Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 2, 2014

Smile: Your Selfie Is A Mugshot For The NSA;  Truecrypt move to Switzerland, attempting a fork;  5 alternative encryption tools that can lock down your data;  Want to be forgotten by Google?  Here’s how you do it;  Top Android phones (June 2014 edition);  Optimize Your Tablet For Movies on The Go;  New attacks defeat Secure Boot and brick PCs;  How to control your Facebook privacy;  Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review: Swinging nowhere;  Is Some Tech Too Addictive?  Roadmap to physical immortality: The end of death in 7 easy steps; Prospector Lite (free);  Use a friend’s Android to find your own;  Pixar Renderman software set free;  Yell to find your lost iPhone, and it will yell back.

NSA harvests millions of images daily to build new facial recognition system – Edward Snowden has revealed documents showing that the NSA actively collects millions of images of the faces of citizens each day to be used in a new facial recognition system to identify criminals. Neither surveillance or privacy laws specifically offer protection for the collection of facial images and it is not clear whether the operation takes place just within the USA or if other countries have also been targeted.


Facial recognition software is getting increasingly complex and can now accurately identify hundreds of points at once.

Australia may join Russia in reconsidering government transparency – Australia may join Russia in being one of the only countries to pull out of the global pledge for transparent government known as the Open Government Partnership.The partnership, which currently has around 64 countries signatories including the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Norway, was launched in September 2011. Countries that sign onto the agreement have to pledge to put more information into the public domain and make it accessible to the public.

Truecrypt move to Switzerland, attempting a fork – Enter, a new site dedicated to organizing a grassroots effort to bring the encryption tool back to life. The site, organized by Thomas Bruderer and Joseph Doekbrijder, is based in Switzerland to help avoid potential future legal threats, and demands that developers not hide in the shadows anymore. They list their three top priorities, including waiting for the crypto security analysis to be finalized, and clearly are trying to set things up before jumping into the deep end. In addition to trying to revive Truecrypt, they also offer the 7.1a version for download, as well as all of the older versions. It remains to be seen whether this organization will complete its mission, but there’s definitely a need for a tool like Truecrypt.

So long, TrueCrypt: 5 alternative encryption tools that can lock down your data – Open-source legend TrueCrypt may be gone, but the usefulness of full disk encryption carries on. But if the brouhaha has you feeling skittish, or if you want to move on to encryption software that’s actively being developed, options abound. As popular as it is (was?), TrueCrypt is far from the only encryption tool around. In fact, many mainstream operating systems already come with an encryption tool built-in. Here’s a look at a few full disk encryption options that can take the sting out of TrueCrypt’s sudden disappearance.

Google’s “Right to be Forgotten” gets 12,000 requests in one day – Google’s “right to be forgotten” service is wildly popular. The Europe-only option, which comes after a judgement based on one person’s desire to have information about his stricken from Google’s search results, has drawn 12,000 requests. The tool has been available for less than one day.

Want to be forgotten by Google? Here’s how you do it – Google has launched a form where those who want the search giant to stop linking to outdated information about them can file their request.

Backlash over Facebook’s ‘listening’ feature is a problem of trust – Facebook will soon be listening to its users — literally — but some of them wish it would cover its ears. The social network is in the doghouse again, this time for an upcoming feature that will allow it to listen in on its users via their smartphone’s microphone. But the backlash might reveal more about people’s declining trust in Facebook than about the feature itself.

Optimize Your Tablet For Movies on The Go – Your tablet isn’t just a way to be productive on the go, it’s also a portable portal for watching movies and other video entertainment. Upgrade the viewing experience for maximum satisfaction on any Intel-powered tablet with these seven tips.

Top Android phones (June 2014 edition) – Time once again to take a tour of a handful of the best Android phones currently available on the market (June 2014). Here are ten of the best Android-powered handsets currently on offer, so whether you’re after a handset for personal use, of one suited to BYOD, there bound to be one here for you.

