Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 3, 2014

Spy agency intercepts Yahoo webcam chats, nudes and all;  How to keep your PC secure when Microsoft ends Windows XP support;  Reinstall Windows when you’ve lost your reinstall disc or partition;  Score free Android apps at Amazon’s Appstore;  Microsoft may offer Windows with Bing for free;  Secure smartphones are nice, but not enough;  Tor develops its own anonymous IM tool to hide chat from spying eyes;  How to: Delete your Facebook search history;  Is Someone Watching Every Time You Touch Your Smartphone?

How to keep your PC secure when Microsoft ends Windows XP support – Nearly 30 percent of Internet-connected PCs still run Windows XP, and no, they won’t die that day. They’ll continue running like normal, but they’ll be rotting inside, becoming increasingly full of security holes. Microsoft itself has dubbed the condition “Zero day forever.” If you can’t upgrade, there are some things you can do to protect yourself. Make no mistake: These tricks are like sticking your finger in a leaking dam. They’ll help a bit, but the dam is crumbling and it’s time to get out of the way.

No Kindle? No problem! Score free Android apps at Amazon’s Appstore – Are you shackled to Google’s app store in a nightmarish, never-ending Play date? If so, break off your chains and explore a new land of apps at Amazon’s Appstore, no Kindle Fire tablet required! That’s right, you can install Amazon’s Appstore on just about any Android phone or tablet, providing your device with a whole new destination for app discovery.

Avoid spam calls, find numbers faster with Current Caller ID on Android – Calls from telemarketers can eat up your monthly minutes, or just plain waste your time. If you’re tired of answering or calling back to these “businesses,” the most recent update to the Current Caller ID app by Whitepages is here to help.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Finish, The Anti-Procrastination App, Goes Freemium – Instead of offering the app for $.99, Finish will now be available for free with extra paid features such as time limits and extra tasks. Finish launched in January of 2013 to help high school students stop procrastinating. The app won an Apple Design award with a UI that asked for you to prioritize certain tasks into short term, medium term and long term categories. Based on those prioritizations, the app reminded users to complete tasks based on the various time limits set.


Microsoft may offer Windows with Bing for free – A minor update for Windows 8.1 might not be all that Microsoft has up its sleeve. They may be cooking up a free version of Windows, and it could be here sooner than you think. The Leakmaster General over at has posted setup screenshots and details from a new Windows SKU called “Windows with Bing.” There don’t appear to be any major differences between it and the standard Windows offerings. It’s likely very similar to Microsoft’s existing attempts to bundle Bing, like the $3 discount on Office Home and Student when the toolbar is bundled or Internet Explorer with Bing.


Google integrates full restaurant menus into its search – Google has introduced a new feature into their search engine that displays full restaurant menus, which some say could compete with sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon.

Google Launches Maps Gallery, an ‘Interactive, Digital Atlas’ – You can now explore maps depicting everything from world climate trends to up-to-date evacuation routes for certain areas.

Reinstall Windows when you’ve lost your reinstall disc or partition You need to reinstall Windows, but the restoration partition on the hard drive no longer works (or you lost the restoration DVD). Here’s what to do.

Three ways to record and share a presentation with nothing but a Chromebook – Record a presentation using nothing but your Chromebook and these three tools: Hangouts, Movenote, and Screencastify.

Dattch, The Dating App For Gay Women, Launches in San Francisco – Aimed exclusively at lesbians, bisexual and/or bi-curious women, the Dattch dating app ought to be a shoe-in for the large San Francisco market. So it’s no surprise that the startup – after raising money and honing its product in London – has now launched in the California city.


Netflix hacks up a sleep detector to pause while you snooze – Falling asleep to a movie on Netflix is a wonderful feeling, but one that can turn to frustration the next day as you try to figure out where you left off. The hack involves using a Fitbit wristband to detect when the user has fallen asleep. When snoozing commences, Netflix slowly fades the audio and puts the movie on pause. It also creates a bookmark at the point when sleep began so snoozing users can easily return to that point later.

Sleep tight: Ambient audio for iOS – Whether to help lull you to sleep or block out the sounds of a tightly packed open office, ambient audio can be a useful tool. And, best of all, it needn’t be confined to the tiny-speakered/tinny-sound consumer “sleep machines” you find advertised in the back of in-flight magazines. With an iOS device you can be wrapped in an otherworldly environment in seconds. While not as common as to-do list managers and Flappy Bird clones, the App Store has its fair share of ambient audio apps. These are a few of my favorites.

