Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 12, 2014

‘Free world’ govts worst online spies: Reporters without Borders;  10 apps that make Chromebooks feel like a real desktop;  10 Tips That’ll Make You a Titanfall God;  Three ways to add audio to your HDTV;  Spy on your own thoughts with Glass Brain;  Open-source alternatives to Abobe Premiere Pro CC;  Popcorn Time is the Netflix everyone really wants; Site lets people search satellite images for lost Malaysian plane;  How to Submit a FOIA Request Online.

‘Free world’ govts worst online spies: Reporters without Borders – Shady agencies at the service of democratically-elected governments are among the worst online spies in the world, media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF, Reporters Without Borders) says, putting them on the same level as offenders in Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia. To RSF, agencies such as the US National Security Agency, Britain’s GCHQ, and the Centre for Development Telematics in India, embrace the worst methods of snooping in the name of governments that purportedly hold freedom of speech as a national priority.

Privacy advocates block NSA from destroying phone call records – A judge in San Francisco has stopped the U.S. National Security Agency from destroying millions of telecommunications records collected over five years ago, in case the evidence is needed for pending lawsuits. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, the overseer of a lawsuit against the agency alleging invasion of privacy, issued a nationwide block on the destruction of the phone records until March 19, when a hearing will take place to potentially extend the holding of evidence further, and to absolutely decide if the metadata should be kept or destroyed.

Open-source alternatives to Abobe Premiere Pro CC – Adobe’s shift to subscription-based cloud distribution for its flagship creative applications has left its customers with a dilemma: pay a hefty monthly/yearly subscription; carry on as long as possible with the last non-subscription version; switch to Premiere Elements; or abandon Adobe altogether. We examine some of the open-source alternatives to Premiere Pro CC.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Popcorn Time is the Netflix everyone really wants – With Popcorn Time installed, you can search for any movie and if it exists as a torrent you’ll be able to start watching it. The torrent is downloaded to your PC and is seeded for as long as your machine is powered on. Restart and the torrent disappears. There’s no restrictions on what you watch and the catalog of movies available is only limited by what gets uploaded as a torrent. So in effect it’s unlimited.


10 apps that make Chromebooks feel like a real desktop – Google Chromebooks are growing in popularity, but the experience can feel foreign to some. Here are some apps to make it feel like home for desktop users.

A new Windows 8.1 update tries to win back desktop diehards – With its second major update to Windows 8 in less than 18 months, Microsoft is trying to ease the pain for Windows users who are befuddled by the Windows 8 interface on conventional PCs. Here’s what you can expect. Will it be enough to calm the troubled waters?

Ring is a Kickstarter project that allows you to control everything with the wave of a finger – Ring is betting that you will want to control everything with your fingertip. By utilizing gesture recognition, Ring will be able to text, control your home, and more at the wave of a finger.


Amazon set-top box to offer Netflix and Hulu Plus – Word about an Amazon set top box has abounded for many months, with word surfacing in April of last year that a STB was in the works, followed by a more recent tip that the device will launch this month, a change from the previously anticipated holiday season arrival. Now sources have surfaced saying the box will include apps for competitors’ offerings, including Netflix.

Three ways to add audio to your HDTV – You bought a great-looking TV, but don’t forget the audio. Improve voice clarity, music playback, and overall sound with these tips.

Gogo plans to release an app that lets travelers call and text during flights – One of the most talked about presentations at SXSW 2014 is the new technology from Gogo which may allow you to call and text during a flight.

Site lets people search satellite images for lost Malaysian plane – A crowdsourcing platform called Tomnod is letting volunteers comb through satellite images and tag objects of interest.


How to get started with Google Text-to-Speech – Welcome to the 21st century, where all of your childhood fantasies have come true, like having a handheld computer that talks back to you. More than a year ago, Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean introduced a new conversational text-to-speech voice so that it wouldn’t sound like your average run-of-the-mill robot. And just last week, Google introduced two High Quality digital voices in the latest Text-to-Speech app update to help make your Android-powered device something you really want to talk to you. Currently, there are only a handful of apps outside of Google’s own that utilize the native Text-to-Speech feature, but it’s still a very handy feature. Here’s how to get started.

