Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 7, 2014

The ABCs of the Internet of Things;  Can we trust anyone with our personal info?  Delete Your Accounts: Links and Phone Numbers to 65 Sites and Services;  Clean out your PC’s junk with these free programs;  Google unveils Classroom, a tool designed to help teachers;  How to set and clear default applications in Android;  6 Essential Tech Products for Your Car Safety Kit;  Cops get serious about cybercrime, and not before time;  This $100 kit will make your toilet touchless;  Six helpful apps for cleaning your disgusting house;  Google’s NSA dealings not as bad as you thought – THEY WERE WORSE.

The ABCs of the Internet of Things – You’ve heard the term and probably read stories about smart homes where the toaster talks to the smoke detector. But what makes it all connect? These frequently asked questions help explain it all.

Can we trust anyone with our personal info? – Two very different criminal cases have just concluded on opposite sides of the Atlantic, showing how vulnerable our personal information is. John Hawes explains why it’s not just the Target-type megabreaches that are cause for concern.

It’s spring! Clean out your PC’s junk with these free programs – It’s finally May. The winter frost is thawing across the U.S., and thoughts are turning to baseball, the Memorial Day weekend, and cleaning out your PC. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t for everybody. But along with wiping down those windows, clearing out your eaves, and fertilizing the lawn, spring is as good a time as any to make sure your PC is nice and tidy. Unlike that fence that needs patching, giving your PC a spring overhaul doesn’t require much effort on your part. In fact, the right set of tools can do most of the work for you.

Delete Your Accounts: Links and Phone Numbers to 65 Sites and Services – Here’s a list of direct links and phone numbers to 65 popular tech services. Some are harder to quit than others, forcing you to call to speak to a live person who’ll undoubtedly try to talk you out of your decision (be strong!). In those instances, I’ve listed the phone numbers directly under the service name. For most of the others, the link under each one’s name should either lead you to a way to close your account online with a few clicks or to an email address you can use to request that your account be closed. And if you’re not sure which accounts you even have any more, here’s a handy trick to look them up.

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Google unveils Classroom, a tool designed to help teachers – Looking to support educators and simplify their workload, the tech giant announces a new, free, classroom-friendly tool that integrates Google Docs, Drive, and Gmail.

Chrome: Read more with fewer clicks with HoverReader – Chrome extension HoverReader takes some of the guesswork out of the to-click-or-not decision. With it installed, when you hover your cursor over a link, HoverReader opens a window with the full text of the article. With your cursor on the link (and not moved into the HoverReader window), you can then scroll through the text using your touchpad, mouse, or up- and down-arrow keys. When you move your cursor off of the link, the HoverReader window disappears.

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Six helpful apps for cleaning your disgusting house – Sure, sure, you want a clean house. You try. You can handle the immediate mess when you see it; it’s just hard to keep up with on a regular basis. These apps can help you keep everything orderly.

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6 Essential Tech Products for Your Car Safety Kit – With the weather turning warmer and summer travel season around the corner, many Americans will be hitting the road. Before you head out with your family in tow, you may want to consider these six tech products that can keep you safe and get you back on the road quickly if you have problems out on the highways. And while you’re at it, load up on these essential apps to use on the road.

How to set and clear default applications in Android – Allowing the user to choose different applications to open certain content shows Android’s flexibility, but it also slows you down. Luckily, you can tap “always” and never be bothered when performing that action again. But what if you change your mind? What if an app update makes you reconsider which Twitter client, for example, you want to use to open Twitter links? While setting a default application is very simple, clearing default apps is not as straightforward.

Depending on Who’s Counting, Chromebooks Are Either an Enormous Hit or Totally Irrelevant – The numbers on Google’s operating system add up to an utterly confusing picture.

Dell Cloud Connect pocket-PC-on-a-stick getting a user-friendly makeover – The $129 Cloud Connect, which looks like a USB stick, can turn any TV or display into a PC. The device runs on Android OS and once plugged in through an HDMI port, allows users to run applications, play games, watch streaming movies or access files stored in the cloud. Users can download applications from Google Play Store.

