Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 12, 2014

Department of Justice wants expanded permission to hack and search remote computers;  How to make folders private on a Windows 8.1 family PC,  The White House Wants to Issue You an Online ID;  8 Best Sites for Incredible Retina Images and Desktop Wallpaper;  Regain your privacy with these 3 browser add-ons;  Being ignored on Facebook is psychological hell;  Sim Aquarium III (free);  Tails 1.0: A bootable Linux distro that protects your privacy;  Start Menu Reviver 2 offers a better program manager for Windows 8.1 (free);  A huge Gmail update is coming;  Facebook kills off its Poke and Camera apps.

Department of Justice wants expanded permission to hack and search remote computers – The U.S. Department of Justice wants new authority to hack and search remote computers during investigations, saying the new rules are needed because of complex criminal schemes sometimes using millions of machines spread across the country. Digital rights groups say the request from the DOJ for authority to search computers outside the district where an investigation is based raises concerns about Internet security and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Regain your privacy with these 3 browser add-ons – With so many advertisers, social networks, and other companies interested in your data, it’s pretty hard to stay private online these days. But don’t reach for that tinfoil hat just yet! There are a few tools that can help privacy-conscious users shake privacy-smashing trackers off their tails. Here’s a look at three extensions that keep your connections to websites encrypted whenever possible, block companies trying to track you, and erase any browsing data cached in your browser.

How to make folders private on a Windows 8.1 family PC – Choosing File Explorer’s “Stop sharing” option doesn’t prevent other administrator accounts from accessing your default folders for pictures, documents, videos, and music. Here’s how to privatize your personal folders on a multiuser PC.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Why you can trust free software (or at least some of it) – It’s good to be skeptical. And careful. Free products often come with strings attached. But if you pay attention and listen for the right recommendations, you can get some excellent software for free—without breaking the law. There are some perfectly good reasons why an individual programmer, a programming collective, or even a for-profit company will let you use the fruit of their labor without getting paid.

Start Menu Reviver 2 offers a better program manager for Windows 8.1 – If you’ve been using Windows 8/Windows 8.1/Windows 8.1 Update without a Start Menu replacement, then Start Menu Reviver 2 is definitely to product that you’ll want to try. If you read my June 2013 review and have been using the first iteration of Start Menu Reviver, then you already know what a great product this is, and I can assure you that you’re going to love this updated version. I said it before, and I’ll say it again — Start Menu Reviver is such a great melding of the old and new user interfaces, that if Microsoft had put something like this in Windows 8 from the get-go, they sure would have saved themselves a lot of grief. Let’s take a closer look at Start Menu Reviver 2.


8 Best Sites for Incredible Retina Images and Desktop Wallpaper – Back in 2012, shortly after Apple got the whole “Retina” ball rolling, the pickings for beautiful high-resolution desktop wallpapers were pretty slim. The list I compiled in October 2012 highlighted just five sites, and I had to scour the place to drum that many up. So here’s my list of picks updated for 2014, including the five original sites — still some of the best around — but with several lovely additions. Keep tabs on these, and you’re looking at enough art to swap your desktop or mobile device’s wallpaper several times a day for years to come.


Being ignored on Facebook is psychological hell – Researchers in Australia believe that those who don’t get immediate feedback on social media suffer from a lack of belonging and a general despair. Well, of course.

How to move your OneDrive local storage to another drive – With Microsoft’s recent release of Windows 8.1, the cloud-storage service formerly known as SkyDrive officially became OneDrive. And it remains tightly integrated with the OS. So integrated, in fact, that it syncs your cloud files to your hard drive, and vice-versa. That’s a handy feature, to be sure, but what happens if you’re running out of space on that local drive? This can definitely be a problem for anyone with, say, a Surface or similar tablet, or a laptop with a small solid-state drive. Fortunately, it’s a simple matter to relocate OneDrive’s local storage to another storage device, thereby freeing up critical space.

