Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 12, 2014

EU loses faith in U.S. ability to manage Internet;  House committee passes bill banning in-flight phone calls;  Date online? You’re probably a sexter too;  The 10 Most Disturbing Snowden Revelations;  Search Google anonymously with Firefox add-on Searchonymous;  Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4:  Top Consoles Compared;  How to clean up the mess left by browser toolbars;  Scientists want to track you by your scent;  The ultimate Google Glass app for sports fans;  10 facts on 3D printing;  The new role of HR: Spying on wayward employees;  World’s Most Depressing App;  “Call My Wife”: Android Voice Calling Now Recognizes Relationships.

Wired: How Obama Officials Cried ‘Terrorism’ to Cover Up a Paperwork Error – After seven years of litigation, two trips to a federal appeals court and $3.8 million worth of lawyer time, the public has finally learned why a wheelchair-bound Stanford University scholar was cuffed, detained and denied a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii: FBI human error. Instead of admitting to the error, high-ranking President Barack Obama administration officials spent years covering it up. Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and a litany of other government officials claimed repeatedly that disclosing the reason Ibrahim was detained, or even acknowledging that she’d been placed on a watch list, would cause serious damage to the U.S. national security. Again and again they asserted the so-called “state secrets privilege” to block the 48-year-old woman’s lawsuit, which sought only to clear her name. (suggested by Aseem S.)

(Jail, Jail, Jail! It’s time to put each and every one of these knuckle draggers where they belong! Little wonder that the educated world sees the U.S. as a slimy sleazy pretender.)

Report: EU loses faith in U.S. ability to manage Internet – The European Union will push for diminished U.S. influence on Internet governance because of “loss of confidence” in the current U.S.-centric model, according to a news report. The European Commission, the executive arm of the E.U., is set Wednesday to propose a series of steps to globalize Internet governance functions, reported The Wall Street Journal, citing an E.U. draft policy paper. The proposal is sparked by revelations of mass U.S. surveillance activities online, the newspaper said.

For spy court judges, overseeing America’s surveillance efforts is a part-time job – Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts today appointed two currently-sitting U.S. judges to the eleven-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the three-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (which oversees the lower eleven-member court). These are the two closed-door courts that have the responsibility for overseeing domestic national security surveillance requests. What boggles the mind is not the choice of judges (both are competent and seasoned jurists). Instead, it’s that the job is part-time.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to clean up the mess left by browser toolbars – You would think that in 2014, we’d have put all the web shenanigans of the 1990s and early aughts behind us, but you’d be wrong—at least for Windows users. Download a desktop app like AVG, Skype, or Vuze and these programs will try to sneak toolbars onto your system or change your default home page and browser. Yuck. If your browser is loaded down with toolbars or you want to get back to searching with DuckDuckGo rather than Bing, here’s how to do battle against these foes on Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.

Search Google anonymously with Firefox add-on Searchonymous – If you are set in your ways (and use Firefox as your primary browser), however, and want to search using Google like the rest of the world and want to do so without logging in and out of your account or switching browsers, there is a Firefox extension that promises to keep your Google searches anonymous.

Date online? You’re probably a sexter too – Despite the potential repercussions of exchanging explicit content, sexting is becoming increasingly popular among adults, and online daters are guiltier than anyone of the uncensored behavior, according to the Pew Research Center’s newest report on couples, the Internet, and social media. The research group determined that 9 percent of cell phone owners have sent a suggestive picture or video, while 20 percent have received one. The act of sending a sext is up 3 percent year over year, while being on the receiving end is up 5 percent since Pew’s previous survey in 2012.

“Call My Wife”: Android Voice Calling Now Recognizes Relationships – Calling loved ones with voice dialing has always been a little too robotic on Android phones. You couldn’t say something like “call my wife” unless you used the words “My Wife” in place of her actual name in your address book. Thankfully, that’s starting to change with the latest update to the Google Search app for Android. You can now say things like “call my mom” or “call my brother,” and Google will ask which contact you’re trying to reach. Enter the actual name once, and you’ll forever be able to voice dial using the relationship name instead.

Meet Skybox, the ultimate Google Glass app for sports fans – Google Glass does a great job acting as glance-able display for notifications and driving directions, but as developers push the hardware to its limits we’ll see entirely unique use cases. One such example is Skybox, an app for Google Glass that delivers an entirely unique experience for hockey fans.

House committee passes bill banning in-flight phone calls – The Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications on Mobile Wireless Devices Act, sponsored by Representative Bill Shuster, would allow mobile phone and tablet users to surf the Internet and send text messages during flights, but would ban voice calls in most cases. The bill passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee by a voice vote Tuesday and now heads to the full House for a vote.

