Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 17, 2014

SOPA may be returning in a much sneakier, worse fashion;  Screenshot Sharing in a Snap – 7 Free Alternatives to Droplr;  7 Ways to Avoid Paying $99 for Amazon Prime Free Shipping;  Share MP3s and other non-standard files between Android devices;  The Comprehensive Guide to Facebook Privacy Settings;  Popcorn Time Is Back ; 3 Spritz-like speed-reading apps for Android;  Listen to YouTube tunes on your iPhone with Tuner;  Beware this big iOS flaw — and it’s not alone.

SOPA may be returning in a much sneakier, worse fashion – On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee met to discuss copyright reform, but rather than redesign SOPA, it is instead taking the more sinister route of voluntary commitments from individual entities to comply with a ruleset similarly sinister to SOPA. While a “voluntary commitment” may sound less severe than an actual law, this isn’t the case. If advertisers, ISPs, and whoever else volunteer to behave the way copyright holders want them to, then there isn’t the backing of a legal framework to keep it all in check — not that the legal framework of SOPA was fair and balanced to begin with.

Popcorn Time Is Back – Behold the power of open-source software. After the untimely death of the original Popcorn Time, a so-called Netflix for pirated content, the project was forked several times on GitHub. And guess what? It’s back and more shady than ever before. The torrent site YTS has taken over the project, reports TorrentFreak. (Skip all the baloney – try TorrentButler instead.)

The Comprehensive Guide to Facebook Privacy Settings – The first thing you have to realize about Facebook: Nothing you put there is truly private. Yes, you can control how users see or don’t see your profile. But every time you like a product or even look at a page, the company itself is taking note. This doesn’t mean that some day Facebook will malevolently release your every click to the world. But it does mean that Facebook is not your private diary, and what you do on the website gets collected and cataloged. That’s worth keeping in mind whenever you use the service.

7 Ways to Avoid Paying $99 for Amazon Prime Free Shipping – For those who want to hold on to that $79-per-month fee for as long as possible, there are a few workarounds to put off paying $99, for now. Amazon is offering new Prime customers the $79 rate if they join by March 20. But here are some other tricks.

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Microsoft Unveils Cheaper Office 365 Personal – Redmond just announced a new option, dubbed Office 365 Personal, that might better fit your needs and budget. Launching this spring, the new offering is designed for individuals, and allows one PC or Mac and one tablet to be connected to the service for $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year.

3 Spritz-like speed-reading apps for Android – Whether you are looking to check out how a new phone feature will work, or you’re specifically seeking the Spritz reading experience, try out these three apps for your Android device.

Listen to YouTube tunes on your iPhone with Tuner – YouTube has proven over the years to be more than a video repository, offering a wealth of live and recorded music. If you use YouTube to listen to music, then you might want to give the Tuner for YouTube Music app a whirl. It’s currently free as a launch offer, according to the developer, and lets you stream the audio of YouTube videos and create playlists on your iPhone.

Microsoft will pay you to stop using Windows XP – The push is on to move everyone they possibly can away from XP before pulling the plug on security updates once and for all. Microsoft knows it’s been a great decade-plus for XP, but they’re doing everything they can to get people to upgrade to a supported OS “before it’s too late.” April 8th is the day the patches stop coming.

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Screenshot Sharing in a Snap – 7 Free Alternatives to Droplr – Droplr offers a quick and easy way to share screenshots and files. No folders, no syncing. But if, like me, you can’t justify a monthly subscription here are some free alternatives you should look at.

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Google and Microsoft are out to stop dual-boot Windows/Android devices – According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft and Google are both out to stifle any device that doesn’t have a firm allegiance to either Android or Windows. The report says that both companies have told Asus to end its dual-OS product lines and that Asus is complying. The WSJ says Asus’ newest dual-boot product, the Transformer Book Duet TD300, which we wrote about during CES 2014, will never see the light of day. Asus’ all-in-one PCs, the Transformer AiO P1801 and P1802, will be pulled from the market.

