Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 27, 2014

Top apps to boost your privacy;  Stay frosty and keep your computer cool;  The tools you need to work on any device;  Microsoft retains weapon to silently scrub XP;  Handy tech to have during an emergency;  Six must-have Ubuntu Unity tweaks;  Encrypt your Android smartphone for paranoid-level security; How to Extend Your iPhone Battery; Cheap or free upgrades to squeeze more power from any PC.

Top apps to boost your privacy – Privacy on the Internet has become a hot issue. Fortunately, there are many apps out there that help to improve your chances of maintaining some shred of privacy. Granted, these aren’t exactly 100 percent PRISM proof, but they’re methods that will significantly improve your chances of having a more anonymous experience on the Web.

Your ultimate mobile office: The tools you need to work on any device – Whether work follows you out of the office or your office is wherever you happen to be, you can’t be tied down. You need to edit documents, access files, track projects, and more, from your laptop or from any major flavor of mobile device. Here are the tools anyone needs to get work done anywhere.

Stay frosty and keep your computer cool – Put half a dozen doctors in a room and ask them for a diagnosis on the patient in front of them and you may be surprised at the answers you get. The same can be said for many computer related problems and cooling your computer is a case in point.

Cheap or free upgrades to squeeze more power from any PC – “This PC is so slow!” This is a cry that’s been uttered by PC users since, well, PCs were first invented. Since we don’t think that there’s anyone out there who wouldn’t like to squeeze a little more performance out of their PC, we’ve pulled together six top tips that will help you get the most out of your Windows PC, without having to spend a fortune. These tips will work for any PC running Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8.

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Microsoft retains weapon to silently scrub XP – Microsoft will be able to silently reach into Windows XP PCs for more than a year after it stops patching the aged OS to clean malware-infected machines, sources close to the company confirmed

How to Extend Your iPhone Battery – Whether you know it or not, you have a bunch up apps pulling down new content all day long. That creates a strain on your battery. Here’s how to fix it.

Encrypt your Android smartphone for paranoid-level security – The following steps will work with nearly all Android devices. I will demonstrate using the Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy S4. Some device instructions may vary (depending upon the device).

Handy tech to have during an emergency – Over the years I’ve learned that having some well-designed kit close to hand can make all the difference during an emergency (small or large). Here’s a look at some of the tech-related kit that I’ve found most useful over the years.

Adobe Releases Photoshop Express 2.0 For Android, Brings an Updated UI and a Host of New Features – Adobe launched Photoshop Express on Android ages ago, and for a long time didn’t do much to improve it. The company has finally gotten back to it with a complete redesign to this free photo editor, and the changes seem overwhelmingly positive. It’s not nearly as powerful as Photoshop Touch, but it’s also worlds easier to use.

BitTorrent throttling in U.S. creeps back up – Most U.S. Internet users enjoy unfettered access to the Web. But that could be changing, if the upwardly creeping percentage of throttled BitTorrent users is any indicator. For more than five years, a Google-backed organization called Measurement Lab has offered a throttling detection program called Glasnost. The latest data from M-Lab, compiled by TorrentFreak, shows that 14 percent of U.S. Glasnost users experienced slower speeds while using BitTorrent between December 2012 and December 2013.

Six must-have Ubuntu Unity tweaks – There’s a lot of reasons to love Ubuntu Unity. Out of the box, it’s an incredibly efficient and user-friendly desktop environment. Is it standard fare? Not at all. Is it hard to learn? Not even remotely. Are there necessary tweaks you have to make? Certainly. Depending upon your desire to tinker, you could find yourself tweaking the interface the entire time you use it. Thankfully, there’s a single tool — called the Unity Tweak Tool — that enables you to fine-tune the Unity interface so that it works exactly how you want it to work.

South Korea bans unremovable mobile bloatware – The South Korean Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning has banned the common practice of mobile manufacturers and networks putting un-removable apps on smartphones. Telcos will now be required to make all pre-installed apps deletable, except for those that enable Wi-Fi connectivity, near-field communication, customer service, and an app store.

