to get Cortana to embrace Google.

Microsoft’s new Invite app makes scheduling meetings on iPhone a breeze – Right now the app is only available for iPhone users in the U.S. and Canada, but Microsoft plans to bring it to Android and Windows Phone soon. The app is emblematic of the Garage’s tactics when it comes to creating and rolling out new products. A team working on a project inside the Garage starts with a hypothesis they want to test, like wanting to see if it’s possible to ease the pain of scheduling meetings. If a project is successful, it could get rolled into one of Microsoft’s larger products, so it’s possible that we could see this capability added into Outlook or another app at some point in the future.


It’s official: North America is out of new IPv4 addresses – North America has finally run out of new addresses based on IPv4, the numbering system that got the Internet where it is today but is running out of space for the coming era of networking.


Security wares like Kaspersky AV can make you more vulnerable to attacks – Antivirus applications and other security software are supposed to make users more secure, but a growing body of research shows that in some cases, they can open people to hacks they otherwise wouldn’t be vulnerable to. The latest example is antivirus and security software from Kaspersky Lab. Tavis Ormandy, a member of Google’s Project Zero vulnerability research team, recently analyzed the widely used programs and quickly found a raft of easy-to-exploit bugs that made it possible to remotely execute malicious code on the underlying computers. Kaspersky has already fixed many of the bugs and is in the process of repairing the remaining ones. In a blog post published Tuesday, he said it’s likely he’s not the only one to know of such game-over vulnerabilities.

iOS 9 security flaw skips PIN to allow access to photos, contacts – While iOS 9 has seen early success, already being installed on 50% of Apple’s devices less than a week after launch, a new potential security flaw has already been discovered. As demonstrated in the video below, the exploit can allow users to bypass an iPhone’s PIN-protected lock screen and get full access to saved photos and contacts. The flaw appears to take advantage of a bug related to using Siri at the lock screen.


Microsoft’s enterprise-grade security is coming to Windows 10 IoT – Microsoft launched a new Preview build for its version of Windows 10 that’s designed to run devices that are part of the Internet of Things, along with a development kit to help users test it out.

OPM revises hack details: 5.6m fingerprints compromised – In early June, the U.S. government revealed that four million federal employees were comprised as the result of a massive data breach at the Office of Personnel Management. It has since been suggested the number could be higher, and that the type of data grabbed (supposedly by Chinese hackers) was more extensive than originally reported. Today the OPM made a new update about the hack, revealing the hackers stole a few million more fingerprints than originally believed.

Ransomware pushers up their game against small businesses – The majority of clicks on recent links spreading CryptoWall and TorrentLocker came from small and medium-sized businesses. CryptoWall is one of the most widespread ransomware programs, infecting nearly 625,000 systems between March and August 2014 and many more since then. Researchers estimate that it has earned well over $1 million for its creators. Small and medium-sized companies accounted for over 40 percent of clicks on TorrentLocker-related URLs in June and July. The number exceeds 50 percent when large enterprises are included.

Company News:

UberPOP ride-sharing service faces ban in Brussels – The low-cost service from San Francisco-based Uber lets drivers without a professional license transport customers, who hail them using a smartphone app, in their own cars. A Belgian commercial court on Thursday ruled in favour of cab firm Taxis Verts and ordered UberPop to shut down by October 15. UberX, which requires drivers to have a professional license, will continue to operate. Uber said it will appeal the court’s decision.

Microsoft ditches Bing for Baidu to push Windows 10 in China – Recently, tech companies have been taking major action to gain a foothold in the ripe market that is China, from Apple’s public apology to Google’s rumored censorship. The latest to make somewhat of a concession is Microsoft, though the implications are probably far less unprecedented or disruptive. The company has just announced one its latest major partnership in China, which will help it gain access to potentially hundreds of millions of users. But its deal with Baidu is coming at a small price, one that will see Bing out the door in the region.

Sprint aims to undercut T-Mobile with $1-per-month iPhone deal – On Thursday, Sprint announced a new deal in which customers who trade in their existing iPhone 6 can score a 16-gigabyte iPhone 6S by paying $1 a month or a 16GB iPhone 6s Plus for $5 a month. Available for an unspecificed “limited time only” (no end date has been announced), the new offer is part of Sprint’s iPhone Forever program, which lets new or existing customers eligible for a new phone get the latest iPhone as soon as it rolls out.

Facebook renames oft-criticized free website – So what’s in a name? Apparently a lot to Facebook, which on Thursday renamed its controversial website and app to Free Basics. The social network said the renaming was done to make a clearer distinction between the broader initiative and the website that provides free basic Internet services to underserved parts of the world. The renaming coincides with Facebook’s announcement that the revised platform is up and running.

Games and Entertainment:

The 16 best one-hand Android games for fun on the go – Clenching to the bus rail on your way to work, you don’t have both hands free to finish that Dead Trigger level you started last night. With a few minutes to spare, and one hand free, you need to find some games you can play with the same hand you’re holding your phone with. Your choices aren’t as limited as you might think. You’ll find that most of the titles are designed specifically with the portrait orientation in mind. However, some games are good enough to bend the rules, and you’ll see a couple games sprinkled in that are played in landscape mode.


