Monthly Archives: December 2013

Merry Christmas –Joyeux Noel (2013)

Dear readers and subscribers,

christmas-message

It’s been a worrisome year for many, I know – but the Christmas season is now upon us and perhaps (just maybe), we can put aside the worries of the moment and reflect upon the joy and the beauty, the giving and the sharing, that Christmas brings to so many of us.

Despite the push and shove of various societal elements, Christmas – remains wonderfully inescapable. Its traditions and rituals, established in simpler times, continue to remind us – that those we hold close, (including neighbours   Smile  ) are the greatest gifts of all. The Grinch was on to something when he pondered – “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store.”

May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace,
The happiness of Christmas give you hope,
The warmth of Christmas grant you love.

Have a wonderful Christmas, however you define it.

Bill

Tech Thoughts is winding down for the Christmas break – so, you might find us fairly quiet the next several weeks. Regular posting will begin again on Thursday, January 2, 2014.

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Filed under Opinion, Point of View

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 24, 2013

How the NSA has destroyed trust;  The Top 10 Tech News Stories of 2013;  The 10 Most Pirated Movies;  Target May Be Liable For Up To $3.6 Billion; Financial Trojans Taking Over The World?  Xbox One Review;  Create a digital Yule log on your HDTV;  Last-minute gifts for your favorite tech nerd;  Alan Turing receives Royal pardon;  Billion-dollar climate denial network exposed;  FREE USB Image Tool.

How the NSA has destroyed trust – Because we know that the NSA has attempted, and in some cases succeeded in making vendors and other third parties complicit in their data collection, it’s hard to completely believe vendor denials anymore. It’s the vendors who are the biggest victims here.

Create a digital Yule log on your HDTV – The weather outside may be frightful, but a fire is so delightful, especially when it’s a Yule log. We’ll show you how to get one streaming on your HD television set.

Google Santa Tracker joins voicemail system and North Pole village – Here you’ll be able to track Santa Clause as he makes the rounds around the world and – while you’re waiting for him to approach you – they’ve created a set of animated videos and games for you to experience as well.

Move your libraries to a second drive or partition – Whether you move your data folders to a second drive or a new partition on your existing drive, you’re making a good move. You can better protect both your Windows installation and your libraries if you keep them in separate storage units. And you can significantly speed up your system, without losing storage space, by keeping Windows and your programs on an SSD, and your data on a hard drive.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Inexplicably, the majority of porn in the US is now watched on mobile phones – According to Pornhub — the very same outlet that taught us what everyone is up to when in the anonymity of their own computer room — this is the first year that a country has watched the majority of its porn on a mobile device. It’s a small majority — just 52% of smartphones and 10% of tablets — but a majority nonetheless. The US is proudly leading the mobile revolution, with the United Kingdom and Mexico lagging behind at just 58% and 52%, respectively.

Click here to BEAT OFF Cameron’s SMUT ban – A programmer has designed a backdoor which will allow grumble movie lovers to get around UK prime Minister David Cameron’s ban on filth. Anyone using Chrome can now employ a simple extension called Go Away Cameron to bypass the new network-level “safety” filters implemented by the UK’s biggest ISPs: TalkTalk, Sky and this week, BT.

Wall-mount your tablet for $10 or less – So you want to stick your tablet on the wall. There are lots of ways to approach this project — including under-cabinet mounts and magnetic refrigerator enclosures — but most of these solutions ask you spend a minimum of $20 to $50. Not necessary. Whether it’s your kitchen companion or entertainment hub, there’s an inexpensive way to wall-mount your tablet so that it’s easily accessible and on display.

Microsoft releases holiday “Lite Brite” browser benchmark test – The Internet Explorer team at Microsoft has released their annual holiday themed browser benchmark test, and this one is based on the classic Lite Brite toy with four seasonal images.

The Top 10 Tech News Stories of 2013 – With 2013 coming to a close, it’s time to look back at some of the bigger stories in tech. What were people talking, tweeting, and writing about? What changed the industry? Let’s dive in.

Cheap last-minute gifts for your favorite tech nerd – Out of time? Don’t worry, you’re not out of options. Here are some easy but awesome last-minute gift ideas.

How to get Google to help feed the hungry — for free – Let Google “pay” for the data they collect on you by sending a charitable donation via Google’s dime — by using Google Shopping Express.

Security:

Target May Be Liable For Up To $3.6 Billion From Credit Card Data Breach – This is not exactly the merriest of times for Target. Last week the retailer revealed that credit card data from 40 million customers had been stolen. Now it looks like the giant retailer could be liable for up to $3.6 billion. Target could face a $90 fine for each cardholder’s data compromised, which translates to the $3.6 billion liability, according to a post on the SuperMoney website.

Target data breach: What you should tell non-IT folks right now – Help your friends, family, and coworkers understand the Target security breach, protect their accounts, and stay calm.

Target hackers try new ways to use stolen card data – For the first time, hackers market stolen data with info on the location of store where card was used; experts say new strategy will slow detection.

Bitcoin stolen during on-air newscast by at-home viewer – The digital currency known as Bitcoin has taken part in a newscast in which a fellow by the name of Matt Miller is robbed wirelessly, on live television. Of course Miller didn’t know he was being robbed – and in fact since he was giving gift certificates with Bitcoin on them to his co-anchors it was more like they were getting robbed, but the end result is the same. Herein lies a lesson in understanding how QR-codes work.

Financial Trojans Taking Over The World? – Symantec’s latest infographic reports that financial Trojans are on the rise as money transactions are done increasingly online

Apple, Please Give Us a Fix – a Guarantee – that Our iSight Webcams Are Safe – Rockwell’s dystopian vision of the future has arrived for iSight camera owners: somebody really could be watching — even listening — to your private life, using your computer’s webcam surreptitiously, snatching audio or video without tripping safeguard indicators like the little green LED that’s supposed to reveal when a webcam is active and capturing audio-visual information.

Company News:

BlackBerrry cancels two phones and BlackBerry Live 2014 – BlackBerry has announced there will not be a BlackBerry Live developer event held during 2014, and a regulatory filing reveals it has also cancelled plans for two low cost phones as well.

Microsoft to face computer makers’ rebellion at CES – Microsoft will face a rebellion of long-time partners at next month’s CES when OEMs introduce Windows PCs that can also run Android mobile apps.

Apple CEO Tim Cook revs rumor engine with talk of big plans – Apple CEO Tim Cook has piqued fan interest and rumors once again with a characteristically vague but enticing mention of “big plans” for 2014. The mention came by way of an employee newsletter he sent to the entire Apple workforce. It was nestled near the end of a long list of accomplishments both from a product standpoint and from a corporate citizenship perspective.

Rockstar consortium planning to offload some of Nortel patents – The Rockstar consortium, backed by companies such as Microsoft and Apple is planning to offload some of Nortel’s patents which they acquired last year after outbidding tech rival Google.

Samsung’s Newest Ad Is Pretty Much The Worst – Worried that none of their recent commercials would take home that coveted “Worst Ad Of The Year” trophy, Samsung has swooped in with one hell of a last minute entry. It’s like Samsung wanted to give us all a Christmas present. But instead of giving us socks, or candy, or a puppy, Samsung gave everyone a big ol’ box of cringe.

Acer names semiconductor veteran as new CEO – Now top man at Acer, Jason Chen previously held sales and marketing positions at Taiwan Semiconductor and Intel.

Games and Entertainment:

The 10 Most Pirated Movies – What are people watching? The week’s list of the 10 most pirated-movies includes some of the biggest new releases, from fantasy-action to rom-coms.

‘Halo: Spartan Assault’ for Xbox One released one day earlier than planned – Microsoft has gone ahead and released the Xbox One version of its top down shooter Halo: Spartan Assault, one day earlier than its previously announced Dec. 24th launch date.

Xbox One Review – Experiencing the Xbox One for the first time will almost certainly remind users of their first time working with Windows 8 – there’s a lot of tiles to be tapped, and they’re not always the easiest to traverse. In the Xbox One is Microsoft’s extended Windows experience, coming closer to the do-everything ecosystem the brand has been cultivating over the past several years.

Five Angry Birds games on Windows Phone updated with new levels – Rovio has updated five of its Angry Birds games released for Windows Phone devices today, with all of them adding new free levels to unlock and play along with other new features.

Off Topic (Sort of):

British Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing receives Royal pardon – Turing’s work is widely held to have shortened World War II, saving many lives, and provided much of the basic theory on which computer science would later be built. While he was celebrated for that effort, he was gay at a time when that sexual orientation was reviled in British society. In 1952 he was charged with “gross indecency” after a liaison was discovered, pled guilty and accepted treatment of chemical castration using female hormones as a punishment.

Arctic explorers find message in a bottle left in 1959 – Finding a message in a bottle in a remote part of the world is something that you might think would only happen in a work of fiction. However, that is exactly what has happened with a discovery made by researchers working on Ward Hunt Island in the Arctic. The island is off the northern cost of Canada’s most northerly Arctic island, Ellesmere.

Yes, It’s Real: Tim Draper Gives Details On Ballot Initiative To Make Silicon Valley A State – Silicon Valley is no stranger to unusual ideas, and today the world got to witness another: noted investor Tim Draper is proposing a ballot proposition to split California into six separate states. There were obviously a lot of questions raised by Draper’s “Six Californias” proposal after we first broke the news last Thursday, so the man with the controversial plan held a press conference this afternoon. Draper’s ballot proposition itself breaks California into six entities: Silicon Valley, West California, Jefferson, South California, Central California and North California.

Efficient set-top boxes to save $1 billion on energy annually by 2017 – The agreement, while voluntary, commits service providers to using more efficient hardware through to 2017. Although the individual savings will be small, the cumulative impact is massive: a billion dollars in electricity saved by consumers and five million fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.

Billion-dollar climate denial network exposed: A network of 91 think tanks and industry groups are primarily responsible – An extensive study into the financial networks that support groups denying the science behind climate change and opposing political action has found a vast, secretive web of think tanks and industry associations, bankrolled by conservative billionaires.

Something to think about:

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!”

–      Charles Dickens

Today’s Free Downloads:

USB Image Tool – USB Image Tool can create images of USB flash drives and MP3 players, that are mounted as USB drives. It allows you switch between images with different music styles on your MP3 Player or to make an exact backup image of your USB Stick. USB Image Tool works with any device, that implements the USB Mass Storage protocol. This includes flash drives, card readers and a lot of other devices, like digicams, cell phones and mobile music players. USB Image Tool supports the globull secure mobile work environment.

