Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 10, 2014

Unlocking Your Phone Is Still A Crime;  Heavy price cuts on iDevices for limited time at Walmart and Target;  Block Android apps from phoning home without your permission;  If we show you how to back up your PC for free, will you finally do it?  Romantic apps for Valentine’s Day;  Use’s aliases to hide your true email address;  Install Gadgets for Windows 8.1;  7 clever mobile apps to conquer procrastination; Editing your Facebook Look Back video; HDClone Free Edition;  Change your passwords: Comcast hushes, minimizes serious hack;  Securely erasing hard drives;  Test your network with Chrome Connectivity Diagnostics.

Tuesday declared ‘The Day we Fight Back’ against NSA et al – A broad coalition of technology companies and activist groups has declared Tuesday, February 11th 2014 has been “The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance”. Timed to co-incide with the first anniversary of Aaron Swartz’s death, the day has attracted support from some unsurprising sources – the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Greenpeace, the American Civil Liberties Union – and also some technology outfits that seem to be poking their heads above the parapet a bit, such as ThoughtWorks (which today told The Reg it is going public on an issue of this sort for the first time), tumblr (does Marissa know?), Colt and Mozilla.

If we show you how to back up your PC for free, will you finally do it? – Beyond simple hard drive failure, your PC could fall prey to user error or all sorts of nefarious malware. The only way to ensure that none of your personal files or programs are lost in a catastrophe is to back up everything regularly. Here’s an easy, comprehensive three-pronged backup method, using free tools, that can save your bacon in the event of a catastrophic OS failure.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

One Year Later, Unlocking Your Phone Is Still A Crime – A year ago a ruling went into effect by the Librarian of Congress that made it a crime to unlock your cellphone (changing the settings on the phone to be able to be used on a different phone carrier). When that ruling went into effect, there was public outcry across the technology community that such a basic technology was now illegal to use. One year later, despite an overwhelming consensus in favor of unlocking, unlocking your phone, without permission from your carrier, is still a crime. It’s difficult to find another issue that has such overwhelming and bipartisan support, and it’s difficult to understand why Congress still refuses to act. Today, legislation is sitting in Congress to fix this problem that they have chosen not to vote upon.

How-To: Install Gadgets for Windows 8.1 – Some of you avid Microsoft fans may still be mourning the loss of the notorious desktop clock, or the much loved RSS Feeder, well now there’s a way to get them back!

7 clever mobile apps to conquer procrastination – Call it a disease, a bad habit, or a character flaw, but procrastination spares no one from its strangling grip. Just search “procrastination” in any mobile app store, and you’ll be rewarded with a glut of solutions that promise to motivate, badger, cajole, prod, inspire or otherwise spur you into action. Before you kick another project down the road, check out these 7 apps and conquer your task-avoidance once and for all.

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.

Valentine's Day Music Radio app

15,000 London coppers to receive new crime-fighting tool: an iPad – London’s Metropolitan Police are about to be equipped with a new crime-fighting tool: Apple’s iPad mini. “We want the officers out there fighting crime on the streets rather than sitting in a police station tapping on a keyboard, not solving anything,” the force’s head flack Richard Thwaite told the Financial Times (registration required). “Even if they are in Starbucks keying in details, then at least they are out there, visible and accessible and reassuring to the public.”

Downing Street Police officers found sharing pornography, through Bluetooth – Three police officers face disciplinary action after the discovery that they had been sharing hardcore pornography during their night shifts. The footage had been found on their mobile devices after a “phone check” relating to the Plebgate inquiry.

Teen charged with child porn for allegedly tweeting nude selfies – Can the law offer education? This might be the question that follows the tale of a 16-year-old Virginia girl who has found herself in more trouble than she ever might have imagined. It all started when the teen allegedly decided to take some nude selfies and post them on Twitter. She’s certainly not the first to sext. But, as far as the police see it, her case warranted a charge of distribution of child pornography.

Snowboarder’s iPhone crashes after fans swamp him with nude pics – Russian snowboarder Alexey Sobolev decides to put his phone number on his helmet. This move was not welcomed by his iPhone.

Test your network with Chrome Connectivity Diagnostics – Google’s Chrome Connectivity Diagnostics app helps take the guessing game out of network troubleshooting.