Three Acer Liquid phones flow into Canada – Three unlocked, Android-powered Acer Liquid smartphones landed in Canada on Monday, aimed at more price-conscious users seeking style but not necessarily all the speeds and feeds. Running Android 2.2 Jelly Bean on an HSPA+ network, this threesome ranges in price and power, but all come in under $400 CAD.


The Acer Liquid S1 is one of three Android phones headed to Canada.

Use a friend’s Android to find your own – If you’re away from the computer and lose your Android, your first reaction may have been to race home to check the GPS location of your device. With the recent update to the Android Device Manager, you can check the location from a friend’s device instead.

Yell to find your lost iPhone, and it will yell back – Like the swimming pool game it’s named after, this new app is fun. Holler to find your misplaced gadget and it will respond, cluing you in on its location.

10 indispensable iPhone apps for Windows users – If you’re one of the two out of three Windows users who also own Apple products, you may not realize you can use the traditionally adversarial platforms to get a productivity edge. Microsoft made waves when it launched Office Mobile for iPhone and the Office for iPad apps, but those were just the biggest steps in a strategy the company has been building for awhile. As a result, there are a slew of iPhone apps to help those who depend on Microsoft tools to get things done. Here are the 10 most essential.

Pixar Renderman software set free so you can make your own Toy Story – Aspiring animators, listen up! Pixar’s working on a brand new version of Renderman, the in-house software they use to render (duh) all their awesome digital creations. There are a slew of improvements coming, but the big news is that there’s a version you can download for free. That’s a pretty amazing giveaway — Renderman is a $500 piece of software. Between Autodesk offering students a free download of Maya and the new Renderman v19 being completely free, young amateur animation enthusiasts have access to two of the tools that power some of the highest-grossing animated features in the history of cinema.


DIY IoT computer smaller than a square inch – A Chinese crowd-funded effort has produced what could be – for now, at least – the smallest Linux computer-on-module so far, and with its research effort oversubscribed, says it will be shipping its “VoCore” devices by October 2014. The 25 x 25mm embedded system isn’t designed for fat compute loads, but at a list price of $US20 for a basic WiFi-only system (if you need wired connections, a self-assembled dock is available for $US20, pre-assembled for $US25), the target is home automation and Internet of Things applications. Running OpenWrt on Linux, the square-inch (roughly) computer has 32 MB of SDRAM, 8 MB of FPI Flash, and a 360 MHz RT5350 MIPS processor (vendor Ralink describes the device as a router-on-a-chip).


Major UK online retailer now selling Lumia 930… for £1299 – UK retailer – part of Shop Direct, one of Britain’s largest online retail groups – has started selling the long-awaited Lumia 930. But at £1299 ($2180), it’s not exactly a bargain.


New case for iPhone receives notifications of texts, calls before your phone does – The case uses excess energy from your phone when communicating with a network. Differences between incoming wavelengths allow the case to tell calls and messages apart. Email notifications could also be added in future versions. There is no need for charging, or a Bluetooth connection to use the case. The CFO of Concepter, Oleg Vinokur told Mashable that “It’s easy to miss a call or notification,” and added “With our technology, you can actually see it. It’s very visual.”

Springpad shutting down forever on June 25th – Springpad, a once-popular note taking app for Android and iOS, is shutting down. The company has begun sending emails letting users know the end of days are coming. A hard deadline has been set, but those who are still using it can export data ahead of the shutdown.

The five most popular end-user Linux distributions – Sure, on the desktop, Windows still rules. According to Stat Counter’s’ April 2014 data, Windows has about a 90 percent market share. Out of an approximate base of 1.5 billion PCs, that’s about 1.36 billion Windows PCs. So, guess what’s the number two end-user operating system in the world?


New attacks defeat Secure Boot and brick PCs – The Secure Boot security mechanism of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) can be bypassed on around half of computers that have the feature enabled in order to install bootkits, according to a security researcher.

How to control your Facebook privacy – Facebook offers several tools and settings through which you can safeguard your privacy. But it’s still up to you to control your own socially networked destiny. 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.


Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Anonymous offline file-sharing software PirateBox hits v1.0 – PirateBox is a local offline network for sharing files and communicating anonymously. PirateBox is software, but you can install it on lots of things like a Raspberry Pi or a router. The official version of PirateBox is designed for nano-routers like the TP-LINK TL-WR702N, but the ports of v1.0 are sure to follow soon. When you connect to a PirateBox device, you’re taken to a browser welcome page that explains the gist of how things work. You can build a PirateBox for as little as $35, because the software is completely free and open source. This matches the ethos of PirateBox — it’s not about piracy in the way we’ve come to think about it, but about openness and free culture.


Brazilian government hit by cyberattack – The internal communications system of the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations has been hit by hackers earlier this week. The authors of the attack to the system — which serves the External Relations ministry, as well as Brazilian embassies worldwide and carries a certain amount of sensitive information that is sometimes encrypted – and the objective of the hackers are still unknown.

Dutch scientists teleport data, creating foundations for a hack-proof internet – A team of Dutch scientists has reportedly managed to ‘teleport’ information between two computers. The news came through a publication in a popular science journal, where they claimed to exchange data between two computers despite a lack of any connection. The technology used during this breakthrough has led Professor Ronald Hanson to claim that it would be possible to teleport ourselves with distance in the future.

Company News:

Google to close American Motorola smartphone factory – A year ago, Google proudly announced that its new Moto X smartphone would be built in the US. It fitted out a factory near Fort Worth, TX and claimed that the facility would make for a “leaner, more efficient” operation. It looks like those efficiencies haven’t materialized, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that the factory will be closed by the end of the year. At its height, the plant employed more than 3,800 people to build Moto X phones. Currently, that number is around 700.

China’s Inspur vows to take over IBM’s local business – Late last week the Chinese server business unveiled its “IBM to Inspur” initiative in Jinan, Shandong province, vowing to take over IBM’s server business in the country after reports indicated China’s government has banned local banks from using IBM servers due to security concerns. On Thursday, Inspur told Chinese media the company is ready to “comprehensively” take over IBM’s server business in China.  Some 80 IBM former employees have already joined Inspur, according to the company.

Report: Google Readying Android TV Debut for Late June – Goodbye Google TV; hello Android TV. At least, that’s according to the latest reports from GigaOM, which indicate that Google will officially debut its new television software platform at Google I/O in late June. While the core differences between the company’s Google TV efforts and its new Android TV platform can be a wee confusing, GigaOM reports that the latter is going to be designed with simplicity in mind. Think online services and Android-based video games, with some of the usual media services lining up for the platform’s launch (Netflix, Hulu, et cetera).

AppliedMicro to crank up mobile chips to 16 cores for servers – AppliedMicro will talk about its faster and more power-efficient processors called X-Gene 2 and X-Gene 3, which has 3D transistors and 16 cores, at a forum in Taipei hosted by Digitimes Friday, ahead of next week’s Computex trade show. The company’s first 64-bit X-Gene low-power chip is based on ARM architecture and will be in servers by the end of this year.

OpenDNS to yank ads from its free consumer services – OpenDNS yesterday said it would drop in-browser advertisements from its free consumer services next week because its pivot to an enterprise security provider has been successful.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft acquires Rise of Nations, will launch Extended Edition in June – Microsoft continues to re-release its classic PC RTS games in new editions. After publishing Age of Empires II HD in 2013 and Age of Mythology: Extended Edition in May, the company has announced it will release Rise of Nations: Extended Edition sometime in June via Steam.


Inside Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s MOBA mash-up of Diablo, StarCraft, and WarCraft – The world of multiplayer online battle arena games is becoming increasingly crowded, but Blizzard Entertainment is bringing the star power of its beloved PC game series—like WarCraft, Diablo, and StarCraft—to the fight in hopes of creating another hit and claiming victory over the likes of Riot Games’ League of Legends, Turbine’s Infinite Crisis, and Valve’s Dota 2.


