Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 4, 2014

U.S. Marshals Seize Cops’ Spying Records to Keep Them From the ACLU;  NSA chief says facial recognition program is totally legal;  Facebook encrypts data links to hinder government intrusion;  The Best Tech Gifts for Father’s Day;  A beginner’s guide to BitLocker;  Chromecast update offers World Cup streaming and photocasting;  Google Chrome Goes 64-Bit, Promises Better Stability, Security And Performance;  Instagram 6.0 introduces a creative toolbox for photo editing;  ISPs urged to quarantine infected computers;  FCC comment site breaks;  Photos: Wearable tech’s 10 biggest flops;  How to tweak File Explorer and customize your Windows experience;  Chinese media warns US tech companies are cyber ‘threats’.

No worries: NSA chief says facial recognition program is totally legal – The new head of the National Security Agency said Tuesday that the agency’s newly revealed facial recognition program is legal. “We do not do this in some unilateral basis against US citizens,” Admiral Michael S. Rogers said at the Bloomberg Government cybersecurity conference in Washington, DC. “We have very specific restrictions when it comes to US persons.” Rogers reportedly did not cite what those restrictions are. He also noted that the NSA doesn’t access motor vehicle or passport databases to check against images of US citizens.

Facebook encrypts data links to hinder government intrusion – Facebook is working to encrypt links between its datacentres, and would fight any move for law enforcement agencies to obtain encryption keys, according to the company’s head of security infrastructure Gregg Stefancik.

A beginner’s guide to BitLocker, Windows’ built-in encryption tool – The creators of TrueCrypt shocked the computer security world this week when they seemingly ended development of the popular open source encryption tool. Even more surprising, the creators said TrueCrypt could be insecure and that Windows users should migrate to Microsoft’s BitLocker. Conspiracy theories immediately began to swirl around the surprise announcement. Regardless of the true motivations behind the message, the TrueCrypt fiasco gives us a chance to talk about BitLocker—and how to use it.

The Best Tech Gifts for Father’s Day – Choosing the perfect Father’s Day gift depends on what kind of guy the dad in your life is. Does he love travel, playing sports or listening to music? We’ve got you covered with tech gifts that show your dad just how special he is.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Apple CEO’s astonishingly misleading claims about Windows 8 at WWDC – Apple CEO Tim zinged Windows 8 multiple times at his WWDC speech, much to the delight of the Apple faithful. But if you take a closer look at his claims, you’ll find that they’re astonishingly misleading. In fact, Windows 8 is cleaning Mavericks’ clock.

iOS 8 features already available on Android – Apple on Monday unveiled the latest version of its iOS mobile operating system at its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. The company has labeled iOS 8 as “the biggest release since the launch of the App Store,” however Android fans have nothing to fear. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery — well, many of Apple’s “new” features are already available on Google’s operating system and have been for quite some time.

Google Plans To Launch An Easy-To-Use Chrome Plug-In For Email Encryption Soon – Google today announced that it will soon release a Chrome plug-in that will enable end-to-end encryption for web-based email services. The plug-in is based on the OpenPGP email encryption standard. Google’s plan here is to make encryption easy enough to use to become widespread among mainstream users.

Days are numbered for decade-old hard drive connection tech – The SATA data-transfer standard has served the industry well, but hard drive maker WD has a product that demonstrates the shift to the faster PCI Express tech.

Apple to add DuckDuckGo as private search alternative – Privacy concerns, particularly following the Edward Snowden leaks in recent times, have spurred a push towards more privacy-centric digital options. Among search engines in particular, one known as DuckDuckGo has bid itself as a more secure option than Google and competing search engines, and it will soon receive a big boost from Apple.

Chromecast update offers World Cup streaming and photocasting – There once was a time when Chromecast users had a limited number of apps and services to choose from in order to enjoy seamless streaming from a phone or tablet to the television, but it seems like every month Google announces ten new services to choose from. This update brings some special add-ons to the mix, because it allows users to share photos that are stored on their phone as well as a boatload of content for sports and anime geeks.