Get in the games with top apps for Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics – Get the latest news, video highlights, previews, and in-depth stories with this app for iOS and Android. You’ll find the live-stream schedule, TV listings, and results all in one place, from NBC, the official network for this year’s event.

One flap down: 4 other apps we’d like to see join Flappy Bird in oblivion – So long as apps are being culled by their creators, we can think of a handful of other offerings that we’d like to see follow Flappy Bird’s flight into oblivion. And unlike Flappy Bird, where it’s not exactly clear just why the developer pulled the plug, we can give you a reason why we’d like these apps to go the way of the dodo, flapping or not.

The new role of HR: Spying on wayward employees – Human resources is the ideal department to use to investigate employees through computer forensics. These departments are often filled with non-technical staff, so vendors are now offering simplified tools for employee investigations and processing electronic evidence.

Facebook: 200M people have watched their Look Back videos – Facebook Look Back debuted one week ago on February 4, 2014 as a sentimental way for members to relive their history on the social network. Videos were made available to all of Facebook’s 1.23 billion-member audience who had enough available content to pull from. Those with less content received a “thank you” card instead.

Wireless charging alliances teaming up to work toward a cable-free world – Anyone who’s ever had to fumble around for a charging cable—so, everyone—should be interested to know that wireless charging took an important baby step toward ubiquity on Tuesday: The Alliance for Wireless Power and the Power Matters Alliance have agreed to make their two standards work together.

Top spam-killer server program SpamAssasin gets new release – If you really hate spam, and you run your own e-mail servers, you’ll be glad to know that Apache has released a new version of its award-winning, open-source anti-spam program SpamAssassin.

Drone deliveries get off the ground in Dubai – The United Arab Emirates plans to deliver official documents via 18-inch, four-propeller, unmanned aerial drones that come equipped with fingerprint and eye-recognition security systems.

An Amazon prototype package delivery drone flying through the sky.

(Credit: CBS)

10 facts on 3D printing: Understanding tech’s next big game-changer – As 3D printers are become more affordable and versatile, they are destined to disrupt multiple industries. Here’s what you need to know about this quickly accelerating technology.

World’s Most Depressing App Launches in Lebanon – A new smartphone app in Lebanon lets citizens automatically tweet, with one convenient tap of the finger, “I am still alive! #Lebanon #Latestbombing.” The BBC reports that the creator of the app intended to highlight the country’s deteriorating security situation with an ironic solution. The jarringly upbeat sales pitch on the app’s homepage reads, “Every time there is an explosion, we have to spend a lot of time contacting our loved ones…Not anymore!”


2013 Microsoft Computing Safety Index – The Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI), first released in 2011 by the Trustworthy Computing group, is an annual measure of the actions (or steps) that consumers take to help keep themselves and their families safe online based on self-reports of their own experience. (In 2013, more than 10,000 adults over the age of 18 from 20 countries and regions 1 around the globe participated in the survey.) The Index consists of nearly two dozen protective steps—they vary from year to year as devices evolve and online issues change—organized into three categories.

Record-Breaking DDoS Attack Nears 400 Gbps – Web security company CloudFlare on Monday evening battled a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that has eclipsed Spamhaus as the largest-ever such assault. The attack, targeting one of CloudFlare’s clients, peaked yesterday “just shy” of 400 gigabits per second, the company’s CEO Matthew Prince told PCMag. In comparison, last year’s record-breaking attack on Spamhaus reached 300 Gbps. A “normal” DDoS attack that might take down a bank website, for instance, is around 50 Gbps.

Microsoft addresses critical IE vulnerabilities for Patch Tuesday – Administrators hoping to slack off a bit for this month’s Microsoft Patch Tuesday will have no opportunity to do so. At the last minute, Microsoft added a slew of Internet Explorer (IE) fixes to its monthly release of software patches, including one patch that fixes a publicly known vulnerability.

Washington Post and Guardian links used to infect malware victims – Kaspersky reveals a “most advanced” cyber-espionage threat — dubbed The Mask. Victims include governments, private equity firms and high-profile activists.

Japan sees record 12.8B cyberattacks – Country detected over 12.8 billion cyberattacks launched against the government and other organizations last year, a record number since such attempts were tracked in 2005.

Catch me if you can: they did – A man banned from the T in 2008 for groping women was arraigned today in Boston Municipal Court on charges he groped a woman on the Green Line Thursday afternoon, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office reports. The report continues that police showed the woman video of passengers leaving through the station fare gates. When she picked out a suspect, police were able to call up his CharlieCard information, which said it was registered to Shin. He was arrested and charged with indecent assault and battery. (suggested by Aseem S.)