Toolwiz Care – Toolwiz Care is a free tool kit designed to speed up your slow PC. With a multi-functional optimization suite, this Windows system optimizer provides a collection of tools which includes System Checkup, System Cleanup, System Speedup, and 40+ powerful tools to enhance your PC performance, local and network security, and optimize the start-up procedure. Toolwiz team guarantees users that Toolwiz Care will stay free forever. This tool kit is designed for all levels of PC users from beginners to experts.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

U.S. government moves to block further litigation in NSA surveillance cases – National intelligence director says continued litigation would reveal state secrets related to national security

Snowden: ‘I am still working for the NSA … to improve it’ – Edward Snowden believes he is “still working for the NSA right now” and that his actions in recent months don’t constitute treason but an effort “to improve the NSA”, according to an interview in The Washington Post. Snowden’s thinking is that he did not set out to “bring down the NSA” but that his theft of and distribution of documents will help to refocus the agency on its true purpose. He therefore told the Post that the NSA “are the only ones who don’t realize” he’s still working for the agency. Here’s a few of Snowden’s more interesting quotes from the interview.

RSA denies NSA collusion over backdoor code access – Security firm RSA has categorically denied colluding with the US National Security Agency (NSA) after allegations that the company accepted $10m of government cash in order to make compromised code its default. Reports late last week suggested RSA had been paid by the NSA to adopt a random number generator that the agency had purposefully left backdoor access to, something the company strenuously denies.

F-Secure won’t speak at imperialist lackey RSA’s conference – Fallout from the allegation that RSA helped the NSA undermine crytpography standards is spreading, with Finnish security vendor F-Secure uninviting itself from the 2014 edition of RSA’s eponymous conference. The reason, says F-Secure’s chief research officer Mikko Hypponen, is that RSA is an imperialist running dog. His strongly-worded missive addressed to EMC’s Joe Tucci and RSA’s Art Coviello says he won’t show at RSA and won’t deliver his planned speech titled “Governments as Malware Authors” at RSA 2014.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 23, 2013

Five Apps: Ways to unplug for the holidays;  Three privacy-focused browsers compared;  Chrome Web Store nixes toolbars;  How to check for hackers; Holiday Hijinks – How To Protect Yourself;  Snapchat Adds New Features;  2013 is a good time to be horny on the internet;  Diablo III launches March 25;  Best laptops for home use;  Windows 8.1 Preview will die soon;  Exploring the Darkest Corridors of the Internet;  Google+ – create year-in-review videos;  White House tries to prevent ruling on NSA surveillance.

Five Apps: Ways to unplug for the holidays – So, going into the holiday season, what’s the best way to unplug from work and Twitter long enough to reconnect with the world immediately around you? Here are five hair-of-the-dog solutions (much cheaper than camp!) to prevent your work email from interfering with your holiday dinners this year.

Holiday Hijinks – How To Protect Yourself – Despite the mischievous-sounding word ‘hijinks’ in the title there is nothing in the least playful about the scams that the dregs of the earth are willing to try during the holiday season. The goal, of course, is to find their way into your wallets and pocketbooks and lighten them up a bit. There are no limits to which they are willing to go in this endeavor so I’m here to warn you about some of them. Perhaps, with a heads-up approach, you won’t be one of the many people who will have an un-merry Christmas.

New Chrome Web Store extension rules may mean the end for toolbars – A new change in how Google handles extensions in its Chrome Web Store may mean the end for the many toolbars that have been released for the web browser in the past several years. (Delenn13 – Finally, a start.  Smile  )

Three privacy-focused browsers compared – SRware Iron, Comodo Dragon, and Dooble use the Chromium browser engine but promise to protect your privacy better than Google Chrome.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Twitter: The public square of the 21st century will get you fired – There are grave consequences for behaving badly on social networks. Becoming unemployable may be the least of them.

Google+ AutoAwesome feature now creating year-in-review videos – As part of Google+’s AutoAwesome feature, users can get videos generated from their pictures and other similar features. Today, Google’s Anil Sabharwal announced that as part of this, Google+ users are getting a “holiday gift”: automatically-created year in review videos based on content uploaded to Google+ throughout 2013. The video will be auto-generated for any user who qualifies.

The year in porn: 2013 is a good time to be horny on the internet – Even if you, for some reason, don’t morally agree with the existence and consumption of pornography, there’s no denying that for all the things at which the internet excels, it performs most ably as a platform to serve porn. Considering the anonymous and private nature of viewing internet porn, it’s always fascinating to see the statistics regarding exactly what everyone’s up to when they come home from a long day of work to a cozy computer chair. Porn-serving engine Pornhub is here to enlighten us on this matter, with its 2013 year in porn review.

Windows 8.1’s Reading List app is a Favorites list on steroids – Reading List allows you to keep track of all the content you encounter in your apps that you want to be able find again or read at a later date; in this respect, the app works like the Favorites list. However, Reading List goes beyond the Favorites list in that it organizes the content in chronological order and in categories and then displays the titles and the content as tiles with images. In fact, using Reading List is almost like creating your own newspaper app.

Best laptops for home use: Moving beyond the desktop replacement – We’ve taken a look at some of the best laptops for home use, meaning something you can enjoy using while wasting a Saturday on the couch, preparing a big meal in the kitchen, or curled up in bed.

Bing releases the ten best images of 2013 as wallpaper, screensaver – Microsoft’s Bing team reviewed thousands of amazing images to find the most popular ones of 2013 and are providing them to everyone as desktop wallpapers and screensavers.

Snapchat Adds New ‘Replay’ Feature, Among Others, in App Update – Snapchat’s new features are rather impressive, but you likely wouldn’t know about them unless you really looked hard.

Transporter Sync makes a personal cloud out of your external hard drive – Once the drive has been plugged in and the Transporter Sync connected to a network via an Ethernet cable, devices can easily share and sync files from any device from anywhere in the world, just as if they were using something like Dropbox but without the monthly charges. Those who are mindful of their privacy will no longer have to worry about third parties snooping in on their files, as all data are kept private.

Windows Phone users given 20GB of free SkyDrive space for one year – Windows Phone owners got an email this morning from Microsoft alerting them that they can now get an extra 20GB of free space on SkyDrive for one year beyond their standard 7GB of free space.

Samsung Smart TVs to accept “finger gestures” for 2014 – The company described a few of the details in an announcement today, one of which is “finger gestures” — a fine-tuning of the gesture controls already included in the Smart TVs. Samsung will demonstrate the features in full at CES 2014 in early January. For now, here’s a sneak peek.

Windows 8.1 Preview will die soon, Microsoft warns – The free trial version expires in January, and users may not be able to access some data unless they license the paid version.

Security:

Adobe warns of license key email scam – The company has issued a warning that a malicious email campaign is underway using Adobe software licenses as a lure. Adobe calls it a phishing attack, but other reports say it contains a malware attachment.

The “Target Breach Flood” Is Already Appearing On The Carder Black Market; Target Reacts – In a deliciously detailed post, security writer Brian Krebs has explained the path taken by credit card numbers stolen in the Target breach on their way to the carder black market. Krebs has far more information in his post but he’s discovered that some card shops have created Target-only sections for the trove of numbers.

Typos online aren’t just a hassle,they’re a hazard – Some clever cybercrooks and scammers are running domains with slightly misspelled names of known security firms. The brand most abused by fraudsters lined up very roughly with market share, with Symantec, Avast, Bitdefender, Norton, and Avira showing up most often. Kaspersky’s low showing on that list could have something to do with what appears to be a company policy of buying up domains that could be squatted.

Smart devices get smarter, but are still short on security – As you shop for that new “smart” refrigerator that can do everything including figuring out when you’re low on milk, perhaps you should also think about the risk of some mischievous hacker taking control of it and having 5000 gallons of milk delivered to your door. Unlikely, yes, but possible. And that’s just inconvenient. What about a hacker who unlocks your doors while you’re away? That scenario is real. It has been demonstrated.

Less phishing, but better targeting in 2013, report says – Websense identifies the top come-ons and scams that still seem to work.

How to check for hackers – Microsoft offers a quick way to check for possible intrusions to your accounts with its services.

Company News:

Overstock to be first major retailer to accept Bitcoin – Overstock.com is planning to start accepting Bitcoin on its website as payment sometime in the second half of 2014. The news comes by way of newsBTC, which interviewed Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne last week. Byrne came off very optimistic about the cryptocurrency.

China Mobile to open iPhone 5s, 5c pre-registration Dec. 25 – China Mobile and Apple have struck a deal. The state-owned telecommunications company will soon offer the Apple iPhone 5s and 5c and supporting services to its 700 million customers. Both parties are poised to benefit from the deal, as China Mobile is the world’s largest network, while Apple is the world’s most valuable company.

New Nokia ad: Don’t buy the iPad, you can’t use it outdoors – Nokia wants you to understand that its new Lumia 2520 tablet, unlike the iPad, can be used in the brightest of lights.

Following Results, BlackBerry CEO Sends Letter to Employees – That said, BlackBerry’s stock price shot up Friday even in the wake of its less-than-stellar quarter

Rumor: T-Mobile planning to pay your carrier’s early termination fees if you switch – Rumor has it T-Mobile is gearing up to announce a huge proposal: switch from your current carrier and it’ll pay your early termination fees.

LG to release a smattering of sound systems for audiophiles in 2014 – LG is focusing its 2014 product efforts on sound, hoping to position itself as the home entertainment manufacturer for audiophiles seeking flexibility in in-home streaming. Tonight it announced a wide array of updates to its existing lines of home sound equipment. The company will reveal these officially at CES 2014 in January.

Games and Entertainment:

Temple Run 2 lands on Windows Phone – Temple Run 2, sequel to the popular infinite running game Temple Run, has been launched for Windows Phone 8 devices; The new game features Xbox Live achievements and is available in the store for free.

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls launches March 25 – Almost two years after the initial launch of the PC version of Diablo III, Blizzard is giving users a reason to jump back in and guide their favorite characters through one more exciting chapter. Originally criticized for having a storyline that was too short and only available online, this new expansion to Diablo III comes on the heels of the highly anticipated console release and looks to re-introduce PC players to a version of the game without the Auction House.