Securely erasing hard drives – Got a lot of hard drives to wipe? Here are three different methods you can use to wipe them – software, hardware, and the hands-on method.

Heavy price cuts on iDevices for limited time at Walmart and Target – Want to grab a bargain? Walmart and Target both have attractive deals on iPads, that may encourage those who haven’t yet purchased one to reconsider. These offers are valid for a limited time only.

Microsoft asks for volunteers to join its kill-XP army – Microsoft today implored its technically astute customers to help friends and family who are still running Windows XP get rid of the soon-to-be-retired operating system. The Redmond, Wash. company’s appeal was akin to General Motors asking customers to help the Detroit automaker sell new 2014 Cadillac Escalades, or General Mills asking consumers to convince friends to switch from their monochrome Cheerios breakfast cereal to something more colorful, like Trix or Lucky Charms.

Use’s aliases to hide your true email address from prying eyes –’s alias feature can help protect you against marketers, would-be hackers, and more. Here’s how to set one (or more!) up.

Must-have mobile apps for the Sochi Winter Olympics – The main NBC-branded Olympic apps will be your primary source for live event streaming and video highlights in the U.S., but here are a few other apps that will provide you with a wealth of extras like in-depth recaps, stunning photos, and on-the-ground updates to keep you in the know, even when you’re not on your couch at home.

Editing your Facebook Look Back video – Not fond of a photo or two in your Facebook Look Back video? Here’s how you can edit it.

Find your favorite spots on this detailed map of the Internet – Whether you’d prefer to sail the Gulf of Google or undertake an expedition to the Land of Forgotten Websites, this cartographic creation will draw you in.


Snapchat token bug creates DoS attack for iOS, Android: Researcher blocked for going public – A security consultant who works for Telefonica has turned up a bug in how Snapchat handles authentication tokens, which enables a denial-of-service attack against users’ phones. It’s a simple enough problem, as Jaime Sánches explains: the tokens should expire, but don’t. As a result, one token can be re-used on many machines, and with a little scripting, all those machines can be instructed to send pics. Below is a YouTube video of the attack, demonstrated against an LA Times reporter’s smartphone.

Change your passwords: Comcast hushes, minimizes serious hack – Comcast takes a page from Snapchat’s playbook to hush and downplay NullCrew FTS’ successful hack on dozens of Comcast’s servers which most likely exposed customer data.

Block Android apps from phoning home without your permission – The free NoRoot Firewall prevents nearly all connections to and from your Android phone until you expressly allow the app to access your Wi-Fi or cell network.

Latest iPhone exploit turns off Find My Phone service – The security flaw allows the hacker to turn off the Find My Phone service Apple provides with their devices – preventing the original owner from tracking, erasing or ringing their iPhone. Security researcher Bradley Williams found an exploit to bypass this, resulting in the loss of the Find My Phone service for that particular device. This exploit can be used on iOS 7.04 and earlier versions.

Expect to Be Hacked in Sochi? Not Exactly – Earlier this week, NBC ran a report that suggested visitors to the Sochi Olympics were in danger of being hacked the second they stepped off the plane in Russia. New details about the piece, however, tell a different story. Turns out you’re not at any more risk of being hacked in Sochi than you are in the U.S.

Company News:

France demands that Google post badge of shame on its pages – Officials in France will force Google to display a notice on its French home page of a recent privacy court ruling against the company. The French data-protection authority Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL) said on Friday that the Conseil d’Etat – the administrative court – had denied Google’s appeal of a January decision which required the company to post a notice on its page of a fine levied against Google for violating data privacy laws.

Yahoo to partner with Yelp to improve search results – The web portal and popular search engine announced the partnership on Friday, in an attempt to boost their search results by including some of Yelp’s listings and local business reviews. According to the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo will make the new feature available “in the coming weeks”. And while Yahoo’s search engine is currently fledgling as compared to market leaders Google and Bing, they believe the partnership will once again make them a significant competitor.

Judge again denies Samsung an Apple mistrial over ‘racist’ remarks – For a second time, Judge Lucy Koh rules that remarks about protecting patents from foreign companies weren’t enough to sway jury. But she admonishes Apple’s legal team.

