Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 4, 2014

Google Voice: The Ultimate How-to Guide;  How to: Move from a hard drive to an SSD;  Great Uses for an Old PC;  Five tax prep apps to save time and avoid errors;  Senators to investigate NSA role in GCHQ ‘Optic Nerve’ webcam spying;  The paranoid’s survival guide, part 1: How to protect your personal data;  How to boost SMB productivity with Windows 7 and 8;  Top 10 excuses for sticking with Windows XP;  Hackers hijack 300,000-plus wireless routers;  15 Titanfall maps confirmed;  Just what is the difference between a smartphone and a featurephone now, anyway?

Google Voice: The Ultimate How-to Guide – In this article, and the baker’s dozen that follow, you’ll learn just about everything you need to know to get the most out of the Google Voice service. This guide contains a complete end-to-end update of our 2011 Google Voice guide, chock full of new ideas, completely new articles, and amazing tips.

The paranoid’s survival guide, part 1: How to protect your personal data – We’ve rounded up a bunch of experts’ tips about how to retain your privacy — as much as possible, anyway — and how to surf the Web silently, among other things.

Avoid the Trash Heap: Great Uses for an Old PC – If that laptop or desktop is from the last 10 years, you’d be surprised by just how much life you can get out of it. Not just limping along like you were in the last few years of its pathetic attempts to run Windows XP—we’re talking ways to bring an old PC back to useful life. You may need to do some light upgrades here and there; more RAM and a big new hard drive may benefit some of these projects. But all you need in most cases is separate access to the Web and the ability to get software written to a USB flash drive or a CD/DVD to install on that old junker.

Five tax prep apps to save time and avoid errors – Today’s tax apps are efficient and easy to use, and they can help ensure that your returns are accurate and complete. Here are several good choices, most of which are free.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

TaxACT 2013 Free Federal Edition TaxACT 2013 Free Federal Edition completes your tax return the fast and easy way. TaxACT includes over 120 forms, schedules and worksheets, plus the interview guides you through completing your return, or you can enter directly onto the tax forms. TaxACT calculates your return for you, then reviews your return and alerts you of possible errors. Prepare, print, and e-file your return for free.

Microsoft’s states the obvious, educates the consumer – Microsoft has launched to help uneducated users know if they are using Windows XP which will soon no longer be supported by Microsoft.

Microsoft Offering Data Transfer Tool for Windows XP Holdouts – The free tool copies all the files and settings from your Windows XP PC to a new device running Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1.

Top 10 excuses for sticking with Windows XP – There are many reasons why users will be sticking with Windows XP after Microsoft ends all support next month. In the final analysis, none of them are good excuses.

Just what is the difference between a smartphone and a featurephone now, anyway? – With the announcement of new ranges of low cost devices at this year’s MWC in Barcelona, it’s time to ask: what is the difference between a smartphone and a featurephone in today’s market?

How to boost SMB productivity with Windows 7 and 8 – Whether you’ve already upgraded from XP or you’re still preparing to, your business can reap some solid benefits from Windows 7 and 8 by following some simple procedures. Here’s how.

Uninstall native Windows 8 apps you don’t need – The Windows 8.1 Start screen is loaded with shortcuts to pre-installed apps you may not want or need. Here’s how to clear out the clutter.


Phones Can’t Be Trusted, Security Needs Root in Mobile – ViaForensics CEO Andrew Hoog knew he would turn some heads with a session at RSAC 2014 entitled “Why Mobile Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Root.” Though root is something of a dirty word on mobile devices, Hoog believes that our trust in mobile phones is unfounded. If we want to get serious about mobile security, then Hoog says the all-powerful root access needs to be more accessible.

Move from a hard drive to an SSD – I’ve discussed the advantages of installing an SSD while also keeping your large hard drive in The Best of Both Worlds: An SSD and a HDD. I’ve also explained how to Move your libraries to an external drive without messing things up–important with most laptops when you switch to an SSD. But I confess: I never covered the basic job of moving your Windows installation from a large-capacity hard drive to a faster but more limited SSD. I’ll fix that right now.

The History of Tablet Computers: A timeline – Today’s tablet landscape is dominated by Apple’s iPad and Android devices from Samsung, Google and others, with Windows-based tablets from Microsoft and its partners making recent inroads on the market. But where did all these tablets spring from?

10 amazingly stupid things the ‘experts’ will try to tell you about Microsoft – In Silicon Valley (and in media satellites that take the NoCal mindset to New York and beyond), everyone has an iPhone, a MacBook Pro, and a Gmail account. Microsoft products and services might as well be from Mars. So be skeptical when you read analyses or predictions of what’s coming next from Redmond.


Hackers hijack 300,000-plus wireless routers, make malicious changes – Researchers said they have uncovered yet another mass compromise of home and small-office wireless routers, this one being used to make malicious configuration changes to more than 300,000 devices made by D-Link, Micronet, Tenda, TP-Link, and others. The hackers appear to be using a variety of techniques to commandeer the devices and make changes to the domain name system (DNS) servers used to translate human-friendly domain names into the IP addresses computers use to locate their Web servers, according to a report published Monday by researchers from security firm Team Cymru.


