Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 24, 2014

How Much Do Americans Really Care About Online Privacy?  Five free Chrome tools for faster, easier searches;  Privacy and the Connected Car;  What you need to know about SD cards;  US govt watchdog slams NSA snooping as illegal;  Is That Site Legit? Google Search Update Helps You Find Out;  Avira Online Essentials gets it right;  Facebook Hilariously Debunks Princeton Study;  Bill Gates: I assume my phone’s not being tapped;  SanDisk’s ULLtraDIMM is an SSD on a RAM stick;  Malware infects Android-run devices via PCs;  An insider’s story of the global attack on climate science;  The internet is ‘a gift from God’ says Pope Francis.

How Silicon Valley’s most celebrated CEOs conspired to drive down 100,000 tech engineers’ wages – The secret wage-theft agreements between Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit, and Pixar are described in court papers obtained by PandoDaily as “an overarching conspiracy” in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act, and at times it reads like something lifted straight out of the robber baron era that produced those laws. Today’s inequality crisis is America’s worst on record since statistics were first recorded a hundred years ago — the only comparison would be to the era of the railroad tycoons in the late 19th century. (recommended by Aseem S.)

Bill Gates: I assume my phone’s not being tapped – In some fascinating comments about privacy and security, the Microsoft co-founder admits that he does use e-mail to send confidential messages. And he expects a level of security from his gadgets. (Seriously? Nope, just another misrepresentation from one of those “you gotta believe me crowd” who have a monetary interest in downplaying the NSA’s history of a systematic attack on human rights.)

How Much Do Americans Really Care About Online Privacy? – According to a new poll by GlobalWebIndex published by The Guardian, 56% of Americans believe the Internet is eroding their personal privacy, but only a quarter of us are actually using tools like Tor to disguise our identity. The survey, which is actually just compiled market research data, shows that the United States is actually lagging behind the rest of the world in using privacy features and tools. Only 17% of Americans use VPNs – Virutal Private Networks – so we can browse the web anonymously. That compares to 38% of those in Brazil, 36% in Thailand, and 34% in China, India and Mexico.

What you need to know about SD cards – I’ve seen this happen over and over again: A new, simple-to-use technology arrives, with its own new acronym. Then someone improves upon it, extending the acronym. Then there’s another one. Soon you’ve got a market of confusing alphabet soup. So let’s start with the basics. Secure Digital (SD) is the current standard for removable flash storage cards in mobile devices. They come in three physical sizes with numerous speeds and capacities.

Chrome 32 takes Windows 8.1 way beyond any Windows 8 app – If you use Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 and are a Google fanatic, you’re going to love the latest version of Chrome. It’s a standard browser for the desktop; it’s a browser app for the Start Screen; it’s the Chrome OS; it’s an oddity and much more, all in a neat little package. You really have to see it to believe it. I’ll describe how to download, install, and use Google Chrome 32 in Windows 8.1.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Travel The World From Your Web Browser With This Beautiful Instagram Hack – French hacker Benjamin Netter recently released a cool hack called Somewhere, an addictive jukebox machine for travel destinations using Instagram, Foursquare and Wikipedia data — the most impressive part of this simple hack is that people are spending 13 minutes on average on the website.

Five benchmarking tools to diagnose or compare PC performance – Benchmarking tools are useful for diagnosing PC performance problems or quantifying a comparison between the performance of two machines. Given the usefulness of benchmarking software, it’s no surprise that there are countless benchmarking utilities available on the market. Here are five such utilities.

Five free Chrome tools for faster, easier searches – Your search for the perfect search is over. Five free tools from the Chrome Web Store work with the Chrome browser to make searching easier, or help you tweak your search queries to minimize unwanted results. If you want to delve only into Wikipedia, or if you want to ignore certain sites—especially ones that seem suspect—you can do it with one of these helpers.

Express Metrix Introduces Free, Full-Featured Software License Compliance Solution to Help More Organizations Achieve Audit Readiness – In a software industry first,Express Metrix, a leading provider of IT and software asset management (SAM) solutions, today released a free, full-featured version of its enterprise-class software compliance solution to help more organizations overcome budget or resource restrictions and achieve audit-ready license status. The solution is designed to enable small to midsize organizations with limited budget to achieve software compliance. It is also ideal for larger companies contemplating a broader investment in SAM to test and prove the value of a best-of-breed SAM solution for their organization. (registration required.)