Tails 1.0: A bootable Linux distro that protects your privacy – If you want to dodge ad trackers, have sensitive sources to protect or you just want to conduct your normal online activities without being spied on, then The Amnesiac Incognito Live System (better known as Tails) could help. Tails, which just came out in its 1.0 version, is a live 32-bit Debian Linux-based operating system that runs from a USB flash drive, CD/DVD or SD card. (A live system is a complete, bootable OS on removable media.)


Linux pros use tweak tools to customize their OS, and so can you – Where Windows has utilities, Linux has tweak tools. And whether you’re a Linux pro or a recent refugee from Windows XP, they can help you make Ubuntu 14.04 LTS “Trusty Tahr” (the latest and greatest offering from Linux distro pioneer Canonical) really start to feel like home. Here’s how to make them work for you.


5 Twitter clients for Linux – Although Linux systems can, of course, handle the same browser-based Twitter clients as other operating systems, some users may prefer desktop clients. There are a number of reasons for this: Local clients integrate with your system to provide a better notification experience, it’s easier to access an application in the system tray compared to the one sandwiched between browser tabs and you have more control over your application environment.

Chocolatey brings Linux-style package management to Windows – Delight in Chocolatey, a Linux-style package manager that makes it much simpler to install Windows. See why developer Tony Patton has jumped on the Chocolatey bandwagon.

Facebook kills off its Poke and Camera apps – Facebook has removed its standalone Poke app, an early clone of Snapchat, as well as its Camera app, from Apple’s iTunes app store. A Facebook spokeswoman said Friday that the apps had been removed earlier in the day. Facebook didn’t publicize the move, as many Internet companies don’t when they pull the plug on products.

Hold on tight, a huge Gmail update is coming – Google is readying a significant – and potentially controversial – Gmail update for the desktop, leaked screenshots of the new interface suggest, making considerable changes that may take some getting used to. The email service has, since its inception ten years ago, been conservative in how it has evolved, but a more revolutionary change in line with a mobile UI update is believed to be in the works.

How to add more storage to an iOS device – Apple’s iDevices famously — make that infamously — rely on fixed storage. If you need more space, well, too bad. Granted, you can try a utility like PhoneClean, which can reclaim some space , but that gets you only so far. For any kind of significant storage boost, you have little choice but to upgrade to a more capacious iPhone, iPod, or iPad. Actually, you do have one other option. A growing number of devices give you extra space for music, movies, photos, documents, and other data, and some of them are surprisingly affordable.

AirTight lets Australian shoppers trade details for free Wi-Fi – The opening of an Australian office by ‘social Wi-Fi’ vendor AirTight Networks will allow local retailers to harvest social-media details provided by customers in exchange for free, fast Wi-Fi access.

How to podcast, Part 1: Getting started – If you’ve seen CNET’s shows or other online programs, you might have the itch to create your own podcast. So what happens if you have no idea where to start? Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. This series will explain what it takes to start a podcast from inception to publication. Let’s get to it.


Teen Arrested for 30+ Swattings, Bomb Threats – A 16-year-old male from Ottawa, Canada has been arrested for allegedly making at least 30 fraudulent calls to emergency services across North America over the past few months. The false alarms — two of which targeted this reporter — involved calling in phony bomb threats and multiple attempts at “swatting” — a hoax in which the perpetrator spoofs a call about a hostage situation or other violent crime in progress in the hopes of tricking police into responding at a particular address with deadly force. On March 9, a user on Twitter named @ProbablyOnion (possibly NSFW) started sending me rude and annoying messages. A month later (and several weeks after blocking him on Twitter), I received a phone call from the local police department. It was early in the morning on Apr. 10, and the cops wanted to know if everything was okay at our address. (recommended by Aseem S.)


How do you keep track of all your passwords? – If you have just one password for everything it’s easy to remember, but we all know that isn’t safe. So how do you keep track of a large number of them – and not have to worry about it?


A well-known XKCD cartoon.

Twitter adds new password security options for accounts – The company’s official blog states that iOS and Android device owners can now quickly reset their Twitter password by sending their new login details via a text message or an email. Twitter says, “That way, whether you’ve recently changed your phone number, or are traveling with limited access to your devices, or had an old email address connected to your Twitter account, you’ve got options.”