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VPN flaw makes Android Jelly Bean and KitKat susceptible to hijacking – A security advisory from CERT-In has revealed that Android 4.3 and 4.4 are vulnerable to a critical flaw in the VPN implementation allowing hijackers to transmit secure data to third-party servers.

40 percent of Cryptolocker victims pay the ransom – That’s according to a survey recently completed by the University of Kent. Obviously the thought of coughing up a couple hundred dollars is less frightening than the prospect of losing years of financial data or irreplaceable family photos. 4 in 10 users may seem scarily high, but what can you expect when not even the police are following their own advice about not paying the ransom? Perhaps just as frightening as Cryptolocker’s success rate is another statistic from the Kent study. Almost 30% of the users they interviewed don’t bother with any security software of any kind. No anti-malware app. No secure password management app. Nothing.

Scareware pusher loses appeal against epic $163 million fine [POLL] – Kristy Ross, employee at rogue anti-virus pushers Innovative Marketing Inc., dragged her appeal against her whopping $163 million fine through the courts for years – and has lost. Do you think the fine fits the crime?

Four Vulnerabilities Found in Oracle Demantra – Oracle’s Demantra is fraught with vulnerabilities that could allow an attacker to extract sensitive information, carry out phishing attacks, and modify content within the application, among other attacks.

Company News:

Microsoft’s OneDrive For Business Throws Down Gauntlet For Box, Dropbox – Microsoft announced today that the business end of OneDrive, its cloud storage offering, would be unshackled from its other services, and sold as a standalone cloud storage solution for corporate customers. Cue a surprised gasp from the audience.

Facebook In Talks To Acquire Drone Maker Titan Aerospace – Facebook, one of the primary backers of the initiative, which aims to bring affordable Internet access to the 5 billion people in the world who still lack connectivity, is in talks with a company that could help further that agenda. TechCrunch is hearing that Facebook is buying Titan Aerospace, makers of near-orbital, solar-powered drones which can fly for five years without needing to land. According to a source with access to information about the deal, the price for this acquisition is $60 million.


IBM Australia slashes jobs to rebalance workforce – IBM Australia is expected to cut 500 jobs as part of plans to move investments in areas such as cloud, analytics and cognitive computing.

Microsoft denies extending Windows XP support for China – On Monday, Microsoft China made statements on a Chinese social network that have been misinterpreted in reports in the West. Microsoft in Redmond told ZDNet that they are not extending support for Windows XP in China.

Games and Entertainment:

GameFly takes on Netflix with movie rental service – At the request of users, GameFly, the video game rental service, is going toe-to-toe with Netflix, taking the wraps off its new movie rental service. GameFly subscribers were introduced to the service today, and can now nab Blu-ray and DVD movie disc rentals in the same way customers rented from Netflix in its earlier days.


“Ouya Everywhere” initiative promises more indie games on more devices – Ahead of this month’s indie-heavy Game Developers Conference, Android-powered console company Ouya has teased a new initiative that may eventually render the Ouya console itself moot. The “Ouya Everywhere” initiative is lacking in technical details for the time being, but the message thus far is clear: the company wants to push more Ouya-branded gaming on more companies’ hardware.

15 Titanfall maps confirmed in leaked screenshots – With less than two weeks remaining in the countdown to Titanfall, a series of leaks has exposed the maps that will be available with this game at launch. Titanfall is without a doubt the biggest game launching in March, and it’s got more than enough potential to be one of the biggest games in 2014. Microsoft is putting an incredible amount of weight behind this new title, and if the two map beta that concluded a few weeks ago is any indicator this game will be met with a ravenous frenzy.


Zynga turns to old games for a new push into mobile – Zynga is bringing new versions of Words with Friends, Zynga Poker, and FarmVille 2 to mobile, but just calling something “new” doesn’t make it so.

South Park: The Stick of Truth is seriously sweet, you guys! – South Park: The Stick of Truth absolutely nails it. It’s the perfect combination of hilarious South Park content woven into an ultra-satisfying, turn-based RPG.


Off Topic (Sort of):

US appeals court permits YouTube to display anti-Muslim video with changes – Google has been allowed by a court to keep a controversial film trailer that mocks the Prophet Muhammad on YouTube, but the video has to be scrubbed to remove the performance of actress Cindy Lee Garcia, who claims infringement of her copyright.

Popular platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, aiding illegal gun sales – No questions asked. These sites aren’t e-commerce sites, they’re quick to remind us, but they sure make it easy for convicted criminals to set up illegal gun buys, as well as one 15-year-old who recently brought a loaded 9mm to school. Facebook’s finally, thankfully, talking to advocacy groups about the problem that its brethren, such as Craiglist, have already solved.

