Tech innovation vs. the surveillance state; How to Stay Anonymous Online; Turn your Android device into a powerful dictation tool; FreedomPop Adds $5 Plan; 7 Red Hot Valentine’s Day Tech Gifts; iTunes Radio goes live in Australia; How-to: Set up Google Alerts; New PlayStation Vita coming to US; Snapchat Bug Can Spam, Crash Your Phone; TIME Can Predict Your Perfect Marriage Date; Efficient Sticky Notes (free); Ken Burns iPad App Brings the Past to Your Tablet; The Intercept, Launches With NSA Revelations.
Tech innovation vs. the surveillance state: How it’s playing out in Washington – Alex Howard recaps the key takeaways from three recent tech events held in Washington, D.C., and contends that data and IT innovations shouldn’t be at the expense of U.S. citizens’ freedoms.
How to Stay Anonymous Online – How do you take back control of your own personal privacy online? Is it even possible? One 2013 Pew study reported that 60 percent of Americans have given up on that idea entirely. Ultimately, the only way to stay truly anonymous online is to not go online at all. Since that’s not really an option for most of us, here’s a rundown of what you can do to minimize the spying, the targeted advertising, and ID theft as you explore the world online.
FreedomPop Adds $5 Plan, Galaxy S II – Four months after launching the world’s first free mobile service, mobile carrier FreedomPop today introduced new paid subscription plans. Starting at $4.58 per month, the lineup aims to “destroy the current industry pricing model,” according to the service provider. Those who pay for two years of unlimited voice, text, and voicemail, plus 500MB of data upfront will be charged $110 (or $4.58 per month). A one-year agreement will set you back $80 (or $6.67 per month), but if you just want to go month by month, it’s $10.99. FreedomPop’s entirely gratis plan, which includes 200 voice minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of data, is still available.
TimePIN Changes Your Android PIN Code Every Minute For Improved Security – Android offers a number of ways to lock down your device. There is the classic pattern lock, PINs, passwords, and the gimmicky face unlock. These options (mostly) get the job done, but a passcode that never changes isn’t very secure. Ideally, you want something that changes frequently, and that’s what TimePIN gives you. This app updates your PIN code every minute of the day and doesn’t need root access to do it.
Turn your Android device into a powerful dictation tool – Some Android users truly consider their devices to be their complete portable office, and having the right tools for the job can make the difference between success and failure. One area a lot of users neglect is dictation. Sure, Android has a decent voice recorder built-in, but that recorder is certainly not meant for dictation. Fortunately, for users who depend upon dictation (lawyers, doctors, etc.), there are apps that do a superb job of filling that niche.
The best tech accessories under $25 – We rounded up some of our favorite tech accessories — including headphones, cables, and other miscellaneous gadgets — and each of them are available for under $25.
Ken Burns iPad App Brings the Past to Your Tablet in a Cool New Way – Filmmaker Ken Burns is famous for creating compelling documentaries on all things America, and now there is an iPad app that brings a huge amount of that content to your tablet in an interesting interface for exploring the past. The app is simply called Ken Burns, and it’s free to try.
iTunes Radio goes live in Australia – Apple has launched iTunes Radio in Australia, the first country outside of the US to get access to the streaming music service. Available across iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, PC, and Apple TV, iTunes Radio includes 100 preconfigured stations and the ability to create new ones from initial seed tracks. The Australian launch is believed to be the first in a broader international roll-out.
7 Red Hot Valentine’s Day Tech Gifts – If you’re looking for the perfect gift this Valentine’s Day, may we suggest something high-tech? Though you might not think gadgets are romantic, any of the high-tech toys on this gift list are sure to please your sweetheart long after flowers will have wilted. And because it’s Valentine’s Day, look for these gifts in red or pink.
Set up Google Alerts – Google Alerts has been around for ages, forgotten by many and overlooked by many more. That’s a shame, because it’s still one of the Web’s best ways to keep tabs on any person, place, or thing. Alerts are pretty easy to set up, but in case you need a little help understanding the various options, take a look at this step-by-step guide.
Google’s promises to EU aren’t good enough for U.S. consumer group – A U.S. consumer group on Monday added its voice to the growing criticism of Google’s proposed settlement with the European Union’s competition authorities. “We had been impressed with the strong position the Commission had taken in your investigation, unlike regulatory authorities in the United States,” wrote John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director in a letter to the Commission on Monday. “We cannot understand what prompted this recent change in attitude.”
Remotely control your computers from your iOS devices with Screens – Don’t pay for another remote connection service. Instead, use Screens VNC to remotely connect to and control your computers from your iOS devices at no monthly cost.
Chaatz wants to be the messaging app the world actually needs – The developers behind Chaatz built Facebook’s mobile site for feature phones, the low- to mid-tier phones that aren’t connected to the Internet. The app, coming next week to Android, is designed to give even SIM-less devices the ability to send messages as if from a phone. You can create multiple profiles in the app connected to different phones numbers—one for your work phone, one for your personal line—for a centralized messaging database.
