Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 3, 2013

The Best Unlocked Phones;  PC Mag’s 2013 Holiday Gaming Guide;  SpyShelter Personal Free;  Eminem’s new album free today;  Stress-buster: Microsoft bra;  Smart toys for kids under 12;  D-Link Patches Backdoor in Routers;  Cybersecurity in 2014: A roundup;  Battlefield 4 patch available tomorrow;  NeoRouter Free;  Snowden’s legacy and the NSA of everything.

The Best Unlocked Phones: Break free of wireless carrier contracts with these top unlocked handsets – In many ways, nothing beats the freedom of an unlocked phone. Unlocked phones work with any AT&T or T-Mobile SIM card, even with no data plan. You can pop in a local, pay-as-you-go card overseas and never pay horrendous international roaming charges, and there are no carrier restrictions on the type of software you can install.

Windows 8/Phone Xbox Music users can get Eminem’s new album for free today – Microsoft has announced that for today only Windows 8 and Windows Phone users of Xbox Music can download Eminem’s newest album for free, with free streaming on the Xbox Music website.

How to make your old GPU run like new – No component of your PC is more vulnerable to heat than your graphics card. Even relatively affordable midrange cards sport complex graphics processing units that consume a lot of power and pump out quite a bit of heat. But if you take the time to refurbish your graphics card safely, you may be surprised to see it running like new—or in some cases, better than new.

PC Mag’s 2013 Holiday Gaming Guide – The Gamepocalypse is upon us. Avoid subpar video games this holiday shopping season by using our holiday gaming guide to lead you toward gaming nirvana.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Santa goes techie: Smart toys for kids under 12 – Toys are getting more high tech — even Barbie. In this CNET holiday gift guide, Sumi Das show us toys controlled by the wave of hand, pajamas that tell bedtime stories, and a mirror that does the face painting for you.

Microsoft launches Student Advantage program for free Office 365 access – As previously announced, schools and colleges that have signed up to use Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus for their staff and faculty can now offer access to Office 365 ProPlus to their students for free on up to five devices under this new program.

How to rig up a photo booth for your holiday party – Whether you’re having an ugly Christmas sweater party or a fancy-schmancy New Year’s Eve bash, a photo booth is never out of style. It’ll make your party more fun, your guests will cut loose just a bit more, and you’ll definitely be the host with the most. And honestly, they’re not as hard to set up as you may think. Here’s a few ways to get it done.

25 Killer Websites that Make You Cleverer – It’s easy to forget that we have access to a virtually limitless resource of information, i.e. the Internet. For a lot of us, this is even true at our fingertips, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and an ever-increasing push for online greatness by tech engineers all over the world. As a result, there are countless websites out there that are geared to make you smarter and more brilliant for either a low or no cost. Here are just 25 killer websites that may just make you more clever than ever before.

Bokeh, a new tool more for quietly logging your memories – The service aims to strike a balance that’s not as locked down as a diary and not as public as Facebook. It’s from the people behind the PetaPixel photo blog.

Windows 8.1 surges up to 6.34 percent of Steam users in latest hardware survey – The latest numbers from Steam’s monthly hardware survey of its users show the use of Windows 8.1 surged up to 6.34 percent in November, compared to just 1.92 percent in October.

Facebook’s Feed Adds More Links And “Related Articles” To Battle News Discovery Apps – Facebook is determined to be your top content discovery destination, so it’s making several tweaks to its News Feed including showing more links to articles, displaying a “related articles” box when you click those links, and bumping old links back to the top of the feed when friends comment on them. The goal is to make Facebook the hub for both news sharing and discussion.

Moves tracks your every move to measure your daily physical activity – The need for a method to accurately monitor and track how active we are, without breaking the bank, is at an all-time high. The Moves app aims to do just that, but there is a hidden cost: battery life.

Stress-buster: Microsoft bra battles emotional overeating – A prototype bra from Microsoft researchers uses sensors to follow the wearer’s mood with a goal of helping prevent stress-related eating. (Don’t give up hope guys. The stress- buster jockstrap is surely on the horizon.)   Smile

Touch-Screen Gloves for Frozen Fingers – With tablets and smartphones these days having gone almost exclusively touch-screen, come winter you really need gloves that keep your fingers from freezing but still allow you to navigate your phone. Touch-screen gloves have capacitive elements sewn in; often they use stainless-steel thread sewn into the fingertips. Other metals, like plated silver and copper, can be used as well.

Security:

Your browser may be up to date: But what about the PLUGINS? – Two in five (39 per cent) of computers submitted for testing to a free browser security test from Qualys were affected by critical vulnerabilities, mostly related to browser plug-ins. The findings, based on 1.4 million BrowserCheck computer scans, paint a picture of e-commerce buyers left wide open to attacks by cybercriminals just before the busiest online shopping period of the year. Browser vulnerabilities are routinely used to push malware at victims from compromised (often otherwise legitimate) websites through drive-by download attacks.

D-Link Patches Backdoor in Routers – D-Link has patched a backdoor vulnerability in a number of different versions of its routers that could allow an attacker using a particular string to access the router’s admin panel and make any changes.

