Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 23, 2014

How to change your eBay password;  Get two-factor authentication on the desktop with Authy;  Amazon will pay you $10 to download five completely free apps;  Mid-size tablets compared: iOS vs. Android vs. Fire;  Android apps can use your camera without you knowing;  Facebook Privacy Checkup sheds light on sharing;  What you need to know about Windows libraries;  CA Technologies release free XP migration tool;  Google Chrome Adds “Okay Google” Voice Search;  How to lie, cheat and steal like Snapchat — all the way to the bank;  Google develops Project Tango 3D tablets for imminent release.

How to lie, cheat and steal like Snapchat — all the way to the bank – Snapchat’s little FTC slap on the wrist shouldn’t get in the way of its business model, but if you want to have your say, the period for public comment on Snapchat’s FTC settlement is now open.

Amazon will pay you $10 to download five completely free apps – Downloading iHeart Radio, Food Network In The Kitchen, Strawberry Shortcake Bake Shop, Dr. Panda’s Restaurant or Don’t Step The White Tile will currently result in Amazon paying you 200 Amazon credits – worth $2 – per app into your Amazon wallet. As reported by Android Police, you do not even need to keep the apps installed on your device – once you have clicked the ‘Download’ button the money is credited to your account and you can cancel the install immediately.

Google Adds “Okay Google” Voice Search For All Chrome Users – Maybe you already talk to your computer but now there’s even more reason to – Google has just released the latest version of Chrome, which includes “Okay Google” triggered voice searches that work automatically, without requiring any clicks or other input prompting first. Users will need to enable it once and provide Chrome permission to user their computer’s mic if they haven’t already, but after that, it’s as simple as opening a new tab, navigating to Google.com and speaking the magic words followed by your search request.

CA Technologies release free XP migration tool – Companies that want to migrate large numbers of users from Windows XP, which Microsoft stopped supporting last month, now have some help with a free tool from CA Technologies. The CA Desktop Migration Manager can copy a user’s files, browser bookmarks, desktop settings and other pertinent information to network file storage, allowing the administrator to upgrade the laptop or desktop computer to a new version of Windows or move the user to a new Windows computer altogether. The software can move the data and settings either to a new machine or back to the original machine once the upgrade is completed.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

What you need to know about Windows libraries – To the uneducated eye, Windows’ libraries are simply convenient places to store your data files, such as documents, spreadsheets, pictures, music, and videos. And they are convenient. They make it easier to find, organize and back up the most important files on your hard drive. But they’re not actually places—in the sense that they’re not folders on your hard drive. They’re pointers to other folders, and each library can point to more than one folder.

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D-Link WiFi Smart Plug Review – Piecing together your own smart home used to be a headache; now, you can buy products off-the-shelf, like D-Link’s new WiFi Smart Plug, and be up and running from your smartphone in minutes. We’re not just talking remote control over lights, either: D-Link’s system allows for power and heat monitoring, for the frugal and safety-conscious among us. Read on for our full review.

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Do wristband heart trackers actually work? A checkup – More wrist-based heart rate monitors are hitting the market, letting you gauge your fitness with a quick read of your pulse. But as Sharon Profis discovered after a visit at Kaiser Permanente of San Francisco, these optical monitors may need more R&D.

Launch your startup in a single day: How the latest tools make it easier than ever – With some ideas, getting to market quickly is paramount. Here’s how you can get your startup launched in lightning speed, using a great set of easy tools available online.

Osmo turns iPad into AR arena for kids – Osmo is an ecosystem of learning tools – apps and accessories – that transform the Apple iPad into a kid-friendly center for augmented reality. Two key components are a stand – holding the iPad up straight – and a mirror, allowing the iPad’s front-facing camera to work with the area in front of the tablet. From there, it’s all about the apps.