How Google Calendar can tip off your boss that you want a raise – Google heavily promoted this time-saving feature during the rollout of its mail and calendar services. But as documented as early as 2010, the behavior can also result in the leakage of private information for people who are unaware of it. Alas, almost four years later, it’s still catching some people by surprise. Blogger Terence Eden explained how an entry his wife put in her personal Google Calendar made its way to her boss. It read: “e-mail [boss’s address] to discuss pay rise” and included a date a few months in the future. The boss quickly received the reminder as an entry in her own Google Calender.

Federal judge rules IP address alone not proof of copyright infringement – All too often, we hear about web users who are targeted by litigators and law enforcement agencies, and accused of downloading copyrighted material on the basis of no more evidence than an IP address. But a pivotal ruling by a federal judge may have a significant impact on future lawsuits by copyright holders.

Avira Online Essentials gets it right – What makes Avira Online Essentials so remarkable is the minimal barrier to entry. The dashboard not only displays which devices have what installed, but also a basic status update for each device. Instead of confusing you with system-level detail, Avira’s dashboard displays only the essentials like the number of files scanned, the number of infections, and the number of scanning errors. Whether you’re running it on Android, iOS, or Windows, the interface remains a cohesive experience across platforms.

ManageEngine Launches PitStop Online IT Community – ManageEngine, the real-time IT management company, today launched PitStop, the user community for all IT professionals. PitStop sets itself apart from other IT communities by providing a cascading, Facebook-like wall for users to share and discuss topics and trends with the PitStop community at large. Users can also tailor PitStop to their individual interests by subscribing to specific groups and pages, enabling them to virtually collaborate, share and engage with colleagues in their domain.

Is That Site Legit? Google Search Update Helps You Find Out – The Web giant on Tuesday announced a tweak to its search function that shows more information about certain websites on the search results page. Simply click on the small gray name underneath the link to get more information about a site. At this point, the feature is only available when you search Google on your desktop.

Pinterest adds GIF support – If Tumblr isn’t satiating your GIF needs, Pinterest might become your new favorite stomping ground — the company has announced on its blog new support for GIFs, adding an element of easy-to-browse animations to the picture-pinning social network. To get people in the mood, it also collected together some of its favorites for all to enjoy.

Feds arrest “most hated man on the Internet” in revenge porn hacking case – As the founder of one of the first highly profitable sites to post nude photos of people against their will, 27-year-old Hunter Moore had already been branded the most hated man on the Internet. On Thursday, he was arrested on federal charges claiming that he paid a man to break into the e-mail accounts of hundreds of victims and steal sexually explicit images that later showed up on Moore’s notorious site.

SanDisk’s ULLtraDIMM is an SSD on a RAM stick – Dubbed the ULLtraDIMM, SanDisk’s new DIMM SSD isn’t an entirely new concept, but is still quite rare. Unlike a traditional stick of volatile RAM, the oddly capitalized ULLtraDIMMs will retain data even after you’ve powered down. Considering their connections, SanDisk’s sticks can boast super low latency speeds to meet the requirements of enterprise applications — a write latency of under five microseconds, and a read latency of just 150 microseconds.

Facebook Hilariously Debunks Princeton Study Saying It Will Lose 80% Of Users – Last week Princeton researchers released a widely covered study saying Facebook would lose 80% of its users by 2015-2017. But now Facebook’s data scientists have turned the study’s idiotic “correlation equals causation” methodology of tracking Google search volume against it to show Princeton would lose all of its students by 2021.

Privacy and the Connected Car – During a recent CES keynote address, comments by Ford executive vice president Jim Farley sparked a controversy over privacy and the connected car that quickly turned into a (timely) conflagration. “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it,” Farley said. “We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing.” He then added, that “we don’t supply that data to anyone,” or sell the information to third parties. Farley apologized the following day and said in an interview with CNBC that “we do not monitor and aggregate data on how people drive. I’ve given people the wrong impression. I regret that.” (BS – when the truth is uncomfortable – deflect, lie, confuse.)