Titanfall hits Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC in March 2014 – The much lauded, much anticipated multiplayer first-person shooter Titanfall is set to launch Mar. 11, 2014 in North America, Electronic Arts has revealed. It will be available exclusively on Microsoft consoles Xbox One and Xbox 360 as well as PC.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Japanese robot crushes rivals at DARPA challenge – A team from Japan dominated its 15 competitors at DARPA’s Robotics Challenge in Florida this weekend in a contest where robots had to perform tasks including climbing a ladder and scrambling over difficult terrain.

Why laws for robots are doomed to failure – A ban on smart robots on the battlefield might lay to rest our fear of Terminators, but our increasing use of robots is forcing us to ask difficult questions about the morality of technology.

For the high-tech tinkerer, we pick 10 incredibly useful tools – If Santa had a high-tech workshop (and he probably does), he’d have these calipers, clamps, and other essentials.

Exploring the Darkest Corridors of the Internet – When an unsuspecting researcher followed a mysterious command on a 4chan board, he found himself drawn into a scavenger hunt that led him down the darkest corridors of the internet and stretched across the globe. But in a place where no one shows his face and no one plays by the rules, how do you tell where the game ends and reality begins?

10 tech heroes of 2013 – In a year of high-profile controversies and failures for IT, people still found ways to use technology to make life better for others. You may recognize some of these folks; others might surprise you.

It’s A Wonderful Life, For A Few Of Us – So where were we? Oh yes: everybody hates us. San Francisco’s recent Google-bus and “homeless trash” kerfuffles are symptoms of an increasingly broad, deep, and bitter anti-tech animosity. The Economist predicts: “The tech elite will join bankers and oilmen in public demonology.” The New York Times concurs: “Tech workers have, rightly or wrongly, received the blame. Resentment simmers.”

Parents can hide abortion, contraception advice from kids, thanks to BT’s SEX-ED web block – Access to sex education websites can be switched off by UK parents who don’t want their children to seek advice about their sexuality online, BT has admitted to The Register. Its network-level filter, introduced last week, can limit home internet users’ access to material the Coalition government would rather you not see, such as pornography, nudity, “tasteless” jokes, and self-harm advice sites. Surprisingly, useful sex-ed websites – such as those explaining abortion, STDs and contraception – are on the list of categories that can be swept away by BT subscribers.

Something to think about:

Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.”

–      Dr. Seuss

Today’s Free Downloads:

Intel Solid State Drive (SSD) Toolbox 3.2.0 – The Intel Solid-State Drive Toolbox (Intel SSD Toolbox) provides the following functional capabilities: Accessing Intel SSD management features (Intel SSD Optimizer, System Configuration Tuner and Secure Erase). Reporting the drive identification data for Intel SSDs, as well as other drives. Accessing the Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) attributes for Intel SSDs, as well as other drives. Checking the SMART thresholds and viewing recommended actions for Intel SSDs, as well as other drives. Running diagnostic scans on Intel SSDs to check for any READ or WRITE errors. More.

HDDExpert 1.9 – HDDExpert gives you a crystal-clear vision of your Hard Drive (HDD or SSD) health and performance and translates S.M.A.R.T. attributes into a readable indication. It then recommends maintenance (fans upgrade, spare purchase, backups and more) depending on the amount of failures detected on your hard drives.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

White House tries to prevent ruling on NSA surveillance – Obama administration acknowledges for the first time that the NSA’s collection of data on American’s Internet and phone activity was authorized by President Bush in 2001.

Feds admit start of NSA surveillance, still say it’s too secretive for court – This weekend, the US government filed documents in two long-running cases (both in California’s Northern District) related to NSA surveillance. As the New York Times notes, these filings mark the first time the government acknowledged that the NSA “started systematically collecting data about Americans’ e-mails and phone calls in 2001, alongside its program of wiretapping certain calls without warrants.” However, the bigger takeaway from the new documents is that the government continues to evoke state secrets privilege—the right to prevent certain, potentially harmful information from being used in court even if it means a case might be dismissed—despite previous rulings against this argument.

China slams US comments on Chinese spying as PRISM ‘diversion’ – In Brussels for talks with the European Union, a Chinese diplomat describes the comments of U.S. congressman Mike Rogers on Chinese espionage as attempts to divert attention from international concerns regarding PRISM.

US to relax tech export bans to China – The United States pledges to “actively” carry out a plan to lift bans on high-tech exports to China, which will cover civil aviation, information technology, and oil and gas exploration for civilian use.

NSA and GCHQ targeted 1,000 allied individuals: latest Snowden drop – The latest installment of the ongoing slow release of the whistleblower Edward Snowden’s cache of 1.7 million stolen NSA documents has revealed over 1,000 targets of the NSA’s and GCHQ’s international spying efforts between 2008 and 2011. The targets include high-ranking officials in allied nations, economic regulatory bodies, humanitarian aid agencies, and — seemingly as an afterthought — individuals being watched for hypothesized ties to terrorism. These particular documents were reported Friday by the American newspaper New York Times, Britain’s the Guardian and Germany’s Der Spiegel.

NSA Reportedly Paid A Security Firm Millions To Ship Deliberately Flawed Encryption – Today Reuters reported that the NSA paid RSA, a security company and subsidiary of EMC, $10 million to use a flawed random generator technology as the “preferred” option in its BSafe software, increasing its popularity. After being implicated in the NSA’s efforts to get around encryption, RSA told its customers that they should stop using the flawed algorithm. As the Wall Street Journal reported at that time, the warning was “one of the first instances of a security company acknowledging the U.S. government may have been involved in propping open a backdoor into a product.”

RSA comes out swinging, denies taking NSA’s $10m to backdoor its crypto – In a strongly worded blog post today, RSA said “we categorically deny [the] allegation” that it secretly knew Dual EC DRBG was “flawed”, and goes on to offer four reasons for its choice of random number generator.

US changes its mind, tells FISA Court it’s cool to publish metadata rulings – Late Friday, the Associated Press reported that the White House has now dropped its objections to the release of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s (FISA Court, or FISC) opinion authorizing the bulk collection of phone metadata from American telecommunications companies. Citing an as-yet unpublished filing with the court, the AP said that the Justice Department now has no objection to the court releasing redacted versions of its opinion, omitting classified data.

Obama says Snowden’s actions have “done unnecessary damage” – In his final press conference of the year, President Barack Obama told reporters on Friday that despite the fact that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosures have accelerated the national debate about national security and civil liberties, he has caused “unnecessary damage.”

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 20, 2013

The Best FREE Antivirus for 2013;  What To Expect After the Target Card Data Breach;  50 Apps That Can Make You More Productive;  Complete guide to making the most of Android;  Rated XXX: 10 Adult Toys for Xmas;  Protect your Android device from malware;  The best 15 games of 2013;  The most disappointing games of 2013;  The 5 Worst Tech Purchases;  Turning old photos into new calendars;  NSA? It’s Facebook that’s watching you.

The Best Free Antivirus for 2013 – Not using antivirus protection isn’t just a personal choice, as your unprotected computer could be used as part of a botnet or DDoS attack. There are plenty of free antivirus tools, some quite good, so protect all of your computers now.

What To Expect After the Target Card Data Breach – Unfortunately, beyond being careful and frequently checking your banking and credit card statements for suspicious transactions, there really is not much consumers can do. The vigilance needs to last beyond this month and January, though, as the impact of this theft will be felt for months, if not years, experts warned. There may also be phone and email-based scams on the way taking advantage of the breach.

Protect your Android device from malware – Mobile malware is on the rise and your device could be at risk. These tips could help you stay safe and keep your personal information out of the hands of cybercriminals.

Forget the NSA: Orwell’s 1984 is alive and well in private industry – State-sponsored surveillance and repression should not be your concern. Social networks, providers and employers you trust to safeguard your data and livelihood is what worries me most.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to share Internet service with your neighbors, and why you shouldn’t – You can do this, and depending on your homes’ geography, it might even be relatively easy. I’m going to tell you how to do it, but I’m also going to tell you why you probably shouldn’t.

Android power! Your complete guide to making the most of Android – In the sections below, you’ll find some of the most noteworthy tips, tricks, and advice I’ve shared via Android Power and other related publications over the past months. Jump to the section that best suits your needs this holiday season, and get ready to have a fun and productivity-filled end to 2013.

Microsoft releases ‘Project Siena’ and you should probably take notice – Microsoft has released a new app called Project Sienna and it’s about to become a staple app for Microsoft. The reason why this app is important to Microsoft’s mission is that it allows you to create apps, within the app, that can easily be published to the Microsoft Store and can be done so, for free. Here is how it works, you download Project Siena and when you open it up, with a little bit of know-how (and we stress little, here) you can create a new app in minutes.

50 Apps That Can Make You More Productive – Get the most out of yourself and your time with these productivity and efficiency apps for mobile devices, desktop computers, and the Web.

BitTorrent serverless chat replaces usernames with crypto keys – BitTorrent, Inc. is developing a serverless instant messaging system that relies on public key encryption to protect the privacy of communications, identifying users not with traditional usernames but with cryptographic key pairs. The company, which develops the BitTorrent peer-to-peer protocol as well as the BitTorrent and μTorrent file sharing software, announced the forthcoming chat software in September and revealed some details on how it will work in a blog post today.

The ‘Awww’ factor: Turning old photos into new calendars – It’s the gift that fits everyone, especially sentimental types. We take you step-by-step, from digging out the albums to scanning and uploading the images.

Twerking and Side-Eyeing: 2013’s Best Memes – America’s attention span is as short as our waistbands are wide, which is why memes are a perfect pastime. The viral little buggers are built out of any easily mocked photo or video, captioned with a snarky phrase, and sent off on their merry way to be recycled all over social media.

Awesome stocking stuffers for your new iPhone – Accessories make great companion gifts that are not only thoughtful, but are super useful to boot. Here are a few handy accessories to make that new iPhone even more awesome. In fact, they’re so handy that they’ll fit perfectly inside that stocking hanging from your fireplace mantle.

Rated XXX: 10 Adult Toys for Xmas – We’ve tried to keep the following slides classy, but one person’s class is another person’s crass, so don’t view these at work, on the train/plane/bus, or with the bedroom door open. Click on to see the latest and greatest combinations that can make for a rousing time in the digital boudoir.

