Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 12, 2013

NSA taps Skype chats, newly published Snowden leaks confirm: Microsoft worked with the government, producing both chats and e-mails – In a story published Thursday, based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, The Guardian offers some detail about extensive cooperation between the FBI, the National Security Agency, and Microsoft to enable government access to user communications via the intelligence tool known as PRISM. That cooperation included, according to the leaked NSA documents, enabling access to e-mails and chats, the SkyDrive cloud storage service, and Skype audio and video calls. (Cue the sound of the herd rushing to join the inevitable class action lawsuits.)

A paranoid person’s guide to the web – It’s easy to become paranoid when you’re online. There’s so much private information stored in various databases, that it’s only natural to be concerned about your security. And since news broke about the US’s National Security Agency spying on international web users, many people feel it’s more important than ever to hide online. So can it be done? (recommended by Mal C.)

Inside a state-sponsored U.S. cyber warrior’s secret universe – I’ve been a longtime friend to one cyber warrior. On condition of anonymity, he agreed to be interviewed about what he does for a living and allowed me to record our conversation on a device he controlled, from which I transcribed our conversation. The following is an edited version of our conversation. Certain inconsequential details have been altered to protect his identity.

Infographic: Is your information safe? – Data breaches have evolved from credit card fraud with financial consequences to medical identity theft with life-threatening implications. According to leading experts, the frequency, severity, and impact of data breaches are expected to escalate. ID Experts released an infographic that provides a snapshot of identity theft and data breach over the last decade.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Free malware removal tool gets new features – The fourth generation of Emsisoft Emergency Kit is now available. It now boasts an improved cleaning function for the removal of malicious software. And at the same time it uses fewer resources. Emsisoft Emergency Kit 4.0 remains portable and can be run directly from a USB stick without installation. It supports all Microsoft operating systems in 32 bit from Windows XP onwards and is fully compatible with 64-bit from Vista onwards. Emsisoft Emergency Kit 4.0 consists of four tools. (Highly recommended for advanced users and above.)

Facebook Etiquette: Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes – We’ve identified the most common sharing missteps, most of which you’ve probably seen in your own news feed—or even made yourself.

Review: Free-OCR performs adequately on text docs – To convert only a few small documents. there’s no need to install a full-blown OCR program. You can use a free service like Free-OCR (also known as and upload a scan of your document. File size is limited to 2MB and 5000 pixels in any direction, about 150 dpi for a standard page. The OCR engine handles 29 languages, including English.

Install Windows 8.1 Preview in a dual-boot configuration using a VHD – When you use a VHD in a dual-boot configuration, you really get the best environment on which to experiment with the Windows 8.1 Preview. First, you will not have to mess with repartitioning your hard disk because the VHD exists as a file. Second, even though the hard disk is virtualized, you will get full benefit of your physical hardware such as the video card, USB connections, and amount of RAM. Third, when you are done experimenting with the operating system, undoing the dual-boot configuration as easy as deleting the boot entry and the VHD file.

Matchbox PCs: Small is beautiful (and powerful) – Matchbox computers — small but powerful open-source devices — are a good way to build your own system and/or carry it with you. We look at the phenomenon and offer a slideshow of examples.

Wise Video Converter – Select PC, tablet, or phone, drag and drop your files, then sit back and let this fab, fast software do the rest.

Be selective about ad blocking – Help the sites you frequent stay in business by adding them to AdBlock Plus’s whitelist, which restricts the obtrusiveness of the ads that open on the page.

Microsoft thinks Xbox One is perfect for small businesses – The Xbox One ships with a number of included services and features that Microsoft believes suits the needs of small businesses very well. These include Skype for calls and video conferencing, Skydrive for file storage, Internet Explorer for surfing the web and content playback, and Smartglass for getting content on a range of other Microsoft-supported devices-a Windows tablet for each member of staff, perhaps?

Mozilla’s Flash Player replacement looks impressive for both games and video – We haven’t heard much about Mozilla’s HTML5 replacement for the Flash plug-in since last year, but work on Shumway has been quietly progressing. Recently, a pair of the Foundation’s developers took to YouTube to show off what Shumway can do — and it’s pretty impressive.


Infographic: How to Childproof Your Internet – Kids are all over the Internet, doing everything from playing games to posting outrageous Facebook statuses they’ll later regret. Each individual action might seem harmless enough, but it all adds up to big privacy risks for kids.

‘Virtual Lolita’ bot imitates a schoolgirl to trap chatroom paedophiles – The robot uses the advanced decision-making techniques of game theory to string along subjects to determine whether they’re hanging out in chatrooms to prey on children.

