Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 26, 2013

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7″ vs. Google Nexus 7; Upgrading XP machine to Windows 8; Yelp: 20% of reviews are fake; SSD upgrades deliver huge performance gains; Microsoft cuts Xbox 360 price by $50; Popular iOS e-mail app has serious bug; Data Broker Giants Hacked; Target Ticket video service launches; John McAfee wants to make the Internet unhackable; Vatican: Jesus did Twitter before Twitter did Twitter.

Pew: 15% Of Americans Don’t Have Internet. 5% Think It’s Irrelevant – Five percent of Americans have resisted the siren song of cat listicles and hashtags. Specifically, they think the Internet is “irrelevant,” to use words of Pew, which just released a report on the demographic of Americans without Internet. In total, 15% of Americans don’t go online for a variety of reasons. By far the largest reason is that it’s a “waste of time”.

8 lessons learned from upgrading a dog-slow XP machine to Windows 8 – ZDNet’s David Gewirtz decides to upgrade a “dog-slow” Atom-based PC from the nearly dearly departed Windows XP to Windows 8. In the process, he learns a lot and shares some of those lessons with you in this article.

Beware of Yelp: 20% of reviews are fake – Back in 2006, the number of fake reviews spread across the service only made up about 5% of the total user reviews. Now, just seven years later, that number has shot up to 20%. One out of every five Yelp reviews are fake. The report comes out of Harvard Business School, and suggests that if you heavily rely on Yelp’s user reviews to determine the quality of an establishment, you should scale back that reliance.

Don’t Like DASH? Then YouTube Center is For You – Not too long ago, YouTube implemented a new way of streaming its videos. In the old days you would begin watching a YouTube stream and the buffer would fill up and keep streaming until it was full. Now, what happens is that you watch the video with a brief amount of buffer preceding what you are watching. That’s a great improvement over the older standards from the provider’s viewpoint, but it it isn’t worth a darn for the person who wants to watch in a variated way. Some people actually like to jump around when they watch a video and DASH doesn’t allow for that anymore.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Benchmarks don’t lie: SSD upgrades deliver huge performance gains – I’ve upgraded dozens of systems with solid-state drives. In every case I’ve gotten a “W” reaction, as in “Wow!” “Whoa!” and “No way!” (not to mention “Kewl!”). Given a relatively modern CPU, an SSD delivers more satisfaction than any upgrade I know. Don’t take my word for it, however: Believe the numbers.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7″ vs. Google Nexus 7: Small Tablets Compared – Amazon’s new 7-inch tablet shares the same price as Google’s Nexus 7, but how does it stack up in features?

Chrome users oppose change to Google’s new tab page – Google yesterday started rolling out a redesigned new tab page for Chrome, making good on a promise from last month when it offered the revamp to users running rougher-edged versions of its browser. Most users gave the new look a failing grade. “Fail, fail, fail,” said Philip Wright, one of those who commented on the announcement. Google characterized the addition as a way to speed up search. (Stop fixing things that ain’t broke! Massive FAIL!)

Quick Tip: Two features in Windows 8.1 File Explorer you want to know about – The Windows 8 File Explorer has several features, which makes manipulating files a much more efficient experience.

Twitter Alerts Lets You Opt-in On Push Notifications From Emergency Organizations And NGOs During Crises – Twitter is rolling out a new system called Twitter Alerts today that lets you choose to receive special alerts from emergency accounts, government organizations and NGOs. The system is designed to expand on Twitter’s ‘Lifeline’ service which was offered to those in Japan suffering from the earthquake last year.

10 common-sense rules for end users and those who support them – Some things never change in the workplace. Users make mistakes and support has to fix them. Revisit these common-sense rules to reduce the headaches.

Oxford’s Practical English Usage Guide Comes to Android – The interactive version of grammarian Michael Swan’s authoritative guide to English usage questions which bedevil even the most advanced speakers is now available on Google Play.

Google Chrome update: How to access apps and recently closed tabs – Just last month I pointed out three handy (but often-overlooked) Google Chrome features, one of which was how to access tabs you’ve recently closed. Today, Google rolled out a Chrome update that not only relocates that useful option, but also simplifies the browser’s new-tab interface.