The 5 Worst Tech Purchases – Arm yourself with the knowledge to avoid tech duds the next time a salesperson pushes a receipt-padding purchase — you’ll know when to walk away. With that in mind, here are five of the worst tech purchases you can make today and why you should avoid them.

Essential tools for building, repairing, and upgrading PCs (and other electronic devices) – Every system builder needs a number of tools to complete any PC build or upgrade with the efficiency and precision of a surgeon. Some of the tools will be obvious, others less so.

Security:

Target hack confirmed: 40m cards potentially hit – Target has confirmed a credit and debit card hack potentially affecting up to 40m customers shopping in its US stores, with the stolen data including everything thieves could need to make fraudulent purchases. The hack, rumored earlier today, impacts any shoppers at Target’s stores between November 27th and December 15th this year the retailer says, as it kicks off an investigation into the breach.

Bitcoin-only poker site resets user credentials after 42,000 passwords leak – An online poker service that deals solely in Bitcoin has issued a mandatory password reset one day after someone published login credentials for more than 42,000 enthusiasts of the card game and digital currency.

Cryptolocker malware masterminds make around $30 million in ransom in 100 days – Think crime doesn’t pay? Tell that to the crooks behind the Cryptolocker malware. In just over 100 days, they’ve already managed to rake in somewhere around $30 million dollars. That’s according to numbers from Dell Secureworks, and their researchers think they’re being pretty conservative. The estimate is based on the assumption that just 0.4% of Cryptolocker victims have paid up

Target and 10 Other Major Hacks in 2013 – There were no shortages of Internet scams in 2013; check out 10 that made headlines.

Listen up: RSA keys snatched by recording CPU sounds with a phone – The co-inventor of the RSA algorithm has designed a scarily ingenious way of deciphering the unique sounds a CPU makes as it crunches RSA-encrypted content to extract the keys.

Company News:

Spain fines Google maximum amount for breaking data law over merged privacy policy – Spanish privacy watchdog said the merging of its 70 privacy policies into one broke the country’s law. But the fine amounts to nothing for Google, which can make it back in minutes.

Microsoft: 83 stores now open – Microsoft has offered an update on its retail store business, stating it opened 35 more locations in 2013, bringing the total number of stores to 83, with more on the way.

Instagram Says First Ad Results Are “Promising” With Recall Up 32%, Shows It Wants TV Brand Dollars – Instagram may prove a valuable platform for advertisers. Instagram released its first results on ads since they began appearing November 1st. Brands saw average ad recall up 32% while brand message awareness was up 10% across four campaigns, with Levi’s reaching 7.4 million US 18-34 year olds in 9 days while Ben & Jerry’s reached 9.8 million US 18-35 year olds in 8 days.

WhatsApp Now Has 400 Million Active Users – Popular messaging application WhatsApp on Thursday announced it now has 400 million monthly active users, a milestone it says no other mobile messaging service has reached.

Spotify’s mobile users skyrocket since free streaming launch – The music streaming service’s listener base is growing — four times as many people are downloading the mobile app than a week ago.

Former Microsoft exec charged with insider trading – Brian Jorgenson, who worked in Microsoft’s corporate finance and investments division, and friend Sean T. Stokke made $393,125 in total through the scheme, the SEC says; meanwhile, a parallel criminal action by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington has also been announced.

Games and Entertainment:

The best 15 games of 2013 – Video CNET gaming expert Jeff Bakalar rounds up his picks for the best 15 games of the year.

The most disappointing games of 2013 – Not every game is worth the price of admission. Find out which were the most disappointing games of 2013.

Infographic: A Who’s Who of Next Gen Publishing – The average U.S. household owns at least one dedicated game console, PC, or smartphone.

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood coming to Xbox One Friday – It looks like Xbox One owners will get an extra game to download and play before the end of the year. Today, Microsoft’s Larry Hryb revealed on Twitter that the 2D side-scroller game Max: The Curse of Brotherhood will be released for the console on Friday, December 20th. The game was previously targeted for launch in early 2014.

Cut the Rope 2 Drops Into Apple’s App Store – Developer ZeptoLab on Thursday gave iPhone and iPad gamers an early Christmas present, releasing Cut the Rope 2 exclusively in the Apple App Store for iOS devices. The $0.99 game features 120 levels of rope-cutting fun. It will be available as a free-to-play title on Android early next year, ZeptoLab said.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The History of Video Game Consoles: Part One – Everything you wanted to know about the video game consoles from your childhood. Check back for part two, which launches Thursday, December 26.

Web Design Industry Analysis: Professionals vs. Amateurs – The infographic below portrays the role of professionals vs. amateurs in the current web design market.

From donkeys to dongles: Google’s biggest hits and misses of 2013 – For every Chromebook Pixel or Auto-Awesomed Google+ GIF, there was a vaguely dystopian off-note involving government intrusions, a boondoggle at sea, or killer robots. With 2014 just around the corner, let’s take a look back at Google’s epic wins and monumental fails.

Robots of death, robots of love: The reality of android soldiers and why laws for robots are doomed to failure – A ban on smart robots on the battlefield might lay to rest our fear of Terminators, but our increasing use of robots is forcing us to ask difficult questions about the morality of technology.

Dvorak: The Hidden Agenda of Code.org – Supposedly coding is good for you and the initiative might actually get the young folks interested in computer science. I see it as a ploy to sell more computers to schools. For the most part, middle schoolers—and even high schoolers—do not need to be taking computer science classes. These kids can’t even balance a checkbook or write in cursive, and they don’t get out nearly enough as it is. What’s the point of teaching computer science when all they really want to do is go on Facebook and see what their friends are doing?

Collar uses Raspberry Pi to translate dog thoughts to human speech – Owners of pets and animal lovers everywhere talk to pets on a regular basis, and with certain animals — such as dogs — we can generally gauge how the animal responds. Dogs are the most emotive and responsive pet, but it would often be great to know exactly what is going on inside their adorable heads. ST, the research lab behind a crowdfunded rocking chair that charges your tablet as you rock, is now crowdfunding a collar that claims to translate a dog’s thoughts into human speech.

Bill Gates Reddit Secret Santa gift brings Cow-joy to one lucky recipient – Tis the season for giving, but for the one Reddit user so lucky as to be on the receiving end of a Secret Santa gift exchange with Bill Gates, it’s a really, really good year to be getting. This particular gift exchange is one done all around the world, but in this case set inside the United States, with user NY1227 getting another (unknown) person to send a gift to. Lucky her, a 7-pound gift full of packing peanuts was on her way early this week.

Gotcha! FBI launches new biometric systems to nail criminals – By adding palm print, face and iris image search capabilities, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) hopes to improve the accuracy of identity searches, make it easier to positively identify and track criminals as they move through the criminal justice system and provide a wider range of tools for crime scene investigators.

Something to think about:

“Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.”

–      Samuel Johnson

Today’s Free Downloads:

Microsoft Disk2vhd 2.0 – Disk2vhd is a utility that creates VHD (Virtual Hard Disk – Microsoft’s Virtual Machine disk format) versions of physical disks for use in Microsoft Virtual PC or Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines (VMs). The difference between Disk2vhd and other physical-to-virtual tools is that you can run Disk2vhd on a system that’s online. Disk2vhd uses Windows’ Volume Snapshot capability, introduced in Windows XP, to create consistent point-in-time snapshots of the volumes you want to include in a conversion. You can even have Disk2vhd create the VHDs on local volumes, even ones being converted (though performance is better when the VHD is on a disk different than ones being converted).

Microsoft Sysinternals Suite December 19, 2013 – The Sysinternals Troubleshooting Utilities have been packaged into a single Suite of tools. This file contains the individual troubleshooting tools and help files. It does not contain non-troubleshooting tools like the BSOD Screen Saver or NotMyFault.

CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor 10.0 – The CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor is a full-featured web design system. With built-in FTP uploading, wizards for tables, frames, fonts, and more, support for HTML5 and CSS3, and 100% valid code output, it’s a great tool for anyone who wants to design their own website.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Looks like NSA spying just cost Boeing $4.5 billion worth of fighter jets – Brazil needs to replace its fighter jet fleet and has been negotiating a contract to do so for over a decade. Boeing was the company expected to win the contract, but apparently that all changed with the NSA revelations. After that, and according to a Brazilian government source, Boeing didn’t have a chance because the trust had gone as they were an American company. The contract was instead awarded to Swedish company Saab who will supply 36 Gripen NG fighter jets to Brazil, which are set to be delivered by 2020.

Google accuses governments of attempting search censorship – Google has released its eighth transparency report, its public disclosure of how much content governments request be removed from the search giant’s database. 3,846 government requests were filed between january and june 2013, google says, covering a total of 24,737 items of content. That, Google legal director Susan Infantino wrote today, is a 68-percent increase over the preceding six months. As Infantino points out, it’s a sign of a “worrying trend” that remains.

Verizon to disclose government requests for customer data – Verizon Communications says it’s making an effort to offer more information to the public about how many requests it receives from law enforcement for customer data.

NSA reform panel: Foreigners actually have privacy rights, too! – One doesn’t have to wade deeply into the murky waters of surveillance policy to find people who have no problem with broad-based spying on foreigners’ phone calls and e-mails. Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago, for example, argues that we should only curtail such spying on foreign citizens—and even on friendly foreign leaders—if their countries can “offer us something in return for that protection.” Surveillance is just one more bargaining chip to be used between countries; since we can perform surveillance better than many other nation-states, unilaterally curtailing it would make us “suckers.”

NSA should stop undermining encryption standards, Obama panel says – A presidential advisory committee today recommended that the US government stop any efforts to undermine encryption standards or attack commercial software. The panel’s report (full text at Whitehouse.gov) comes in response to the National Security Agency leaks of Edward Snowden and makes 46 recommendations.

Gov’t review panel suggests NSA stop holding massive phone database – The panel set up by President Barack Obama to review widespread National Security Agency surveillance has produced a report in remarkably short order, and it contains a surprising suggestion: the NSA should stop collecting its massive trove of telephone data. Instead, the data should be kept by a third party, possibly the telephone companies, suggests the report from the five-person Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies.