Delete your Facebook search history – Facebook keeps a record of everything you search for on its Web site. Check out this How To guide for cleaning up the list, or just limiting what information Facebook is storing about you.

Ellen’s Oscar selfie breaks Twitter; sets a new retweet record – Twitter briefly went down on Sunday evening thanks to Ellen DeGeneres as the Oscar host posted an all-star selfie pick and racked up the most retweets in history, with over 2 million and counting.

Microsoft Power BI brings big data to the little guys – Microsoft recently launched Power BI, which is a tool that lets just about anyone use big data analytics to make smarter business decisions.


Clean up the look of Gmail with Gmelius – This browser extension provides a handy checklist to remove or move various elements of Gmail’s interface, from ads at the top of the page to the footer at the bottom.

BroApp Sends Automatic Texts to Your Girlfriend to Make Her Think You’re Thinking About Her – There’s really going to be no middle ground here. Either you’re going to think this app is brilliant, or you’re going to think it’s stupid.


Watch out for this Netflix “tech support” scam – Jerome Segura has been tracking tech support scams for a year, documenting the ploys he’s encountered. But even this one found him unprepared. “Combining a phishing scam with a fake tech support call center is something that I’d never seen before,” the Malwarebytes senior security researcher told A video of the find shows Segura trying to enter a fake Netflix login on the streaming service’s homepage, only to be presented with a notice telling him the account has been suspended, and telling him to call a fake tech support number.


Is Someone Watching Every Time You Touch Your Smartphone? – New research shows how remarkably easy it is to capture and record every tap on your touch screen, and how to use it against you.

Identity theft tops consumer complaint list in 2013: FTC – The Federal Trade Commission says it received nearly 300,000 identity-theft complaints from consumers last year, easily outpacing gripes about debt collectors, banks and mobile service providers.

Google’s Android Security Guru Says They’re Winning the War – Google’s top security engineer outlined his philosophy for security on Android and says that despite what you might read in the press, they’re winning against malware and attackers. (lol!)

Apple’s iCloud security feature in OSX is bypassed in just 70 lines of code – A Github user has uploaded an Arduino script that thwarts Apple’s lackluster attempts at security and bruteforces through the iCloud security lockscreen.

How to turn a phone into a covert bugging device? Infect the printer – Security researchers have designed a stealthy eavesdropping attack that sounds like it’s straight out of a James Bond movie. It starts with a booby-trapped document that compromises an unpatched laser printer, which in turn converts a popular Internet phone into a covert bugging device.

Buying, Selling Stolen Credt Cards Online – What is striking about the carder sites where criminals sell and buy stolen credit and debit cards is the fact the entire process is so customer-friendly and easy.

Gameover malware tougher to kill with new rootkit component – The rootkit works on 32-bit and 64-bit Windows versions and protects the malware’s components from being deleted.

Security 2014: The holes are in the apps, not the operating systems – Security firms FireEye and Secunia say Windows continues to be the most-targeted OS and businesses can expect to be attacked by malware once every 1.5 seconds.

Company News:

Tim Cook advises climate change deniers to get out of Apple stock – In a response to a shareholder suggestion that Apple stop its environmentally friendly initiatives, the typically temperate Apple CEO draws a blunt line in the sand.

AT&T seeks trials to move all customers off wired phone service – AT&T and other incumbent wireline carriers are still required to provide traditional TDM phone service even though many U.S. residents no longer use it. They want to move to alternative services over the IP-based wired and wireless networks they are building now and eliminate the cost of maintaining the old networks. AT&T wants to complete its transition by 2020.

Cisco launches Internet of Things security challenge – Cisco is offering prizes worth up to $300,000 for those who can solve security issues surrounding the “Internet of Things” concept.

Jolla shows its Sailfish mobile OS running on Android phones – The last two weeks have been busy for Finnish company Jolla, which last week announced that it had shipped a commercial version of its Sailfish OS and then headed for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Being a small company trying to compete with giants like Apple and Samsung has both its ups and downs, according to Pienimäki. One advantage is that low operating costs mean it doesn’t have to sell many phones to survive.