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Hands On With HereO, The Small And Simple GPS Watch Made Especially For Kids – If you’ve got a child between the ages of 3 and 8, you’re in an interesting spot as a parent. A startup called HereO has made a gadget especially for keeping tabs on young kids in that age range. HereO has made what it claims is the world’s “smallest and coolest” GPS watch device, which connects with a mobile and web app to allow parents to keep track of where their children are at all hours of the day.

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Oklahoma TV station censors evolution talk on Cosmos reboot – As you can see, the news break wasn’t actually breaking news — it was just a simple preview for an upcoming episode. Regardless of the preview bumping talk of evolution off the air in a state infamously known for being at odds with teaching evolution in classrooms, the simple act of airing a standard news preview in the middle of any television premiere would be bordering on nuts.

Let Zorin OS pick up where Windows XP left off – The Zorin OS is unique in the world of Linux in that it wants to embrace the Windows crowd and show them they can feel at home anywhere. To that end, Zorin OS goes out of its way to emulate Windows XP and even Windows 7. It does this by employing a user-friendly, Windows-like desktop that anyone can use. Oddly enough, in this Unity-, GNOME-, XFCE-, KDE-dominated world of Linux, Zorin OS opts to roll out their own desktop environment (Zorin Desktop Environment), along with the Zorin Menu, to create an interface that’s both amazingly familiar and unique.

How to set up your own private instant messaging server – The video below will walk through the process of setting up and installing Prosody, a lightweight Lua-based instant messaging server application. We’ll be using Ubuntu 12.04 for our server, though Prosody is a cross-platform application and will run on Windows, OS X, and a number of different Linuxes. Strap in, grab your server, and let’s roll!

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Say Farewell to Productivity: March Madness App Released – Just ahead of the 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, better known as March Madness, the sports agency has launched its official app, promising direct access to all 67 games, and more than 150 hours of live streaming coverage. Available via the Apple iTunes Store, Google Play, and Windows Phone Store, the NCAA March Madness Live app is also making a first-time appearance in the Amazon Appstore for Android and Kindle Fire tablets.

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Share MP3s and other non-standard files between Android devices with File Beam – The File Beam app lets you share non-standard files (such as MP3s) between two Android devices via NFC.

Security:

Is no browser safe? Security bods poke holes in Chrome, Safari, IE, Firefox and earn $1 MILLION – HP TippingPoint’s Pwn2Own competition netted researchers $850,000 as all the major browsers – Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer and Firefox – fell to attacks within the 30-minute timeframe for each, along with Flash. Only Java held up to the time-limited attacks, although researchers attempting to crack Oracle’s code did come up with some interesting techniques that just took too long.

Phishing page hosted on Google: A true dog-bites-man scam – The phishing attempt shows up as an e-mail with the subject “Documents” and advises the recipient to view important files stored on Google Docs. It includes a link in the body. So far pretty banal stuff. But it gets better.

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This is not the Google Docs login page you’re looking for – Symantec

Scam emails tell people they have cancer to trick them into installing a money-stealing Trojan – The scam emails purport to come from the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice). The emails – which arrive with the header “important blood analysis result” – ask prospective victims to download and print out “test results” from an attachment that’s likely to be laced with a bank-account-raiding Trojan.

NATO sites hacked by Ukrainians over Crimea row – One of the most popular forms of online protest against authoritative action is to bring down the official website and make life chaotic, and NATO is the latest to fall victim over controversies in the Crimea. NATO’s primary website, along with the pages for its online cyber defense center, were allegedly forced offline by Ukrainian hackers aiming to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with plans to relinquish a part of Ukraine to Russia, based on the NATO voting system.

Beware this big iOS flaw — and it’s not alone – Mobile security still a struggle: CanSecWest calls attention to flaws in Android and BlackBerry 10, while a newly discovered encryption flaw in iOS 7 could put iPad and iPhone owners at risk.

Major companies, like Target, often fail to act on malware alerts – Companies that suffer major data breaches almost always portray themselves as victims of cutting edge attack techniques and tools. The reality, though, is often much more mundane. Case in point: Target, which last year was hit with a major data breach that exposed to hackers data on some 40 million credit and debit cards and personal data on another 70 million customers. The retailer on on Thursday acknowledged that it could have mitigated or even avoided the breach had it paid closer attention to alerts generated by a security monitoring tools.