The National Security Agency’s oversharing problem – In the days after the attacks on September 11, 2001, the National Security Agency underwent a transformation from an organization that operated on a “need to know” basis to a “need to share” culture. In the process, the agency threw out many of the procedures and controls that might have stopped Edward Snowden from walking out the door with thousands of secret documents.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 19, 2013

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 19, 2013

Target investigating massive data breach;  MacBook webcams can be used to spy;  Google’s Minute-By-Minute Map Of Your Life;  What’s the greatest security risk?  Stalk Your Partner On Mobile And Desktop;  Share and collaborate via SkyDrive;  Prep your smartphone for sale;  Hands-on with SteamOS;  Millions For Selling Your Information To Police;  How bad Facebook makes you feel;  Most buzzed-about gadgets on Earth.

Google’s Location History Browser Is A Minute-By-Minute Map Of Your Life – Quick! Where were you last Tuesday at 6:35 PM? If you’re anything like me, your answer is probably along the lines of “I… have absolutely no idea.” Most people’s brains just don’t work that way. But odds are, Google knows. They probably know where you’ve been most other days, too. And they’ll happily show you.

Facebook Can See What You Type Even If You Don’t Publish It – A study on self-censorship online showed that Facebook can track any post longer than 5 characters typed into the online social network, even if the user never publishes the post, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Prep your smartphone for sale with this handy game plan – Today’s cell phones are more than powerful communication tools. They serve as vaults for all kinds of precious digital entertainment and sensitive personal data, the sort you don’t want disappearing or falling into the wrong hands.

Phone Companies Got Millions For Selling Your Information To Police – Earlier this year, Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey requested that the American telecom providers answer a series of questions about the information they provided to law enforcement. These included everything from wire taps to controversial “cell-tower dumps.” What may surprise you is that the telecoms often charge investigators fees for that information—which amounted to well over $26,594,000 in 2012. But what that number really means is actually far more complicated.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Hands-on with SteamOS beta: It’s a bumpy ride – It’s not going to replace your Windows installation anytime soon.

Antivirus Testing Lab Wants to Know What’s Important to You – When you’re choosing an antivirus or security suite, what do you look for? What’s important to you? Does ease of use and minimal interaction top your list? Or are you the type who wants a ton of features? This year’s survey from Austrian lab AV-Comparatives aims to find out just what users want, in order to keep the lab’s testing methods relevant.

CNET 100: Most buzzed-about gadgets on Earth – We built a one-of-its-kind algorithm that tracks tech’s hottest products. The results are in — and they are unexpected.

Couple App Now Lets You Stalk Your Partner On Mobile And Desktop – Fans of monogamy should get excited. Couple, the social network for two, has just launched a relatively major update that integrates location data in a totally new way, making sure you can always keep tabs on your partner. And if tracking your sweetie via mobile just isn’t enough control, Couple is also launching a web app for the very first time, enabling users to check out their moments and chat on the desktop.

SEO 101: How search engine optimization really works – Learn some Google recommended techniques to improve your company’s ranking in Google Search results.

Microsoft pulls December Surface Pro 2 firmware update – Microsoft has now pulled the automatic firmware update for the Surface Pro 2 tablet released earlier in December due to increasing reports of errors from many users.

Frustrated users complain about SkyDrive problems after Windows 8.1 update – Frustrated users have started more than 120 unique discussion threads on the SkyDrive section of Microsoft’s Community site. There are other threads dealing with this topic in other sections of the site, and in third-party discussion forums. Most of the threads on the company’s Community site are active, and few have received a satisfying answer from Microsoft forum moderators.

Twitter to launch vanity URLs for Vine users’ profiles on Dec. 20 – Holders of verified Twitter accounts can register for URLs beginning Friday, while nonverified accounts will have to wait until December 23.

Share and collaborate via SkyDrive using this road map – Inviting others to view and collaborate on Microsoft Office documents grows easier with each new version. Thanks to SkyDrive, almost all Office users now have sharing and collaborative abilities.

Lucidpress review: Free beta makes typesetting simple, accessible, and fun – Lucidpress shows where the future of desktop publishing is headed, making it fun and accessible along the way.

IE11 virtual machines now available on modern.ie – Microsoft has announced it has made virtual machines for both the Windows 7 and 8.1 versions of Internet Explorer 11 available on its modern.IE website, along with updates to other virtual machines.

10 International Phone Makers You Should Know – Make sure you know these 10 names. None of them have a large U.S. presence yet, but they’re all making waves. Click through to see the latest products and find out more about Fairphone, Geeksphone, Kazam, Jolla, Meizu, Micromax, OnePlus, Oppo, Xiaomi and Yota.

Security:

Target investigating massive data breach – The shopping giant is reportedly looking into a Black Friday data breach that affects the in-store records of millions of credit and debit card transactions.

Effective new Trojan skims card info from widely used ATMs – Researchers from Doctor Web have managed to get their hands on a Trojan aimed at recording and collecting card information from one of the most widespread ATM machine types. Unfortunately, they didn’t say which one.

Beware: MacBook webcams can be used to covertly spy on people – When Miss Teen USA was remotely spied on via the built-in iSight camera on her laptop, the warning light indicating the camera was in use was never triggered.

Remote webcam activation without warning light confirmed: Johns Hopkins – Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have positively confirmed the long-discussed ability of government entities and private parties to remotely activate a webcam without the warning light turning on. While this privacy vulnerability has already been anecdotally admitted by a variety of sources, this research is the first time it has been proven by an established public-facing organization.

Harvard bomb hoaxer used Tor, got caught anyway – Eldo Kim, Harvard student, wanted to get out of a final exam so he sent in a bomb threat using Tor to disguise his location and identity. Tor’s not magic and the FBI caught him anyway.

Hackers hit Washington Post for second time in three years – Although the extent of the data lost was not immediately clear and passwords are stored in encrypted form, the company was recommending that all of its employees change their usernames and passwords.

What’s the greatest security risk? – Endpoint security threats have become more difficult to stop or mitigate in the last two years, say 71 percent of the 676 IT and IT security professionals responding to the study. Topping the list of this year’s greatest risks is mobile devices.

Company News:

Federal judge warns Facebook, ‘dozens’ of banks will face IPO lawsuit – A federal judge says Facebook investors can pursue a lawsuit because the social network concealed information on its IPO filing.

EA sued for misleading investors about Battlefield 4 – Electronic Arts has been sued by an investor over the release of bug-ridden Battlefield 4 for the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 and giving false data to increase the price of the shares of the company.

Intel signs tech partnership for 49ers’ Silicon Valley stadium – The team will work to include Intel-based gear at Levi’s Stadium, and Intel will show off products there.

BBM To Come Preinstalled On LG Smartphones – BlackBerry is keeping the hope alive with a partnership with LG. Announced today, the LG G Pro Lite will ship with BBM already installed on the smartphone. This comes two months after BBM’s Android and iOS launch. It quickly found footing, and following its launch, raked in 10M downloads in a day.

Games and Entertainment:

The 15 best video games of 2013 – Sure, 2013 was a standout year for blockbuster titles, but it was also the stage for a smattering of independent games and their small development teams. So which titles made this year’s list? Check out the gallery for the top 15.

GTA Online Capture update available, adds 4 gameplay modes and 20 new jobs – Rockstar has rolled out the latest free update to Grand Theft Auto Online today, and it brings with it the classic gameplay of capture the flag. The update is fittingly called Capture, and adds four new gameplay modes and twenty new jobs to the GTA Online experience.

Original Tomb Raider game makes 99-cent iOS debut – Now, you can play the original Tomb Raider on your iOS device. The app debuted late Tuesday for the surprisingly low price of 99 cents.

Nintendo announces Zelda and Dynasty Warriors mashup – Nintendo showed off some of its major upcoming titles during Nintendo Direct this morning — your standard fare Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, and so on – but the strangest and perhaps most appealing is a Legend of Zelda mashup with Tecmo Koei’s Dynasty Warriors.

Twitter’s origin story heads to the small screen – “Hatching Twitter” seemed destined for Hollywood, but the Twitter tale is being turned into a TV series instead of a movie.

Off Topic (Sort of):

$1,000 bounty offered for fingerprints of a global spy chief – privacy campaigner simon davies is offering a $1,000 bounty for the capture of the dna and fingerprints of spy chiefs. The 21st century treasure hunt offers a $1,000 cash windfall for anyone who supplies the Privacy Surgeon site run by Davies with an item – such as a drinking glass – with the DNA and fingerprints of any senior intelligence official of the “Five Eyes” alliance of spy agencies (made up from the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ as well as the signals intelligence agencies of Australia, Canada and New Zealand).

Facebook Misery Index: Quantifying exactly how bad Facebook makes you feel – In January, a study published by Berlin’s Humboldt University reported that Facebook makes us envious. In August, a University of Michigan study told us that Facebook makes many young people depressed. Have you had similar reactions? Compare your own Facebook experience to the sample index below, and ask yourself if Facebook is, on balance, a good thing or a bad habit.

Delta puts the kibosh on in-flight cell phone calls – Even though the FCC is moving forward on lifting the ban on phone calls while in flight, Delta’s CEO says his airline still won’t allow it.

Low Latency’s comic take on 10 big stories of 2013 – Crave’s comic by Blake Stevenson and Jeff Bakalar has a laugh at the expense of some of the year’s top tech stories, from the end of Google Reader to the kickoff of next-gen consoles.

Turn Your Smartphone Into A Caroling Karaoke Machine With This Google Easter Egg – Using any mobile browser, type “let’s go caroling” into Google. And just like that, your phone will turn into a Christmas Carol karaoke machine with the words and music of five classic holiday songs. It’s the perfect way to annoy your cubemates during this wonderfully obnoxious holiday season. This little Easter egg is browser agnostic. It works in every browser we tried.

Full-scale, driveable Lego car – Chances are good that you’ve built a car or two out of Lego bricks before, but you’ve never built anything like this. Romanian genius builder Raul Oaida constructed an actual car that you can really drive. Well, not you per se, but it can be driven. Raul’s cautious test run in Melbourne only pushed the Lego hot rod up to around 20km/h. The crew wanted to keep speeds low to prevent any structural integrity issues.

Something to think about:

The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.”

–    Henry L. Stimson

Today’s Free Downloads:

NetGear Genie – NetGear Genie is a dashboard to manage, monitor and repair your network. With it you can remotely control all media in your home from your smartphone/tablet with MyMedia, print on any printer from your iPad or iPhone with AirPrint, view all the devices on your network and more…. Now with EZ Mobile Connect securely connect smartphones and tablets to your home wireless network with the scan of a QR code.

