Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 14, 2014

Privacy Group Sues U.K. Spy Agency Over Snooping;  Malware authors target Android phones;  Popcorn Time Is Now On Android;  The First 10 Things to Do With a New Android Phone;  Here’s how to chat with your Facebook friends using end-to-end encryption;  How to disable Android bloatware without rooting your phone;  A battle in budget smartphones erupts in India;  Hands On With the Motorola Moto E;  Firefox UI revamp sparks complaints, searches for alternatives;  Microsoft Patch Tuesday Update Fixes IE, Windows Bugs Currently Under Attack;  Here’s how not to get sued when reviewing online products;  Glary Utilities (free);  NSA routinely tapped in-flight Internet, intercepted exported routers.

Privacy Group Sues U.K. Spy Agency Over Snooping – A U.K. privacy organization has sued the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) for surveillance tactics it deems to be “incompatible with democratic principles and human rights standards.” Privacy International on Tuesday filed a legal complaint that demands an end to hacks that GCHQ has been carrying out in conjunction with the National Security Agency (NSA) in the U.S. According to the group, GCHQ and the NSA are “infecting potentially millions of computer and mobile devices around the world with malicious software that gives them the ability to sweep up reams of content, switch on user

The First 10 Things to Do With a New Android Phone – There’s nothing like that new phone feeling. One minute, you’re marveling over your slab of plastic and metal, and the next, you’re panicking over how much work you’ll have to do to set it up and figure out how to use it. The experience doesn’t have to be so painful, however.

Access your PCs from afar with Google’s free, simple Chrome Remote Desktop software – Thanks to cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive it’s pretty easy to access your files from anywhere. Even so, there are still times when you need remote access to your desktop while on the go. That’s where Google’s handy Remote Desktop browser extension for Chrome comes in. With Chrome Remote Desktop installed and enabled, you can access your PC from any other PC that has Chrome installed, or from your Android device. (An iOS app is planned for later this year.) Chrome Remote Desktop is both free and dead-simple to use, unlike most other remote desktop options. Here’s how use it.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google Maps adds 17K routes to UK public transport data – In one of the biggest-ever additions of transportation information, the tech giant adds bus, train, ferry, tram, and subway data from England to Wales to Scotland.

Here’s how to chat with your Facebook friends using end-to-end encryption – Facebook’s messaging application doesn’t support encryption, but an open-source chat program, Cryptocat, has made it possible to chat with friends there over an encrypted connection. The program’s founder, Nadim Kobeissi, wrote Monday that the latest 2.2 version of Cryptocat can log a user into Facebook and pull his contact list in order to set up an end-to-end encrypted conversation.

Windows 8.1 Store update brings easier navigation and curated apps – Microsoft quitely revamped the Windows 8.1 Store on Tuesday with a host of changes designed to make finding apps a bit easier. According to the company’s Windows Experience blog, the update is also aimed at making navigation a bit more mouse and keyboard friendly for those of us who aren’t on touchscreen devices. The most important change is the introduction of Collections, which are exactly what they sound like: curated collections of apps to hopefully solve (or at least mitigate) the app-discovery problem that’s plagued Windows 8 and its Metro interface since inception.


EU says Google must remove data from search if asked – Google has lost nother important legal battle today, as a European Judge found the search giant is responsible for what information is discovered via search. The judgement would hold Google accountable for removing information from their search engine should a user ask them to. It’s a form of digital privacy we’re not accustomed to, and could have widespread implications for how search is used and/or abused.

How to disable Android bloatware without rooting your phone – There are only a scant few things in our digital lives worse than the extraneous apps that come bundled with new Android devices. Carriers and manufacturers install the bulk of this bloatware, and make it all but impossible to remove the apps from your devices. But you don’t need three versions of a calendar app, or a cloud storage locker you never opted for. Luckily, you don’t have to be a victim, or go through the process of rooting your phone to excise this software from your app tray and home screen. Here’s a simple way to disable those apps and keep them from reminding you that they ever existed in the first place.

