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 – 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.


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, 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.


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

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 19, 2013

  1. ‘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.’

    Hey Bill,
    Flyers who don’t like calls while in flight should be warned they should avoid or boycott British Airways. BA allows callers from take-off to landing.

  2. Something that has always intrigued me about the Snowden controversy.
    Why is is OK and encouraged to leak information about improprieties in private industry but, considered treason when that same leak appears about illegal activities by our government ???
    I must be naive in still believing in a Government of the people, by the people and, for the people.

    • Hi Bob,

      While it may not appear as if little progress is being made in pulling back on the reins of the U.S. government’s overreaching fiasco – progress is being made. Primarily in the area of major sales losses being experience by U.S. technology and non-technology industry sectors.

      Virtually the only thing that the corrupt U.S. government, and especially the extraordinarily corrupt U.S. political class understands is – a significant threat to pocket-lining lucre.

      In my view, the rest of the World (Typical Americans have literally no idea just how besmirched their reputation has become), should launch a concerted effort to avoid purchasing anything even remotely associated with U.S. manufacturing.

      As for – “Government of the people, by the people and, for the people” – like most “Americanisms” it turns out to be bullshit.



  3. Don

    Hi Bill; I read with interest, the story on Facebook’s latest “revelations” on possible impropriety during the initial stages of its IPO. I bailed out of Facebook over 2 years ago, and that was based on its blatant disregard for “privacy settings” I had made (repeatedly, I might add!) It constantly changed its policies regarding privacy, and went so far as to invade my smart phone with my “friends” on Facebook, adding them to my phone contacts! When I complained, I was told that it was done to give me “a richer, fuller experience” !!

    Social networking can be fun up to a point, but I’ve seen it come back to haunt acquaintances of mine who, when younger, made very stupid and revealing statements (with pictures) that cost them dearly. Yeah, as the infamous Whitey Bulger once said: “never write it if you can say it .. never say it if a nod or a wink will do”! Best wishes during this holiday season my friend.


    • Hi Don,

      Yeah, that “richer, fuller experience” wears a little thin.

      I do, in fact, have an “anonymous” Facebook account (no friends), so that I can test the “Alice in Wonderland” nature of Facebook’s constantly revolving privacy settings. It is to laugh.

      Whitey was right of course (didn’t seem to do him any good in the end, though 🙂 But, try telling that to those who will not listen. Unfortunately, there will always be those “victims” who victimize themselves. Go figure.

      Best wishes for the Christmas season. May it be one to long remember.