Games and Entertainment:

Gamers in a flap as Vietnamese dev pulls world’s No. 1 game – The Vietnamese developer of hugely popular smartphone game Flappy Bird hit the self-destruct button on the title over the weekend after complaining that it had ruined his life.

‘The Last of Us’ Cleans Up at DICE Awards – Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic zombie thriller stole the show in Las Vegas last night at the DICE Awards, taking home the coveted Game of the Year award and nine other accolades. The game, which was nominated in 13 categories, also won for Outstanding Achievement in Story, Outstanding Innovation in Gaming, Adventure Game of the Year, and Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction.

Alpha Builders: 10 incredible creations in EverQuest Next Landmark – We’ve had our first long look at the upcoming massive multiplayer game EverQuest Next: Landmark this month, now it’s time to get up close and personal with some of the finest creations conjured up by those trailblazing first users already in the Alpha. What you’re seeing here are some of the best of the best that we’ve seen so far.

HBO “Silicon Valley” trailer makes Internet debut – HBO has released the trailer for its upcoming serial jab at the tech world: Silicon Valley. The series is a half-hour show currently pegged for an eight-episode season, coming from the mind of television mastermind Mike Judge, the man behind King of the Hill and Beavis & Butthead, among others.

Missing Pieces: Wrapping up the week’s must-know gaming news – Knuckles gets fat and a deaf man miraculously becomes un-deaf. This is all the gaming news you might’ve missed for the week of February 7.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Facebook’s First 20 Users Have Been Found and Here’s What They’re Up to Now – Business Insider has tracked down the 20 first people to get a profile and has done a neat click-through showing where they are today. Unsurprisingly, almost all of them were Harvard students and friends with Facebook’s founders. Today many of them are working in the technology industry.

Larry Ellison: Technology has ‘negatively impacted’ children – In Ellison’s view, though technology is at root “neither good nor bad … it can sometimes be disturbing to see how technology has, I think, very, very negatively impacted the lives of our children.” Ellison is not alone in his view that technology can be bad for children. MIT professor Sherry Turkle has made similar warnings in talks and books about how technology poses a great danger to the development of social skills in the young.

bRight Switch Wants To Upgrade The Light Switches In Your Home To Android Touchscreens – bRight Switch is a prototype project that’s within touching distance of its $115,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding goal (with less than a day of its campaign left). Its aim is to replace plain old light switch hardware with what’s basically a small tablet fixed to the wall, expanding the functionality of the switch interface beyond simply just switching your lights on and off.

A visual tour of the Creation Museum – If you don’t hold to a literalist account of the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2, walking through the Creation Museum can be unsettling. There are fossils, incredibly detailed dioramas, and really slick-looking exhibits—all alongside explanations that I never saw in any science classroom.

How the vastly improbable has determined what animals got where – The new book The Monkey’s Voyage asks a deceptively simple question: how did we get here? My grandparents took a boat to New York in 1948 after spending three years in a displaced persons camp in Germany after the Nazis had just murdered most of their families. But how did kiwis—flightless birds—get to New Zealand? And how did frogs—whose skin will quickly desiccate if exposed to either air or salt water—get to volcanic islands like Príncipe and São Tomé, off the east coast of Africa?

Would it be so bad if we killed all the mosquitoes? – It’s odd to imagine in our modern age of conservation and green innovation, but might an evolved, compassionate human race still end up engaging in the cold, methodical extermination of a species? Many say that is precisely what we should do in the case of the mosquito: wipe them out as a whole, erase them from the face of the Earth. Nobody has yet suggested expunging them from the histories or punishing their mention, but given how despised mosquitoes are worldwide, it might not be long.

Is Bitcoin Free Speech? – Cryptocurrency can both enhance and undermine American democracy. As the U.S. government ramps up its focus on money laundering through digital means, it is worth piercing through the concept of what money laundering actually is, and re-examining why we should care about anonymous payments. (suggested by Aseem S.)

Something to think about:

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”

–     Oscar Wilde

Today’s Free Downloads:

HDClone Free Edition – HDClone copies the content of hard disks on a physical level from one disk to another hard disk. Depending on the sizes of the hard disks, a complete or abridged image of the source disk will be created.

