Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 10, 2013

New US spy satellite world-devouring octopus;  2013: The year trust died;  Free AskMD app by Dr. Oz;  Google replaces buggy KitKat;  The FBI can turn on your webcam;  What’s the best picture mode?;  Are your medical records safe in the cloud?;  Ubuntu 13.10;  Top 5 government IT disasters;  NSA not feelin’ the love from Obama;  How Google is Changing Education (infographic);  Create own Street View tours;  US cops blew $26m buying 1.1m cell phone files.

New US spy satellite features world-devouring octopus – The satellite was launched late Thursday night, and ODNI’s Twitter feed posted photos and video of the launch over the following days. Unmistakable was the new NRO logo that goes with this satellite: “Nothing is Beyond Our Reach,” it says, featuring an octopus with its arms wrapped around the globe.

2013: The year trust died – As we move forward into a new year, fully aware of all the data gathering, surveillance, and big data out there, I have only one simple piece of advice: Watch where you step.

Feeling sick? Free AskMD app by Dr. Oz’s Sharecare aims to help – The app lets users enter symptoms, answer relevant questions, share consultations with health care providers, and maintain a general health and symptom history for multiple people.

Microsoft adds more security features to Microsoft Accounts – Microsoft has added new security features for Microsoft Account users, including a way to view any recent activity to make sure that the account has not been used by others.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google now lets photographers create own Street View tours – Part of the Web giant’s Views community, new feature allows the 360-degree panoramic photo spheres to be linked together to create a personalized virtual tour.

How Google is Changing Education (infographic) – “Education lies at the very core of our company’s mission, to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Best practices for creating a home inventory – Years of accumulated belongings can be lost in an instant. Should you ever suffer such a tragedy, you’ll be thankful you inventoried your belongings.

What’s the best picture mode? – Cinema, Sports, Dynamic, Vivid, Standard. Every new TV has multiple picture mode presets that change the way your TV looks. Picking the right one is an important first step in getting the most out of your TV.

The irrepressible evolution of the PC mouse – There’s Mighty. There’s Mickey. And then there’s that other mouse — the computer mouse. It’s now so integral to our daily lives that you scarcely give it a second thought. Unless, of course, you’re a gamer, a graphic artist, or anyone who craves the aptitude of a seriously high-end specimen. The computer mouse has come a long way — just take a gander at the exorbitantly over-engineered R.A.T. 7 gaming mouse to the left — and its historical milestones are plentiful.

UK Home Office Clarifies Rules Against 3D-Printed Guns – The UK Home Office has clarified the rules against 3D printed guns, finally stating unequivocally that 3D-printed firearms are prohibited under the Firearms Act 1968. According to an informational release, it is an “offence for an individual to possess, purchase or acquire any component part of a firearm without a certificate.”

Google replaces buggy KitKat with another update – Nexus 5 owners, don’t be surprised when you get Android 4.4.2 KitKat, even though the last Android update was just a few days ago.

6 Ways to Keep Santa’s Secrets Safe in a Digital World – When I was little, my sister and I used to sneak into my parents’ room and rummage through their closets in hopes of finding clues as to what we’d be getting for Christmas. Today, with online gift buying becoming the norm, it’s not just closets that can leave clues. Digital breadcrumbs can give you away to the tech-savvy kid.

New House bill seeks to ban in-flight cell phone calls – Chairman of the House transportation committee says airplanes are noisy enough without people talking away the flight on their phones.

Ubuntu 13.10: The good, the bad, the ugly, and the mobile – The newest release of Ubuntu, dubbed Saucy Salamander, doesn’t offer much in the way of new features – except for the introduction of Ubuntu Touch for mobile platforms.

Microsoft: Games are the most popular Windows 8/8.1 app category – In a new blog post, Microsoft stated that the Games category of Windows 8/8.1 apps had the highest number of downloads, while apps in the Social category have the highest ratio of downloads per app.

Codecademy Releases Its First Educational App – Codecademy released its first foray into the mobile space, an app-based intro course to coding designed to take less than an hour to complete. I had a lot of laundry to do, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

Start menu may return with Windows ‘Threshold’ update – Don’t call it a comeback but Microsoft may return the Start menu with the Threshold update that will reportedly arrive in the spring of 2015

Pope Francis, Super Bowl Dominate Facebook Chatter in 2013 – As the door closes on 2013, Facebook is helping users take a walk down memory lane and reminisce about the year that was.


The FBI can turn on your webcam without you knowing – The former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division says this has been possible for years by using a malware delivery method which allows for a whole lot of snooping.

