Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 16, 2014

Microsoft: NSA and GCHQ are capable of monitoring ‘secure’ browsing using Tor;  Replacing physical tools with free smartphone apps;  Make the new Firefox look and act like the old Firefox;  Use QuickClick to add extra ‘buttons’ to your Android device;  Use reverse image search to avoid Craigslist scams;  Famatic Is A Social Photo Frame For Grandparents;  Surprise! Google chairman blasts EU’s privacy ruling;  Australia trails only the US in data requests; Spammy Ads That Hijack Your Smartphone Are Now A Virtual Plague;  Use reverse image search to avoid Craigslist scams;  Everything You Need to Know About Godzilla.

Microsoft: NSA and GCHQ are capable of monitoring ‘secure’ browsing using Tor – Microsoft has publicly warned that they do not believe the Tor browsing service, famed for allowing totally secure access to the most hidden areas of the internet and frequented by cyber-criminals, can withstand attempted break-ins from law-enforcement bodies such as the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ for much longer. Amidst claims that usage of Tor has increased by almost 50% since Edward Snowden’s revelations last year as to the extent of NSA internet snooping, Andy Malone of Microsoft Enterprise Security said.

Replacing physical tools with free smartphone apps – I recently spent some time hunting the Android and iTunes stores looking for free apps to replace physical tools or devices. I came up with an impressive list including a scanner, compass, level, flashlight, sound meter, measuring tool, metal detector, and universal remote. All are free, but some have paid upgraded versions with extra features or ad-free interfaces. Let’s take a look.

8 great Android 4.4 features you may have overlooked – Google made notable improvements to its latest operating system by adding a more polished design and placing an emphasis on efficiency. But some of the more interesting additions aren’t so obvious—you’ll have to scrape a few layers below the surface to find them. Take a spin through the following features see what KitKat is capable of.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Four ways to find free images to use legally with Google Apps – Unfortunately, people sometimes use images without proper credit, permission, or payment. In other words, people sometimes violate copyright law — and a copyright law violation may represent a material legal risk. Here’s a quick guide to finding images licensed for reuse in Google Apps and Chrome.

Use QuickClick to add extra ‘buttons’ to your Android device – The app tweaks your volume buttons for things like turning on the flashlight, sending messages, and running apps.


Meet Cider, the platform that puts iOS apps on Android – Imagine a world where you don’t have to choose between Android and iOS. That’s the goal behind Cider, an operating system compatibility architecture developed by computer science students at Columbia University. The project essentially makes iOS apps compatible with Android, regardless of the fact that apps from the two ecoystems are developed in entirely different coding platforms.


Typist app shows you whether or not you have the right Android keyboard – There’s no shortage of third party keyboard apps on Android, but how do you know for sure that the keyboard you have chosen is the best one for you? The Typist is an app that settles things once and for all by giving you a moderated environment in which you can test each keyboard.


Famatic Is A Social Photo Frame For Grandparents – In the age of social media and endless baby photos clogging up your Facebook feed, Dutch startup Famatic is another attempt at a hardware/software combination to help seniors — or grandparents, specifically — stay connected to family members with an easy way to access content shared. Its solution, a “social” photo frame that can be detached from its stand and used like a tablet, is currently mid-Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $75,000 in total, with early backers in the U.S. picking up the device for $189.


Google Gets New Requests To Be ‘Forgotten’ Following Ruling, Plans Request Mechanism For Germany – Google has already started to see a stream of new requests to be digitally “forgotten,” following a ruling by the European Court of Justice on a complaint by a Spanish man seeking to have results related to his name and a property closure removed from the search engine were successful. It’s not a good sign for Mountain View; these requests could quickly become a big new headache for the search provider to deal with, especially if these initial requests are representative of what’s to follow.

This single screeenshot shows why iOS is years behind Android in usability – When it comes to home screen flexibility, the iPhone is even less flexible than the Palm handhelds were back in the 1990s. By comparison, iOS is positively regressive.


Surprise! Google chairman blasts EU’s privacy ruling: Press slavishly reports that take-down requests will engulf ad giant – Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt has attacked judges in the European Union’s top court, who ruled earlier this week that the ad giant can be held responsible for the type of personal data that appears on its results pages. The multinational was shocked by the decision, which – in effect – ordered Google to respect existing privacy laws in the 28-member states’ bloc.