You might be able to own one of the Atari 2600 games that was buried in New Mexico – While some of the game that were found at the landfill will be given to the documentary team, others will be offered to local and national museums. Some of the games will also be sold to the general public and the city commission was told this week they have already been getting offers from unnamed buyers. Exactly how and when they will be sold has yet to be determined. The city commissioners were also told that there are 790,000 Atari games that are still buried at the landfill site.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review: Swinging nowhere – Every year or two they release a new Spider-Man game. Every year or two I get my hopes up that the developers have made a proper follow-up to 2004’s Spider-Man 2—the only fun Spider-Man game in recent memory. We’re now a decade out from that, and Amazing Spider-Man 2 shares (mostly) the same title as that lone bright spot. Is this the Spider-Man game that will break the long streak of stinkers? Nope.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Roadmap to physical immortality: The end of death in 7 easy steps – A series of infographics released this month by the design firm Art Lebedev lays out the possible end of death along seven broad lines of research. It takes us through the various ways we could achieve this goal, even including some fields that perhaps extend something other than life.


Is Some Tech Too Addictive? – Addiction can be a difficult thing to see. From outward appearances, Dr. Zoe Chance looked fine. A professor at the Yale School of Management with a doctorate from Harvard, Chance’s pedigree made what she revealed in front of a crowded TEDx audience all the more shocking. “I’m coming clean today telling this story for the very first time in its raw ugly detail,” she said. “In March of 2012 … I purchased a device that would slowly begin to ruin my life.”

Pull Over, Google Car: 6 Other Crazy Transportation Innovations – Oh, Google. You think you’re so smart with your steering wheel-less, pedal-less, driverless car, don’t you? “Look, guys, no hands!” But we’ve got news for you: You’re not the only transportation innovation game in town. Here are six other ways tech is—or could—totally revolutionizing the way we get from A to B:


Terrafugia’s prototype flying car, dubbed the Transition, during its first flight, May 23, 2012.

Researchers erase, restore memories in rats – If you could forget a painful memory, would you? It’s a hypothetical question, but maybe it could really happen one day — and, more interestingly, maybe lost memories could be restored. It’s this last part that was of particular interest to researchers University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, who have managed to accomplish both in lab rats.

Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde arrested in Sweden – Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde was arrested in Southern Sweden on Saturday, Reuters reported. Sunde was convicted of aiding copyright infringement in 2009 and was sentenced to a year in prison, plus a fine. That year of jail time was reduced to eight months, but in 2012 Sunde failed to appear at the Swedish prison where he was to be incarcerated, and he has been wanted by Interpol ever since.

Something to think about:

“If you would thoroughly know anything, teach it to others.”

–    Tryon Edwards

Today’s Free Downloads:

Prospector Lite – Automate your searching on eBay, Half and RSS feeds – one click to replay all your searches, another click to see the items listed since your last update. With Prospector, you can do this and more.

If you’re a power buyer, reseller or collector, Prospector will save you time and help you find the best items.

For long term searching, Prospector lets you:

Organize your searches and customize your results.

Encode your strategies, set up filters, and save everything for easy replay.

Search comprehensively and consistently, every time.

For short term searching, Prospector provides unique tools to help you uncover more items of interest.

Drastically reduce your search time. Find better faster. Prospector makes it easy!


Save and organize an unlimited number of searches.

Powerful filter options let you cut the noise.

See the search results as you like.

Customizable toolbar for short-term shopping and research.

Comparison shop across your favorite sites.

Automatic searches with email notification.

Add notes and highlighting, archive listings.

Hide items from future views.

Latest Listings feature lets you see the items listed between your search updates.

Extra search tools for casual browsing and discovery.

High productivity Watch lists.


Dragon’s Prophet – Dragon’s Prophet is an online role-playing game which features all virtues of a classic MMORPG and “evolutionizes” them. Players will experience immense dragon features and an epic story in a modern fantasy world, including next-gen elements such as action-based combat, deep character development and the extensive cross-server Frontier PvP system.