$30 chip turns smartphones into holographic projectors – Samsung’s Galaxy Beam was a rather clunky attempt at building a smartphone with a built-in pico projector. The next one we see may be much more exciting, thanks to a tiny projector module being built by the brains at Ostendo. And although it’s small, it’s still capable of projecting images with an impressive 48-inch diagonal.


FiveStar Finds The Best Products On Amazon From Any Category On Any Budget – Do a lot of Amazon shopping? Then you’re going to dig this: a new website called FiveStar helps you uncover the best products on Amazon in any category and organized by budget. So for example, you can find the best coffee makers that are $10 and up, then see the best that are $20 and up, then $30, $40, $50, and so on. To determine what constitutes something being the “best,” FiveStar’s creator Matt Condon explains that the site uses a simple weighting algorithm that first looks at relevance, followed by popularity, star rating, then finally price.

Moto Stream connects your existing sound system via Bluetooth – You want a wireless, connected speaker system, but don’t want to spend a lot to get there. You might also have an existing home theater system that produces amazing sound, but alas — no connectivity. Motorola has introduced a new product, the Moto Stream, which aims to help get your current system connected via the existing audio jack.


iOS 8 Health: Apple’s play to own fitness – As plays for the wearable and fitness space go, iOS 8 HealthKit is ambitiously broad. Apple will initially support logging of over sixty different types of data, from the basics like weight and gender, through step-counts and blood-glucose levels. By leaving the collection to accessory manufacturers – at least initially, anyway – Apple can safely be comprehensive without having to fill each of those gaps itself with dedicated hardware, throwing itself into the center of the argument over privacy versus aggregation.


Google Chrome Goes 64-Bit, Promises Better Stability, Security And Performance – Most modern operating systems now natively support 64-bit processors, but even though many developers now offer 64-bit versions of their applications, browsers have generally lacked behind this move (though there are a number of unofficial 64-bit versions of Firefox, for example). Google, however, is releasing its first 64-bit version of Chrome today into the highly experimental Developer and Canary channels for Windows, which puts it on the road to a potential mainstream release later this year.

Smart Driving Assistant Comes To Android With Safety-Focused “Do Not Disturb” And Crash Alert Features – Automatic, the smart driving assistant that combines a small hardware device that plugs in your car and a mobile app that provides drivers with data about their vehicle and their driving habits, is now available on Android. Previously an iOS-only application, this release also delivers a couple of new features as well, including an Android-exclusive “do not disturb” mode and a Crash Alert functionality.


Instagram 6.0 introduces a creative toolbox for photo editing – Instagram has always been leader of the pack when it comes to filters and social capabilities, but the more avid smartphone photographers were left in the dust. The app lacked more in-depth photo tools, replacing everything with Willow and Valencia (and, fine, a few options for cropping, scaling, tilting, and softening).


Intel outs stunning fanless Broadwell tablet design for 2014 2-in-1s – Intel has revealed its new Core M 14nm Broadwell processor range and a stunningly slim 2-in-1 reference design to show it off, a super-skinny 7.2mm thick tablet. The prototype has a 12.5-inch touchscreen but still manages to be fanless, paving the way for Windows 8 powered tablets that can compete with ultrabooks for performance and app flexibility, but at the same time with iPads for weight and bulk.


How to tweak File Explorer and customize your Windows experience – Microsoft’s File Explorer may not be the most exciting utility on your Windows desktop, but you still have to rely on it every day to move, open, and search for files, or to quickly check out your free disk space. But how many of us bother to spend a few minutes to get File Explorer to work exactly how we’d like it? I’m guessing not many, so let’s change that by getting into the “advanced basics” of File Explorer tweaking.

Glance is an $80 wearable that puts smart notifications on your existing wristwatch – With a low-impact price and quiet aesthetics, Glance might be a solid option for people who don’t want to give up their favorite wrist wear.



10 online attacks we could have easily prevented – Ten attacks on corporations and individuals by hackers and governments, and all of them could have been prevented if people had followed best practices.