LibreOffice Productivity Suite 4.1.4 Final – LibreOffice was developed to be a productivity suite that is compatible with other major office suites, and available on a variety of platforms. It is free software and therefore free to download, use and distribute.

VirtualBox 4.3.6 – VirtualBox is a general-purpose full virtualizer for x86 hardware. Targeted at server, desktop and embedded use, it is now the only professional-quality virtualization solution that is also Open Source Software.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA leaks mean Germans no longer trust their own government’s online services – The study by the Institute for Public Information Management found that 67 percent of those surveyed in Germany said that “lack of data security” directly discouraged their use of e-government services, such as filing their tax returns online. This represents a sharp increase from last year, when only four percent of respondents in the country had the same concern. The study’s authors cite an increasing awareness of NSA surveillance as a prime reason for the shift.

‘Pardon Snowden,’ one tech exec tells Obama, report says – At a meeting between Obama and the leaders of major technology companies, Zynga founder Mark Pincus is said to have asked the president to pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

United Nations signs off on ‘right to privacy in the digital age’ – The United Nations (UN) has unanimously voted to adopt a resolution calling for online privacy to be recognised as a human right. The gesture is politically notable because it shows the world is willing to be seen to do something in the wake of The Year Of Snowden. The resolution extends the general human right of privacy to the online world and clearly takes aim at the USA for its recently-revealed activities in clause 4, which “Calls upon all States” to perform the following actions.

More details revealed on how Microsoft’s services will improve their encryption – Earlier this month, Microsoft announced plans to improve the encryption of data generated by its online services such as Outlook.com, SkyDrive and others. Those efforts were revealed after a new wave of leaked National Security Agency documents seemed to suggest that the U.S. spy organization was intercepting that data from Microsoft and other online companies like Google and Yahoo. Today, Wired offered some more details on how Microsoft plans to thwart groups like the NSA from taking and reading their data.

Jettison NSA phone database, panel tells Obama – A report from the White House surveillance review board released Wednesday recommends the US National Security Agency end its bulk collection of Americans’ phone records and be subjected to more rigorous scrutiny before any operation to spy on foreign leaders. Those are just two of the key points of the 46 recommendations detailed in the more than 300-page report from the five-member Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies.

White House to release report on surveillance reform efforts: Don’t expect much to change – The White House on Wednesday will release an outside report into the U.S.’ mass spying efforts with recommendations for change. But they will be just that: recommendations.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 18, 2013

Windows’ secret GodMode;  The 50 best tech products of 2013;  Two  months of Skype group calling – free;  Block Facebook’s Annoying New Autoplay Video;  Microsoft trims prices on Xbox 360 games;  How to migrate your free SugarSync account;  Free NAPS2 makes documents scans easier;  SHUT UP on the plane!  Chromebook 11 chargers recalled;  India to launch ‘Netra’ for online surveillance;  PC Browsing Loses to App-Happy Mobile Users.

Easily find far-flung customization options with Windows’ secret GodMode – Like putting a personal touch on your PCs? Enter GodMode—a handy, hidden folder well-known to IT pros who want to quickly get at a wide range of customization options on the desktop, but one few everyday users know about. Whether you want to adjust your monitor’s resolution, tweak your folder options, or customize your taskbar’s notification area, it’s all a single click away in GodMode.

Microsoft is giving away 12 months of Skype group calling and other features for free – Microsoft is running a new promotion called the ‘Skype Collaboration Project’ that is allowing Skype users to make free group calls, free group screen sharing, no advertising and access to live customer support, for free. All of these features are typically reserved for premium account holders but you can get them free for 12 months by hitting the link at the bottom of this post.

How to migrate your free SugarSync account to another service – Now that SugarSync’s freebie accounts are going away, you’ll need a new home for your cloud-stored stuff. Here’s how to make the move.

Ed Bott: The case against Gmail – Gmail was a breath of fresh air when it debuted. But this onetime alternative is showing signs that it’s past its prime, especially if you want to use the service with a third-party client. That’s the way Google wants it, which is why I’ve given up on Gmail after almost a decade.

20 great apps for your new iOS device (pictures) – If you’re one of the lucky people to receive a new iOS device over the holidays, I have put together a great collection of iOS apps to get you started.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Grading the Big Four: How did your wireless carrier rate in 2013? – The big wireless carriers have few qualms about charging customers for sending and receiving texts, despite the fact that providing the service costs them virtually nothing. Though the carriers clearly have no respect for their customers, they do have to compete for our business. So let’s take a look back at 2013 to see which companies made things a little bit easier for consumers and which introduced unnecessary annoyances into our lives.

The 50 best tech products of 2013 – Notebooks, tablets, and other mobile devices feature prominently in this year’s list, along with a fair number of peripherals and gadgets designed to make you more productive. But since all work and no play would render us all dull, we’ve also included a handful of tech toys, entertainment devices, and games as well. Read through the list and see which of your favorites made the cut.

YouTube Launches on Roku 3 – It’s a Christmas miracle: YouTube is finally streaming on the Roku 3. Users in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Republic of Ireland can now watch their favorite viral videos on the latest-generation set-top box.

How to Block Facebook’s Annoying New Autoplay Video Ads – Before I tell you how to block Facebook‘s new autoplay video ads, a word about autoplay video ads: they’re a bad idea. They are not the price you should have to pay to keep using a service without opening your wallet. And they certainly shouldn’t be foisted on people only after a company’s signed up subscribers in the gazillions. That’s called bait-and-switch: using “free” as the lure, then pulling the rug out after everyone’s good and snookered to fulfill investor fantasies.

Free NAPS2 makes documents scans easier – Scanning documents in Windows doesn’t have to entail extra steps or extra cost. NAPS2 is an old-school tool that keeps things as simple, free, and open-source as can be.

Apple’s tearjerker holiday ad: Self-absorbed teens care after all – You’re familiar with the iPhone. It’s the one that everyone carries around in order to take pictures of everything they see. All the time. Without cessation. A new ad for the holidays shows the Harris family getting together. You know the Harrises. They live somewhere cold and the wife had that fling with the famous fiction writer.

Google and HP recall all Chromebook 11 chargers after overheating reports – In November, HP and Google suddenly stopped selling their $279 Chromebook 11 notebook, and urged current owners to ditch the charger included with the laptop in favor of other micro-USB chargers. Today, the companies issued a formal recall of all of the Chromebook 11 chargers via the US Consumer Product and Safety Commission along with a more detailed explanation on the reasons behind the decision.

SHUT UP on the plane! But DOT may save us from FCC cellphone rule – The Federal Communications Commission proposes a new rule, permitting cellphones in the air. Unsurprisingly, many are unhappy about the prospect of sitting next to a loud yapper for hours. However, help could be at hand, in the form of the Department Of Transportation. It may prohibit voice calls, for being unfair to consumers. In IT Blogwatch, frequent bloggers whip out their gold cards and head to the lounge. Then they pre-board and fill up all the overhead bins.

How to switch to Outlook.com using the new Gmail import tool – Switching e-mail providers can be a point of consternation for some people. Outlook.com now has an import tool to make switching from Gmail a worry-free task.

Geeky holiday gifts for people you secretly hate – It’s better not to give gifts to people we don’t like. But sometimes we’re forced into it, for familial or political or public relations reasons. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with gift-giving shenanigans. Here are some of our best ideas for special gifts that say, “Merry Christmas #%!$-hole.”

Christmas 2013 online shopping deadlines – There’s still time to get those last-minute tech gifts delivered to you by Christmas, but the cutoff dates are coming up fast.

Security:

Android antivirus apps CAN’T kill nasties on sight like normal AV – and that’s Google’s fault – Android users expecting Windows levels of performance from Android-specific antivirus packages are likely to be disappointed because only Google can automatically delete dodgy apps on Android devices, say malware experts. Anti-malware bods agree that antivirus programs on Android can’t remove viruses automatically, meaning that the process needs to be carried out manually by the user in each and every case.

How do I remove myself from a machine? – The scenario looks like this: you’re ending a long and successful relationship with your employer (or maybe a not so long or successful one). But while you were there, you were allowed to make use of your assigned computer to do things like check your personal email, use an instant messaging client, check in on Facebook, and maybe even surf the web occasionally for non-work related things. Now on your way out the door, you’d like to make sure that your personal account information isn’t left behind. And perhaps clean up a few other traces of your activities as well.

If you think just because you use different passwords for different services you’re safe, think again – Adding numbers, reversing or using ‘l33t speak’ to differentiate passwords on different accounts does avoid password re-use, but it’s an ineffective way of adding security to online accounts. New research shows there’s a high chance non-identical passwords only deviate slightly from one account to another — and they were probably created using one of seven transformation rules that can be modelled to aid an online password attack.

Malwarebytes 2013 Threat Report – The past year turned out to be an interesting introduction into the new types of threats users are facing as well as what they will continue to face, at greater levels, in the coming years.

Vietnam, China and India gamers among most prone to cyberattacks – The number of attacks could spike as millions are expected to receive games as presents in the holiday season, especially with the launch of newer consoles like PlayStation and Xbox, says Kaspersky Lab.

No anon pr0n for you: BT’s network-level ‘smut’ filters will catch proxy servers too – BT’s new network-level nudie no-no filter system will block access to sites promoting proxies and anonymisers, The Register has learned. However, the one-time national telco has insisted that it won’t choke VPN connections over its network now that its Parental Controls service, using DNS lookup technology, is in place.

Telepathwords: A New Password Strength Estimator – Telepathwords is a pretty clever research project that tries to evaluate password strength. It’s different from normal strength meters, and I think better. Telepathwords tries to predict the next character of your passwords by using knowledge of: common passwords, such as those made public as a result of security breaches – common phrases, such as those that appear frequently on web pages or in common search queries – common password-selection behaviors, such as the use of sequences of adjacent keys.

India to launch ‘Netra’ for online surveillance of keywords – In another measure against possible terrorist attacks, the Indian government is launching an Internet spy system capable of detecting words in a matter of seconds across social media and online messages.

Company News:

Yahoo, NBC extend digital pact to 2014 Winter Olympics – In addition to live steams and highlights, the two will partner on digital segments of news and analysis.

Microsoft: CEO to be selected in early 2014 – Microsoft has stated that they will not be naming a new CEO in 2013, defying speculation that the board wanted to make the announcement before the end of the year. The announcement came via a post on the official Microsoft blog by John W. Thompson, a member of Microsoft’s board of directors.

