Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 20, 2014

Privacy no longer a barrier on Facebook: Just Ask!  Walmart and T-Mobile to offer tablets with free data plans;  First Aid for Android: How to unlock your ransomed phone;  Android “police warning” ransomware – how to avoid it, and what to do if you get caught;  Here’s how you can become a European citizen, online;  Hands on: Linux Mint 17 release candidate;  Fitness apps are a “privacy nightmare”;  Apple faces lawsuit over missing text messages;  Wolfenstein: The New Order Review;  What will consumers gain from AT&T’s DirecTV buy?  Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas; Essential Tech Tips for International Travel;  Cisco CEO warns Obama NSA ‘load stations’ threaten the entire tech industry.

Cisco CEO warns Obama NSA ‘load stations’ threaten the entire tech industry – Cisco’s John Chambers has told Obama why the NSA’s national security efforts may do more harm than good. Chambers, who said Cisco doesn’t work with the government to weaken its own products, believes the intercepts pose a threat to trade and jobs across the US tech sector, and may leave its position in the industry “impaired”.

Privacy no longer a barrier on Facebook: Just Ask! – If you want to know who your friends and acquaintances are dating or where they grew up, you no longer need to wait for them to share those details on Facebook — the site has introduced a new ‘Ask’ button, allowing users to send unsolicited requests for personal information.

Google “right to be forgotten” tool reportedly in works – Google is reportedly cooking up an automated tool that will allow users to submit “right to be forgotten” requests, expecting a flood of demands to be pared from the search engine’s index after a recent EU ruling. The decision by the European Union last week that users had a right to have links to inaccurate information cut from search listings was met with scorn from Google chairman Eric Schmidt, but that hasn’t stopped the company’s coders from apparently swinging into action to semi-automate the process.

Here’s how you can become a European citizen, online – Estonia’s government wants more residents (customers) so apply and become citizens, whether you’ve set foot in the country or not.

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Essential Tech Tips for International Travel – All of that tech we rely on day to day when we’re at home can become a real problem when we’re overseas: our smartphones become dead weights in our pockets and our laptops lose their shine when we can’t find a Wi-Fi connection. Of course, we aren’t advocating leaving your tech at home — but your international trip is going to require a bit of planning to make the most of your gadgets without spending a mint on roaming fees.

Customize your Android lock screen with DashClock – One major advantage of Android is that nearly every element of the operating system, including the lock screen, is open to customization. While there are several good choices in the Google Play Store, the best by far is DashClock. It shows a healthy list of useful information, such as your local weather, text messages, and missed calls. But its real power comes from a large number of extensions built by other developers, connecting DashClock to many popular services.

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Walmart and T-Mobile to offer tablets with free data plans – T-Mobile is rolling out a pair of affordable tablets at Walmart stores nationwide with “free data for life.” Each slate comes with 200MB of data per month for the lifespan of the tablet, and if that’s not enough, additional data plans start at $10. Walmart will offer the modestly spec’ed Trio AXS 3G budget tablet and the HP Slate 7 HD, starting at $179 and $229, respectively. Though the self-proclaimed “un-carrier” isn’t supplying the controversial megachain with any of our picks for best tablets, the two models are affordable options that should appeal to bargain hunters.

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Hands on: Linux Mint 17 release candidate – Let’s take a look inside the release candidate for the Linus Mint distribution, with Cinnamon and MATE desktops.

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Canonical’s cloud-in-a-box: The Ubuntu Orange Box – When Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu Linux, made his keynote speech at OpenStack Summit in Atlanta, he announced many new Ubuntu OpenStack cloud and Juju DevOps initiatives. Here’s what he didn’t expect: The announcement that really grabbed the OpenStack crowd’s attention was Canonical’s cloud-in-a-box — Ubuntu Orange Box. The Orange Box, an OpenStack cloud in a box, is designed to be luggable; the system is a bit smaller than a roll-along suitcase. At 37.4 pounds for the unit itself (PDF Link) and 70 pounds with the accessories in its flight case, it’s a bit too heavy to put above your seat. But, noted Canonical product marketing manager Mark Baker, “It’s just light enough to be shipped as checked luggage.”

