Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 3, 2014

NSA hacked Dell PowerEdge server BIOS;  25 excellent apps for your Windows tablet;  Does Facebook Reveal All?  How to sell your old tech;  Five apps for converting text to speech;  Time-saving tips for the new year;  NFL playoffs get free streaming on CBS, NBC; Facebook bots grope our ‘privates’;  Backdoor in wireless DSL routers;  The tech year in cartoons;  Man sets tap water on fire, sparks debate.

NSA hacked Dell PowerEdge server BIOS – The latest NSA leak describes DEITYBOUNCE, a tool for flashing malicious BIOS on Dell servers. The doc is from 2007 and such attacks would be much harder now.

What to do about Snowden: The NY Times gets it right – I think Edward Snowden deserves a medal — but even if you disagree, there’s no longer a good argument why he ought to remain a fugitive.

25 excellent apps to install on your new Windows tablet – Microsoft’s app marketplace may not be quite as flush as its competitors, but roughly 140,000 apps still reside in the Windows Store. And frankly, as with any app store, a lot of them are junk. How does a Windows tablet owner know which apps are worth installing? Easy: Read on!

Does Facebook Reveal All? – We’ve heard it all before; be careful about what you post on social networks, don’t share your real birthday online, blah, blah, blah. You roll your eyes, nod, and say that your privacy settings are all good, but do you actually know what pops up when strangers search you? Even if you think your information is safe on Facebook, it might not be. NextAdvisor decided to survey the habits of Facebook users, ages eighteen and older to see how they use their Facebook privacy settings.

Five apps for converting text to speech – Text-to-speech applications have a number of different uses. They can assist the visually impaired by reading various screen elements, and they’re also useful to writers. Text-to-speech engines have the ability to verbally read a document, thereby making the proof-reading process a lot easier. Here are five text-to-speech applications.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Make mobile-friendly Web sites with your Facebook profile and a click – Strikingly makes building a slick-looking website a breeze. Its one-click feature, which takes content from your Facebook page and turns it into your personal website, is especially valuable.

NFL playoffs get free streaming on CBS, NBC – For the past couple of years, TV networks have offered free streaming to the millions of people tuning into the Super Bowl. Last year, fans were offered dozens of ways to watch the game on their computers, tablets, and mobile devices via live streaming and apps. This year, viewers will surely get some of these same perks and more.

How to sell your old tech while protecting your data – Where’s the best place to sell used tech? How can you keep your devices in good shape so you get maximum resale value? And, most importantly, how do you wipe away all traces of your personal data? The good news is that these important questions don’t have complicated answers. With a little know-how, you can easily get a healthy return on your old gear and make sure it’s as empty of data as the day you bought it.

Pro tip: Replace SkyDrive with Libraries in Windows 8.1 – If you sign in to Windows 8.1 with a Microsoft Account, you discovered that Windows 8.1 has moved Libraries to the sideline in favor of SkyDrive. I’ll describe two ways to move SkyDrive to the sideline and reinstate Libraries as the predominant location for accessing your documents and pictures.

Firefox for Windows 8 delayed again, arrives March 18 – A touch-friendly version of Firefox for Windows 8 has been on Mozilla’s project list for a while, and though not due to a lack of effort, the anticipated launch date has been extended multiple times, with the latest bump having it slated to launch this month. Unfortunately, yet another delay has taken place, this time setting it to launch with the release of Firefox 28 on March 18.

Photography 101: Learning the ropes with your new camera – Whether you’re new to photography or learning how to use a new camera, taking a methodical approach makes it go a lot faster.

Kindle, Surface Steal Some of iPad’s Holiday Thunder – The iPad still grabbed 76.1 percent of North American tablet share, but Amazon picked up some share with its Kindle lineup, increasing 0.6 percent to 9.4 percent share post-holiday. Microsoft’s Surface tablets also landed in a few peoples’ stockings, snagging a 0.3 percent gain for a total 2.3 percent share. In fact, Redmond’s users generated more tablet traffic than all Google Nexus tablet users following the holiday. Samsung and Google tablets managed small boosts, landing at 5.9 percent and 2 percent share, respectively.

Time-saving tips for the new year – Make a resolution to be more productive in 2014 by avoiding time sinks and focusing on tools and techniques that help you work more efficiently.

Tweeting sharks forestall ‘Jaws’-like doom – Tagged sharks in the seas of Western Australia have taken to tweeting their whereabouts. But swimmers shouldn’t toss their caution just because the animals have gotten into social networking.