Australia rebukes Apple for ‘false or misleading representations’ – Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has slapped Apple and extracted an “enforceable undertaking” from the company that will result in fines – or worse – if the company continues to ignore its own warranty and return polices. At issue are Apple’s 12 month warranty and 14 day return policies, which weren’t being applied consistently or were applied in ways that breach the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), the antipodean code describing how business has to deal with its customers.

Facebook tries to tackle the news with SportStream buy – The social network touches down with a purchase designed to bring real-time sports insights to media partners.

Motorola fails to reverse Microsoft’s patent litigation victory in the US – Motorola has failed to get a reversal on the import ban imposed on certain Android devices after losing a patent lawsuit against Microsoft last year. According to the opinion published by the court, “both the judge and Commission found no clear and convincing evidence of any synchronization component in the Apple Newton MessagePad, regardless of whether that component actively managed synchronization or simply facilitated it.”

Sprint and DISH Network Cut the Broadband Cord – Sprint and DISH Network announced this week that they are forging a groundbreaking partnership.

Games and Entertainment:

Candy Crush Saga tops iTunes app download list for 2013 – The puzzle game tops download charts for the year, while Beyonce’s week-old release skyrockets to No. 2 best-selling album.

Xbox 360 users rejoice: Microsoft hasn’t abandoned you – Microsoft appears to be keeping scares at bay. What the company is doing instead is reassuring the public that they’ll be continuing to push not only support for the thousands and thousands of Xbox 360 users in the world today, they’ll be unveiling new projects in the near future. This begins with the 2014 Xbox 360 game countdown.

Star Wars: Attack Squadrons game enters closed beta early 2014 – There’s a new free-to-play Star Wars game coming to a system near you. It’s a classic dogfighting game based on classic Star Wars fighter vessels like X-wings, TIE fighters and, if the teaser trailer is to be believed, the Millennium Falcon. The game is entering a closed beta selection process right this instant; you can sign up at the Star Wars: Attack Squadrons site.

Microsoft trims year-end prices on Xbox 360 games – The Countdown to 2014 promotion discounts downloadable games with a new deal every day until the new year rings in.

Build your own starship with new ‘Star Wars’ combat game – Disney Interactive’s upcoming multiplayer game, Star Wars: Attack Squadrons, will soon hit the Internet. Fans can sign up to test it out.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Cornell researchers print 3D audio speaker – Researchers at Cornell University have successfully fabricated a working loudspeaker using a 3D printer. The speaker’s plastic body, conductive coil, and magnet were all printed using a “Fab@Homes” printer at the university. and the speaker was almost ready for use as soon as printing was finished, the university said.

Cabela’s ColorPhase temperature sensitive color changing camouflage matches the season – If you are an avid hunter or if you just like to wear camo clothing, you will be familiar with the name Cabela’s. The company makes all sorts of camouflage clothing and other accessories for hunting and outdoors. Cabela’s has announced a very cool new line of camo clothing called ColorPhase that will save hunters some money.

Tiny Houses Filled With Rage: Spite Houses, Ranked by Spite-ness – A spite house is a house built for the express purpose of pissing someone else off. Personal comfort, adequate living space, and compliance with local zoning laws all come second to this all-important goal. Spite houses come in all shapes and sizes, but the best are absurdly small and very angry indeed. Here are a few of my favorites, ranked from least- to most-spiteful. (suggested by Michael F.)

The Napwell Knows When You Are Sleeping, Then Coaxes You Awake – Is this the year of the sleep mask? Napwell thinks so. The Boston-based company is creating a napping mask that allows you to grab some shut-eye and wake up gently as lights inside the mask slowly rouse you from your slumber.

PC Browsing Loses to App-Happy Mobile Users – Digital media isn’t getting any younger, but it is certainly getting more useful, according to Nielsen. The research firm on Monday highlighted some of the year’s biggest trends in Web and mobile usage. Most notably, computer-based Web activity has declined among all of the top 10 U.S. sites, including Google, Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, and Wikipedia.

Woman falls into bay while browsing Facebook – A tourist in Melbourne, Australia, walks off a pier, because she’s far too busy looking at her news feed.

Get an inside look at a secure data center – What’s it really like inside a fortified colo? This virtual tour will give you an idea.

The Soloshot Is A Robotic Cameraman For Your Video Selfies – Sometimes you just need a robotic cameraman at your side and when you do, the Soloshot is the gadget for the task. Just set it up, strap on a wristband, turn on your video camera and go surf, bike or ski. As long as you’re within about 2,000 feet of the device, it will automatically track all of your movements and capture them for posterity (or your next YouTube hit).

Something to think about:

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

–     Martin Luther King Jr.

Today’s Free Downloads:

ImageUSB – ImageUSB is a free utility which lets you write an image concurrently to multiple USB Flash Drives.

WMP Tag Plus – Integrates seamlessly into Windows Media Player to provide library and tagging support for FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, WavPack, Monkey’s Audio, Musepack and MPEG-4.

Free MP3 Cutter and Editor – This is an extremely simple and handy Windows software for editing mp3 files.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA flashes BIOS for 60 Minutes (the plot thickens) – American TV news magazine 60 Minutes (NYSE:CBS) is once again in the news, for allegedly reporting the news. This time, there were no additional revelations of Amazon’s schemes to drop tchotchkes from buzzing drones. Instead, during an interview by CBS correspondent John Miller with NSA officials, we learned of a nefarious plot worthy of the best Cold War era spy novels. NSA brass spoke of a Chinese “BIOS Plot”, designed to “brick” all computers and crash the global economy. The supposed evil plan was foiled by the NSA, with the help of a few good computer companies.

Mass surveillance prompts work on SSL deployment guidelines – A new working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force will develop best practices for deploying and using SSL/TLS with several Internet communication protocols.

Snowden speech to EU parliament could torpedo U.S. trade talks – Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan who is chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told reporters at the European Parliament that his thoughts on Snowden were “not fit to print” and that it was “beneath the dignity” of the E.U. institution to invite him to speak. Rogers added that such a move would damage ongoing dialogue between the U.S. and the E.U. on issues such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). TTIP, which is currently being negotiated, is estimated to benefit the E.U. economy by €119 billion a year and the U.S. economy by $130.7 billion a year.

Tech industry presents unified privacy front to White House – A veritable pantheon of top-ranking emissaries from some of the largest and most powerful tech companies in the United States descended on the White House today to press the Obama administration to move aggressively on reforming the NSA’s nearly universal surveillance of US citizens and the world. Their message was clear: Stop the spy agency from forcibly or stealthily seizing and storing bulk data about their customers. The message comes during an ongoing firestorm of public opposition to the agency’s bulk data collection programs, ignited and continually stoked by the revelation of Edward Snowden’s cache of an estimated 1.7 million stolen NSA documents detailing its ongoing quest for data omniscience.

Court’s NSA ruling sets stage for contentious battle over surveillance – U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon’s ruling in a case challenging the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records sets up what’s likely to be a contentious legal battle to impose limits on government surveillance in the U.S.

Read Snowden’s Appeal For Political Asylum To Fight The NSA From Brazil – Notorious National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden wants to move to the land of sunny beaches and micro-bikinis. In an open letter in the Brazilian newspaper Floha de Sao Paulo, Snowden argues that “permanent political asylum” would enable him to help the Brazilian government investigate unwanted spying from foreign governments.

German coalition favors German-owned or open source software, aims to lock NSA out – The new coalition government promised Monday to support German software and take steps to protect European data from spying.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 17, 2013

Android App Sells Your WhatsApp Conversations;  Delete/disable Google location history;  Datawind releases $37.99 Android tablet in US;  12 creative uses for tablets;  Disney pulls streaming content of Christmas films;  Best smartphone for photographers?  Bruce Schneier to leave BT;  Fake VPN Site Serves Up Keylogger;  Amazon braces for strike;  13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do;  Federal Judge Rules NSA’s Program Likely Unconstitutional.

Android App Sells Your WhatsApp Conversations – Once the dangerous app is installed, said F-Secure, it uploads your WhatsApp conversations to another website where anyone with your phone number can purchase copies. The actual app to watch out for is called BalloonPop2. F-Secure and others report that it was available in Google Play for a time.

How to delete and disable your Google location history – Google can track your location and show you on Google Maps and Google Earth where you have been recently, which you may find useful, interesting, or invasive. Here’s how to see if you have location history turned on and how to disable it.

Datawind releases $37.99 Android tablet in US: A tablet originally released for education use in India makes its inexpensive way into the US market – The UbiSlate 7Ci anchors a lineup of tablets running Android 4.0. For the meager price tag, you get an 800×400-pixel 7-inch touch screen, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of flash memory, Wi-Fi, and a 1GHz processor. Those specs aren’t going to knock you off your couch, but it’s completely within the realm of reason for less than $40.

Hub Launches To Become The All-In-One Calendar And To-Do App For Your Family – Organization within families — or even within teams — has never been easy. Different people use different calendars and tools for to-do lists, which means that it’s tough to stay on the same page. Well there’s a new app called Hub that is designed to allow family members to share calendars and lists with one another.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Facebook is tracking what you don’t do on Facebook – Facebook is not shy about the information it collects on its users. Certain phrasings in its data use policy have indicated before that it may be collecting information about what doesn’t happen, like friend requests that are never accepted. Capturing the failures of Facebook interactions would, in theory, allow the company to figure out how to mitigate them and turn them into “successes.”

Make A Little You With Shapify.me – Arctec, makers of high-end 3D scanners for industrial clients, have added a little whimsy to your day with Shapify.me, a service that can scan and print your body in full color, allowing you to make a little mini me of your very own.

12 cool, creative uses for tablets – Use your tablet as a dSLR assistant, a car’s entertainment center, or an artistic canvas for you (or your cat). Here are some tablet duties you might not have thought of.

The Score lets you curate the perfect mobile sports feed – Letting you follow entire leagues down to individual players, The Score is essential for fantasy team owners.

How to archive files so they’ll stay around for years – People worry a lot about archiving digital files for long periods of time. The concern is legitimate. I wouldn’t go as far as the people who insist that burned CDs and DVDs (the kind you buy blank and write files to on your PC’s drive) last for only two to five years. But it is true that these burnable discs use unstable light-sensitive dyes, and will probably not be readable in 20 years. And if they are, will you still have optical drives for reading them? Or software that can read the files?