ISPs urged to quarantine infected computers – Forcing users to clean their infected computers on an ongoing basis would be more disruptive to cybercriminals than botnet takedowns. (There’s nothing new here. This issue has been on the back burner for years – and, talked about for years. We’re still talking!)

With So Many Older Bugs Around, Why Bother With Zero-Days? – Attackers understand that older vulnerabilities are the low-hanging fruit of Web application security. Attackers can be sophisticated if they need to, and there are tools at their disposal to craft complex campaigns. But why bother when people stick with outdated versions of Web applications or administrators don’t maintain a regular patching schedule for the applications. The problem is even more prevalent among widely used applications, such as forums software, content management systems, and even e-commerce tools.

Want to keep your installed applications up-to-date automatically? Then consider installing free Secunia Personal Software Inspector. I strongly recommend that you do so. Also available for Android.

Secunia PSI – The Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) is a free computer security solution that identifies vulnerabilities in non-Microsoft (third-party) programs which can leave your PC open to attacks. Simply put, it scans software on your system and identifies programs in need of security updates to safeguard your PC against cybercriminals. It then supplies your computer with the necessary software security updates to keep it safe. The Secunia PSI even automates the updates for your insecure programs, making it a lot easier for you to maintain a secure PC. Using a scanner like Secunia PSI 3.0 is complementary to antivirus software, and as a free computer security program, is essential for every home computer.



Linux users at risk as ANOTHER critical GnuTLS bug found – The GNUtls woes continue, with another critical flaw discovered and patched after researchers worked out malicious servers could hijack users of the cryptographic library. Red Hat engineer Nikos Mavrogiannopoulos, who issued a patch for the flaw (CVE-2014-3466) Saturday, shortly after it was reported 28 May by Codenomicon researcher Joonas Kuorilehto. Users of other affected software will have to sit tight until their developers incorporate the fix. Until then, they’ll remain open to malware attacks.

Why open source development is getting more secure – With fewer defects being found in major open source projects than in large proprietary software packages, what are the security strengths and weaknesses of open source development?

New iOS 8 openness, new security threats – More openness in Apple’s mobile operating system is great for developers — and an enticement for hackers.

Company News:

Facebook Says There Are Now 30M Small Businesses With Active Pages, Including 19M On Mobile – Dan Levy, Facebook’s director of small business, just said that the company has 30 million small businesses with active Pages on the social network. That’s up from 25 million from last November, when Facebook first started using its current definition to counting SMBs using its current definition (previously, it didn’t count e-commerce businesses that don’t have a brick-and-mortar store, so we can’t make an apples-to-apples comparison).

Apple reverses course on BitCoins, will now allow virtual currency apps – Apple has apparently had a change of heart when it comes to virtual currencies and will change its stance on apps that focus on this new type of monetary products and services.


Facebook to Small Businesses: Buy More Ads – There will be no summer vacation for Facebook — the company is spending the season trying to convince small businesses to buy more ads on the social network. The company hosted the first in a series of marketing training sessions Tuesday in New York, attracting hundreds of small business owners from around the city looking to boost their sales.

Supreme Court rules for Limelight over Akamai in key patent test – You may not know much about the patent lawsuit of Limelight vs. Akamai, but a recent Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision will influence how patent lawsuits and video is delivered over the Internet for years to come.

Comcast serves up public-private SMB wireless service – If you’ve ever had to sit in the lobby of a restaurant or needed to look up information while standing in your favorite boutique, then you know that it’s useful to have access to a public wireless connection. That’s the motivation behind a new wireless service from Comcast Business: one that provides small businesses with both private WiFi for their back-office applications and a public Xfinity WiFi connection that they can offer to customers.

Games and Entertainment:

Murdered: Soul Suspect review: The death of potential – The first moment of interaction in Murdered: Soul Suspect had me lining up a ghost’s limbs as he attempted to “possess” his own comatose body. That set an off-kilter tone the game maintained throughout my play. Murdered: Soul Suspect is weird in a way that’s no longer very common for games from big studios, which tend to stick with franchises and gameplay ideas that “work.” New ideas are the purview of two-person teams with shoestring budgets and an obsession with pixel art. Yet somehow Square Enix saw fit to publish an Unreal Engine-powered, biggish-budget console game about a ghostly cop solving his own murder.