Official Angry Bird movie trailer debuts – One of the most popular mobile games of the decade is Angry Birds. The game was so popular that it made Rovio, the developer of the game. We have known for a while now that a movie based on the Angry Birds game was in the works. The release date is set for sometime in 2016. I’m sure many have been wondering what the movie would be like and now we know thanks to the release of the first official trailer for the film.


Epic Games demos ‘Bullet Train’ game for Oculus Rift – Epic Games has demonstrated a new video game it has in the works titled “Bullet Train” — it is a VR game designed for the Oculus Rift, and as the name tongue-in-cheek references, it is a shooting game that takes place within a train station. Gamers get off the train in a train station and begin shooting a variety of firearms at various armor-clad baddies. Gameplay video after the jump! The trailer below shows the first look at Bullet Train as played on the Oculus Rift using Oculus Touch controllers. Said Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, “Using the Oculus Touch controller for locomotion, we’ve built a world-scale VR gunfight experience with gameplay that weaves in and out of bullet time. Presenting: Bullet Train.”


E-sports go primetime as TBS preps weekly Counter-Strike: Global Offensive TV show – Competitive gaming has become a wildly popular spectator sport without the help of mainstream TV, but now one network is trying to get in on the action. Starting next year, TBS will launch a new league for e-sports, with telecasts on Friday nights, the Wall Street Journal reports. The competitions will run for 20 weeks a year, starting with Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in the first season. Before each telecast, TBS will show preliminary competitions online, leading up to the Friday night showdowns. Players will compete for prize money, though TBS and partnering talent agency WME/IMG haven’t specified the amount. TBS is also considering drug tests for players, following other e-sports leagues that have grappled with the use of Adderall to boost attention.


Team Fnatic is crowned champions at this year’s ESL One Cologne e-sports event, the world’s largest CS:GO tournament.

Sling TV updates user interface on Xbox One – Dish Network’s Sling TV has a bunch of visual changes up its sleeve, and those changes are arriving first for those on Xbox One. The service announced the new changes today; included among them is a new channel guide and more details than before. Says Sling TV, subscriber feedback directly influenced this newest improvement. As such, the company is wanting more feedback — if you have a Sling TV subscription, you can tweet your feedback at Sling and make your voice known. The new Sling TV for Xbox One, first and foremost, brings better streaming and stability and fixes a bunch of bugs. Beyond that comes an improved user interface — one that includes a refreshed guide that is better able to accommodate the increased number of channels Sling TV offers.


Microsoft kills SafeDisc DRM on Windows 7 and 8 – When Windows 10 arrived, gamers found that some of their favorite older games would no longer fire up. Microsoft, it turned out, had declared both SafeDisc and SecuROM to be security risks. To that end, they made sure neither DRM scheme would function on Windows 10 systems. Now, they’ve decided to extend some of that protection to previous Windows versions, too. Microsoft has pushed a Windows Update to Windows 7 and Windows 8 that cripples SafeDisc. That’s good news from a security standpoint, but what if you feel like firing up some of your classic games that happen to rely on its DRM? Microsoft has provided a workaround. In the notes they provided for update MS15-097, they’ll walk you through the steps that are required to make SafeDisc functional again.


HBO NOW Is 2015’s Top Video Streaming App By Revenue, Study Finds – Video streaming apps that target cord cutters and those who want to watch video on their mobile phones are on the rise. According to new data from app store analytics firm App Annie, apps like the still relatively new HBO NOW, along with Hulu, are dominating the top app store charts by revenue, while others like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, Amazon’s Twitch and more, rank among the top apps by downloads. The findings were based on studies of the streaming video market and related app store rankings for a 12-month period ending July 2015, the firm said.

Off Topic (Sort of):

How much are you worth to Facebook? About $48 – Did you know your Facebook profile is worth more than your Twitter handle? At least, it is in terms of ad revenue. Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 1.5 billion users, stands to make $12.76 in ad revenue off each user worldwide this year and about $48.76 off each user in the United States, according to data from research firm eMarketer.

Trinity portable wind generator keeps you charged on the go – There are many places where it can be hard to keep your gadgets powered up and usable. If you like to spend time in the outdoors, this is the hardest place to get power. There are no outlets on the side of a mountain in Colorado, but you need to be able to keep in contact in case of an emergency. A new device called the Trinity Portable Wind Turbine Power Station can keep you juiced up no matter how far you are from home.


RePhone Lets You Turn Anything Into A Phone – Making a cellphone is easy. You go into a mine, pull up some ore, extract various metals and then add components that you manufacture from other mines. Then you have to get FCC clearance and create lithium ion battery. Finally, you need to write a Snake game. If you can’t do that, try RePhone. The project is actually a tiny circuit board with a SIM slot and an optional screen. It also supports Bluetooth. You’re going to want to get the $49 Kit Create, a tiny watch-like system that includes a little case and all the modules. It’s like getting a tiny unlocked cellphone for under $50.

U.S. drops to 55th in 4G LTE speeds – The average download speed on U.S. 4G networks inched up to 10Mbps (bits per second) in the June-August quarter, according to research company OpenSignal. That was an improvement from 9Mbps in the previous quarter, but the country’s global ranking fell from 43rd as users in other countries enjoyed much larger gains. New Zealand scored the highest average speed in the quarter with 36Mbps, coming up from nowhere in the rankings. But perennial standouts like South Korea and Singapore kept getting faster, too. The average LTE speed in Korea is now 29Mbps (up by 4Mbps), and in Singapore it’s 33Mbps, up by 5Mbps.

