Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 22, 2013

US court renews permission to NSA to collect phone metadata – The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has renewed permission to the U.S. government for a controversial program to collect telephone metadata in bulk. The office of the Director of National Intelligence said the government filed an application with the FISC seeking renewal of the authority to collect telephony metadata in bulk, and the court renewed that authority, which expired on Friday. (An illegitimate court paints over illegality with a splash of patriotism – shades of 1930’s Germany.)

Foreign VPNs offer protection against US government spying – Foreign providers of virtual private networks trying to cash in on recently uncovered U.S. government surveillance can increase the level of secrecy of Web activity, experts say. However, no VPN vendor, foreign or domestic, sells a bulletproof defense against government snooping, given the resources and sophistication of spy agencies. However, using a service outside the U.S. does make the task of tracking and logging someone’s Web activity more difficult.

The key to cleaning up the internet is tackling the darknets, not letting censorship in by the back door – The UK government’s proposals for blocking search terms for illegal content aren’t only badly thought through, they’re dangerous.

App keeps NSA abreast of your phone activity – You want to show you have clean hands? Here’s USA PRISM Plus, an app that takes random shots of your phone and sends them to the NSA careers Twitter account.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

10 free tools that deserve a price tag – How would you feel about paying for the software you currently get for free? Here are some open source projects that deserve more than the odd donation. I’ve come up with my list of open source tools that deserve a price tag. I would pay to use every one. See how my list compares to yours.

Infographic: The Red Pill Reveals the Reality of Email Security – At first glance, driving and email security don’t have much in common. However, an infographic by cloud security provider SilverSky shows if you dig a little deeper, the two share important similarities. The company’s study, which examined corporate email security habits and perceptions, found that users were overconfident in believing they were more secure and cautious than their colleagues.

Netflix on your Android – It may not have quite the functionality of the full Netflix Web site, but the app is still a fantastic way to stream high-quality TV shows and movies while on the go.

Five Apps for disk defragmentation – So long as we continue to use and abuse our platter based drives, we will continue to need defragmentation apps. Because of this, the chore of disk defragmentation will still be with us for the foreseeable future, so long as we use and abuse our platter based drives to no end. To accomplish that task, here are five apps that will safely defragment such drives thoroughly and efficiently.

Transforming your old smartphone into a security system – What if there were a way to use those old smartphones to manage your smart home? Presence Pro is an app now gathering funding on IndieGoGo. The app allows users to recycle old smart devices to be used as a remote camera, reducing e-waste and increasing energy savings and home security in one simple piece of software.

The new Chrome App Launcher: Google’s backdoor into the offline world – On Friday, Google gave Windows users something that they’ve been pining for: A Start button. And even better than that, Google’s version keeps you on the desktop and actually opens a pop-up menu full of programs, unlike the nerfed Start button that’s slated to appear in the Windows 8.1 update.

Five task managers that improve on the Windows default – For some, the default does just fine. For others, the default client isn’t powerful enough or doesn’t offer the necessary options to really take control of a machine. Fortunately, for the power users, there are options available that not only duplicate the features of the Windows default Task Manager, but improve upon them.

Google starts sending adverts as emails to Gmail users – Blurring the line between emails and adverts will be viewed as a step too far for some users, including myself. Not only could these be classed as unwanted/spam emails, they just add to the number of emails you need to organize or delete. The good news is, it looks as though you do have some control over whether you receive these email adverts, but again, that could change at any time if Google decides to get more aggressive with its advertising push.

Locket pays you just for unlocking your Android device – Earning a little cash for doing next to nothing sure sounds good, doesn’t it? If you’re willing to hand over control of your Android lockscreen to a new app called Locket, you can earn money just by swiping to unlock.

Two ways to get your next PowerPoint presentation under way quickly – Let PowerPoint do as much of the work as possible. Early on, working in the Outline Pane will help you reduce repetitive tasks. Or, if the text exists in Word format, convert that Word document into slides! Either way, you’ll have a quick start on your presentation.

Pope OKs Indulgences for the Tweeting Classes – The Holy See’s social media guru, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, warned Friday that merely checking the pope’s Twitter feed won’t result in an indulgence, the ancient church tradition related to the forgiveness of sins that roughly amounts to a “get out of Purgatory free” card. (Martin Luther, where are you?)