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HiSense H6 Smart TV with Android hits shelves – HiSense’s H6 Smart TV powered by Android is headed to stores today, with the 55-inch set offering voice control and an “air mouse” remote along with support for various on-demand streaming services. Showing up on Walmart shelves, the Full HD set has a 120Hz refresh rate and integrated WiFi, and can pull Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, and other content without the need for a separate set-top box.

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Get two-factor authentication on the desktop with Authy – A new service called Authy recently launched an app that lets you get two-factor codes on your desktop PC—a handy capability, and doubly so if you don’t always carry a smartphone on you. Authy for the desktop is a Chrome-based app that you download from the Chrome Web Store. While Authy’s desktop app uses Chrome as its basic infrastructure, the program operates separately from the Chrome browser and looks and feels similar to a desktop app. Here’s how it works.

Mid-size tablets compared: iOS vs. Android vs. Fire – The latest tablet trend favors the 8- to 9-inch form-factor, with manufacturers slowly but surely hopping onto the bandwagon. These mid-size slates successfully satisfy the desire for a bigger screen, without sacrificing portability. For this blog, we picked the best 8 to 9-inch models across multiple operating systems to compare and contrast their pros and cons. Check out all of our top small picks here, or, if you think bigger is better, here are our best big tablets.

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Security:

How to change your eBay password – For all of eBay’s talk about notifying users about its deep, devastating database breach—in which hackers swiped customer names, email addresses and physical addresses, phone number, date of birth, and yes, encrypted passwords—an official notification of the incident has yet to hit my inbox, and judging from reactions on Twitter, I’m not the only one being left in the dark.

Facebook Privacy Checkup sheds light on sharing – Facebook will run every one of its 1bn+ users through a new Privacy Checkup that flags up potentially unwanted sharing, as the social network responds to ongoing criticisms that it makes inadvertently spilling secrets too easy. The new tool, which will be rolled out to existing Facebook users over the next few weeks, highlights some of the primary concerns they have voiced, and highlights the options and settings which could help mitigate them. Meanwhile, there are changes afoot for new Facebook sign-ups, too.

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Android apps can use your camera without you knowing – Clever manipulation of Android’s internal rules for using the camera has revealed that it is possible for apps to use your camera without ever making you aware that it’s happening, effectively creating situations where a malicious app could take pictures or video and send them to a remote source. Szymon Sidor recently published a blog post where it is explained in great detail how the camera permissions on Android can be manipulated to take photos without the user seeing what is going on.

Microsoft has yet to fix a known IE8 zero-day exploit after seven months – Microsoft was informed seven months ago about a zero-day exploit that was found in Internet Explorer 8 but has yet to issue an update to fix the issue, but there’s been no attacks that have used it. (No exploits – hardly makes this a “zero-day” exploit then – does it?)

Internet ‘Do Not Track’ system is in shatters – Chalk up another victory for corporate surveillance: Five years after advocates came up with an easy way to let you browse the Web with just a little privacy, the Do Not Track system is in tatters and that pair of boots you looked at online last month is still stalking you from website to website.

Company News:

Google develops Project Tango 3D tablets for imminent release – Google is working on a 7-inch tablet capable of capturing 3D images in high definition. According to the Wall Street Journal, the new mobile device is based on technology developed within Project Tango. The publication says that 4,000 prototypes of the tablet could be released ahead of Google’s I/O developer conference in June. Unnamed sources said the tablets will feature two back cameras, infrared sensors capable of registering depth of field and advanced software that will capture detailed, precise three-dimensional images of objects of space around the user.

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HP to cut an additional 11,000-16,000 positions from its workforce – HP has announced it will cut an additional 11,000 to 16,000 positions from its workforce, bringing the total number of layoffs it has made since May 2012 to as much as 50,000 employees.

Oculus VR sued over intellectual property theft – Oculus VR and its founder Palmer Luckey are being sued by ZeniMax Media over claims the company infringed upon intellectual property in the development of the Rift virtual reality headset. ZeniMax Media is the owner of game maker Id Software — developer of games including Doom — as well as other game firms, including Bethesda Game Studios, makers of The Elder Scrolls. The company was once the employer of Oculus CTO and one-time co-founder of Id Software John Carmack. Hired by Oculus in August and abandoning Id Software later in the year, Carmack allegedly assisted Oculus in the development of its Rift headset while still employed by ZeniMax.