Class-action suit charges Mt. Gox with fraud, seeking the return of users’ bitcoins – The lawsuit lays out a number of claims against Mt. Gox, chief among them that the exchange did not keep users’ bitcoins securely stored or adequately detect a theft of those coins. When the online exchange figured out what was going on, it clouded the truth by telling customers there was a computer glitch, the lawsuit claims.

Games and Entertainment:

Miley’s Lawyers Want “Flying Cyrus” Off The App Store – Israeli company Talo Games has been asked by Miley Cyrus’s legal team to remove “Flying Cyrus – Wrecking Ball,” currently the fifth most popular free iPhone application in the U.S., from the iTunes App Store, we’ve learned. According to Cyrus’s lawyers, “Flying Cyrus” infringes on their client’s rights, and represents an “unauthorized use” of Cyrus’s name and trademarks.


Steam Family Sharing exits beta, Neowin shows you how to set it up – Valve recently enabled Steam Family Sharing functionality for all Steam users. Sharing your game library with another user (or vice versa) is rather complicated but Neowin is here to help.

Hands-on: Razer Game Booster adds synced cloud saves for multi-PC gamers – Saved game syncing is a new “beta” feature in Razer’s free Game Booster software, which also helps improve game performance and manages screenshots. Game Booster uses Dropbox to automatically copy save files to the cloud in .ZIP format, and then pulls those files onto other PCs where Razer’s software is installed. Setting it up is simple enough. Once you’ve installed Game Booster and created a Razer login, the software scans for any games on your PC. I have about 80 games on my desktop, and Game Booster found them all in less than a minute.

Microsoft to hold official Xbox One Titanfall launch event March 10th in Austin – Microsoft will hold the official Titanfall launch event for the Xbox One March 10th in Austin, Texas, and over 6,000 retailers will stay open at midnight in the U.S. to sell the first-person shooter.

Wolfenstein is a 1080p 60fps game on PS4 and Xbox One – If you were an early adopter of the Xbox One there’s a good chance you’re a little annoyed and tired of the fact PS4 games are shipping at a higher res and faster frame rates. But thankfully, a fix is in the works in the form of an SDK update. Once in the hands of developers that 1080p 60fps goal should become a lot easier to hit every time. Proof of that comes in the form of Wolfenstein: The New Order.


Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Review – If the idea of blood puke turns you off, I suggest you tap back immediately. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is not a game for children or the faint of heart – or stomach. While most reviewers will be coming in to this game a hardened fan of or having despised the first installment, we’re coming in with fresh eyes. Here we’ve got a game where you control an ancient vampire in a modern-day (or even futuristic) world from a third-person perspective with enough cutscenes to choke an elephant.


Off Topic (Sort of):

NASA’s real ‘Gravity’ photos – In honor of “Gravity” winning the Oscar for best visual effects, the American space agency posted a gallery of many shots that could have inspired the hit film.

Play with Earth’s beautiful weather in your browser – A new tool renders global weather and oceanographic patterns in real time, and lets you see precisely the data you want.

Texas appeals court says police can’t search your phone after you’re jailed – On Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that law enforcement officials do need a warrant to search an arrested person’s cell phone after they’ve been jailed. The ruling did not decide whether it is legal or not for police to search a suspect’s phone at the incidence of arrest, which is currently a hotly contested subject. The Supreme Court is set to decide that matter later this year.

Britain Will Reportedly Scrap 20% Tax on Bitcoin – British authorities have plans to scrap a 20% “value-added tax” on Bitcoins, bringing regulation of the controversial crypto-currency in line with the way it treats other currencies. “The UK’s welcoming approach to Bitcoin contrasts with the approach of other countries, amid concerns about its use for tax evasion and money laundering as well as its notoriety for wide fluctuations in value,” reports The Financial Times.

5 favorite Hollywood tech flubs – Movies with tech themes are fun, but their depiction of computing in the workplace is typically problematic.

Something to think about:

There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.”

–     Arthur C. Clarke

Today’s Free Downloads:

Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.3 – The Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer provides a streamlined method to identify missing security updates and common security misconfigurations. MBSA 2.3 release adds support for Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 R2, and Windows Server 2012. (All users should run this app at least once.)