Dashcam captures plane calmly merging with rush hour traffic – The footage of the incident, which happened on the evening of September 16, is now reaching viral liftoff on YouTube. And who wouldn’t have reacted just as the driver who filmed it on his dashcam did, with an “Are you kidding me?”


Donald Trump unleashes trademark-fury on critic’s website – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to stop, a website that sells a variety of anti-Trump paraphernalia, including T-shirts and other doodads that have slogans like “Donald is Dumb” and “Stop Trump.” His lawyer has sent a cease-and-desist letter, ordering the website, to stop selling its anti-Trump wares, and hand over the domain name. Washington Post blogger and law prof Eugene Volokh points out that Trump has no case whatsoever. No one will be confused into thinking that the “Stop Trump” website or its gear for sale is authorized by Trump; and even if someone was confused, the trademark confusion and cybersquatting laws both allow for fair use, and criticism is the classic example.


U.N. Says Cyber Violence Is Equivalent to Physical Violence Against Women – Cyber violence is just as damaging to women as physical violence, according to a new U.N. report, which warns women are growing even more vulnerable to cyber violence as more and more regions gain internet access. The report calls itself a “wake-up call” about cyber violence as a systemic concern, especially as technology is spreading across more regions.

BBC video shows animals attacking in slow motion – BBC, as you may know, has a YouTube channel dedicated to videos about the outdoor world (ones posted exclusively online), and it’s called “Earth Unplugged”. On Wednesday, the network published a new video that slows time down, giving us an incredible look at animals as they attack. The video is in slow motion, and includes everything from an alligator punching out of the water to a praying mantis grabbing a cricket.


No sign of safety risks with longterm pot use for chronic pain – The study was conducted in Canada between 2004 and 2008. It followed 431 chronic pain patients for a year in order to assess the rates of adverse events, pulmonary effects, and neurocognitive function. The patients were divided into a group that used cannabis to treat that chronic pain (n=215) as well a control group that didn’t (n=216). A key strength of the work is that it was a prospective study; the participants were chosen before they started the treatment plan. As noted above, there was no difference in adverse effects in the cannabis-using group—in and of itself, that’s quite a useful finding. The study also found no significant change in neurocognitive function between cannabis users and control. That finding contradicts studies on recreational users that have found a negative effect on both attention and memory with longterm cannabis use.

Something to think about:

“First rule of holes. When you find yourself in one, stop digging.”

–    Will Rogers


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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Boycott tech companies supporting CISA, privacy group urges – Privacy advocates are stepping up their lobbying efforts against the controversial cyber threat information sharing bill currently in Congress after several tech giants indicated their support.

Activist group Fight for the Future criticized Salesforce for supporting legislation which would “grant blanket immunity for American companies to participate in government mass surveillance programs like PRISM, without meaningfully addressing any of the fundamental cyber security problems we face in the U.S.” Accordingly, Fight for the Future said it will abandon the Heroku cloud application platform within the next 90 days and encourages others to follow suit. The letter to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff was posted on the site

Man arrested for disparaging police on Facebook settles suit for $35,000 – A Wisconsin man arrested for posting disparaging and profanity laced comments on a local police department’s Facebook page has settled a civil rights lawsuit and is being awarded $35,000.

Thomas G. Smith used the Facebook page of a rural Wisconsin village called Arena to, among other things, label local cops as “fucking racists bastards.”

He was charged criminally in state court on allegations of disorderly conduct and unlawful use of computerized communications. He was sentenced to a year of probation and 25 hours of community service. A state appeals court overturned his conviction last year.

Smith then sued, (PDF) leading to the $35,000 settlement Tuesday of a lawsuit that also accused the police department of deleting his and other critical comments while allowing favorable comments to remain online.

White House considered bypassing encryption with malware disguised as updates – A new report from The Washington Post details some of the latest ideas, including some that already have civil libertarians raising the alarm. The news comes from a draft memo from the president’s encryption working group, which was tasked with finding solutions that would be acceptable to tech companies and law enforcement alike. The result isn’t intended for public consumption, but it shows just how far we might need to go to appease law enforcement’s desire for backdoor access. The paper suggests four main proposals, including a forced backup system and a system triggered by combined consent from multiple parties. Another proposal suggested installing a special encrypted port that only the government would have access to.

The most controversial proposal was one that targeted the automatic software update system. “Virtually all consumer devices include the capability to remotely download and install updates,” the paper observes. It then proposes to “use lawful process to compel providers to use their remote update capability to insert law enforcement software into a targeted device.” It’s particularly ominous because the certificate system that protects those updates has been compromised before, most notably by the US-linked espionage malware known as Flame.

Forcing suspects to reveal phone passwords is unconstitutional, court says – The Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination would be breached if two insider trading suspects were forced to turn over the passcodes of their locked mobile phones to the Securities and Exchange Commission, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

“We find, as the SEC is not seeking business records but Defendants’ personal thought processes, Defendants may properly invoke their Fifth Amendment right,” US District Judge Mark Kearney of Pennsylvania wrote.

The decision comes amid a growing global debate about encryption and whether the tech sector should build backdoors into their wares to grant the authorities access to locked devices. Ars reported today that an Obama administration working group “considered four backdoors that tech companies could adopt to allow government investigators to decipher encrypted communications stored on phones of suspected terrorists or criminals.”