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How to save big bucks on Office 365 – Think you have to pay $100 a year to get the full benefits of Office 365? If you play your cards right and know a few savvy tricks, you could get it for almost half that.

Five US ISPs accused of holding the internet to ransom – Five US internet providers have been accused of “deliberately harming” the web experience for their customers, with claims that the companies are purposefully keeping things congested so as to extract cash from content providers. The US ISPs – described as “large Broadband consumer networks with a dominant or exclusive market share in their local market” – and one European ISP are not named by “internet middleman” Level 3, though the company has previously requested that the FCC look into AT&T’s handling of networks.

Text-to-911 available on all carriers starting May 15 – The ability to text an emergency to 911 has long been in the works, and will finally be realized this month. Starting May 15, all four major US carriers will be able to handle your 911 texts. While the program is not designed to take the place of calls to 911, it does provide a necessary option for those in dangerous circumstances.

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Google Maps updated with lane guidance, offline maps, and more – Google Maps has been updated for iOS and Android and brings a wealth of new features like: lane guidance, offline maps, POI filters, Uber integration, and transit times for buses and trains.

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Dropcam Tabs let you monitor everything, all the time – Tabs are pretty simple — they’re little devices, discoverable by Dropcam, that you place on items you want to track. Tabs also work wit the Dropcam app to send you notifications on what’s going on around the home when you’re not there, offering you a really neat way to keep tabs without staring at a live feed. You might want to give a maintenance person a way in, and know when they get there. Set up a tab on the gate or door, and you’ll see a notification when they arrive. Rogue kids finding their way out of the back yard while you work in the office? Not anymore!

Get more mileage from Excel 2013 with these five free apps – From mapping to specialized charting to invoice generation, these apps provide extra features within Excel 2013.

Microsoft adds new features to OneDrive, launches updated Android app – Microsoft announced a number of new features for users of its OneDrive file storage service, including an updated Android app and a way to post videos to Facebook. In a post on the OneDrive blog, Microsoft says that version 2.5 of the Android app now allows users to share files and folders with invites, by sending a link, or by sending files to another app. There are also ways to move and sort files from within the app along with a way to select multiple files to download to an Android device.

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DuckDuckGo, the search engine that doesn’t track you, finally challenges Google – While Google and Bing prettied up their design with card-like interfaces and graphical, inline information about everything from music videos to old presidents, DuckDuckGo’s interface has remained straightforward and full of basic text links, reminiscent of the Google of old. No more. Wednesday, CEO Gabriel Weinberg introduced a sweeping and beautiful redesign for DuckDuckGo, complete with contextual information you’ve come to expect from modern search engines.

ARM: The $20 smartphone will be possible “in the next few months” – Smartphone prices have been creeping ever downward in the last few years, and ARM is betting that they’re going to go even lower. AnandTech is reporting from ARM’s Tech Day today, and one of the company’s slides predicts that the cost of a phone with a single-core Cortex A5 chip in it will go as low as $20 within the next few months.

Security:

Cops get serious about cybercrime, and not before time – The world’s police forces are, it seems, starting to appreciate the scale and significance of the cybercrime problem. Let’s hope the process of international co-operation continues to pick up the steam we’ve been seeing in the last few weeks.

Your Android phone viewed illegal porn. To unlock it, pay a $300 fine – Researchers have uncovered Android-based malware that disables infected handsets until end users pay a hefty cash payment to settle trumped-up criminal charges involving the viewing of illegal pornography. The malicious Android Package is automatically downloaded when people visit certain pornography sites using an Android phone. The sites then claim that the APK installs a video player used for premium access. To be infected, a user must change Android settings to allow out-of-market apps and then manually install the APK. The social engineering trick has already claimed at least 68 victims in the past six hours—40 in the United Arab Emirates, 12 in the UK, six in Germany, five in the US, and the rest in Italy and Poland.

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Siri exploit gives contacts away to anyone who asks for them – We were all pretty impressed by the Siri exploit a few college freshmen laid out, with their “man in the middle” exploit giving voice control to just about anything via the iPhone. A new hack has some concerned, and potentially offers up your contacts to someone who may have use of your phone, even when locked, allowing them to send messages on your behalf.