Hands-on with WerYoo: Free social networking photo app maps your moves – New GPS-based iPhone app lets you shoot, share immediately, and precisely map your location.

Whistle review: Activity trackers go to the dogs – Just what does your dog do all day? Sleep for eight hours straight? Run around your living room in circles? Go on lengthy walks with your dog walker? Whistle, an activity tracker for dogs—yes, you read that correctly—can help you find out.


1.1 Million Cards Compromised in Neiman Marcus Hack – Neiman Marcus this week revealed that some 1.1 million credit and debit cards may have been compromised by hackers who had access to its system for several months last year.

Google fails to release patch for Chrome’s voice recognition exploit – Google has failed to reach an agreement to release a patch, leaving users vulnerable to hackers. The exploit allows spies to continue recording conversations through Chrome’s voice recognition app.

Malware infects Android-run devices via PCs – First, it drops a malicious DLL and registers it as a system service. Then it contacts a remote server and downloads a configuration file from it. The information contained in it allows it to download a malicious APK (Android application package) file, as well as and Android Debug Bridge tool if necessary. The latter enables the malware to install the malicious APK to any Android based device the victim connects to the computer. Once installed, the malware attempts to hide its presence by posing as a “Google App Store” application, and in the background it searches for online banking apps that the user has installed.

Foscam IP camera bug lets anyone view and record live footage – One of the most important uses of IP cameras is for remotely viewing places or people for safety and security purposes. But in a rather ironic turn of events, a number of Foscam IP cameras have been discovered to be easily compromised, giving anyone with an Internet connection access to what the camera is seeing as well.

Company News:

Microsoft: $24.52 billion in revenue, $6.56 billion in net income for fiscal Q2 2014 – Microsoft has announced that for the fourth calendar quarter of 2013 (which is considered the second quarter of 2014 in Microsoft’s fiscal year) the company generated $24.52 billion in revenues, along with $6.56 billion in net income. This compares to $21.46 billion in revenues and $6.38 billion in net income from the same period a year ago. Both the revenue and income numbers were ahead of expectations from financial analysts.

Google hints at future bitcoin support for their payment services – Google seems to be curious about bitcoin. Some e-mails that were made public show the company is looking at ways of supporting the digital currency and integrating it into their payments services.

Google denies rumor of Google Mobile Services licensing fees – A recent report surfaced that practically accused Google of charging manufacturers a rather hefty fee to license its Google Mobile Services on Android. The Android maker has now come out to deny such a business practice, though some of its recent moves might make some remain a bit cautious.

Qualcomm Buys Massive Palm, iPaq And Bitfone Patent Portfolio From HP – Is Qualcomm preparing for the revival of the personal digital assistant? The San Diego-based Qualcomm just announced that it has acquired 1,400 patents from HP covering Palm, iPaq and Bitfone patents and pending patents. It’s unclear how many are from each portfolio, but Qualcomm just made a big leap in owning a chunk of patents covering the fundamentals of mobile operating system…

Microsoft: Office 365 Home Premium now has 3.5 million subscribers – Microsoft launched its consumer oriented Office 365 Home Premium service just under a year ago and now it appears that the subscription service has done very well in its first year. Today, as part of its financial report for its last fiscal quarter, which ended December 31st, Microsoft said it now has 3.5 million subscribers for Office 365 Home Premium.

Samsung Profit Growth Slows Down, As Galaxy Faces Heat From iPhone And Cheaper Rivals – Samsung’s latest financial results underscored slowing growth in the smartphone business and its increased rivalry with Apple, which seems to be closing the gap, at least in the U.S. Samsung reported its first decline in quarterly profit in two years for the December quarter. Fourth quarter net income was 7.22 trillion won ($6.7 billion), lower than what the analysts had expected.

US retailer TigerDirect accepts Bitcoin payments – The retailer of electronics and computing products gives the digital currency a bit more legitimacy and utility by accepting Bitcoin payments.

