Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 17, 2014

Your new PC needs these 22 free programs;  2014’s top Linux desktops;  A Chromebook offers Defensive Computing when traveling;  Spot unscrupulous domain registrars;  How The NSA Is Turning Your Apps Against You;  Kickstarter says it’s been hacked;  New IE10 zero-day exploit found;  Titanfall Beta open: everyone is free to play;  Mozilla’s top exec defends in-Firefox ads; Earth revolves around the sun? 1 in 4 Americans say nope;  NSA allows Australia to spy on US law firm;   Understanding the Internet of Things;  Make Money Selling Your Personal Data Yourself.

How The NSA Is Turning Your Apps Against You – In late January, leaked documents revealed that the NSA and other national spy organizations have been hard at work getting information from your smartphone. But instead of installing a bug, they just tapped into the apps already on your phone to learn everything they want to know.

Your new PC needs these 22 free programs – Yes, stocking your PC is an intensely personal task. Even still, some programs are so helpful, so handy, so useful across the board that we heartily recommend them to everybody. These are the programs you want to install on a new PC first.

A Chromebook offers Defensive Computing when traveling – To brutally simplify things, Chromebooks, a brainchild of Google, are laptop computers that only run the Chrome web browser. Chromebooks are a new paradigm in computing. Although physically they look much like a MacBook Air, they share almost no design philosophy with desktop systems (Windows, OS X, Linux) or mobile systems (iOS, Android). Without question, a Chromebook is safer than Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS or Android. Security is baked into the design. (A Michael Horowitz article – highly recommended.)

Aftershocks Of Snowden Affair Still Affect Cybersecurity Practices – It’s no surprise that companies altered their security practices in light of the Edward Snowden and the NSA uproar. According to ThreatTrack Security’s recent study on IT and security managers employed by U.S. defense contractors, the aftermath of the data breaches have changed companies’ cybersecurity practices and policies in more ways than one.

Get Your Friends to Pay Up With Square Cash – Asking someone for the money they owe you can be awkward. But Square wants to help you avoid those cringe-worthy conversations. The mobile payment company this week introduced a new feature that lets you easily charge an individual or group of people who owe you cash. You can now request payment directly from the company’s Square Cash app, or by simply composing an email.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Kensington Proximo – Safeguard your phone, save money and regain your peace of mind with the new way to ensure your phone, and everything on it, stays with you.

Datacoup: Make Money Selling Your Personal Data Yourself – How much is your privacy worth? A new startup called Datacoup is making headlines for its radical business model: The company will pay you up to $8 per month for anonymized access to your financial data and social media accounts.

How to force SkyDrive to store your files on your hard drive in Windows 8.1 – With Windows 8.1 SkyDrive makes many of your files available only when you’re online. Here’s how to change that so you always have a local copy at hand.

Use apps to turn your Twitter feed into a spoiler-free zone – Are the people in your social media sphere yammering on about House of Cards or the Winter Olympics before you’ve had a chance to watch? We’ve looked at some apps that can silence them until you can get to a TV.

Linux Deepin is a fringe Linux distribution that could steal your heart – I’ve used more flavors of Linux than I can remember. Some of them were nothing more than blips on my radar, whereas others were serious contenders for my desktop. And then there’s Linux Deepin (formerly Hiweed Linux). This Linux distribution, based on Ubuntu, aims to provide a beautiful and user-friendly experience for any level of users.


Six Clicks: 2014’s top Linux desktops – After years of talk about the Linux desktop becoming important, it finally is. But thanks to Chromebooks and Android PCs, it’s not the Linux desktop we expected.

How to quickly and safely clean the iPhone, iPad, or anything else with a screen – Is the screen on your iPhone or iPad (or whatever device you happen to be using) caked with grease, earprints, fingerprints and muck? Here’s how you can return your screen to the condition it was when you first laid eyes on it.

Use Google search to set a timer – Did you know you can use Google search as a timer? The feature was available late last year then disappeared, but is now back.


Facebook can predict your break-up – The social network knows everything about our lives, which means it knows how and when we meet our partners, where we check in on date night, our biggest moments together, and (sadly) when we break up. So Facebook aggregated all the data it has on couples around the world and turned up a few surprising relationship facts.

