Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 4, 2014

9 free tools that make Windows much better;  Free Portable System Monitor;  What to do if you absolutely can’t, or won’t, give up XP;  Feds to Require Tech That Lets Cars ‘Talk’ to Each Other;  Five essential Windows 8.1 time-saving tweaks;  Microsoft gets mom to get nasty about Chromebooks;  Change your Facebook privacy settings with a click;  Please de-friend your ex: How people are using Facebook;  Which Android security apps are the most effective?  Droidpak: A sneak attack on Android devices via PC malware;  11 tips and tricks for the Chromebook; Encrypt All Your Shared Data With nCrypted Cloud;  Affordable Smart Tech for Your Home.

9 free tools that make Windows much better – Windows is packed to the rafters with features, many of them great—and others, just meh. Luckily, there are free alternatives that are more powerful, more efficient, and take only minutes to install. Read on, and we’ll show you 9 built-in features of Windows that aren’t up to snuff, and the free software you can use to replace them.

Open Hardware Monitor: Free Portable System Monitor – System monitoring tools, which display core temps, fan speeds, etc. in real time, can be a very useful addition to the desktop. I checked out Open Hardware Monitor on the home site and the first thing that caught my attention was an option to display user selected fields in the form of a desktop gadget… sounds good. I further discovered that this neat little system monitoring tool is also portable, no installation required… now I’m hooked! (A terrific application – highly recommended.)

What to do if you absolutely can’t, or won’t, give up XP – Your business may depend on a specialized application that won’t run on Windows 7 or 8. Or you may not be able to afford a new PC and your old one isn’t powerful enough for an upgrade. Perhaps you’re just stubborn. Reluctantly, I’m going to advise you on protecting a Windows XP computer after Microsoft’s updates stop. But I give this advice with a warning: This is not perfect protection. You’ll be better off giving up on XP.

Which Android security apps are the most effective? – A recent test by the folks at AV-Test reveals the winners and losers among security software for Google’s mobile OS. The January 2014 report lists all the apps included in AV-Test’s analysis. One column shows how the app fared at basic protection, while another column displays its record at usability. Six solid white squares in a row means the app got a score of 6 out of 6. A convenient link to Google Play allows you to download the apps.

11 tips and tricks for the Chromebook – These tricks will help old and new Chromebook owners alike get more out of the laptops with Google’s OS. There is also a bonus tip for connecting securely to work.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How To Get Facebook Paper If You’re Outside The US – If you’ve ever had to work around the App Store’s geographical restrictions before, this’ll all be old hat. And if you haven’t? Don’t worry — it’s easy. All you have to do is convince iTunes that you’re from the US. If you’re trying to download a paid app, that’s a pretty huge pain; you’ll need a local address, a local credit card, etc. But Paper is free! So iTunes doesn’t hassle you too much.

Five essential Windows 8.1 time-saving tweaks – Bypass the lock screen; boot directly to the desktop; add app shortcuts to the Start menu; use one hand to drag and drop items via your laptop’s touch pad; and shut down quickly via keyboard shortcuts.

Encrypt All Your Shared Data With nCrypted Cloud – Enterprise users who want to use common file-sharing services like Dropbox and Google Drive have a big problem: their IT guys will always be worried that one hacker will be able to bring down their internal network. A new service called nCrypted Cloud is trying to assuage this fear by encrypting everything, everywhere, and offering an audit trail to see who accessed what files when.

SlideLock Lets You Receive All Your Notifications on the Android Lockscreen – Android has great notifications, but you can always make them a little more efficient with some customization. SlideLock sucks in all the notifications from your device and puts them on the lockscreen so you can triage everything seeking your attention without unlocking the device.

Change your Facebook privacy settings with a click – The free MyFacePrivacy app gives you four one-click options for setting the Facebook privacy level you’re comfortable with. It also provides a straightforward interface for customizing your Facebook privacy options.

Affordable Smart Tech for Your Home – We’re surrounded by smart technology that’s designed to make our lives easier. So why shouldn’t our homes get in on the game?

Google Now Arrives In Chrome Beta For Desktop – Google Now is about to arrive in Chrome beta for Mac, Windows and Chromebook. With this, Google’s automatic alerts for upcoming concerts you bought tickets to, flight delays, heavy traffic on your route to work and other relevant information the company gleans from your daily habits and emails, have now finally found their way onto the desktop. The company says this new feature will be available later this week, so if you don’t see it yet, don’t despair.