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Four overlooked movie streaming services – The four services featured here don’t offer the huge libraries you get from the big players. But they do provide something else: they’re curated. Someone, usually a small group of people, selects films that they believe their target audience might like, even if that audience has never heard of these titles.

Netflix dreams of a channel-free future, built on recommendations –  Netflix’s massive lists of movies and TV shows could someday vanish, replaced by just a handful of precise recommendations. At least that’s what Netflix chief product officer Neil Hunt hinted at during a talk at Internet Week in New York City. According to TechCrunch, Hunt envisions a menu with just three or four choices, driven by Netflix’s recommendation algorithms.

Rdio expands into 9 new countries, reaches 60 countries globally – ​Rdio is broadening its global footprint by launching into 9 new countries across Asia and Europe. The music streaming service is now available in 60 countries worldwide. The service, which boasts a catalogue of more than 25 million songs, is available on desktop, smartphone or tablet and can be accessed either for free, or for a monthly fee that ensures ad-free listening.

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Options being moved to tab by default in Firefox 32 – Mozilla is pressing on with its UI overhaul of Firefox. Now, from version 32 onward the Options window will be moved to an inline tab by default, but don’t worry, it looks like you can still revert.

10 things you need to know about using Word fields – Fields are among Word’s most powerful and versatile features, capable of generating and displaying all kinds of useful information with little (or no) effort on your part.

Security:

Fitness apps are a “privacy nightmare”, shedding personal data to the highest bidder – Talk about sweating: privacy advocates say consumers are generally unaware of how much sensitive data fitness apps suck up, with just about zero data protection.

ID theft protector LifeLock deletes user data over concerns that app isn’t safe – Shares of anti identity theft service LifeLock fell almost 18 percent on Monday after the company said it was temporarily suspending its iOS and Android apps because it may have failed to adequately secure user data. The sell-off was triggered by LifeLock’s move late last week to delete all information stored on its servers by the Wallet mobile applications for iOS and Android devices. LifeLock, which acquired the apps in December for about $42.6 million, also pulled them from the Apple App Store and Google Play Market.

BlackShades malware bust ends in nearly 100 arrests worldwide – Law enforcement agencies seize more than 1,000 computers, smartphones, and hard drives in a massive operation that goes after malware said to have “sophisticated” capabilities and “breathtaking” invasiveness.

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Android “police warning” ransomware – how to avoid it, and what to do if you get caught – With ransomware like “Koler” making its way to Android, locking your device and demanding $300 to keep you out of trouble with the police, it’s important to keep informed about Android threats. John Zorabedian gives you five tips on how to keep your Android safe.

First Aid for Android: How to unlock your ransomed phone – What do you do when your Android device freezes or locks up so you can’t do anything useful…especially if it wants $300 to let you get back to work? Here’s an Android troubleshooting technique for emergencies of this sort.

Company News:

Sprint agrees to pay $7.5M to FCC in ‘Do Not Call’ settlement – Sprint has agreed to pay the US government $7.5 million in a record settlement concerning the national “Do Not Call” list. In addition to the $7.5 million settlement fee, Sprint has also agreed to put in place a two-year compliance plan to make sure that it follows the FCC’s Do Not Call rules. (A more appropriate penalty, it seems to me, would be a fine of 200% of the gross revenues produced by this shameful illegal activity.)

Amazon, Google, Apple hit by Italian in-app purchases probe – Amazon, Google, Apple, and Gameloft are being investigated by Italy’s competition authority over concerns that apps marketed as free to play needed in-app purchases to work.