Microsoft cuts Xbox 360 price by $50 for a limited time – For a limited time you can pick up a brand new Xbox 360 with $50 slashed off the usual price and/or $50 of Xbox Live credit included in the purchase. The participating retailers include Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, NFM, Target, and Walmart, but the offer varies depending on which of those you decide to purchase from.

YouTube Launches Free Audio Library With 150 Royalty-Free Tracks – YouTube currently offers more than 150,000 audio tracks on its site that video producers can use as background music for their videos. Those tracks, however, can’t be downloaded or remixed, which makes it hard to use them in creative ways. For users who want to do a bit more with their background music, however, YouTube today is expanding this library with a selection of 150 new royalty-tracks.

Ad-skipping is still legal, despite Fox’s best effort – Fox Broadcasting lawyers made an all-out push earlier this year to knock the newest version of Dish’s ad-skipping Hopper DVR off the market, but they have failed. A Los Angeles federal judge has weighed the competing briefs of both companies and decided the product can remain on the market while litigation proceeds, according to a Dish statement. The actual order remains under seal, so the legal reasoning remains opaque, for now. A redacted order will likely be published soon.

Apple Maps steers oblivious motorists onto airport runway – The embattled Google Maps alternative is just starting to shrug off the stigma of past problems, but this week it had another high-profile bug: it steered unwary motorists onto an airport runway.


Popular iOS e-mail app acquired by Dropbox has serious bug, researcher warns – In a blog post published Wednesday, Michele Spagnuolo of Italy said that Mailbox for iOS will execute any JavaScript code embedded in the body of an HTML-formatted e-mail. A video shows how the bug can be exploited to open iOS apps without user prompting, simply by viewing a booby-trapped message. His post said the damage could be much more severe.

Android Remote Access Trojan AndroRAT is Cheaper, More Dangerous Than Ever – AndroRAT, a piece of Android malware that gives a hacker total control of your phone, can be hidden in any app with just a few clicks. But now it’s free, and it’s spreading.

Data Broker Giants Hacked by ID Theft Service – An identity theft service that sells Social Security numbers, birth records, credit and background reports on millions of Americans has infiltrated computers at some of America’s largest consumer and business data aggregators. Two of the hacked servers were inside the networks of Atlanta, Ga.-based LexisNexis Inc., a company that according to Wikipedia maintains the world’s largest electronic database for legal and public-records related information. (suggested by Aseem S.)

Using heartbeats as passwords to secure medical devices – It is time to start thinking of our hearts as random number generators that can serve as passwords to secure medical devices that are vulnerable to hacking, US researchers at Rice University have proposed.

The Sky is Not Falling–It’s Fallen – The security community didn’t invent the concept of fear, uncertainty and doubt, but it has perfected it and raised it to the level of religion. It’s the way that security products are marketed and sold, but it’s also the way that the intelligence community justifies its extra-legal and, in some cases, unconstitutional, data-gathering practices. Just as vendors use the specter of catastrophic hacks, data loss and public embarrassment to push their wares, the NSA and its allies have used the dark shadow of 9/11 and global terrorism to justify their increasingly aggressive practices, some of which have now been shown to have deliberately weakened some of the fundamental building blocks of security.

Company News:

Target Ticket video service launches to the public, offers digital downloads – Late last month, a tip surfaced claiming that Target would be opening its Target Ticket video service to the general public soon, taking it out the previously closed beta it was in. Fast forward a few weeks, and such has proved to be the case, with the new video service officially exiting beta and being available to all who want to try it out.

Cloud security alliance releases cloud controls matrix, version 3.0 – The CCM Version 3.0 expands its control domains to address changes in cloud security risks since the release of the CSA’s seminal guidance domain, “Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing version 3.0” while making strides towards closer harmonization of the two.

BlackBerry cancels earnings call after buyout offer – Struggling handset maker still plans to reveal its second-quarter financial results but doesn’t want to talk about them in light of offer to take the company private.