President Obama to propose “self-restraint” on NSA – Without going into detail, US President Barack Obama has said that he’ll propose “some self-restraint” to the National Security Agency (NSA) in order to rein in rampant snooping.

Other browser makers follow Google’s lead, revoke rogue certificates – Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera Software today joined Google in revoking rogue digital certificates that had been issued by a subordinate certificate authority (CA) of France’s cybersecurity agency. Google revoked the certificates for users of its Chrome browser on Saturday after a four-day investigation. Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera Software followed suit on Monday.

Are your medical records safe in the cloud? – Despite its popularity, there are hidden risks and costs – Many medical companies have started migrating patient records over to cloud servers to save costs but those savings could be negated by security costs and risks. When it comes to your medical records, not much is more important than your privacy. After all, that stuff is really personal. So the growing trend of storing all kinds of data – including our medical records – in the cloud, is troubling.

Microsoft’s anti-NSA encryption pledge raises questions – Microsoft says it’s fast-tracking the encryption of consumer data and moving toward greater source-code transparency. It sounds good on paper, though there are those who question why Skype, for one, was left off the list and how in the world we can trust a for-profit software maker.

Hackers stole data from five European nations at September G20 Summit – Network security company FireEye has reported a coordinated malware attack on five European foreign ministries. The attack took place last August just prior to the G20 Summit in September. It was achieved by sending the ministries email attachments bearing file names pertaining to the primary topic of the summit: military options in Syria. Once downloaded, the files allowed the hackers to monitor communications and steal data from the host machines. FireEye believes the hackers are from China, but it stopped short of alleging collusion with the Chinese government.

Company News:

Qualcomm Intros 4G LTE Chipset for Low-Price Smartphones – The Snapdragon 410 chipset, due out in 2014, is aimed at consumers in China and other emerging markets where 4G LTE coverage is coming online, Qualcomm said.

Twitter stock hits high marks with new ad rollout – Investors appear optimistic about the social network’s profitability as shares gain 9.3 percent to close at $49.14.

Target Experiments With A Pinterest-Powered Online Storefront, Dubbed The “Awesome Shop” – Target is testing an e-commerce storefront powered entirely by Pinterest recommendations, with the beta launch of a site called “Target Awesome Shop.” The site, refreshed daily, is a mashup of data from Target’s own online store and the social network. Today, it features Target products which have proven to be the most pinned items on Pinterest, that also have the top reviews from

Snapchat Requests Gag Order Against Ousted Founder – Snapchat has asked a federal court for a temporary gag order against ousted founder Reggie Brown, who claims he came up with the idea for the “disappearing messages” app.

Games and Entertainment:

Facebook selects Criminal Case (not Candy Crush) as game of the year – Pretty Simple’s Criminal Case is the Cinderella gaming story of the year, according to the social network.

No Man’s Sky trailer’s gaming universe is totally uniquely generated – In the trailer for No Man’s Sky, the developers at Hello Games have shown a game that’s about exploration of a fully procedurally generated set of environments. What this means is that the computer decided what to put where with only minimal input from the developers, this resulting in a universe – planets and outer space – able to be explored by the gamers who dive in for the first time.

Report: Xbox One hard drive becomes full at 362 GB – A new report says the 500 GB hard drive in Microsoft Xbox One’s 500 console maxes out when 363 GB worth of games and apps are installed, which could mean that many hardcore games will run out of space.

Halo: Spartan Assault for Xbox One lands December 24 The title – which slots in-between the plots of Halo 3 and Halo 4 in the in-game universe – will be offered as a digital download for the next-gen console, after having gone on sale for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 users earlier in 2013, though there’ll be some new tweaks to suit the Xbox One.

Xbox One owners tricked into bricking consoles in online prank – Anyone that has been on the internet for long knows that you can’t believe everything that you read. A person or persons on the website 4chan have posted a tutorial that supposedly unlocks new features for the Xbox One game console. Rather than unlocking features, the steps in the tutorial bricked the consoles leaving them inoperable.

Off Topic (Sort of):

11 amazing technologies that have totally changed our world for the better – What are the most awesome technology creations that have changed the world that we live in? Let’s start with these.

‘Bubble 2.0’ is the hint from a glut of blogs about a glut of tech knockoffs – Or maybe not. Still, back-to-back blog items on tech-product rip-offs does make you wonder a little.

Top 5 government IT disasters besides – The government program generally known as Obamacare is the poster child for poor government IT work. There have been others though.

