Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 7, 2014

More than 4,000 groups sign up to protest the NSA;  10 cool free Chrome extensions;  The truth about your PC: These benchmark tools tell all;  Beep aims to make dumb speakers smart;  Romantic apps for Valentine’s Day;  7 great games you should be playing right now;  5 Easy Ways to View Photos on Your TV;  Android: Free file manager apps;  New Ransomware Blocks Your DNS Connection;  29 of The Most Influential Images of All Time;  Uncle Sam: I want you to sell me malware.

More than 4,000 groups sign up to protest the NSA – More than 4,000 groups and websites have signed on to support a day of protest against U.S. National Security Agency surveillance programs, scheduled for Tuesday. In addition, tens of thousands of people have pledged to make calls and post messages on the Web in support of surveillance reform, said organizers of The Day We Fight Back. Among the groups supporting the day of Web protest are the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, BoingBoing, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Mozilla, Reddit and Tumblr.

The truth about your PC: These benchmark tools tell all – Just how fast is your PC? Is your laptop’s battery up to snuff? Benchmarking software can tell you this. Once the province of PC builders and tuners, the best packages available today are accessible to mainstream users as well—though it still helps to have some knowledge of your PC’s innards to reap the greatest benefits. The free packages reviewed here can get the job done for free, and in many cases, you can get more by upgrading to a paid version.

10 cool free Chrome extensions – The Chrome browser has evolved into a platform of its own, in large part due to the ability to add functionality through extensions. These are some of the most useful.

Walmart Kicks Off New iOS, Galaxy Phone Trade-In Deals – The retailer is rolling back the price of Apple’s iPad 2 (16GB Wi-Fi model) from $399 to $299. The deal starts today, but if you want to take advantage of it you better act fast because it’s only available for the next 30 days. You can also save even more when you trade in your old iPad for a new model. Walmart is guaranteeing at least $100 trade-in value on any Apple iPad. That means you can pick up the iPad 2 for just $199, or a new iPad Air (16GB Wi-Fi) for $399, when you trade in your current Apple tablet.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Get your phone under control with one of these free file manager apps – It should come as no surprise, then, that you can manage the files on your Android device much as you do on your laptop. All you need is the right app; something that gives you access to the underlying folders. Of course, the Google Play Store is home to dozens, possibly hundreds, of Android file managers, so how can you pick the right one?

Add a battery bar on top of your Android screen with Energy Bar – Energy Bar for Android gives you a new way to check your battery status by adding a thin bar at the top of the screen.

5 Easy Ways to View Photos on Your TV – Whether you’re sharing photos from a recent trip or traveling down memory lane, it’s hard to do your pictures justice on your smartphone or camera’s small screen. So why not take advantage of the big screen you already have—your TV? It’s easy and you probably already have everything you need. Check out the following options to start viewing your pictures and videos on your TV.

Firefox’s touchy-feeling Windows 8 makeover now in beta – After a long development process, a beta version of the Firefox web browser that offers support for Windows 8’s touch-centric UI mode is now available. “This touch-friendly, tile-based Firefox is optimized for Microsoft’s Windows 8 Modern UI and designed to ensure users get the best Firefox browsing experience possible on their Windows 8 tablets, touch-screen laptops and other compatible devices,” the Mozilla Foundation said in a blog post announcing the release.

Where sticky notes are stored and how you can recover them – Windows allows you to keep handy “sticky” notes on your computer’s desktop, but doesn’t tell you where it actually stores the text. You may need that information someday.

Romantic apps for Valentine’s Day Money is not the object this Valentine’s Day. Get on your beloved’s good side without getting into debt with our top five romantic apps.

Google Chromebox for Meetings aims to usurp enterprise with Chrome OS – Google has revealed Chromebox for Meetings, it’s attempt to further push Chrome OS into the enterprise by offering a simpler way for multiple people to collaborate. Offered as a $999 kit including a Core i7 Chromebox – such as the ASUS Chromebox announced this month, though models from Dell and HP are also in the works – a noise-canceling microphone, 1080p autofocus HD camera, and double-sided remote with a QWERTY keyboard, Chromebox for Meetings plugs into an existing display or projector and can, Google claims, be up and running in minutes.