Company News:

Mozilla Firefox to show sponsored websites in New Tab boxes – Mozilla has revealed an upcoming change to Firefox that may not sit well with all its users: advertisements. Specifically, according to details given at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s recent meeting, the company plans to point newly-installed browsers to websites and generate some revenue all the while using New Tab ads.

Yahoo acquires diary app maker Wander with an eye toward mobile – Yahoo has acquired Wander, a startup that makes a diary app, as part of the Internet company’s continuing efforts to improve its products on mobile devices. Wander makes an app for the iPhone called Days, which is designed to let its users share photos and animated GIFs in a single package from a daylong period. The idea is to give the images context, as opposed to sharing photos individually, as users do with Instagram.

China’s Alibaba plans US e-commerce push with 11 Main – China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba will soon enter the US with an online-shopping site, according to a new report. Alibaba, through subsidiaries Vendio and Auctiva, will launch an e-retail site known as 11 Main, the company told Reuters on Tuesday. According to the report, the marketplace will feature technology items, jewelry, and fashion goods.

Samsung may introduce three more tablet devices this month – Samsung can’t stop at just one. The alleged hardware specifications for three new Galaxy Tab 4 model numbers have been revealed and it looks like Samsung is adding three more mid-range device to its large arsenal of tablet devices.

Sprint posts $1B in Q4 losses as it ekes out customer gains – Sprint shows the slowest customer growth out of all the carriers as it continues to work through its painful network upgrade process.

Games and Entertainment:

Video game sales grow a measly 1 percent in 2013 – New research published Tuesday by The NPD Group shows that users in the US spent $15.39 billion on video games — which is nothing to shake a stick at, but it’s only 1 percent more than spending in 2012. Breaking down the numbers, gamers spent a total of $6.34 billion on new physical video and PC game software, $1.83 billion on used and rental physical software, and $7.22 billion on digital software. The digital software includes full games, add-on content downloads, subscriptions, mobile games, and social network games.

Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4: Top Consoles Compared – If you want to get a new video game system, these two are the frontrunners of the current generation, with several years of games ahead of them and loads of new hardware and features. We put the Xbox One and PS4 against each other in a variety of categories to determine which system comes out on top.

Far Cry Classic lands today as Far Cry: The Wild Expedition gets delayed – Far Cry Classic is available in the Xbox Games Store for $10 in the US. It is also available in Europe. It will land on the PlayStation Network later today in North American and in Europe tomorrow. In Europe, gamers can also get the Far Cry: The Wild Expedition bundle. That includes Far Cry Classic, Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3, and Blood Dragon. It will hit the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC February 21 for 40 euros.  (I still spin this one up occasionally. GREAT game!)

Microsoft delays February Xbox One update – Microsoft was expected to push out an update for the Xbox One today but it looks like a last minute hiccup has caused a small delay in the release. Major Nelson posted on Twitter that the Xbox One system update will ship this week but it will not be going out today. The update will make it easier for users to manage the storage on their device, manage the download queue and a battery indicator will be added too.

Titanfall Beta sign-up live: gameplay trailer, game archetypes included – This afternoon it was made clear by the folks behind the release of the Titanfall Beta that they’d be opening up sign-ups for the game’s early release (in Beta mode) this evening. Sign-ups for the Titanfall Beta began at 6PM PST on the 11th of February, 2014, and will end on the 14th of February (Valentine’s Day), while the chosen ones will be informed before the 17th of the month.

Minecraft developer kills Kickstarted Minecraft movie – Gaming rock star Notch, the man behind the childhood-devouring mega-smash Minecraft, has pulled the plug on a fan movie based on the game. The film, titled “Birth of Man” was to be crowdfunded. A Kickstarter begging page started off well enough, gathering a little over ten per cent of its $US600,000 goal. But things went downhill quickly once Notch, real name Markus Persson, emitted the following Tweet. We don’t allow half a million kickstarters based on our ip without any deals in place. :/ — Markus Persson (@notch) February 7, 2014. And that, as they say in the funnies, is all folks! With a single Tweet Persson killed off the movie.

PlayStation 3 has “2-4 years” left in it according to Sony – This week at the media event where Sony announced the PlayStation Vita Slim, hardware marketing executive John Koller spoke up on the future of the PlayStation 3. For those of you out there already rolling with this console, not planning on upgrading to a PlayStation 4 any time soon – there’s good news. In Koller’s chat with Gamespot, the PlayStation 3 was said to have two, three, or four years of life left in it, with plenty of games to come.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Kohler Nightlight Toilet Seat Improves Late-Night Aim – Plumbing company Kohler is introducing Nightlight, toilet-seat tech that uses a pair of low-intensity LED lights to illuminate your commode at night. When the toilet seat is down, Nightlight bathes your porcelain with a faint blue glow. Once the seat has been lifted, just the right amount of light fills the bowl. It won’t guarantee the kids’ (and husband’s) aim will always be true, but anything that improves accuracy is welcome at 3AM.