Please de-friend your ex: How people are using Facebook – A study by the Pew Research Center charts the habits of Facebook users. Shocker: People don’t like it when their friends overshare.

Didn’t download the leaked Windows 8.1 build? Here’s a video walkthrough – A build of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8.1 Update 1 that is slated to arrive this spring, leaked and showed off a few new features. If you were not brave enough (and we don’t blame you) to download the bits from the dark corners of the web, a video overview of the update has made its way to YouTube.

Sprint brings walkie-talkie feature to more Android phones – Nostalgic for that Nextel push-to-talk capability? Sprint brings the feature back through a free app that works with select Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S4 and LG G2.

Democrats introduce net neutrality legislation in Senate and House – In a coordinated move, Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives to enshrine network neutrality principles in law until the Federal Communications Commission rules on the matter. “This bill ensures that consumers, not their Internet service provider, are in the driver’s seat when it comes to their online experience,” said the House bill’s cosponsor, Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA).

Security:

Droidpak: A sneak attack on Android devices via PC malware – New Android banking malware leverages vulnerable PCs to install itself on Android mobile devices. Learn how to foil this latest exploit.

Death by 1,000 breaches: SMBs, customers desperate for adequate security tools – While high-profile incidents at Target and Neiman Marcus generate the most headlines and anxiety, small businesses and their customers remain the most vulnerable to security breaches – and also the most underserved.

Tumblr Adds Support For SSL But Doesn’t Turn It On By Default – Like the numerous tech companies that have come before it, including big names like Google, Facebook and Twitter, Tumblr has today (finally) implemented support for SSL security on its blogging platform. One big caveat, though: it’s not switched on by default. You have to DIY.

Could your TV really spam you? – Some researchers say that in the Internet of Things, botnets may be able to infect your TV, refrigerator, or other smart devices; but other security experts are skeptical.

Passwords stolen in Bell Canada hack surface on the web – Canadian wireless carrier Bell Canada has admitted that the user names and passwords stolen in a recent hack have turned up on the web. The carrier says that the usernames and passwords of 22,421 of its small business users were stolen and illegally posted on the web this weekend.

Company News:

Rumor Has It Dell Is Planning To Lay Off 15,000 Employees – Layoff rumors are rarely happy news and this is particularly unhappy: the Register is reporting that sources have told them that Dell is laying off 15,000 employees this week, almost 15% of its 108,000-employee workforce. This move comes after an already substantial round of layoffs in January.

Microsoft gets mom to get nasty about Chromebooks – Microsoft might want you to think it’s a forward-thinking company. But it’s acting toward Google as if it’s a cheating ex-spouse

Google Finally Opens Chromecast Up to All Developers with Official Cast API – Google released the Chromecast last summer to mostly positive reviews. This $35 HDMI dongle is ideal for streaming video and audio to a TV or sound system, but support has been severely limited. There are only about a dozen Chromecast-compatible apps, all developed with early access to the API granted by Google. Now that number is about to explode as Google has opened up the Cast API to all developers.

Think Gogo overcharges for in-flight Wi-Fi? Lawsuit seeks to prove it – The class action complaint (PDF) was filed in US District Court in Northern California by James Stewart, Joel Milne, and Joseph Strazzullo, and it claims that “Gogo has unlawfully obtained and/or maintained monopoly market power in the United States market for inflight Internet connectivity on domestic commercial aircraft by resort to anti-competitive conduct that includes a series of long-term exclusive contracts with the major domestic airlines in the United States. The lawsuit demands a jury trial, class action status, changes in Gogo’s business practices, and financial damages.

States say Apple should pay $840M in e-book price-fixing case – Taking a case to trial is usually a gamble, and when Apple decided to fight it out with the government over e-book pricing, it lost in a big way. The judge found that Apple did indeed conspire to fix prices, and the court issued an order that stopped Apple from entering into “Most Favored Nation (MFN)” pricing arrangements with publishers. The judge’s plan is being executed by an appointed monitor, and Apple is fighting it every step of the way. The company filed an emergency appeal last week. While the nearly billion-dollar damages claim is a big one, Apple is uniquely capable of handling such setbacks right now. The company had nearly $160 billion in the bank at the end of 2013, according to financial reports.

Games and Entertainment:

Steam Music beta will soon let you play your music… through Steam – Steam’s ever-expanding list of features will soon include a music player. The company recently announced an upcoming beta test for the new music features, designed to integrate local file playback while in a Steam game. Steam users who join the Steam Music community group will be invited into the beta in waves in the near future, according to the announcement.

