Microsoft to the FBI: Drop dead; Android security loophole lets apps take and upload pics without you knowing; 12 tablet accessories that let you ditch your laptop; 10 tools for stealthily slacking off at work; How to find cheap (or free!) PC games; 9 great travel apps to make your vacation painless; Customize your Android phone home screen with options to spare; Simplify the Windows 8/7 Event Viewer; How to control your Facebook privacy; Apple wants retrial, sales ban against Samsung; Houseguest downloads child porn, cops show up; Kingsoft Office 2013 (free); Tech giants team up to take on US Government gag orders.
Google ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling may never come to US – In Europe, Google is facing a “right to be forgotten” ruling by the courts. That ruling, which lets users ask that Google dismiss webpages about them from search results, is currently being worked logistically by Google. As for when the United States or other countries may get that functionality — well, it’s not so cut and dry.
Apple neglects to renew SSL certificate, breaks Software Update in the process – If you were tried to install OS X software updates this weekend, you might have noticed that you…can’t. As MacRumors points out, OS X users who attempt to install software updates through the App Store app are getting error messages that complain about an invalid certificate. The reason? Apple apparently forgot to renew the SSL certificate in question.
10 tools for stealthily slacking off at work – Whether you’re a gamer, a Facebook addict, or just a plain old slacker, the typical office job is a prime setting for getting some serious goofing-off done. We can’t vouch for your productivity the rest of the time, but if you want to let off some steam in the middle of the day, we’ve got your back. With that out of the way, here are 10 unproductive tools and tips for the total flake.
How to find cheap (or free!) PC games – Whoever told you PC gaming is prohibitively expensive is a liar. In fact, I’ve saved so much on PC games versus their console counterparts that I’ve more than paid off the cost difference between my gaming PC hardware and the cost of a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Here’s how you can tap into the dirt-cheap gaming goodness, too.
Print anything from anywhere with Google Cloud Print – This free service from Google has been around since 2011, when it started as a way to print to any printer you owned from Gmail or other Google services. Since then Google has added a number of features, including greatly expanding its functionality and rolling out an Android app and Windows desktop integration. Here’s how to get set up with Google Cloud Print using a non-Cloud Print capable printer.
Customize your Android phone home screen with options to spare – Jack Wallen introduces you to yet another Android home screen launcher — one packed with enough options and themes that it could easily usurp your current favorite.
9 great travel apps to make your vacation painless – The summer travel season is just getting started in the US, so we’ve rounded up some of the most useful travel apps, all of which are great for long vacations and short trips alike. The first section is dedicated to apps that help you book reservations for flights and hotels, and the next group keeps you organized en route. The final collection has apps that will help you when you’re at your destination, and need help finding something to do or navigating an unfamiliar.
How to podcast, Part 2: Recording your show – In part 1 of this series, you found out how to get started in podcasting. Now you’re fired up and ready to share your wonderful thoughts with the world. Here’s what you need to know to get your voice recorded.
All-you-can-read kids service Epic adds a thousand new books from HarperCollins – When you download the free Epic app, which works on iPad 2 and later, running at least iOS 6, you can sign up for a free one-month trial to kick the tires before you subscribe. You don’t need a credit card for the free trial either, so hats off to Epic for that. Parents get a profile, where they can set up and manage profiles for up to four kids. Here you can see how many books each kid has read, how many minutes, total pages flipped, and when they last read. Minutes read is probably the most useful of these stats, since the books range from picture books you can whiz through in 30 seconds to longer chapter reads for kids up to age 12.
12 tablet accessories that let you ditch your laptop – Android and iOS tablets have come a long way, but for many users they’re still not suitable laptop replacements. However, you can change that. These 12 gadgets each help bridge the gap between notebook PC and tablet.
SSD breakthrough means 300% speed boost, 60% less power usage… even on old drives – A Japanese research team studying the NAND chips used in solid state drives has discovered a way to boost the speed of the devices by up to 300% with nothing more than a simple firmware update.
FlightTrack 5 is a first-class flight tracking app – If you need to keep tabs on flights of your own or others, you can’t do much better than FlightTrack 5. It looks great, is packed with features, and doesn’t even charge you for extra bags.
Pro tip: Simplify the Windows 8/7 Event Viewer by creating custom views – The Event Viewer in Windows 7 and Windows 8.x allows you to save Filters by using the Create Custom View feature. Greg Shultz explains how.