Firefox 29 review: Stalwart browser gets a magnificent makeover – Firefox updates appear fairly regularly, but for the most part they’re mundane. You get a message saying it’s checking plug-in compatibility, it finds no issues (mostly), then it’s business as usual with no obvious changes. Ho-hum. Back to work. Not this time. I guess that with 30 approaching the Mozilla folks felt it was time for a makeover. Or perhaps they wanted to make Firefox more accessible for people cross-grading from Internet Explorer or Chrome. Whatever the reason, Firefox 29 is a decidedly non-boring upgrade. It delivers an entirely re-tuned interface that’s easy on the eye and easier to use. (What a load of tripe! In the few days I’ve been running with this abomination of an upgrade (actually, an upgrade over an upgrade), I’ve had three browser crashes, and one complete system lockup. Yeah, a “magnificent makeover” for sure.) 

Make the new Firefox look and act like the old Firefox – I’ve been doing my best to like Firefox 29, but try as I might, I am not enjoying the latest version of Mozilla’s browser all that much. And the thing is slow; on my admittedly aging MacBook Pro, it has been freezing at a much greater rate than the previous version, and Firefox 28 wasn’t great in this regard. I want my old Firefox back, or at least some parts of it. I found an extension that offers a host of options to tweak the look and feel of Firefox 29, though I don’t have any tips on how to speed it up. The extension in question is Classic Theme Restorer. It offers a great many settings, and most of the time you can experiment with a setting without restarting Firefox. To access all that the extension can do, open your Add-ons page in Firefox and click the Preferences button for Classic Theme Restorer.


Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Adobe restores Creative Cloud login service after day-long outage – The problem with the subscription service, which blocked updates, purchases, and in some case use of Adobe’s software, is fixed, and Adobe apologizes.


‘Quick Facts’ Feature Turns Google Maps into Your Personal Tour Guide – Google announced Wednesday that it has added a new feature to its Maps service that turns it into something of an informative guide. Users can already click on notable landmarks and buildings for directions and addresses, but now many places feature a “quick facts” section with information about the location. The details vary in each place, but Maps can generally give you the basics.


Target, other retailers join cyber intelligence sharing co-op – A bevy of retailers have allied to share information on their cyber-security efforts, which should help stem the tide of black-hat hacks like the massive data breach that affected Target last year. The Retail Cyber Intelligence Sharing Center has some of the heaviest hitters in retail, but some who have been affected are abstaining from membership — for now.

Spammy Ads That Hijack Your Smartphone Are Now A Virtual Plague – So-called ad redirects that unexpectedly hawk you apps or porn are everywhere—and there’s very little we can do about them.

9 Tech Firms Receive Perfect Scores In EFF Ranking Concerning Data Protection From The Government – Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Dropbox were each awarded perfect scores in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) yearly scoring of major tech companies’ practices when it comes to protecting user data from government eyes. The six companies posted various improvements in the year interval regarding their work to defend user privacy. Twitter and repeated their perfect 2013 scores this year.

New ‘malvertisements’ need to be stopped now, Senate report says – The current state of online advertising endangers the security and privacy of users and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission should force the industry to offer better protections through comprehensive regulation, the U.S. Senate said in a report. The report includes findings and recommendations of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs following an investigation into the distribution of malware through online ads—also known as “malvertising.” It was followed by a hearing Thursday that included testimony from Yahoo and Google about their efforts to combat such threats.

Use reverse image search to avoid Craigslist scams – Does that apartment or vacation rental seem too good to be true? Do some snooping with Google’s reverse image search tool to find out – If you are using the Chrome browser, you can right-click on the picture of the house in the ad and select “Search Google for this Image.” You’ll be taken to a Google Images results page, where you’ll find out information that can include a guess as to its location along with any pages Google found that include matching images. If the image shows up in other sources or in ads for different locations, the listing may not be entirely on the up-and-up.