Without this capability, the authorities are trying to get suspects to cough up their passwords instead. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of the issue. There’s been a smattering of varying court rulings nationwide on the topic. In 2012, a federal appeals court said that forcing a child-porn suspect to decrypt password-protected hard drives would amount to a Fifth Amendment violation.

Deal allowing tech companies to transfer data between US and EU is invalid – The “Safe Harbour” framework—which is supposed to ensure data transfers from the EU to the US are legal under European data privacy laws—does not satisfy the EU’s Data Protection Directive as a result of the “mass, indiscriminate surveillance” carried out by the NSA. That’s the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) Advocate General Yves Bot, whose views are generally followed by the CJEU when it hands down its final rulings.

The case was sent to the CJEU by the High Court of Ireland, after the Irish data protection authority rejected a complaint from Maximillian Schrems, an Austrian citizen. He had argued that in light of Snowden’s revelations about the NSA, the data he provided to Facebook that was transferred from the company’s Irish subsidiary to the US under the Safe Harbour scheme was not, in fact, adequately protected. The Advocate General Bot agreed with Schrems that the EU-US Safe Harbour system did not meet the requirements of the Data Protection Directive, because of NSA access to EU personal data.

According to the CJEU statement (PDF link), “the access enjoyed by the United States intelligence services to the transferred data constitutes an interference with the right to respect for private life and the right to protection of personal data, which are guaranteed by the [Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU].” Another issue, according to the Advocate General, was “the inability of citizens of the EU to be heard on the question of the surveillance and interception of their data in the United States,” which therefore amounts to “an interference with the right of EU citizens to an effective remedy, protected by the Charter.”

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – September 23, 2015

14 privacy tools you should use to stay secure;  Five handy tools for dealing with passwords;  For privacy and security, change these iOS 9 settings immediately;  Master Windows processes for better performance;  Gmail Now Lets You Easily Block Annoying Senders;  Amazon Prime Memberships Drop To $67 On Friday Only;  Four free Live Photos alternatives that work on any smartphone;  Use Streak for powerful customer management with Gmail;  Transfer files to your Windows 10 PC with a free tool;  How to install new memory in your PC;  Your Windows 10 troubleshooting and repair toolkit;  The Washington Post will publish all of its stories directly on Facebook;  Critical Flash Player updates patch 23 flaws;  FreedomPop Launches In The UK, Intros Free And $18/Month iPhone-Only Plans In US;  The price of your identity in the Dark Web? No more than a dollar;  Survey: Users love their desktops more than their cheapo tablets;  Star Wars Battlefront Beta Arrives Oct. 17.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

14 privacy tools you should use to stay secure – From encrypted instant messengers to secure browsers and operating systems, these privacy-enhancing apps, extensions, and services can protect you both online and offline.


Tor’s network of bouncing your traffic through multiple relays makes it nearly impossible to track a user’s identity or activity. You can access almost every website anonymously, including “.onion” addresses, which are only accessible while connected to Tor.

Five handy tools for dealing with passwords – Passwords have been around for almost as long as computers have been. Even today, however, there are challenges associated with password use. For example, a user might forget a password or require more granular security than a standard login provides. Whatever the challenge, a number of utilities are available for working with passwords.

For privacy and security, change these iOS 9 settings immediately – Before you do anything on your new iPhone or iPad, you should lock it down. Here are the important tweaks you need to protect your privacy.

Gmail Now Lets You Easily Block Annoying Senders – Here is a small but useful new feature in Gmail that’s launching today: you can now block specific email addresses with two clicks. So whenever you’re getting a lot of email from somebody who is being annoying, you can now easily ban them from your inbox (and after they show remorse, you can unblock them again).


Master Windows processes for better performance – Does your Windows computer seem slow, or does it seem to be running a number of mysterious processes like svchost.exe? If you’ve looked at your list of running processes in the Windows Task Manager (press Ctrl-Shift-Esc on your keyboard and click the Processes tab), you’ve probably seen a lot of things that you don’t recognize. These can eat up system RAM, which can affect functionality, like how many applications and browser tabs you can have open at once. It’s a good idea to check the Processes list regularly for suspicious activity, but if you don’t know what you’re looking at, it can create needless anxiety. So let’s explore what the common processes do and how to manage them correctly.

Amazon Prime Memberships Drop To $67 On Friday Only – Amazon is always looking for ways to boost the numbers of Amazon Prime customers, whether that’s by holding a Black Friday-like “Prime Day” sales event or bundling in subscriptions alongside Amazon hardware, as it attempted with the launch of its own Fire Phone devices. This morning, the online retailer has a new gimmick – its dropping the price for Amazon Prime to just $67 in a one-day sale starting on Friday, September 25th at 12:01 AM ET, and ending at 11:59 PM PT. The company says the sale will last for only 24 hours, as it’s a limited time offer. Typically, Amazon Prime memberships, which also include free, 2-day shipping on over 20 million items, access to the Kindle Lending Library, Prime Music, unlimited photo storage, and more, cost $99.

Four free Live Photos alternatives that work on any smartphone – Jealous of the new Live Photos feature on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus? Check out these alternatives that work on older iPhones, Android and Window Phone devices.

