Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 6, 2014

The best tablets for under $250;  Off the grid? Keep your devices powered-up; Roku Stick vs Google Chromecast;  Apps to help adjust to daylight saving;  Pre-installed malware found on new Android phones;  Check’s Android app manages your bills;  4 Android apps that put SMS on your desktop;  Mastering Metro apps;  The dark side of 3D printing;  CIA snooped on Senate;  How to Report Internet Fraud;  Hacking Team snoopware found on US servers;  Upskirt photos ruled legal in Massachusetts.

The best tablets for under $250 – Buying a relatively inexpensive tablet doesn’t mean that you sacrifice a solid slate experience. There are quality tablets around $100, like the $139 Amazon Kindle Fire HD, but the sub-$250 tablet category is bursting with a bevy of budget options. To that end, here are the best tablets currently available with prices under $250. If any of the products here interest you, be sure to read the full reviews for details on the quirks and idiosyncrasies of each. Also, check out our Tablets Buying Guide for an overview on tablet-buying best practices.

Off the grid? Keep your devices powered-up – We look at more than a half-dozen gadgets that can keep your phones and tablets going indefinitely, even when power’s hard to come by.


Check’s Android app manages your bills so you don’t have to – This free app on Android organizes all of your monthly bills in one place, where you can pay them on the go. Check (Android|iOS) is a free app that helps you stay on top of all your recurring bills and help you make payments. The service works with credit card companies, cell phone carriers, utility companies, Internet service providers, car loans, mortgages, and even your rent. Essentially, if you have to bill to pay, you can likely pay it with Check.


4 Android apps that put SMS on your desktop – When you’re sitting in front of a full keyboard and large display, you should be able to use it to answer texts! More than a few developers have hear our cries, and have created some fantastic Android tools to give you the power to text (and more) from your PC. Let’s dig into what’s possible, starting from smallest to biggest commitment.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Apps to help adjust to daylight saving – This Sunday morning, our clocks spring forward one hour to mark the beginning of daylight saving time. While it might be nice for some to have more light at the end of the day, it can be tough for bodies to adjust to darker mornings. In this Tech Minute, CNET’s Kara Tsuboi reports on some ways technology can help ease the transition.

FileThis Automatically Gathers and Files Important Documents Online – Finally, a critical missing link in the paperless billing chain has been filled. FileThis is a new Web-based service that that automatically downloads your e-statements into your PC or cloud storage. FileThis covers the gamut of household paper filing — bank statements, phone bills, tax documents, mortgage statements, credit card statements, insurance policies and benefits, online shopping accounts, utilities and so on.


Google Voice: Just because you can port your number, should you? – Google Voice is an amazing service, but there are some limitations and gotchas. In this article, we explore the pros and cons of the service to help you decide if it’s for you.

App-Sensor Combo Tells You When Your Grill’s Tank Needs Refueling – Originally introduced in early December, Quirky’s “Refuel” app-connected propane tank sensor is now entering production. Quirky estimates the product will cost around $18. For that, you get a ring-shaped apparatus that sits under your grill’s propane tank and is connected to a gauge that adheres to your grill with a magnet. Take a peek at the gauge when you’re near the grill, or instead fire up the smartphone app that connects to Refuel to see how much gas you have left before you need to drag the tank back to Strickland Propane for a refill.


Mastering Metro apps: 4 ways they can work for you – It’s time to give Windows 8’s modern-style apps some respect. Admittedly, some Windows Store apps are inferior to their desktop cousins. But many others take advantage of the full-screen modern (also known as “Metro”) interface to provide a different and better experience. With an open mind and a little TLC, your Start screen can be a great resource. Here are four ways you can get the most out of modern apps.

Mozilla works to squeeze more life out of JPEG – The Firefox developer releases a tool called mozjpeg that cuts image file sizes by about 10 percent through judicious optimization. The goal: a faster Web.

Six tips to manage your Google Calendar more efficiently – Google continues to add and improve Google Calendar features. It’s easier than ever to create calendar items, add meeting support details, and meet online. Follow the six tips below to manage your Google Calendar more efficiently.

Evernote for Android lets you add handwriting to your notes – Got a stylus collecting dust in your gadget bag? Maybe it’s time to dig it out, because Evernote’s Android app now features built-in handwriting functionality. The update, which begins rolling out today, enables you to jot down notes or doodle to your heart’s content in any of your digital notebooks.