Battlefield 4 network lag cut by 60% thanks to a High Frequency Bubble – The so-called Netcode patch is being made available to PC, PS4, and Xbox One versions of the game. What it does is to add a “High Frequency Bubble” around each player. Inside this bubble’s radius the client gets updates from the server much more quickly. So that means a lot less lag when fighting up close. As the video below shows, the experience is much smoother and the network delay is reduced by as much as 62 percent.


Xbox One finally gets Games with Gold; get your first free games today – Microsoft has finally rolled out its Games with Gold deal to Xbox One users, who can download Halo: Spartan Assault and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood for free from today.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, slayer of lions, in epic ‘Hercules’ trailer – There’s a new trailer out for the upcoming summer flick “Hercules” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, with all the action you’d expect from the legendary strongman.


Video screenshot by Anthony Domanico/CNET

Corsair launches Cherry MX RGB customisable keyboards, mice – The keyboards are new versions of the already popular K95 and K70 products. The K95 has 18 macro keys that can be programmed with 108 macros or presets. It’s made of aircraft grade aluminium and it’ll cost you US$190. That translates to AUD$205 and £144, though no official prices were given for those areas for any of the products.


Off Topic (Sort of):

FCC comment site breaks after comedian asks trolls to fight “fast lanes” – The FCC has received tens of thousands of comments on a proposal that would let ISPs charge Web services for Internet “fast lanes,” but yesterday the commission’s comment site struggled for a good part of the day. The problem happened after comedian John Oliver spent 13 minutes on his HBO show, “Last Week Tonight,” ripping the FCC’s proposal apart. He proposed changing the name “network neutrality” to “Preventing cable company f**kery,” and finished by calling Internet trolls to action.

An E-Cig That Tells You How Much You’ve Increased Your Life Expectency With Every Puff – Forget for just a moment that e-cigarettes mostly contain propylene glycol — a substance used in antifreeze and known to cause cancer. Smokio claims to be the first connected e-cig to actually add years to your life each time you puff. It works by hooking the device up to an app on your smartphone which captures your vitals every time you vape, even when your phone is out of sight.


Apple be trollin’: A visual history of the company’s public spite – In the past week, Apple’s Tim Cook era has been marked with its first major acquisition and its first major diss. We got a kick out of Cook’s Monday WWDC statements about Windows 8 and Android—not as fanboys, but because we get a kick out of tech titan squabbles. The moment presented us an opportunity to remember some of Apple’s most notable smack-talk and trolling statements over the past 30 years. Dust off those old turtlenecks and dated Longhorn references.

Photos: Wearable tech’s 10 biggest flops – The last year has been full of promise for wearable tech, but we’re still waiting for a breakthrough product. We rank the top 10 wearable failures, from fitness trackers to that mock-worthy eyewear.

A third of teens feel more accepted online than in real life, study finds – McAfee’s “Teens and the Screen” survey sees a far greater awareness of cyberbullying, but a carefree attitude toward security on the part of teens.

Something to think about:

“Now, I’m not one who’s going to sit here and overhype the threat [or say] that in the name of this threat we have to make dramatic changes and curtail our rights, because if we go down that road, in the end, they’ve won. If we change who we are and what we believe and what we represent in the name of security, they have won. I have always believed that.”

–     NSA Chief Admiral Michael Rogers

Today’s Free Downloads:

CSE HTML Validator Lite – Clean up your site with CSE HTML Validator Lite for Windows! CSE HTML Validator Lite is an award winning FREE (for personal and educational use) HTML editor and basic HTML syntax checker for Windows and above.

Powerful, easy to use, user configurable, and all-in-one HTML, XHTML, CSS, link, spelling, JavaScript, PHP syntax, SEO, and accessibility checker. CSE HTML Validator helps eliminate website problems that cause visitors to leave your website.

