Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 27, 2014

Windows 8.1 virus protection for business, consumer compared; Android app exposing user data;  Windows XP patches flow for free if you flick PCs into POS mode;  Chinese govt urging banks to remove IBM servers: Report; US may block visas for Chinese hackers attending DefCon, Black Hat;  Make any Android easy enough for Grandma to use ;  Unsafe cookies leave WordPress accounts open to hijacking;  Mint 17: The best Linux desktop to date;  9 Tech Deals for Grads;  Taking Lots Of Selfies Is Not A Mental Disorder; The art of social listening: 6 tips;  Want an e-bike? Build your own!  Win Toolkit (free);  Go incognito when launching Chrome on Windows;  Watch Dogs review: horribly hacky story, wonderfully hacky gameplay.

Windows 8.1 virus protection for business, consumer compared – The leading edge of the market for that defense is now on Windows 8.1, the operating system on which most new PCs, including ones that look like tablets, will run. Independent test lab AV-TEST Institute’s evaluation of these products, 25 of them for consumers and nine for business, show that most of them are very effective at blocking malware, known (20,646 samples) and unknown (138 samples). The number of products that detect 100% of such threats in their tests went up from March to April.


Business users should expect a very high level of malware detection from endpoint protection products for Windows 8.1. Chart provided by AV-TEST Institute.

Chinese govt urging banks to remove IBM servers: Report – The Chinese government is urging its domestic banks to replace high-end IBM servers with locally-manufactured servers in the wake of the US-Chinese hacking scandal, according to a report by Bloomberg.

NBC News exclusive — “NBC Nightly News” anchor and managing editor Brian Williams traveled to Moscow this week for an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with Edward Snowden. The former NSA contractor’s first-ever American television interview will air in an hour-long NBC News primetime special on Wednesday, May 28 at 10pm / 9 Central. (suggested by Aseem S.)


Go incognito when launching Chrome on Windows – Need to keep your browsing habits private or just trying to avoid cookies? Read on to find out how you can launch Chrome into incognito automatically.

Make any Android easy enough for Grandma to use – For some users, especially older users, smartphones are nothing less than an intimidating device. The same is true for iOS or Android, but for the latter, the customization options can appear to complicate things even more. Enter Wiser. Wiser is an Android launcher built to “dumb down” a smartphone, making it easy enough for Grandma to use. Using a combination of big, bright buttons, a simplified notification display, and an app drawer, Wiser is perfect for less confident smartphone converts.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Windows XP patches flow for free if you flick PCs into POS mode – A German notice-board has published instructions on how to keep getting the free Windows XP updates that enterprises are having to pay for. According to this thread at, all that’s needed for 32-bit Windows XP installs is to edit the registry so that it tells Microsoft you’re using POSReady 2009. As Betanews notes, with the registry edit in place, you should receive updates for “Windows Embedded Industry (formerly known as Windows Embedded POSReady). This is based on Windows XP Service Pack 3”. The Sebjik administrator who created the registry hack posted the following code, which should be saved as a .reg file and double-clicked to be imported.


Mint 17: The best Linux desktop to date – Over the decades—yes decades—I’ve been using Linux desktops, I’ve had many favorites. Now, I have a new one: Linux Mint 17. I expect it to be my favorite for a long time to come. I can say that because this version, now a late release candidate. like its base operating system, Ubuntu 14.04, is a long-term support edition. It will be supported until 2019. This makes this edition one that businesses should consider.



The Ubuntu Unity Launcher gets a facelift with Unity Drawers – For the longest time, Ubuntu Unity users have wanted a bit more leverage from the Unity Launcher. As it stands, it’s a means to launch applications and get to the Unity Dash. But with the creation of a new tool, Drawers, you can easily organize related items (files, applications, websites, folders, etc.) using “mini dashes” and “quick lists” — similar to the Stacks feature in OS X. Drawers allows you to organize files together onto the Launcher and even create a Dash-like app menu for quick access to your applications.


9 Tech Deals for Grads – Today’s grads spend more time looking at a screen than ever before, and the least you can do is make sure that screen to which they divert all their time is in top condition. If you’re looking for a gift for a grad, or buying one for yourself, check out some of the best graduation deals available online right now:

5 free Daydream apps that put your charging phone to work – Without tweaking a thing, you can choose to have your charging device display an analog or digital clock, or pictures in a frame or table format. Or you can hit the Google Play store and discover a world of beautiful, useful Daydream apps, and completely transform your device’s display (while charging) into a screen that works for you, even when it’s technically “off duty.” I know what you’re thinking: let’s do that! Daydream isn’t a well-known feature, but that doesn’t mean it escaped developers’ radars. Just search for ‘Daydream’ in the Play Store, and you’ll find hundreds of apps to customize your charging screen. Here are five of the coolest.