How to Create Your Own Google Street View Maps – Singular photographs are great tools for sharing a memory, but Google’s photo sphere technology does a little bit more to help recreate an experience.

Avoid Holiday Travel Boredom With These Apps – Whether you want to slim down the size but not the number of volumes in your library, lose yourself in front of a roaring (and puzzling) fireplace-based game, or visit a museum collection without waiting in line, we have you covered. For just a few dollars, and often even for free, you can download these amusing apps to accompany you on the road.

Closing the door on Windows: A guide to changing operating systems – If you’re going to invest money and time in making the transition to a new OS, you might as well consider all your options. Microsoft’s stranglehold on the desktop market has loosened over the past few years. Mac OS X, Linux, and even Chrome OS are sophisticated operating systems and are enjoying growing mainstream adoption. Here’s what to expect if you embrace one of these alternatives.

The “I got a Windows 8.1 machine for Christmas, now what do I do?” guide – With the holidays upon us, we know that many of our readers will likely find new hardware under the Christmas tree and if you are diving into Windows 8.1 for the first time, here is your new user guide.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX installment plan cripples your tablet if you don’t pay – If you’re in the market for a tablet this Christmas then this is a very cheap way of getting one quickly. However, if you miss a payment or stop paying completely, don’t expect that Kindle Fire to continue working properly.

Disney pulls streaming content of Christmas films in run up to holiday season – Disney Grinches-out and temporary restricts streaming access to Christmas films purchased on Amazon, which they apparently can just do.

Twitter may soon allow you to edit tweets: anonymous employees – Twitter is working on an edit feature. Meaning you could soon be able to edit your tweets — with some caveats. You won’t be able to write a tweet, publish it, wait a few hours, and then replace the content of the tweet with entirely different and unrelated content. Twitter is still working out the details of what you can and can’t do in edit mode, but the feature is on the horizon.

What’s the best smartphone for photographers? – Smartphones aren’t just for phone calls, or even texting or email. Now your smartphone doubles as a full-service camera, so which one is the best shooter these days? We compare several popular models to find out.

Security:

Security guru Bruce Schneier to leave employer BT: Nothing to do with criticising GCHQ and the NSA, insists telco – Noted security guru Bruce Schneier, who has spent a great deal of energy publicly analysing the Edward Snowden leaks into the activities of the NSA and allied spy agencies, is to leave UK telco BT. Our source suggested Schneier was shown the door as a result of his comments about the NSA and GCHQ’s global dragnet and mass surveillance activities. BT denies this, saying that the working relationship had come to its “natural end”.

Miner Madness! – How real malware tactics are being used to steal your system resources via miners.

Bogus AV program uses 12 stolen digital certificates to make the malware look legit – A fake antivirus program in circulation uses at least a dozen stolen digital code-signing certificates, indicating cybercriminals are increasingly breaching the networks of software developers, Microsoft wrote on Sunday. The application, branded as “Antivirus Security Pro,” was first detected in 2009 and has gone by a handful of other names over the years, according to a Microsoft advisory, which calls it by a single name, “Win32/Winwebsec.”

Fake VPN Site Serves Up Keylogger – VPN services have probably never been in more demand with the continued fallout of the Snowden / NSA revelations. They’re certainly handy things to have access to in terms of attempting to keep prying eyes out of your day-to-day business, and everybody should at least consider the ins and outs of jumping on board. That doesn’t mean you should let your guard down, however – sometimes trying to make yourself more secure can end up going horribly wrong, as we’re about to see.

How hackers made minced meat of Department of Energy networks – Hint: Some critical security patches not installed for years – The inspector general review recited a litany of failures that allowed hackers to penetrate system defenses. Chief among them is the fact that none of the 354 database tables containing social security numbers were encrypted. Using strong cryptography to protect such “at rest” PII has long been considered a best practice in government and corporate data security. The department’s management information system (MIS) that allowed access to the DOEInfo databases also failed to require common security enhancements, such as two-factor authentication or a department-issued virtual private network.

Company News:

Amazon braces for strike outside Seattle headquarters – Employees who have been striking in Germany plan to up their efforts by taking the fight to Amazon at its headquarters in Seattle.

Google fighting to move UK court battle to California – Google is embroiled in a legal row in the UK that the search giant insists shouldn’t be heard in front of UK courts. Rather, Google is arguing that the case over the search giant allegedly circumventing the privacy of some internet users in the UK should be heard in California where it is based. Google’s argument has led to the company being called “arrogant and immoral.”

Canada’s competition agency takes Google to court in antitrust investigation – The company has again come under fire for its search and advertising business practises. The Canadian Commissioner of Competition believes Google has abused its dominant search position and in an ongoing investigation has filed a document with the Federal Court of Canada demanding more information on the company’s practices.

Ivytalk Mobile App Makes Group Chat for Businesses Even Easier – Ivycorp – a provider of group messaging solutions for businesses and organizations – released a new version of its Ivytalk mobile application, designed to provide business-grade group messaging while keeping personal demographic, location, and other mobile usage information entirely confidential. New features in the application allow users to set up private chat groups with just a few clicks on their device, eliminating the need to create a user account or allow access to personal information.

Qualcomm pleads innocence as Chinese regulators turn the screw – Mobile CPU giant Qualcomm has released a lengthy statement denying any wrong-doing after Chinese media claimed regulators have “substantial evidence” in an anti-monopoly investigation which could lead to over $US1bn in fines for the firm.

Games and Entertainment:

DARPA wants you to play video games – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is crowdsourcing its software testing with a series of online games aimed at seeking out bugs and vulnerabilities.

Microsoft: First Xbox One indie games could launch around March 2014 – Microsoft’s ID@Xbox director Chris Charla stated in a new interview the first indie games for the Xbox One could be released in the first quarter of 2014, with March being the most likely time period.

World of Warcraft peaked at 12 million players, World of Tanks just passed 75 million – The game’s competition has responded by going free-to-play in a bid to survive, but there’s some online games that really do leave WoW for dust when comparing player numbers. One of those games is World of Tanks, which was only released in 2010 as a freemium game, but has this month celebrated 75 million registered players.

Minecraft on Xbox 360 hits 10 million sales, PS3 version coming Tuesday – Microsoft has announced that the Xbox 360 edition of Minecraft has reached the 10 million sales mark. Meanwhile, Sony will release a long-awaited PS3 version of the game Tuesday.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The 8 Companies of Google’s Robot Army – With its Boston Dynamics purchase, Google now owns eight robotics firms. We take a look.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do – Mentally strong people have healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong.

Generate an insult-spewing North Korean press release online – Denounce yourself or your friends in no uncertain terms with the online North Korea Press Release Generator.

Has Microsoft finally admitted Windows 8 was a colossal blunder? – Microsoft’s decision to finally bring back a true Start menu to Windows begs the question: Has the company finally recognized what a massive mistake it made with Windows 8, or is Microsoft just reluctantly assuaging critics?

Netflix survey finds majority of TV streamers binge watch – Netflix has announced the results of a survey that it had conducted on its behalf by Harris Interactive. The survey looked at nearly 1500 people in the US that are TV streamers. TV Streamers are defined as adults that stream TV shows at least once per week.

Something to think about:

Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.”

–     Bertrand Russell

Today’s Free Downloads:

Five tools to bring the Start menu back to Windows 8.1 – When Windows 8.1 shipped, the Start button returned with it–but if it’s the Start menu you miss, you’ll still need one of these utilities. Most are free, and the only one that costs anything is well worth its extremely low price. Whether you make the jump to Windows 8.1 immediately or wait a bit, there’s really no point in waiting to enjoy these enhancements to your Windows experience.

Intuitive New Clean Master 4.0 App to Boost Android Performance – Clean Master 4.0 is designed with a sleek new user interface, making it easier than ever for you to keep or clean the data stored on your device. Colorful infographics give consumers an intuitive way to access the up-to-the-minute data the app provides— so keeping your smartphone running smoothly is effortless.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Federal Judge Rules NSA’s Phone Metadata Program Likely Unconstitutional – A district court judge has declared the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone metadata likely unconstitutional. While civil liberties groups are hailing the ruling as a victory, Judge Richard Leon has stayed his ruling pending government appeal. The ruling is a legal setback for the NSA, and its defenders who have maintained that the program is at once legal, and an important tool for protecting national security. In his ruling, Judge Leon casts doubt on both counts.

Judge pulls no punches in ruling against NSA program – Judge Richard Leon ripped into the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Security Agency in his Monday ruling that the NSA’s controversial collection of U.S. telephone records may violate the Constitution. Leon, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled in favor of four plaintiffs who challenged the NSA’s bulk collection of U.S. telephone records. Here are some highlights of the 68-page ruling.

DOJ defends NSA phone records program after judge’s ruling – The U.S. Department of Justice defended the National Security Agency’s massive phone records collection program after a U.S. District Court judge ruled Monday that the program is likely to violate the Constitution. The DOJ has “seen the opinion and are studying it,” Andrew Ames, spokesman for the DOJ’s National Security Division, said in an email. “We believe the program is constitutional as previous judges have found. We have no further comment at this time.” The NSA referred questions to the DOJ.

India’s spooks prepare to peer through their own PRISM – The Indian government is gearing up to switch on “NETRA”, a large scale internet surveillance system that will allow its spy agencies to monitor suspicious online communications in order to detect certain keywords. The Network Traffic Analysis system, to give NETRA its full name, will scan tweets, status updates, emails, IMs, blogs and forums, for words like “attack”, “bomb” and “kill”, according to a telecom department note seen by Indian newspaper Economic Times. The paper claimed NETRA can also capture voice traffic containing suspicious keywords on services like Skype and Google Talk, although there was no detail on exactly how.

NSA’s Snowden Snow Job on 60 Minutes Reveals Nothing New – During his keynote speech at the Black Hat conference this summer, General Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, promised to tell the truth “to the fullest extent possible.” Hecklers shouted “You lied to Congress!” and “We don’t trust you!” There was no such pushback during the NSA infomercial aired as an episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes last night. It was an NSA love-fest, from start to finish. Perhaps that’s not surprising, given that interviewer John Miller admits he “once worked in the office of the director of National Intelligence where I saw firsthand how secretly the NSA operates.” CBS crowed that Miller is the “ultimate insider,” without considering whether that’s actually a good thing.

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