Office 2016 arrives on the PC with an emphasis on teamwork and cloud features – Microsoft has officially started the worldwide rollout of its Office 2016 application suite – the first new version of Office for Windows in almost three years. For the 1.2 billion people who use Office, this latest iteration brings a slew of new features including a greater focus on collaboration and cloud services. Office 2016 – which is available as a standalone package or as part of a subscription to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud service – will bring new versions of familiar Windows apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook.


Microsoft offers half-price Office to entice users of older versions – Microsoft announced a promotion Tuesday afternoon aimed at getting users of old versions of Office onto its subscription service.

7 Tips for a Killer Social CRM Strategy – Social media should be a core component of your business’s customer relationship management plan, but a successful Social CRM strategy is about more than racking up likes and followers to drive site traffic. Once you’ve gotten the audience, these seven tips will help your business make the most of the tools it’s using and the data it’s gathering, while turning the immediacy of social media into an asset rather than a liability.


Pro tip: Use Streak for powerful customer management with Gmail – There are some Chrome extensions that go a long way to make working with Gmail a far richer and powerful experience. One such extension is Streak. This particular addition to the Chrome browser (and Gmail) turns your Google email client into a powerful CRM tool, ready to help you:

Group emails from customers

Keep track of status, notes, and details of customers

Share with a team

See every email between customers and your team

Schedule email

Streak helps you manage business processes such as sales, hiring, support, and product development … all from within your Gmail inbox.

How to install new memory in your PC – If your PC’s feeling pokey when you have a lot going on, consider upgrading your RAM. A mere 4GB could work if you’re sticking to light tasks and not using Chrome, but 8GB is really the minimum we would recommend for a modern desktop PC. To future-proof your system, 16GB is the best option—the downside being increased cost, of course. Here’s how to do it.

Transfer files to your Windows 10 PC with a free tool – If you get a new Windows 10 PC, how do you move files from your old computer that’s running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7? Microsoft has one answer, a software utility called PC Mover Express, which Microsoft (in partnership with LapLink) is offering for free until August 31, 2016. Ordinarily PC Mover Express costs $30. The utility uses your local network, wired or wireless, to migrate your data over to a new PC, and you don’t have to figure it out on your own if you get stuck. The installer gives you a 1-800 number that you can call 24/7 to get instructions on how to use PC Mover Express, also at no cost. You can tell the app to send you an email or a text message when it has completed the transfer.


FreedomPop Launches In The UK, Intros Free And $18/Month iPhone-Only Plans In US – FreedomPop, the startup that is stirring up the world of mobile carriers with free phone services, is announcing two new advances that will help the company spread its brand to new demographics and new geographies. The company is kicking off the commercial launch of its service outside of the U.S. — in the UK, where CEO and co-founder Stephen Stokols says that 250,000 people have already signed up on a waiting list. And to coincide with Apple’s launch of its new iPhone models, it is unveiling new free and low-cost iPhone plans in the U.S.

Ava Is A Bracelet That Aims To Predict The Most Likely Days For Women To Get Pregnant – Ava, a health tracking bracelet for women collects hormonal and other data in an effort to predict a woman’s period and the days of the month she is most likely to get pregnant. The bracelet works by monitoring slight hormonal changes in a woman’s body that are normally unable for women to see or feel. Ava said it collects over 3 million data points relating to these changes every night and then determines where a woman is in her cycle to predict her most fertile days. It collects this data from 10 different sensors – although it is not clear what those sensors are. The startup would like to reveal that information at a later time.


The White House Joins Periscope And Broadcasts Pope’s Visit – The White House created a Periscope account on Tuesday, just in time for Pope Francis’ trip to the United States. The White House live broadcast Pope Francis stepping off his plane and greeting the Obama family. More than 11,000 viewers tuned into the White House’s inaugural stream. Twitter, which owns Periscope, is hoping to capitalize on coverage of his visit. The company announced three different emoji that can be used to track the pope’s movements in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York.

No need to worry if you missed a Periscope, now you have 24 hours to watch – If you don’t like the “live” nature of live-streaming, Periscope has an update for you that adds Web profiles for all accounts. Instead of checking Twitter to see when someone will be streaming, you can go straight to an individual Periscope user’s link to see if they are currently live-streaming, or if there are any broadcasts you missed that will be available for a 24-hour period. Web profiles are another welcome addition to increase the usability of the app, and Periscope agrees. In the introduction blog post, Periscope wrote, “We think it’s really important for broadcasters to have a home on the web, and today’s launch is just the beginning.”

Your Windows 10 troubleshooting and repair toolkit – If you’re experiencing problems with Windows 10, these are the built-in tools you can use for troubleshooting and repair.


Critical Flash Player updates patch 23 flaws – The updates fix a total of 23 flaws, of which 18 can potentially be exploited to execute malicious code on the underlying systems. Adobe is not aware of any exploits being publicly available for the fixed vulnerabilities. The other flaws could lead to information disclosure, bypassing of the same-origin policy mechanism in browsers and memory leaks. Two of the patches are adding or improving protections against vector length corruptions and malicious content from vulnerable JSONP callback APIs used by JavaScript programs running in browsers.

The price of your identity in the Dark Web? No more than a dollar – If you or your company is a victim of cyberattack, where does this stolen data go, and to what purpose?