Android security loophole lets apps take and upload pics without you knowing – A loophole in Android’s security can be easily exploited by malicious apps to use a device’s camera to capture images and location data and upload them to a remote server without the user’s knowledge.
Microsoft offers new data on malware infection rates worldwide – Microsoft has been gathering information about malware infection rates on Windows PCs for some time now, thanks to data from its Microsoft Security Essentials program as well as Windows Defender for Windows 8. This week, the company released the malware encounter and infection rates for 2013, including the top 10 countries for both sets of info.
eBay FAIL gets even more fail-y, with failworthy password advice – eBay is coming under mounting criticism for its reaction to its loss of users’ passwords and other private info. Or, rather, its lack of reaction. Not only that, but the password advice it’s giving users seems slightly stupid. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers spot the choo-choo to Failtown. Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.
Is the U.S. Finally Getting Smart? – Data breaches have always been an issue for companies, but it’s finally become one that can’t be ignored. After consecutive breaches on big-name companies like Target and Neiman Marcus, Congress is forcing businesses to ditch magnetic strip cards for new smart card technology. An infographic released by Computer Science Degree Hub helps illustrate why the shift to EMV cards is a smart choice for the U.S. market.
How to control your Facebook privacy – On Thursday, Facebook tweaked the default option for new members so that updates are shared only with friends and not with the public. In line with that change, let’s take a tour through Facebook’s basic privacy settings. Tightening these settings can help ensure that you’re as well-hidden as possible on the world’s largest social network.
Investigators Target eBay Over Massive Data Breach – Attorneys General in three U.S. states along with European officials are investigating a massive data breach at eBay which may have compromised more than 100 million users’ passwords. “The magnitude of the reported eBay data breach could be of historic proportions, and my office is part of a group of other attorneys general in the country investigating the matter,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in a statement Thursday. The Federal Trade Commission and Attorneys General in Illinois and Connecticut have also vowed to conduct a probe into the incident.
Microsoft has announced Windows 8.1 with Bing, a low-cost version of Windows – Microsoft has finally confirmed the Windows 8.1 with Bing rumors by announcing the new edition of Windows today. For OEMs only, it will open the door to lower-cost Windows devices in the near future.
Apple wants retrial, sales ban against Samsung – Apple, who recently settled their ongoing dispute with Motorola and Google amicably, has no intent on following that up. Previous reports that suggested the Cupertino firm and Samsung would play nice has been found to be false, as Apple seeks a retrial of their latest spat with Samsung. They’re also seeking a ban of all Samsung devices that infringe on their patents.
Amazon offering free Fire TV trials to some Prime members – The trial lets users sample Amazon’s new streaming set-top box for 30 days, with Amazon covering the cost of shipping. Users can then return the device at no charge, or let the trial period lapse and get charged $99 automatically on their credit cards. The offer is by invitation only—you can’t transfer it to someone else—and available for a limited time, according to Amazon’s e-mail.
Games and Entertainment:
Ubisoft Sees Record ‘Watch Dogs’ Pre-Orders – Ubiosoft is seeing some major demand for Watch Dogs: the video game is now the most pre-ordered new IP in Ubisoft’s history, and the second-highest pre-ordered Ubisoft game ever. Watch Dogs is up for pre-order on GameStop, Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and Target, depending on the configuration you want. It will be available for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360; the Wii U version will be released at a later, unspecified date.
One person who has already checked out the game? Late night host Conan O’Brien.
Half-Life 3 is in development, says Counter-Strike co-creator – Almost ten years after the début of Half-Life 2 – the first sequel to what is still regarded as one of the best games of all time – Half-Life 3 is still frequently discussed and rumored, despite having never even been publicly acknowledged by Valve, developers of the series. After HL2, two more titles – Half-Life 2: Episode 1 (2006) and Episode 2 (2007) – were released, but even now, seven years on, many gamers are still yearning for the next installment in the story of the series’ silent hero, Gordon Freeman. If today’s news is to be believed, they may finally get what they’ve been waiting for.
Missing pieces: Wrapping up the week’s must-know gaming news – We’ve fallen into a parallel universe—Atari wants to get back into the hardware market. That story and more as we compile all the games-related news you need to know for the week of May 19.
You Should Play: Another Case Solved – Another Case Solved is a tile-matching puzzle game with a detective theme. The back-story is a little quirky—not surprising for a Noodlecake Studios title—and not particularly critical to the game itself. However, for those of you who are curious, it’s something along the lines of an amateur detective (you) investigating crimes surrounding a city’s sugar ban. Yes…sugar ban.