Transform a Windows tablet into a full-fledged Windows PC – Today’s Windows tablets offer such solid productivity chops that they can easily become the heart of a potent sit-down workstation with the help of a few peripherals and some smart software choices and tweaks. Even better, you can take that productive heart with you when you have to leave your desk. Here’s how to transform a Windows tablet into a full-fledged Windows PC.

Vimeo banned in Indonesia for allegedly hustling porn – The country’s anti-pornography law forbids any sort of nudity, something the government claims it found in roughly 15,000 videos on the streaming site.

Hands On With the Motorola Moto E – Motorola’s new Moto E is a smooth, simple, and amazingly priced little smartphone. At a mere $129 unlocked for AT&T, T-Mobile, or any virtual carrier that shares their networks, it would make an excellent first smartphone for teens. I have one right here, and I’m impressed.


Motorola Alert lets people know when you’re in trouble (or just at home) – Motorola Alert lets users trigger an “emergency mode,” which sends periodic location updates to selected contacts. As Android Central points out, these contacts don’t need to use a Motorola phone to get the updates. The app also includes a less-pressing Follow Me mode, which lets users send out alerts when they’ve arrived at designated locations, such as work or home. This could be helpful, for instance, to parents who want to know that their children have arrived at home safely without having to track their every move.


Bright Weather is a Lovely New Android Weather App from LevelUp Studio – There are few developers on Android more well-known that LevelUp Studio, developer of the phenomenally popular Beautiful Widgets. Its apps have long been a staple of the Android ecosystem, and today it’s branching out with a new weather app. Sure, there are plenty of competing weather apps, but this one is not ugly, which is a surprising rarity.


A battle in budget smartphones erupts in India – As people were licking their lips over the impending launch of the Moto E, Microsoft has attempted to blindside Motorola by introducing the Nokia Lumia 630 at the same time. Game on! gets new features, brings ‘undo’ button to your inbox – Not to be outdone by Gmail redesign rumors, Microsoft is introducing new features for its premier email service.  Over the next few weeks, your account will have access to advanced rule sets that allow you to meticulously create rules to make your most important emails, more noticeable.


Popcorn Time Is Now On Android – A popular fork of Popcorn Time just launched its Android app. Time4Popcorn’s Popcorn Time app is now available for consumption on the developer’s website and brings all of the program’s pirating tools to the mobile ecosystem. The Android app looks and feels like the desktop program, and sports the same access to pirated TV shows and movies. And just like its desktop counterpart, the Android version streams torrents. Your data plan is going to love it.


Google Glass now available to anyone in the US, for a hefty price – Google has just announced that the Explorer Edition of their Google Glass wearable computer will be available for purchase to anyone in the United States, for the low low price of $1,500.


Firefox UI revamp sparks complaints, searches for alternatives – It’s not unusual for users to howl at UI changes to long-familiar software — as Microsoft knows better than most after Windows 8 — but Mozilla can little afford to lose large numbers of users because of Australis. Firefox, which once had a solid lock on the No. 2 spot in Web metrics company Net Applications’ measurements of browser user share, slipped behind Google’s Chrome in March. At the end of April, Firefox accounted for 17% of all desktop browsers in use, while Chrome had a user share of 17.9%. Firefox has lost 3.3 percentage points of user share in the past 12 months, representing a decline of 16% from its April 2013 standing.


Microsoft Patch Tuesday Update Fixes IE, Windows Bugs Currently Under Attack – Microsoft released eight bulletins addressing 13 vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer, Windows, and Office as part of May’s Patch Tuesday update. Three of them are already being exploited in the wild, Microsoft said. While Microsoft did not release any patches for XP users, experts believe the issues affect the old operating system as well. Microsoft ended support for Windows XP last month, which means users no longer receive security patches for the old operating system. Enterprises who shelled out for extended support contracts will still receive updates.