Company News:

Microsoft Dives Into Home Automation With Insteon Deal – If you happen to have an Insteon setup at home for controlling your lights and appliances — and you’re a big Microsoft fan — then you’re in luck. A brand-new Insteon app is arriving for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 starting June 1. With it comes some exclusive-to-Microsoft features. The move will also put Insteon home products into Microsoft retail stores (and on, which is the first such time that Microsoft has officially dabbled in selling home automation devices.

Nintendo sued, faces possible sales ban on all Wii units – Nintendo is being sued by Philips in Delaware, and the crux of the case may really hit hard. There are two patents in question, and both relate to what makes a Wii so great: motion detection. If successful in this suit, Philips may deal a deft body shot right to Nintendo as they’re trying to get up off the canvas.

Bitcoin startup Circle unveils no-fee digital currency banking – Financial services company aims to provide a secure, insured banking service that will take the cryptocurrency mainstream.


FSF slams Mozilla for ‘shocking’ Firefox DRM ankle-grab – The Free Software Foundation says it is “deeply disappointed” in Mozilla’s decision to support digital rights management (DRM) software in future versions of its Firefox browser and has published an open letter condemning the move. In an editorial posted Wednesday evening, the FSF characterized that choice as “unfortunate” and “shocking”, and said Mozilla risked compromising the principles that set it apart from other browser makers.

Microsoft signs up two more manufacturers for Windows Phone – Back in February, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Microsoft announced that it had signed up nine new hardware partners to Windows Phone. At its BUILD conference in April, the company added two more names – Micromax and Prestigio – to that list. And that list just keeps on growing, as Microsoft has confirmed that a further two manufacturers will soon launch new Windows Phones. LiveSino reports that MS announced the new partners at the Qualcomm Reference Design and Wireless Innovation Summit in China.

Games and Entertainment:

‘Far Cry 4’ to be released November 18 – The game will be set in a wild region within the Himalayas known as Kyrat which is undergoing hardships due to a self-appointed king. It will offer a vast selection of weapons, as well as animals and is set in an open-world. Executive producer, Dan Hay had stated that “Given the unique setting, we feel Far Cry 4 will stand out as a top first-person shooter and we’re eager to reveal more about the game in the coming months.”


Xbox series will bring ‘true interaction with real history’ – Xbox Entertainment Studios are producing a drama/documentary with each episode showing a different time in history. However that’s not all, as the series producer, Stephen David, says the show will feature interactive elements for users to enjoy, developed with undisclosed Xbox technology. According to David it’s like “playing television – true interaction with real history”. The series “will also introduce a new, interactive technology that will bring fight scenes to life in a way never before seen in television” added a Microsoft spokesperson.


Wolfenstein: The New Order has a 7.3GB day one patch – Wolfenstein: The New Order, which hilariously has a special edition available that is so special it doesn’t come with the game, has day one patches larger than 5GB for all platforms, according to a blogger who got an early copy of the game. The patch for the PS4 and PC are 5GB, while the patch for the Xbox One is an even more surprising 7.3GB. Now, it’s likely that the game isn’t riddled with so many crippling bugs that the patches exist solely to address 5GB or 7.3GB of bugs. The patches could simply rewrite minuscule portions of larger files, and it’s just easier to patch the game by forcing the player to rewrite the entirety of the files even though they largely remain unchanged.


Titanfall DLC “Expedition” Review – Three new Titanfall maps for a ten-spot – not a half-bad deal, right? That’s what you’ll get with the very first DLC for the Titanfall franchise – one called “Expedition” – three maps called Swamplands, Runoff, and Wargames. Today we’ve got a bit of a preview for those of you that’ve not yet taken the leap and a bit of judgement for those with a ten dollar bill burning a hole in their pocket as well.


Everything You Need to Know About Godzilla – Whether you’re new to the ways of the kaiju, or an old fan of guys in rubber suits destroying models, here are the facts you need to know before you hit the Cineplex.


Off Topic (Sort of):

FCC votes 3-2 to develop new net neutrality rules for U.S ISPs – The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 today to create new rules designed to cover Internet speeds for ISPs in the U.S. but could still allow for them to create “fast lanes” for net access.