Gadgets that can hear, track and watch to dominate CES – The world’s primary electronics junket in Las Vegas next week will be flooded with smartwatches, wearable cameras and glasses, fitness trackers and other wirelessly connected gadgets. Last year’s hot technologies — 3D printing and 4K TVs and displays — will also be prominently featured.

Facebook bots grope our ‘privates’, and every wronged user should get $10,000 – lawsuit claims – Two Facebook users have begun a class-action lawsuit that alleges the social network’s “private” messaging system is a lie. The pair, Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley, reckon each of the website’s estimated 166 million US users should get a payday of up to $10,000 apiece as compensation.

Twitter boasts 4 out of 5 world leaders on its service – The fourth annual rankings of the use of social media among world leaders has been published by the Digital Policy Council. The report looks at the number of world leaders that are using the social network Twitter to spread their agendas to the world. According to the report, about 80% of all world leaders are using twitter.

China to stream US sketch show SNL – Popular TV sketch show, Saturday Night Live, will be heading to Web-enabled screens in China and broadcast exclusively on media streaming site, Sohu Video.

5 Tech Products That Will Be Dead in 5 Years – With the speed of innovation in the tech industry, we can’t know every piece of technology that will fill our everyday lives in five years, but we can predict what won’t last.


Snapchat Says It’s Improving Its App, Service To Prevent Future User Data Leaks – Snapchat has released an official post about the recent leak of 4.6M usernames and phone numbers from its servers. The post blames what it says was ‘abuse’ of its API on the leak, but acknowledges that the way that it stores the information made it possible for a database of numbers to be used to sniff out usernames and match them up. Changes will be made to both Snapchat’s apps and the service in order to prevent future leaks including being able to opt out of the Find Friends feature that uses phone numbers.

CryptoLocker creeps lure victims with fake Adobe, Microsoft activation codes – The recently discovered CRILOCK-A variant can spread more easily than previous forms of CryptoLocker. The latest nasty is also notable because it comes under previously unseen guises – such as fake Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office software activators that have been seeded on P2P sites, a security blog post from Trend Micro warns.

Backdoor in wireless DSL routers lets attacker reset router, get admin – A hacker has found a backdoor to wireless combination router/DSL modems that could allow an attacker to reset the router’s configuration and gain access to the administrative control panel. The attack, confirmed to work on several Linksys and Netgear DSL modems, exploits an open port accessible over the wireless local network. The backdoor requires that the attacker be on the local network, so this isn’t something that could be used to remotely attack DSL users. However, it could be used to commandeer a wireless access point and allow an attacker to get unfettered access to local network resources.

How to be notified that your password has been stolen – Now you can be contacted if your email address appears in any new, publicly-released data breaches.

Will teens be scared off by Snapchat hack? Probably not – Theft of Snapchat user names and phone numbers more embarrassing than damaging.

Steer Clear of These “Free £250 ASOS Gift Voucher” Sites – Many sites offer freebies at this time of year. But will you actually get your hands on a bargain or will it be too good to be true?

Company News:

Cybersecurity forces align as FireEye acquires Mandiant – The newly formed duo can now detect, prevent, and resolve breaches — this could have ramifications for security firm competitors and governments accused of spying on their citizens and allies.

BlackBerry Executive Culling Continues As Alicia Keys Hits The Chopping Block – BlackBerry continues to tighten its purse strings, and even top executives and global recording stars aren’t safe – and if you’re both, you’re screwed. Alicia Keys will depart her role as “global creative director” for the smartphone, software and services provider as of January 30th, CTV News reports.

Google patents process for turning chats into comic strips – If you’re a Bitstrips aficionado or a fan of flicking open an old-school newspaper funnies section, a patent Google has been awarded might be right up your alley: turning conversations into digital comic strips. The information turned up in a patent detailing a process that, in terms of the social element, at least, sounds very similar to the aforementioned Bitstrips: the ability to share on social networks, with at least two users being involved in the comic.

Games and Entertainment:

Gone viral: The memes and videos that defined 2013 – Do you ever wonder what people 2000 years from now will think of our current society when they discover that we spent our days watching videos of angry-looking cats? I don’t, and it’s probably for the best. In any case, here are the biggest, best, bespoke memes that disrupted 2013. I apologize in advance for all the lost productivity.

Some Comcast customers can’t connect their Xbox One to the Internet via Wi-Fi – Comcast has confirmed that a number of its broadband customers cannot currently get their Xbox One game consoles to connect to the Internet for online gaming via its Wi-Fi hardware.