Record number of underage Indian children using Facebook thanks to Mom and Dad – What’s worse is that the majority of them use networking sites by posting a photo or a video of themselves which makes them instantly vulnerable to sexual predators or cyber bullies.

Difficulty removing Koler Trojan or other ransomware on Android? – Koler is delivered with site redirection, once installed and running the device is taken over by the ransom browser page, pressing the Home button or attempting to dismiss the page works for a very short time. The page will reappear when you attempt to open another app or within a few seconds. This causes removal problems because you don’t have enough time to uninstall through normal methods. The good news is you don’t have to pay the ransom to remove.

Company News:

Mozilla Is Moving Ahead With Sponsored Tiles On Firefox’s New-Tab Page – Despite what you may have read, Mozilla isn’t canning its plans to sell sponsored tiles on its new-tab page. A few days ago, Mozilla’s Vice President of Firefox Jonathan Nightingale wrote a brief blog post defending the organization’s plans to include sponsored tiles on Firefox’s new-tab page. For some reason, a couple of people interpreted Nightingale’s comments as a retreat and assumed that Firefox was abandoning this project after too many of its users complained about it. That’s not the case, however. Instead, Nightingale simply clarified that Mozilla would move ahead slowly with this program, experiment with different new-tab pages and that they will likely include sponsored content in the future.

That NAKED SELFIE you sent on Snapchat? You may be seeing it again – The developers behind the Snapchat photo-sharing app have agreed to a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission over allegations of collecting and mishandling user data. The Commission said that it has agreed with Snapchat to a set of measures that will be placed on the company that will include regular monitoring of the company’s operations for the next 20 years. The settlement will put to rest complaints filed by the FTC alleging that the company misled consumers when it claimed to offer self-deleting photos that could not be stored long-term. The FTC notes that in addition to enabling third-party applications to store Snapchat photos, the company kept data outside of the app sandbox and failed to disclose is geolocation tracking practices to users.

Peer-To-Peer File Sharing Service Send Anywhere Raises $1M Seed Round – Like Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive, ESTmob’s Send Anywhere offers file sharing–but with a key difference. Instead of first saving files to cloud storage, Send Anywhere enables users to share content peer-to-peer between devices in real time.

AT&T claims common carrier rules would ruin the whole Internet – AT&T today urged the Federal Communications Commission to avoid reclassifying broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service, which is something network neutrality advocates are asking the FCC to do. Reclassification would open broadband providers up to common carrier rules under Title II of the Communications Act, similar to regulations that have covered our phone system since 1934. Recent calls for reclassification of broadband stem from a federal appeals court ruling that the FCC could not impose strict network neutrality rules, such as prohibitions against blocking Web services and Internet fast lanes, without first declaring the providers to be common carriers.

Games and Entertainment:

5 Great No-Fuss Sites for Finding Classic Computer Games – You could sit there at your desk pretending to work all day or you could play some of your favorite old-school computer games instead. Actually, pro tip: a lot of these sites contain old adventure games that require you to do a lot of typing. And typing sounds just like work. You’re now pretending to work by playing old-school computer games. Everyone wins! Except your company, but it’s not like you’re employee of the year anyway. Let’s move on. Here are five sites that remind us all of simpler times.

The Legend of Zelda’s Temple of Time rebuilt in Unreal Engine 4 – Visual artist re-creates digital treasure from 1998 N64 classic in high-def glory using Epic’s most powerful game engine.


Nintendo apologizes for lack of same-sex options in upcoming sim game – In a statement posted today on its official American site, Nintendo issued an apology regarding the upcoming Western debut of its quirky life-sim series Tomodachi Life. The Nintendo DS and 3DS series puts imported Mii characters from gamers’ consoles into a mix of ordinary and oddball situations, and while some of those situations include relationships and marriages, the game defaults into only allowing male-female unions.

