Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 9, 2013

Turn any HDTV into a smart TV; 7 keyboard shortcuts for Google+; How to set up a virtual machine;  Turn Holiday Photos Into Sparkly, Snowy Winter GIFs;  3G vs. 4G: What’s the Difference?;  Dell Venue 8 Pro for $99, But Act Fast;  LED vs. Plasma: Which HDTV Is Best?;  Cheap 3D printer works with steel ;  PDF, Flash, Java: the Most Dangerous File Types;  Dozens of zero-day flaws daily;  The Top 10 Best Movies of 2013; Microsoft ends Windows 7 retail sales ;  Basic Science And Tech Facts Americans Don’t Know.

How strong is your password? Microsoft’s Telepathwords may well predict it – Cautious internet users often invest a lot of time in generating a secure password, but does it pay off? Microsoft has developed a program that will determine how hackable your password really is. The tool was tested by hundreds of Microsoft employees before release and is now available to the public.

Google+ Turns Holiday Photos Into Sparkly, Snowy Winter GIFs – Google is getting into the holiday spirit with a neat new feature on Google+ that will automatically turn your holiday photos into sparkling, snowing GIFs.

How to set up a virtual machine for your Internet access – Thanks to the low price of RAM and availability of fast solid-state drives (SSDs), an increasingly appealing solution is to set up a virtual machine (VM) just for working with emails and browsing the Internet. This requires less hassle but offers heightened security by accessing the two likeliest attack vectors from what is effectively a security sandbox. Here’s how to set up your own VM.

7 keyboard shortcuts for Google+ notifications – Keyboard shortcuts are faster, more efficient, and easier on your hands. Start breezing through Google+ notifications by memorizing this list.

How to transform any HDTV into a smart TV – Early HDTVs were strictly high-definition televisions. But modern HDTVs are essentially all-in-one computers that can run apps, access the Web, handle games, and do all sorts of other cool stuff. If you have an older HDTV without any “smart” features and you can’t afford or just don’t want to upgrade to a newer, more capable set yet, you may be interested in these fairly inexpensive devices for adding smart features to your existing set.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Microsoft to Sell Dell Venue 8 Pro for $99, But Act Fast – On Monday, the Dell Venue 8 Pro will be $99, down from $299. But you’ll need to act fast. The promotion begins in Microsoft Stores at 10 a.m. local time, but only the first 20 customers will have the chance to buy the tablet for $99. After that, the price goes up to $199 while supplies last.

Facebook experiments with ‘Sympathize’ button for less happy ‘Likes’ – Acknowledging the bad news that a friend has posted on Facebook with a ‘Like’ isn’t exactly ideal – but the social network has been experimenting with a ‘Sympathize’ button for such situations.

3G vs. 4G: What’s the Difference? – If you’re buying a new smartphone, you’ll need to choose a type of data network. We explain 3G and 4G in simple terms.

You live on your laptop. You need these accessories – Your laptop sits loyally at your side through long travels, crowded gatherings, and stressful shopping sprees. Sometimes it keeps you warm in bed, and it even plays that obnoxious holiday music without a single complaint. It’s time to spoil it with a few new bells and whistles that you both will love. Go on, you—and your PC—have earned it.

LED vs. Plasma: Which HDTV Is Best? – Today’s rapidly evolving display technologies have made it easier to crown a winner in the HDTV wars.

Windows 8.1 Preview license ends in January 2014 – Microsoft says the license for the public preview version of Windows 8.1 will end sometime in January 2014, after which the OS will no longer work when installed on a PC.

Google Play Music App Update Adds SD Card Storage – Google this week updated the Android version of its Play Music app with a few nice additions, including SD card support for offline music.

Find the right backup drive for your storage needs – If coming up with a backup strategy is one of your New Year’s resolutions, maybe a backup drive should be on your holiday shopping list. We can tell you what to look for.

PetChatz “Greet and Treat” webcam helps you interact with pets online – PetChatz is a web cam that lets you interact with your pet on a number of levels from anywhere in the world. Install it over a wall outlet, secure it to a stud, connect it to your home WiFi, fill it with treats and a special scent, and you’re set to go. The device was conceived as a way to reduce pet owner separation anxiety, but its maker Anser Innovation also claims it makes for healthier, happier pets.

Cheap 3D printer works with steel – The one thing that made 3D printed guns tolerable to the non-gun-owning community was that they were made of plastic, because metal 3D printers were costly. Now, a bunch of scientists from Michigan Tech are showing off a cheap 3D printer that fabricates in metal. The printer, described in detail here, produces steel components, and while its creators describe it as “a work in progress”, they’ve already successfully produced simple shapes like sprockets.


PDF, Flash, and Java: the Most Dangerous File Types – A report just released by AV-Test should be a huge wake-up call for anybody who doesn’t pay attention to software updates. After ten years of study, the researchers concluded that security holes in Adobe and Java are responsible for 66 percent of all vulnerabilities actively exploited in Windows.

Anatomy of a hack: Team meets a professor’s challenge – An NYU professor challenged a team of hackers to break into his online world. They did, but it wasn’t easy or cheap.