Yahoo ditches Facebook and Google logins for its own ID – Yahoo isn’t messing around. Desperate to regain its former glory as an Internet giant, the company is putting the kibosh on Google and Facebook logins for its various services. The end is already nigh: Fans gearing up for March Madness with Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick’Em will have to sign in using a Yahoo ID to make their picks.

Roku Stick vs Google Chromecast: Tiny TV titans – While Microsoft and Apple are focusing on putting content through into your television through branded set-top boxes, Roku and Google have taken a different approach. The Roku Stick and the Google Chromecast are two very different solutions to the same problem, and since you’re only likely to want one sticking out of the back of your television we decided to compare to two and see what you get. At $50 for the Roku Stick and $35 for the Google stick, the two are direct alternatives for one another.


VLC app for Windows 8 planned for release Monday, March 10 – The VideoLAN team has revealed via their Twitter account that the long awaited port of their VLC media player for Windows 8 is now planned for release on Monday, March 10.


How to play DVDs and Blu-ray discs in Windows 8 – While earlier versions of Windows included a free, built-in DVD player, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 have no such functionality. It can still read data DVDs, but if you want to play that copy of Rocky IV you got for $2 on clearance at Target, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, you’ve got plenty of options for restoring DVD-playback functionality to Windows 8, for free. Here’s what we recommend:

Narrative Clip, a clip-on photographic memory device with a lot of grey zones – An always-on camera that takes photos every 30 seconds? The Narrative Clip is that, and it aims to be an extension of your memory, too.

Dell charges £16 TO INSTALL FIREFOX on PCs – Mozilla is miffed – The Mozilla Foundation has begun an investigation after tech juggernaut Dell appeared to be asking customers to pay £16.25 ($27) to install its free web browser Firefox on newly purchased Dell kit. A reader wrote to us to say that Dell had asked if he’d like to fork out £16.25 for the convenience of having Mozilla’s browser installed on a new machine he was attempting to purchase. Sources within Mozilla said they had launched a preliminary consultation with legal teams, but this process was at an early stage.


BlackBerry 10 smartphone owners can now use Microsoft’s OneDrive – BlackBerry has released an app, titled Connect to Microsoft OneDrive, that allows owners of BB10 based smartphones to use Microsoft’s newly rebranded data storage service.

The dark side of 3D printing: 10 things to watch – The 3D printer is a double-edged sword. It stands to transform technology and society for the better, but we also can’t ignore the potential negative consequences.


How to Report Internet Fraud – The United States reports more fraud than any other country, accounting for over 90 percent of the complaints in 2012, according to the Internet Complaint Center, a joint effort between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. On average, victims lost $1,813 each for a total of over $525 million. If you’ve been the victim of Internet fraud, there are several reporting options, according to the type of crime. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will handle a larger majority of those complaints – check out its step-by-step online reporting form – but check out some of the more common tactics employed by fraudsters today, and how best to protect yourself and others.

Pre-installed malware found on new Android phones – Fake version of Netflix that steals personal data and sends it to Russia has been found on several phone models.

GnuTLS patch fixes certificate verification problem – A flaw in GnuTLS, which would enable an attacker to bypass certificate validation checks, has been patched. Fixes are being pushed to all major Linux distributions.

Report: Half of all exploits target Java – As Microsoft improved the defenses in its software, though, cybercrooks moved on to easier pickings. Adobe was a prime target for a while, but Adobe followed Microsoft’s lead and made its software more secure as well. According to data from the 2014 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly Report, the favorite target is now Java.

Web ads eclipse porn as leading source of mobile malware – The number of malvertisements targeting mobile devices more than tripled last year, pushing contaminated web ads past pornography as the single largest malware threat to mobile users.

Man guilty of “fixing” women’s computers to spy on them via webcam – A 30-year-old London man has been found guilty of fiddling with three women’s computers so he could spy on them through their webcams.

Company News:

Target CIO Resigns Following Massive Data Breach – Target Corp.’s Chief Information Officer Beth Jacob is resigning, effective immediately, in the wake of the massive data breach during the holiday 2013 shopping season during which as many as 70 million customers had their personal information stolen, including 40 million debit and credit card accounts.

