Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 2, 2014

Your new PC needs these 22 free programs;  20 steps to a lean, clean machine;  2014: Time to rethink privacy;  How To Run Free Android Apps On the Kindle Fire;  20 best games of 2013;  Play Frogger, Asteroids free from your browser;  How the NSA hacks PCs, phones, routers, hard disks;  Why Mac users are safer;  Speed up your slow internet connection;  Looking for Love Online?  Piracy uploads increased by 50% in 2013.

Your new PC needs these 22 free programs – Yes, stocking your PC is an intensely personal task. Even still, some programs are so helpful, so handy, so useful across the board that we heartily recommend them to everybody. These are the programs you want to install on a new PC first.

New Year’s Resolutions for Better Personal Security – Happy New Year from Security Watch! While drafting my list of New Year’s resolutions, I realized this was the perfect opportunity to adopt new habits to improve my security hygiene.

2014: Time to rethink privacy – Some companies have to face their privacy demons more than others. Yes, I’m looking at you, Google. Not that Google is likely to ever change how it handles privacy issues. (SAT time: Google is to privacy as (A) Osama bin Laden is to peaceful negotiations, (B) Lady Gaga is to rational thought or (C) Microsoft is to customer-centric. Answer: (D) all of the above.) The reason I’m looking at Google is that it just displayed privacy ineptitude on an epic scale.

U.S. Government: We can take your laptop and phone at the border – The courts have confirmed that the Department of Homeland Security has the right to take your electronic devices when crossing the border without any probable cause or suspicion of guilt.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Why Mac users are safer – The evidence is overwhelming: The opportunities to attack Mac users are plentiful, but nobody bothers. It’s still too easy to get at Windows users. This has been obvious for some time and well-understood in the security community.

How to speed up your slow internet connection – For most people home internet connections have gotten a whole lot faster over the past decade, but in some places today even a 5 megabit (Mbps) connection seems blazing fast. Don’t give up internet video just yet — there are some things that you can do to maximize performance. Many of them don’t cost a cent!

Rec for Android Makes Screen Recording a Snap for Rooted Users – One of the underreported features in Android 4.4 was the inclusion of native screen recording. This makes it much easier to capture video of an app or game running on a device at full speed. However, it relies on desktop developer tools and a command line interface. Users of rooted devices have a new option, though. Rec uses the native screen recording feature and adds all the configuration options you could ever want.

Google’s Picasa software backs up photos from PCs to Google+ – In a new move to fold Google+ into people’s lives, Google releases a tool that lets people automatically back up their photos to the social service.

‘Should I Remove It?’ helps you choose which programs to purge – If you just want something that’s easy and straightforward to help you determine exactly which programs can be scrubbed from your PC, check out Should I Remove It?—you won’t be disappointed.

Piracy uploads increased by 50% in 2013 – Like a broken record (that you probably downloaded years ago anyway), there’s once again more data to suggest that anti-piracy efforts are ineffective. Not only has piracy increased in 2013, but it has done so at an unprecedented rate.

How To Run Free Android Apps On the Kindle Fire – Even though you don’t get Google Play, the Amazon Kindle Fire can run a wide range of Android apps. Here’s how to load apps not sold by Amazon onto the tablet.

LG HomeChat lets you SMS with your appliances – Use this app to chat with your LG fridge, robot vacuum, washing machine, and oven. The standout feature here is that HomeChat is SMS-based. That means that you should be able to “chat” with your LG appliances using natural-language commands. For instance, if you send the text message, “I’m going on vacation,” the following should automatically happen: your fridge will go to power-save mode, your robot vac will default to a 9 a.m. daily cleaning cycle, and your washer will autoprogram to run a wash cycle the day before you get home. Pretty neat.

Looking for Love Online? Add a Full-Body Shot to Your Profile – Let ‘s face it: looking for love online isn’t all roses. Browsing through profiles is fun at first, but gets old fast after you read the same cliché lines over and over. But don’t fret. If you’re looking to increase your chances of finding someone special in the New Year, there are a few simple steps you can take to stand out and attract attention. One of the easiest and most effective things you can do? Add a full-body shot to your profile.

10 predictions for open source in 2014 – Some of you may be shaking your heads at yet another prediction of world domination by a Linux zealot. But there are plenty of reasons for such a bold prediction. In fact, here are 10 reasons why I firmly believe 2014 will be a banner year for Linux and open source.

Transfer files between Android and Windows devices – The obvious way is to physically connect the phone to the PC, then drag and drop. But the obvious way isn’t necessarily the best–or the most convenient.

20 steps to a lean, clean machine – If your legacy laptop is showing signs of age, it could simply need some basic maintenance. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how to clean out your system.

