Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 21, 2014

7 best Chromecast apps for Android and iOS;  Gadgets to let you do more with your tablet/smartphone;  Recover files from a dead PC;  Google Voice: The SMS guide;  Voice-Activated Video, Pics Added to Google Search Android App; Gmail Traffic Between Google Servers Now Encrypted To Thwart NSA Snooping;  Free: Windows Firewall Control;  Why I’m quitting Microsoft Office forever;  Snoopy drone pilfers smartphone data; Sprint lays off 330 techs, shutters 55 stores;  Orange Gives All Of Its Data To France’s NSA;  Avast Warns of ‘Data Breach Crisis’ as XP Support Ends;  Inside the NSA’s Secret Efforts to Hunt and Hack System Administrators.

7 best Chromecast apps for Android and iOS – The Chromecast took a while to fully realize its potential, but Google finally set third-party developers loose on the streaming dongle earlier this year. There were only a handful of apps to begin with, but now there are hundreds, and more are being added all the time. Everyone knows about Netflix, Play Music, and the other big names, but there’s much more to the Chromecast if you go hunting. Who’s got time for that, though?

Voice-Activated Video, Pics Added to Google Search Android App – Part of the convenience of Google Glass is the ability to do things like snap a photo or record a video by saying “OK Glass” and speaking your command. Now that functionality is available on the Google Search for Android app as well. With the latest update, you can now either tap the microphone or say “OK Google” followed by “take a photo” or “take a video” and Google will launch your camera app in the preferred mode.

Recover files from a dead PC – Freeflowing89 has “a ton of music and documents on an HP laptop” that’s not “even close to starting up.” Fixing or replacing the computer is one thing, but in the meantime, Freeflowing needs to get those files back.

Facebook Reveals ‘Hack’ Programming Language – A team of Facebook software engineers has developed a new programming language, dubbed Hack, that’s intended to allow for fast changes and minimal glitches. Hack has already been deployed at Facebook, with the social network migrating “nearly our entire PHP codebase to Hack” over the last year, engineer Julien Verlaguet said in a blog post. But now it’s your turn to try it out, as Facebook today launched an open-source version of Hack.

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Gadgets to let you do more with your tablet/smartphone – Mobile devices are great, but let’s face it, they’re a compromise. But with just a few well-thought-out accessories, you can boost productivity and get the most out of your mobile gear.

Resurface Your First Tweet With New Tool – To celebrate its eighth birthday, Twitter today released a new tool to help you easily surface your very first tweet — or anyone else’s, for that matter. Just head over to the site and type in your @username to see the first missive you ever posted, back when you were still trying to figure out what the heck this thing called Twitter was actually good for.

RoomScan instantly creates a floor plan with very little help – If you’ve ever been in a situation where you needed to draw up a floor plan or recreate a room’s dimensions, then you’ll appreciate what RoomScan can do for you. This deceptively simple iOS app can do all that for you and all you need to do is tap on the walls.

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SmartMio Offers Athletes Wearable Muscle Stimulation Controlled By Your Smartphone – Athletic wearable devices are not anything new, but a new product launching today on Indiegogo has a different take from the myriad activity trackers out there: The SmartMio connected sports muscle stimulator is designed to bring so-called electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) to enthusiast and professional athletes in a small, convenient and smartphone powered package.

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Microsoft ups OneDrive biz storage quotas following Google Drive increase – Specifically, Microsoft raised the quota storage limit for OneDrive for Business from the previous maximum of 100GB to a maximum of 1TB. (The default quota is 25GB per user.) Now, an administrator can set an upper quota of 50GB, 100GB, 250GB, 500GB, or 1TB.

Firefox’s massive overhaul moves to beta – Mozilla’s biggest browser remake since 2011, with a new interface and easier customization, begins to push away from the gate as Firefox 29 moves to beta.

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Why I’m quitting Microsoft Office forever – It’s not just about the money. Well, okay, it’s mostly about the money, but there are other reasons I’m bidding goodbye to Microsoft’s not-so-sweet suite.