7 Movies to Watch at Your NSA Paranoia Party – Of course, if you’re streaming these movies you might be watching along with the NSA, which might explain why some films, like Enemy of the State, are not available to download. But nevermind that spy in the corner; just immerse yourself in the dystopia. Check out the list for some of our favorites, and where you can find them.

It’s a scientific FACT: Online comment trolls are SADISTS – A group of Canadian researchers has given the imprimatur of social-science recognition to a fact that many of us who spend time in internet comment forums have suspected: there’s a strong correlation between online trolling and sadism. “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!” write Erin Buckels, Paul Trapnell, and Delroy Paulhus of the Universities of Manitoba, Winnipeg, and British Columbia, respectively, in a paper to be published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Sony sells waterproof MP3 player inside a bottle of water – Sony is looking to corner the market on underwater music enjoyment, and released a waterproof MP3 player. However, to prove that the device is truly waterproof, Sony employed the tactic of clever marketing, and is selling the MP3 player inside a bottle of water. Sony’s product was initially released inside special vending machines deployed at pools, showing customers that not only is the device waterproof, but purchasing it is as easy as buying a bottle of water.

iPad is Britain’s most desired Valentine’s gift for 2014 – In a survey of 1000 British adults by, the iPad has beaten flowers and jewellery to become the most wanted Valentine’s gift for 2014. Traditional gifts still rank highly though as flowers came in at second, with jewellery third, but more modern surprises were in store at fourth and fifth with laptops and the Sony PlayStation 4 taking those spots respectively. (Now, why am I having trouble trusting this “survey?)

FBI: New $10,000 reward if you report people who fire lasers at airplanes – On Tuesday, the FBI announced a new program that offers a $10,000 reward “for information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft.” The program is set to run for the next 60 days, in FBI field offices where “laser strikes against aircraft are prevalent.” Those cities include Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Juan (Puerto Rico), and the Washington Field Office.

Washinton Post: Video shows U.S. abduction of accused al-Qaeda terrorist on trial for embassy bombings – Video obtained by The Washington Post shows the abduction of suspected al-Qaeda operative Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, also known as Anas al-Libi, in Tripoli, Libya, in October 2013. The operation was a joint effort of the CIA, FBI and the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force. (suggested by Aseem S.)

Smell ya later: Scientists want to track you by your scent – Researchers in Madrid are finding that body odor can help identify people in a crowd more accurately than facial recognition.

Something to think about:

Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.”

–     Franklin P. Jones

Today’s Free Downloads:

Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2013 – Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2013 is perhaps the most versatile free office suite, which includes free word processor, spreadsheet program and presentation maker. These three programs help you deal with office tasks with ease: Writer – Efficient word processor; Presentation – Multimedia presentations creator; Spreadsheets – Powerful tool for data processing and data analysis. Although it is a free suite, Kingsoft Office comes with many innovative features, including a paragraph adjustment tool, and multiple tabbed feature. It also has Office to PDF converter, automatic spell checking and word count features. The latest free Office 2013 supports saving files as DOCX and XLSX.

Timely Alarm Clock – Timely is the beautiful Alarm Clock for Android, featuring a stunning user experience and revolutionary cloud integration to backup and synchronize your alarms with multiple devices.

Unofficial Windows 98 Second Edition Service Pack – Microsoft has never released a service pack for Windows98 SE but this contains all Windows98 SE updates from Windows Update site and more.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The 10 Most Disturbing Snowden Revelations – The Snowden documents contained serious information. Since June, we have learned about a variety of NSA programs, including PRISM, a multilayered, multiagency program that mines the data of suspected terrorists, as well as that of anyone even marginally associated with them. And the information that has been released is reportedly just a fraction of what exists. Still, we have about eight months worth of data dumps, information that has prompted the promise of action from the White House, bills in the Congress, and today’s “Day We Fight Back” protest, which is calling on people around the globe to protest NSA surveillance on the Web and in person. Below, we look back at some of the most alarming revelations from Edward Snowden thus far.