Yahoo mocks Gmail outage, backtracks, apologises, looks stupid – After yesterday’s brief outage that hit Google services, Yahoo took to Twitter to mock its rival, apparently forgetting the massive outage that crippled its own email service for four days last month.

Prevent unauthorized use of material you share on social networks – Anyone can send unlicensed users a takedown notice, but the only way to collect damages for a violation of your copyright on the images, videos, and other items you post is to register them with your friendly local copyright office.

BeWifi lets you steal your neighbor’s bandwidth when they’re not using it – What if, when you were up at a ridiculous hour Skyping your relatives in Australia, you could borrow unused bandwidth from your sleeping neighbors to make your own broadband connection faster and stronger? High up in a glass tower in Barcelona, Telefonica’s research and development team has been attempting to tackle exactly this question. The solution they have come up with, BeWifi, is a technology that gathers bandwidth from local Wi-Fi routers in order to enhance the connection of the users that happen to be on the Internet at exactly that moment in time.

Microsoft creates a 20 gigapixel photo panorama of Seattle – Microsoft has created a new 20 gigapixel photo panorama of Seattle that used the company’s Photosynth and Image Composite Editor software to merge nearly 2,400 separate photos.

Camera innovation: 10 products that are changing how we take photos and videos – Innovative technology is rapidly changing the way we use a camera. In the future, we will do much more than just record, share, and stream photos and videos.

How Much Time Have You Wasted on Facebook? – Facebook doesn’t publicize data on exactly how often a user logs in, though you can bet that they’ve got that information. In lieu of that measurement, this app runs through the timestamps on every post in your feed until it reaches the earliest one, which it uses as the estimated date that you created your profile. Users who are extraordinarily active on the site may get an estimate that is considerably later than the actual date that they joined.


Arts and crafts chain Michaels investigates possible data breach – Michaels, a large U.S.-based arts and craft store chain, said Saturday it is investigating a possible data breach after suspicious activity was detected on payment cards used at its stores. The company opted to come forward without confirming a compromise because of the “widely reported criminal efforts to penetrate the data systems of U.S. retailers,” according to a company statement.

Spam drops as legit biz dumps mass email ads: Only the dodgy remain – Kaspersky Lab reports the portion of spam in email flows was as high as 69.6 per cent in 2013 – which is 2.5 percentage points lower than 2012. The biggest sources of spam were China (23 per cent) and the US (18 per cent), according to the Russian security firm. The drop in spam mail last year follows a steady decrease since 2010. Kaspersky experts reckons that unscrupulous marketeers are turning away from email because it’s becoming a less and less effective medium to promote their dubious wares.

Pay by hashtag: Twitter wants to get inside your wallet – Twitter is reportedly working on an e-commerce project powered by Stripe, a company that acts behind the scenes to process payments for sharing-economy startups such as Lyft, Postmates, and Sidecar. What that social-shopping initiative will look like is still unclear, but this isn’t the first time Twitter or other social networks have set their sights on retail.

Microsoft says new phishing attacks targeted law enforcement documents – On Friday, Microsoft admitted that “a select number” of employees fell victim to a successfully-executed highly-targeted spear phishing attacks via social media and e-mail accounts. The company says the attackers went after “documents associated with law enforcement.”

Here’s To Ten Years of Mobile Malware! – Not all anniversaries are celebrations of good relationships. In the early days of malware and cellphones’ relationship, it might have been hard to foresee that mobile threats would explode into the problem that they are today. Fortinet celebrated mobile malware’s tenth anniversary this year by detailing some of the most notable threats to mobile devices.

Brazilian techie gets biggest Facebook payout to date – Facebook announced its largest payment to date to a Brazilian computer engineer for finding one of the worst bugs it could have in its systems. Reginaldo Silva received $33,500 from the company for his discovery, which was related to an XML external entity vulnerability within a PHP page hosted on its servers utilizing OpenID authentication.

Company News:

Apple now spends more on chips than top three PC makers combined – According to the latest figures from market research firm IHS iSuppli, Apple and Samsung again topped the list of the biggest semiconductor consumers, as they have done for the last three years running. And they did so by a wide margin. Together, Apple and Samsung bought $52.5bn worth of semiconductors in 2013, a sum that represented 22 per cent of the “served available market” – a metric that excludes purchases companies make from their own internal divisions.