Researchers find another Android attack that can get past signature checks – A second vulnerability that can be exploited to modify legitimate Android apps without breaking their digital signatures has been identified and publicly documented.

Strange “ransomware” title pushes surveys, knows Close Encounters tune – If your PC’s CD tray opens and you hear the iconic, five-note tune from the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it’s probably not a visit from aliens. Chances are it’s a newly discovered piece of malware with some highly unusual characteristics.

Company News:

Microsoft announces major reshuffle: The goal is “One Microsoft.” – The reorganization sees an end to the product-based divisions such as “Windows and Windows Live” and “Microsoft Business Division.” What Ballmer wants instead is “One strategy, one Microsoft.” To do this, the company is being organized by function. Microsoft will have four engineering teams—operating system, apps, cloud, and devices—and then a number of company-wide groups for Marketing, Business Development and Evangelism, Advanced Strategy and Research, Finance, Legal, HR, and Operations.

Pebble smartwatch reaches 275k sold, 1m app downloads – The Pebble smartwatch is on a kick, and it’s been a raging success so far. The company initially raised over $10 million on Kickstarter and have since been the talk of the town. Most recently, Pebble revealed that they have sold 275,000 smartwatches so far, and they’re having trouble keeping up with demand, as some Kickstarter backers still don’t have their own units in yet.

T-Mobile to launch its first Firefox phone next week – T-Mobile will begin its rollout of phones based on Mozilla’s Firefox OS when it puts the Alcatel One Touch on sale in Poland next week. The launch in eastern Europe will come just two weeks after the new smartphone OS made its global debut with Telefonia in Spain.

AT&T, Verizon face investigation from French telecom regulator – The two carriers lose a bid to keep their deals with bandwith providers a private affair.

Microsoft said to be planning Surface RT price cut – As early as next week, Microsoft could slash the price of RT models by $150, following a string of discounts to specific niches.

Best Buy offers $200 for old iPads in trade-in deal – Have your eye on an iPad with Retina display? Best Buy offers customers who trade in a working iPad 2 or third-gen iPad a $200 gift card — which can be applied toward an upgrade — during a two-day promotion.

Webopedia Daily:

Provisioning – The process of providing users with access to data and technology resources. The term typically is used in reference to enterprise-level resource management. Provisioning can be thought of as a combination of the duties of the human resources and IT departments in an enterprise, where (1) users are given access to data repositories or granted authorization to systems, applications and databases based on a unique user identity, and (2) users are appropriated hardware resources, such as computers, mobile phones and pagers. The process implies that the access rights and privileges are monitored and tracked to ensure the security of an enterprise’s resources.

Games and Entertainment:

5 awesome free-to-play games like World of Tanks – The beta just rolled out on the Xbox 360, and players seem pleased there as well. World of Tanks doesn’t have the exclusive on this style of gameplay, though. Here are five similar games you might want to play if you like World of Tanks.

Steam’s Summer Getaway Sale underway: Hide your wallets – It’s no secret that Valve’s Steam digital gaming service holds gigantic sales throughout the year and discounts even the biggest games by 50% or more. This time around, we’re seeing probably the biggest sale of the year so far, which is Steam’s Summer Getaway Sale that is lasting 11 days throughout this month, with each day having its own set of discounted titles.

Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA5) bigger than Hollywood – We’ve been geeking out on Pacific Rim, but GTA5 looks like it is going to make more money than anything Hollywood puts out this year, and the latest gameplay video shows you why.

Viscera Cleanup Detail: Janitorial Gaming at Its Most Poignant – Behold, a video game about the poor schmuck who has to clean up the space station after all the aliens have been blasted to smithereens. It’s called Viscera Cleanup Detail, and right now it exists only as an alpha build. That means there’s nothing to do except quietly mop up the blood, pick up all the empty bullet casings and toss the giblets into the incinerator. No high scores, no objectives, no timers.

Sprinkle Islands Launches on Android and iOS with Awesome Physics-based Gameplay – The original Sprinkle was great, and Sprinkle Islands might even be better.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Listen to the beat of the hard drive drums – YouTube user bd594 has got some skills with old computer parts. He uses them to create some pretty well-executed music. For this song, bd594 used an HP Scanjet 3C for the vocals, two hard drives for the drums and cymbal, two oscilloscopes, one fed with audio from an Amiga 600 bass and one with a guitar, and, creatively, a xylophone as the xylophone. The hard drives and the xylophone are all controlled by a PIC16F84A microcontroller.