Google Voice: The SMS guide – Summary: Here’s how you get the most out of sending and receiving text messages with Google Voice.

Security:

Gmail Traffic Between Google Servers Now Encrypted To Thwart NSA Snooping – Today Google announced that it has enhanced encryption for its Gmail email service, bolstering security to protect customers from prying eyes, especially those of governments. As of today, Gmail will “always use an encrypted HTTPS connection” whenever a user checks their mail, or sends a new missive. According to Google, the expanded protection will ensure that your mail is safe from being snooped on as it travels from your machine to Google’s data centers. This means you are protected regardless of what sort of network you are logged into, either a public connection or whatever else.

Microsoft frisked blogger’s Hotmail inbox, IM chat to hunt Windows 8 leaker, court told – Would-be whistleblowers, or anyone sensitive about their privacy, take note: the terms of service for Hotmail and other Windows Live things includes the line: “You consent and agree that Microsoft may access, disclose, or preserve information associated with your use of the services … [to] protect the rights or property of Microsoft or our customers.”

Microsoft alters Hotmail snoop policy amid fury at blogger inbox probe – Microsoft has quickly moved to address concerns caused by news it rummaged through a blogger’s Hotmail inbox as part of an investigation into an employee’s conduct. As we’ve reported, even though this is a tremendous PR cock-up, Microsoft was well within its rights to dive into a blogging hack’s private Hotmail account to root out an alleged Windows 8 leaker – all thanks to the terms and conditions attached to its Outlook.com and Hotmail services.

Tor Project claims ‘fake’ Tor Browser sat in iOS App Store for months – Following months of protests, Apple has apparently removed from its App Store software that claimed to be a Tor-friendly web browser yet was allegedly loaded with adware and spyware. Members of the Tor Project said that a rogue application on the iOS App Store was billing itself as a Tor Browser and serving up ads to users without a license or permission from the group. Numerous attempts to remove the “fake” app were ignored by Apple before the application was made unavailable on Thursday afternoon, US West Coast time, amid growing pressure on Cupertino.

Snoopy drone pilfers smartphone data – At the Black Hat Asia conference in Singapore next week, the folks behind a drone called Snoopy will showcase how they can intercept data from smartphones using their flying craft. The drone works by spoofing wireless networks and connecting to smartphones with the WiFi enabled, allowing them to remotely capture login credentials, personal data, and more.

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Avast Warns of ‘Data Breach Crisis’ as XP Support Ends – Ondrej Vlcek, Avast’s chief operations officer, took to his company’s blog a few days ago to discuss all of the trends that Avast is seeing — or pondering — as a result of Windows XP losing Microsoft’s support in a few weeks. While he’s not outright calling for Microsoft to reverse its decision, he does, as you might expect, go into a bit of detail about how Avast is working to patch that which Microsoft no longer plans to address.

Bitcoin’s software gets security fixes, new features – Bitcoin-QT, rebranded as Bitcoin Core, has more than six fixes for the so-called transaction malleability problem.

Researchers find cross-platform RAT for Windows, Android – A remote access tool used to commandeer a Windows PC has been found to also include an Android component, an indication that hackers are seeking cross-platform RATs for PCs and mobile devices.

Company News:

Netflix Blasts ISPs, Calls For “Strong” Net Neutrality And Explains Why It Pays Comcast – When Netflix agreed to pay Comcast as part of a peering agreement in the wake of the legal demise of net neutrality, the landscape of the Internet changed. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings today published an extensive blog post explaining his and his company’s views on net neutrality and why it now pays an ISP that it feels should be better regulated. The reason? Because it has to.

HP Planning To Enter The 3D Printer Space In June – HP CEO Meg Whitman casually noted that the company would have a “big technology announcement” in June related to the 3D printing space, a move that could place 3D printers into the hands of casual home and industrial users. Whitman also mentioned that the company has solved a number of 3D printing problems and expects that “the bigger market is going to be in the enterprise space.”