 Moves changes privacy policy following Facebook acquisition – The Moves team has recently changed their softwares privacy policy after the recent acquisition made by Facebook, and may disclose personally identifiable data to third party companies. The information they collect as stated in their privacy policy includes: Accelerometer samples, Wi-Fi network IDs, activity data, and places you identify in the Moves app. They state that the main purpose of their service “is to provide you with an easy way to track how and where you move in your everyday life,” and that this data is sent over a secure connection.

Company News:

AOL throws down $101 million to buy marketing tool Convertro – The tech giant snaps up another advertising-focused company — this one helps brands and agencies figure out which ads most likely lead to customer purchases.

LG to launch all-in-one ChromeOS-powered Chromebase PC on May 26 – The LG Chromebase, which has already gone on sale in Australia, has a 21.5-inch screen, Intel Celeron 2955U Haswell processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of SSD storage. It will also come with 100GB of free storage space via Google Drive for two years. The PC will go on sale for $349.99 starting on May 26 at online retailers such as Amazon, Newegg and others.

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After lockups expire, Twitter stock price tumbles 18 percent in a day – In Tuesday trading, Twitter’s stock price lost nearly 18 percent on the day, largely due to the expiration of its lockup period. The stock closed at $31.85 per share. Lockup agreements rules, as written by the Security and Exchange Commission, attempt to prevent insider trading by restricting such trades for a certain period, typically 180 days. In total, 81 percent of Twitter’s outstanding stock—480 million shares—can now be sold without restriction.

Games and Entertainment:

Mario Kart 8 is shaping up to be great – After years of substandard racing games on mobile devices, including a downright knock-off off featuring tiny malcontent birds and piggies, Mario Kart has returned in glorious high definition. The past weekend has been all but dedicated to the exploration of the new installment game, and so far there’s very little to be unhappy about. Mario Kart 8 has a new coat of paint, new characters, and a whole new driving system complete with tons of unlockable content.

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Uncensored version of Wolfenstein is geo-locked on PC to stop Germans playing it – When Wolfenstein: The New Order launches on May 20, the PC version will be uncensored, but also geo-locked. By that I mean both the digital and physical versions of the game will be locked to make sure they can’t be played inside of Germany (and Austria). While it may seem like an unusual thing to do, Bethesda has said it is necessary due to the content of the game coupled with strict rules covering the use of Nazi-related symbols and content within Germany. It’s not so much Bethesda choosing to do this, they have to if they want to launch the game in the region.

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Heroes: A Grail Quest is a Fun Little Strategy Game on Android with No In-App Purchases – In Heroes: A Grail Quest for Android, you play the role of a noble knight. The king is not in good shape, and his only hope is the holy grail, which you are tasked with recovering. To do so, you’re going to have to roam far and wide, doing battle with evil and laying siege to castles. Can you raise an army powerful enough to complete your quest in time? Let’s hope so.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

This $100 kit will make your toilet touchless – The trigger, which you can install in your toilet with very little effort, is electromagnetically activated. Simply swipe your hand in front of the sensor on the top of the tank portion. The flush system is essentially a small battery-powered motor that hangs inside the tank with a discreet metal arm. There is no external mechanism, but Kohler provides a small sticker that you can place on the tank cover above the motor to indicate the location of the sensor. You can always leave that off if you want to mess with your guests.

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Vibrating capsule may relieve constipation – The innovative non-drug therapy may offer a solution for anyone who suffers from chronic constipation but finds laxatives, fiber drinks, enemas, and other standard treatments unhelpful or uncomfortable. The small capsule contains a tiny motor programmed to start vibrating 6 to 8 hours after being swallowed — the average amount of time it takes a meal to make its journey from the stomach to the large and small intestines. The mechanical stimulation caused by the pill produces contractions in the intestines, which helps move stool through the digestive tract more efficiently.

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DARPA is developing autonomous flying drones that will collaborate to survive – Instead of a single drone equipped with all the tech you could need for any mission, DARPA wants to split duties across a number of drones. Each would be a specialist in its given field, and would fly with other drones, some of which are there to protect them from attack. An autonomous squadron of drones clever enough to protect themselves and carry out their duties even in a hostile situation sounds very cool. But it also sounds very scary if, say, the group goes rogue and us humans are left trying to shoot them out of the sky.