ManageEngine Slashes IT Help Desk Expenses for 60,000+ Companies – ManageEngine, the real-time IT management company, today announced that the standard edition of its flagship IT help desk software, ServiceDesk Plus, is now available for free — with no restrictions, regardless of whether software runs in the cloud or on premise. Previously, ServiceDesk Plus Standard Edition was free for up to five technicians/agents. The move slashes IT help desk expenses for the 60,000+ companies that have already implemented ServiceDesk Plus Standard Edition and invites other companies to do the same by adopting the ManageEngine solution.

Microsoft reportedly has plans to help launch cheap Windows 8 tablets in India – A new report claims Microsoft will help to launch a number of low cost Windows 8 tablets that will be made especially for the Indian market, to try to fight off Android dominance in that country.

Intel to acquire wearable devices firm Basis for around $100 million– Intel has reportedly won an auction to acquire wearable devices making company, Basis, for an amount upwards of $100 million to strengthen itself in the newly emerging wearables market. Basis, which competes in the fitness wearables market with the likes of Jawbone and Nike, has managed to secure seven percent of the market. Intel has been interested in the wearables market in recent times and has shown off numerous concept devices such as a Bluetooth headset with Siri-like functionality and smart-chips at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show.

Facebook funds fulltime community safety police officer – In a move that has some worried and others offering praise, approval has been given unanimously by the Menlo Park City Council in favor of Facebook’s “gift” of $200,000 to fund what is being referred to as a “community safety police officer,” making this the first ever instance of a private company funding the establishment of a beat cop.

Getty Images unshackles photo library – Under its new model, the library of some 35 million photographs will be made available with a new embed tool, which tacks the image inside a player of sorts containing copyright data and a link back to the Getty Images website. The strategy has already drawn a lot of criticism from stock photography websites and photographers alike, who fear what it could mean for the industry as a whole.

AU$9bn Apple profit moved from Australia to Ireland: Report – Apple has moved almost AU$1 billion of profit each year for 10 years out of Australia, and into a Double Irish sandwich that allows the company to pay less than 50 cents of tax on every $1000 of income.

Games and Entertainment:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 “Gwen and Peter” video offers side of commentary – If the latest trailers have ramped up your excitement for the quickly approaching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie, another has surfaced that gives a deeper look into one particular aspect of the film: Gwen and Peter’s relationship. In an exclusive video simply called Gwen and Peter, viewers are given access to a hearty dose of commentary.


Twitch Game Broadcasts Coming to Android and iOS – The Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the venerable PC all have support for recording and broadcasting gameplay footage with Twitch, but now that capability is coming to mobile at long last. Twitch has released a new mobile SDK for Android and iOS that allows developers to integrate game streaming so you don’t have to muck around with cumbersome screen capture software.

Nick App Comes to Android with Full Episodes, Games, and More – Apps aren’t only for grown ups–kids can spend some time staring at the inviting glow of a touchscreen too. To those ends, an official Nickelodeon app has arrived in the Play Store bringing games, full episodes, and original content. Although, most kids aren’t going to be able to navigate the maze of cable provider logins.


Crockett and Tubbs Return in New ‘Miami Vice’ Digital Comic – The new Miami Vice digital comic book is penned by Jonathan London, a writer, producer, and award-winning director. The book is set in ’80s Miami and continues Crockett and Tubbs’ crime-fighting adventures. Brazilian artist Geanes Holland handles Miami Vice’s visuals.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Upskirt photos ruled legal in Massachusetts – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules that photos up a woman’s dress are legal, provided she’s wearing underwear. As if crowded train cars aren’t creepy enough, a Massachusetts high court has ruled that so-called “upskirt” photos of a woman on a Boston trolley are legal, according to a strict reading of state law.

Judge: We can’t have kids suing parents for an iPhone or Xbox – In a New Jersey case in which a teen is suing her parents for tuition fees and other bills, the judge fears kids will try to sue their parents to get gadgets.

