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.


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 – 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.”


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

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 23, 2013

  1. delenn13

    Hi Bill,

    Re: The Toolbars….Does that mean the Google Toolbar is going away too? Or is it “Pot meet Kettle”?

    The article “Exploring the Darkest Corridors of the Internet” was really an interesting read. I have been on Dark net a few times…but I have just scraped the surface. Some of it looks pretty scary…Just reading the names of the sites/channels etc.

    Re: Justine Sacco and Her lame Twitter comment…How stupid…But I feel sorry for her now. She is getting death threats..for her and her family. Justine Sacco apologizes for Aids in Africa tweet.

    If I don’t get back to you…

    I want to wish you and yours a very special Christmas. Hope the ice storm wasn’t too bad where you were. We just lost a few pine branches in the yard.

    • Hey Delenn13,

      lol! Yeah, It’s pretty much the “pot meet kettle” thing.

      Totally agree on the Justine Sacco item. She is a South African and the cultural reference (why she didn’t understand the implicit negativity of her words), has been dismissed in the usual web frenzy of political correctness. The whole damn world needs to grow up.

      As for the Dark Net – just a reflection of society at large. The good, the bad, and the ugly, sort of thing.

      The ice storm was the PITS!! Thankfully, didn’t lose any power – but, what a MESS.

      But where was I? Oh yeah – MERRY CHRISTMAS – I hope you and your family will look back at this Christmas, as one that stands out for it’s peacefulness and tranquility.


  2. Mal

    Hey Bill
    Re: How to check for hackers
    I never had checked the account activity on my Hotmail account. Low and behold, there have been attempts to log in from just about all four corners of the earth in the last few days. Unsuccesful of course. Very interesting indeed, pays to pay attention.

    • Hey Mal,

      “Pays to pay attention” – oh yeah.

      Just yesterday, I found a number of instances in which my “for references only” Facebook page was, at the very moment I was signing in, being attacked with a sign in attempt from India. Had to laugh. 🙂

      Merry Christmas Mal, and to all those that you care for.


  3. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    It’s Christmas Eve and I’m reading this over a hot chocolate while waiting to queue for the Christmas turkey! I’m using Hotspot Shield of course; you’ve taught me well!

    I hope you have a great time and wish you and yours a very happy Christmas.

    All the very best,

    • Hi John,

      Just put today’s to bed and I’m now heading for the hills – the ski hills, that is. 🙂

      Thank you for your “best wishes” – I hope that you and your family have a glorious Christmas – memories to draw upon in the years to come.