TIME Can Predict Your Perfect Marriage Date – Find out how many of your Facebook friends have put a ring on it and what their relationships say about your own timing in the love department.
Facebook CEO and wife most generous Americans of 2013 – Silicon Valley’s junior power couple catapulted themselves atop the 2013 list, compiled by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, following a December gift of 18 million shares to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The gift was valued at just shy of $1 billion at the time of the transaction when Facebook’s stock was trading at $55.12.
Microsoft to release two more “critical” Windows security updates Tuesday – In an unusual move, Microsoft has announced it will add two more Windows security updates, both labeled as “critical”, to the two critical and three “important” updates it plans to release on Tuesday.
Meet Mask, posssibly the most sophisticated malware campaign ever seen – Calling it the most sophisticated malware-driven espionage campaign ever discovered, researchers said they have uncovered an attack dating back to at least 2007 that infected computers running the Windows, OS X, and Linux operating systems of 380 victims in 31 countries. Victims include government agencies, embassies, research institutions, private equity firms, activists, energy companies, and companies in other industries. The sophistication of Mask makes it likely that the campaign is the work of attackers sponsored by a well-resourced nation-state, said researchers from Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security company that discovered it.
Snapchat Bug Can Spam, Crash Your Phone – In the latest Snapchat security snafu, a new report indicates that the iOS version of the popular messaging app is susceptible to denial-of-service attacks that can freeze or crash a user’s phone. Spanish security researcher Jaime Sanchez detailed the flaw in a blog post, explaining that he was able to send 1,000 messages in five seconds to a reporter’s iPhone, which caused the device to freeze, requiring a reboot.
New OS X trojan monitors Web activity to steal BitCoins – Disguised as a legitimate project on GitHub called StealthBit, the malware installs a browser extension to look for and steal BitCoin wallet and account credentials.
Intel shares details of 15-core Xeon chip, Ivytown – Intel has provided more details on its upcoming 15-core Xeon chip code-named Ivytown, which has 4.31 billion transistors and will go into high-end servers. The Ivytown chip, which will be part of the Xeon E7 chip lineup, will likely be announced next week. Further details of the Ivytown were shared Monday at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco. With the highest core count of all Intel x86 server chips, Ivytown will likely be the company’s fastest performing server chip. Intel put 12 cores on Xeon E5 v2 chips that shipped in the third quarter of last year.
Barnes and Noble confirms cuts to Nook division; hardware team still lives – Barnes and Noble has confirmed it has made cuts to its Nook division but added that the group’s hardware team has not been eliminated, contrary to previous reports.
Backlash slaps Microsoft’s ‘help-a-friend-dump-XP’ plea – Microsoft’s appeal to its technically-advanced customers to help friends and family ditch Windows XP did not quite work out like the company had hoped. Rather than jump to assist people they knew who still ran the soon-to-be-retired XP, users blasted the plea in comments appended to Microsoft’s Friday entreaty.
Games and Entertainment:
AMD Radeon R7 250X promises 1080p gaming for $99 – Specs for the R7 250X include either 1 GB or 2 GB of VRAM at 4.5 GHz, 640 stream processors, 40 texture units, and 16 ROPs. It’s a big step up over AMD’s R7 250, which is $10 cheaper, though the typical R7 250X card will consume nearly 50 percent more power at 95W.
New PlayStation Vita coming to US with Borderlands 2 bundle – A refresh of Sony’s most compact gaming console will hit North America this spring with more battery life, a new LCD screen, and an 8GB memory card for $199.
Gamestop offers condoms and Red Bull as Infamous Second Son pre-order bonus – In this digital age, the glory of physical pre-order bonuses have waned, having largely been replaced by some form of (sometimes exclusive) downloadable content — weapons, armor, maps, and so on. A Gamestop in Italy is paying homage to the olden days of pre-order yore, offering up physical pre-order bonuses. Rather than a limited edition action figure or t-shirt, though, you’ll get Infamous: Second Son-branded glow-in-the-dark condoms and — in a bid of potential synergy — two cans of Red Bull.
Catching up with some of the most interesting indie games of 2014 (so far) – Thankfully for us whiny old fogeys, 2014 has also already seen a few notable indies launch with a truly “finished” tag. Each of these titles has been in development for some time, with varying levels of hype surrounding the run-up to launch. Let’s see how they each fare, post-beta.
Worms Battlegrounds coming to both PS4 and Xbox One – While we’re still not entirely solid on how – or if it makes a difference how – the game will be published through the PlayStation 4, we have been made aware that Worms Battlegrounds will be amongst the first self-published games on the Xbox One. This publishing will be done through Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program and the game will be released sometime inside 2014. The same is true for the PlayStation 4 version of this Worms title, both titles coming from the developers at Team 17.
