Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 19, 2014

How to make free VoIP calls on Android — without Google;  How Do I Submit Net Neutrality Comments?  AdBlock Plus – sucking up gigabytes of your RAM? Google: “we need more time to ‘forget’ people”;  Apps that make your phone a wallet;  Top 5 Android smartphones: Nearly perfect – in different ways;  Are your CDs dying?  Google Now adds bill pay reminders;  Gmail tips you might not know about;  FCC study shows cable pricing outpaces inflation 4:1;  Play with a virtual Rubik’s Cube on Google;  AT&T To Acquire DirecTV For Nearly $50B; Microsoft now rolling out May Xbox One system update to all consoles.

People Are Already Scrambling to Get Their Past Scrubbed From Google – Just three days after the European Union’s high court ruled that citizens have a right to request search engines remove information about them from search results, people are already lining up to have unsavory bits of their history scrubbed from Google’s servers

How to make free VoIP calls on Android — without Google – The free calling is available through both the free-and-ad-supported Groove IP app and the $5 pro version of the program. Both versions of the app integrate nicely with the native Android dialer and allow you to set up rules for when VoIP-based calling will kick in.

AdBlock Plus Firefox plugin could be sucking up gigabytes of your RAM – Mozilla has revealed that one of the most popular Firefox plugins, AdBlock Plus, can potentially consume megabytes, or even gigabytes, of RAM on users’ machines during browsing. The issue has not been noted in the Internet Explorer or Google Chrome versions of AdBlock Plus.

Definitely deleted: How to guarantee your data is truly gone before recycling old PCs and drives – Deleted files can often be recovered, and that’s a problem when you’re passing your PC or PC-related tech along to someone else. Whether it’s sensitive financial data, business documents, or scandalous photos that could be used to blackmail you, you probably don’t want people getting their hands on your private stuff. Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your data, whether you’re getting rid of a PC, external hard drive, or USB stick. Here’s how! (And here’s how to wipe mobile devices clean.)

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to Build a Home Entertainment Network – “Watching TV” no longer means lounging on the couch. Today you can get entertainment — movies, music, television, and more — no matter where you are: sitting at your computer, standing in the kitchen with a mobile device in hand, or, yes, sitting in front of your TV. It isn’t a complicated setup. With a few simple pieces of equipment, you can use your computer network as a next-generation entertainment hub.

Are your CDs dying? – Commercially reproduced CDs — the kind from major music labels — are manufactured using a physical stamping on the plastic which is given a metallic coating to reflect the laser light – a physical imprint on the media. Writable CDs and most writable DVDs and Blu-rays use a chemical organic dye layer that is inherently unstable and will often die within five years. If you haven’t already ripped your treasured CDs yet, now’s the time! Whether you pick a lossless codec or high quality mp3, you can’t rely on a commercial CD’s quality to protect music you love.

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The one of the right is totally destroyed, while the one on the left is still playable. Why?

Play with a virtual Rubik’s Cube on Google – To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the iconic puzzle, Google is hosting an interactive virtual version on its homepage. The Doodle is currently live on the Google Australia home page, and will be live around the rest of the world as the clock ticks over to 19 May. After that, you should be able to find it in the Google Doodle archive.

Top 5 Android smartphones: Nearly perfect – in different ways – There are lots of excellent Android smartphones and after spending considerable time with five of them I offer pros and cons for each to help you narrow down your choices.

Apps that make your phone a wallet – Free mobile payment apps keep popping up in the major app stores.  Some apps, like the new Nordstrom Rack app for iOS, work like typical online purchases using a credit card, but with the credit card number stored on a smartphone or tablet.  Some online stores even offer free delivery. Other apps work with in-store payments by using barcodes, like the Starbucks app. Some apps, such as those from Isis or Google Wallet, use near-field communication (NFC) chips that work with a variety of retailers, mainly on Android phones, or with the iPhone and a special smartphone NFC sleeve. Americans still love credit cards and cash, but payment apps are gaining steam. Here are some worth knowing about.