Project Ara: Inside Google’s Bold Gambit to Make Smartphones Modular – The two-year quest to create the ultimate customizable phone, inside and out.


Study: Massive Online Courses Enroll An Average Of 43,000 Students, 10% Completion – Examining public data from 279 courses from the most popular MOOC providers (Udacity, Coursera, edX), researcher Katy Jordan finds that the average course enrolls about 43,000 students. About 6.5% of those stick around ’til the end. When looking at the number of students who engaged at least a little bit with course materials, the number of completion jumps to 9.8%.

Keurig coffee makers will implement DRM to block third-party coffee – Recently, we learned that Keurig planned on expanding its business from hot drinks to cold. To begin that endeavor, Green Mountain Coffee will team with Coca-Cola to produce single-serving Coke pods for use in a cold beverage machine. Now, Keurig is further strengthening its grip on the quick in-office coffee fix market by implementing a form of DRM that will block third-party coffee pods from being used in Keurig machines.


Amazon workers’ lawsuit to be heard by US Supreme Court – Everyday after work, warehouse employees have to wait in long bag-check lines to make sure they’re not toting stolen goods — some workers want to be paid for that time.

Something to think about:

The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as of the greatest virtues.”

–       Rene Descartes

Today’s Free Downloads:

AppRemover – AppRemover fully supports the thorough uninstallation of hundreds of antivirus and antispyware applications. The following support chart is updated with each new release. The chart lists two different types of supported applications. One set has been verified by OPSWAT Labs testing. The other set lists applications that have been reported as supported by the hundreds of thousands of users that have previously downloaded AppRemover.

Lightbeam for Firefox – A Firefox add-on that enables you to see the first and third party sites you interact with on the Web. Using interactive visualizations, Lightbeam shows you the relationships between these third parties and the sites you visit. Using three distinct interactive graphic representations — Graph, Clock and List — Lightbeam enables you to examine individual third parties over time and space, identify where they connect to your online activity and provides ways for you to engage with this unique view of the Web.

Why Can’t I Connect? – “Why Can’t I Connect” makes it easier to resolve TCP/IP connection errors. Use it to diagnose connections to common server types and create generic clients and / or servers. A source tar, a 32 bit rpm, a 32 bit deb, and a 32 bit Windows install exe are available.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Senators to investigate NSA role in GCHQ ‘Optic Nerve’ webcam spying – Three US senators are planning to investigate any role the National Security Agency played in its British partner’s mass collection of Yahoo webcam images. Reacting to the Guardian’s revelation on Thursday that UK surveillance agency GCHQ swept up millions of Yahoo users’ webcam chats, senators Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich said in a joint statement that “any involvement of US agencies in the alleged activities reported today will need to be closely scrutinized”. The senators described the interception as a “breathtaking lack of respect for privacy and civil liberties”.

Lawsuit: Sprint charged US gov’t $21 million too much for SPYING expenses – The US government today filed suit against Sprint, alleging that the company overcharged government agencies when submitting expense reimbursement requests for wiretap operations that spied on Sprint customers. Sprint “knowingly submitted false claims to federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), US Marshals Service (USMS), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and others, by including unallowable costs in their charges for carrying out court orders authorizing wiretaps, pen registers, and trap devices,” US attorneys wrote in a suit filed today in US District Court in Northern California. Sprint denies the allegations, which the US says cost the government $21 million.

Are Automated Update Services the Next Surveillance Frontier? – Automated update services that provide users with security patches and feature enhancements are also a potential hunting ground for intelligence agencies and law enforcement surveillance activity.

Australian govt departments want to keep power to censor websites – Three Australian government agencies that have used the Telecommunications Act to force ISPs to block sites have indicated to the government they intend to use that power again.

Nick Clegg orders review into data gathering by spy agencies – Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, has commissioned a review into the new intrusive capabilities of British intelligence agencies and the legal framework in which they operate, after failing to persuade David Cameron that the coalition government should act now to tighten the accountability of Britain’s spies. Clegg has been trying for months inside government to persuade the Conservatives and intelligence agencies that the existing accountability structure is inadequate and could corrode trust, but in a Guardian article before a big speech on Tuesday the deputy prime minister admits he has failed to persuade Cameron of the need for reform.


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

10 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 4, 2014

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Australian govt departments want to keep power to censor websites

    Nothing much different about this government and the previous one. Both pathetic, both hopeless, both hypocrites and the list could go on forever.


    • Hey Mal,

      The whole world is going bat shit insane with right wing extremist control freaks pulling out all the stops in order to pressure us to conform. These governments, it seems to me, are completely out of touch with the needs of those they supposedly represent. But, what else is new?



  2. As always, great articles! Thanks!

  3. Reblogged this on khrystleraineduste and commented:
    MANY interesting tidbits to whet your whistle! Thanks Bill!

  4. Wow. Very impressive news roundup. I was drawn here for the Google Voice bit, but unfortunately it doesn’t help my particular dilemma (GV is out of numbers for our local area codes). Thanks for sharing!

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