Twitch is in acquisition talks with Google for $1 billion – Google will pay a billion to gain control of Twitch, a service more popular than YouTube for live streaming. Twitch only appeared in 2011 as a subsidiary of video streaming service Justin.tv. The niche it targeted was video game-related live streams. It worked. Having only 80 employees, Twitch now counts over 43 million viewers every month on its service and accounts for 44 percent of live streaming traffic in the US. That’s more than enough to grab the attention of a company like Google, especially when it is performing better than YouTube when it comes to live streaming content.

Samsung leads the smartwatch race with a 71% market share – If latest market research numbers are to be believed, Samsung has managed to capture 71 percent of the smartwatch market and has already shipped over 500,000 watches in the first quarter of 2014.

Apple faces lawsuit over missing text messages – Former iPhone owners are finding their text messages disappearing into the ether when switching to Android because of a longstanding bug in Apple’s iMessage service.

IBM buys virtual assistant maker Cognea to give Watson personality from ‘suit and tie to kid next door’ – IBM’s Watson group has acquired Cognea, an Australian-founded startup that makes virtual assistants for enterprise customers, such as bank call centres. IBM announced the acquisition on Monday in a blog post outlining how the Watson Platform will fit into the “cognitive era of computing” where people have conversations with machines that are able to understand natural language.

Games and Entertainment:

Wolfenstein: The New Order Review: Deconstructing Blazkowicz – Wolfenstein newcomer MachineGames’ deftly executed voyage through a horror-filled 1960s world — and off — conquered by Nazi Germany gives its jarhead protagonist more than just the Nazis to think about.

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Ubisoft teams with Internet Explorer for Assassin’s Creed race – Supposing you’re all about sailing a pirate ship in your internet browser without having to buy Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, today might be your day. The folks at Ubisoft have teamed with the folks responsible for keeping Internet Explorer popular have released a game called Assassin’s Creed Pirates Race, a free endeavor for the average buccaneer.

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Drug-dealing game Weed Firm tops Apple’s App Store charts – Apple has lifted its usual censorship firewall to allow a game simulation of a drug-pushing business called Weed Firm to shoot to number one in its App Store charts. The sim-smoker app allows cosseted fanbois to imagine life as a herbal wholesaler. Players are invited to build contacts in the underworld, beef up their production line and punt ganja to a variety of ne’er-do-wells. A stripper even offers the player a quick virtual lapdance in exchange for some cannabis, something we’re sure pretty much never happens in the broadly male, rather wimpy world of the weed smoker.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Trailer 2 spreads the details – The second “full” Guardians of the Galaxy trailer has been released today. This trailer goes into further detail on the tenor of the film, showing a bit more action than previous releases, running in at just over 3 minutes long. You’ll also get a better idea of what final effects shots will look like.

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Sony to launch PlayStation Now private beta for PS4 owners Tuesday – Sony has announced that it will expand the private beta for its upcoming PlayStation Now game cloud streaming service to a few PlayStation 4 owners starting on Tuesday.

Nintendo shutting down Wii and DS online gaming today – Nintendo is shutting down access to its online gaming for the Wii and DS consoles on May 20th, instead focusing on its newer game systems. The question is whether anyone will actually notice.

Off Topic (Sort of):

In connected cars, advertising will come along for the ride – Tech-savvy cars may be able to provide you with all sorts of driving data. But it also gives advertisers another avenue to reach you. That may not be an entirely bad thing — provided that marketing is personalized and contextual.

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Freescale vision chip makes self-driving cars a bit more ordinary – The company’s partnership with software companies will yield an electronics package that can see pedestrians, tell if a driver is dozing off, and initiate emergency-stop decisions.

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Before you buy an iPhone from Virgin Mobile, read this – The hardware is fine, and so is the service. But if your iPhone ever needs replacing, watch out.

‘Rodents on Turntables’: The best minute and a half of your day – Watch as a bunch of cute hamsters, mice, and other small furballs run around in circles — and at times, just quietly go along for the ride — on a spinning record.