Google and Samsung sign global patent cross-license deal – Today, Samsung and Google announced that the two companies signed patent cross-licensing agreements. The deal covers both existing patents and patents filed over the next 10 years, though the companies didn’t say how all encompassing the agreement was. Recode, which appears to have been briefed on the situation, reports that the patents cover more than just mobile devices.

Ericsson and Samsung settle patent litigation with a licensing pact – After signing a global patent licensing agreement with Google, Samsung is once again entering into another licensing arrangement. However, in its settlement with Ericsson, however, Samsung is not really standing on equal ground.

Candy trademark owner accused of cloning indie game Scamperghost – There has been a lot of talk about managing to trademark the word candy this week. Not only because allowing such a generic word to be trademarked is ridiculous, but because of’s actions since securing the trademark. They are aggressively pursuing other developers using names similar to their own games. states this is their way of protecting games from clones and ensuring gamers don’t get confused due to similar naming, but apparently did exactly what it is trying to prevent before it hit the big time with releases like Candy Crush Saga.

Games and Entertainment:

PC gaming hardware: The coolest gear to look for in 2014 – 2014 could be a renaissance year for PC gaming. From pristine graphics to compact designs to immersive gameplay, there’s never been a better time to ditch your console and boot up a PC. Check out some of the most exciting things due to arrive this year—some of them enticingly soon. We start with a powerful gaming PC masquerading as a light, thin laptop.

Screenshots confirm Oculus Rift horror game The Forest is pure nightmare fuel – If there’s one thing the Oculus Rift is fantastic at, it’s making things seem incredibly real. While some people would take this and apply it to beautiful scenery or a chance to dive into your favorite story world, one game developer is going to use this tech to inspire a whole new kind of nightmare.

Dungeons and Dragons Turns 40: 10 Awesome D&D Computer Games – It’s Dungeons and Dragons’ 40th anniversary, and people have been playing it on PCs for almost as long. Walk through the 10 best adaptations in the past 40 years.

Google demos mini-games for Glass – The Mini-Games app for Glass consists of five different games for Glass that all focus on exploring a different kind of user interaction. The Clay Shooter game uses your head to control the crosshairs to take down small orange disks as they fly past you, after you shout “Pull!” to start the round. Matcher is a Glass-friendly memory game where you hover over tiles to match up shapes, again using your head to control the pointer. Shape Splitter offers Fruit Ninja style gameplay, only you slash your hand in front of the Glass camera to take out the colorful shapes. Balance is a 2D accelerometer game that stacks boxes on a tiny person that you keep stable with your head, while Tennis uses your face as a racket to play a quick match in a 3D space.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Most Americans Are Unaware Of [Insert Issue Here] – Let’s face it: a disturbingly large portion of the American electorate are not-so-knowledgeable about their world. As of 2008, 30% still maintain that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and 18% think the sun revolves around the earth. So, when our friends in the press ran headlines about how most Americans had heard “nothing at all” about President Obama’s recent surveillance reforms, I would have been surprised by exactly the opposite. Let’s take a trip down the rabbit hole of America’s civic knowledge and whether it matters to a functioning democratic state.

Police want to use your home security cameras for surveillance – A proposal in California suggests that local residents should contribute their security camera video for the societal good. As the San Jose Mercury News reports, all the citizens would have to do is to register their home security cameras with the local police. In the event of a local incident of any kind, the police would be able to remotely access the video feed and view everything the home security camera captured. Supporters suggest that this is an intelligent and logical suggestion to combat increasing crime in what used to be known as a safe part of America. (Amazing – the POLICE seeking cooperation in expanding the POLICE STATE.)

Famous VC: I meant what I said. Criticizing the rich is like Nazism – You might have heard a slight collective inhalation on your Twitter account over the last 24 hours. It seems that Tom Perkins, the Perkins Of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (and now merely partner emeritus), believes that expressions of concern, distaste, or protest toward the 1 percent who have a lot more money than the 99 percent is akin to Nazism. In a letter to the Wall Street Journal headlined “Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?”, Perkins said, oh just read the whole thing:

10 chilly GIFs of snow and ice – Winter weather is ravaging much of the US this week, and there’s not much we can do about it. Might as well embrace the season, and what better way than in GIF form?