Adobe Patches Acrobat, Reader, Flash and Illustrator – The update to Adobe Acrobat and Reader fixes 11 vulnerabilities in the Windows and Mac products. The update to Flash Player fixes five vulnerabilities in all versions of the product: Windows, Mac and Linux, including the versions embedded in Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. The Illustrator update addresses a single vulnerability in the Windows and Mac products.

Malware authors target Android phones – Researchers report the number of malicious apps available on the Google Play store continues to grow. Your best defense is a security app, a cautious approach to downloads, and a close eye on your bank and credit card statements.

Facebook encourages email providers to deploy STARTTLS encryption to block spy agencies – Facebook is pushing for more email providers to use STARTTLS, a technology that encrypts emails as they pass between servers and clients, after an analysis showed that any SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server that adds the feature now would start encrypting over half of its outbound email traffic.

You Love Easy Networking Device Setup, But So Do Scammers – With the “Internet of Things” explosion, companies are making devices that are much easier to set up and manage. That might sound like a good thing for consumers, but it can be dangerous. Here’s why.

Company News:

Google under antitrust investigation in India over AdWords – India’s antitrust agency has initiated an inquiry into Google’s termination of an AdWords account with a remote technology support business, after allegations that it was done to promote the Internet giant’s own services in the area. The Competition Commission of India said in a decision posted Tuesday that an investigation would be required to find out what prompted Google to take the action and whether or not the termination was legitimate.

Yahoo has another ‘acquihire’ in Blink, will shut service down – Messaging app Blink has been acquired by Yahoo. A self-destructing messaging platform like of Snapchat, Blink saw minimal success in the US but broadened their scope to reach other markets. The service, which will be shuttered, saw widespread adoption in the Middle East.

Sony expects $489m loss this year, as financial woes continue – The PlayStation-maker, which is one of the biggest tech companies in the world, has seen its fortunes eroded in recent years by competitors such as Samsung and Apple, and now expects to post of a loss of 50 billion (roughly $489.5m) in the current fiscal year, Reuters reports.

BlackBerry launches mid-range Z3 smartphone targeted towards Indonesia – BlackBerry has launched the mid-range Z3 smartphone which was first shown at MWC 2014, specifically targeted towards the Indonesian market with entry level specifications and a large screen.

BlackBerry opens up, allows other companies to manage BB10 devices – The move is evidence that the company wants to go cross-platform, and not stay within its own operating system.

Games and Entertainment:

Free games coming to Xbox One owners via Games for Gold in June – Microsoft is not waiting until E3 2014 to drop some major Xbox One news. In addition to announcing that it will sell a version of the console without the Kinect device for $399 in June, the company announced today an expansion of its Games for Gold program that will offer free games every month for the Xbox One as well as the Xbox 360. The company’s Xbox Wire website announced that Xbox One owners who have a paid Xbox Live Gold subscription will be able to download two games for free in June: “Halo: Spartan Assault” and “Max: The Curse of Brotherhood.”

Microsoft Will Ship A Kinect-Free Xbox One For $399 On June 9th – When the Xbox One was first announced, Microsoft casually mentioned that the Kinect would not just be included… but required. Eventually, and while cleaning up many other missteps of the Xbox One launch, Microsoft backed down. The Kinect would still be included in the box, but you wouldn’t have to plug it in if you didn’t want to. Now, they’re taking it one step further: if you don’t want a Kinect, you don’t ever have to own one. Beginning on June 9th, Microsoft will be shipping a $399 Xbox One with no Kinect included.


Off Topic (Sort of):

The Case For Censorship In The New Social Age – Intellectuals for centuries have campaigned against censorship. From Ben Franklin to John F. Kennedy to Justice Earl Warren, the argument has been much the same: Censorship is antithetical to democracy. More recently, megastar Jay-Z reiterated the point in his 2011 book, Decoded, writing simply that “we change people through conversation, not through censorship.” It’s pretty hard to argue with Jay-Z — let alone Franklin, Kennedy and Warren. But I find myself, uncomfortably, thinking more favorably about the concept of censorship as we in Silicon Valley grapple with the emergence of several social networks built around the concept of anonymity.