Taxi! Five free apps for hailing a legit cab – The ride-sharing movement is bustling in some cities, yet still emerging in others, which is why good old yellow cabs are still the most trusted way to find a ride home at the end of a night out. Here are five reputable taxi apps for worry-free transportation.

Follow Schofield’s Three Laws of Computing and avoid disasters – These “Laws”, developed over three decades, may highlight things you’re doing wrong, or help you avoid the worst screw-ups. Violate them at your peril.


Confirmed: Snapchat Hack Not A Hoax, 4.6M Usernames And Numbers Published – A site called has saved usernames and phone numbers for 4.6 million accounts and made the information available for download. SnapchatDB says that it got the information through a recently identified and patched Snapchat exploit and that it is making the data available in an effort to convince the messaging app to beef up its security.

How to check if your Snapchat account info was leaked – Wonder if your username or phone number was included in the Snapchat leak? A simple tool will help you find out.

Neverquest banking malware more dangerous than Zeus Trojan – Zeus remains active today, but its source code was published online in 2011 and this cyberscourge has about run its course. Unfortunately, Security experts are already sounding the alarm about a new piece of malware that makes Zeus look like a simpleton. Neverquest significantly raises the bar for online banking malware.

Criminals pilfer ATMs with malware infected USB drives – Using just a good old fashioned saw and a USB stick full of malicious software, criminals are able to deplete cash machines of their highest value bills.

The Syrian Electronic Army Rings In The New Year By Hacking Skype’s Social Media Accounts – The Syrian Electronic Army is at it again. The group just hacked Skype’s blog and twitter accounts, spreading an anti-NSA, anti-Microsoft message in the process. “Don’t use Microsoft emails (hotmail,outlook), They are monitoring your accounts and selling the data to the governments”, says one posting. “Hacked by Syrian Electronic Army.. Stop Spying!”, says another. Skype, the service itself, does not appear to be affected.

Hackers discover SD cards are a lot more interesting than previously imagined – Depending on your perspective, most modern SD cards just got either a lot more interesting or a lot more dangerous.

Company News:

HP to cut 5,000 more jobs in 2014, bringing total layoff count to 34,000 – In May 2012, Hewlett-Packard announced that it would be cutting about 27,000 jobs through fiscal year 2014 in a move expected to save the company as much as $3.5 billion. That number ticked up to 29,000 by July 2013. However, the company released its annual report yesterday, and buried on page 110 is this nugget of additional bad news: HP will be cutting 5,000 more jobs, for a total of 34,000 cuts by the end of fiscal 2014.

AOL Sells Winamp And Shoutcast Music Services – Some more detail on the fate of Winamp and Shoutcast, the legacy digital music services that owner AOL  originally planned to shut down but then halted pending a sale. They are not being bought by Microsoft, as we had heard when we first reported news of a sale. The properties are instead being acquired by Radionomy — an international aggregator of online radio stations headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.

Apple won’t cooperate with antitrust probe, lawyer charges – An attorney appointed to monitor Apple’s behavior following an e-book antitrust ruling says the company is obstructing his investigation.

BlackBerry CEO: We’ll focus on enterprise, BBM in 2014 – The latest executive to sit at the top of BlackBerry goes back to the drawing board for what could be the beleaguered phone maker’s last grasp at survival.

Games and Entertainment:

Play Frogger, Asteroids free from your browser – Who needs Call of Duty when you could be playing Montezuma’s Revenge featuring Panama Joe? The Console Living Room from the Internet Archive is making classic console games free to play online.

The 20 best (and three most disappointing) video games of 2013 – It was hard to narrow down this year’s offerings to just 20 top games, but Sam and I are happy with the list we ended up with. Even so, we ended up leaving out some of the best-loved games from other members of the Ars staff. Their list of personal selections includes many more very worthwhile games. For now, though, please enjoy our picks for the best games of 2013.

Over 20% of Steam subscribers now use Windows 8 or 8.1 – The latest Steam hardware survey numbers from December show that over 20 percent of users have either Windows 8 or 8.1 installed on their PC, or about one in every five of Steam’s 65 million users.

ABC streaming leaves DirecTV, Dish customers out in the cold – If you’re a fan of streaming shows from ABC and are a DirecTV or Dish customer, it looks like you’ll need to change your plans as the company will be blocking access come January 6th.

Netflix tests cheaper single-screen streaming plan – Most users pay $7.99 to stream videos on two devices; but now the service is letting some new customers opt to pay $6.99 to stream on one device.

Off Topic (Sort of):

US acceptance of evolution holds steady overall, drops among Republicans – Yesterday, Pew Research Center released the results of a poll of US residents that asked about their acceptance of the theory of evolution. In keeping with past surveys, this one found that a completely uncontroversial idea within the scientific community—modern organisms are the result of evolution—is rejected by a third of the US public. While that fraction has held steady over time, the survey found that the political divide over evolution has grown over the past four years, with Republicans now even more likely to reject the idea than they were before.