App Revenue In Asia Grew A Massive 162% In 2013, Driven By Google Play – Over the past two years, Asia has emerged as the world’s top marketplace for apps–and it’s still growing. Revenue in Asia rose by a massive 162% in 2013, “annihilating” growth in all other continents, according to a new report by Distimo. Furthermore, that increase was fueled in large part by Google Play, where revenue from Asia more than quadrupled in 2013.

Games and Entertainment:

A Titanfall alpha battle report – Titanfall is a game that requires a flawless multiplayer experience and a well-thought-out training environment. The game is designed such that you are thrown right into combat, so it is important to have the basics covered when you head into a match. When the game begins, there’s way too much going on between the 12 players, the 12 Titan AI, and the other characters on the field for traditional multiplayer glitches to be acceptable.

Apple reportedly working on set-top box with gaming capabilities – A report from iLounge claims Apple will update its currently Apple TV product line to include gaming support. The report claims Apple TV would gain the capabilities through the use of Bluetooth, and previous iterations of the device will support games, though it’s not known if they would be stored locally or in the cloud.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor looks like it can be the best Lord of the Rings game – While there have been several video games set in Middle-earth, most of them are not great. Outside of the games that follow along with the movies, there’s been very little creativity despite being set within in a truly massive set of stories. The latest entry into this world looks like an entirely different animal, with an impressive physics engine and promises of wholly unique gameplay experiences. If they can pull it off, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor looks like it could be the shining example of single player gameplay in the future.

Microsoft: 3.9 million Xbox One units sold to retail stores – Microsoft announced today that it sold 3.9 million Xbox One units to retail stores in its last quarter, along with 3.5 million Xbox 360 consoles, for a total of 7.4 million Xbox devices.

Table Top Racing for Android Will Bring Back Your Love of Hot Wheels – Racing games don’t always have to be serious business, and a mobile device is a perfect venue for the more casual side of racing. The newest entrant in the Android side of things is Table Top Racing, a game with tiny cars battling it out on tracks lined with oversized obstacles. Well, they’re actually the right size and the cars are tiny.

The 10 Greatest Early Mac Games – There were some ground-breaking games that came to the Mac first. If you want to play any of these games, the best way is through an early Mac emulator. The emulator “mini vMac” pretends to be a Mac Plus and does a good job of emulating games from 1984-1987.

Off Topic (Sort of):

FINALLY, a Powered Cup That Automates Your Drinking – It’s 2014 and we’re still here manually sipping our favorite bevarines like a planet full of absolute savages. There’s GOT to be a better way! The cup is loosely positioned as a medical aid for people who have just had their wisdom teeth pulled or who have just had surgery. It even goes a step further, claiming that manually sucking your drinks up through a savage-straw can lead to wrinkles – ergo, the cup prevents wrinkles, right?

An insider’s story of the global attack on climate science – It’s likely to be a familiar story to my scientist colleagues in Australia, the UK, the US, and elsewhere around the world. But if you’re not a scientist and are genuinely trying to work out who to believe when it comes to climate change, then it’s a story you need to hear, too. Because while the New Zealand fight over climate data appears to finally be over, it’s part of a much larger, ongoing war against evidence-based science.

Prisoner rats himself out with Facebook selfie of cell-grown cannabis – One of the most stupid selfies ever: a Polish prisoner’s photo, taken on a contraband mobile phone smuggled into the prison, showing a lush, equally contraband and definitely illegal cannabis plant he grew from seed in his cell.

Could your heart power its own pacemaker? – From battery life to pure life, new research shows we’re getting closer to a future where important implanted and wearable health devices could run on power collected from our own organs.

The internet is ‘a gift from God’ says Pope Francis – The pontiff’s central thesis is that “media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all”. “The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity,” Francis writes. “This is something truly good, a gift from God.” But it’s not all tweetness and light, Francis says, offering the following analysis of some downsides of online communities……

GameStop thief called ahead to pre-order the Xbox One he stole – A Nashville man decided to carry out a robbery at a GameStop store in Madison last week and successfully managed to get away with the goods he wanted as well as a large amount of cash. But it’s not the actual robbery that’s surprising here, it’s the way he went about selecting the items to steal.

Ceres, the largest asteroid known, is spewing water into space – New findings show that Ceres, the largest known asteroid, spews enormous jets of water, ice, and other frozen material into space — and astronomers don’t know why.