Beep aims to make dumb speakers smart – The $150 device lets you wirelessly send music from a smartphone or tablet to any old speaker systems or boomboxes you’ve got around the house.

How to Securely Dispose of a Printer – The other day a reader asked me something I couldn’t immediately answer. “I know that, when you toss a dead computer, you’re supposed to make the person information that resides on hard drive inaccessible to the outside world,” he said. “I was wondering if this same issue arises when you toss a dead printer?”

Domain Registrar Liable for Torrent Site Infringement, Court Rules – A court in Germany has ruled that a domain registrar can be held liable for the copyright-infringing activities of a torrent site using its services. Registrar Key-Systems informs TorrentFreak that if allowed to stand, the ruling will have dire consequences for the kind of services domain registrars are able to provide in future. (suggested by Aseem S.)

Share context-free, full-screen YouTube videos with – When you go to share a YouTube video that has a big payoff at the end, the surprise can be ruined by all of the information surrounding the video player, mainly the video’s title, description, and comments. With, you’ll get a link that opens the video and the video only. No title. No description. No comments. Neither views count nor runtime nor related videos. And as an added bonus, removes preroll ads and starts your chosen video as soon as the link is opened.

Google’s Latest Doodle Shows Support For LGBT Olympians Heading To Sochi – Hours before the 2014 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony is set to kick off, Google is putting some of its most valuable real estate — their logo — to good use: to show their support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender olympians on their way to Sochi.

Facebook Grants Grieving Father’s ‘Look Back’ Video Wish – Facebook has granted one grieving father’s wish to watch his deceased son’s “Look Back” anniversary video. The makeshift home movies feature your first moments on the site, your most liked posts, and photos you’ve shared through the years, all set to a lilting soundtrack. Many have shared their own videos online, but for the Berlin family, one was missing.


Want to remotely control a car? $20 in parts, some oily fingers, and you’re in command – Spanish hackers have been showing off their latest car-hacking creation; a circuit board using untraceable, off-the-shelf parts worth $20 that can give wireless access to the car’s controls while it’s on the road. The device, which will be shown off at next month’s Black Hat Asia hacking conference, uses the Controller Area Network (CAN) ports car manufacturers build into their engines for computer-system checks. Once assembled, the smartphone-sized device can be plugged in under some vehicles, or inside the bonnet of other models, and give the hackers remote access to control systems.

One in three victims of Target card breach could face fraud – One in three data breach victims in 2013 later experienced fraud, according to a survey released Wednesday, a sharp increase that doesn’t bode well for millions of Target shoppers. That’s up from one in four in 2012, according to Javelin Research, which polled 5,634 U.S. adults over three weeks last October about financial fraud incidents.

Two ‘critical,’ three ‘important’ Microsoft security patches coming Tuesday – Microsoft has announced it will release two security updates labeled as “critical” on Tuesday, along with three that it calls “important,” most of which affect various versions of Windows.

New Ransomware Blocks Your DNS Connection And Forces Your Computer To Mine Bitcoins – A new bit of malware, Linkup, is a clever girl. First it takes control of the DNS servers your computer pings to connect to the Internet and, while you’re wondering how to delete it, begins mining bitcoins on the sly. Anti-virus purveyors Emsisoft identified the ransomware in the wild.

Target breach blamed on a simple network segmentation error – The massive data breach at Target may have resulted partly from the retailer’s failure to properly segregate systems handling sensitive payment card data from the rest of its network.

Syrian Electronic Army tries (and fails) to hijack Facebook – Some registration information for was changed, but the domain was not redirected to an unauthorized server

Company News:

Sony Hands E-Reader Division to Kobo – Sony’s reorganization didn’t end with PCs and TVs—the tech giant today announced plans to hand its struggling e-reader business off to Kobo next month. Starting in late March, U.S. and Canadian customers will gain access to Kobo’s massive content catalogue, which will soon house the Sony Reader Store and users’ current e-book libraries.