San Francisco woman pulled out of car at gunpoint because of license plate reader error – A lawsuit pertaining to the use of license plate readers in San Francisco illustrates how dangerous it can be when police officers turn off their eyes, ears, and brains, and mistakenly rely on imperfect technologies to tell them who’s up to no good. (recommended by Aseem S.)

Aerofex hoverbike could be yours by 2017 – Aerofex’s hoverbike made a pretty big splash when the company showed off its working prototype all the way back in 2012, but then it went eerily silent. Now, Aerofex has finally revealed a launch date and price: It’ll cost US$85,000 and ship in 2017, according to information on its website.


Could this shipwreck be Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria? – It’s a mystery over 500 years in the making. We’ve all heard the poetic phrase, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” He traveled with three ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. The third may have finally been found on the ocean floor off the coast of Haiti. If the discovery is confirmed, it could be a major archeological event.


Here’s how not to get sued when reviewing online products – Imagine you just purchased a shiny new wireless router from Amazon, only to discover that the product doesn’t work as you anticipated. To vent frustration and perhaps help others avoid the same mistake, you leave a negative product review—but some of your claims ultimately turn out to be incorrect or misleading. Now the company’s attorneys want to sue you for your “illegal campaign to damage, discredit, defame, and libel” it. Are you going down in flames? Or can you say what you want on the Internet? As with many areas of law, the answers are nuanced and complicated. Our primer, however, will help you avoid the obvious pitfalls.

Average Americans think they’re smarter than average Americans – YouGov poll shows 55 percent of Americans think they possess above average intelligence. A relief for the future of tech, surely.

Bring home the boozy bacon with whiskey-bred pigs – One distillery wants to make bacon even better (is that possible?) by turning regular pigs into tasty, whiskey-enhanced swine for salivating chefs and foodies.

Something to think about:

“What opinions the masses hold, or do not hold, is looked on as a matter of indifference. They can be granted intellectual liberty because they have no intellect.”

–    George Orwell, 1984

Today’s Free Downloads:

RegAuditor – RegAuditor gives you a quick look at the Adware, malware and spyware installed on your computer including parasites and trojans. RegAuditor tells you by colored icons ( green icon – safe, yellow icon – unknown, red icon – harmful ) whether specific Objects are known to be safe or harmful, also the program searches the registry for entries including filenames that aren’t present on and allows you to delete unwanted registry entries. The tool is designed with a user-friendly interface and is easy to use.


NetGear Genie – NetGear Genie is a dashboard to manage, monitor and repair your network. With it you can remotely control all media in your home from your smartphone/tablet with MyMedia, print on any printer from your iPad or iPhone with AirPrint, view all the devices on your network and more.


Glary Utilities – Glary Utilities is a smart and reliable application that offers numerous powerful and easy-to-use system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain and protect your PC.

It allows you to clean common system junk files, as well as invalid registry entries and Internet traces. You can manage and delete browser add-ons, analyze disk space usage and find duplicate files.

You can also view and manage installed shell extensions, encrypt your files from unauthorized access and use, split large files into smaller manageable files and then rejoin them.

Furthermore, Glary Utilities includes the options to optimize memory, find, fix, or remove broken Windows shortcuts, manage the programs that start at Windows startup and uninstall software. Other features include secure file deletion, an Empty Folder finder and more.

All Glary Utilities tools can be accessed through an eye-pleasing and totally simplistic interface.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Former NSA director: Having surveillance tools revealed puts U.S. in greater harm – Revelations about the surveillance programs operated by the NSA have made Americans wonder how much of their lives is being monitored by the government. Judy Woodruff sits down with retired Gen. Keith Alexander, former director of the National Security Agency, to discuss the impact of the Snowden leaks, what President Obama knew about spying programs and how to balance privacy with security. (You may view the PBS interview video – or, read the complete transcript.)