Thomas Edison and the Cult of Sleep Deprivation – For some, sleep loss is a badge of honor, a sign that they don’t require the eight-hour biological reset that the rest of us softies do. Others feel that keeping up with peers requires sacrifice at the personal level—and at least in the short-term, sleep is an invisible sacrifice. The problem has accelerated with our hyper-connected lives, but it isn’t new. Purposeful sleep deprivation originates from the lives and adages of some of America’s early business tycoons.

Take a hypnotic spin through 136 years of visual effects – It’s a shame early visual-effects pioneers aren’t alive today to see what they started, but you can. Take three minutes out for one dizzying ride through the evolution of VFX.


Geek Answers: Why can animals eat raw meat, but we can’t? – We’ve all seen video of carnivorous animals chowing down on raw, unprocessed meat straight from the bone. Why would we probably get sick, but animals needn’t worry?

Skeletal remains suggest Americans have one ancestral origin – Found in what was a Peninsula some 12,000 years ago, the remains of a young girl may hold clues to where the earliest of Americans came from. Carbon dating and DNA extrusion helped to pinpoint the timeframe of her demise, and further studies suggest our ancestors’ ancestors may not have come from where we think.


Something to think about:

“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.”

–     Daniel J. Boorstin

Today’s Free Downloads:

Stunt Rally – Stunt Rally game with Track Editor, features 153 tracks in 24 scenarios with 19 vehicles available. It focuses on closed rally tracks with possible stunt elements (jumps, loops, pipes).

Game Modes:

Single Race – with 153 Tracks to drive on, in 24 sceneries – over 4 hours to drive all

Ghost drive – chase your best time car on track

Track’s ghost – best drive for track, a green ghost car ES, on all tracks (not reversed)

Replays – save your drive and watch it from other cameras later

Tutorials – few short and easy tracks to show various track elements

Championships – usually long series of tracks, drive to get higher score, if too low repeat a stage

Challenges – few tracks, quite difficult to pass, game already set up.

Drive with no mistakes to win bronze, silver or gold prize.

Split Screen – 2 to 4 players on 1 screen (requires a good GPU, it’s best to reduce graphics options)

Multiplayer – single races over internet, in-game chat.


MediaHuman YouTube to MP3 Converter – You like to listen to music on YouTube or Vimeo and want to save it for offline playing. Or you want to download soundtrack of a new movie. Then MediaHuman YouTube to MP3 Converter is the best choice for you.

Better than online converters

Downloads highest available quality

YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, Dailymotion, VEVO

Simultaneous downloads

Simple tag editor

Allows saving in original quality

Playlist support

Importing to iTunes



A great little application – simple – fast. (Screen captures are from my system.)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Cisco’s NSA problem is going to whack all of US tech’s growth plans – Cisco’s emerging markets business—the engine for the networking giant’s future growth—continues to take a hit and that situation isn’t likely to change now that it’s common knowledge that the NSA has been intercepting routers—and other IT gear—in the supply chain so it can install call-home beacons.

These “upgrade” stations, which have generated a good bit of chatter, were revealed in Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide. You can find the docs supporting Greenwald’s book on his site even though links to the actual source information are hard to come by in the tech press.

According to the leaked docs, the NSA was really pleased with itself because it could intercept packages.

Australia trails only the US in data requests – Australian authorities asked tech companies for more user data last year than their counterparts in any other country barring the United States, a compilation of “transparency reports” reveals.

Australian authorities made 52,017 requests for user data from companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft — or 2,870 for every million internet users.

That was more than authorities in Germany, France, and the UK, but less than those in the US, which made a hefty 784,511 requests.

The figures are found in a new database created by online information-sharing site Silk, which groups all available transparency reports.

Most major tech firms now release the reports to try to shine a light on how government agencies use telecommunications data during investigations.

The reports usually disclose the number of user data requests companies have received in six-month increments.

The user data includes the basics, such as names, addresses, and email addresses, though in rarer cases may include sensitive information such as the content of emails. The information is largely sought in the course of criminal investigations and occasionally in emergency situations, such as a suicide threat.

Tech companies have a right to contest the requests, as they did successfully in 85 percent of Australian cases.

The vast majority of Australian requests — some 40,000 — were made to Telstra, which released its first ever transparency report in March.

