Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 20, 2014

Boost Chrome security with these five add-ons;  NCAA App Released for Windows;  The 10 Riskiest Mobile App Types;  Fastest downloading smartphones revealed;  New anti-social app ‘Cloak’ helps you hide from friends;  How to turn an old phone or tablet into a PC productivity tool;  Tor warns of malicious Tor browser;  30-Second Tech Trick: How to Take the Best Selfies;   7 things every new Android user should know;  Facebook averages 375 million gamers monthly;  Titanfall XP Guide: Level Up Faster with These 6 Tips.

The 10 Riskiest Mobile App Types – The just-released study rated apps in five distinct risk categories: Privacy, Data leak, Account takeover, Device takeover, and Malware. Apps with Privacy problems leak personally identifiable information to third parties, while those that expose companies to loss of data fall in the Data leak category. Account takeover refers to apps that steal user credentials, while Device takeover means the app exposes data that would allow a malefactor to completely pwn or clone the device. Finally, apps that are purely malicious fall in the Malware category.

7 things every new Android user should know – An Android tablet is not a computer. An Android phone is not a computer. Sure, it’s technically a computer, but so is your microwave. You may consider yourself an old hand at using computers, but mobile devices have their own unique way of doing things. Understand these seven basic items, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming more familiar and comfortable with your new Android gizmo.

Fastest downloading smartphones revealed: Did yours make the list? – Researchers from Finland’s Aalto University have produced a list of top download speeds for 150 devices that consumers can reference to see if its the network – or their device – that’s causing slow speeds.

13 Streaming Music Services Compared by Price, Quality, Catalog Size and More – Forget for a moment how profitable streaming music services are (not terribly), or how much they’re paying in royalties to rights holders (or in particular, how much is ultimately trickling down to the artists). Those things couldn’t be more important when you get down to it, but they’re also intangible figures we’re left to speculate about, since full disclosure of a revenue network as complex and legally tortuous as the music industry’s is inconceivable.

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5 Tech Products Under $50 Everyone Should Own – When I look at the stuff I’ve actually paid money for, the items are definitely more reasonable price-wise. That doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable, though. In fact, they’re often the items I use every day and take wherever I go. And these are my top picks for tech products under $50 that everyone should own.

It’s time to give your privacy settings a spring cleaning – The three-part series I just finished up this week, the paranoid’s survival guide to privacy, includes 32 different things privacy professionals say you can do to protect your privacy both online and off. I haven’t done most of them. The problem is that protecting your privacy can be a lot of work. But the good news is that you probably don’t have to do everything.

Boost Chrome security with these five add-ons – Fortify your Chrome browser with add-ons that protect your passwords, identify secure sites, filter unwanted content, and track cookies. Google Chrome is my browser of choice. Its lightning fast rendering engine, incredible extension system, and cross-platform nature make it a winner. But is it secure? Unfortunately, in today’s world of too much information and too many nefarious users sniffing about, adding security to any browser is a must. Here are five extensions that will make your Chrome browsing experience is much safer. Each can be found in the Chrome Web Store and are a single click away from installation.

Chrome extension lets you save Facebook posts to read later – It may not the best-designed extension, but Facebook Favorite serves a useful purpose of providing a dashboard of Facebook posts you’d like to return to at a later time.

Basketball Fans Rejoice: NCAA App Released for Windows – Turner Sports Interactive has released an app for fans which can single-handedly watch live NCAA games, provide stats, and display game schedules in one shot.

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Xfinity TV Go App for Android Updated with New Live Channels and Improved Video Quality – Xfinity TV Go already provided access to live streaming for a fair number of channels, but over a dozen new ones have been added in version 2.2. The new channels are A&E, Cooking Channel, DIY, Food Network, HGTV, History Channel, MUN2 (companion to Telemundo), Sprout, Starz, TBS, TRUtv, TNT, and the Travel Channel. This is in addition to on-demand content, which is also available in the app.

