Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 14, 2014

NSA bulk metadata collection has “no discernible impact”;  What is 4K exactly;  How to rescue your PC from ransomware;   Check out library e-books on Kindle Fire;  Facebook unfriend alert;  Dropbox messed up OS upgrade;  Windows 9 arrives in 2015;  Wake up to your favorite Pandora station on Android;  Two Hours Talking With The NSA.

Report: NSA bulk metadata collection has “no discernible impact” – A new paper published Monday by the New America Foundation demonstrably destroys the US government claim that bulk metadata collection is useful. (Three US senators made the same claim back in November 2013.) The paper’s lead author is Peter Bergen, a journalist and terrorism analyst who famously interviewed Osama bin Laden for CNN in 1997.

How to rescue your PC from ransomware – You can remove many ransomware viruses without losing your files, but with some variants that isn’t the case. In the past I’ve discussed general steps for removing malware and viruses, but you need to apply some specific tips and tricks for ransomware. The process varies and depends on the type of invader. Some procedures involve a simple virus scan, while others require offline scans and advanced recovery of your files. I categorize ransomware into three varieties: scareware, lock-screen viruses, and the really nasty stuff.

Sleepy at the wheel wearing Google Glass? Now there’s an app for that – In characteristic Google fashion, the software can be enabled by saying, “OK Glass, keep me awake.” From then on, the software makes use of two sensors in Glass to deliver visual and auditory notifications, if it senses that the driver is beginning to fall asleep.

Get alerted when someone unfriends you on Facebook – Ever wonder if someone has removed you as a friend on Facebook? This extension makes it possible.

How to check out library e-books on your Kindle Fire – No PC required! With the right app and a little know-how, you can borrow books straight to your tablet.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Snapchat Apologizes For Snap Spam, Claims It’s Unrelated To Data Breach – Snapchat delayed apologizing for a big user data breach last month but was quick to say sorry today for users receiving “Snap Spam” over the weekend — unwanted photos and videos.

FAQ: What is 4K exactly, and do I have to buy a new TV now? – One of the most undeniable trends as this year’s CES expo was 4K TVs. There were giant 4K sets, curved 4K sets, and bendable 4K sets. But all that 4K action might leave you wondering: what does 4K mean? And what effect does the onslaught of 4K have on the future of the HDTV I just bought? Worry not, my techno-curious friend. We have all the answers.

5 Unique Photo Books You Can Create Online – If you want something unique, something that’s more than just another book of photos, you have to dig a little deeper.

Twitter rolls out desktop redesign inspired by iOS, Android apps – It’s been a couple of years since Twitter’s last major redesign, but the website is finally getting yet another overhaul that’s designed to look like the updated iOS and Android apps.

For our bodies we have gyms, and for our minds we have…brain fitness apps – So which are worth recommending? Since so many of the products are based on peer-reviewed studies of brain fitness tools, I don’t doubt that numerous apps and sites are effective. I chose the ones that have been around the longest, enjoy the best reputations among users and experts, have the most science behind them, and offer the best designs.

Resolve to resolve DNS faster – Try an alternative DNS provider for faster web browsing at your small business or home.

Google+ has been installed more than 500 million times on Android – Despite a constant stream of jokes that no one uses the service, Google+ for Android just joined the ranks of Facebook and Twitter as some of the most installed apps on the platform with more than 500 million installs.

Dropbox messed up OS upgrade, caused two days of downtime – The outage was followed by spurious claims from hacking groups that they had successfully infiltrated Dropbox. There was no evidence to support such claims, and Dropbox quickly explained on Friday that the outage was due to an internal problem.

Windows 9 arrives in 2015, announcement due this April at Build – According to a new report from Paul Thurrott, Windows 9 will arrive early in 2015. That’s no surprise given that it’s generally about three years between major releases. Windows 7 came out about 34 months after Vista. Windows 8 landed just four days after Windows 7′s three-year anniversary.

How to wake up to your favorite Pandora station on Android – Your Android phone’s alarm clock is handy and can wake you up with ringtones or your own music. But if you prefer waking up to a station, now you can with Pandora for Android.