CSE HTML Validator Lite can:

Find bad or misspelled tags

Find missing end tags

Find bad or missing attributes

Find other HTML syntax problems

Check spelling with the built-in the editor

Includes preliminary support for HTML5 (v10+)

Quickly change all tags and attributes to lowercase

Automatically place quotation marks around all attribute values

Strip HTML tags from HTML documents, leaving only the text

Quickly change all the headers and/or footers of every page of your web site (when you design your pages using the template tool)


SideSlide – SideSlide is an advanced, portable, unobtrusive, dockable, skinnable, instantly accessible, highly configurable Desktop Extension on Steroids! Clean desktop clutter and make your computer friendlier and faster than ever before. With unique use of containers and various innovative features, SideSlide lets you get instant access to everything you have and much more. The program respects your system and keeps all of its configuration files in a single folder.


Instantly accessible and adjustable workspace that stays out of your way until you need it.

Add multiple shortcuts, commands, URLs, RSS news feeds, pictures, reminders and notes.

Resizable, detachable, foldable and shrinkable containers extend the workspace beyond the limits of the screen.

Mouse & keyboard support with a full-blown keyboard launcher and directory navigator.

RSS news feed functionality allows you to track what you are interested in the most.

Keep your eyes on multiple picture slideshows that are easily added.

Floating, colorful notes are quickly created and adjusted in bulk or separately.

Shortcuts can be tagged for additional functionality and organization.

Various ways of launching multiple shortcuts with a single click.

Link containers to actual folders on disk (launch, move, copy and delete files).

Shortcuts, URLs, text and pictures from Windows or your browser can be dragged & dropped in the workspace.

A growing online library with ready-made RSS news feed and shortcut containers.

Every style and setting in the entire program and for each individual object can be customized.

Fancy special effects that don’t slow you down.

Comes with multiple themes and wallpapers and you can also define your own style.

Supports portable setup and the ability to load objects from a relative path.

Much more…


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

U.S. Marshals Seize Cops’ Spying Records to Keep Them From the ACLU – A routine request in Florida for public records regarding the use of a surveillance tool known as stingray took an extraordinary turn recently when federal authorities seized the documents before police could release them.

The surprise move by the U.S. Marshals Service stunned the American Civil Liberties Union, which earlier this year filed the public records request with the Sarasota, Florida, police department for information detailing its use of the controversial surveillance tool.

The ACLU had an appointment last Tuesday to review documents pertaining to a case investigated by a Sarasota police detective. But marshals swooped in at the last minute to grab the records, claiming they belong to the U.S. Marshals Service and barring the police from releasing them.

ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler called the move “truly extraordinary and beyond the worst transparency violations” the group has seen regarding documents detailing police use of the technology.

“This is consistent with what we’ve seen around the country with federal agencies trying to meddle with public requests for stingray information,” Wessler said, noting that federal authorities have in other cases invoked the Homeland Security Act to prevent the release of such records. “The feds are working very hard to block any release of this information to the public.”

Stingrays, also known as IMSI catchers, simulate a cellphone tower and trick nearby mobile devices into connecting with them, thereby revealing their location. A stingray can see and record a device’s unique ID number and traffic data, as well as information that points to its location. By moving a stingray around, authorities can triangulate a device’s location with greater precision than is possible using data obtained from a carrier’s fixed tower location. (recommended by Aseem S.)

NSA Chief: Snowden “Probably Not” A Russian Spy – Despite Congressional bloviation, the NSA doesn’t think that Edward Snowden is a foreign spy. NSA Chief Admiral Michael Rogers doesn’t think it likely that Snowden is working for Russia, or any other country’s intelligence apparatus.

“Could he have? Possibly. Do I believe that’s the case? Probably not,” said Rogers.

The only surprising element of the Rogers comment is that he said it. There has been a steady drumbeat of intrigue and dreck trying to tie Snowden to Russia, as something of a poodle or other sort of lapdog. Here are a few samples for flavor.