The Sims 4 rated Adults Only in Russia because of “same-sex relationships” – In adherence with a controversial law prohibiting the promotion of same-sex relationships to children, the Russian Federation has listed EA’s The Sims 4 – which allows the option for gay and lesbian relationships – as Adults Only, thus prohibiting the sale of the game to minors and those under the age of 18.

Netflix raises streaming prices by $1, but current members don’t have to pay it (for now) – The price of a streaming subscription is rising by $1, to $8.99 per month—still a steal for the unlimited viewing Netflix provides. New members around the world will see similar price hikes, according to the Associated Press, and CNET says that subscribers in Britain and Europe are already being notified of similar £1 and €1 respective price hikes, to £6.99 and €8.99.

Portal coming to NVIDIA’s Shield next week, Half-Life 2 is on deck – NVIDIA has announced that the Android port of Portal, made epecially for the company’s Shield portable game console, will be released next week, and teases that Half-Life 2 is next.

Missing Pieces: Wrapping up the week’s must-know gaming news – Back in the United States after attending the EVE Fanfest in Iceland—and thus back in the land of cheap burritos, yessss—it’s a true honor to bring you Missing Pieces this week. So let’s get right to it: Oculus wants to create an MMO, Driveclub makes inappropriate decisions, and Sunset Overdrive turns graphics to eleven. This is all the gaming news you need to know for the week of May 5.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Parrot’s Bebop Drone is your fisheye in the sky – The Bebop has a 14-megapixel camera, with a huge fisheye lens. But unlike a GoPro, it doesn’t show you the whole image that the lens can capture. You can use the Freeflight 3.0 app (for iOS and Android phones and tablets) to digitally adjust which part of the image is the focal point, in effect “pointing” the camera without moving the drone. (The effect is all digital; the camera doesn’t actually move.) Software makes further adjustments as you fly, to both digitally stabilize the image along 3 axes, as well as straightening things out, so you don’t get the curved-horizon effect that you do with a GoPro.


The Ever-Sorrier State of Android Bloatware – You may know it by some other name. Crapware. Junkware. The euphemistic “pre-loaded apps” or the less technical “all this stuff on my screen.” Regardless of the term, I define it loosely as “apps of dubious value that you didn’t install and are difficult or impossible to remove.” Most Android phones, especially as sold by major wireless carriers, are lousy with these apps. This is not a new trend; phone makers have been pre-loading their devices with junk for years, either on their own or at the behest of wireless carriers. But now it seems to be getting worse.

High schooler does deal to trade finals for 15,000 retweets – A Texas high school student agrees with his art teacher that if he can get 15,000 retweets, his whole class can skip their final exams.  The school is not impressed.


WTF is NET NEUTRALITY, anyway? And how can we make everything better? – The well-funded Net Neutrality campaign in the USA is strongly backed (and funded) by internet content and services companies. These campaigners make an emotively powerful argument: that without intervention, we will see a “two speed” internet, with new payments forced upon people who are obliged to use a “fast lane”. Net neutrality proponents say that internet packets should be treated equally, or at least “fairly”. This is typically backed by the a claim that “it’s always been this way”. Preferential speeds, data discrimination – the campaigners argue – are both new and bad. Let’s try and measure this against reality.

Why CNN is bringing its citizen journalism tool to Google Glass – Citizen journalists can now interact with CNN’s newsroom directly from a Google Glass app. Despite a low number of Glass owners, there is method to the apparent madness.

Audi R8 LMX starts laser battle with BMW i8 – It’s the battle of the super-niche supercars, and it’s being fought with lasers. Laser headlamps, that is, with Audi following BMW in adding laser lamp technology on its flagship R8 LMX limited-edition coupe, but claiming to in fact be the first production car to actually deliver the tech to eager nighttime drivers.


The Unleashed Scandal, book review: Documenting the new face of public life – Does technology make public embarrassment and disgrace worse, or does it just spread the humiliation around more evenly? This book documents dozens of scandals, small and large, to ask whether we’re losing control of lives that are increasingly lived in public.