In a world shaped by dragon-kind, hundreds of unique dragons roam the lands. CAPTURE, TRAIN, RIDE, and FIGHT them in order to unlock their unique skills and abilities.


DarkWave Studio – DarkWave Studio is a free, open source, Digital Audio Workstation for Windows. Featuring a modular Virtual Studio, Pattern Editor, Sequence Editor and Multitrack Hard Disk Recorder. It has support for VST/VSTi instrument and effect plugins. The virtual studio has a modular design allowing machines to be connected in an ad-hoc fashion. The pattern editor enables the quick creation and modification of patterns by clicking to add or delete notes and dragging notes to move or resize them. The sequence editor allows you to queue patterns to play for each control track in any arrangement, enabling reuse of patterns and quickly remixing projects. The Multitrack Hard Disk Recorder allows you to record the output of any machine and record it to 16-bit Integer of 32-bit Floating Point PCM encoded .WAV files for full-quality post-production editing or for conversion to MP3/FLAC/etc.


Native x64 and x86 Windows Platform Support

VST PlugIn Support – Limitlessly Expandable With Instrument and Effects PlugIns

ASIO Audio Driver Support – Low Latency Output

Multi Core / Multi CPU Support

Makes Use Of SSE2 Optimizations When Supported By The CPU

Full 64-bit Double Precision Floating Point Audio Processing

Bundled PlugIns:

ES ControlChange Mapper – Map Control Change Events From One Index To Another

ES MIDI Input – Play Instruments From A Music Keyboard

ES MIDI Output – Sequence External MIDI Synthesizers

ES Mixer – 8 Track Stereo Mixer With 2 Auxilary Tracks

ES DGenR8 – Synthesize Drum Beats With Roland TR-909 Flavour

ES BassHead – Top Notch Virtual Analog Subtractive Synthesizer

ES SpatialVerb – Realistic Reverb Effects With The Smoothest Sound

ES Stomp – Synthesize That Classic Techno Thumping Kick Drum

ES AntiAlias – 32x Digital Oversampling Filter


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Smile: Your Selfie Is A Mugshot For The NSA – A report in The New York Times, based on documents from 2011 obtained by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveals that the US security agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly under the Obama administration – coinciding with a rise in popularity of taking and tagging self portraits on online social networks.

The newspaper reports that the agency has turned to new software to process the flood of images being included in digital communication including social media, email, messaging, videoconferencing and other types of online comms. The 2011 documents show that agency officials believe technological advances in facial recognition software could revolutionize the way the NSA finds intelligence targets around the world.

According to the documents, the agency intercepts “millions” of images per day — including about 55,000 “facial recognition quality images” — although it is not clear how many images the agency has amassed in total at this point. The NSA describes facial recognition technology as offering “tremendous untapped potential” for tracking intelligence targets.

As well as its own in-house facial recognition software, the documents cited in the report note that the NSA also relies on commercially available facial recognition tech, including PittPatt — a company owned by Google – to process the data it is harvesting.

Snowden shoots back: ‘So you DO have my emails, after all’ – Edward Snowden says the US National Security Agency is lying when it says it has no record of his emails to supervisors raising concerns about NSA surveillance programs, and that the release of one of his emails on Thursday proves it.

The NSA has long maintained that Snowden never voiced his concerns through proper channels before fleeing the US with a trove of secret documents, a position the agency reiterated on Thursday when it published what it claimed was the only email it could find from him.

That email contained a seemingly innocuous question about a legal matter and did not raise any specific objections to any NSA programs.

But in an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday, Snowden said that if the NSA can find one of his emails – after months of denying that its lawyers and higher-ups ever had any contact with him – then it must surely have the others he maintains he sent.

“Today’s release is incomplete, and does not include my correspondence with the Signals Intelligence Directorate’s Office of Compliance,” Snowden said.

He added that in the latter correspondence, he was told that secret Presidential Executive Orders could take precedence over an act of Congress, directly contradicting the response from the NSA’s Office of General Counsel that was published on Thursday.


1 Comment

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

One response to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 2, 2014

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