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Klutch for iPhone Aims to Simplify Making Plans with Friends – Having a gaggle of indecisive or stubborn friends can be a curse. Maybe they’re all fun people, but actually agreeing on plans to go out and have fun can take up half of your free time. If you can get all of them to use Klutch (perhaps a herculean effort by itself), there may still be hope of formulating a plan before it’s too late. Klutch is a new iOS app that lets you collaborate and vote on plans with your friends, and it’s free.

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New anti-social app ‘Cloak’ helps you hide from friends – An iOS app called ‘Cloak’ has hit the app store, utilizing location data to allow users to avoid their friends in real life.

Social trivia that keeps you coming back – QuizUp (Android | iOS) is a trivia game that tests your knowledge of TV show quotes, world geography, cooking, and hundreds other topics (433 to be exact, according to the developers). You can challenge random strangers, or go head to head with your Facebook or Google+ friends to earn more points and level up. With an overwhelming number of topics, you’re bound to find at least one that you can conquer, whether it’s grammar and spelling or baseball and Disney movies. While it’s much easier to battle against strangers, it’s far more rewarding to challenge your friends, obliterate them in the “Name the Pop Star” category, and brag about it endlessly. But maybe that’s just me.

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Toshiba Canvio turns any external drive into a streaming hub – Realizing the growing need to have wireless access to data anywhere and everywhere, Toshiba has unveiled its Canvio Wireless Adapter. This small, pocket-sized device transforms any external hard drive that you might have into a your own personal cloud in a pocket.

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How to turn an old phone or tablet into a PC productivity tool – Your old phones and tablets don’t have to become e-waste. They can do real work as repurposed sidekicks for your PC. Think of them as bonus touchscreen displays and you’ll begin to see the possibilities. They just need to be plugged in, wiped of unneeded apps and notifications, and they’re ready to serve as desktop companions. Here are some of the best ways to reuse that old tech.

ArcSoft MediaConverter – ArcSoft MediaConverter is a powerful and easy-to-use all-in-one multimedia file converter. This utility quickly and effortlessly converts multimedia files into formats optimized for use on your mobile phone, PMP, TV, and many other popular devices. Newly added is the ability to turn your 2D photos and videos into 3D for playback on supported devices, as well as uploading to YouTube. (Here’s a shot of the results of running 2 conversions using the Trial version. While this is not a free application ($30 USD), I’m pretty impressed with the functionality.)

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How to run both Chrome OS and Ubuntu on a Chromebook – Google’s low-cost computers are capable of doing more than you think. Here’s how you can transform a Chromebook into a full-blown Linux laptop.

Non-Gmail users suing Google for “wiretapping” denied class action – Google scored a victory in a court ruling Tuesday against Gmail users attempting to sue the company. US District Judge Lucy Koh denied the plaintiffs class-action status for their case, writing that the issue of consent to Gmail’s practices is too important to the case and too different between many of the parties seeking class-action status together. The ruling that a class action won’t be allowed will almost surely mean a quick end to this case. While the plaintiffs are still free to sue on an individual basis, it won’t be practical to proceed with expensive litigation when each individual user’s damages claim would be so small.

MPs urge UK.gov to use 1950s obscenity law to stifle online stiffies – MPs want Britain’s network-level filters to do a better job of censoring access to pornography sites to keep the content away from the prying eyes of children. But, to do that, perfectly legal online smut peddlers need to cooperate. That was the conclusion in a report (PDF) published today by Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee, following a series of parliamentary hearings about internet safety.

The Netherlands paves the way for carrier-free SIM cards – If you live in the Netherlands, you’ll no longer have to be tied to a specific carrier, as it becomes the first country to legalize carrier-free SIM cards. While there may still be some technical kinks to be ironed out, getting carrier-free SIM cards legalized is a great first step. We’re only hoping the rest of the world doesn’t take too long to follow suit.

30-Second Tech Trick: How to Take the Best Selfies – How to check your light, set up your shot and ultimately do what’s in everyone’s best interests. Here’s the 30-second tech trick for taking better pictures of yourself.

Security:

Microsoft: Pirated software with malware will cost businesses $500 billion in 2014 – Microsoft’s Issues blog states that the study, conducted by IDC and the National University of Singapore (NUS), shows that worldwide, businesses will have to spend $500 billion in 2014 to fix problems with malware in pirated software. Individual consumers worldwide are predicted to spend $25 billion to fix issues from the same problem, along with spending a total of 1.2 billion hours to deal with malware.