Snowden’s own words:

“I have no relationship with the Russian government at all. I’m not supported by the Russian government. I’m not taking money from the Russian government. I’m not a spy.”

Senator Feinstein’s take:

Feinstein was then asked by Meet the Press host David Gregory if she agreed that Snowden might have had Russian support. “He may well have,” she responded, before adding that “we don’t know at this stage.”

REVEALED: GCHQ’s BEYOND TOP SECRET Middle Eastern INTERNET SPY BASE: Snowden leaks that suppressed – Above-top-secret details of Britain’s covert surveillance programme – including the location of a clandestine British base tapping undersea cables in the Middle East – have so far remained secret, despite being leaked by fugitive NSA sysadmin Edward Snowden. Government pressure has meant that some media organisations, despite being in possession of these facts, have declined to reveal them. Today, however, the Register publishes them in full.

The secret British spy base is part of a programme codenamed “CIRCUIT” and also referred to as Overseas Processing Centre 1 (OPC-1). It is located at Seeb, on the northern coast of Oman, where it taps in to various undersea cables passing through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian/Arabian Gulf. Seeb is one of a three site GCHQ network in Oman, at locations codenamed “TIMPANI”, “GUITAR” and “CLARINET”. TIMPANI, near the Strait of Hormuz, can monitor Iraqi communications. CLARINET, in the south of Oman, is strategically close to Yemen.

British national telco BT, referred to within GCHQ and the American NSA under the ultra-classified codename “REMEDY”, and Vodafone Cable (which owns the former Cable & Wireless company, aka “GERONTIC”) are the two top earners of secret GCHQ payments running into tens of millions of pounds annually.

Dow Jones asks court to unseal long-completed digital surveillance cases: Tens of thousands of electronic surveillance orders are sealed from public view – Serving as an outgoing United States magistrate judge, Brian Owsley had decided that one of his final judicial acts would be to unseal more than 100 of his own judicial orders involving digital surveillance that he himself had sealed at the government’s request.

But not long after Owsley’s move last year, a US district judge vacated Owsley’s order and resealed them all. That order itself was then sealed.

“I don’t think it’s that normal,” Owsley told Ars.

“I sent in various ways to the government, a number of applications and I said I’m going to unseal these unless you tell me why I shouldn’t. These were done in waves. The first wave were completed five years previous, past the statute of limitations, and quite likely no longer really significant. That was the first wave. The government did not oppose unsealing of any of them. So I spoke to the court’s office and said to upload them to make them available online, and as they were doing that, somehow this district judge found out about it an interjected himself into the process. If the government has said: ‘We don’t think these things should be unsealed,’ that’s one thing. But just out of the blue the district judge interjecting himself, that’s a little unusual.”

In a rare move, the media company Dow Jones filed a new motion on Monday with the US District Court in the Southern District of Texas asking it to unseal all such documents and to make them available publicly online. The motion was filed in conjunction with a new report from The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones is the newspaper’s parent company) showing that the sealing of such court files is on the rise.

Chinese media warns US tech companies are cyber ‘threats’ – Chinese state English-language media outlets, China Daily and the People’s Daily, have warned that US-based technology organisations, including Google, Apple and Microsoft, can become “cybersecurity threats”.

The US tech companies named by the media outlets also include, Yahoo, Cisco, and Facebook — all of which were required by the US National Security Agency to hand over users’ information — according to China Daily source, Wan Tao, founder of China’s Intelligence Defense Friends Laboratory.

The report on the news outlets’ sites said that the warning comes a week after China announced it would put in place a security review on imported technology equipment.

According to the report, Ning Jiajun, a senior researcher at the Advisory Committee for State Informatisation, said that, “previously, the US asked companies to install wiretapping software on their technological products, but if users found and shut down related functions, its ‘plan’ would fail”.

The media outlets’ claims come only a week after rumours emerged that the Chinese government was urging the country’s banks to remove IBM high-end servers and replace them with locally manufactured equipment, in what could be considered as a clear escalation of frosty relationships following a spate of US-China hacking accusations.

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