Get through the dregs of winter with the help of these five apps – Many parts of the world have been experiencing a particularly brutal winter, so it makes sense that a lot of us have cabin fever and are ready for spring. Unfortunately, winter seems in no hurry to leave. Here are five great apps to help you stay safe on the road, monitor weather trends, and fight the winter blues.

WhatsApp finally gets some privacy features, allows users to pay for friends – Updated WhatsApp for Android has gone live in the Google Play Store with new privacy features which were requested by users and the ability to pay the subscription amount for friends.


3 convertible laptops try to be all devices to all people – We look at three Windows 8.1 convertibles that can transform into laptops, tablets or presentation devices, and try to discover how useful they really are.

Spy on your own thoughts with Glass Brain – A new system for visualizing the goings-on inside the brain creates beautiful video images, letting us become neuro-voyeurs as we watch our thoughts fly around in real time.


Instagram tailors Android app to devices of all sizes – Instagram for Android, version 5.1, was released Tuesday on Google Play. The revamped application is said to be easier to use and overall more responsive in nature. The app’s look has also been modified to accommodate devices of varying sizes with simplified visuals for smaller phones and buttons in reach for bigger devices. “It’s the same Instagram for Android you know and love — faster, cleaner and easier to use than ever,” the company said in a blog post on the new release.

Google Drive launching third-party add-ons program for Docs, Sheets – Google Drive users can soon look forward to a host of new tools for the Docs and Sheets apps, but they don’t necessarily come from the Internet giant itself. The Chrome maker is launching new online marketplaces dedicated to add-ons, introducing new editing and formatting functionality when producing documents or spreadsheets. The program is still in developer preview mode, but it is gearing up to launch with more than 50 add-ons in tow, all built by partners using Google Apps Script.


200 Million consumer records exposed in Experian security lapse – Smooth words and a fake identity gave one man the power to compromise millions of private financial records belonging to US consumers.

Attackers trick 162,000 WordPress sites into launching DDoS attack – Researchers from security firm Sucuri recently counted more than 162,000 legitimate WordPress sites hitting a single customer website. They suspect they would have seen more if they hadn’t ended the attack by blocking the requests.

US-CERT urges XP users to dump IE – People who plan to run Windows XP after Microsoft pulls the patch plug should dump Internet Explorer (IE) and replace it with a different browser, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) said Monday.

Cyberattacks could paralyze U.S., former defense chief warns – As the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta delivered strong warnings about the risks of cyberattacks on the country. His conviction that a possible “cyber Pearl Harbor” may be looming has not tempered since leaving the post last year. In fact, Panetta today said that the risk of a major cyberattack against the nation’s infrastructure is “the most serious threat in the 21st century.”

Uroburos Malware Defeats Microsoft’s PatchGuard – Introduced years ago for 64-bit editions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, Microsoft’s Kernel Patch Protection, or PatchGuard, is designed to prevent malware attacks that work by modifying essential parts of the Windows kernel. If a rootkit or other malicious program manages to tweak the kernel, PatchGuard deliberately crashes the system. This same feature made life tough for antivirus vendors, as many of them relied on benignly patching the kernel to improve security; they’ve since adapted. However, a new report from G Data states that a threat called Uroburos can bypass PatchGuard.

Company News:

Apple demands sky-high Samsung patent licensing fee – Apple wants $40 per Samsung phone for the South Korean company’s use of the five contentious patents at the heart of the ongoing litigation between the firms, according to newly filed paperwork. The figure, which comes from a transcript outlining Apple’s damages theories from a hearing on January 23rd, comes after Apple argues that reasonable and rational negotiations – in short, had Samsung conceded that it needed to license the technology in the first place – would have led it to value each of the patents at $8 apiece on average.

