Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 20, 2014

House Of Representatives Passes Amendment To Cut Off Funding For NSA’s “Backdoor”;  Microsoft: NSA security fallout ‘getting worse,’ ‘not blowing over’;  NSA jitters are ‘just a bummer’ for cloud growth, HP says;  5 tips and tricks for better Siri usage;  This Is What Your Facebook Profile Really Says About You;  Jekyll: A quick and dirty solution for building static HTML sites;  Ultimate Windows Tweaker for Windows 8 (free);  Microsoft patches denial of service vulnerability in its security suite;  Android 4.4.4 rolls out to several Nexus devices;  Test a Personal Drone Detection System for $500;  Nokia was blackmailed many times over the years – and usually paid up;  Avira Free Antivirus;  8 iPad games to download before your next business trip.

House Of Representatives Passes Amendment To Cut Off Funding For NSA’s “Backdoor” – The House of Representatives has passed by a landslide an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that will cut off funding to National Security Agency’s “backdoor” surveillance. The act, which places limits on how the NSA can gain access to communication, including email, online browsing, and chat histories, still has to gain Senate approval, but it represents a significant coup for opponents of the NSA. The act had strong bipartisan support, with 293 ayes, 123 nays, and one present.

This Is What Your Facebook Profile Really Says About You – When it comes to the job search, hiring managers can do a quick Google search, check out your social profiles, and learn a good deal about you. Using the Big Five personality model, the Five Labs Facebook analyzer scans you and your friends’ posts and analyzes the type of language you use. It then measures how much you exhibit each of five personality traits: agreeableness (how cooperative and trusting you are), neuroticism (how easily you experience unpleasant emotions), conscientiousness (how dependable you are), extraversion (how socially energetic you are), and openness (how intellectually curious you are).

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‘Uber for Marijuana’ App Will Deliver Pot to Your Door … If you have a medicinal marijuana card and live in Washington State – Say goodbye to those awkwardly composed texts to your friend’s friend’s friend (“Hey, do you by any chance …”), because two college students have come up with a solution — a marijuana-delivery app called Canary. But don’t get too excited. For now, Canary, founded by University of Washington students Josiah Tullis and Megh Vakharia, will allow only medical-marijuana card holders to place orders for their favorite strains of bud, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Thursday.

Microsoft reveals Office 365 roadmap—here’s what’s coming – Microsoft releases a list of features for upcoming Office 365 revisions, in a bid to publicly lure more customers to the platform.

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5 tips and tricks for better Siri usage – Siri is capable of telling you much more than where the nearest Starbucks is located. These five tips and tricks will help you get started unlocking the full potential of Siri.

Stressed? Watch bubbles bursting in super slow-mo to relax – At 100 times slower than your eye sees, this Slow Mo Guys video of bubbles popping offers a beautiful moment of temporary escape.

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Source: Apple’s iWatch will hit production in July with 2.5-inch display, wireless charging – Referencing various anonymous supply-chain sources, Reuters has reported that Taiwan’s Quanta Computer will begin production of Apple’s mythical wearable in July. Details are scant, but the Reuters report says Apple’s smartwatch will feature a 2.5-inch, slightly rectangular, arched touch display, and will be juiced by wireless charging. The gadget will have a heart rate sensor, and connect only to Apple devices running iOS.

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Low-cost NFC tags will change how you control your Android device – You know those short-range, RFID radio tags that store owners use stop miscreants from swiping merchandise? “Shrinkage reduction” they call it. Well, something similar, called NFC, lurks in our newer Android phones. Sending texts, switching on Bluetooth, and adjusting screen brightness; these are among the many features you can control with the tap of a petite plastic adhesive tag. And it’s cheap, with a dozen of the tags available on Amazon right now for around fifteen bucks.

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Twitter’s “GIFs” are actually MP4s – Twitter announced yesterday that it would start supporting embedded GIFs within tweets, but it looks like Twitter has pulled the wool over users’ eyes by using a different format instead.

pcDuino3S mini PC runs Linux and Android – Another day, another small-form-factor PC. This one, the pcDuinos3S, meets that fine line between budget-friendly and usable, being priced at $99 and able to run either Android or Linux, depending on your needs.

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Messaging app that only lets you send the word “Yo” gets $1 million funding – Yo is a messaging app with one key difference to other messaging apps: it can only send the word “Yo” to recipients. You download the app for either iOS or Android, add your friends, and then tap their names to send the word. That’s it. That’s everything it does. It may sound pretty pointless, but the app’s creators, Moshe Hogeg and Or Arbel, say it’s already getting popular even though they only spent 8 hours creating it. Over 50,000 people use it, and more than 4 million Yo messages have been sent. Venture capitalists have also shown an interested and invested $1 million.