Mozilla patches 20 Firefox flaws, plugs Pwn2Own holes – Mozilla on Tuesday patched five vulnerabilities exploited by researchers last week at the Pwn2Own hacking contest, where they were awarded $200,000 for their collective efforts.

Twitter reportedly drops plan to encrypt direct messages – The Verge reports that Twitter’s end-to-end encryption for DMs is done—for now. Why are social networks dragging their feet on security measures?

Tor warns of malicious Tor browser offered on the App Store – A public plea made on Twitter by Runa A. Sandvik, a (former?) developer with The Tor Project has turned the spotlight on a still unresolved issue of an apparently fake Tor Browser app equipped with spyware being offered for download on Apple’s App Store. The open ticketshe linked to on the project’s site show that for whatever reason, Apple is not moving fast enough to remove to address the concerns of Tor officials. They first complained about the fake and malicious app to Apple on 26 December 2013.

Most ATMs to stay on XP after Microsoft ends support – More than six out of 10 ATM machines in the country will be running on an obsolete operating system when Microsoft pulls the plug on Windows XP support on April 8, raising serious security and compliance issues for the systems’ operators.

Company News:

AMD moves desktop PC operations to China – Advanced Micro Devices has moved its desktop chip business operations from the U.S. to the growing market of China, adding to its research lab and testing plant there. The desktop market in China is growing at a fast pace and its shipments of desktops and laptops are equal in ratio, said Michael Silverman, a spokesman for AMD, in an email. “The desktop market in China remains strong,” Silverman said.

Icahn pushes eBay to sell 20% of Paypal via IPO – Carl Icahn won’t give up on nagging eBay over selling PayPal (among many other things), but a new suggestion demonstrates he might be backing down — albeit slightly. The American business magnate published yet another open letter to eBay shareholders on Wednesday, outlining a scheme in which eBay sells off 20 percent of PayPal through an initial public offering. As described by Icahn, the online marketplace conglomerate would then be able to keep the majority of PayPal. Aside from the rather lengthy proposal, Icahn reiterated his disappointment (to put it lightly) in eBay’s leadership:

Google may be aiming for 8.9-inch Nexus tablet – The product is expected to be “high-performance,” said Rhoda Alexander, director tablet and monitor research at IHS Technology in an email to CNET. “Volume production is expected to start in July or August,” she said. “The expectation is [that] this will be a lower volume product, carrying a premium price tag to support the specifications.” Alexander does not the know the pricing but said she “would not be surprised if it is higher than $299.” HTC may be the manufacturer, according to Alexander.

IBM launches services to tackle fraud, financial crime – The tech giant has announced the creation of services to help corporations use Big Data in the battle against fraud and financial crime.

Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal faces probe from US states – Some states have joined the effort to investigate Comcast’s proposed $45.2 billion buyout of Time Warner Cable. Despite any concerns among federal and state regulators, Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus believes the deal will go through. “I have every confidence that the deal will close,” Marcus said at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference last week. “We wouldn’t have signed the deal if we didn’t think it would get done.”

Games and Entertainment:

Titanfall XP Guide: Level Up Faster with These 6 Tips – Like any modern shooter, Titanfall isn’t just about killing opponents and winning matches. The meta-game of earning experience points, unlocking more items and leveling up is just as important; it’s the slow drip of progress that keeps us coming back. But unless you pay attention to how you play, ranking up in Titanfall can be a long slog. Here are some pointers for quickly reaching level 50 and beyond:

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Facebook averages 375 million gamers monthly – At the Game Developers Conference, Facebook has revealed it averages 375 million people playing games connected to the social network per month. This represents connected gamers playing games on both desktop and mobile devices, with the games receiving an average of 735 million referrals daily.