SmoothDraw 4.5.0 – SmoothDraw is an easy natural painting and digital free-hand drawing software that can produce high quality pictures. Support many kinds of brushes (pen, pencil, dry media, airbrush, bristle brush, image hose, etc.), retouch tools, layers, image adjustment, and many effects… Works great with tablets and Tablet PC.

Glary Utilities – Glary Utilities is a smart and reliable application that offers numerous powerful and easy-to-use system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain and protect your PC. It allows you to clean common system junk files, as well as invalid registry entries and Internet traces. You can manage and delete browser add-ons, analyze disk space usage and find duplicate files. You can also view and manage installed shell extensions, encrypt your files from unauthorized access and use, split large files into smaller manageable files and then rejoin them. Furthermore, Glary Utilities includes the options to optimize memory, find, fix, or remove broken Windows shortcuts, manage the programs that start at Windows startup and uninstall software. Other features include secure file deletion, an Empty Folder finder and more. All Glary Utilities tools can be accessed through an eye-pleasing and totally simplistic interface.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Spy agency intercepts Yahoo webcam chats, nudes and all – The British spy agency GCHQ, with help from the NSA, intercepted millions of Yahoo webcam chats and was surprised to find that about 7 percent included “undesirable nudity.” The spy program, called “Optic Nerve,” was revealed in documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and was reported today by The Guardian. “GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not,” The Guardian reported. “In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery—including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications—from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.” While the files only cover data going up to 2010, Optic Nerve “was still active in 2012, according to an internal GCHQ wiki page accessed that year,” the newspaper reported.

Secure smartphones are nice, but not enough – In the past week, two new ultra secure smartphones have been in the news: the Blackphone and the Black phone. The difference in their names is a space. Here’s what we know about the two most secure smartphones ever created.

Tor develops its own anonymous IM tool to hide chat from spying eyes – The Tor Foundation is moving forward with a plan to provide its own instant messaging service. Called the Tor Instant Messaging Bundle, the tool will allow people to communicate in real time while preserving anonymity by using chat servers concealed within Tor’s hidden network. In planning since last July—as news of the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance of instant messaging traffic emerged—the Tor Instant Messaging Bundle (TIMB) should be available in experimental builds by the end of March, based on a roadmap published in conjunction with the Tor Project’s Winter Dev meeting in Iceland. TIMB will connect to instant messaging servers configured as Tor “hidden services” as well as to commercial IM services on the open Internet.

RSA booked TV’s Stephen Colbert to give the final speech. This is what happened next – Comedian Stephen Colbert closed down the RSA 2014 conference in San Francisco on Friday with a characteristically smart yet snarky roasting for his hosts, the NSA, and Edward Snowden. “RSA developed this conference in 1991 as a forum for cryptographers to gather and talk shop, and I assume breed with one another. Of course officially that’s called exchanging private keys,” he joked. Colbert said that he had been asked not to come and speak at the conference after claims that RSA had cooperated on pushing duff crypto with the NSA. This was weird, he said, because he’s usually asked not to show up again after he has given a speech. But he decided to come for three reasons.

NSA head floats idea: What if we only gathered terrorist communications? – The outgoing head of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith Alexander, told a United States Senate committee on Thursday that he was open to government spooks narrowing the focus of the metadata that they gather. The NSA’s chief’s brief comment (which came at 51’30” in the recorded session) was in response to a question from Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, concerning how telephone metadata is gathered and stored.



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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 3, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill,
    Glad to hear it was just a technical reason you weren’t around lately. I was a bit nervous there until I saw today’s post and your “modem” issue.
    Now as to “Tor develops its own anonymous IM tool to hide chat from spying eyes” you know Bill I’ve never trusted nor used Tor, I assumed that some of those referral ports were hosted by Unfriendlies who would sniff every packet that came along. I read years ago about a professor in I think it was Michigan, who used Tor from his college office and within days he had a visit by 2 agents of NAVAL Intelligence. In light of Mr Snowden’s heroic exposure one would think that NSA was one of those :”observers” on Tor.
    Well glad the MAN is back!!

    • Hi Fred,

      True, there is some evidence that the NSA have had the ability for some time, to capture Tor packets.

      I’m certainly not a conspiracy theorist by any means – but, I suspect the underlying technology in all of this attack on human dignity (which it bloody well is), is much more pervasive and has a technological reach, that is beyond our imagination. In other words – “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”