Save web clippings and save time with these apps – The web is an indispensable research tool, but keeping track of all of the information you find there can be daunting. You could bookmark all of the items you’d like to revisit, but that’s just so 1999. Using a service that allows you to clip and save pieces of the web for later consumption is much easier. Not only will these services save you time and energy, they’ll make you more productive.

Jekyll: A quick and dirty solution for building static HTML sites – Designing, building, and publishing a website is time-consuming when using technologies such as ASP.NET and Ruby on Rails because there are so many components to making sure everything works as planned. That’s fine for full-featured applications, but there are times when you want to push out a simple site using basic web standards (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript). This is where Jekyll enters the picture, as it provides a quick and painless solution to building a simple site.

This is BlackBerry Passport (and yes, it really is that shape) – BlackBerry warned us it had something odd coming, and this is it: the unusually proportioned BlackBerry Passport. Snuck into BlackBerry’s latest financial results presentation – where the company announced a smaller-than-expected loss for the most recent quarter – the Passport has a 4.5-inch 1440 x 1440 resolution display that’s square, not rectangular.

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Check out the best art GIFs of 2014 – The winners for the Giphoscope International Art GIF Contest are in, honouring the most creative work in the art of the GIF.

Security:

Microsoft patches denial of service vulnerability in its security suite – After patching 59 vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer recently, Microsoft has now patched one which existed in its various security software, that could allow attackers to initiate a denial of service attack. The exploit could be triggered by scanning a certain crafted file using the Malware Protection Engine which would then render the software useless for monitoring the target system until the file is removed and the system is restarted. Although, completely carrying out an attack using such an exploit would require some user interaction such as downloading an attachment, it could not be left unpatched, given the ignorance of most users. Hence, Microsoft has deemed it as “important” in the advisory.

Simplocker Ransomware on Your Android? New App Fights Back – The developers behind Avast’s Ransomware Removal app say it can not only remove the ransomware Trojan, but also unlock the encrypted files. However, this brings up the issue of actually installing the app on the mobile device, since Simplelocker uses a pop-over notification to prevent user access. Complete instructions are available on the Avast blog.

Nokia was blackmailed many times over the years – and usually paid up – A former Nokia executive says that the company has been blackmailed numerous times, and frequently paid up, while further details have emerged on the multi-million euro ransom it paid in 2008.

Following TrueCrypt’s bombshell advisory, developer says fork is “impossible” – One of the developers of the TrueCrypt encryption program said it’s unlikely that fans will receive permission to start an independent “fork” that borrows from the current source code, a refusal that further clouds the future of the highly regarded application.

Test a Personal Drone Detection System for $500 – While there are non-lethal uses for drones, the high-flying devices have sparked some privacy concerns, especially as federal officials move to loosen restrictions on their use. As a result, a Portland, Oregon company has taken matters into its own hands with a new a Kickstarter campaign for a Personal Drone Detection System. The team at Domestic Drone Countermeasures (DDC) has been working for more than a year to produce hardware that detects drones and, ultimately, deters them from recording you and your surroundings.

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Android, Windows Phone to add kill switch to thwart theft – Both Google and Microsoft say that they will add kill switches to the next versions of their mobile software.

Android 4.4.4 rolls out to several Nexus devices – Google quietly updates KitKat with security fixes, including one patch for a flaw discovered in OpenSSL after the notorious Heartbleed bug was uncovered.

Company News:

LinkedIn Launches Its First Standalone Job Search App, Privacy Guaranteed – LinkedIn says that today 40% of its 300 million users access the site on mobile devices, so its bid to tap into the wave of users accessing the site via smartphones and tablets continues apace: today the company is launching LinkedIn Job Search, a free iOS app that will let people search and apply for jobs on the social network.

BlackBerry beats earnings expectations thanks to cost-cutting – CEO John Chen’s efforts are having a positive effect: the ailing BlackBerry reports better than expected revenue and earnings for its fiscal first quarter.

Google is hoping to entice developers with new Android Wear video – Google released a video that reviews some of the key things that will make Android Wear different from other platforms. It gives an in-depth look at how Android Wear will function once released.

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Twitter snaps up video startup SnappyTV – Twitter will tightly integrate the cloud-based platform for live clipping, editing, and distributing video across the Web.