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Breakthrough brings us health implants size of rice grains – What if the credit card in your wallet could someday power your heart? Researchers at Stanford have created an electronic device smaller than a grain of rice, which can be charged remotely by a device roughly the size of a credit card. The goal is to use it as an implant for humans, with it having been tested as a pacemaker for a rabbit already.

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What will consumers gain from AT&T’s DirecTV buy? – AT&T wants to buy DirecTV and is making several promises to sweeten the deal. But are AT&T’s commitments all they’re cracked up to be?

Don’t miss stormchasers’ stunning footage of a rare supercell – Mother Nature put on an awesome display of power in Wyoming Sunday with a supercell thunderstorm. Lucky for us, pro stormchasers caught it on film.

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Something to think about:

“I don’t hire anybody who’s not brighter than I am. If they’re not brighter than I am, I don’t need them.”

–    Paul “Bear” Bryant

Today’s Free Downloads:

Wise Care 365 – Wise Care 365 is a bundle of important tools including a registry cleaner, disk cleaner, program uninstaller, memory optimizer and more.

Easy to use and effective, Wise Care 365 is the good solution to improve your PC’s performance. Get Wise Care 365 and your computer will never run slow again!

Features:

Clean up, defragment and optimize the Windows Registry

Defragment and free up space on your hard disk

Protect your privacy by erasing personal tracking data

Recover lost files

Hide important files or folders

Prevent unauthorized use of personal applications

Auto shut down your PC

Free up Memory to boost game and enterprise software performance

Simple “One Click Tune-up” option will optimize your PC

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Complete Internet Repair – Rizone Complete Internet Repair is basically a combination of Internet Recovery KIT and Winsock Repair. It could help if you are experiencing any of the following problems:

Internet or network problem after removing adware, spyware, virus, worm, Trojan horse, etc.

Loss network connection after installing/uninstalling adware, spyware, antispam, vpn, firewall or other networking programs.

Unable to access any webpage or can only access some webpages.

Pop-up error window with network related problem description.

No network connectivity due to registry errors.

DNS lookup problem.

Fail to renew the network adapter’s IP address or other DHCP errors.

Network connectivity issue with limited or no connections message.

Windows update does not work

You are having problems connecting to secured websites (ex. Banking).

Internet Explorer stopped working

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas – The National Security Agency is secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas.

According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the surveillance is part of a top-secret system – code-named SOMALGET – that was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government. Instead, the agency appears to have used access legally obtained in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to open a backdoor to the country’s cellular telephone network, enabling it to covertly record and store the “full-take audio” of every mobile call made to, from and within the Bahamas – and to replay those calls for up to a month.

SOMALGET is part of a broader NSA program called MYSTIC, which The Intercept has learned is being used to secretly monitor the telecommunications systems of the Bahamas and several other countries, including Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya. But while MYSTIC scrapes mobile networks for so-called “metadata” – information that reveals the time, source, and destination of calls – SOMALGET is a cutting-edge tool that enables the NSA to vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country.

All told, the NSA is using MYSTIC to gather personal data on mobile calls placed in countries with a combined population of more than 250 million people. And according to classified documents, the agency is seeking funding to export the sweeping surveillance capability elsewhere.

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California Senate passes bill to pull the plug on illegal NSA spying, 29-1 –  A bipartisan bill which creates a mechanism to turn off all material support and assistance, including water and electricity resources, from California to the NSA passed the State Senate today. The vote was 29-1.

Dubbed the 4th Amendment Protection Act, Senate Bill 828 (SB828) would ban the state from participating in, or providing material support or resources to any federal agency engaged in the “illegal and unconstitutional collection of electronic data or metadata, without consent, of any person not based on a warrant that particularly describes the person, place, and thing to be searched or seized.”

Sponsored by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego), SB828 represents a growing opposition to NSA spying on a state and local level, and across the political spectrum.