Apple refunds dad $6,000 iPad bill racked up by 8-year-old – Incredibly, there are still some 8-year-olds who don’t know that in-game purchases involve real money. As Lily Neale’s aerospace designer dad discovers when his bank account is frozen.

‘Enterprise fanboys’ push back on TechNet shutdown – Microsoft’s sudden decision to shut down its TechNet subscriptions is drawing fire from some IT pros and trainers.


Ubuntu forums hacked; 1.82M logins, email addresses stolen – Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu operating system, has suffered a massive data breach on its forums. All usernames, passwords, and email addresses were stolen.

How to Stay Safe While Traveling – Summertime! Off to the beach, or to the mountains for some cooler temperatures. Visiting family or exploring new locales. Keep the following security tips from Grayson Milbourne, director of security intelligence at Webroot, in mind as you make your travel plans this summer.

SIM cards vulnerable to hacking, says researcher – IDG News Service – Millions of mobile phones may be vulnerable to spying due to the use of outdated, 1970s-era cryptography, according to new research due to be presented at the Black Hat security conference.

Does your IP address betray you to data-harvesters? – In today’s world of hackers, stalkers, and cybercriminals, not to mention government spy programs and commercial sites that collect information about you for advertising purposes, is there a way to surf the Web and keep your privacy intact? Or does that mere fact that you have an IP address mean that your identity is out there for the taking?

Amid Apple developer site outage, users report unauthorized password resets – Apple’s developer site has been down for two days. Some have received password reset e-mails that appear to be sent by Apple but were not authorized — suggesting foul play.

Company News:

Microsoft remains shackled to strategy after $900M ‘absolute abomination’ of a blunder – Microsoft’s massive $900 million Surface RT gaffe may have been, as one analyst put it, “an absolute abomination” in operations, but the company will not — cannot — give up on the ARM-based platform, experts contended today.

AMD continues move toward profitability – Keeping with its projection earlier this year, AMD’s CEO Rory Read said Thursday that the company would deliver a profit in the third fiscal quarter, which will be reported in September. The company is making progress as part of a “three-step strategy to restructure, accelerate and ultimately transform AMD for growth,” Read said in a conference call about earnings.

Dropbox buys mobile-app maker Endorse – It’s not clear whether Dropbox acquired Endorse for its talent or for its couponlike service (which, given Dropbox’s cloud-storage focus, perhaps seems unlikely).

Apple acquires navigation service Hopstop – Apple has snapped up local transit and directions service Hopstop to bolster its mapping services.

Update to Apple Store app will offer free iTunes, App Store content – report – New version of Apple Store app for iPhone and iPod Touch, to be released July 23, will promote Apple’s content apps, with some content offered free for a limited time, according to a report.

Webopedia Daily:

Rogue antivirus software – Also called smitfraud, scareware, or rogue security software, this type of software is defined as malware – it is designed specifically to damage or disrupt a computer system. In this case, not only is the software going to disrupt your system, it’s going to try and trick you into making a purchase using your credit card.

Games and Entertainment:

11 great Steam game deals you may not know about – There are thousands of games on Steam and more added (almost) every day. It’s great to have options, but unfortunately a lot of stunning games are lost in the shuffle.

Dead Rising 3 is an Xbox One launch game because Xbox 360 couldn’t handle it – The third Rising game is interesting not only because nobody minds a new entry in the series, but because it has been in development for such a long time. It turns out that’s because Dead Rising 3 wasn’t actually meant to be a next-gen game.

Ravenmark: Mercenaries – There’s no shortage of free-to-play turn-based strategy games to choose from on the App store, so you might be inclined to dismiss Witching Hour Studios’ Ravenmark: Mercenaries as yet another app for the pile. It doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, offering up genre standard conventions like asynchronous multiplayer and rock-paper-scissors style unit balancing. But Ravenmark: Mercenaries is different.

Digital comics successful sidekick to print, say publishers – Two years ago, digital comics rocketed to the front page when DC Entertainment rebooted and began publishing all its titles in digital as well as print. Now that most North American publishers have followed suit, they say digital has become a small but growing part of their business.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Code-breaker Alan Turing to be pardoned (finally) – Vilified by the British government for his homosexuality — a fact that many say led to his suicide — the famous mathematician and Enigma code-breaker is now likely to receive a posthumous pardon.

Guest blog posts drawing scrutiny from Google – Any place you can stuff a backlink to your business’s website is great, particularly if it’s on a noteworthy or popular site. But that conventional wisdom is changing, as many are questioning whether guest blogging may actually lead to penalties rather than better placement in search results.