“Buy $500 antivirus from us,” say cyber-criminals – You’ve paid the ransom. Then you paid them to purge your ‘criminal records’, but cyber crooks are now bullying you to buy a $500 antivirus.

Forensics Method Quickly Identifies CryptoLocker Encrypted Files – The ransomware is unforgiving; it will find and encrypt documents on local and shared drives and it will not give them back. Experts don’t advise victims to pay the ransom, which means infected computers must be wiped, and lost files must be recovered from backup. However, one Boston-area forensics specialist and malware analyst working for a large enterprise may have found a clue as to identifying the files CryptoLocker encrypts, which could mean the difference between restoring terabytes of backup data versus a few gigabytes.

Scientist-developed malware covertly jumps air gaps using inaudible sound – Computer scientists have developed a malware prototype that uses inaudible audio signals to communicate, a capability that allows the malware to covertly transmit keystrokes and other sensitive data even when infected machines have no network connection.

Cybersecurity in 2014: A roundup of predictions – Hackers, hacktivists and cyber-warriors all hit the headlines in 2013, and will undoubtedly do so again in 2014. Here’s an analysis of what the experts at seven security vendors think will happen in the coming year.

Company News:

Toshiba pays $35 million for assets of bankrupted OCZ – Just a few days after announcing that it was filing for bankruptcy, solid-state storage manufacturer OCZ has confirmed that it will be selling its assets to Toshiba for $35 million. According to the release, Toshiba will be acquiring “OCZ’s client and enterprise solid state drive business” and that the sale is expected to close “within approximately 60 days.” Toshiba will also be providing OCZ with the funding it needs to buy up NAND and support “existing and future customers” during the transitional period. (Good news! My recently trashed OCZ Vertex Plus (23 months – 24/7 run time), can now be returned under warranty.)

Huawei reportedly decides to abandon the US market – After years of being accused of cyberespionage, the telecom gear maker reportedly decides to cut its US ties.

E La Carte Scores Deal With Applebee’s, Bringing 100,000 Tableside Tablets To All U.S. Locations By Year-End 2014 – Applebee’s, the largest casual dining chain in the U.S., has signed a deal with restaurant tablet hardware and software provider E la Carte, which will see it introducing 100,000 tableside tablets to its locations starting in 2014, with the rollout completed by year-end. This represents one of the largest tableside tablet rollouts to date in any private enterprise, as Applebee’s serves around a million guests per day.

BlackBerry tells customers that it’s not dead—yet – Things must be getting grim in Waterloo. BlackBerry has taken the unusual step of e-mailing its “valued enterprise customers and partners” an open letter to tell them that “reports of our death are greatly exaggerated” and that its mobile device management platform has a long future ahead of it. The company is alive and well, the letter says, so could people please stop listening to BlackBerry’s competitors and switching away from BES?

Yahoo acquires NLP startup SkyPhrase – Yahoo has acquired yet another company, announcing today that it has purchased SkyPhrase, a startup that has worked on developing a natural language processing technology. Yahoo is keeping mum on most of the details surrounding the acquisition, not the least of which is how much it paid for the company, but it does mention the NLP aspect of SkyPhrase, making it reasonable to assume that is where its focus lies.

As Facebook Eyes Up Little Eye Labs, Twitter Is Also Looking At A Startup In India – Reports of Facebook looking to acquire Bangalore-based Little Eye Labs highlight a growing interest from the Internet’s biggest firms in acquiring engineering and startup talent from India. But Facebook is not the only one. Twitter has been eyeing up an acquisition of Bangalore-based Frrole, a big data startup that sifts through half a billion Twitter posts every month to offer insights about users. Sources directly familiar with the negotiations tell me that the companies are still exploring ways to make it work.

Games and Entertainment:

Battlefield 4 patch available tomorrow, fixes one-hit kill bug on PS4 and PC – If you purchased Battlefield 4 at launch on either PC or PS4, you are probably sick to death of the so-called one-hit kill bug. Thankfully, tomorrow that bug will disappear, as developer Dice is set to release a new patch for both the PC and PS4 versions. For the PS4, the patch also fixes a crash when playing a game when you have a lot of friends, and audio is also being enabled for video captures.

Secret code can turn your Xbox One into a dev kit, should be avoided for now – A YouTube video shows how people can turn a retail Xbox One into a game development kit. However, an Xbox One game developer is warning people this is not a good idea.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf is Heading to Android and iOS Next Year – The first official Warhammer 40K game is coming to mobile devices–Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf will be a turn-based combat game with a card-collecting aspect. The announcement was accompanied by a trailer, and by the looks of it, we’re in for a treat. And yes, there are chainswords.

Original Han Solo blaster up for auction – If you want to own a piece of “Star Wars” history — and have $200,000 lying around — you could buy this original Han Solo blaster. But, sorry, it wasn’t used in the famous cantina scene.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Drone expert: Amazon’s hypetastic delivery scheme a pie in the sky – Analysis Amazon’s plan to use semi-autonomous drones to offer fast delivery of superfluous consumer items has garned the e-retailer a lot of press, but the scheme may be more fantasy fluff than feasible.