8 Ideas That Turned to Tech Gold in 2013 PCMag has pulled together a list of seven companies and platforms (and one honorable mention) that made a splash this year — from mobile apps and wearable technology to one very persistent teen P.I.

This Dumb Year: The 47 Lamest Moments in Tech 2013 – Social-networking snafus, unfortunate ads, glitchy products, and much, much more — if something could go wrong this year, it probably did.

The top four tech legal cases to watch in 2014 – While we’re all wiping the champagne-induced sleep from our eyes, inevitably we have to sober up for 2014. The new year will mark new beginnings for all of us, but it will also mark the continuation (and perhaps conclusion) of a number of high-profile tech legal cases. We’ve chosen to highlight a few cases that could lead to profound changes in the tech landscape in years to come.

Gut feelings? Cold feet? Body maps show where emotions go – Where is the love? Experiments with some 700 people in Scandinavia and Taiwan reveal universal locales for emotions from anger to happiness to pride and shame.

How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions – I’m a religious person with a lifelong passion for civil rights, so this is of great interest to me. So much so, that I believe we all need to determine whether our religious liberties are indeed at risk. So, as a public service, I’ve come up with this little quiz. I call it “How to Determine if Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions.” Just pick “A” or “B” for each question.

Something to think about:

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”

–     Booker T. Washington

Today’s Free Downloads:

Dns Jumper 1.0.6 – DNS – or Domain Name System – is the protocol on the internet that turns human-comprehensible website names such as into addresses understandable by machines.(machine-readable “IP addresses”), In some cases, you can increase the browsing speed or improve your security by replacing the DNS provided by your provider, DNS Jumper is a tool which makes it easy for you.

Skitch – Skitch is a free, innovative, easy-to-use application that’s changed the way people capture, annotate and share images. You can take screenshots or open photos, add arrows, shapes and text, crop, resize, then share your work with friends, family and coworkers.

FreeFileSync 6.1 – FreeFileSync is an Open-Source folder comparison and synchronization tool. It is optimized for highest performance and usability without restricted or overloaded UI interfaces.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

How the NSA hacks PCs, phones, routers, hard disks ‘at speed of light’: It’s not as bad as you thought – it’s much worse – The exploits, often delivered via the web, provide clandestine backdoor access across networks, allowing the intelligence services to carry out man-in-the-middle attacks that conventional security software has no chance of stopping. The dossier is a glorified shopping catalog of technology for spies in the so-called “Five Eyes” alliance of the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It gives the clearest view yet of what the NSA, GCHQ and associated intelligence agencies can do with your private data, and how they manage it. Here’s an easy-to-digest roundup of what was discussed.

Apple denies opening NSA backdoor to iPhone – Apple has denied collaborating with the NSA to add a snooping backdoor to the iPhone, insisting that despite allegations that the DROPOUTJEEP program could access large swathes of iPhone content without the user realizing, it is unaware of any such exploit. New leaks from NSA documents acquired by whistleblower Edward Snowden led to claims earlier this week that the NSA had a tool that could access data like text messages, location, and more with “100-percent success,” something Apple strongly denies either facilitating or, indeed, knowing was in operation.

Blame Silicon Valley for the NSA’s data slurp… and what to do about it – Widespread ridicule has greeted the announcement that eight giant technology companies led by Google and including Facebook and LinkedIn were going to save us from the NSA. The ridicule is thoroughly justified, for trusting giant corporations – whose business models rely on selling your identity to advertisers – to safeguard your privacy is like hiring a kleptomaniac to guard the sweet shop. Thirty years after the Khmer Rouge declared war on “the Garden of the individual”, Silicon Valley was lauding the collective “hive mind” while stealthily dismantling the rights that protect the individual.

Why NSA spied on inexplicably unencrypted Windows crash reports – It appears that this information leakage greatly amused the NSA, with Spiegel reporting that the spy organization created a comedy mock-up of the Windows error message. The fake message points at why the NSA would find the information useful, too; knowing what software someone is using makes it easier to find an appropriate security flaw with which to compromise a system. And this is all possible with mere passive monitoring.

NSA’s top hacking unit intercepts mail-order electronics, can ‘get the ungettable’ – It seems that NSA has specialized back-door privileges for virtually every major member of the security infrastructure, from Cisco in the US to Huawei in China. A wide array of specialized programs are available to NSA agents, each tailored to exploit the specific vulnerabilities of a specific security software suite. None of the affected companies, it seems, have willingly participated in NSA’s efforts, and all seem to have been blindsided by such a definitive statement of NSA’s ability to compromise their core products.

The NSA and the erosion of trust – All those in the orbit of the NSA are looking for cover in the wake of the revelations about what might be called the excesses of the spy agency.

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