PayPal simplifies online checkouts — no more redirects – The online payments company is bringing a redesigned, streamlined payment process to online merchants, which doesn’t redirect users to PayPal’s Web site.

Security:

Watch tech support scammers at work, live – How do scammers posing as tech support dupe customers in to installing malware? Take a look.

Target hackers have more data than they can sell – What’s the downside to successfully stealing 40 million credit card numbers from Target? Trying to sell the data. There’s a thriving economy among cybercriminals, some of whom specialize in stealing credit card numbers to others who figure out a way to profit. But it’s also constrained by supply and demand.

Asus simplifies router configuration to protect external hard drives – Asus is now distributing a firmware update that will change the default security settings on its broadband routers after files on thousands of external hard drives were found easily accessible over the Internet. The problem was reported last week and stems from how Asus’ routers are configured. Access to an external hard drive that’s been attached to a router’s USB port via FTP can be activated manually or by using a wizard, but both leave the router open by default.

Syrian Electronic Army hacks into Xbox Twitter accounts too – News spread that the hacking group got into the Microsoft News Twitter account, but apparently it also breached Xbox’s Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Don’t panic: The Internet is not collapsing, despite a spike in global ‘attack’ traffic – It turns out the definition of “attacks” and “malicious activity” might be to blame. And a little enthusiastic over-egging of the panicky pudding.

Company News:

Charter Offers $61.3 Billion In Cash And Stock To Acquire Time Warner Cable – If you were worried about the consolidation of ISPs, telcos, and media companies, this should make you uncomfortable: Charter Communications has bid a massive $61.3 billion for Time Warner Cable. The total buyout would consist of $83 in cash for each Time Warner Cable share, and $49.50 in Charter stock for a total of around $132.50. In regular trading today, Time Warner Cable closed at $132.40, and is up over the bid price in after-hours trading, indicating that investors expect a higher total deal value by the time anything is completed.

Google Is Buying Connected Device Company Nest For $3.2B In Cash – Google is acquiring connected device company Nest for $3.2 billion. Google sent out an email to employees noting the acquisition today and later issued a press release. In the release, Google noted that Nest has been offering its best-selling thermostat since 2011 and recently began offering the Protect smoke alarm, which networks with its other devices. Nest Founders Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers will both join Google. Rogers was one of the first engineers on the iPhone team at Apple.

Why Google paid $3.2B for a thermostat company – The idea behind the connected home is to connect heating systems, lighting systems and appliances such as refrigerators to the Internet so that they can be made more efficient and controlled from afar. In the process, companies can collect more data about people’s habits, something Google loves.

Microsoft promotes using Windows touchscreen devices in retail stores with new video – Microsoft is trying to get more retail outlets to use Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone products in their stores and created a new video that shows examples of how these devices could be implemented.

Matt Mullenweg Becomes Automattic CEO As Toni Schneider Shifts Focus To New Products – WordPress creator and Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg is taking over as CEO of the company, it was announced today. He takes over for Toni Schneider, who has been CEO of Automattic for just over eight years now, and who helped turn the company that owns and operates WordPress into what Om Malik notes is now a billion dollar company.

GoDaddy to offer Microsoft’s Office 365 to its small business customers – Microsoft and GoDaddy have announced a new partnership where the website and domain name provider will offer access to Office 365 to its small business customers.

Yandex Adds Facebook Posts And Big Data To Its Search Results In Russia, Other Home Markets – Yandex and Facebook had a notable run-in last year when a team of developers from the Russian search giant created a social search app called Wonder, which Facebook promptly blocked. But in reality the two sides have been working together since 2010, and today comes the latest chapter in the collaboration.

HP to launch Android phone in near future, says source – According to a source that spoke to the folks over at 9to5Google, HP plans to launch an inexpensive Android smartphone as early as next week, though a more narrowed-down launch date hasn’t been specified.

Games and Entertainment:

Halloween’s Michael Myers pops up in first Call of Duty Ghosts DLC pack – Activision has announced Onslaught, the first DLC pack for Call of Duty Ghosts, will feature, among other things, a new map called Fog where a player can actually turn into Halloween’s Michael Myers.