Meet Ultravisual, an editing geek’s photo-sharing app that even amateurs will love – Like other photo-sharing apps, Ultravisual consists of a main feed, a photo uploader, and a friend-finder. How it differs: The app sorts your images by collections, or albums, that you name and caption. You can let others submit to your collection by turning on permissions for the album. You have complete control over your album: You can approve or deny requests, close the collection at any time, or delete inappropriate posts.

Map shows how far you can travel in any direction in 10 minutes – A fascinating map lets you pick a city and then shows you how traffic conditions affect your drive time at various times of day on different days of the week.


Save your Word configurations – Microsoft Word is a wonderfully configurable tool. You can set a default font and give every new document your preferred margins. You can re-arrange the ribbons and Quick Access Toolbar. You can record simple macros and even—if you have the programming skills—write complex ones. But if you’re not careful, all of your work personalizing Word can disappear in a keystroke. Here’s how to be careful.

D-Day Hour by Hour Recounts a Pivotal Moment in History Through Images, Video, and Maps – We’re coming up on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, widely recognized as the beginning of the end for Germany’s World War II war machine. To this day, the landing at Normandy, France remains the largest seaborne invasion in history, and now you can get an in-depth look at the battle hour-by-hour with a new iPad app. D-Day Hour by Hour is $4.99 in the App Store and is iPad-only. It’s also available at a discount for educational institutions through Apple’s volume purchase program. This is a great app for any amateur history buff.


QuickCoin app lets users send bitcoin through Facebook – QuickCoin lets users move the cryptocurrency around for free through the social network. It’s a simple process of logging into an account, choosing a Facebook friend and sending bitcoin. The accounts, called “social wallets,” display bitcoin in U.S. dollars and in “bits,” which are defined as 0.000001 bitcoin. That means US$5 would show up as roughly 8,548 bits instead of a fraction of one bitcoin. One bitcoin was worth about $583 on Tuesday, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin tracking index.


Taking Lots Of Selfies Is Not A Mental Disorder – Have you heard? The American Psychological Association says that taking an excessive amount of selfies is now considered a mental disorder. But of course this claim, which predictably spread like Kardashian wedding news on social media channels this weekend, is completely false. It was the hoax we all wanted to be real. It was vindication that certain annoying people in our lives who post non-stop pics of themselves and flood our Facebook feeds with them were, in fact, crazy.

YouTube wants to make it easier for creators to manage videos, make money – Here’s some good news for anyone who produces a lot of YouTube videos: Late last week, the video sharing site announced that it was working on a new way to make it easier for viewers to fund video creators, along with a new app specifically for video publishers in mind.

The hottest trend in mobile: going offline! – The consumer electronics industry has spent the past 20 years making everything connect wirelessly to the Internet — from PCs to TVs, cameras and speakers. This includes, of course, the most wireless of wireless devices, the ubiquitous smartphone. Your average smartphone connects wirelessly in three ways: via mobile broadband, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth — all of which get faster, more reliable and more widely available all the time. So why is there now a big trend in the industry to make apps work in places where no Internet connection is available?


New banking Trojan ‘Zberp’ offers the worst of Zeus and Carberp – The new threat, dubbed Zberp by security researchers from IBM subsidiary Trusteer, has a wide range of features. It can gather information about infected computers including their IP addresses and names; take screen shots and upload them to a remote server; steal FTP and POP3 credentials, SSL certificates and information inputted into Web forms; hijack browsing sessions and insert rogue content into opened websites, and initiate rogue remote desktop connections using the VNC and RDP protocols. (Wow!! Did they miss anything?)

Australian Apple devices hacked and held to ransom – A number of Apple users across Australia have reported having their iPhones, iPads and Macs targeted by hackers threatening to erase their data and demanding US$100 to regain access to devices.


Anti-virus firm Avast! takes down forums after breach – The small upside is that the mess only impacts the company’s forums. As the company’s CEO Vincent Steckler has blogged “Less than 0.2% of our 200 million users were affected. No payment, license, or financial systems or other data was compromised.” Don’t click away to another story yet: user names, email addresses and hashed passwords were compromised, so Steckler says “If you use the same password and user names to log into any other sites, please change those passwords immediately.” Android app exposing user data – Security firm “Inside Security” have found what they believer are a number of security issues within Microsoft’s android application which could leave users data exposed and unencrypted.