Company News:

Many banks paying Microsoft big bucks to support Windows XP-based ATMs – A new report claims that many banks in the UK and US either have or will make new contracts to Microsoft to extend their Windows XP support contracts past April 8th for their ATMs.

Mozilla gives up on Metro mode Firefox – Vice President of Firefox Jonathan Nightingale attributed the decision to a lack of user interest in a touch friendly version of the browser for Windows 8’s Metro environment. Although millions of people use prerelease versions of the desktop browser, he wrote that fewer than 1,000 used the Metro shell each day. This in turn meant that the Metro front-end was insufficiently tested, and the work to fix it would benefit few users. This was felt to be a poor use of resources, and so the project has been cancelled.

Nokia X 1 million preorders claim disputed – Within just four days after the Nokia X launched, Nokia was seen bragging on its Weibo account about reaching 1 million preorders in China alone. While factually true at face value, there seems to be more afoot than meets the eye, making the claim sound just a tad exaggerated.

GoDaddy weighs IPO ahead of domain demand – Growing its roots way back in 1997, when Bob Parsons founded the company, GoDaddy catapulted to fame with its unique proposition that helped individuals and businesses create websites in a hassle-free way. Fast-forward seventeen years later to the present moment, and we now hear that GoDaddy Group Inc. is ready to go the IPO way.

Games and Entertainment:

Sega Bringing Crazy Taxi Sequel to Android and iOS Later This Year, Original Game Free for Limited Time – Sega didn’t find success with the Dreamcast over a decade ago, but some of the games from that system have endured. Crazy Taxi came to Android and iOS last year for $4.99 with the same arcade-style gameplay and soundtrack of the original. Now a sequel called Crazy Taxi: City Rush is in the works and Sega is promoting it by making the classic game free on both platforms for a limited time.

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It’s not just incredibly hard, it’s really quite pretty: Dark Souls II – I knew there was something eerily familiar about the dead-eyed shuffle of my enemies in Dark Souls II and now I realise they remind me of the huge cannibal giants of Attack on Titan. Shambling to my recurrent death, I am now convinced the less forgiving the game, the greater the elation, sense of achievement and immersion.

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Microsoft to launch new Xbox 360 bundle, free Borderlands 2 and Forza Horizon – Microsoft will launch a new Xbox 360 bundle later in March that includes the 250GB version of the console, one month of free Xbox Live Gold service and two free games: Borderlands 2 and Forza Horizon.

Gamers misled over Dark Souls II graphics quality – Anyone picking up Dark Souls II this week on PS3 or Xbox 360 may feel mislead by developer From Software and publisher Bandai Namco. That’s because the graphics shown off in preview videos over the last year look nothing like the final game. And by that I mean they look much, much better than what has been delivered in the final game.

Titanfall for Mac OS X: a possibility – Titanfall has won the hearts of gamers far and wide, having launched after drumming up scores of excitement and teases. We recently reviewed the game, giving those who haven’t taken the plunge yet a thorough look at what it offers. If you’re running Mac OS X, don’t pass it over: Titanfall could be coming to the Apple platform in the future.

Age of Ascent aims at world record for largest video game battle – As attempts at getting people to pay attention to your crowd-funding venture go, aiming for a world record with the Guinness book of world records isn’t the worst idea you could have. The team at Illyriao Games are attempting to break the world record for “World’s Largest Videogame PvP Battle” today starting at 7pm GMT / 3pm Eastern / noon Pacific – at the time of this article’s writing, they’ve got 376 players online with a peak of 993.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Commute-Case electric scooter hides in a briefcase – If you have ever seen the movie Transformers, you are familiar with the notion of something innocuous changing into something else. In the movies, most of the transforming is of robots into cars. You won’t ever own a car that can turn into a robot, but you can own an electric scooter that turns into a briefcase.