Judge freezes all of MtGox’s US assets, lets class-action suit continue – The case, formally known as Greene v. MtGox Inc., MtGox KK, Tibanne KK, and Mark Karpeles, was filed in Illinois last month and awaits the judge’s formal certification of the users as a class. The lead plaintiff, Graham Greene of Chicago, alleges that he lost $25,000 in bitcoins from MtGox. The lawsuit accuses MtGox of fraud, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract, among other allegations.

Games and Entertainment:

After connection glitches at launch, EA issues Titanfall patch overnight – When the game’s servers went live at 12:01am Eastern time, many PC and Xbox One players immediately started posting that they were getting stuck on the “initializing” or “attempting connection” screen. The Titanfall team quickly tweeted and posted a message to the EA Help board saying that they were aware of problems with “longer than usual load times” and were “working on a solution.” In the interim, the developers suggested that players caught on the login screen should simply back out and try again, which resulted in mixed success, according to online reports from players.


Slow PCs to blame for Titanfall’s 48GB install and 35GB of audio – If you choose to purchase Titanfall for the Xbox One you are looking at an install size of 17GB. But PC gamers are in for a shock as the hard drive space required balloons to 48GB. Why is there such a huge difference? Respawn Entertainment says it’s all because of slow PCs.

10 Tips That’ll Make You a Titanfall God – Titanfall has elements in common with other first-person shooters—Respawn Entertainment counts many former Call of Duty developers among its ranks—but the game also possesses several unique features that separate it from competing FPS titles. Titanfall’s tutorial introduces you to many of the concepts, but if you want to apply tactics in an effective manner, check out these tips.

Gameloft Announces The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Mobile Game – As the second part of the rebooted Spider-Man film series nears release, Gameloft has announced that it will again be responsible for making the mobile game tie-in. The French developer has even gone so far as to offer up a trailer showing a hint of the gameplay.


TowerFall Ascension review – No matter what day it came out, TowerFall: Ascension would deserve to be a giant gaming success. This 8-bit-style archery-battling game, an upgraded version of the formerly Ouya exclusive original Towerfall, looks mighty unassuming. Behind the pixels hides a masterwork of indie-game design, not to mention the best excuse to gather four friends on a couch in years.


‘Flappy Bird’ might be released again, but may come with an addiction warning – Dong Nguyen, the creator of the popular but now discontinued mobile game ‘Flappy Bird”, states in a new interview he might consider releasing the game again but it may come with an addiction warning.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Should Microsoft allow almost half a billion PCs to become potential prey for hackers? – Windows XP is a ticking timebomb for Microsoft. This that the operating system – which was first released at the turn of the millennium – is dead and gone?  Think again. Estimates suggest that there are some 488 million PCs in the wild running the aging operating system. That’s a shade under half a billion PCs in all. That’s a huge number, and it accounts for some 30 percent of all PCs according to metrics site NetApplications. Can Microsoft allow almost half a billion internet-connected PCs to fall into the hands of hackers as newly-discovered vulnerabilities are no longer patched after the April 8th deadline?

World Wide Web Turns 25 – A Timeline – Twenty five years has brought along a lot of changes to the World Wide Web and we’ve witnessed it evolve from static to brimming with activity. These milestones marked the web as we know it today.

World Science University wants to teach you physics for free – With online lectures, MOOCs, and open courseware, it’s probably never been easier to get access to college-level instruction on a huge variety of topics. But yesterday saw the launch of a new entry dedicated to scientific concepts: the World Science University, launched by the group that runs the World Science Festival.

Poll: One In Three Christians Giving Up Technology for Lent – A new study by market research firm the Barna Group finds that of Christians who are fasting for Lent, 31 percent are foregoing social networks, smartphones, television, video games and the Internet

Sarlacc pit toilet is a Star Wars masterpiece – Jedi scum aren’t the only thing you can cast into the great pit of Carkoon. Slap these custom-printed decals inside your toilet bowl, and the 2D Sarlacc will forever feast on whatever happens to… er… fall into.


Google sued by mother of child spending $65 in virtual currency – This week a woman has sued Google, suggesting that because her child spent precisely $69.95 USD on a phone on an app, the search giant is responsible. This case was filed on Friday, March 7th, 2014, in a court in San Francisco, California. The game in question is “Marvel Run Jump Smash!”, and the device used was a Samsung Galaxy tablet.