Flappy Bird Tops App Store Charts, Headed to Windows Phone – The formerly unknown game, created by “passionate indie game maker” Doug Nguyen with Vietnam-based developer .GEARS Studios, is currently sitting atop the free app list in Apple’s App Store and Google Play. But if this is the first you’re hearing of it, you’re not alone. The game first hit the App Store in May 2013, but didn’t reach the top of the charts until last month. It was released in Google Play on Jan. 30, and is now the top free app there as well.

Tales of Phantasia gets a US release on iOS – Tales of Phantasia gets a second run in the US market but an aggressive monetization strategy may have destroyed a classic.

PlayStation 4 February releases begin with horror – The first in a (relatively short) series of releases for PlayStation 4 this month will be the horror title “Outlast.” Spoken extremely highly of in its first release on the PC, this game has been called scary in a rather ridiculous way. Here we’re also going to see it release for free – just so long as you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber, of course.

Skyrim virtual reality demo uses Oculus Rift and omnidirectional treadmill – To demonstrate Cyberith’s treadmill, the team strapped one of its own into the rig — as seen above — where he became Dovahkiin. The humankiin looked around using the Oculus Rift — essentially replacing the mouse with his head — and used some Wiimotes to control the character’s weapons and magic. Rather than press W on a keyboard to walk around, the demonstrator walked around on the blue circular padding of the Virtualizer, the omnidirectional treadmill.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Feds to Require Tech That Lets Cars ‘Talk’ to Each Other – The U.S. Department of Transportation is moving forward with a plan to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication among light vehicles. The technology allows cars to “talk” to one another, exchanging basic safety data like speed and position 10 times per second in an effort to ultimately avoid crashes. It will not, however, automatically operate systems like braking or steering; the actual life-saving remains up to the driver.

Two Socially Conscious Entrepreneurs work together to teach young kids to code – What do Verge generation fashion mogul Greg Selko and pediatrician Andrey Ostrovsky have in common? They both know that technology is bringing the world’s population together like no other time in history. MedTech Boston caught up with the busy Andrey Ostrovsky in preparation for the launch of his new book, ABCs of the Web: A Child’s First Introduction to Programming. Ostrovsky is currently a pediatric resident at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center.

Man who posts online vid of kitten abuse gets year in prison – A French man is sentenced to prison for animal cruelty within days after posting a Facebook video of himself throwing a cat against a wall.

Super Bowl sets Twitter record, as Volkswagen launches social war room – Sunday’s Super Bowl game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos was a blowout so it may have been a bit of a letdown for football fans around the country. But it wasn’t a letdown for social media. As fans snacked on dip and hot wings in their friends’ living rooms, they tweeted and posted comments about their parties and about big plays, as well as big goofs, in the game.

Dejected NFL fans seek smut after Super Bowl blowout – A lopsided score in the Super Bowl kicked off a sudden spike in traffic as users sought alternative methods of entertainment in the later stages of the game. According to adult video site Pornhub, traffic levels in much of the country fluctuated with the outcome of the game, dropping sharply in the early minutes then rising as the game reached an early climax which left many unsatisfied.

Facebook then and now (pictures) – The social network turns 10 on February 4. CNET looks back at the many variations of the service over the years.

Electronic tongue can identify beer brands on taste alone – Good news, robots! You may soon become beer connoisseurs thanks to an amazing electronic tongue that can identify different brews with staggering accuracy. Don’t worry: the electronic tongue isn’t going to challenge your amazing beer-tasting prowess at this point. It’s got to be trained to identify brews, just like you do. So until scientists finish filling out the system’s beer passport, your years of experience would still win out in a one-on-one competition.

Something to think about:

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

–     Bill Gates

Today’s Free Downloads:

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition – Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition has been engineered to enable you to enjoy your computer to the max, without having to worry about viruses and other e-threats. We call it “artificial intelligence” because it will always find the best way for your system to stay clear of dangers without requiring special configuring. And, more importantly, without slowing down your system. Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition shares some of the revolutionary technologies that allowed our main product line to outpass major competitors such as AVG, Avast or Avira. (But, does it work? Here’s a screen shot of a blocked site response I encountered while curating today’s post.)

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NirLauncher – NirLauncher is a package of more than 100 portable freeware utilities for Windows, all of them developed for NirSoft Web site during the last few years. In order to start using NirLauncher, simply extract all files in the package into your flash drive, or any other disk you want. You must extract the package with full folder names, so all NirSoft utilities will be add into NirSoft Subfolder. After you extracted the package, simply run the executable file – NirLauncher.exe. Editor’s Note: This package tends to set off many antivirus programs. This is a False Positive.