A hacker’s story: Mitchell Frost explains his motivation – As a 19-year-old college student In 2006, Mitchell Frost used a campus network to launch botnets against several conservative web sites; here is his story.

Hawking paper argues black holes aren’t black after all – Stephen Hawking helped to first convince the world that black holes exist, but this week he’s begun the opposite campaign: black holes do not exist as we thought we knew them.

A Visual History of Apple’s Mac – The Mac in 2014 is a totally different beast compared to the 1984 Macintosh. In a note on its website, Apple said that Mac “was designed to be so easy to use that people could actually use it.” That sounds obvious, but back in 1984, personal computing wasn’t very intuitive.

Credit: PCMag.

Something to think about:

“You always second guess yourself. Just think of all the time you’d save if you just trusted yourself.”

–      Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata

Today’s Free Downloads:

StrokesPlus – StrokesPlus is a mouse gesture recognition program that allows you to automate repetitive tasks by simply drawing a gesture with your mouse or performing mouse and/or keyboard modifiers to fire off an action sequence. Whether the action sequence you’re wanting to fire uses a gesture, mouse/keyboard modifier(s), or both, you begin with pressing the selected Stroke button on your mouse. By default, the Stroke button is assigned to the right mouse button. To begin, press and hold the Stroke button and either draw the gesture or perform the mouse/keyboard modifier(s), then release the Stroke button. If the events are recognized as being tied to an action sequence, StrokesPlus will fire the action sequence.

FrostWire – FrostWire is a peer-to-peer file sharing program for the Gnutella and BitTorrent protocols. FrostWire is written in Java, and is a fork of LimeWire, another popular Gnutella client. Released under the GNU General Public License, FrostWire is free software.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden accuses NSA of conducting industrial espionage – The National Security Agency engages in industrial espionage, grabbing intelligence from foreign companies regardless of the information’s value to national defense, Edward Snowden told a German TV network. In text released to the media ahead of a broadcast Sunday, German public television broadcaster ARD quoted the former NSA contractor as citing German engineering firm Siemens as an example.

The Obama Administration’s Frustrating NSA Week – While Congress and the nation at large have done little except talk and embark on preliminary legal skirmishes regarding the United States’ mass surveillance practices, the forces in favor of reform and change had a decent week. The Obama administration did not. The president’s speech one week ago on proposed changes to NSA practices was met with skepticism. A sample headline detailing the response: “Jon Stewart skewers Obama’s vague, rambling NSA speech.” The Post was sedate but firm: “Obama goal for quick revamp of NSA program may be unworkable, some U.S. officials fear.” If the president had hoped that his reform proposals — including mild curtailment of the phone metadata program, some sort of protection for the privacy of foreign citizens and the like — would placate those opposed to the NSA, he was certainly disappointed.

NSA website ‘for children’ features code breaking cats and dogs – An article in the New York Times has drawn attention to a NSA website tailored for children. The website, which features cartoon animals, teaches children about the benefits of intelligence gathering.

Snowden return to US hinges on amnesty, his legal adviser says – Any negotiations with Edward Snowden regarding his return to the US would require guarantees of amnesty, his legal adviser said Sunday. Jesselyn Radack told NBC’s “Meet The Press” that the former NSA contractor would be willing to enter negotiations with Attorney General Eric Holder about returning to the US but would need assurances that he would not face prosecution for leaking confidential documents detailing the NSA’s surveillance programs. Holder said Thursday that the US would be open to negotiations but that granting amnesty “would be going too far.”

Apple’s Tim Cook interview on NSA begins with “no back door” – Today on the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Mac computer to the world by Apple, Tim Cook has taken to ABC to speak not only about oddities like Sapphire Crystal, he’s come to speak about the NSA as well. After having actually headed to the White House on the 17th of December, 2013, to speak with the President about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, here Cook suggests that he wishes he could say more.


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