XcodeGhost apps haunting iOS App Store more numerous than first reported – Security researchers have both good and bad news about the recently reported outbreak of XcodeGhost apps infecting Apple’s App Store. The bad: The infection was bigger than previously reported and dates back to April. The good: Affected apps are more akin to adware than security-invading malware. On a more positive note, the Appthority researchers found no evidence XcodeGhost-infected apps had the ability to trick users into divulging their credentials for the iCloud or other services. Analyses of infected apps showed they had the following capabilities:

Security firm is buying iOS 9 exploits for $1 million – Zerodium, a startup that bills themselves as the “premium zero-day vulnerability and exploit acquisition program”, are currently running a massive bug bounty program that is offering $1 million to developers who discover critical, exploitable flaws in iOS 9.

HP bulks up security features on enterprise LaserJet printers – HP has rolled out a new suite of secure, enterprise-class LaserJet printers and MFPs that the company said are designed to better protect against malicious attacks. The security lineup is part of HP’s effort to secure printers on enterprise networks with the same technology strongholds used across PCs. The company describes the enterprise IT network as one of the most vulnerable entry points in an organization. Citing a Ponemon Institute, HP claims that 64 percent of IT managers believe their networked printers are likely infected with malware, while 56 percent of enterprise companies ignore printers in their endpoint security strategy. To that end, HP’s range of printers and MFPs incorporate three new proprietary features, with two being rolled out to HP’s older printers via firmware updates.

Company News:

The Washington Post will publish all of its stories directly on Facebook – Facebook’s attempt to absorb the publishing world with Instant Articles started small and slow, but it looks like that’s about to change. Originally reported by Recode, The Washington Post made the surprising announcement today that it will publish “100% of its stories” to Facebook as Instant Articles. Facebook hasn’t opened Instant Articles to all of its users yet, but that’s still a big win for the platform since some publishers have approached it in trepidation; as of June, The New York Times, for example, was only ready to publish about 30 stories a day on Facebook.

Groupon Is Laying Off 1,100 At A Cost Of $35M, Shutters Operations In 7 Countries – Some significant downsizing is underway at Groupon, the daily deals and local-commerce site. The company is today announcing that it will be cutting 1,100 jobs — mostly in its sales (aka “deal factory”) and customer service operations — taking a pre-tax charge of $35 million in the process. As part of the restructure, Groupon is also ceasing operations in several markets internationally: Morocco, Panama, The Philippines, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Thailand and Uruguay will all be closing. The closures come on top of recent exits in Turkey and Greece and a sell-off of a controlling stake in Groupon India to Sequoia (news we first broke in March of this year).

France rejects Google’s appeal against implementing ‘right to be forgotten’ globally – France’s data protection watchdog, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), has rejected Google’s appeal against the global enforcement of the ‘right to be forgotten’ rule. In May this year, the CNIL ordered Google to apply the right to be forgotten rule – which lets people ask search engines to not display certain unflattering links resulting from a search on their name – to its global domain and not just European domains such as or

Instagram is now used by 400 million people each month – Instagram has hit a new milestone: 400 million monthly active users. The stat was announced in a blog post this afternoon, just about 10 months after Instagram first hit 300 million monthly active users. Instagram’s growth from 200 million to 300 million happened in around the same timespan, which means that the service is growing fast, although its growth is not necessarily accelerating. Still, it’s grown to an impressive size. Twitter is currently at 316 million monthly active users, and Pinterest just hit 100 million.

Red Hat tops Q2 expectations, ups annual outlook – The open source purveyor reported a net income of $51 million, or 28 cents per share (statement). Non-GAAP earnings were 47 cents per share on a revenue of $504 million, up 13 percent year-over-year. Wall Street was looking for earnings of 44 cents per share with $494.65 million in revenue. CEO and president Jim Whitehurst touted in prepared remarks that Red Hat became the first open source company to achieve a $2 billion annual run rate in revenue this quarter.

Games and Entertainment:

Star Wars Battlefront Beta Arrives Oct. 17 – Star Wars fans who have been clamoring for a beta version of the upcoming Battlefront game are about to get their wish. Electronic Arts on Monday announced plans to launch Star Wars Battlefront Beta in “early October” on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Origin for PC leading up to game’s official release on Nov. 17. EA called the beta a “technical test,” which will feature several game modes, including Walker Assault on Hoth, a multiplayer battle between Rebels and the Empire supporting up to 40 players (20 versus 20). Walker Assault will also give you the opportunity to play as two of the most iconic Star Wars characters: Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.


Call of Duty: Black Ops III Limited Edition 1TB PS4 launches in November – Sony has introduced a new PlayStation 4 bundle for Call of Duty fans, but with a design that, we suspect, won’t bring the game franchise to the minds of most gamers. It is called the Call of Duty: Black Ops III Limited Edition PlayStation 4 bundle, and it’ll be shipping on November 6. Ahead of that, though, you can pre-order the bundle through Amazon to ensure you’re not left out. Sony introduced the new bundle on Tuesday. This follows the company’s Call of Duty announcement at E3 earlier this summer — that gamers on its platform would get the Black Ops III Beta early access and DLC. If you’re really keen on that, Sony is hoping you’ll nab one of its newly designed consoles as well.


Nvidia’s new laptop GPU is actually a desktop GPU – One of NVIDIA’s best desktop graphics cards is coming to laptops. The GTX 980 — not to be confused with the similarly named mobile GPU, the GTX 980M — will be crammed into an upcoming crop of high-end gaming laptops. NVIDIA promises its new mobile chip and its desktop variant are one and the same in regards to power, providing a 30 percent performance bump above the company’s previous best mobile GPU. That means the latest AAA video games, including Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and Batman Arkham Knight, should run at max settings on the go. And for future games that will push the system, the GTX 980 laptops will allow for overlocking, memory speed adjustment, and fan control — though only within some restrictions determined by NVIDIA and its OEMs, companies like MSI and ASUS that manufacture the GPUs and the laptops powered by them.