Unsafe cookies leave WordPress accounts open to hijacking, 2-factor bypass – Memo to anyone who logs in to a WordPress-hosted blog from a public Wi-Fi connection or other unsecured network: It’s trivial for the script kiddie a few tables down to hijack your site even if it’s protected by two-factor authentication. Even when using networks they trust, users should be aware that privileged employees at ISPs and network providers are able to intercept the unencrypted cookie, and government snoops may be able to do the same.

Company News:

Report: Apple to Reveal ‘Smart Home’ Software at WWDC – Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is only a week away, and the latest rumor tips a smart home-related announcement from Cupertino. According to The Financial Times, Apple will unveil a new software platform intended to simplify the process of using your iOS device to control devices in the home – from thermostats to appliances.

Amazon Tightens Noose Around Hachette, Makes Books Unavailable – Amazon and Hachette are continuing their ugly contract dispute, with the former now allegedly firing a new salvo into the war: Preorders for Hachette titles are being pulled in some instances from Amazon’s online marketplace. In others, Amazon is simply delisting product pages for Hachette books, reports the New York Times.

Rap Genius co-founder resigns after massacre comments – Mahbod Moghadam has left the text annotation startup after making insensitive notes on the manifesto penned by the man who killed six people in Santa Barbara, Calif. Moghadam later apologized for the comments, telling Valleywag that he was “fascinated by the fact that a text was associated with such a heartbreaking crime, especially since Elliot is talking about my neighborhood growing up.”

Foxconn to secure stake in Taiwanese operator to bolster 4G offering – Apple supplier Foxconn is planning to secure a $390 million stake in Asia Pacific Telecom as the manufacturer branches out in to 4G communications.


Games and Entertainment:

Watch Dogs review: horribly hacky story, wonderfully hacky gameplay – When Watch Dogs was first unveiled nearly two years ago, Ubisoft promised an open-world spy thriller for the Internet age. Instead of merely relying on guns or superpowers like some other open-world protagonists, Aiden Pearce would use his hacking skills to monitor citizens’ digital footprints and manipulate surrounding devices to his advantage, becoming a new kind of vigilante in the process. Ubisoft has done a commendable job of just that, building a slightly skewed version of the modern world where Aiden can covertly hack his way through for your general enjoyment. Too bad, then, that the people at the center of that world prove so impossible to connect with.


NVidia releases new drivers optimized for Watch Dogs – As AMD’s market share continues to grow inside of PCs and consoles like the PlayStation 4, NVidia is hoping to take some back with the release of “Watch Dogs.” By working closely with the Ubisoft team during the development of the title, NVidia was able to bring improved performance for GeForce GTX users while running “Watch Dogs” on a PC.


Here’s what Wolfenstein had to do to launch in Germany – The newest in a series of classic first-person shooters is here. Wolfenstein has been released to the whole world – including Germany. This release is historic for the Wolfenstein series as it’s the first time the game has been allowed for standard sales inside of Deutschland. This year the game comes to Germany with a collection of changes that more or less make the game just as blood-and-guts filled, but far less direct in its Nazi-brand delivery.


Sony PlayStation will be entering China soon – China is really everyone’s darling market these days. Just after Microsoft announced that it plans to make its Xbox One consoles available in the country, Sony has formed two new ventures that heralds the coming of the PlayStation, in one form or another, to the formerly closed gaming market of China.

Off Topic (Sort of):

#YesAllWomen Shows That Misogyny Is Everyone’s Problem – If the actions of the UC Santa Barbara shooter last week turned the Internet into a crime scene, then the Web is also where we turn to grieve and try to process something that is truly incomprehensible and horrifying. Since news of the murders broke, #YesAllWomen has remained one of the top trending topics on Twitter. Originally created by Twitter user gildedspine in reaction to the Not All Men meme, #YesAllWomen has given people of both genders a forum to reflect on how misogyny impacts their lives.

It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane….it’s India’s first pizza-delivering drone! – Mumbai’s Francesco’s Pizzeria stunned the world by delivering a pizza via a drone. However, the city’s cops aren’t too pleased about the stunt.


Lian-Li announces awesome computer cases that are also desks – Do you really need a desktop computer and a desk? Why not make them into a single thing with Lian Li’s DK-01X, DK-02X, and DK-Q1X desk chassis. Lian-Li previously announced a prototype version of these cases late last year, but now they are real products. These hybrid aluminum computer cases have a slide-out drawer for easy access to your computer components, but the top is tempered glass, so you can look down at any time to take a peek.