Swarm Makes Foursquare Meetups Simpler on iOS and Android – Foursquare has been one of the most popular location-aware social apps on mobile devices for years now, but the company is trying something a little different with the new Swarm app on iOS and Android. Rather than being centered on locations, Swarm focuses on the people you know before the places you go.

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Adidas to Let Buyers Customize Shoes With Instagram Shots – A brand-new app, coming in August, will let potential purchasers customize their ZX Flux shoes with their Instagram pictures. Adidas hasn’t offered up any more news than that, so we’re at a bit of a loss for how the app itself might work — which includes the entire shoe-buying process as-is. We can only presume that you won’t be able to head down to your local Adidas retail store with the app in tow; it’s more likely that the app will allow you to order the shoes online for shipping.

How Do I Submit Net Neutrality Comments? – The FCC says it wants to hear from you on net neutrality. But how do you do that? Here are all the details.

Google Maps adds elevation data for cyclists braving the hills – Google has quietly added elevation data to bike routes in its Maps service, providing better intel for intrepid cyclists. The feature, which launched Friday, seems to work for much of the U.S. and Canada. Google says Maps already factored in elevation when determining routes for cyclists, but until now the elevation data wasn’t made easily visible.

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Google: “we need more time to ‘forget’ people” – After the top European court’s ruling last Tuesday, any individual living in the EU can ask Google to remove results linking to pages containing personal details from their search results. Since then, Google has reportedly been flooded with such requests from people eager to effectively vanish from the public internet.  Potentially, it could take months before people actually see links to personal details of theirs removed from Google’s search results.

Google’s Hangouts gets an Outlook plugin, full integration – Hangouts, Google’s silver-bullet replacement for all their communication platforms, is coming to Outlook. Via Google Enterprise, we learn that a plugin for Outlook now makes it possible to start, join, or otherwise manage Hangouts from within the Microsoft enterprise service.

Google Now adds bill pay reminders – Google Now is a handy service for those who utilize it, dishing up data cards for things the user needs without being prompted. A new feature rolling out for the service will expand its handiness, adding bill reminders into the mix.

Getting started with read-it-later apps Instapaper and Pocket – Today, I’m going to introduce you to Instapaper and Pocket, two popular read-it-later apps. Both do essentially the same thing: Save articles and blog posts in a text-centric, distraction-free format for later consumption on your PC, smartphone, or tablet.That said, there are slight differences between the two that you’ll want to be aware of when choosing your preferred app.

Gmail tips you might not know about – The flagship feature in Google Apps, Gmail remains one of the enterprise’s favorite cloud-based email services. Here are six tips and tricks to increase your productivity.

Security:

“Stains of deceitfulness”: Inside the US government’s war on tech support scammers – PCCare247 collected millions of dollars in ill-gotten fees. But the FTC fought back – Sitting in front of her PC, the phone in her hand connected to a tech support company half a world away, Sheryl Novick was about to get scammed. The company she had reached, PCCare247, was based in India but had built a lucrative business advertising over the Internet to Americans, encouraging them to call for tech support. After glimpsing something odd on her computer, Novick did so. The scam was about to begin.

Kaspersky Lab finds more fake apps in Windows Phone Store, including “Virus Shield” – In March, Microsoft removed a number of fake apps from its Windows Phone Store that were made to make people think they were created by Google. Now the security firm Kaspersky Lab has discovered even more fake apps have been published in the store, all uploaded by the same person or group, including another version of the now infamous “Virus Shield”. In a blog post, the firm said they first discovered the apps when they found a “Kaspersky Mobile” listing in the Russian version of the Windows Phone Store. The company does not offer any products with that name.

Attack of the clones: detect fake antimalware with these tips – Security researchers have been stressing the dramatic rise in mobile malware for a few years now—which naturally leads to more users downloading and using some sort of mobile antimalware app. But now even malware protection has become a risk: last month the popular Virus Shield Android app was outed as fraud, and this week Kaspersky announced the discovery of a pair of fake apps using its name in the Google and Windows Phone app stores.

Blackshades hacking collective raided – The hacking collective behind the remote access tool (RAT) called Blackshades has been raided by the FBI and applicable foreign law enforcement agencies. The raids are said by sources to be taking place at the homes of those involved with the software globally.