‘The Hobbit’ Named 2013’s Most Pirated Movie – Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy prequel beat out Quentin Tarantino’s award-winning slavery drama for most pirated movie of 2013, TorrentFreak reported this week. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey logged an estimated 8.4 million downloads on BitTorrent networks last year, followed by Django Unchained with 8.1 million, the blog revealed.

Report: PS4 outsold Xbox One during 2013 in UK – A new report claims that for 2013, Sony’s PlayStation 4 game console sold 530,000 units in the UK, compared to Microsoft’s Xbox One which sold 364,000 units for the year.

Off Topic (Sort of):

2013: The tech year in cartoons – From Tim Cook’s ‘pay cut’ to Steve Ballmer’s ‘retirement,’ here’s a look at some of the year’s biggest IT stories from the pen of Computerworld’s editorial cartoonist, John Klossner.

Is this the era of free operating systems? – Microsoft’s “devices and services” mantra means that the company, eventually, has to make Windows free.

Are you replacing pay TV with Internet options? – With cable providers attempting to convince customers to stay, and networks making it more difficult to legally watch their content, are you “cutting the cord” or are you sticking with pay TV?

Quadrantid meteor shower to set night skies ablaze – These meteors deliver more bright, long-lasting fireballs over northern skies during a short peak period than other showers. It’s quite a show if you know when to watch.

10 things I miss about old technology – Take a trip down memory lane as Scott Matteson shares some of his favorite memories about technology from way-back-when.

The 16 best images from NASA’s incredible Instagram feed – NASA’s Instagram feed only started this year, but it’s already one of the most compelling collections of photos on the internet.

Man sets tap water on fire, sparks debate – A YouTube video of a North Dakota man apparently setting tap water on fire stirs a debate about fracking and methane and all things scientific.

Something to think about:

I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.”

–      E. B. White

Today’s Free Downloads:

TinyTask – TinyTask is a neat, little macro recorder that can automate just about any process or sequence of actions on your PC. It not only records and saves macros but also compiles them, turning your recorded macros into executable programs. At just 33KB, TinyTask truly is tiny. It’s portable freeware for Windows that doesn’t need to be installed; just extract the program and click it to run it from any folder or drive, including portable storage devices such as USB thumb drives.

Kingsoft Office Free 2013 – With Microsoft Office alternatives, compatibility is the crucial factor, and Kingsoft’s Office Suite tools excel in that department. We created, edited, and saved compatible documents in both Kingsoft and Microsoft’s tools. Kingsoft’s tools acquitted themselves well in looks and performance.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The ACLU Will Appeal Court Decision Declaring The NSA’s Phone Metadata Program Legal – In an expected move, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today announced that it would appeal the dismissal of its case relating to the National Security Agency’s telephony metadata program. Recently, US District Judge William Pauley III ruled that the program was constitutional. The case in question, ACLU v. Clapper, was set back by Judge Pauley III who invoked past terror attacks as reason for the metadata program’s existence, and argued that protections under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court were stiff enough to protect constitutional rights. The ACLU disagrees, and in a statement claimed that “the NSA’s call-tracking program violates both statutory law and the Constitution.”

Orange to file suit over NSA cable intercept within days – French telco Orange is to take legal action following allegations that the US National Security Agency intercepted data on a submarine cable it uses to transport data from France to Africa and Asia. Orange’s planned lawsuit comes in response to details of efforts by the NSA to tap the SeaMeWe 4 (SMW-4) submarine cable, which carries internet traffic between Marseille in France, Sicily, North Africa, the Gulf states, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Report: NSA Trying To Build A Quantum Computer To Crack Encryption – The National Security Agency wants to build a futuristic super computer that can break most types of encryption, according to documents obtained from Edward Snowden by the Washington Post. No reason to worry yet, however, as the Agency is not even close to figuring out how to build the space-age technology necessary to crack most security procedures. According to the documents, the computer project is part of a $79.7 million research program, “Penetrating Hard Targets”, suspected to be under classified contracts in a lab in College Park, Maryland.

‘Tis The Season For Mainstream Warnings About “God-Like” Gov’t Threats To Privacy – Getting a mainstream audience to care about governments infringing on our intangible right to privacy via dragnet surveillance programs carried out without public disclosure (let alone permission), using complex technological tricks that allow this spying to go on effectively invisibly is no easy task. Hard enough to make the mainstream aware of what’s going on, let alone care.

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