Want an e-bike? Build your own! – A bicycle that has a little electronic extra — that is, a motor that gives you a bit of extra boost — can be a handy thing for the everyday cyclist. If, that is, you have the money to spend on one. If you’re trying to save money by cycling rather than driving or taking public transport, the thousands of dollars an e-bike can cost might be a little counter-intuitive. But what if you could build your own for a fraction of the cost?


Micah Toll

The art of social listening: 6 tips – The idea of listening to customers and potential customers is nothing new. But as is the case with many pursuits in the digital age, the tools people use are in a steady state of change. This is especially the case in social media, which many businesses have turned to for direct access to customers. As a result, social listening is now important business. Companies are listening to see how well their marketing campaigns are performing, to get ideas or feedback on products or services, and understand any service issues or product issues. Here are six key factors to keep in mind when engaging in social listening.

Data caps are the least of America’s internet problems – As American customers get themselves into a lather over the impost of fixed internet data caps, the reality is that soon, most internet users won’t care or think about them.

Watch: Historic Coney Island Recreated Using a 3-D Printer – “More remains of ancient Rome than of turn-of-the-century Coney Island,” says Brooklyn artist Fred Kahl, explaining why he chose to create a detailed scale model of an amusement park from 100 years ago. “This is … about a deep love of Coney Island as the cultural melting pot and showcase for presenting cutting-edge technology as entertainment.” The result of his passion is the world’s largest-ever 3-D printed art installation. It fills an entire gallery at the Coney Island Museum, which reopens Memorial Day Weekend after being shuttered since October 2012 to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy.


Something to think about:

“Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means — to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal — would bring terrible retribution.”

–     U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

Today’s Free Downloads:

MarkdownPad – Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).

The goal for Markdown’s formatting syntax is to be as readable as possible. A Markdown-formatted document should be publishable as-is, as plain text, without looking like it’s been marked up with tags or formatting instructions.

In short, you can create beautiful HTML documents without knowing any HTML.


Instant HTML Preview

Easy formatting with keyboard shortcuts

Fully Customizable

Use your own CSS

HTML Export

Distraction-free Mode


Win Toolkit – Win Toolkit is a lightweight and easy to use application that was created in order to help you customize your Windows installation!

With this tool you can integrate Addons, Drivers, Gadgets, Language packs, Modified Files, Theme Packs, Tweaks, Silent Installers, Updates. You can also remove features such as Windows Media Player and customize Windows default services state. Win Toolkit also comes with extra tools which helps you convert files, make ISOs, download the latest updates (thanks to SoLoR and McRip), and completely customize your images to tailor your Windows installation disk to your exact needs.



In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Congress divorces NIST and NSA – The US Congress has passed a bill that removes the NSA’s direct input into encryption standards.

According to a report at ProPublica, an amendment to the National Institute of Standards and Technology act removes the requirement that NIST consult with the NSA in setting new encryption standards.

Following the Snowden revelations, NIST had denied that it deliberately weakened encryption standards at the behest of the NSA.

However, that didn’t put to rest suspicions that weaknesses such as existed in Dual_EC_DRBG were deliberate NSA contrivances, with RSA singled out for criticism over the random number generator.

China ponders ban on IBM servers – The dispute between China and the USA over backdoor-riddled information technology equipment has just heated up, with Bloomberg reporting Chinese authorities are wondering whether the time has come for local banks to ditch their IBM servers.

The newswire’s report mentions “high-end” servers and suggests Chinese authorities “are reviewing whether Chinese commercial banks’ reliance on the IBM servers compromises the country’s financial security.”

As is the often the case with Chinese government policies, this one needs some deep consideration, not least because if banks are using “high-end” servers that suggests either POWER systems or mainframes are in China’s sights. Banking applications written for either platform are generally very tightly coupled to hardware. Ordering Chinese users to find alternatives – either with new hardware or by porting software to another operating system – would not be something most could accomplish in a hurry.

China surely knows this and that any order to change would be futile for at least a few months. Such an order would also telegraph to the USA or other powers the need to find another attack vector.

US may block visas for Chinese hackers attending DefCon, Black Hat – On Saturday, an unnamed “senior administration official” told Reuters that the US government is considering using visa restrictions to keep Chinese hackers from attending DefCon and Black Hat, two major hacking conferences that take place in August in Las Vegas.

Jeff Moss, founder of both the DefCon and Black Hat conferences, and Chris Wysopal, a member of the Black Hat board that reviews presentations, were both skeptical of the move. Wysopal noted that Black Hat talks are taped and sold after the conference, and preventing Chinese hackers from being physically there would not appreciably affect China’s hacking abilities. “It seems symbolic to me,” Wysopal told Reuters of the move. Several Chinese nationals are booked to speak at the Black Hat conference, although none are booked to speak at DefCon.


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