How to deauthorize Google Play Music devices – If you’ve reached your 10-device limit on Google Play Music, you’ll need to deauthorize a device in order to allow a new one to access the service.

Understanding the Internet of Things – Towards a Smart Planet. (infographic)

News flash: People rarely read before tweeting stories – A traffic measurement company suggests that few people actually read the articles they share. If you spend much time online, you probably aren’t surprised.

Spot unscrupulous domain registrars with these four tips – Not all domain registrars are created equally. Find a trustworthy domain registrar by following this quick guide.

Kiuwan: The on-line code review tool – Based on static analysis, Kiuwan gives you high level indicators, about risk, quality and technical debt in your software development. At the same time, it provides details on intrinsic code metrics and detected defects found in your applications. Packed with great features to guide you on how to improve. There is no longer an excuse for bad code.

Can 200 million licenses be wrong? Windows 8 hits major milestone – Microsoft announced that it has sold 200 million Windows 8 licenses in about 15 months. That’s way ahead of Windows Vista, which only hit 180 million licenses after 18 months, but well behind Windows 7, which only took a year to reach 240 million licenses sold. Windows 8 had originally been keeping pace with its predecessor, hitting 100 million licenses sold as of last May. The fact that Windows 8 has fallen behind may explain why Microsoft had been keeping quiet about sales over the last several months.

A Comprehensive Guide to Facebook’s New Options for Gender Identity – Facebook’s message was clear when the social media network added new gender options for users on Thursday: the company is sensitive to a wide spectrum of gender identity and wants users to feel accommodated no matter where they see themselves on that spectrum. What might be less clear to many people is exactly what the approximately 50 new custom options for gender—like trans*, pangender and cis—actually mean.


Kickstarter says it’s been hacked and urges users to change passwords – On Saturday afternoon, Kickstarter announced that it had become aware of a security breach resulting in the loss of personal customer data like “usernames, email addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and encrypted passwords.” The crowdfunding site e-mailed its users later that night, urging them to change their passwords.

Syrian Electronic Army hits Forbes site; claims to have taken user accounts – The hacker group known as the Syrian Electronic Army, which has been targeting Microsoft for the past several weeks, has now turned its attention to other online outlets. Today, the SEA went after the Forbes website, but this time, instead of just defacing pages, it claims to have taken 1 million user names and passwords from the site.

Update: Third of Internet Explorer users at risk from attacks – Microsoft confirms both IE9 and IE10 contain vulnerability, urges customers to upgrade to IE11; leaves Vista users out in the cold.

New IE10 zero-day exploit found; could be targeting U.S. military – Microsoft may have released new Internet Explorer security patches earlier this week, but now the company has confirmed that a new zero-day exploit in IE10 has been found and is apparently being used by an unknown group to target members of the U.S. military. The flaw was found by the security firm FireEye, which it says was used by the mystery hackers to compromise the website of the U.S. Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Anti-theft software could be exploited, Kaspersky reports – Kaspersky Lab’s research has revealed millions of computers running anti-theft software could be at risk of being hijacked by cyber attackers. Kaspersky Lab’s security research team has published a report that highlights that the weak implementation of anti-theft software marketed by Absolute Software can turn a useful defensive utility into a powerful instrument for cyber attackers. The focus of the research was the Absolute Computrace agent that resides in the firmware, or PC ROM BIOS, of modern laptops and desktops.

Microsoft awards another $100,000 bounty for finding a Windows 8.1 exploit – In October, Microsoft awarded its top bounty reward of $100,000 for the first time to security researcher James Forshaw for his discovery of a mitigation bypass exploit in Windows 8.1. This week, the company revealed that it has given out another $100,000 prize to researcher Yu Yang for finding and reporting variants on the Mitigation Bypass. The $100,000 reward was posted up quietly on Microsoft’s Bounty Hunter honor roll page and also revealed via Twitter by Katie Moussouris, the company’s Senior Security Strategist Lead.

Company News:

Mozilla’s top exec defends in-Firefox ads, revenue search – The chairwoman of Mozilla Foundation, the non-profit that funds the development of Firefox, is defending the decision to pursue in-browser ads, saying that it’s important to generate revenue.