Rogue flashlight app shines a light on the importance of Android app permissions – An Android flashlight app downloaded more than 50 million times has been sharing your location and phone ID with advertisers, even when you asked it not to.

JPMorgan Chase Warns 465,000 Pre-Paid Card Holders Affected in Data Breach – JPMorgan is notifying affected cardholders, about 2 percent of the total 25 million people who have UCards and used the UCard Center website between July and September, because “it couldn’t rule out the possibility that their personal information was among the data removed from its servers,” Reuters reported. Affected individuals will start receiving email notifications starting Monday. The notification process is expected to take a few days.

Microsoft’s last Patch Tuesday of 2013 will be huge – Microsoft wraps up the year’s Patch Tuesday bulletins next week with 11 more fixes, pushing this year’s total to 106, up from 83 in 2012.

Dozens of zero-day flaws exist for exploit daily, report says – NSS Labs calculates that cybercriminals have access to 100 zero-day flaws on any day, with more than half affecting major vendors.

Company News:

Microsoft ends Windows 7 retail sales – Microsoft has quietly ended retail sales of Windows 7, according to a notice on its website. The company’s policies for shutting off sales to retailers and shipping licenses to OEMS (original equipment manufacturers) are posted on its site, which was recently updated to show that Windows 7’s “retail end of sales” date was Oct. 30. The next deadline, marked as “End of sales for PCs with Windows preinstalled,” will be Oct. 30, 2014, less than a year away.

Microsoft’s Android royalties in danger as German court invalidates FAT patent – The Federal Patent Court of Germany has invalidated Microsoft’s FAT patent which the company has been using to gather royalties from infringing Android device manufacturers for the past few years.

Adding insult to injury, Apple asks Samsung to pay legal fees – Apple has asked Judge Lucy Koh to order Samsung to pay $22 million legal fees incurred in the landmark patent lawsuit which took place over the past 15 months with verdict going in Apple’s favour.

Samsung to launch 1TB mSATA SSD this month – Samsung this evening announced it will launch the industry’s first 1-terabyte (1TB) mSATA SSD this month. That doubles the capacity (512GB) of some of the largest-capacity mSATA SSDs generally available today. As such, the 1TB 840 EVO mSATA SSD is poised to bring unprecedented large-capacity hard storage to some of the market’s thinnest portables.

Dell cutting workforce with voluntary employee buyout – Dell has aimed to cut its workforce by offering what it is politely calling a “voluntary separation program,” which is a gentle way to say they’re looking for employees to voluntarily jump the ship. The offer is coming in conjunction with a buyout package, of which the incentives have not been detailed, though the Wall Street Journal reports that it has reviewed the materials.

Microsoft takes to the streets to show off the limitations of Google’s Chromebook – Microsoft evangelist Ben Rudolph, who used to compare Windows Phone devices to other smartphones, is shown in a new video hitting the streets to show people that a Chromebook has lots of limitations.

Games and Entertainment:

TIME: The Top 10 Best Movies of 2013 – See the rest of TIME’s Top 10 of Everything 2013 lists here.

Microsoft warns against using fake Xbox One backwards compatibility “trick” – A claim that the Xbox One can play Xbox 360 games via a backwards compatibility “trick” has been denied by Microsoft’s Larry Hryb, saying such actions “could make your console inoperable.”

Riot reverses course, says pro League of Legends players can stream other games after all – In response to the backlash, Riot Games has backed down. e-sports publication onGamers, which broke the news of the original contract, now reports that while gamers and teams contracted to play in LCS cannot be sponsored by other game companies to advertise competing games, they are free to stream them as they see fit.

Game Trailer Time: The Best of the 2013 Spike VGX Awards – We’ve picked our top five favorite trailers from this year’s awards show — arguably, more fun to watch than the show itself!

Terminator is back as a TV series that shares continuity with upcoming movie trilogy – A Terminator television show will be reforming its liquid metal parts sometime in 2015, but it won’t be in the form of The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The Terminator franchise is getting rebooting in the form of a trilogy slated for release in 2015, and the television show will act as a companion program, similar to how Agents of SHIELD keeps the Marvel movie universe fires burning while we wait between releases.

Off Topic (Sort of):

2014: The year we start developing for mobile first – Things are changing in how customers want to interact with businesses.

A Few Basic Science And Tech Facts Many Americans Don’t Know – How does a power cord charge a cellphone? Magic, silly! According to a Pew poll, many of my fellow Americans are completely in the dark about how their world works, including the fact that carbon dioxide is a chemical responsible for some global warming. Pew’s quiz is especially salient this week, after another round of International test scores confirmed, once again, that America’s poorly run education system is producing a deeply unequal and uninformed society. Here are a few of the essential gems that participants couldn’t answer.

Should Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter really judge what’s news? – Those companies aren’t news providers in any traditional sense, but they’re trying harder to become the go-to place where their users learn about current events. It opens up new streams of revenue for the companies, but some experts wonder what it will mean for how we consume news. They are not necessarily malevolent forces, but Internet companies’ power to influence what citizens read and see — and what they don’t — is becoming greater.