Hexacopter used to smuggle tobacco and cell phones into Georgia prison – Four people in Georgia were recently caught after taking a very forward-thinking approach to getting contraband into Calhoun state prison. The alleged perpetrators are said to have used a small drone aircraft to drop supplies inside the prison yard, where they could be picked up by the recipients on the inside.

Drones capture dramatic views of Bangkok protests – Flying cameras hover just above whizzing tear gas canisters and water cannon as protesters demand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra step down.

In mice, fear learned by parents is transferred to their offspring – Yesterday, Nature Neuroscience published a paper that provides the strongest evidence yet that an acquired trait can be passed down for several generations in mice. Animals that were trained to associate a specific smell with pain produced progeny that also were sensitive to the smell—even when their entire role in producing the next generation was limited to being a sperm donor.

Artist paints insanely realistic portrait of Morgan Freeman entirely on iPad – British artist Kyle Lambert spent quite a bit of time creating a digital painting and by the looks of it, it was time well spent. The drawing is an insanely realistic portrait of Morgan Freeman. He spent over 200 hours creating the masterpiece, spawned out of 285,000 brushstrokes. He used iPad app Procreate to get the job done, a creative sketching and painting tool. It’s an incredible accomplishment. The amount of detail apparent in the portrait just blows away any other famous attempts at artistry on a tablet, and they are all excellent.

How Tablets Have Redefined the Rules of Personal Computing – It’s pretty clear that the tablet is on track to become the most pervasive personal computer the market has ever seen.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – on Sexism in the Video Games Industry – There’s a fascinating, insightful and important piece on sexism in the games industry at Quarter to Three that everyone needs to read. I realize when it comes to sexism in video games, you’ve read it all before, but trust me: not this time.

Something to think about:

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”

–      Voltaire

Today’s Free Downloads:

SpyShelter Personal Free – One of the most effective ways of stealing information is through a program that can easily be made to capture keystrokes. These sophisticated and dangerous programs are called Keylogging programs (e.g. keyloggers, key recorder, keytrappers, key capture programs, etc.) and they are developed continuously all over the world. SpyShelter anti keylogger can protect you against attacks that happen even when you do ordinary computer tasks like: typing into your computer, getting screenshots, opening files, and visiting sites.

NeoRouter Free – The NeoRouter Free application was designed to help you manage and connect to all your computers from anywhere. It gracefully integrates Remote Access, File Sharing, Virtual Private Network, User and Access Management.

Glary Utilities – Glary Utilities is a smart and reliable application that offers numerous powerful and easy-to-use system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain and protect your PC. It allows you to clean common system junk files, as well as invalid registry entries and Internet traces. You can manage and delete browser add-ons, analyze disk space usage and find duplicate files. Furthermore, Glary Utilities includes the options to optimize memory, find, fix, or remove broken Windows shortcuts, manage the programs that start at Windows startup and uninstall software. Other features include secure file deletion, an Empty Folder finder and more.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Edward Snowden revelations prompt UN investigation into surveillance – The UN’s senior counter-terrorism official is to launch an investigation into the surveillance powers of American and British intelligence agencies following Edward Snowden’s revelations that they are using secret programmes to store and analyse billions of emails, phone calls and text messages. The UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC said his inquiry would also seek to establish whether the British parliament had been misled about the capabilities of Britain’s eavesdropping headquarters, GCHQ, and whether the current system of oversight and scrutiny was strong enough to meet United Nations standards. The inquiry will make a series of recommendations to the UN general assembly next year.

What can you learn about me from 24 hours of my metadata? – On Monday, Guardian Australia revealed that Australia’s surveillance agency, the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), offered to share “bulk” amounts of its own citizens’ metadata with intelligence partners overseas. The prime minister, Tony Abbott, described metadata, the information generated as you use technology, as just “billing data” but many technology experts argue that this data is more revealing than content data itself. There are many kinds of metadata, and it is unclear exactly what the DSD may have targeted. For 24 hours, I kept a log of all my technology use in a metadata diary. Below are some of the highlights. All the information included below was logged in metadata:

French lawmakers propose warrantless access to live user data from ISPs, hosting sites – A wide variety of government officials could gain access to live data concerning users of ISPs and online services including content-hosting sites, without the approval of a judge, under a draft law approved by members of the French National Assembly on Friday. If the bill becomes law, it will no longer be necessary to go via the courts to obtain such access, and the number of government officials who could access the data would be much broader, potentially including those responsible for collecting taxes.

Australia’s chief law officer brands metadata a ‘contestable concept’ – Attorney-General George Brandis has backed Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s description of metadata as “essentially billing data” as a perfectly accurate shorthand description for a debatable term. The Attorney-General said that Australian intelligence agencies “operate under a strong framework of legislation, parliamentary, ministerial and executive oversight” and the government was confident that its intelligence agencies act legally.

Snowden’s legacy and the NSA of everything – As historians will surely note, events of 2013 have divided the internet age into two eras. Until this year, the internet was primarily seen as a global information and communications utility. Then came the flood of Edward Snowden’s revelations, and we were confronted with the stark reality that the internet is also the global surveillance machine — for both government and private sectors.

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