Off Topic (Sort of):
Bill Gates combats some myths about himself in cute animated video clip – Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates used the form of a cute animated video ahead of his Reddit AMA today to answer some common myths about himself and about aid to others.
The 2014 Google tracker—Everything we know Google is working on this year – This post is a collection of all the hints, announcements, and acquisitions we’ve heard from Google lately, along with some common sense speculation. We’re not predicting or guaranteeing that all of these projects will become consumer products in 2014; it’s more of a “to-do list” for Google.
How did we get here? A brief history of the evolution vs. creationism debate – This week we saw Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham, President/CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum, square off in a debate over whether Creationism remains a viable model of origins. As we noted in our story on the debate, there was a lot of talking past each other. A man whose beliefs are formed by a profound devotion to the scientific method exchanged ideas with a man whose beliefs are formed by a profound devotion to a literal reading of Genesis 1-2. How did we get to this point? Why are Ken Ham and the Creation Museum wielding the Book of Genesis as a science text? We can begin to answer those questions with the text at hand.
New York police department is testing Google Glass – The New York Police Department is looking to test out Google Glass for its beat officers. Whether this will be a useful crime fighting tool or an invasion of everyone’s privacy, only time will tell.
Bitcoin deem illegal by Russian authorities – The resistance to bitcoin on the part of governments around the world is building. The latest country to speak out on bitcoin is Russia and authorities within the country have come down hard on the virtual currency. Russian authorities have issued warnings against the virtual currency stating that it can be used to finance terrorism and for money laundering.
Pentagon wants to fit soldiers with a little black box brain implant – An implant that records activity and stimulates your brain in the event of trauma could lead to quicker recovery and total recall.
New chip lets scientists listen in on bacteria – Researchers at Columbia University say their chip lets them electrochemically image biofilms to “listen to the bacteria as they talk to each other.”
Something to think about:
“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass… it’s about learning how to dance in the rain!”
– Patrick H. Hughes
Today’s Free Downloads:
TechieBot – TechieBot doesn’t require a trip to the computer repair shop or big box electronics store. A few minutes is all it needs to clean out and optimize your computer. (It looks promising!)
Efficient Sticky Notes – The software allows various background colors, with optional gradient effect, to be set for the desktop notes. You can also customize the font of each note and set it to be semi-transparent so it will not fully cover up your desktop background or icons. To fully protect your privacy, the software encrypts the login password with the irreversible SHA algorithm and also encrypts data files. Besides, it offers various special features such as managing sticky notes by group, setting note importance, tracking the creation time and last modification time of desktop notes, adding attachments to notes, Recycle Bin, etc.
IsMyLcdOK – IsMyLcdOK is a small program but effective solution to easily check for dead/paralysed/stuck pixels on LCD monitors. IsMyLcdOK does not have to be installed and can be executed easily from the desktop, and can be carried on a small usb-stick or other memory device.
In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:
Edward Snowden’s NSA Revelations Win Crunchie For Biggest Social Impact – Besting rivals like Code.org and CrowdTilt, Snowden’s successful efforts to demask the mass surveillance undertaken by the National Security Administration on both global and United States citizens has ignited a worldwide discussion surrounding privacy and the proper role of government. That Snowden won, therefore, is no surprise. This is doubly true among the tech-heavy bent of Crunchies voters. The technology industry itself has been a target of the NSA’s work through programs like PRISM and others. MUSCULAR, an NSA effort to tap the data lines between Google datacenters on foreign soil, is just one example of how tech companies have come under the larger cloud of the state. Naturally, Snowden wasn’t able to pick up the award in person.
eBay Founder’s News Site, The Intercept, Launches With NSA Revelations – eBay founder Pierre Omidyar revealed the first publication in his new media organization, First Look Media. “The Intercept” launched last night with revelations about the National Security Agency which had apparently been using the bulk collection of phone records to target terrorists with drones. The Intercept’s explanatory introductory blog post explains that these types of revelatory stories will be a staple of the news site, keeping with its mission “to hold the most powerful governmental and corporate factions accountable.” First Look Media made waves in the industry after it had announced that the journalist responsible for revealing the NSA’s controversial spy program, Glenn Greenwald, would be joining as editor. Greenwald and his partner on the original NSA leaks, Laura Poitras, are part of the new site’s small 12-person team.
The Intercept: The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program – The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people. According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.
Australian attorney-general accuses Snowden of endangering lives – Australian Attorney-General Senator George Brandis has told Senate Question Time that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is a traitor to the US who is putting lives at danger. (Just another U.S. bum-sniffer.)
New surveillance technology can track everyone in an area for several hours at a time – As Americans have grown increasingly comfortable with traditional surveillance cameras, a new, far more powerful generation is being quietly deployed that can track every vehicle and person across an area the size of a small city, for several hours at a time. Although these cameras can’t read license plates or see faces, they provide such a wealth of data that police, businesses and even private individuals can use them to help identify people and track their movements.