Bear Simulator: Take the world in your paw – Prowl the world, exploring, fighting, and making friends. It’s like Skyrim, only with bears – There’s a class that’s seriously under-represented when it comes to video games, always the mob, never the protagonist. We are, of course, referring to the magnificent, noble bear. While the bear occasionally gets a look-in — World of Warcraft and Enviro-Bear being two notable examples — more often than not, the poor misunderstood bear is treated as an enemy to be punched. Luckily, one brave game is attempting to redress the balance — by combining it with one of our favourite genres ever, the simulation.

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Epic Games Tries Something New, Licenses All Of Unreal Engine 4 For $19 A Month – Licensing a big 3D engine (like Unreal) to build your video game has always been… kind of hard. Pricing was done case-by-case. You had to explain what you were up to, negotiate for weeks; it wasn’t easy to just jump into. Then Unity came along and turned that market on its head. Today Epic is responding to change: their new Unreal Engine, source and all, will start at just $19 a month.

Titanfall For Xbox 360 Pushed Back Again, Now Launching On April 8 – Sorry, Xbox 360 owners. EA hates you. Titanfall is delayed again. According to a blog post published this morning, the mech FPS is now launching on April 8 in North America, and beginning on April 11 in Europe.

Paradox, Obsidian team up to publish Pillars of Eternity – Move over peanut butter and chocolate. Sayonara, Mountain Dew and Doritos. I have a new favorite combination: Paradox (Crusader Kings II) and Obsidian (Fallout: New Vegas). Yes, these two titans of PCdom are combining forces for Pillars of Eternity, Obsidian’s upcoming back-to-isometric ’90s throwback RPG that was Kickstarted to the tune of nearly $4 million.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Larry Page’s Wish To Make All Health Data Public Has Big Benefits — And Big Risks – Google co-founder Larry Page made a rare appearance at the TED conference and expounded on a few ideas he thinks will change the world. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to have anonymous medical records available to all research doctors?,” said Page, noting that it would save hundreds of thousands of lives. There’s some great evidence to show that Page is right.

Not tonight, darling, I’m online shopping – A survey suggests that Americans are beginning to use online shopping as an expression of not being, you know, in the mood. Here’s the kicker: men use the excuse more than women.

Google Maps hack turns any Street View into an urban jungle – A clever Google Maps hack overlays Street View with vines, trees, grass, and other vegetation for an altered view of reality.

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Preserved woolly-mammoth autopsy shows cloning is a real possibility – The discovery of the beast caused excitement when the scientists who unearthed her found that she was very well preserved — to the point that her blood was still liquid after all these years. Now, after a necropsy (an autopsy on an animal), the team has discovered that the mammoth’s soft tissues are in excellent condition, so much so that they may be able to extract enough high-quality DNA to perform an analysis — and maybe even a reconstruction.

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Man sends 17,424 texts to seller who scammed him out of PlayStation 3 – A U.K. man is sending the plays of William Shakespeare to a seller who scammed him out of £80 for a PlayStation 3 that was never sold. The catch? He’s sending the plays via text message.

Latest Photos Of Facebook’s New Gehry-Designed, Tree-Lined Campus Unveiled – Take a new look at Facebook’s upcoming tree-studded Engineering Building. Sprawling over 22 acres of Palo Alto, the 435,000 square feet compound is designed by famed architect Frank Gehry. These latest photos of the architectural models show updates to the understated expansion of Facebook’s headquarters. The design has evolved since the last time pictures surfaced.

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NASA’s ultra-composite image shows the Moon in 850 billion pixels of detail – NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned more than 10,000 shots of the Moon, and scientists have stitched them together into a map of unprecedented detail.

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Jesse Jackson says blacks inadequately represented in tech companies – U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson is to lead a delegation to Hewlett-Packard’s annual meeting of shareholders on Wednesday to highlight underrepresentation of African-Americans in Silicon Valley companies. “Technology is supposed to be about inclusion, but sadly, patterns of exclusion remains the order of the day,” Jackson has written in letters to top Silicon Valley technology companies, including Apple, Twitter, Facebook, HP and Google, according to a statement this week by rights group Rainbow Push Coalition. HP said it looked forward to seeing Jackson at its shareholder meeting.

Something to think about:

“Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.”