Pinterest shoots for world domination with new mobile site – Pinterest said Thursday that it has redesigned its mobile Web site to match the experience of its other applications. The tweaked look is meant to make it easier for the pin-based social network to infiltrate new countries as it expands to the rest of the world. Four-year-old Pinterest is currently available in 22 languages. The company said, after closing a $225 million funding round in October, that it was on a mission to make its apps more accessible to international audiences.

Apple buys its own shares in “opportunistic” bid – In an interview today, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook announced the company repurchased $14 billion of its own shares, doing so over the course of the last couple weeks since reporting its financials. The move was “opportunistic”, said Cook, who went on to state Apple had been surprised by the company’s 8-percent drop in shares late last month.

Google’s Nest acquisition cleared by FTC – Google announced the Nest Labs acquisition back in mid-January. The purchase price was set at $3.2 billion in cash, and as we learned, the Nest team would be welcomed into the Google family. But while the acquisition was announced, and some plans were specified, there was also the standard line about the “customary closing conditions.”

Apple to open first retail store in Brazil next week – Located in Rio de Janeiro, the store — the first for Apple in Latin America — will open its doors on Saturday, February 15.

Brazilian firm launches Dropbox rival – Brazilian cloud services provider Mandic will offer a file hosting product that is being marketed as a more secure alternative to tools such as Dropbox and other popular cloud-based storage services. The True Box service is a file syncing tool that is cloud-hosted and aimed at the corporate market. Packages start with 10 users and 50GB of storage space – but Mandic is emphasizing security as the main highlight of the service.

Games and Entertainment:

What gaming drought? 7 great games you should be playing right now – Sure, 2014 may not have started with a bang when it comes to blockbuster video games, but there is plenty to play right now. You just have to know where to look.

Sonic Boom reboots classic SEGA with TV series and Nintendo games – SEGA has revealed Sonic Boom, a reboot of its classic Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, spawning new Nintendo Wii U and 3DS games, an animated TV series, and a new toy line, though the designs are already causing controversy. Set to screen on Cartoon Network as well as France’s CANAL J and GULLI in the 2014/15 season, and arrive on Nintendo’s home and portable consoles as an exclusive “prequel”, Sonic Boom sees a new style of character design that has some fans of the original disappointed.

Capcom shows us how good Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition looks – PC gamers are set to enjoy Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition, which promises 1080p visuals and a 60fps experience. That sounds great on paper, but we need to see the game in action to judge how good, or bad, this 9-year-old title looks in 2014. Sure, we got a trailer before with lots of quick cuts, but that’s not the same as a section of uninterrupted gameplay. Capcom has now delivered just that by releasing video footage of the start of the game, and it does look great:

Amazon battles Netflix with ten new pilots, half geared towards kids – Last year Amazon decided to match offerings from Netflix and Hulu by releasing their own television shows that could only be watched on their Instant Video service. Unlike Hulu and Netflix, Amazon decided that the best option would be to release a series of pilots and let the users vote on which ones would become shows. Now the season one for last year’s shows have been released Amazon has fired up the voting system again for an entirely new wave of shows.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Teen Crafts 3D-Printed ‘Robohand’ for Fingerless Boy – It’s only a month into the new year, but Mason Wilde and his young friend Matthew have already set the bar for inspirational use of technology about as high as it can go for 2014. Wilde, a 16-year-old high school student in Kansas City, Kansas, crafted a working “Robohand” prosthesis using a 3D printer at his local library for Matthew, 9, who was born without fingers on his right hand.

Distiller wants to help you find the perfect bottle of whiskey – Want to up your whiskey game, but not sure where to start? Answer a few questions in this app and let the tasting begin.

29 of The Most Influential Images of All Time – Images that have touched the soul of millions of people around the world. Get ready to get a soul search.

Charlemagne’s 1,200-year-old bones are likely the real deal – After 26 years of analysis, German researchers conclude that “with great likelihood” they’ve been dealing with the skeleton of Charles the Great.

Photos: 100 years of computing from punched cards to floppy disks – From punched cards to electromechanical machines – a look inside the IBM museum charting the rise of the company and computing.

92 Air Force Officers Suspended for Cheating on Their Missile Exam – The Air Force said Thursday that it had now suspended 92 officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base — nearly half of the nuclear launch crew there — in a cheating scandal, and it acknowledged a “systemic problem” in the culture of the team that is entrusted to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles. (suggested by Aseem S.)