10 amazing chemical reaction GIFs – We know they’re just atoms interacting, but these reactions are more awesome than most.
Off Topic (Sort of):
The Internet Is Now Part Of The Crime Scene – Elliot Rodger, a young man with some horrible ideas and serious mental problems, killed at least six people in Santa Barbara. He left pages of digital photos and hours of video detailing his pain and his envy. In the voice of an entitled boy not given what he wants, he talks about being alone while others are together. He became a misogynist through his own twisted self-reflection. Now his efforts to reach out to seemingly like-minded groups on the Internet make him look like a monster created by the Internet himself. This is wrong.
Houseguest downloads child porn, cops show up – Do you really know how your various friends, relations, acquaintances, and hangers-on plan to use your Internet connection when they drop by and ask for “the Wi-Fi password”? Unlikely—and yet anything that they do illegally through your home network can bring cops to your door with search warrants, asking tough questions about child pornography.
The Internet of Things helps insurance firms reward, punish – The more the Internet of Things knows about you, the more that insurance companies are able to slurp that data and incentivize you to walk the straight and narrow. “You know the way that advertising turned out to be the native business model for the internet? I think that insurance is going to be the native business model for the Internet of Things,” said Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media at his company’s Solid conference in San Francisco on Thursday.
Facebook exec: I HATE the INTERNET and I REALLY hate journalism – Comment Modern internet journalism is terrible and full of trivial clickbait designed for Facebook, says Mike Hudack, director of product management at, um, Facebook. “It’s hard to tell who’s to blame.” he writes “But someone should fix this shit.”
Microsoft team member Mark Russinovich’s third novel, Rogue Code, released – Mark Russinovich, a Microsoft team member working on the Azure team as a Technical Fellow, is also a best selling fiction author, His third novel, Rogue Code, went on sale this week. (Having reviewed Mark’s first novel on behalf of his publisher (an A+ novel), I’m looking forward to jumping into Rogue Code.)
The Internet Is Burning – Online security is a horrifying nightmare. Heartbleed. Target. Apple. Linux. Microsoft. Yahoo. eBay. X.509. Whatever security cataclysm erupts next, probably in weeks or even days. We seem to be trapped in a vicious cycle of cascading security disasters that just keep getting worse. Why? Well — “Computers have gotten incredibly complex, while people have remained the same gray mud with pretensions of godhood … Because of all this, security is terrible … People, as well, are broken … Everyone fails to use software correctly,” writes the great Quinn Norton in a bleak piece in Medium. “We are building the most important technologies for the global economy on shockingly underfunded infrastructure. We are truly living through Code in the Age of Cholera,” concurs security legend Dan Kaminsky.
Something to think about:
“When people are placed in positions slightly above what they expect, they are apt to excel.”
– Richard Branson
Today’s Free Downloads:
LibreOffice Productivity Suite – LibreOffice was developed to be a productivity suite that is compatible with other major office suites, and available on a variety of platforms. It is free software and therefore free to download, use and distribute.
LibreOffice Writer lets you design and produce text documents that can include graphics, tables, or charts. You can then save the documents in a variety of formats, including the standardized OpenDocument format (ODF), Microsoft Word .doc format, or HTML. And you can easily export your document to the Portable Document Format (PDF).
LibreOffice Writer lets you create both basic documents, such as memos, faxes, letters , resumes and merge documents, as well as long and complex or multi-part documents, complete with bibliographies, reference tables and indexes.
LibreOffice Writer also includes such useful features as a spellchecker, a thesaurus, AutoCorrect, and hyphenation as well as a variety of templates for almost every purpose. You can also create your own templates using the wizards.
A versatile word processor inside Kingsoft Office Software. With Writer, you can adjust paragraphs within seconds and insert table easily just by dragging it.
An easy but effective slide show maker inside Kingsoft Office Software. Helps you quickly create impressive multimedia presentation to convince your audience.
A flexible and powerful spreadsheet application. Helps you fulfill both personal data analysis needs, and those more professional data processing tasks.
Efficient mobile office solution on android and iOS platform. Help you handle Word, Excel and Presentation files on the road. Sharing made easy with Email & cloud storage.
Klondike Forever – Enjoy everyone’s favorite solitaire game. Klondike Forever is fast, smooth, beautiful and free!