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On average, Americans get 189 cable TV channels and only watch 17 – Nielsen’s blog post today showed that the number of cable channels in an average US household has grown dramatically over the last five years, but the number of channels that viewers actually watch has hardly changed at all. In 2008, US households received an average of 129.3 channels but only actually viewed 17.3 channels. In 2013, the number of channels received increased 46 percent, but the number of channels viewed only increased 1 percent.

Fly by all known exoplanets in 60 seconds – For centuries, distant planets were the stuff of sci-fi, but in recent years, science has begun to confirm their existence. Take a quick tour of the more than 1,700 (so far) known exoplanets in the visible universe.

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Vatican library moves into the 21st century – The Vatican library has begun mass digitising 82,000 historic manuscripts to make them available online. As part of the project, EMC has offered 2.8 petabytes of storage — enough to store about 40 million pages of digitlised manuscripts — to help the Vatican library digitise its collection, which includes documents like the 42 line Latin Bible of Gutenberg, the first book printed with movable type dating between 1451 and 1455. Speaking at EMC World 2014, Vatican library chief information officer Luciano Ammentia said the project is half way through. “This project will be a benefit for humanity,” he said.

Something to think about:

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Today’s Free Downloads:

Image Tuner – Image Tuner is a free software for batch resizing, converting, watermarking and renaming your digital photos and images from and to JPEG, BMP, PNG, TIFF and GIF formats. The program will help you to prepare your digital photos to upload and publish them in the Internet or send via e-mail.

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ISO Workshop – Optical disc images are files storing complete copies of various media, including CD, DVD and Blu-Ray discs. They are used for backing up data from optical discs and creating exact disc copies for further replication. The main advantage of disc images is that they are essentially exact sector-by-sector copies of original discs preserving both their content and structure. If you have a disc image in any format, you can easily recreate the original disc by burning the image to a blank CD, DVD or BD disc. And although this task may initially seem to be somewhat hard, proper software will make it a breeze – software like ISO Workshop!

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Report: Google’s NSA dealings not as bad as you thought – THEY WERE WORSE – Google and other technology giants were working far more closely with the NSA government than originally thought, if a set of uncovered internal emails are to be believed.

Al Jazeera has posted an email correspondence between NSA director General Keith Alexander and Google’s Eric Schmidt and Sergey Brin discussing cooperation with the company on an industry security framework.

The emails, dated January and June of 2012, discuss participation from Google in the NSA’s Enduring Security Framework (ESF) program. According to the email from Alexander to Schmidt, Google was one of a handful of Silicon Valley companies who were invited to a briefing with the NSA on the effort to “coordinate government/industry actions on important (generally classified) security issues that couldn’t be solved by individual actors alone.”

In the pitch, Alexander notes that the project played a role in the deployment of measures to protect against the BIOS attack plot on US computer systems. The NSA was later found to be using its own BIOS-level malware to target systems.

Schmidt responded that he would be unable to attend the meeting, but invited Alexander to meet up at a later time.

In the exchange with Brin, dated January 13, Alexander thanks the Google cofounder for attending an ESF Steering Group meeting which discussed threats facing the industry and strategy for mitigation techniques.

The company has yet to respond to a request for comment on the report.

House panel voting to end NSA bulk phone metadata program – A House panel is expected to vote on a proposal Wednesday ending the National Security Agency’s bulk telephone metadata collection program.

The bill, called the USA Freedom Act, would remove the massive database of phone calling metadata from the NSA’s hands. The plan would require the nation’s spies to get approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to access a terror target’s phone-metadata records directly from the telcos.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), is expected to pass the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and move to the House floor, where it faces an uncertain fate. The plan also allows the NSA to demand that metadata from a target be expanded two degrees, or two hops. That greatly increases the number of people the NSA can eyeball beyond the original target. A similar version of the plan is pending before a Senate panel.

Privacy advocates, acknowledging the realpolitik, are supporting the measure because it’s better than nothing. “I still hold out some hope that a stronger bill will emerge later,” Lee Tien, an Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney, said via e-mail.

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