Canada actively spies for NSA, Glenn Greenwald claims in new book – Canada spies for the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and covers up its surveillance with widespread lies and obfuscation, according to a newly released book by American journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Greenwald received leaked highly classified NSA documents from Edward Snowden, a former NSA worker now in exile in Russia.

“Canada is also a very active partner with the NSA and an energetic surveillance force in its own right,” Greenwald writes in No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State.

Greenwald, who has received thousands of leaked NSA documents from Snowden, writes that electronic surveillance began under the presidency of George W. Bush and has accelerated in the Obama regime.

Greenwald writes that Communications Security Establishment Canada boasted of targeting the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy, and accuses the NSA of massive surveillance of its own citizens.

“The hacking practice is quite widespread in its own right: one NSA document indicates that the agency had succeeded in infecting at least fifty thousand individual computers with a type of malware called Quantum insertion,” writes Greenwald, a member of the team from The Guardian which, along with The Washington Post, were awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in public service.

Quoting from a top secret April 2013 NSA information paper, Greenwald writes: “There is evidence of widespread CSEC/NSA co-operation, including Canada’s efforts to set up spying posts for communications surveillance around the world at the behest and for the benefit of the NSA, and spying on trading partners targeted by the U.S. agency.”

NSA routinely tapped in-flight Internet, intercepted exported routers – In his new book No Place to Hide, Glenn Greenwald revealed a number of additional details on the “craft” and tools used by the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ. While many of the capabilities and activities Greenwald details in the book were previously published in reports drawing from Edward Snowden’s vast haul of NSA documents, a number of new pieces of information have come to light—including the NSA’s and GCHQ’s efforts to use airlines’ in-flight data service to track and surveil targeted passengers in real time.

The systems—codenamed “Homing Pigeon” by the NSA and “Thieving Magpie” by the GCHQ—allowed the agencies to track which aircraft individuals under surveillance boarded based on their phone data.

NSA backdoors my open networks to new threats, report says – Allegations that the NSA installed surveillance tools in U.S.-made network equipment, if true, could mean enterprises have more to worry about than just government spying.

While the U.S. government warned router buyers that the Chinese government might spy on them through networking gear made in China, the U.S. National Security Agency was doing that very thing, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper Monday.

The NSA physically intercepted routers, servers and other network equipment and installed surveillance tools before slapping on a factory seal and sending the products on to their destinations, according to the report, which is extracted from an upcoming book by Glenn Greenwald, a journalist who last year helped expose sensitive documents uncovered by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.


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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 14, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    “Firefox UI revamp sparks complaints, searches for alternatives”
    While I don’t like the new look all of those quoted in the article are moaning over APPEARANCE not FUNCTION. And as I mentioned to you with one of their previous updates Mozilla took away the section where you could disable photos and Java Script. Now THAT was serious yet, to my knowledge, there was no outcry as with this current release. If you may recall at the time Mozilla’s LAME excuse for this SECURITY compromise, was that people weren’t smart enough to use that function, that they would miss out on the “full excitement of the internet” or something like that.
    THAT and the ADVERTS coming make me wonder why they might have REALLY gotten rid of that fellow recently. Sad to say but one hesitates to TRUST these people frankly.
    With best wishes,

    • Hi Fred,

      You have every right to feel as you do – and, I’m sure that you won’t mind if I join you. 🙂

      As consumers, we’ve been forced to adjust to the Internet’s concept of what constitutes “trust.” Early on (20 years ago), I must admit that my trust level was fairly high – moderated by common sense, of course.

      Now that I’m an old dog, I automatically assume that I’m dealing with a lie – but broadly speaking, I find that an appropriate response to virtually all information broadcast by media.