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Ready for your electronic tattoo? – Electronic tattoos are the ultimate wearable computer. There’s no telling what a patch of electronics stuck to your body somewhere and connected wirelessly to a smartphone can do once app developers get involved.

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Potcoin, A New Cryptocurrency To Help Ease The War On Drugs – Hasoshi, Mr. Jones, and Smokemon 514 (“gotta smoke em all!” he shouts) united online to develop Potcoin, an online Bitcoin-like currency that can be used to store value. It launched on January 21, 2014 — at 4:20 p.m. The Potcoin team is defying conventional banks, money laundering authorities, and the DEA in order to build out a safer way for marijuana dispensaries to deal with daily transactions.

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Facebook’s wrong call on anti-Semitic page – Facebook’s refusal to delete a page about “Jewish Ritual Murder” rekindles a simmering debate over how to respond when bigots use social networks to spread racist speech and hateful propaganda.

The Future For Anonymity Apps: Defamations And Revolutions – In 2010 the Iranian election Iranian election protests – the “Green Revolution” – was at its tail end, though few knew the tumult of the Arab Spring was to come. The Iranian authorities were rounding up key anti-government leaders. People who had spoken out against the election result, which appeared to the whole world to have been rigged, found themselves in grave danger. The things they had posted on social media – often under their real names as Facebook insisted – in support of the protests, were now incriminating evidence.

Man discovers wanted status after Googling himself and surrenders – A man who Googled his name was in the shock of his life after discovering he was one of the state’s most wanted men. Christopher Viatafa saw a listing on the police website and handed himself in.

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Google’s Eric Schmidt On Critics Who Say College Isn’t Worth It: “They’re Just Wrong” – Google Chairman Eric Schmidt took a not-so-subtle swipe at tech critics who say that college is overrated. “There are various people who run around and make claims that higher education is not a good use of your time: they’re just wrong,” he told the audience at the SXSW conference, where he was on stage promoting his book The New Digital Age.

Wyoming rejects science education standards over climate change – Wyoming doesn’t appear to have issues with evolution. Instead, climate science appears to be the problem. That’s not because any of the legislators have actually studied the science involved and found it lacking. The issue appears to be solely with the implications of the science.

I quit! 10 things that drove me out of IT – After six years of working as a remote support tech for a managed service provider, Jack Wallen threw in the towel. If you’ve ever been tempted to quit IT, his reasons may sound familiar.

Something to think about:

Saint Patrick’s Day

As an Irishman, it drives me crazy when I hear Saint Patrick’s Day referred to as Saint Patty’s Day.

Paddy is derived from the Irish, Pádraig. Patty is the diminutive of Patricia.  There isn’t a sinner in Ireland that would refer to a Patrick as “Patty”. It’s as simple as that.

If you typically refer to Saint Patrick’s Day as  Saint Patty’s Day – I command you to stop.   Smile

Today’s Free Downloads:

PhotoDirector 4 – CyberLink is pleased to cooperate with Download.com to offer you a FREE digital download of our award-winning photography software, PhotoDirector (US 99.99)! PhotoDirector gives you an efficient photo management and enriches your photographs with complete adjustment and editing features.

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PixopediaMajorGeek Says: Pixopedia is another free graphics program to add to your collection. It comes portable so it’s is easy to run and move around and has a lot of the features you find in the competition and maybe more. One of the coolest features I found was the ability to use buttons or tool panels. Once you become familiar with the buttons or icons that surround the program, it becomes easy to simply click on an icon rather than go to the standard panels. It will take a bit of getting used to with a new program, but it’s neat. There are a ton of shapes, brushes and other filters available. Give this one a whirl, I think you will be impressed.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

IBM: We gave NOTHING to the NSA, stateside or elsewhere – IBM has become the latest of the tech giants to deny handing over customer data to the NSA’s PRISM program. In this open letter, Big Blue’s general counsel Robert Weber (also senior veep for legal and regulatory affairs) gives the “no way” message to the world at large. Specifically, Weber writes that IBM did not provide “client data” to “the NSA or any other government agency under the program known as PRISM”, nor under any bulk metadata collection program; has not provided data stored outside the US under FISA orders or national security letters; doesn’t put backdoors in its systems; and doesn’t provide encryption keys to “the NSA or any other government agency” to give them access to client data.