How Much Google And Other Tech Companies Spent On D.C. Lobbyists In One Chart – Tech companies shelled out over $61 million to influence America’s political leaders in 2013, with Google leading the pack at a handsome $14 million. From high-skilled immigration reform to regulation, tech companies have become increasingly forced to preempt limitations imposed by policymakers. The graph below is based on figures compiled by Consumer Watchdog from the House Clerks disclosure database.


Study of French “three strikes” piracy law finds no deterrent effect – A recently published study of 2,000 French Internet users found that the widely-publicized “three strikes” law hasn’t had much effect on how pirates get their content. It’s not all bad news for the recording industry, though: the authors cite another 2014 study which found that iTunes has seen a 20-25 percent increase in sales of French music just prior to implementation of the law. However, the authors attribute the increased sales to “public educational efforts,” not to the deterrent effect of the law.

Something to think about:

Travellers should be aware that Russian federal law permits the monitoring, retention and analysis of all data that traverses Russian communication networks, including Internet browsing, email messages, telephone calls, and fax transmissions.”

–      The U.S. State Department’s website for travellers to Sochi.

Today’s Free Downloads:

Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit – Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit is a handy and reliable application designed to scan, detect and clean malicious rootkits that reside on your computer. The archive also includes a handy utility that repairs the damage caused by the presence of rootkits. This operation requires a reboot in order to apply the fixes.

WinPatrol – WinPatrol takes snapshot of your critical system resources and alerts you to any changes that may occur without your knowledge. WinPatrol was the pioneer in using a heuristic behavioral approach to detecting attacks and violations of your computing environment. Now, using our “Cloud” technology you can benefit from the experience of other WinPatrol users. WinPatrol continues to be the most powerful system monitor for its small memory footprint. WinPatrol’s easy tabbed interface allows you to explore deep inside your computer without having to be a computer expert. A one-time investment in WinPatrol PLUS provides a unique experience you won’t find in any other software. (Highly recommended.)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden Answers Our Burning Data Collection Question: What’s The Worst That Could Happen? – National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is answering the Internet’s burning questions. Surprisingly, he was even gracious enough to answer my question: “What’s the worst and most realistic harm from bulk collection of data? Why do you think it outweighs national security?” I posted the full response Snowden gave me below. In essence, he argues that the government’s bulk storage of our digital lives causes self-censorship and opens up the potential for severe abuse. “Study after study has show that human behavior changes when we know we’re being watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively are less free,” he wrote. He also notes that mass-spying, “enables a capability called “retroactive investigation,” where once you come to the government’s attention, they’ve got a very complete record of your daily activity going back, under current law, often as far as five years.”

US govt watchdog slams NSA snooping as illegal, useless against terrorism – The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a federal panel set up to advise the US government on policy, has published report concluding that the bulk collection of data on US citizens by the NSA is illegal and ineffective at stopping terrorism. “Based on the information provided to the board, including classified briefings and documentation, we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,” the report stated. The 238-page study found that the NSA’s policy of collecting vast amounts of metadata using Section 215 of the Patriot Act was illegal, and raised serious concerns with regard to breaking the First and Fourth Amendments – covering freedom of speech and unlawful search and seizure of evidence.

Snowden speaks: NSA spies create ‘databases of ruin’ on innocent folks – Ex-NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden used his first public Q&A to call for the US to lead a global initiative to ban mass surveillance of populations. He also wants governments to ensure that intelligence agencies can protect national security while not invading everyday privacy. “Not all spying is bad. The biggest problem we face right now is the new technique of indiscriminate mass surveillance, where governments are seizing billions and billions and billions of innocents’ communication every single day,” he said. “This is done not because it’s necessary – after all, these programs are unprecedented in US history, and were begun in response to a threat that kills fewer Americans every year than bathtub falls and police officers – but because new technologies make it easy and cheap.

Obama in awkward spot after privacy board calls NSA snooping illegal – A report Thursday by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) calling the National Security Agency’s bulk phone records collection program illegal and mostly useless puts the Obama administration in an awkward spot. Less than a week ago, President Obama had described the program as vital to the NSA’s anti-terror effort.


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