Over 150 games (displays over 300 known names)
Beautiful, simple graphic interface
Visual and textual rules for each game
Multiple card decks and card backs
Full screen and windowed modes
Highlight playable cards
Highlight cards of any rank
Single or double click auto-move
Sticky click option
Auto-play to foundations
Auto-flip face down cards
Peek at hidden cards
In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:
Microsoft to the FBI: Drop dead – Microsoft has taken some heat for what some people claim has been too cozy a past relationship with the NSA. But Microsoft has recently gotten privacy religion, standing up to the FBI and refusing to turn over data to the FBI about one of the company’s enterprise customers.
Microsoft successfully fought off an attempt by the FBI to get “basic subscriber information” about one of Microsoft’s corporate customers, writes Brad Smith, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs in the the “Microsoft on the Issues” blog.
The FBI issued Microsoft what is called a National Security Letter asking for the information. As part of the letter, Microsoft was not even allowed to publicly acknowledge that it received request. In fact, it wasn’t even allowed to tell the company about it. Microsoft challenged it in court, because, in the words of Smith:
“We concluded that the nondisclosure provision was unlawful and violated our Constitutional right to free expression. It did so by hindering our practice of notifying enterprise customers when we receive legal orders related to their data.”
The FBI backed off, and agreed to call back the letter. Yesterday, documents related to the case were unsealed by a federal court in Seattle. You can read them here.
Tech giants team up to take on US Government gag orders – As it stands now, tech companies can’t disclose exact figures on how many national security-related user data requests they’ve received from the US Government. A group of major tech companies aren’t happy about the current state of affairs, however, so they’ve decided to do something about it.
According to a report from the Washington Post, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo have filed papers with the 9th Circuit Court arguing against ongoing gag orders the Government has put in place to guard against disclosure of these data requests. According to the court papers, which were filed in April, the four companies see the gag orders as a form of prior restraint, and argue that they are therefore a violation of the First Amendment.
According to the Post, this isn’t about revealing specifics about any given data request. In fact, the Post reports that, according to court documents, “[t]he companies do not want to disclose any information that would place specific investigations in jeopardy.”
What does GCHQ know about our devices that we don’t? – While the initial disclosures by Edward Snowden revealed how US authorities are conducting mass surveillance on the world’s communications, further reporting by the Guardian newspaper uncovered that UK intelligence services were just as involved in this global spying apparatus. Faced with the prospect of further public scrutiny and accountability, the UK Government gave the Guardian newspaper an ultimatum: hand over the classified documents or destroy them.
The Guardian decided that having the documents destroyed was the best option. By getting rid of only the documents stored on computers in the UK, it would allow Guardian journalists to continue their work from other locations while acquiescing to the Government’s demand. However, rather than trust that the Guardian would destroy the information on their computers to the Government’s satisfaction, GCHQ sent two representatives to supervise the operation. Typically, reliable destruction of such hardware in the circumstances would be to shred or melt all electronic components using a much larger version of the common paper shredder and leaving only the dust of the original devices. Indeed, some devices such as external USB sticks were turned to dust. (suggested by Aseem S.)
China responds to NSA tampering with network gear vetting process – The US government used security concerns to essentially drive Chinese companies out of the American networking marketplace. Now China is doing the same thing, as the Chinese government is planning to require all products sold in the country to pass a “cyber security vetting process,” the state-controlled Xinhua News Agency reported.
Jiang Jun, a spokesman for the State Internet Information Office, told Xinhua that the move was to counter large-scale spying, saying that the networks of Chinese government agencies, universities, businesses and telecommunications providers have “suffered extensive invasion and wiretapping,” the news service reported.
The measure is intended to prevent technology providers from “taking advantage of their products to illegally control, disrupt, or shut down their clients’ systems, or to gather, store, process, or use their client’s information,” according to a statement from the agency. IT products that do not pass the government’s vetting process will be banned in China.
Iran bans Instagram over ‘privacy concerns’ – Instagram is the latest high-profile site to be banned in Iran, with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube already on national blacklists. Earlier this month, WhatsApp was also barred there, with authorities apparently displeased with its new soon-to-be-owner Facebook, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg they referred to as an “American Zionist”. Instagram, notably, is also part of Facebook’s portfolio.
However, official bans such as these seem to be enforced somewhat inconsistently. The Associated Press notes, for example, that the country’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is an active tweeter, despite the ban on Twitter. Private citizens often flout the bans too by using simple workarounds to continue to gain access to blocked sites.