Company News:

AT&T To Acquire DirecTV For Nearly $50B – As has been rumored for the past few weeks, AT&T has just officially announced their plans to acquire DirecTV. The terms of the deal came together at roughly $95 per share, which comes to a grand total of $48.5 billion dollars. If you add in the nearly $19B worth of debt that DirecTV is towing behind it, though, this deal sets AT&T back to a tune closer to $67 billion.

Autodesk introduces Spark, an open 3D-printing platform – Autodesk is making a bold attempt to finally push 3D-printing technology well into the mainstream by introducing an open software platform called Spark and its own 3D printer. The open nature of the platform is undeniably one of the key interesting things about it. Some commentators have already compared Spark to Android, which took niche technology and made it accessible to the masses. Not only will the software be licensable to hardware manufacturers, but the design of the printer will be made available to any who should want it, in the hope that it will encourage “further development and experimentation.”

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Apple And Google Agree To Dismiss All Direct Legal Action Between Themselves – Apple and Google announced that they have agreed to dismiss direct lawsuits aimed at one another, and will work together to help push patent reform forward. It’s a huge change for the two companies, which compete on everything from music sales, to productivity tools, to cloud storage, to mobile app distribution, and so forth. According to a source speaking to GigaOm, about 20 lawsuits will go dark.

Facebook is building a competitor to photo and video-sharing service Snapchat – The social network Facebook is rumoured to be building its own rival to the popular Snapchat photo and video-messaging service after an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the company last year. According to the Financial Times, the finished app could be ready for release on the major smartphone platforms by the end of this month and is being developed under the name of ‘Slingshot’. Although the title could change before it hits the app stores, Slingshot is an interesting name that could perhaps point towards Zuckerberg’s ambitions – to ‘slingshot’ past Snapchat and gain the market lead. It also resonates with Snapchat and so is easy for people to associate themselves with.

Google buys the maker of Word Lens, the augmented reality translation app – Google has just snapped up one of the most futuristic apps to come along in some time. Quest Visual, the maker of the incredible Word Lens app, posted on its website that it has been acquired by Google. Word Lens is (was?) an augmented reality translation app. As you can see in the video, just point your phone camera at a supported foreign language, and Word Lens replaces the foreign text with translated text. The plan is to move the team over to Google Translate where Quest Visual will work on integrating its technology into Google’s app.

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Old writers are boring? Library scans Oscar Wilde’s sodomy defamation suit – After hearing that a set of English teachers believe 82 percent of their students have a hard time identifying with Victorian- and Romantic-era writers, the British Library created an archive of “literary treasures” for students to explore. Materials like early manuscripts, documents from trials, and articles and photos from the period make up the archive, which launched Friday. One example of the materials meant to pique students’ interest is a set of papers from Oscar Wilde’s 1895 trial, a defamation lawsuit over charges of sodomy.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft now rolling out May Xbox One system update to all consoles – Microsoft has begun the rollout of its latest system update for its Xbox One console to all owners of the device. The May update was previously released to a select few testers as part of Microsoft’s early access program.

Respawn Entertainment releases mobile app for Titanfall – Respawn Entertainment has released a free companion application for its popular game, Titanfall. The application is meant to enhance gameplay by offering players a more in-depth experience and is currently available for Windows Phone, iOS and Android.

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Crytek developer says 8GB of RAM in current consoles may not be enough – Sean Tracy at Crytek USA says that “8 gigs can easily be filled up,” due to concerns over memory constraints.  He added that “games will quickly hit the ceiling of a few gigs of ram.”

First concept art from Halo 5 Guardians released, game will use new graphics engine – A few hours ago, Microsoft officially announced that the title of their first original Halo game for the Xbox One console will be Halo 5: Guardians. Now, the official Halo website has posted the first concept artwork for the game along with a few more hints about what players can expect when it comes out in the fall of 2015.