–    Friedrich Nietzsche

Today’s Free Downloads:

Dropbox – Dropbox is a useful tool that will enable you to instantly store your files online and share them. It can also synchronize the files from your offline directories and online storage.

Free Video Call Recorder for Skype – Free Video Call Recorder for Skype is an absolutely free application for recording Skype calls without any limitations. It has a very simple interface. You don’t need to download or install any extra libraries to be able to use the program. You just need to specify the mode you like, choose the output folder and press “Start”. If you don’t want to record some moments during the conversation, just click on “Pause”. In order to finish the record select “Stop”.

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Avast! Free Edition 2014 – Based on the award-winning avast! antivirus engine, avast! antivirus contains all of the features you would expect in a modern antivirus program. It incorporates anti-spyware technology certified by West Coast Labs’ Checkmark process, as well as anti-rootkit and strong self-protection capabilities, but now provides even faster scanning with improved detection ability. It contains several real-time “Shields” which continuously monitor your email and internet connections and check the files on your computer whenever they are opened or closed.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tech giants KNEW about PRISM, web snooping, claims top NSA lawyer – The NSA’s general counsel Rajesh De says technology firms were fully aware of both America’s web surveillance program PRISM and the mass monitoring of upstream internet traffic. On Wednesday, De told a meeting in Washington, organized by the US government’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), that data collection by secret order under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act was carried out with the “full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained,” The Guardian reported. Internet giants, particularly Google and Facebook and Yahoo!, have over the past nine months blasted the intelligence agency’s methods and denied any involvement or collusion. Let’s tackle De’s statements in two halves.

Edward Snowden: Here’s how we take back the Internet – Appearing by telepresence robot, Edward Snowden speaks at TED2014 about surveillance and Internet freedom.

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The right to data privacy, he suggests, is not a partisan issue, but requires a fundamental rethink of the role of the internet in our lives — and the laws that protect it. “Your rights matter,” he say, “because you never know when you’re going to need them.” Chris Anderson interviews, with special guest Tim Berners-Lee.

ROBO-SNOWDEN: Iraq, the internet – two places the US govt invaded that weren’t a threat – Whistleblower Edward Snowden has appeared on stage at a TED conference in Canada via a remote-controlled robotic screen – and was hailed as a hero by the Web’s founding father Sir Tim Berners-Lee. “I grew up not just thinking about the internet but in the internet, and while I never thought I’d grow up to defend it in such a direct and practical manner, I think there’s something poetic about one of the sons of the internet has become close to the internet as a result of political expression,” Snowden told Sir Tim on stage. “I believe a Magna Carta for the internet is exactly what we need. We need to encode our values not just in writing but in the structure of the internet.”

Facebook security chief: We’re not encrypting everything between our data centers just yet – A couple of weeks ago Facebook scheduled a press powwow with its chief security officer Joe Sullivan to discuss defenses for the social network and its users. Then, a week later, Sullivan’s boss made an angry call to the White House to complain about intelligence agents using Facebook as a conduit for spying on people. “I don’t think anyone who focusses on security has been surprised by the specific things that we’ve seen,” Sullivan told us today about reports stemming from document leaked by NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden. Those documents suggested US intelligence systems were impersonating the Facebook website so as to silently infect victims’ PCs with snooping malware. “As security people, we’re paranoid, so we assume all of these things are happening, but when you actually see concrete evidence of an implementation, that moves it from paranoia to professional security advice.”

U.S. officials say NSA surveillance overseas is targeted, not bulk collection – A U.S. National Security Agency surveillance program focused on overseas telephone and email communications is targeted and narrow, and not the bulk collection portrayed in numerous news reports from recent months, U.S. officials told a privacy watchdog board Wednesday. Contrary to denials from many technology companies, the NSA’s foreign surveillance programs authorized by section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act have the participation of those vendors, officials with the U.S. intelligence community told the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). Internet service providers and other technology companies “would have received legal process” documents when the NSA wanted to conduct surveillance on their customers, said Rajesh De, the NSA’s general counsel. The NSA collects communications to and from certain email and telephone targets, with assistance from communications providers, and it also engages in upstream collection from the “Internet backbone,” De said.

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