Steve Ballmer’s temper tantrum over Nokia buyout led to his firing, says report – Steve Ballmer’s famously volcanic temper was the last straw for Microsoft’s board, and eventually led to his firing after he berated them so loudly about their not backing his Nokia buyout plan that his shouts could be heard outside the closed doors of a conference room. So reports Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Congressman Calls To Ban U.S. Dollar In Response To Plea For Bitcoin Ban – Congressman Jared Polis is calling on the Treasury to ban physical dollars in response to Senator Manchin’s plea to ban Bitcoin. “The exchange of dollar bills, including high denomination bills, is currently unregulated and has allowed users to participate in illicit activity, while also being highly subject to forgery, theft, and loss,” wrote Polis in a statement.

Artist seeks crowdfunding for normal-looking Barbie – Everyone knows Barbie isn’t real. In any sense of the word. Now a designer wants to introduce a whole line of Barbies that look like, well, women.


Something to think about:

The more I know about business, the more I’m convinced that it is conducted in homes and churches far more than in office buildings.”

–     Laura Moncur

Today’s Free Downloads:

PaperScan Free – PaperScan is a powerful scanning software with an OCR engine centered on one idea : making document acquisition an unparalleled easy task for anyone.

NoScript – The NoScript Firefox extension provides extra protection for Firefox, Flock, Seamonkey and other mozilla-based browsers. NoScript’s unique whitelist based pre-emptive script blocking approach prevents exploitation of security vulnerabilities (known and even not known yet!) with no loss of functionality… You can enable JavaScript/Java execution for sites you trust with a simple left-click on the NoScript status bar icon (look at the picture), or using the contextual menu, for easier operation in popup statusbar-less windows.

Ghostery – Ghostery sees the “invisible” web, detecting trackers, web bugs, pixels, and beacons placed on web pages by Facebook, Google Analytics, and over 1,000 other ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers – all companies interested in your activity. After showing you who operates behind the scenes, Ghostery also gives you the opportunity to learn more about each company it identifies, including links to their privacy policy and opt-out options. Ghostery allows you to block scripts from companies that you don’t trust, delete local shared objects, and even block images and iframes.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

CIA snoops snooped on Senate to spy, spy torture report – CIA officers allegedly hacked into the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers to find out what the oversight committee had found out about its controversial detention and treatment of terror suspects.‬ The oversight committee had managed to get its hands on unapproved material, or so the CIA feared, the New York Times reports. In response, the agency allegedly went as far as hacking into the Congressional network to find out what it knew and perhaps where the leaked material came from, an unnamed official told the paper. It’s unclear whether the alleged hacking was limited to part of a CIA document leak/whistleblower hunt or went even further and resulted in electronic snooping against senators and their support staff.

Hacking Team snoopware found on US servers: Citizen Lab tags foreign governments for spying in America – Canada’s Citizen Lab has added to its record of uncovering government snooping using Hacking Team’s software, has dropped a bombshell: it’s accused 12 American data centres of hosting clients deploying the spyware. In its latest report, Hacking Team’s US Nexus, Citizen Lab* says there are 114 servers in America, in at least a dozen data centres, that are part of RCS (Remote Control Software) circuits. The group says their identification of RCS traffic isn’t some routing accident, but demonstrates “the purposeful use of US servers for the surreptitious transmission of wiretapped data to foreign governments.” The governments it accuses of snooping are, in other words, using RCS to wiretap on individuals – for example, citizens in the US, journalists reporting on their countries’ affairs, expats and activists – and send the data offshore. This violates US laws, such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Wiretap Act, Citizen Lab writes.

NSA chief criticises media and suggests UK was right to detain David Miranda – The outgoing director of the National Security Agency lashed out at media organizations reporting on Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations, suggesting that British authorities were right to detain David Miranda on terrorism charges and that reporters lack the ability to properly analyze the NSA’s broad surveillance powers. General Keith Alexander, who has furiously denounced the Snowden revelations, said at a Tuesday cybersecurity panel that unspecified “headway” on what he termed “media leaks” was forthcoming in the next several weeks, possibly to include “media leaks legislation.”


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

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 6, 2014

  1. delenn13

    Hi Bill,
    Re: I still prefer the Roku 3 but if I had to choose…….the Roku Streaming Stick or the Google Chromecast? Google is so screwed… One word…CONTENT!

    Plus the ease of finding and setting up stuff.

    • Hey Delenn13,

      I have avoided all this by using my tablet wired to the TV with an HDMI out mini cable. That way, the entire Web is available. Cheap (once one has a tablet), and convenient.



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