Sony’s restructuring drive on the verge of completion, CEO claims – Sony’s chief executive Kazuo Hirai says that the ailing firm’s restructuring efforts are pushing ahead, and Sony aims to be back in profit by the end of next March.

Games and Entertainment:

Epic Games makes Flappy Bird clone in Unreal Engine 4 to show ease of game creation – In March, Epic Games announced it would let anyone use its new Unreal Engine 4 tools to make games for the price of $19 a month, plus a small percentage of the game’s revenues. Today, the company released its first Unreal Engine 4 game, but instead of a high end title like the Unreal series, Epic decided to offer a small mobile and web browser game to show it can handle smaller scale titles.

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Avengers return in Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes 2.0 – The Avengers have arrived in the Disney Infinity universe, bringing with them a word on how an open-sandbox model will work with their mighty hand upon the trigger. Disney Infinity is a game which, like Skylanders, uses physical toys to activate virtual-reality characters in the game. This Avengers Playset expansion heralds the second coming of the title – a whole new world, as it were.

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Watch Dogs launch overdrive: documentary series on tap – This week Ubisoft is kicking out all the stops when it comes to reminding the public about Watch Dogs. This game is a multi-platform release, coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, and eventually Wii U as well. In addition to a full-powered launch trailer, Watch Dogs is the inspiration behind a three-part documentary called “Phreaked Out”, all about real-world hacking. Next you’ll have a peek at the first part of three episodes of a Motherboard-produced short series. This “Phreaked Out” episode centers on Unlocking L.A.’s Traffic Grid, and reminds you several times that the hacks you see in Watch Dogs aren’t that unrealistic.

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SumoBoy: the game that takes aim at bullying – The game, which has been in development for a year, centres around Oji, an orphan boy who is routinely bullied at school, but nevertheless manages to remain kind and compassionate. One day, he discovers that his mother is the Princess of the Elements, Kesa, from the magical land of Seishin — and that his homeland is in peril. Kesa has been kidnapped and held prisoner by Kurai Kami, and it’s up to Oji to rescue Seishin using his Sumo powers and his Blade of Balance.

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Minecraft Launches on PS4, Xbox One in August – Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen consoles hit the market in November, but everyone’s favorite 8-bit video game is just making its way to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. No, not Flappy Bird. Minecraft will go on sale in August for $19.99 on the new machines, as well as PlayStation 3 and the PS Vita. “Apologies for the delay, but putting Minecraft on new consoles is a serious business,” Mojang’s Owen Hill wrote in a blog post. The game maker outlined details for each console’s release, promising bigger worlds and greater draw distance than former versions, as well as more cross-platform opportunities.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

NYC Met Museum of Arts brings 400,000 images to public domain – The New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art has made a massive collection of images available to the public domain this month. Bringing 400,000 images – most of which have never been seen on the web before – to the public is a big step for the museum in joining a large cross-section of institutions implementing similar initiatives.

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California Will Start Granting Licenses For Driverless Cars In September – You need a license to drive a car. But does a robot? For now, yes. Come September, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will begin granting licenses to select driverless cars and their human co-pilots, which will make it a bit less legally iffy as to whether or not they’re actually allowed to be on a public road. The good news: The license will only cost $150 a pop, and that covers 10 vehicles and up to 20 test drivers.

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NASA Creates a Planetary-Scale Earth Day Selfie – NASA has stitched together 36,477 selfies taken on Earth Day this year to create a 3.2-gigapixel “Global Selfie” mosaic forming an image of our planet as it looked on April 22, 2014. The space agency solicited the photos on Earth Day via social media, asking people to answer the question, “Where are you on Earth Right Now?” along with submitted a self-snapped photo of themselves. A month later, the zoomable, GigaPan-hosted final product was published on the Internet.