In sudden announcement, US to give up control of DNS root zone: Signs point to fallout from NSA spying that lead to “multi-stakeholder” model – The new change is in advance of the upcoming ICANN meeting to be held in Brazil in April 2014. Brazil and other nations have fumed at revelations of American spying on its political leaders and corporations, which were first revealed in September 2013 as the result of documents distributed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The South American country also threatened to build its “own cloud,” as a consequence of the NSA’s spying.

NSA denies circumventing client-attorney privilege – The American Bar Association has been very concerned regarding the attorney-client communications and the sanctity of this privilege, particularly in light of the NSA surveillance debacle that got leaked to the world. The concerns stems from the recent revelations that NSA had allowed an Australian intelligence agency to tap into the communications between an Indonesian client and its American law firm. On his part, the outgoing chief of the National Security Agency has assured the Bar Association that the attorney-client privilege will not be violated by the agency. In a letter to the Association, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander stated that the U.S. in fact has a policy in place that legally protects the confidential attorney information collected during surveillance missions.

Congress nudged by NSA nominee to revive CISPA as intelligence reforms take shape – The NSA chief-in-waiting’s testimony to Congress may be enough to inspire lawmakers to revive old cybersecurity legislation, which would indemnify Silicon Valley technology giants from sharing their users’ data with the government.

Snowden revelations raise interest in smartphone spyware for business – As the world still reels over reports of U.S. government surveillance of privately owned smartphones, a spyware industry is growing that’s focused on helping employers monitor the ways smartphones and tablets are used by their workers. Parents are also interested in the service to track their children’s smartphone use. With these monitoring tools, the word “spy” doesn’t hold the same negative connotations that it carries for the millions of people concerned with government surveillance of phone and Internet communications that were first disclosed last June by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. At least 10 companies are selling smartphone and tablet tracking and monitoring software. This week, one of them, called mSpy, announced it has begun selling its software preloaded on four popular smartphones, including the iPhone 5S.

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5 Comments

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

5 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 17, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill,
    You know that always bothered me also, this “ST PATTY’S DAY” I realize that the average person means no harm in it but STILL it would drive me crazy. LOL.
    Well for those who were born Irish, one way or another, here is a little bit about St Patrick, of course in today’s world this seems like Jason and the Argonauts but my family took comfort in it:
    The Lorica
    Also known as “The Breastplate of St. Patrick”
    This powerful prayer was composed by Saint Patrick in the year 433. He was aware that there was an ambush to try to kill him and his group en route to the King’s court. It was during the march that they chanted the sacred Lorica or Deer’s Cry – later known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate.
    As the druids lay in hiding, ready to kill, they saw not Patrick and his men, but a gentle doe followed by twenty fawns.
    St. Patrick and his men were saved.

    • Hi Fred,

      Agreed – “the average person means no harm.” Since the day has now become synonymous with unbridled drinking, I suspect that the average person couldn’t care less what the day refers to. Just don’t get in the way of my booze. 🙂

      Instead of St. Paddy’s day being a simple commemorative day for the Irish, St. Paddy’s has been hijacked by commercial interests (read, booze makers), for profit. Sad, really – but, to be expected.

      Best,

      Bill

      Best,

      Bill

  2. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for the link to PhotoDirector 4 free download. Glad I didn’t take them up on their offer of 40% off when it first came out :).

    I see they’re offering 40% off v5 but I’ll just be patient again. Thanks for keeping us up to date with these offers.

    Kind regards,
    John

    • Hi John,

      Actually, I was thinking of you when I put this up. I remember (hard as that is, these days 🙂 ), that you signed up a few years back for the beta – subsequently followed by a “gift edition” of the next final release.

      Glad to see that you’re still running with PhotoDirector.

      Best,

      Bill

      • John Bent

        Hi Bill,

        Yes, you’re spot on. Amazing the lengths some people will go to for free software. 🙂

        Kind regards, John