GAME “Christmas Tinner” goes viral: authenticity unconfirmed – The Christmas Tinner is a Christmas dinner in a can. You can eat it all day long. Start at the top and work your way down throughout the day. Scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast, mince pie for morning dessert. And on down through the day with turkey, potatoes, gravy, and more, all the way to your nightcap pudding. In one can. The news of this product has blown up the Googles. We’re pretty sure it’s a well played hoax. We concur with Geekosystem that Christmas Tinner “looks too ridiculous to be true, because it’s probably not.” But we want to buy a few because it’s ingenious and horrible.

It’s Time For A Special Regulatory Zone – Your government is the enemy of the future. Innovative technology that would disrupt the world as we know it is already here, but oppressive government bureaucrats keep getting in its way. Taxi commissions vs. Uber; the FDA vs 23andMe; the FAA vs. Amazon Prime Air; the DMV vs. self-driving cars; governments everywhere vs. Bitcoin. This is intolerable and must stop. The government must get out of Silicon Valley’s way.

10 rudest behaviors in the workplace – Most of us aim not to be rude in the workplace, but sometimes the line is thin between adorable quirkiness and just plain annoying. Here are some behaviors to avoid.

10 crazy undersea creature GIFs – Below the waves exist creatures so bizarre you’d have trouble believing they evolved on the same planet as you.

10 old-school IT principles that still rule – That’s not exactly how the saying goes, but it is the phrase that should be engraved over every door leading to IT. It’s certainly better than “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Not a lot has changed since our early days, when IT was EDP and programmers were the high priests of the glass house. Except for everything.

Something to think about:

It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends.”

–      J. K. Rowling

Today’s Free Downloads:

PicPick – It is an all-in-one program that provides full-featured screen capture tool, intuitive image editor, color picker, color palette, pixel ruler, protractor, crosshair and even whiteboard. It has not only everything what you need, but it loads fast, sits quietly in the system tray until needed.

PasswordFox – PasswordFox is a small password recovery tool that allows you to view the user names and passwords stored by Mozilla Firefox Web browser. For each password entry, the following information is displayed: Record Index, Web Site, User Name, Password, User Name Field, Password Field, and the Signons filename.

GeekUninstaller – Standard removal program leaves tons of leftovers on your PC. GeekUninstaller performs deep and fast scanning afterwards and removes all leftovers. Keep your PC clean! Use Force Removal for stubborn and broken programs.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Google catches French govt spoofing its domain certificates – Fraudulent certificates were used in a commercial device to inspect encrypted traffic on a private network. Google used the incident to highlight the need for its Certificate Transparency project, aimed at fixing flaws in the SSL certificate system that could result in man-in-the-middle attacks and website spoofing. Google’s answer to these flaws is for CAs to adopt a framework that monitors and audits these certificates, thus outing rogue CAs or when certificates are illegitimately issued.

On snooping disclosures, AT&T wants to remain silent – AT&T wants to silence a shareholder proposal that it disclose the government requests it receives for customer information, rejecting a step that Google, Microsoft and other Internet companies have already taken. The proposal calls on AT&T to publish semi-annual reports about the information requests it receives from U.S. and foreign governments. Under the plan, the reports would be subject to existing laws and omit proprietary information.

Tech Companies Outline More NSA Reform Demands – Before Congress’s holiday recess, Silicon Valley’s major tech companies have renewed calls for surveillance reform. Executives from Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, Linkedin, Twitter, and (TechCrunch parent company) Aol have put their weight behind the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, publishing and open, collective letter to Congress and President Obama.

FBI surveillance malware in bomb threat case tests constitutional limits – The growing sophistication of the spyware—which can report users’ geographic locations and remotely activate a computer’s camera without triggering the light that lets users know it’s recording—is pushing the boundaries of constitutional limits on searches and seizures, The Washington Post reported in an article published Friday. Critics compare it to a physical search that indiscriminately seizes the entire contents of a home, rather than just those items linked to a suspected crime. Former US officials said the FBI uses the technique sparingly, in part to prevent it from being widely known.

NSA Claims Collecting Cellphone Location Data Is Legal Under Executive Order — From 1981 – Today the National Security Agency (NSA) discussed its program that collects billions of cellphone location records each day. The NSA targets foreign phones but also absorbs data on the phones of American citizens.

Skype’s Suspicious Absence From Microsoft’s Anti-NSA Promises – Microsoft’s public relations department was on encrypted cloud nine yesterday, riding a wave of high-five press reports for their swift action to protect consumers from National Security Agency surveillance. Noticeably absent from their victory lap was any mention of Skype, the wildly popular communication service that has been a favorite target for surveillance. “I agree that Skype’s absence here is extremely interesting and concerning,” wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Kurt Opsahl to us in an email. “Microsoft, as the owner of Skype, has totally failed to be transparent about this and it’s not surprising that users and security experts come to believe that it has something to hide.”

NSA spies on Italians from roof of US Embassy in Rome, magazine reports – The allegations are based on documents the magazine says were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.



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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 9, 2013

  1. Dave B.

    In RE: PDF, Flash, and Java: the Most Dangerous File Types; It took them 10 years to figure that out?