Dean Kamen’s incredible robot arm is good to go – Dean Kamen’s robotic prosthetic limb, the DEKA Arm System, has been granted FDA approval, with the DARPA-sponsored project controlled by electrical signals from sensors where it meets the wearer’s limb. Dubbed “Luke” – a reference to Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars universe – the arm is a huge step forward from existing mechanical prosthetics, allowing for more detailed uses like turning keys and pulling zippers.


Something to think about:

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”

–    Helen Keller

Today’s Free Downloads:

Sim Aquarium III – Experience the most realistic coral reef you’ll find without having to purchase an actual aquarium. Sim Aquarium lets you choose among twelve intricately detailed 3D underwater scenes. You can populate your aquarium with up to 100 fish from the selection of 30 highly detailed species of fish with complex swimming behaviors and artificial intelligence. Using your mouse pointer, you can play with your fish pets and touch them by their tails or noses. They will stop to inspect or dart away into safety. You can also feed the fish, but unlike the real fish, they wont turn upside down and float up if you don’t feed them regularly.


FontViewOK – The problem is well known: Only the written form is remembered, but the name is forgotten. Here FontViewOK can help. It creates a quick visual overview of all installed fonts. The deployment is so simple, a help file is not required.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The White House Wants to Issue You an Online ID – A few years back, the White House had a brilliant idea: Why not create a single, secure online ID that Americans could use to verify their identity across multiple websites, starting with local government services. The New York Times described it at the time as a “driver’s license for the internet.”

Sound convenient? It is. Sound scary? It is.

Next month, a pilot program of the “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace” will begin in government agencies in two US states, to test out whether the pros of a federally verified cyber ID outweigh the cons.

The goal is to put to bed once and for all our current ineffective and tedious system of using passwords for online authentication, which itself was a cure for the even more ineffective and tedious process of walking into a brick-and-mortar building and presenting a human being with two forms of paper identification.

The rub is that online identity verification is heaps more convenient for citizens and cost-effective for government agencies, but it’s also fraught with insecurities; federal and state governments lose billions of dollars a year to fraud, and that trickles down to taxpayers. (recommended by Fred.)


Russia Quietly Tightens Reins on Web With ‘Bloggers Law’ – Russia has taken another major step toward restricting its once freewheeling Internet, as President Vladimir V. Putin quietly signed a new law requiring popular online voices to register with the government, a measure that lawyers, Internet pioneers and political activists said Tuesday would give the government a much wider ability to track who said what online. Mr. Putin’s action on Monday, just weeks after he disparaged the Internet as “a special C.I.A. project,” borrowed a page from the restrictive Internet playbooks of many governments around the world that have been steadily smothering online freedoms they once tolerated. The idea that the Internet was at best controlled anarchy and beyond any one nation’s control is fading globally amid determined attempts by more and more governments to tame the web. If innovations like Twitter were hailed as recently as the Arab uprisings as the new public square, governments like those in China, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and now Russia are making it clear that they can deploy their tanks on virtual squares, too.


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

5 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 12, 2014

  1. Dave B.

    RE: The Ever-Sorrier State of Android Bloatware; That’s the main reason I bought a Nexus 4 when I needed a new phone, and switched to a no contract carrier.

  2. John Bent

    “Hi Bill,

    I am sure there are many more like Dave B who like a minimum of crapware on their devices. That’s why I now have a Nexus 7 tablet and a Nexus 5 sim-only phone. There is quite a bit of Google stuff preinstalled but nowhere near as much as I used to get with an Orange contract. The most annoying one from them was Facebook, which I do not use and which could not be uninstalled, except for updates.

    Another good reason for using Google Nexus devices is that you do not have to wait until it suits your service provider to update the OS.

    Kind regards

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for this. 🙂



    • Dave B.

      Yup, another bonus, you get Android updates in weeks, not months or years. I bought an HTC Vivid a couple years back when I was still using the death star (AT&T), constant hangs, hard reboots, etc. Rooted it and removed all the bloat and the thing worked flawlessly. I also have a Nexus 7 tablet.