New DoS attacks taking down game sites deliver crippling 100Gbps floods – Recent denial-of-service attacks taking down League of Legends and other popular gaming services are doing more than just wielding a rarely-seen technique to vastly amplify the amount of junk traffic directed at targets. In at least some cases, their devastating effects can deprive celebrity game players of huge amounts of money.

Magic: The Gathering movie franchise coming soon courtesy of Fox – Fans of the game and lore of Magic: The Gathering rejoice! 20th Century Fox has reportedly just closed a deal that would bring the wildly popular and iconic collectible card game (CCG) to the big screen in not just one but, hopefully, a series of films.

SimCity to finally add offline mode one year after launch – Electronic Arts has finally announced it will add an offline single player mode for its urban simulation game SimCity, nearly a year after it suffered from a poor launch due to its online requirements.

Game of Thrones: Season 4 first trailer released ahead of April premiere – The first trailer of the fourth Game of Thrones season has been released, with the series slated to kick off on April 6. With the trailer we get a short look at what is sure to be an action-packed season of the popular fantasy series. There are nearly two minutes of season footage in this latest trailer, as well, giving a longer look at what’s coming than last season’s trailer offered.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Mobile app use surged 115 percent last year – report – Overall use of mobile apps soared by 115 percent in 2013, according to a new report from analytics firm Flurry. Every category tracked by Flurry grew in use over the past year. Utilities and productivity apps rose by 149 percent, music and entertainment apps by 78 percent, and games by 66 percent. But the biggest leap was achieved by messaging and social apps, which climbed by 203 percent, the firm said in a blog post Monday.

The Red Wire: America, Drunk On Authority – The sickness exists at every level of American government, starting with those charged with enforcing its drug laws. Local police in New Mexico last year said they were justified in allowing medical doctors to repeatedly anally probe a 63-year-old man – and bill him for the privilege – because he had clenched his buttocks during a routine traffic stop; the drugs they were supposedly looking for didn’t turn up even after three forced enemas and a forced colonoscopy because they never existed in the first place. One group of police officers in Milwaukee similarly used drug laws as an excuse for serially molesting dozens of unfortunate citizens who fell under their gaze over a two-year span beginning in early 2010. Border patrol cops have similarly forced gynecological exams on American citizens re-entering the country. Even those who aren’t subject to sexual humiliation at the hands of the state can have their property seized through civil asset forfeiture, under which one’s property is presumed guilty of a crime until proven innocent. (recommended by Michael F.)

FAA Starts Working With Hobbyists To Draft Safety Guidelines For Model Aircraft And Drones – Many model aircraft hobbyists already belong to the AMA or at least know about its guidelines (don’t fly higher than 400 feet, don’t fly within three miles of an airport, etc.). Recently, however, the advent of relatively affordable, easy-to-fly model aircraft – GPS-enabled quadcopters that can easily fly up to a thousand feet and even autonomous drones — has added a large number of new users. In addition, the FAA notes, some high-end model aircraft can now have wingspans over 20 feet and have multiple jet engines.

Tricopter drone carries a camera, follows you by tracking your smartphone – The Pocket Drone can follow you around with the camera on autopilot by tracking your smartphone, which means you can take professional-looking aerial footage of your exploits all by yourself. The full package with a ready-to-fly drone and controller is going for $495, which is a reasonable price for a drone with this much carrying capacity. If you want in, the Pocket Drone will ship around June.

Ralph Nader points to 22 ways the Canadian health-care system is better than Obamacare in the U.S. – Political activist Ralph Nader recently outlined the advantages of Canada’s medicare system over so-called Obamacare in the United States to an audience at Western University in London, Ont.

Punisher is a tweeting alarm clock that embarrasses you into waking up – First, you set a location at which you need to be, and the time you need to get there. You’ll then enter a tweet of your choosing; obviously, you’d want to make it something you don’t want posted on Twitter in order to create that special motivation. Then, you’ll activate the alarm clock, and unless you don’t deactivate it by making it to the location on time, your tweet will be sent to the world.