To avoid leaks, Russia turns to… typewriters – According to the Agence France Presse and the Moscow Times, the agency in charge of securing communications from the Kremlin now wants to spend 486,000 rubles (about $14,800) to buy 20 electric typewriters… as a way to avoid digital leaks.

10 personality traits of a highly effective independent consultant – Many IT consultants daydream about branching out on their own without giving much thought to what skills are necessary to succeed as a freelancer. Before you commit to being an independent…

Human-powered helicopter finally takes Sikorsky Prize – For the first time since its introduction in 1980, the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize for a human-powered helicopter flight has actually been awarded. Cameron Robertson and Todd Reichert of the University of Toronto’s Vehicle Design Team and AeroVelo hit up Kickstarter last year to fund a vehicle called the Atlas. Consisting of four rotors connected by a massive frame, the helicopter is powered by a modified bicycle slung from the middle.

Reseachers develop disc with 360TB capacity, 1 million year storage life – A lot of digital archival is done on DVDs manufactured specifically for archival purposes, something that could be changing in the near future. Researchers at the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Center, as well as the Eindhoven’s University of Technology, joined forces to create a glass disc that can hold 360TB of data for over 1 million years.

Nokia’s 41MP Lumia 1020 wants to reinvent photography – Nokia thinks the evolution of the camera lies in having a massive sensor and a great software experience… on a smartphone.

National park on Moon proposed by legislators – National parks are quite abundant here on Earth. They’re full of wildlife, plants, trees, mountains, lakes, and pretty much anything else you can think of that deals with nature. However, lawmakers are looking to take the national park movement to the Moon in order preserve the Apollo equipment that still remains on the surface.

Something to think about:

“You cannot make a man by standing a sheep on its hind legs. But by standing a flock of sheep in that position you can make a crowd of men.”

–    Max Beerbohm

Today’s Free Downloads:

KeyScrambler – KeyScrambler encrypts your keystrokes deep in the kernel, foiling keylogging attacks with scrambled, undecipherable data. This advanced method of keystroke protection defeats both known and unknown keyloggers. The friendly interface displays realtime encrypted stream of keystrokes so you see when and how KeyScrambler is working. Strengthens where defenses are the weakest in your traditional anti-virus, anti-malware programs and PC security.

Camfrog 6.5.300 – Camfrog is a multi video chat program for switching between your different video chat usernames without having multiple platforms open. They also have group video and voice chats for a plethora of different topics from cooking to software development whatever your hobby your bound to find it in Camfrog!

TinyWall 2.1.2 – TinyWall is a free software to harden and control the advanced firewall built into Windows Vista and Windows 7.



Filed under downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

7 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 12, 2013

  1. Dave B.

    In re: NSA taps Skype chats; I think at this point it’s pretty much guaranteed that companies are doing everything they claim they are not. I didn’t believe Microsoft’s denials, nor do I believe Apple or anyone else.

  2. Laurence

    Hi Bill,
    “In a story published Thursday, based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, The Guardian offers some detail about extensive cooperation between the FBI, the National Security Agency, and Microsoft to enable government access to user communications via the intelligence tool known as PRISM.”

    If this is true, I’m disgusted and mad. The responsibility of defending home is for everyone not just for the U.S. government or the secret agencies. I really dislike the communism and the terrorism. Underhand spying on Americans isn’t any better than the former USSR. The U.S. government has been trumpeting the human rights and doesn’t it spying on it’s citizens without cause won’t violate the U.S. constitution?
    I’ve sensed something like this had been went on for a while, but not in this magnitude. Aren’t we entitled to have a moment with friends and loved ones?
    Best regards.

    • Hey Larry,

      We are entitled “to have a moment with friends and loved ones” – but, it has now become necessary to vigorously defend what we once took for granted.

      The American government has it’s head up it’s backside if it continues to believe that this affront to human rights will slip from the world’s consciousness. So, hang onto your hat – before all this is over the America’s reputation and influence will be in tatters. Translation – at a minimum, American industry (especially service providers) should be prepared for a falloff in revenues.



  3. ‘Be selective about ad blocking’

    Hey Bill
    Have you confirmed if ABplus is accepting bribe from Google. I think we should boycott ABp if true.


    • Hey Pochp,

      Well “bribe” is a misnomer when in fact, AB+ has always been upfront on this issue. If the tech writer who “discovered” this had made any effort to familiarize himself with the application, he would have known this.

      Frankly, I support the view that the Internet has been flooded with inexperienced tech writers.