System Shock, the classic 1994 shooter, has been re-released on – The game that influenced Deus Ex, BioShock, and Half-Life gets a special 21st birthday present: System Shock Enhanced Edition, with updated controls and widescreen.


Next Hitman Game Delayed Until March – The next installment of the Hitman franchise won’t be launching this year as expected. Fans were expecting the game to land on Dec. 8 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. But it will now arrive in March 2016, developer IO Interactive announced. “We’re striving to create a series of living, breathing worlds in those locations and we get pretty obsessed about every detail that you’ll experience,” IO Interactive said. “We want to make absolutely sure you all get the best possible experience when you join, so we’ve made the difficult decision to move the initial release date to March 2016.”

wps_clip_image-20726 site gets a refresh, Window 10 beta app now live – Things are rolling for the Xbox One and they are rolling fast, all heading for the grand November update party. Just last Monday, Major Nelson revealed some of the latest and greatest features in the New Xbox One Experience that is rolling out to a select few testers. Now its time for other parts of the Xbox ecosystem to get a revamp. At the top of the list is the website, which now features two new capabilities. On Windows 10 as well, the Xbox app, still in beta, lands on the Microsoft Store. The Xbox website isn’t getting an overhaul in terms of design but it is getting two significant features. For one, now you can access your voice messages directly from the website. This means no more having to wait until you get home to your console just to hear that hopefully important audio snippet from your Xbox Live friends.


Shatner to host ‘Star Trek’ 50th anniversary at first Silicon Valley Comic Con – No comic book or pop culture convention is complete without an appearance from legendary “Star Trek” actor William Shatner. The geek icon will host a special 50th anniversary celebration for “Star Trek” alongside other stars from the acclaimed TV and film series at Silicon Valley Comic Con at the San Jose Convention Center in California between March 18, 2016 and March 20, 2016.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Survey: Users love their desktops more than their cheapo tablets – That bright shining future where they predicted consumers would forsake their fuddy duddy desktops for tablets? Try again. The latest survey from the American Customer Satisfaction Index showed consumer satisfaction with tablets plummeted this year by six percent, while desktops held strong. “Weaker customer satisfaction and slowing sales growth suggest that early enthusiasm for tablets has worn off,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI Chairman and founder. “As large-screen smartphones become more popular, they’ve made tablets somewhat redundant —caught in between the mobility of a smartphone and the power and functionality of a desktop.”

These Are the First Photos Shot With the iPhone 6s – The iPhone 6s has yet to hit the stores, but TIME asked photographer Benjamin Lowy to take it for a spin around New York ahead of the device’s Sept. 25 release. The results are unexpected, says Lowy, who brought the new phone to Coney Island and on board of one of Fly NYON‘s helicopters above Manhattan. The new iPhones feature improved camera systems. The main rear-facing camera now has a redesigned imaging sensor with 12 megapixels, a 50% boost from the iPhone 6’s eight megapixels. To compensate for the smaller-sized photosites, Apple is using what it calls “deep trench isolation” technology, which introduces lightproof dividers between pixels to prevent light leaks, which usually produce noise and inaccurate colors.


You really do have an aura (but it’s stinky not spiritual) – Humans are indeed surrounded by a mysterious aura, but it’s not the etherial glow that spiritualists claim. Instead, researchers have discovered exactly what surrounds us – and how it can identify us – in our own personal microbial cloud, an unexpected bacterial fingerprint. The study, carried out by a University of Oregon team led by James Meadow, found that while everybody is surrounded by invisible clouds of Streptococcus – usually found in the mouth – along with skin-borne Propionibacterium and Corynebacterium, the exact proportions of each were more personal.

Here’s how to watch Sunday’s Supermoon Eclipse – Some celestial phenomena happen regularly, but infrequently, and you may only get a few chances to see them during your lifetime. A supermoon lunar eclipse is one such event, a time when the moon is both at its closest to the Earth and when it passes into our planet’s shadow, causing a lunar eclipse. The last time this event happened was back in 1982, and if you happened to have missed it (or weren’t born yet), September 27 will be your next shot at witnessing the supermoon event.


The Volkswagen Scandal Shows Why We Need an Apple Car – Apple building a car should put the auto industry on notice; it is time to get serious about electric vehicles.

Tested by AAA: People park worse than self-parking cars – Humans lose out to the machines this time. In tests conducted by the American Automobile Association, self-parking cars did the deed faster and more precisely than human drivers.

Feeling unmotivated or depressed? Here’s how to move forward – It can get lonely being a leader, despite a flurry of activity and dozens of people seeking your advice and assistance. Conflicting and vague objectives, opportunities that never seem to pan out, and significant time invested in activities that don’t generate tangible results can contribute to a feeling of being stuck. In some cases, a simple walk or break from the task at hand may clear your head and provide much-needed focus, while other cases can border on depression, panic, or a general malaise that lasts for months. Here’s how to identify when you’re stuck, and how to begin the process to recovery.