Micro-windmills may one day charge your phone battery – Research being carried out at the University of Texas Arlington is looking at ways to use windmills so tiny, you could fit ten of them on a grain of rice. And yet, they could one day be used to recharge the batteries in your mobile devices.

Police: Man shot dead in row over texting in movie theater – A retired policeman in Florida is accused of shooting a man before an afternoon movie started because the man was texting and an argument ensued.

11 must-see videos from CES 2014 – CES 2014 brought us tons of new tech and the return of established favorites. Join CNET TV for a tour of the top videos from the show floor.

Something to think about:

People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.”

–      Frederick Douglass

Today’s Free Downloads:

Ghostery 5.1.0 – Ghostery sees the “invisible” web, detecting trackers, web bugs, pixels, and beacons placed on web pages by Facebook, Google Analytics, and over 1,000 other ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers – all companies interested in your activity. After showing you who operates behind the scenes, Ghostery also gives you the opportunity to learn more about each company it identifies, including links to their privacy policy and opt-out options. Ghostery allows you to block scripts from companies that you don’t trust, delete local shared objects, and even block images and iframes.

Comodo BackUp 4.3.6.6 – Comodo BackUp is the straightforward and powerful utility that allows users to quickly and easily create backup copies of critical data. Free of charge, its features include different types of backups such as disk and partitions backup, files and directories backup, entire registry backup, custom registry keys backup, user settings backup, mail accounts backup, messenger clients backup and system state backup. Additional features are available such as e-mail reporting, extensive report logs, advanced rule-based filtering, flexible scheduling of backups, space-saving archiving capabilities, password encryption with multiple encryption algorithms, history list for backups and more. Comodo BackUp is integrated into windows explorer so you can backup files and folders with a simple click.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA developed software for backdoor access to iPhones – The U.S. National Security Agency was developing in 2008 a software implant for Apple iPhones that allowed the agency to take almost total control of the device, including retrieving text messages and voicemail and remotely turning on its microphone and camera, according to a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel. The implant, code-named DROPOUTJEEP, was “in development” and initially intended for “close access” installation on a phone, with remote installation being planned for a future release, according to an alleged NSA document with the date October 1, 2008, that Der Spiegel included in a graphic with its recent NSA report.

Justices let stand appeals court decision on border searches of laptops – In a boost for civil rights advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that requires U.S. border agents to have at least some cause for searching electronic devices belonging to travelers at the nation’s borders.

Researcher describes ease to detect, derail and exploit NSA’s Lawful Interception – Infamous security researcher Felix “FX” Lindner exposed Lawful Interception surveillance systems as easy to detect, derail, and maliciously exploit in his recent talk at hacking conference 30c3. In a talk titled CounterStrike: Lawful Interception, Lindner explained to a standing-room-only theater of 3,000 hackers how easy it is to find out if you’re under legally imposed surveillance, detailing how easily a user can jam the shoddy legacy systems running Lawful Interception (LI).

Select slides from CounterStrike: Lawful Interception – Infamous security researcher Felix “FX” Lindner exposed Lawful Interception surveillance systems as easy to detect, derail, and maliciously exploit at European hacking conference 30c3.

Aaron Swartz film trailer released with anti-NSA message – It’s fitting cause for the documentary of a man famous for his fight with the US government over Internet freedoms, and the new trailer uses Swartz’s words to spur more action. The film, called “The Internet’s Own Boy,” premieres at the Sundance Film Festival next week. Swartz was a 26-year-old activist who committed suicide last year while under federal prosecution. He was accused of stealing 4 million documents from MIT and JSTOR, an archive of scientific journals and academic papers. Swartz played a pivotal role in the campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act. The new trailer includes clips of Swartz talking about stopping the abuses of government surveillance.

Two Hours Talking With The NSA – Notes from a meeting at the NSA with general counsel Rajesh De and others. “Looking at the world through their eyes, there is no privacy threat in collecting massive amounts of information — if access to that information is rigidly controlled and minimalized. The NSA feels that if people knew about these controls, they’d be OK with the collection”.

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