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Make a quiet call in this phone-shaped chair – The world is buzzing all around you. People are talking, shuffling, and making noise. You just want to turn down the ambient volume a little so you can make a quick phone call in peace. This is when the First Call chair comes to the rescue, offering a place to park your butt and use your phone while blocking out a bit of the outside world.

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Something to think about:

“The ability to deal with people is as purchasable as a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other thing under the sun.”

–    John D. Rockefeller

Today’s Free Downloads:

FotoMix – FotoMix is a versatile program that allows you to mix and manipulate different pictures, to create a wide variety of images.

Features:

Remove, add or alter backgrounds.

Add or remove your loved and not so loved ones from your pictures.

Design eye-catching photo collages, illustrations, wallpapers, CD and DVD covers, and miscellaneous Web graphics.

Create photo montages by combining multiple pictures into a unique heirloom depicting retrospectives of a birth, marriage, anniversary, etc. Anything is possible.

The result is so high in quality that it is almost impossible to tell if the photo has been manipulated. Once your creations are finished, you can print them, email them to friends or transfer them to T-shirts, mugs, calendars, etc. Make the most out of your photo collection! Play with it. Explore the possibilities. You will love it.

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PrivaZer – When you use your PC (at home or working at your office), go on the Internet, watch a video, download, copy/remove files on your PC, install/uninstall or use software, etc., you always leave sensitive traces which:

make your PC slower and cluttered

reduces free space available and

puts you at risk for a bad consequence: what you have done could be easily recovered by analyzing your PC with an expert recovery software or with more advanced techniques.

We decided to develop a new type of cleaning tool to give you the peace of mind that once your data is gone, it is gone for good.

PrivaZer allows you to:

See exactly what can still be recovered of your past activities on your PC at home or at work

Clean in-depth unwanted traces of what you’ve done watched, downloaded, deleted, etc. and prevent recovery

Master your security & freedom. Free up disk space. Keep your PC fit and secure!!!

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(Screen shot from my personal system.)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Weakened NSA Reform Bill Passes The House Despite Losing Key Votes – This morning the House passed the USA FREEDOM Act by a vote of 303 to 121. The bill, aimed at curbing the National Security Agency, was, in the views of privacy groups and the like, neutered late in its life, leaving it as little protection against bulk collection of private data.

After this morning’s vote, the Center For Democracy & Technology disparaged the bill’s passage: “We withdrew support for USA FREEDOM when the bill morphed into a codification of large-scale, untargeted collection of data about Americans with no connection to a crime or terrorism.”

The center is not the only party that finds what passed the House to be unpalatable. Earlier this morning Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan was plain when explaining his no vote on a bill that he was an original co-sponsor of:

This morning’s bill maintains and codifies a large-scale, unconstitutional domestic spying program. It claims to end “bulk collection” of Americans’ data only in a very technical sense: The bill prohibits the government from, for example, ordering a telephone company to turn over all its call records every day.

But the bill was so weakened in behind-the-scenes negotiations over the last week that the government still can order—without probable cause—a telephone company to turn over all call records for “area code 616″ or for “phone calls made east of the Mississippi.” The bill green-lights the government’s massive data collection activities that sweep up Americans’ records in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

He goes on to note that the act does include “a few modest improvements,” but calls the situation in which Congressional leaders and President Obama “refuse to accept consensus reforms” that would uphold Constitutional protections “shameful.”

Beijing to Washington: ratted-out routers not welcome here: China announces vendor ‘vetting’ plan to keep out snoopware-infested kit – China has taken revenge on the USA for its Huawei ban and router-ratting actions alleged by Edward Snowden, by announcing a new “vetting” process for foreign technology providers.

The news emerged in Xinhua, a party-controlled Chinese news organ that reports State Internet Information Office spokesperson Jiang Jun as saying “For a long time, governments and enterprises of a few countries have gathered sensitive information on a large scale, taking the advantage of their monopoly in the market and technological edge.”