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Report: Microsoft to release compilation of Halo HD remakes for Xbox One this year – Microsoft may have just announced announced “Halo 5: Guardians,” but if a new report is accurate, it has much bigger plans for the franchise’s future on Xbox One. According to a report by Engadget, Microsoft will release high-definition remakes of “Halo: Combat Evolved,” “Halo 2,” “Halo 3” and “Halo 4” in a single package for the Xbox One entitled “Halo: The Master Chief Collection” sometime this year. Engadget states it doesn’t know who the game’s developer will be, though it hypothesizes that Saber Interactive, developer of the Xbox 360 remake “Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary,” may be the studio responsible.

Off Topic (Sort of):

FCC study shows cable pricing outpaces inflation 4:1 – With Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, part of the FCC’s concern is plan pricing. Though a Comcast executive couldn’t tell the FCC prices would go down, he did suggests the price hikes would slow. A recent study by the FCC shows that may be necessary, as cable bill pricing outpaced inflation by four-to-one.

How Tom Wheeler’s FCC plan will wreck your Internet – FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal is brilliant because it takes the U.S. as far away from net neutrality as possible by presenting the killing of net neutrality and making it sound like the opposite.

Whoops! Emory University server sent reformat request to all of its Windows 7 PCs – Sometimes, there are incidents that take place that remind people who use PCs to back up their files on a regular basis. Such an event happened earlier this week at Emory University in Atlanta, where an “accident” resulted in a server sending out a reformat request to all of the Windows 7 PCs at the school, including the server that sent out the request itself.

We Feel builds a real-time map of the world’s emotions – What could you do with information that shows how the world might be feeling at any given time? Australia’s depression research facility Black Dog Institute and scientific research organisation CSIRO hope that it could be used to obtain crucial information to predict how social, economic and environmental factors impact our emotions. They have developed WeFeel — a web tool that scans millions of tweets daily in real-time to display a global map of our emotions.

Cloud computing is FAIL and here’s why: Stick that online service up your SaaS – Adobe’s spectacular FAIL over the last 48 hours confirmed, rather than revealed, cloud computing to be so unreliable as to be positively dangerous. Cloud computing is shite. It takes over everything you’ve got, then farts in your face and runs away giggling.

New York calls for ban on face scrub microbeads – Small size and buoyancy means they can escape capture by water treatment plants. The beads go on to act as “sponges for toxic chemical pollutants” and are mistaken for food by aquatic organisms. This means that the pollutants can enter the food chain and contaminate fish that humans eat, as well as birds, turtle,s and mammals.

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Net neutrality foes outspent backers by over three to one – and that’s just so far: Lobbying efforts quite one-sided, say monitors – The companies who oppose net-neutrality regulations are pumping far more resources into their lobbying efforts than those who support the measures. This is according to the Sunlight Foundation, a non-partisan government watchdog that has tracked both spending and lobbying reports on the issue in recent years. The group said in a blog post, issued shortly after the FCC announced its proposal for new net neutrality regulations, that the top donors opposed to stronger regulations – including AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast – outspent open-internet advocates such as Google at a rate of more than three to one.

NYPD uses GPS-enabled pill bottle to catch alleged drugstore robber – A man robs a drugstore on the Upper East Side in New York. Police quickly track him down because the OxyContin bottle he was given was actually a dummy bottle equipped with GPS. A gun battle ensued and the man, 45-year-old Scott Kato, was shot dead.

Something to think about:

“Over the last quarter-century economics has been spectacularly unsuccessful in its attempts to apply its models and theories to the reality of our civilization. Its not that the economists advice hasn’t been taken. It has, in great detail, with great reverence. And in general, it has failed.”

–   John Ralston Saul (The Unconscious Civilization)

Today’s Free Downloads:

Homedale – With Homedale you can monitor the signal strength of multiple WLAN Access Points.

You can view a summary of all available access points with their:

signal strength

encryption [WEP/WPA/WPA2]

speed

channel

other settings

You can also see the signal strength of selected access points in a graph over the time. With a right mouse click, you can start logging and create a screenshot. Homedale is freeware. However, if you enjoy using Homedale and would like to help support its development, please consider making a donation.

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Sandboxie – Run programs in an isolated space which prevents them from making permanent changes to other programs and data in your computer.