Leaf Is A “Plug N’ Plant” Box To Automatically Grow Pot In Your Home – Marijuana is a sticky subject. Twenty-three states (and D.C) have legalized some form of medical use, but possession, growth and distribution are still illegal in the majority of the United States. However, as is the case with most new industries, slow regulation hasn’t stopped innovation. Leaf, a TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015 Battlefield company, is leading the revolution with its automated “Plug N’ Plant” home growing system. Leaf’s device is a 4′ x 2′ box that will fit two plants, which will yield between 4-5 ounces of weed. However, Leaf is much more than just a mini grow house. The system will monitor everything that your plants need to grow, including light, ventilation, nutrient levels and pH of the soil.


Streaming music earns a third of US industry revenue, topping physical sales – The popularity of streaming music has been on the rise for some time now, but today there’s actual numbers backing up its increasing dominance. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has released their mid-year sales report for 2015, and it reveals that for the first time in the US, streaming music has earned more revenue that physical sales.

Broadband is a “core utility” like electricity, White House report says – Broadband Internet service “has steadily shifted from an optional amenity to a core utility” and is now “taking its place alongside water, sewer, and electricity as essential infrastructure for communities,” says a report released by the White House yesterday. The report was written by the Broadband Opportunity Council, which was created by President Obama and is chaired by the heads of the Commerce and Agriculture departments. In an accompanying blog post, the White House touted Obama’s “leadership” in expanding broadband access but said that nearly 51 million Americans still cannot purchase wired broadband with download speeds of at least 25Mbps.

6 Ways to Tell If a Viral Story Is a Hoax – Easy ways to educate yourself amid ever-growing sea of digital media

Something to think about:

“Never try to reason the prejudice out of a man. It was not reasoned into him, and cannot be reasoned out.”

–     Sydney Smith (1771 – 1845)


Speccy – Fast, lightweight, advanced system information tool for your PC.

See what’s inside your PC – Speccy is the place to start if you need to know what’s inside your PC. See a quick summary, or dive deeper into every aspect of your PCs hardware so you can make informed upgrade and purchasing decisions.

Detailed Reporting – Speccy gives you detailed information on every piece of hardware in your computer. Save time trawling through your computer for stats like CPU, motherboard, RAM, graphics cards and more. See everything laid out for you in one clean interface.

Proactive problem solving – See real-time temperatures of critical components so you can easily spot problems before they occur.

Save Snapshots – Speccy allows you to save your scan results directly as a snapshot, XML or text file for easy sharing. Handy for making sure your new computer has the right specs, or if tech support need to diagnose an issue with your computer.


Screenshot from a machine I’m working on this morning.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Senate scraps plan demanding Internet companies report terrorist activity – A secretly approved Senate plan requiring e-mail providers, social media sites, and other Internet companies to report online terrorist activity has been scrapped.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) had invoked a procedural hold on the Intelligence Authorization Act until the removal of the provision requiring companies like Twitter and Facebook to report suspicious online activities. The language was secretly and unanimously adopted by the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 24, and now it has been removed, Wyden said.

“Going after terrorist recruitment and activity online is a serious mission that demands a serious response from our law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” Wyden said. “Social media companies aren’t qualified to judge which posts amount to ‘terrorist activity,’ and they shouldn’t be forced against their will to create a Facebook Bureau of Investigations to police their users’ speech.”

Wyden’s move frees up a Senate vote on 2016 funding for the CIA, FBI, and NSA. The House passed funding legislation in June without the terrorist reporting requirement. Ars first reported on the once-secret reporting requirement in July.

ISIS supporters preferred tweeting with Android over iPhone and Blackberry.

Several companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter, complained that the reporting provision was vaguely written and would amount to “an impossible compliance problem.”

Outcry forces India to amend legislation that would ban deletion of emails, IMs – A wave of outrage over clauses in a draft of its new National Encryption Policy, which seeks to improve India’s cybersecurity, has led the government to amend the proposed legislation.

The policy draft, written by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, stipulated that mobile users in the country would be legally required to store any encrypted communications on their devices for up to 90 days — and could be punished if they failed to comply.

Almost every Internet-based method of communication uses some level of encryption. This means that deleting messages that are less than three months old from widely used instant messengers, like WhatsApp, Viber and Hike, as well as from e-mail clients such as Gmail, would be illegal.

“All information shall be stored by the concerned [organisations/citizens] entity for 90 days from the date of transaction and made available to Law Enforcement Agencies as and when demanded in line with the provisions of the laws of the country,” the draft read.

However, following public and social media outcry, an amendment was made excluding “mass encryption products” like the above mentioned services from the policy.

US Congress members urged to embrace encrypted apps – Congress members and staff are being urged by a civil rights group to use encrypted smartphone apps such as WhatsApp and Signal rather than traditional cellular networks.

Unlike cellular networks which use weak and outdated encryption, some of the newer apps use strong and modern encryption to protect their customers’ communications, the American Civil Liberties Union has written in a letter Tuesday to officials in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

The move is not going to cost a lot. Many members of Congress already have smartphones and the apps like Signal and WhatsApp are free and can be easily downloaded from app stores. Besides, Apple’s FaceTime and iMessage apps are already built into Apple’s iOS mobile operating system and thus are available to every member or staffer with an iPhone, according to ACLU’s letter to Frank J. Larkin, Senate Sergeant at Arms and Paul D. Irving, House Sergeant at Arms.


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