How to Submit a FOIA Request Online – FOIA requesters should not expect that all information will be automatically available. While FOIA aims to make private records available, the government reserves the right to redact certain information, or not return any requests at all. Additionally, requesters should note that there may also be costs associated with FOIA documents.

Something to think about:

Most people would like to be delivered from temptation but would like it to keep in touch.

–     Robert Orben

Today’s Free Downloads:

Form History Control – An extension to View and Manage all form data that has been saved by the web browser giving you full control over what is stored, what is cleaned up or not, and when to perform a cleanup. This extension even allows you to control selectively for which webpages form history data is stored (either blacklist or whitelist). Also stores text from editor fields as you type for easy recovery in case of disaster. This plugin also stores text from editor fields as you type, so you never have to loose your work when disaster strikes. Recover your lost work after session timeouts, network failures, browser crashes, power failures and all other things that will destroy the hard work you just put into writing that important email, essay or blog post.

SystemRescueCd – SystemRescueCd is a Linux system rescue disk available as a bootable CD-ROM or USB stick for administrating or repairing your system and data after a crash. It aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the hard disk partitions. It comes with a lot of linux software such as system tools (parted, partimage, fstools, …) and basic tools (editors, midnight commander, network tools). It requires no installation. It can be used on linux servers, linux desktops or windows boxes. The kernel supports the important file systems (ext2/ext3/ext4, reiserfs, reiser4, btrfs, xfs, jfs, vfat, ntfs, iso9660), as well as network filesystems (samba and nfs).

WinScan2PDF – WinScan2PDF is a very small (~40k) and portable program that allows you to scan documents and save them on your computer as a PDF by using any installed scanner.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

CIA Search of Congressional Computer Sparks Constitutional Crisis – Two top Senate leaders declared Tuesday that the CIA’s recent conduct has undermined the separation of powers as set out in the Constitution, setting the stage for a major battle to reassert the proper balance between the two branches. Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), in a floor speech (transcript; video) that Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) immediately called the most important he had heard in his career, said the CIA had searched through computers belonging to staff members investigating the agency’s role in torturing detainees, and had then leveled false charges against her staff in an attempt to intimidate them.

How CIA snooped on Senate Intel Committee’s files – It sounds like something out of Homeland: at a secret location somewhere off the campus of the CIA, the agency leases a space and hires contractors to run a top-secret network, which it fills with millions of pages of documents dumped from the agency’s internal network. But that’s apparently exactly what the CIA did for more than three years as part of an agreement to share data with the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on its controversial detention and interrogation program. And it’s also how the agency was able to gain access to the computers and shared network drive used by committee staffers in a search that Senator Diane Feinstein contended today crossed multiple legal and constitutional boundaries.

Encryption makes you an NSA target expert warns – Following Edward Snowden’s call for internet users to encrypt everything as a matter of course is likely to make you an even bigger target for the NSA, activist journalist Glenn Greenwald has warned, arguing that the stance inside the spying agency is that those protecting their data are inherently suspicious. “If you want to hide what you’re saying from them” Greenwald said during a video appearance at SXSW this week, “it must mean that what you’re saying is a bad thing,” the former Guardian writer said the National Security Agency’s assumptions.

6 Things Edward Snowden Revealed at SXSW – SXSW panels rarely make front page news, but when the panel is hosted by an exiled NSA whistleblower wanted by the U.S. government for treason, it grabs attention. Speaking via Google Hangouts on a connection routed through seven proxy servers to mask his location, Edward Snowden appeared Monday before a green screen of the U.S. Constitution. His message to the technologists in the room was not subtle.



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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 12, 2014

  1. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Re: “In Pursuit of Freedom”.

    There is a campaign started by Sir Tim Berners-Lee for “The Web We Want”. Anyone can sign up to “join the campaign to draft an Internet Users’ Bill of Rights in every country”.

    Kind regards,