Qualcomm backtracks on Smart TV plans, cans Snapdragon 802 – Trying to perhaps avoid a large media backlash, Qualcomm has rather silently announced its decision to not push through with its Snapdragon 802 processor. This statement comes just a month after the chip maker unveiled at CES 2014 the chip that will drive its formal venture into the realm of Smart TVs.

Microsoft extends Windows 7 Pro OEM preinstalls to satisfy business buyers – The cut-off for the consumer versions of Windows 7—Home Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate—has been reinstated. Those versions will still stop being available as OEM preinstalls on October 31, 2014. But for the corporate-oriented Professional SKU, there’s now no firm date for when those OEM sales will end. Instead, there’s a footnote, saying that the company will give at least one year of notice before any cut-off date is actually set.

Google acquires SlickLogin; created way to transfer passwords via sound – The Israel-based startup SlickLogin, which has created a way to transfer passwords from a phone to a website via sound, has announced that it has been acquired by Google.

Windows Phone app certification times down to as low as one hour – Microsoft has announced it has made efforts to cut down the amount of time to certify new Windows Phone apps for publication, even making approvals as quick as one hour after submission.

Games and Entertainment:

Titanfall Beta open: everyone is free to play – Tonight the decision to stress test Titanfall Beta has been made – codes will not be needed and all players will be able to try the game until the end of the Beta period. At the moment this means users will immediately, if not soon, be able to access Titanfall Beta so that the creators of the game are able to test how much the servers that keep the game active online are able to take.


5 Tips for Dominating the Titanfall Beta – Participants in Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall control monstrous mechs and well-armed soldiers, but that doesn’t mean they should enter the fray firing guns and missiles without a gameplan. Titanfall is a game of combat awareness, so one must come prepared for the various fighting situations. These five tips will help you become an ace Titanfall pilot and rule the battelfield.

Apple and Google reported to be pulling down games on the basis of “Flappy” names – Like a zombie that refuses to die, Flappy Bird has still been seeing some activity days after its official demise thanks to imitations and scams proliferating on the Internet. Now it seems that Google and Apple are finally putting an axe to those clones by rejecting or even removing games from iTunes App Store and Google Play Store if they have the word “Flappy” in their name.

This Lego Movie Blooper Reel should have been at the end of the film – There’s nothing cool at the end of The Lego Movie after the credits. There totally should have been though, and this video is exactly what should have been there.

Off Topic (Sort of):

20 Things That Are Way Better In Slow Motion – This is why I watch and listen to all movies and music at 1/4 speed.

20 Things That Are Way Better In Slow Motion

Earth revolves around the sun? 1 in 4 Americans say nope – A National Science Foundation survey offers a sobering reflection of knowledge in today’s all-knowing world. Many people really do believe the sun circles the Earth. And more than half don’t know that humans evolved from animals.

Computer geeks as loners? Data says otherwise – The typical image of a computer geek is that of a socially clueless loner. Not only single, but can’t even get a date. Data, however, paints a somewhat different picture — at least when it comes to tech workers tying the knot.


King Richard III will be first famous historical figure to have genome sequences – Richard III ruled England for just two years, from 1483 to 1485 when he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field. A few hundred years is a long time for humanity, but DNA is hearty enough to remain mostly intact after that amount of time. Researchers will grind small samples of bone in an effort to extract samples of DNA. While the body of Richard III isn’t terribly old in archaeological terms, the moist clay he was buried in isn’t ideal for preserving genetic material.

Power laces coming in 2015 confirms original Nike designer – It’s like a blast from the past but is really a trip back to the future in the soon to be present. Tinker Hatfield, the original designer behind Nike’s limited edition recreation of the movie prop, has just confirmed that we will be seeing self-lacing Power Laces in 2015.


10 medal-worthy GIFs from the Sochi Olympic Games – The winter Olympics are underway in Sochi, Russia right now, and depending on your location, local broadcasters are airing hour upon hour of coverage. Who’s got time for that, though? GIFs only take a few seconds and you can get the gist of what’s going on. Plus, no commercial breaks!

Woman jailed for not returning VHS of JLo movie 9 years ago – Your old technology sins can still catch up with you, if you live in South Carolina, that is. One woman, attempting to report a crime to police, finds out the hard way, as she is jailed for not returning a rented movie.