Dropbox Outlines Its Principles For Handling Government Data Requests – Joining other leading technology firms, Dropbox today detailed the number of national security requests it received in the preceding 12 months for user data of its customers: 0-249. While Dropbox applauded the recent legal change that allows it to disclose that number in increments of 250, it stated in a blog post today that the now allowed for reporting is still too vague. This, it decried, is especially true of company that “receive only a handful of requests or none at all.” The implication here, only obfuscated in the legal sense, is that Dropbox receives very few national security requests, and is irked that it has to report, in essence, ‘no more than 250′ when the actual number is likely far lower. Yahoo, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Microsoft have also released data regarding the government’s requests for their user date.

NSA protest stirs memories of AT&T spy scandal – An AT&T whistleblower, who leaked documents in 2006 that showed the company opened up its systems to the National Security Agency, took center stage at a “The Day We Fight Back” protest in San Francisco.

Bing Chinese search results raise censorship concerns – In a write up today,, a website that revolves around the issue of China’s Internet censorship, published a report expressing concerns about Microsoft’s Bing search engine, claiming results for Chinese-language searches are filtered for those located outside of China. The discovery was made by Charlie Smith, the man behind the website, who told The Guardian he noticed the issue when checking his website’s index page and finding that it didn’t show up in the search results for Bing, but that it did for Google. This prompted a further contrasting of results.


Filed under Free Security Programs, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

7 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 12, 2014

  1. Really scary: I felt that all the monopolization of the browser, and baying out of once independent venues like youtube had to do with overboard interceptions and redistribution of data. You feel that way when everything seems coherst (what you type! The big E is monitoring that, and flagging! what pour excuses for humaN BEINGS!

  2. Fred

    Hi Bill,
    “Mozilla Firefox to show sponsored websites in New Tab boxes”
    They get money from Google every time someone uses Google to search from the Firefox browser. Following on the heels of taking away our ability to disable security risks, such as Java Script and images, this doesn’t surprise me. Maybe another good free browser will come on the scene, let’s hope so.
    “How to clean up the mess left by browser toolbars”
    I’ll never forget that graphic you posted once showing all those toolbars STACKED one on top of the other, sadly I’ve known of people who HAVE that many, unasked for, toolbars on their computers.

    “Wired: How Obama Officials Cried ‘Terrorism’ to Cover Up a Paperwork Error”
    What has been going on since 2001 with the Muslim community in the USA has been a dark stain on the Bill of Rights, however they can take comfort in knowing that ALL Americans are now just good little cogs in the State regime. Bill I have to tell you that there is some very disturbing actions going on with the current regime in Washington DC, now his predecessors were, on the whole, mostly bad news, but this guy takes the cake. Just one OMINOUS example:
    The Department of Homeland Security according to a solicitation posted on FedBizOpps, the federal agency is looking to procure 141,160 rounds of Hornady .308 Winchester 168gr A-MAX TAP ammunition.

    The DHS has made mass ammo purchases which have totaled over 2 billion in the last couple of years.
    Then on Jan. 31, the U.S. Postal Service Supplies and Services Purchasing Office posted a notice on the Federal Business Opportunities website asking contractors to register with USPS as potential ammunition suppliers for a variety of cartridges.
    “The United States Postal Service intends to solicit proposals for assorted small arms ammunition,” the notice reads, which also mentioned a deadline of Feb. 10.
    The SOCIAL SECURITY Administration has also stockpiled ammo, and Since 2001, the U.S. Dept. of Education has been building a massive arsenal through purchases orchestrated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

    The Education Dept. has spent over $80,000 so far on Glock pistols and over $17,000 on Remington shotguns.
    Back in July, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also purchased 72,000 rounds of .40 Smith & Wesson, following a 2012 purchase for 46,000 rounds of .40 S&W jacketed hollow point by the National Weather Service.

    Now maybe the Obama regime is just being prudent, but a Republican congressman, last year, stated that all of the purchases by the various NON-MILITARY, government agencies was more than the US Army purchased.
    Well I would bet that Canada’s government ISN’T preparing for whatever it is the US government is, and while I realize that Canada is not perfect, this government of the US is VERY scary, to Americans and the WORLD.

    • Hi Fred,

      I’m not at all surprised by the data you’ve provided on the bump-up in ammunition. And yes, “this government of the US is VERY scary, to Americans and the WORLD”, is a point of view I can agree with, wholeheartedly. In retrospect, the decline of the Soviet Union as an offsetting power to the U.S., has allowed Obama and his henchmen to stomp on the rest of us with their jackboots. Obama, I suspect, will be judged harshly by contemporary historians – and, “gutted” by those that follow. He is, in all crucial areas, a sham President.

      In the meantime, continued active resistant against this fascist wannabe, and his puppets, is of paramount importance. If history can be relied on, and it can – WE WILL OVERCOME.