Microsoft received 4,738 Australian requests, Google 4,037, Yahoo 1,312, and Facebook 1,149.

Should we force governments to get a court order before they can conceal zero-day flaws? – In a bid to restore foreign buyers’ trust in IT vendors’ products, Cisco has called for spy agencies to be forced to disclose security flaws to the affected vendor, unless a court decides otherwise.

“Governments should have policies requiring that product security vulnerabilities that are detected be reported promptly to manufacturers for remediation, unless a court finds a compelling reason for a temporary delay. By the same token, governments should not block third parties from reporting such vulnerabilities to manufacturers,” Cisco’s general counsel Mark Chandler said this week in a company blogpost.

The proposal would be a reversal of the current way the National Security Agency determines whether or not to disclose security flaws in vendors’ software, hardware and services. As things stand now, the NSA makes such decisions with no independent oversight.

Having a third party decide on disclosures might have reduced the harm the NSA’s spying revelations are thought to have had on Cisco’s business in China and emerging economies. Analysts believe Cisco has been disproportionately affected by the claims.

Cisco’s proposal follow claims in journalist Glen Greenwald’s new book that the NSA intercepts networking equipment from US vendors destined for overseas customers.

Though Cisco wasn’t mentioned in the relevant section of the book, Chandler said the company should be able to rely on the government not to intercept its products.

“We comply with US laws, like those of many other countries, which limit exports to certain customers and destinations; we ought to be able to count on the government to then not interfere with the lawful delivery of our products in the form in which we have manufactured them,” Chandler wrote.



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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 16, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    “Microsoft: NSA and GCHQ are capable of monitoring ‘secure’ browsing using Tor”

    A few years ago I read an article about a Professor in I think Michigan, who was using Tor from his office, the next day 2 agents from U.S. NAVAL INTELLIGENCE came to his office and questioned him. Yeah that Tor is REAL SNEAKY, I’ve never trusted it, ever.

    “Surprise! Google chairman blasts EU’s privacy ruling: Press slavishly reports that take-down requests will engulf ad giant}”

    I trust those two guys that founded Google as much as I trust Mark Zuckerberg.

    “Firefox 29 review: Stalwart browser gets a magnificent makeover”

    There is an old saying: IF IT AIN’T BROKE DON’T FIX IT.

    “FSF slams Mozilla for ‘shocking’ Firefox DRM ankle-grab”

    This sure isn’t the Mozilla we all loved and used. I used to be amazed at how a group of intelligent people with expertise FREELY worked to provide the people with an excellent alternative to IE. But it sure does seem that such folks are getting to be less and less and more and more people sell out for money. Of course this is not limited to browsers or computer related stuff, humanity in general it seems to be…

    “Wolfenstein: The New Order has a 7.3GB day one patch”

    Well on behalf of those of us who use DIAL-UP on OLD computers I can only say OMG!!!

    “Everything You Need to Know About Godzilla”

    Bill, I honestly thought this was about a new browser…

    Wishing you a great weekend and thanking you for all you do,

    • Hi Fred,

      I get ya. The Snowden/NSA fiasco has been a positive experience, on the whole, given that the level of trust on the Internet has been decimated. Despite long standing attempts by users like you and I to convince less sophisticated users to “trust” – but only after verification – typical users went merrily on their way convinced by their own prejudices, that they were safe from prying eyes. Oh the shock of it all, huh? 🙂

      Schmidt is an idiot! It’s always amazed me, how it is, that a single lucky break – which leads to idol worship – magically spins out a “whole” person who’s every word is savored as if mana from heaven. Schmidt is one of the best BS spinners I’ve every seen.

      There may be no connection – but, I’m curious if these recent unpopular decisions from Mozilla would have been made, if the previous CEO (fired for exercising his right to free speech – the whole gay thing), was still at the helm. Just a thought.

      A 7.3GB day one patch is patently ridiculous – but, it pales in comparison to some recent games “patches” that have exceeded 20/30/40 GB.

      “Everything You Need to Know About Godzilla” – Bill, I honestly thought this was about a new browser.” lol! I can understand the momentary confusion. After all, Comodo has it’s representation in the “silly name game” – Comodo “Dragon”. 🙂