Ars Technica System Guide: July 2013 – Since the early 2000s, the Ars System Guides have been helping those interested become “budding, homebuilt system-building tweakmeisters.” This series is a resource for building computers to match any combination of budget and purpose.

Microsoft was wrong: Tablets are not PCs. So now what? – The market has shown conclusively that people don’t want tablets that work like PCs. They’re different. Any attempt to force them together will fail.

Slideshow: 10 cool analog computers – In their heyday, analog computers handled heavy-duty math, scientific and industrial applications.

Scientists capture pitch drop on video after 69 years of watching – Physicists at Trinity College in Dublin have spent the last 69 years watching pitch, the black carbonaceous material made from petroleum products or plants, sit in a funnel. The hypothesis has been that this material is not a solid, but an extremely viscous fluid. Now they know for sure, having filmed a drop of pitch falling from a funnel.

Something to think about:

The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.”

–      Friedrich Nietzsche

Today’s Free Downloads:

KeePass Password Safe 2.23.0 – KeePass is a free/open-source password manager or safe which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key-disk. So you only have to remember one single master password or insert the key-disk to unlock the whole database. The databases are encrypted using the best and most secure encryption algorithms currently known (AES and Twofish).

The Uniform Server 8.9.0 – The Uniform Server is a WAMP package that allows you to run a server on any MS Windows OS based computer. It is small and mobile to download or move around and can also be used or setup as a production/live server. Developers also use The Uniform Server to test their applications made with either PHP, MySQL, Perl, or the Apache HTTPd Server.

GameSave Manager 3.1.335.0 – Perhaps you have been victim of file corruption which also victimised your gamesaves? Maybe you just wish to transfer your gamesave(s) to your new machine, or to take with you to a friend’s? With GameSave Manager, you can easily backup, restore and transfer your gamesave(s).



Filed under downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 22, 2013

  1. (An illegitimate court paints over illegality with a splash of patriotism – shades of 1930’s Germany.)
    Maybe Obama has studied “Mein Kampf” ? Considering that more of our freedoms are gradually being exploited and our Democracy is slowly being turned into Socialism, it’s hard to say what comes next.

    • Hi Bob,

      Luckily, you and I are of an age that “remembering” history is not a mind bending exercise – manipulative and exploitative governments have evolved and disappeared with some regularity. Historically, an explosion of violence has sounded the death knell for governments that operated beyond the pale.

      The U.S. (led by the 1% who have effectively militarized the Police, where democracy has been effectively shut down by the same 1%, where racism is rampant, where political corruption is the norm, where entire cities, and it’s people, are effectively abandoned by a central government, where the middle class is now the “working poor”, where morals and ethics are old fashioned ideas…….), is a powder keg with a slow burning match. I have no doubt that the U.S. will eventually be forced to deal with a level of violence that will shake it to the core.

      It may be a while off – but, hurricane force winds of change are in the forecast.



  2. Fred

    “US court renews permission to NSA to collect phone metadata”
    “This is the most transparent administration in history”
    – President Barack Obama

    Bill I think you said it all in your post. The elite have run over the little people and they thrive on creating distrust amongst us.

  3. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    Re: Foreign VPNs offer protection against US government spying
    When this whole PRISM thing came to light, I had a think and decided to subscribe to an overseas VPN (Cyberghost actually). It’s not that I have anything to hide, or doing anything criminal, or even that my mundane life would be of interest to the US but our government here is sooooo cosy with the US that I aint taking a chance. It’s my privacy and the whole idea is it is offensive that they think they can just record my web habits with or without my consent.
    Actually, Cyberghost is pretty damn good if one has a subscription. Speeds are great, and there is a whole list of worldwide servers to choose from. I think I have posted before, but the free version is ok, limited to one M/S bandwidth though.

    • Hey Mal,

      We’re on the same page – the “get the hell out of my life” page. 🙂

      Cyberghost is a Romanian (a former Soviet Bloc country) developed application. Not too surprising to see that many of the best cyber-security applications (Bitdefender, and a host of others), are being developed in eastern Europe – given their previous experiences with massive restrictions imposed by their Soviet masters.

      I’m currently running with HotSpot Shield and TunnelBear (both free) – but, I may well take a shot with Cyberghost.

      Thanks for the report.