Intel returns to its roots with slew of overclocker-friendly desktop CPUs – For the last few years, Intel has focused primarily on its mobile CPUs—its chips for laptops, Ultrabooks, tablets, and phones have generated more attention than their high-end desktop lineup. But yesterday Intel threw a bone to the desktop-building, CPU-overclocking desktop set in the form of a few new high-end chips that will go on sale later this year.

In surprise move, Symantec fires CEO Bennett – For the second time in less than two years, Symantec Corp. has a new chief executive officer. In a that surprised observers, the Mountain View, Calif-based security and storage vendor Thursday fired president and CEO Steve Bennett and named board member Michael Brown as his interim replacement.

Sprint lays off 330 techs, shutters 55 stores – Not every store will be able to service a phone, but the company says the cuts were designed with customer in mind.

Games and Entertainment:

‘The Last of Us’ Earns Top Honors at GDC Awards – Video gaming has come a long way since Pong and Pac-Man, perhaps none as far as the visceral post-apocalyptic action title The Last of Us, which took home the title of Game of the Year at Wednesday’s Game Developers Choice Awards. Held during the annual Game Developers Conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the game also won the Best Design and Best Narrative categories.

Infamous: Second Son review: Pure, power-ful enjoyment – “Enjoy your power.” That’s the tagline for Infamous: Second Son. Before the game is even in the system, it’s clear that this is a game focused on pure fun—not frame rates, resolution concerns, or marketing buzzwords like “immersion.” It’s about simply enjoying yourself, a point repeated over and over through the powers you wield, the characters you meet, and the central protagonist of Delsin Rowe.

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Microsoft reveals DirectX 12 for PC, Xbox One and mobile – As promised, Microsoft has officially introduced DirectX 12, the next major version of its graphic API that will be supported by the PC, mobile and Xbox One platforms. As rumored, DirectX 12 will allow for developers to get lower level access to hardware and will spread the workload on the CPU and GPU so that their threads are better balanced and as a result increase performance.

Star Wars: The Old Republic Galactic Strongholds expansion lands this summer – The video game Star Wars: The Old Republic has had a difficult road. The game started out as a MMORPG that needed a monthly subscription. That changed quickly after launch when the number of players started to decline drastically. One of the good things about the game is that it is now free to play and many expansions for it are in the works.

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Watch: Valve’s ‘Free to Play’ Gaming Documentary – If you’re a fan of competitive gaming, video gaming in general, or you’re just really curious about what it takes to be at the top of a click-clicky-clicking, lane-based free-for-all, you owe it to yourself for check out Valve’s recently released documentary, Free to Play. The movie, which clocks in at around one hour and fifteen minutes, premiered in San Francisco last night. But you can check out the entire thing on YouTube right now (embedded below) or access it on Steam and iTunes.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Samsung attacks Microsoft Surface in new ad by calling it a laptop – Samsung’s new TV ad promoting its Galaxy Pro lineup slams almost every other tablet on the market, including Microsoft’s Surface, although that attack is pretty inaccurate.

Category:Missing aircraft – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – This category is about aircraft which have disappeared in flight and whose precise fate remains unknown.

New research could put a brain-like neural network in your smartphone – Still, artificial neural networks, and the “deep learning” they can allow, have traditionally been inaccessible to the very individuals whose brains were the model for these networks in the first place. Deep learning has always been far too hardware- and even software-intensive to bring into the home. Now, researchers at Purdue University claim that a combination of several innovations could bring deep learning to the common smartphone.

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Here’s how much Microsoft charges the FBI to legally see people’s data – When Microsoft complies with legal FBI requests to see people’s data, it doesn’t provide it for free — and the numbers can really add up. According to the hacker’s group the Syrian Electronic Army, here’s how much Microsoft charges.

Tech firms oppose fast-tracking of Trans-Pacific Partnership – A group of 29 technology companies has urged the U.S. Congress to reject a proposal to give President Barack Obama’s administration broad authority to negotiate a controversial trade agreement with countries in the Pacific region. The Obama administration shouldn’t have so-called fast-track negotiating authority in the Trans-Pacific Partnership because of expansive copyright enforcement proposals in the draft trade agreement, the tech firms said in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Without trust, innovation stalls – Trust. It’s gone missing. Privacy is getting all the attention and headlines. But trust is the foundation that privacy, and so much of the virtual world, stands on.