Tim Berners-Lee: We need to re-decentralize the Web – Twenty-five years after the Web’s inception, its creator has urged the public to reengage with its original design: a decentralized Internet that remains open to all. Speaking with Wired editor David Rowan at an event launching the magazine’s March issue, Tim Berners-Lee said that although part of this is about keeping an eye on for-profit Internet monopolies such as search engines and social networks, the greatest danger is the emergence of a balkanized Web.

Something to think about:

Letting your customers set your standards is a dangerous game, because the race to the bottom is pretty easy to win. Setting your own standards–and living up to them–is a better way to profit. Not to mention a better way to make your day worth all the effort you put into it.”

–     Seth Godin

Today’s Free Downloads:

SSuite Office – My Money Portable – My Money Portable is a utility that allows users to keep an eye on their accounts, income and expenses, and to generate financial reports. Features: Includes a custom report builder. Create and add unlimited accounts. Supports inter-account money transfers. Make income or expense transactions against your accounts. All things considered, SSuite Office – My Money Portable is a reliable software application that can help you create and print different financial reports quickly. It’s easy to work with and manages to remain light on the system resources.

AbiWord – AbiWord is a free word processing program similar to Microsoft Word. It is suitable for typing papers, letters, reports, memos, etc. It is designed to integrate perfectly with the operating system it runs on. It will take advantage of the functionality provided by the system, such as image loading or printing capabilities.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA foe Greenwald, eBay’s Omidyar to launch digital magazine next week – The new journalism venture backed by millions from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and involving Glenn Greenwald — the journalist to whom Edward Snowden entrusted many of his purloined NSA documents — is set to launch its first publication early next week. The digital magazine’s “initial focus will be in-depth reporting on the classified documents previously provided” by Snowden, according to Omidyar and former Rolling Stone Executive Editor Eric Bates, who posted a brief item about the launch on the First Look Media Web site today. Bates had been previously announced as a First Look team member, along with a handful of others.

Twitter ‘Considering Legal Options To Defend First Amendment Rights’ As Data Requests Rise 22% – Twitter today has published its latest Transparency Report, a list of information and takedown requests, as well as copyright notices. The report breaks out for the first time how Twitter is faring on a country-by-country basis — useful considering that these days some 75% of its users are outside the U.S. — and indicates that information requests are up by 66% in the last two years. Twitter says that it is weighing up taking its fight for more disclosure to the courts. “We are considering legal options we may have to seek to defend our First Amendment rights,” Jeremy Kessel, Manager, Global Legal Policy, writes in a blog post introducing the new Transparency Report. It comes on the heels of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft last week revealing data about its own NSA information requests.

Snowden saga scares Oracle away from spy-flick sponsorship – The ongoing tensions between the government and private sectors over Edward Snowden’s document leaks has reportedly pushed Oracle to cancel a high-profile film placement deal. Citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, The Financial Times claims that Oracle first made, then sought a way out of, a product-placement deal in the spy thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Following the revelations from Snowden, Oracle reportedly decided that it would no longer like to be associated with a film about international government espionage activities, and asked to have its brand removed from the film.

Turkey approves legislation to block Internet sites – Passed by Turkey’s parliament, the bill would allow the government to cut off access to any site without the need for court approval, says the Wall Street Journal.

Uncle Sam: I want you to sell me malware – Do you have a malware feed you can sell? About 35GB a day? If so, the FBI wants to do business. They have put out an RFQ (request for quote) for “malware.” The project is a perfectly reasonable one: The Operational Technology Division (OTD), Investigative Analysis Unit (IAU) of the FBI investigates digital threats and provides consulting and support to the FBI and intelligence services. A live feed of malware is a good tool for such an organization to have.

Russia’s Surveillance State – Over the last two years, the Kremlin has transformed Russia into a surveillance state—at a level that would have made the Soviet KGB (Committe for State Security) envious. Seven Russian investigative and security agencies have been granted the legal right to intercept phone calls and emails. But it’s the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, that defines interception procedures, and they’ve done that in a very peculiar way. (suggested by Aseem S.)

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