Valve announces Steam Machines; opens beta testing sign-ups – Valve has officially announced plans to allow up to 300 outside beta testers to get their hands on a free prototype of what Valve calls a Steam Machine, which will be made by several companies in 2014

Valve To Launch A Prototype Steam Box/Multiple Steam Machines In 2014 – Following the announcement of SteamOS, Valve just unveiled the long-anticipated Steam Box — sort of. Instead of releasing a Valve-branded Steam Box, the company will actually work with multiple manufacturers to release a series of Steam machines for your living room. Yet, Valve also presented a specific prototype, a Steam machine designed by Valve.

EU says Google antitrust decision close – The European Commission’s antitrust chief says a decision on Google’s antitrust case is near — and warned that because the search giant’s share is larger in the EU, it will not follow its American counterpart’s earlier decision.

Microsoft is developing a games console just for China – There’s much more chance of success in China if you work with a Chinese company, and Microsoft has chosen to do exactly that for this new games console. A new company has been created called E-Home Entertainment Development that is only 49 percent owned by Microsoft. The other 51 percent is controlled by Chinese company BesTV New Media Co.

Google creates network for tech startups – Google announced today it is building a network for tech entrepreneurs in seven North American cities. The venture, dubbed Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub Network, is focused on connecting emerging local tech companies and leaders with each other, as well as with resources at Google. The company is partnering with tech hubs in Chicago, Denver; Detroit, Durham, N.C., Minneapolis, Nashville and Waterloo, Ontario.

Games and Entertainment:

Dead on Arrival 2 Shambles into Google Play with More Zombie Slaying Action – If you thought the zombie genre was no longer cool, the release of Dead on Arrival 2 for Android devices should set you straight. This is a top-down action shooter that pits you against wave after wave of the undead.

Disabled gamer: The inspirational story of Keith ‘Aieron’ Knight – A filmmaker, browsing Reddit, reads about a popular League of Legends disabled gamer and creates a Kickstarter-funded documentary about him.

Sony tweets new peeks at PlayStation 4 – Posted late Tuesday on Twitter by PlayStation Community Manager Chris Owen, the images reveal the deep-blue screens for the PS4 and its companion mobile app. One screenshot shows a video capture of a PS4 game in action, another displays a “Live Stream” screen, and a third takes a peek at the video-edit menu.

Off Topic (Sort of):

How Google could have made the Web secure — and failed – Google confirmed it made a change to better protect the privacy of how people search. However, it left loopholes in that protection and once again failed to seize an opportunity to encourage all sites to go secure.

John McAfee wants to make the Internet unhackable – The man who began in antivirus software intends to make the Internet float, so that no hacker can ever bathe in its frailties.

EasyJet stopped customer from boarding plane due to criticism of airline on Twitter – If you’re wondering how an airline could’ve picked Leiser out of a crowd based on a tweet, our guess is they were simply monitoring EasyJet mentions, saw Leiser’s tweet, then searched for a photo of him — which would’ve only taken a few seconds in this day and age. It’s a story of he-said-airline-said, but it’s not too farfetched that an insulted manager would take frustration out on the source of that frustration.

Yeah, You Did: Man Uses Nipple to Unlock iPhone Instead of Fingerprint – Please witness a man awkwardly training his iPhone 5s fingerprint sensor using his own nipple for, oh, about a minute or so. He then unlocks his phone using his nippleprint (new word!). What happens when his friend tries to unlock the phone with an unknown nipple? It won’t unlock.

Vatican: Jesus did Twitter before Twitter did Twitter – A Vatican cardinal insists that it wasn’t Jack Dorsey, but Jesus Christ who invented the short, pithy message.

Study: Internet sales tax software will be costly to implement – As several U.S. lawmakers and retail groups renew their efforts to get Congress to approve an Internet sales tax, opponents countered Wednesday with a study saying sales tax collection software would cost medium-sized Web-based sellers $80,000 to $290,000 to set up and another $57,500 to $260,000 a year in fees, auditing expense and other costs.

Mayday! Mayday! Amazon’s On-Demand Support Could Be A Scaling Nightmare – What happens when it’s easier to call tech support than to Google your problem? Amazon might discover the costly answer to that question depending on how much the owners of its new Kindle Fire HDX tablets use its Mayday on-demand video customer support feature. And whether they behave themselves.