“The NSA’s program is an unreasonable search and seizure of Californian’s electronic data and communications,” said Lieu. Anderson took a similar position on the Senate floor today. “We want to protect against terrorism, but it should never be at the cost of our liberty or freedom,” he said. (Suggested by Aseem S.)

US authorities name five Chinese military hackers wanted for espionage – The US Department of Justice has named five members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army that, it claims, carried out an eight-year hacking campaign against some American companies to steal commercially sensitive information.

“These represent the first ever charges against known state actors for infiltrating U.S. commercial targets by cyber means,” Attorney General Eric Holder told a press conference in Washington DC on Monday.

“The alleged hacking appears to have been conducted for no reason other than to advantage state-owned companies and other interests in China, at the expense of businesses here in the United States. This is a tactic that the US government categorically denounces.”

The Department of Justice named five individuals it claims are officers in Unit 61398 of the Third Department of the PLA. Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu, and Gu Chunhui, are accused of hacking into commercial systems from 2006 to the present day.

Unit 61398 was named in February 2013 by security firm Mandiant as one of the PLA’s hacking teams. Mandiant was hired by The New York Times to investigate a hacking attack against its servers and the security firm claimed this was one of 20 hacking units run by the Chinese.

Hacker indictments against China’s military unlikely to change anything – The U.S. government’s decision Monday to formally indict five members of the Chinese military on criminal hacking charges marks a significant escalation of what until now has been largely a war of words between officials of both countries.

Many see the indictments as long overdue. U.S. government officials and security experts have long pointed to China as the single largest source of state-sponsored attacks against U.S. government, military and corporate networks. Over the past several years, China-based hackers are believed to have stolen huge troves of military and industrial data from the U.S.

The big question is whether today’s indictments will accomplish anything.

It’s a near certainty that China will not hand over the five individuals to the U.S. or hold them accountable in that country. And it’s unlikely that the indictments alone will significantly slow the alleged Chinese attacks against U.S. assets — if that is, indeed, the goal.

Instead, all the move is likely to do is provoke China to retaliate in similar fashion. Already, the Chinese government has said it would suspend its participation in the activities of the China-US Cyber Working Group.

Cisco CEO to Obama: Don’t let NSA intercept and hack our gear: Chambers says alleged TAO program undermines industry – In a letter dated May 15, Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers asked President Barack Obama to rein in the National Security Agency’s alleged program of intercepting and installing backdoors on network hardware being shipped to international customers.

Chambers wrote the letter, first reported by the Financial Times, after journalist Glenn Greenwald released a collection of NSA documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The documents included photos showing what appears to be Cisco network hardware being unboxed and modified by NSA employees.

In the letter, Chambers said, “While the reports included a photograph purportedly showing a Cisco product being modified, this issue affects an entire industry that depends on our global supply chain and global shipments… if these allegations are true, these actions will undermine confidence in our industry and the ability of technology companies to deliver products globally.”

Face recognition pioneer now worried tech will be used for mass surveillance – Do you ever feel like you can be “invisible” when you are just one among a sea of faces? That’s likely not very true, unless you wear a mask … and you surely aren’t very “invisible” then. Irony alert: Dr. Joseph Atick was described as “one of the pioneer entrepreneurs of modern face recognition” before the New York Times explained that Atick is now worried about face-matching biometrics enabling “mass surveillance” and “basically robbing everyone of their anonymity.”Defeating face-matching biometrics

He is reportedly not concerned about the government openly using facial recognition such as to combat identity theft or fraud. There’s no mention of the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometric database, which will reportedly hold 52 million face images by 2015.

Rather, what troubles him is the potential exploitation of face recognition to identify ordinary and unwitting citizens as they go about their lives in public. Online, we are all tracked. But to Dr. Atick, the street remains a haven, and he frets that he may have abetted a technology that could upend the social order.

Atick used the NameTag app as an example of face-matching technology being taken too far. The app offered Google Glass users “real-time facial recognition” by matching a stranger with everything about them that can be mined through social media such as their name, occupation and even real-time access to their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.

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