TPP leak: US babies following bathwater down the drain – America is pushing too hard on too many fronts in the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty negotiations, making it unlikely the treaty will be finalised this year, according to a new round of leaked documents from the recent Salt Lake City meetings. The latest leaks, posted at Wikileaks, reveal how deeply unpopular some of America’s most treasured TPP positions are.

Report: Media coverage can cause more stress than being at a bombing site – Those who experience a terrorist attack firsthand are prone to suffer from acute stress. That much is obvious. But does living that experience repeatedly through the media’s coverage of the event cause even more stress? This is the question Roxane Cohen Silver of the University of California Irvine has asked in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. And the answer seems to be that those who followed media coverage for long enough did indeed have a greater chance of suffering from symptoms of high acute stress—sometimes even more than those who were present at the site.

Something to think about:

In a networked world, trust is the most important currency.”

–     Eric Schmidt

Today’s Free Downloads:

SX WiFi Security Suite 1.0 – The Complete Set of Wireless Security Tools from SecurityXploded including Wi-Fi Password Decryptor, Wi-Fi Password Dump, Wi-Fi Password Key Generator and Wi-Fi Password Remover.

Ashampoo Burning Studio Free 1.12.0 – The Ashampoo Burning Studio FREE keeps all the advantages of its predecessor and adds multi-disc file backup, an integrated audio CD ripper and further improved support for the exciting new Blu-ray format with capacities of up to 25 gigabytes per layer. Ashampoo Burning Studio FREE focuses on what you want: To burn discs quickly, easily, with maximum quality and minimum hassle. It includes everything you need to be able to do that. And it excludes everything that could get in the way.

PeStudio 7.90 – PeStudio is a free tool performing the static investigation of any Windows executable binary. A file being analyzed with PeStudio is never launched. Therefore you can evaluate unknown executable and even malware with no risk. PeStudio runs on any Windows Platform and is fully portable, no installation is required. PeStudio does not change the system or leaves anything behind.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA And Other Intelligence Agencies Got All Up In Your World Of Warcraft, Xbox Live – The next time you’re looking to party with a dark elf Rogue in World of Warcraft, think twice: that could be an NSA agent in disguise. According to new documents from the Snowden leaks, both the NSA and the GCHQ employed World of Warcraft and Second Life, as well as Xbox Live, to gather intel and uncover plots – but it seems mostly they ended up just bumbling into one another by accident.

Snowden leak examines gaming as a terrorist propaganda and training tool – The latest document dump from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is getting a lot of deserved attention for revelations that international security agencies are taking steps to monitor communications inside online games. But those leaked documents also include an in-depth report on the potential for games to be used as recruitment, training, and propaganda tools by extremist organizations. Security contractor SAIC produced the 66-page report “Games: A look at emerging trends, users, threats and opportunities in influence activities” in early 2007, and the document gives a rare window into how the US intelligence community views interactive games as a potential tool to be used by foreign actors.

NSA not feelin’ the love from Obama – Morale at the US spook agency the NSA has plummeted, according to an officialish survey. According to the Washington Post, spooks working for the NSA were apparently labouring under the impression that they were fighting the good fight and were the white hats in any US spying efforts. The Edward Snowden revelations showed that they were not as squeaky clean as they thought, and that efforts were lowering the standards of the world. To make matters worse, they are concerned that President Barak Obama has not visited them to indicate his support for their actions – after all, he only lives around the corner.

US cops blew more than $26m buying 1.1m cell phone files from telcos – An investigation by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) into the monitoring of cellphones has found that US police paid telecommunications companies more than $26m to hand over location information, metadata, and sometimes the content of their customers’ messages to cops in the US last year. Senator Markey sent letters to the major US mobile providers asking how they handled requests from law enforcement, and found that last year telcos passed over 1.1 million records about customers to federal, state, and local law enforcement officials. For this cooperation T-Mobile banked about $11m, with Verizon bagging a little under $5m, and AT&T getting “approximately $10,298,000” in fees.

Dutch minister to question US Embassy about rooftop antennas – The Dutch Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations will question the U.S. Embassy over the purpose of its rooftop antennas, the minister wrote in a letter to the House of Representatives Monday. Minister Ronald Plasterk will question the embassy after concerns were raised that the antennas can be used to intercept data from mobile phones used in the nearby Ministry of the Interior in The Hague and the Binnenhof, where the houses of parliament are located.

Tech giants push surveillance reform: What wasn’t said – If Microsoft, Google, Facebook and other tech leaders want the NSA’s surveillance practices reformed they need to start talking about the potential financial hit a lot more.

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