Something to think about:

The proposition that the people are the best keepers of their own liberties is not true. They are the worst conceivable, they are no keepers at all; they can neither judge, act, think, or will, as a political body.”

–      John Adams

Today’s Free Downloads:

VLC media player 2.1.0 – VLC media player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, …) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It can also be used as a server to stream in unicast or multicast in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network. It doesn’t need any external codec or program to work.

Comodo Personal Firewall – Secure your system against internal attacks such as Trojan viruses / malicious software and external attacks by hackers. Comodo Personal Firewall is the powerful and effective, easy to manage barrier that keeps hackers out and personal information in. Comodo Personal Firewall helps you connect in a secure way to the internet and global networks.

Digital Home Server – The Digital Home Server (DHS) is a FREE home automation and multimedia application which is easy to use, and aimed at non-technical users.DHS is actually a graphical framework with a number of applications. Some applications are small and can be dragged around the screen, others are full screen.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Post-NSA Revelations, Most Users Feel Less Safe – Some 65 percent of consumers, SMBs, large enterprises, and government agencies in the survey say they feel less safe now knowing that the NSA has access to electronic and phone records, while 26 percent are ambivalent, 4.5 percent feel safer, and 4 percent aren’t aware of the NSA program. They consider government the biggest threat to their online privacy, followed by corporations such as Google, Facebook, and Apple, according to the survey of some 7,900 users conducted by private cloud backup and sharing provider SpiderOak.

Meet the machines that steal your phone’s data – From Arizona to California, Florida to Texas, state and federal authorities have been quietly investing millions of dollars acquiring clandestine mobile phone surveillance equipment in the past decade. Earlier this year, a covert tool called the “Stingray” that can gather data from hundreds of phones over targeted areas attracted international attention. Rights groups alleged that its use could be unlawful.

Lavabit shutdown case request for unsealing submitted, may shed light on hidden matters – In the beginning of August, Ladar Levison shut down his Lavabit email service without warning, citing the reasons as being related to the government and a requirement that would make him “complicit in crimes against the American people.” The case has been sealed and Levison is under gag order, greatly limiting any details he can provide on what went down. That may change soon, with Lavabit requesting a partial unsealing so that others can file amicus briefs.

Egnyte jumps on PRISM frenzy with its own ‘prevention’ program – The National Security Agency’s PRISM data mining program has stirred up hysteria with consumers and businesses alike, which ironically in itself could present a business opportuntity for tech security companies. Enterprise cloud service provider Egnyte is jumping on that interest with a new “PRISM prevention program,” promising to detect cloud file sharing services and content that are unapproved by the company’s IT department.

Senators to introduce comprehensive NSA and secret court reform bill – “Secret courts were one of the reasons that we rebelled against the English.” – Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and three other senators have taken up the charge of surveillance reform, announcing on Thursday afternoon their plans to introduce new legislation that would put a halt to the bulk metadata collection program and implement Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) reform, among other changes.


Filed under downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 26, 2013

  1. Don

    Bill, just to let you know that with regards to the YouTube article and videos. One can indeed capture, save and then extract the audio from the many music clips available! I’ve been doing in for awhile now. I use two programs: YTD video download to actually capture/save the video. I then use FreeMake Video Converter to extract the audio. This program can also convert video/audio formats from one format to another of once’s personal choice. These utilities are both FREE, although the YTD program can be upgraded to PRO. I did, as I do a lot of d/loading and the d/load speeds are significantly higher.

    Hope this helps you and others. Things have come a long way since the days of Limewire and Frostwire with their horrendous hidden .exe extensions! Ha ha.

    • Hi Don,

      This might save you a few steps.

      I use a super little app – MediaHuman YouTube to MP3 Converter – which is a one click simple all-in-one program.

      Simply launch the app – paste in the applicable YouTube (and others) URL, and the audio only is captured and saved. Can’t recommend this app highly enough.

      Thanks for the input.



      • Don

        Bill, thanks a bunch for that info! It certainly will save some time. Of course, I’ll still utilize the other programs whenever I d/load a complete movie, as I almost always want it in MP4 format rather than the original flv format available on YouTube. Yes, they do have many many full-length movies available! Nothing new of course, but who cares! Ha ha.

        Best, Don