OSFMount – OSFMount allows you to mount local disk image files (bit-for-bit copies of a disk partition) in Windows with a drive letter. You can then analyze the disk image file with PassMark OSForensics™ by using the mounted volume’s drive letter. By default, the image files are mounted as read only so that the original image files are not altered. OSFMount also supports the creation of RAM disks, basically a disk mounted into RAM. This generally has a large speed benefit over using a hard disk. As such this is useful with applications requiring high speed disk access, such a database applications, games (such as game cache files) and browsers (cache files). A second benefit is security, as the disk contents are not stored on a physical hard disk (but rather in RAM) and on system shutdown the disk contents are not persistent. OSFMount supports mounting images of CDs, which can be useful when a particular CD is used often and the speed of access is important.

GameSave Manager – With GameSave Manager, you can easily backup, restore and transfer your gamesave(s). No longer do you need to manually track through all of the those different directories to backup/restore/transfer your gamesaves, making it great for those who like to share gamesave progress with friends/family, format frequently, paranoid about data loss, etc…

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden documents show British digital spies use viruses and ‘honey traps’ – At the start of this week, documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden detailed DDOS attacks on chatrooms by a British online intelligence unit dubbed the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG). Now he has released a new trove showing that JTRIG is about much more than purely online annoyances. According to the documents, released to NBC News, JTRIG’s role is to “deny, disrupt, degrade and deceive” by any means possible. These techniques include destroying an individual’s computer with a custom virus dubbed “Ambassador’s Reception”, setting up social media honey traps to harvest embarrassing information, actively attacking companies online and off, and planting data on people’s systems.

Snowden Used Low-Cost Tool to Best N.S.A. – Using “web crawler” software designed to search, index and back up a website, Mr. Snowden “scraped data out of our systems” while he went about his day job, according to a senior intelligence official. “We do not believe this was an individual sitting at a machine and downloading this much material in sequence,” the official said. The process, he added, was “quite automated.” The findings are striking because the N.S.A.’s mission includes protecting the nation’s most sensitive military and intelligence computer systems from cyberattacks, especially the sophisticated attacks that emanate from Russia and China. Mr. Snowden’s “insider attack,” by contrast, was hardly sophisticated and should have been easily detected, investigators found. (suggested by Aseem S.)

NSA bulk metadata program doesn’t cover cellphones – According to a new report by The Wall Street Journal, which cites anonymous sources, the NSA’s telephony metadata program only “collects data for about 20 percent or less of that data, primarily because it doesn’t cover records for most cellphones.” The Journal concluded that “[t]he dwindling coverage suggests the NSA’s program is less pervasive than widely believed and also less useful.” If this revelation is borne out, it would undercut the White House’s argument that the program is useful, legal, and effective.

Turning table on NSA, US diplomats’ phone call is bugged, leaked to YouTube – A bugged phone conversation in which two senior US officials traded offensive remarks about the European Union has ignited a diplomatic free-for-all and raised questions about the ability of the US to protect its sensitive communications from the spy apparatuses of Russia and other countries. The four-minute call was posted to YouTube on Thursday. The voice quality is strikingly clear, suggesting the recording was made by a well-positioned source. Among the first people to tweet the link was an aide to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. US State Department officials quickly seized on the tweet as proof that the Russian government was involved in the eavesdropping, calling the episode a “new low in Russian tradecraft.” The Russian government has denied any involvement. (A “new low in Russian tradecraft” – this, from a corrupted U.S. government which is rapidly sinking beneath the weight of it’s own excrement.)

First Look Media – Plans to leak more NSA information – A new online magazine publisher is set to orientate their initial issues around leaked NSA documents. Veteran journalists collaborate with Ed Snowden to bring us the latest news.

Rep. Peter King: Security Reforms At The NSA Will Prevent Future Snowdens – Following a stinging report in the New York Times explaining how Edward Snowden was able to collect his trove of top-secret government documents, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y) this morning took to the Sunday show Face The Nation to make the following claim (full transcript): “A lot that have has been changed; there is monitoring now of what goes on. Snowden would not be able to do it again in the future.”


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