“They not only seriously undermine interests of their clients but also threaten cyber security of other countries.”

China will therefore step in and vet vendors that aspire to sell within its borders to safeguard not only it’s own interests, but the world’s!…

Microsoft Challenged A National Security Letter That Included A Gag Order — And Won – Microsoft challenged a National Security Letter from the FBI last year – and won. The documents relating the case were recently unsealed, making the effort public.

The gist is simple: Microsoft received a National Security Letter requesting “basic subscriber information” regarding an “enterprise” customer. That’s how Microsoft characterized the request. For simplicity, the FBI was after the metadata of a large Microsoft client.

The letter banned Microsoft from disclosing to anyone that the data had been requested. Microsoft didn’t think that reasonable and filed a challenge. The FBI then retracted its request. The customer in question was an Office 365 user. The FBI wanted data involving “several categories of information regarding a single user account associated with the e-mail domain which is [redacted] supported within the block of individual Office 365 accounts [snip] provided to [redacted] by Microsoft under the Contract.”

On the heels of the passage of an NSA reform bill that likely fails at its stated task, and the failure of two amendments to a separate bill aimed at defunding certain government actions that weaken encryption and harm privacy, this is welcome news.

What’s fun in this isn’t that a single National Security Letter was beaten back, but more how Microsoft argued its case. A few excerpts that are worth noting, regarding why Microsoft felt the Letter wasn’t a legal request…

The EFF Blasts Twitter For Censoring Itself In Russia And Pakistan – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today upbraided Twitter for censoring itself in Russia and Pakistan, stating that the company has stepped “down from the free speech party.”

The EFF’s argument is simple: Twitter’s decision to censor content on a country-by-country basis was the “least terrible option” available to it, provided that it only did so when the company was “compelled” by a court order in a country where the company has “significant assets or employees.”

In the case of Russia and Pakistan, where local censorship is now instituted by the company, Twitter does not have sufficient local presence to make presented court orders meaningful in the eyes of the EFF.

This makes the censorship in Russia (of a Ukrainian political account) and Pakistan (where takedown requests have ranged from porn to blasphemy) unreasonable according to the EFF, because Twitter’s lack of a local presence precludes it from the behest of the requests.

Schneier on Security: Disclosing vs. Hoarding Vulnerabilities – There’s a debate going on about whether the US government — specifically, the NSA and United States Cyber Command — should stockpile Internet vulnerabilities or disclose and fix them. It’s a complicated problem, and one that starkly illustrates the difficulty of separating attack and defense in cyberspace.

A software vulnerability is a programming mistake that allows an adversary access into that system. Heartbleed is a recent example, but hundreds are discovered every year.

Unpublished vulnerabilities are called “zero-day” vulnerabilities, and they’re very valuable because no one is protected. Someone with one of those can attack systems world-wide with impunity.

When someone discovers one, he can either use it for defense or for offense. Defense means alerting the vendor and getting it patched. Lots of vulnerabilities are discovered by the vendors themselves and patched without any fanfare. Others are discovered by researchers and hackers. A patch doesn’t make the vulnerability go away, but most users protect themselves by patch their systems regularly…

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2 Comments

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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 23, 2014

  1. Don

    Hi Bill; long time since I commented on anything but wanted to thank you for the link to the PrivaZer utility. I’ve tried many many similiar apps but found this one to be one of the best. It’s a welcome addition to my CC Cleaner and Glary Utilities 4. The initial scan took well over an hour, as it scanned everything, including free space on my hard drive.

    All in all, it did an amazing job and delivered as promised .. being FREE is also great! Thanks again Bill
    Best, Don

    • Hi Don,

      How are you? 🙂

      Totally agree with your take on PrivaZer – an excellent application. I run it once a day on my end, and I take advantage of the “Shutdown PC after cleaning” feature.

      Best,

      Bill