ManicTime – ManicTime sits in the background and records your activities, so you can just forget it is there and focus on your work. When you are finished you can use collected data to accurately keep track of your time. After you have finished working, you can use MT to keep track of your hours. That means no more “punch-clock” like software, where you always forget to start or stop the clock. Just sit back and do your work. After you are finished, you can easily use collected data to accurately keep track of your time.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

German federal prosecutor considers formal NSA investigation – Germany’s federal prosecutor is considering if there is enough evidence to warrant a formal, criminal investigation into the German government’s alleged involvement in the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) data collection program, a spokeswoman said Monday. Privacy and human rights campaigners including the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), the International League for Human Rights (ILMR) and Digitalcourage on Monday filed a criminal complaint against the German federal government and the presidents of the German secret services for their alleged involvement in illegal and prohibited covert intelligence activities, they said in a news release.

Chaos Computer Club sues German gov’t over NSA civil rights violations – The complaint is directed against the German government, the leaders of German secret services, U.S., British and German secret agents, their supervisors, the German Minister of the Interior as well as the German Chancellor, and alleges that German officials aided the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.K.’s GCHQ in “illegal and prohibited covert intelligence activities, along with aiding and abetting such activities.” In addition to alleged involvement in illegal spying activities, the European hacking group says that the German general public’s “right to privacy” was violated.

Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google And Yahoo Join Apple In Revealing More On NSA Requests – All the big tech companies are opening up a bit more about requests made by the U.S. National Security Agency, with Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and LinkedIn detailing new info included in their respective transparency reports today. The new reports now include how many requests for the data of its members it has received from the government, how many total users were affected, and what percentage of those receive a response from the company.

Those NSA Transparency Reports From Google Aren’t So Transparent – Google, Facebook, Microsoft and LinkedIn all made headlines today for releasing “transparency” reports about the number of users for which the U.S. government has requested data. We now know that major Internet companies have given up personal information from between 0-15,999 user accounts, but we don’t know what exactly was given up or whether additional data was taken without the companies’ knowledge. “The numbers themselves don’t tell us very much at all,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo tells me. “These transparency reports only represent a small portion of what the NSA is doing to get data out of these companies. A lot of what the NSA is doing is without the company’s knowledge.”

David Cameron Says Snooper’s Charter Is Necessary Because Fictional Crime Dramas He Watches Prove It – Prime Minister David Cameron is back to pushing for the snooper’s charter — and his reasoning is as stupid as it is unbelievable. Apparently, he thinks it’s necessary because the fictional crime dramas he watches on TV show why it’s necessary. I am not joking, even though I wish I was – “In the most serious crimes [such as] child abduction communications data… is absolutely vital. I love watching, as I probably should stop telling people, crime dramas on the television. There’s hardly a crime drama where a crime is solved without using the data of a mobile communications device.” Yes, he just said that. Because fictional characters on crime drama TV shows make use of data, that’s somehow proof that it’s necessary. Perhaps someone can send Cameron a copy of Enemy of the State or any other fictional work showing how the government can abuse such information. Or, better yet, let’s have our side stick with reality, and we can just point to real historical events of governments abusing such information. (suggested by John B.)

Canadian spokhaus says airport WiFi slurp didn’t invade privacy – The chief of the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), which has been accused of slurping airport WiFi traffic in a story aired on CBC, has denied wrongdoing to a Canadian Senate committee. As part of the never-ending drip-feed of spook secrets served up by Edward Snowden, CBC News alleged that CSEC used airport WiFi to identify individuals passing through, which it then tracked “for days”. According Canada’s The Globe and Mail, the prime minister’s national security advisor told the committee that he was “not totally persuaded” that CSEC had “tapped into airport WiFi”. Rather, Rigby said, the agency had only collected metadata, which he described as “legal and appropriate” because all that was collected was “data about data”. (Rigby is a liar. He represents a government which continues to push it’s extreme right wing agenda (rife with corruption) – an agenda disowned by the majority of Canadians. In an election scheduled for next year, this government appears certain to be thrown out on it’s ass.)

2 Comments

Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 4, 2014

  1. Alan

    Bill is a great voice of freedom, integrity, he is broad minded and has real heart..a person with conscience and real sensibilities..*.obviously he wouldn’t do to others what he doesn’t want done to himself.*