Something to think about:

“Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain.”

–     John F. Kennedy

Today’s Free Downloads:

Windows Firewall Control – Windows Firewall Control is a nifty little application which extends the functionality of the Windows Firewall and provides quick access to the most frequent options of Windows Firewall. It runs in the system tray and allows user to control the native firewall easily without having to waste time by navigating to the specific part of the firewall. This is the best tool to manage the native firewall from Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

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Recuva – Recuva (pronounced “recover”) is a freeware Windows utility to restore files that have been accidentally deleted from your computer. This includes files emptied from the Recycle bin as well as images and other files that have been deleted by user error from digital camera memory cards or MP3 players. It will even bring back files that have been deleted by bugs, crashes and viruses! This is the no installer, portable version. Extract it, copy to your portable device and run, delete when done.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Inside the NSA’s Secret Efforts to Hunt and Hack System Administrators – Across the world, people who work as system administrators keep computer networks in order – and this has turned them into unwitting targets of the National Security Agency for simply doing their jobs. According to a secret document provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the agency tracks down the private email and Facebook accounts of system administrators (or sys admins, as they are often called), before hacking their computers to gain access to the networks they control. The document consists of several posts – one of them is titled “I hunt sys admins” – that were published in 2012 on an internal discussion board hosted on the agency’s classified servers. They were written by an NSA official involved in the agency’s effort to break into foreign network routers, the devices that connect computer networks and transport data across the Internet. By infiltrating the computers of system administrators who work for foreign phone and Internet companies, the NSA can gain access to the calls and emails that flow over their networks.

Orange Gives All Of Its Data To France’s NSA – Orange has been cooperating illegally for years with France’s main intelligence agency (the DGSE). According to a newly found report by Edward Snowden and an investigation by Le Monde, the DGSE was given access to all of Orange’s data (not just metadata). Orange is the leading telecom company in France with more than 26 million clients. These clients have communicated with tens of millions of non-Orange clients. Nearly everyone in France is concerned by today’s revelation. No regulating agency has a say in this special relationship between France’s intelligence agencies and Orange. Data is shared with allies, such as the GCHQ in the U.K. While the state still owns 27 percent of Orange, Orange has operated as a private company for years. Yet, when it comes to data collecting, it still works as if it was a state-owned company. Orange employees help the DGSE create and develop new tools to collect and analyze data. Contrarily to PRISM, it’s not just an agreement between the government and big Internet companies, it’s an implicit “joint venture” that has been going on for around 30 years.

‘Arrogant’ Snowden putting lives at risk, says NSA’s deputy spyboss – Two days after NSA leaker Edward Snowden addressed the latest TED technology jamboree in robot form, the US intelligence agency has also made an appearance – with deputy director Richard Ledgett dialing in by video link. Ledgett said the NSA’s core problem was that it was lousy at PR, rather than that it was invading innocent people’s privacy. The bigwig said that the former US President James Madison, one of the key writers of the US Constitution, “would be proud” that the checks and balances he helped install still worked in today’s digital age. “I think there’s an amazing arrogance to the idea that [Snowden] knows better than the framers of the Constitution how the government should be designed to work in terms of separation of powers,” he told TED 2014. “That’s extremely arrogant on his part.”

Obama to meet again with tech leaders over surveillance – President Obama plans to meet with a select group of technology CEOs on Friday to discuss “issues of privacy, technology, and intelligence,” a White House official told Politico. A full list of chief executives was not made available by the White House, but industry sources told Politico that Google, Facebook, and Yahoo had been invited to the meeting. CNET has contacted those companies for comment on their participation and will update this report when we learn more. It’s the second such meeting Obama has held with Silicon Valley executives in recent months over the controversial US electronic surveillance programs. During a meeting in December with the president over ways to improve the beleaguered Healthcare.gov Web site, a congregation that included Apple CEO Tim Cook, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo urged the president to move swiftly on reforming the federal government’s surveillance programs.

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