Norwegian prisoner demands PS3 and computer – Though prison seems an unlikely place for (relatively) modern gaming consoles, petitions for devices have grown in recent time. Last year, an Australian inmate took legal action in an attempt to score a computer and an in-cell PlayStation 3. Now Norwegian Anders Breivik has done similar, kicking up a ruckus and threatening to hunger strike if his PS2 isn’t upgraded.

Something to think about:

“On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.”

–   George Orwell

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA allows Australia to spy on US law firm – The New York Times is reporting that Australia’s NSA counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), monitored a US-based law firm while that firm was representing Indonesia in trade disputes with the US government. The eavesdropping occurred with the NSA’s approval, and ASD apparently offered to share the information with the NSA. These revelations are part of yet another set of documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Australia: George Brandis signals internet filter rebirth  – The Abbott government is considering a major crackdown on online piracy, including forcing internet service providers to block websites that allow users to illegally stream or download movies, music and television shows.  The federal government is also considering implementing a “graduated response scheme” that could lead to consumers’ internet accounts being temporarily suspended if they ignore notifications to stop downloading illegal content. If implemented, the reforms could see popular file sharing sites such as The Pirate Bay blocked by some internet service providers. (suggested by Mal C.)

Feds seek contractor to build new federal license plate reader database: Civil libertarians say such a project would have no “clearly defined purpose.” – While license plate readers are on the rise by federal and local law enforcement agencies, they typically are not linked together into a one-stop shop beyond federally-funded “fusion centers,” which depend on local data. Apparently that is not enough for the feds anymore. The DHS further posted a 29-page document (PDF) outlining its requirements, including “featuring Smartphone technology based application for at least one Smartphone type, i.e. Android/iPhone/BlackBerry etc. currently in use by [Department of Homeland Security / Immigration and Customs Enforcement] allowing for license plate pictures to be taken and uploaded. Any positive matches shall return to the Smartphone an alert notification indicating to the User a positive match.”

Private firms argue First Amendment right to collect license plate data – Two major private LPR firms—Digital Recognition Network and Vigilant Solutions—are suing Utah’s governor and attorney general, arguing that they have a First Amendment right to collect data on license plates, which are displayed in public on open roads. The case seemingly pits the privacy rights of individuals against the First Amendment rights of corporations to engage in constitutionally protected speech. Legal experts say that this case presents a unique challenge in balancing these two constitutional rights, and it may have implications for future, similar laws across the country.

Making NSA-style spying harder, CloudFlare offers more robust Web crypto: Full (strict) Transport Layer Security is now ready for prime time – In a move designed to thwart wholesale eavesdropping by state-sponsored spies and sophisticated crime gangs, content delivery network CloudFlare has upgraded its Web-encryption capabilities to better protect data traveling between its own servers and those of its customers.


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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 17, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill,
    “New IE10 zero-day exploit found; could be targeting U.S. military”
    This story did not mention IE9, which, to me, should be part of the report.

    Now this troubled me:
    “Update: Third of Internet Explorer users at risk from attacks
    Microsoft confirms both IE9 and IE10 contain vulnerability, urges customers to upgrade to IE11; leaves Vista users out in the cold”

    I thought with the 2 new fellows running MS there would be a change for the GOOD, but looks like the same old same old.
    Why would they not give a patch for IE9? Would it cost them TOO MUCH MONEY? Is that it, or do they JUST NOT CARE?
    Well someone once referred to MS upper management people as LIZARDS, perhaps they were onto something ;;)
    Best to you,

    • Hi Fred,

      It’s unfortunate, but true nevertheless, that all browsers are subject to attack. Firefox and Chrome, for example, often release updates within days of having just released a “new” update based on newly discovered vulnerabilities (running with any prior version is a no-no). Yet, you rarely hear that Firefox or Chrome are “under attack.” So, in a real sense, MS should be complimented since it does patch previous versions of IE when doing so is practical. Sadly, not in this case.

      As for MS management being “LIZARDS” – probably true – but, that’s a reflection of the unethically driven business practices of enterprise which we in a cowardly fashion, have come to accept as “normal.” All we need do is look around us to see this in practice.



      Statistically (ain’t numbers grand :), IE is more robust from a security perspective, than it’s competition.