Sandboxie requires neither the disabling nor blocking of functions available to Web sites through the browser. Instead, Sandboxie isolates and quarantines the outcome of whatever the Web site may do to your computer, including the installation of unsolicited software. There is no trade-off of functionality for security: the Web site can use the full range of active content tools, and if it uses these tools maliciously to install software or otherwise make changes in your computer, then these changes can be easily undone.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Privacy concerns are driving an enormous spike in encrypted internet traffic – If it’s really true that you need not worry about surveillance unless you have nothing to hide, then it would seem that an enormous proportion of the internet-going public has secrets worth hiding. A new global internet report from the Sandvine research group has sparked interest thanks to analysis by TorrentFreak. In short: the use of encryption on the internet has risen enormously in the past year, presumably in response to fears over surveillance — both governmental and otherwise.

The raw data, being somewhat hidden in the report’s many tables, was not particularly highlighted by Sandvine itself, but tells a story all the same. Last year’s report pegged encrypted traffic at roughly 2.29% in North America, while this year that figure is 3.80% — taking into account the increases in overall internet usage, this likely represents more than double the overall volume of encrypted traffic, year over year. Mobile devices hosted a similar shift toward encrypted data transfers, with last year’s 4.88% now coming it at 7.25% for North American customers.

The NSA, Cisco, And The Issue Of Interdiction – It’s been a hectic week of NSA news in light of Glenn Greenwald’s recently published book, which furthered the revelation that the NSA intercepts (interdicts) hardware from US companies. The agency then reportedly compromises the equipment before it is delivered to overseas customers.

Published pictures imply that Cisco technology is part of the class of equipment captured in-transit, before it is received by foreign buyers, and weakened so that the NSA might have greater insight into activity that it helps maintain. In short, the NSA is allegedly hacking American hardware that is sold abroad.

This is akin to what the United States government has warned that Chinese companies are doing on behalf of their local government.

Today, a letter from Cisco CEO John Chambers enjoyed wide circulation. It states that if the NSA revelations are correct, and the pictures accurate, the actions of the agency “undermine confidence in our industry and in the ability [of] technology companies to deliver product globally.” That’s putting it mildly.

Chambers called for a new “standards of conduct,” indicating that, sans reforms, the globe could end up with “a fragmented Internet.” Chambers went on to state that “Cisco does not work with any government, including the United States Government, to weaken [its] products.”

Crypto-guru slams ‘NSA-proof’ tech, says today’s crypto is strong enough – History is filled with companies shamed by their shoddy cryptography implementations – even though the underlying maths is bang on.

In a presentation titled “Crypto Won’t Save You” at the AusCERT conference on Australia’s Gold Coast, respected cryptographer Peter Gutmann of the University of Auckland took security bods through a decade of breaches featuring a laundry list of the world’s biggest brands.

Gutmann’s point was to demonstrate how the weakest point of cryptography was typically in its implementation rather than the maths itself. He demonstrated that consumer devices from the Amazon Kindle to the Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox consoles were hacked not because of weak cryptography, but due to poor deployment of security mechanisms, which were bypassed by attackers.

Why Major Tech Companies Are Getting Much Better About Privacy – Whatever you think of Edward Snowden and his revelations about the National Security Agency’s alleged monitoring of the Internet, one thing is beyond debate: His disclosures have ignited a global conversation about privacy in the online age. And a new report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation suggests that he spurred the tech industry to take newly aggressive measures to defend their users against inappropriate government intrusions.

“Who Has Your Back?” rates 26 U.S.-based tech companies on six factors:

    Whether they require a warrant before they’ll release user content;

Whether they inform users of government data requests;

Whether they publish transparency reports;

Whether they publish law enforcement guidelines;

Whether they fight for users’ privacy rights in court;

Whether they fight for users’ privacy rights before Congress.

A company which the EFF concluded did all of the above would get a six-star rating. Eight companies achieved that, including giants such as Apple. Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter. They outnumbered the laggards, such as Amazon and AT&T (two stars apiece) and Snapchat (one star).

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