Games and Entertainment:

Augmented reality is coming to Lego with new Fusion series – Augmented reality games for kids are not new things, but developers continue to find more interesting ways to make them interactive. Hot Wheels, for example, has some exceptional racetracks that put your tablet in the middle of a visually stunning special effects package for your vehicles. Even McDonald’s has an AR game for their terrifying new mascot, but like most things in this particular market, it looks like Lego has stepped up in a big way. Lego Fusion, coming to stores this August and September, uses your iPad to do everything from create 3D buildings from a single wall to allowing the player to participate in massive battles right in their living rooms.

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Disney’s Star Wars Scene Maker For iPad Lets Users Build Their Own Animated Fanfic – Disney has a new mobile app that uses its recently-acquired Star Wars IP out today: Star Wars Scene Maker is now on the App Store, and it lets kids of all ages build their own Star Wars stories using 3D-rendered graphics and animations, along with the option to record your own voice over for dialog and built-in music for epic soundtracks.

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Hands On With the ‘Battlefield: Hardline’ PC Beta – After Battlefield 4’s various setbacks, including a rocky launch plagued with server issues, the Battlefield series is reinventing itself with Battlefield: Hardline, a game that pits players in a game of cops and robbers.

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7 Steam Summer Sale Tips Every Gamer Should Know – It’s that time of year again. The Steam Summer Sale is back, and that means two weeks of constantly reloading the Steam store to see what games you can pick up for a few bucks each. It’s easy to go nuts during the sale, so here are some tips on how to get the most during the event.

Linux gaming revolution continues as XCOM: Enemy Unknown hits SteamOS – XCOM is a major addition to Linux’s gaming ranks, but it’s just the latest in a series of triple-A games to embrace the open-source operating system.

8 iPad games to download before your next business trip – We all run into unexpected delays from time to time. Put this selection of games on your iPad when you need a distraction or to fill time during a lengthy layover.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Gone Will Sell Your Old Crap For You – In an age when consumerism is almost the only path to survival, it’s pretty easy to accumulate a lot of stuff. And then you get more stuff, and wind up startlingly close to a hoarder’s lifestyle before deciding to sell a bunch of it. At first, the idea feels brilliant, until you start tabulating the time, effort and resources involved in selling off a bunch of old crap. Is it worth it, you ask? With Gone, it totally is.

Hackers reverse-engineer NSA spy kit using off-the-shelf parts – Last year Edward Snowden leaked the NSA’s Advanced Network Technology catalog, a listing of the hardware and software tools the agency makes available to agents for spying. Now enterprising security experts are using the catalog to build similar tools using available electronics. The team, led by Michael Ossmann of Great Scott Gadgets, examined the leaked catalog and found that a number of the devices the NSA developed can be very simple to recreate.

3D printed electric cars are happening, and they look amazing – Can you 3D print a car? Sure you can! Local Motors, who have been working with the public for years in bringing their designs to the road. Dubbing their method “co-creation”, they also use “micro-manufacturing” to get you your vehicle (and even let you pitch in on the build). A contest of theirs to design a 3D printed, electric vehicle has just wrapped, but the submitted designs were phenomenal.

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Fitness App Usage Is Growing 87% Faster Than The Overall App Market – A new report from Flurry Analytics shows that health and fitness apps are growing at a faster rate than the overall app market so far in 2014. The analytics firm looked at data from more than 6,800 apps in the category on the iPhone and iPad and found that usage (measured in sessions) is up 62% in the last six months compared to 33% growth for the entire market, an 87% faster pace.

Harley-Davidson Reveals ‘LiveWire’ Electric Motorcycle – The Harley-Davidson Motor Company is rocking down to Electric Avenue with Project LiveWire: the manufacturer’s first electric motorcycle. Not available for sale to the general public, the company will launch a beta test program next week, allowing select consumers around the country to ride and provide feedback on the bike.

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Something to think about:

“It’s never just a game when you’re winning.”

–    George Carlin

Today’s Free Downloads:

Ultimate Windows Tweaker for Windows 8 – Use the Ultimate Windows Tweaker to customize your Windows 8 to meet your requirements.

While Windows 7 & Windows Vista users should continue to use Ultimate Windows Tweaker 2.2, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 may be happy to know that your favorite freeware Windows tweaker is now available for download.

With judicious tweaking, it can make your system faster, more stable, personal and more secure with just a few mouse clicks.

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Avira Free Antivirus – Avira AntiVir Personal FREE Antivirus was developed to be a reliable free antivirus solution, that constantly and rapidly scans your computer for malicious programs such as viruses, Trojans, backdoor programs, hoaxes, worms, dialers etc. Monitors every action executed by the user or the operating system and reacts promptly when a malicious program is detected.

Avira AntiVir Personal is a comprehensive, easy to use antivirus program, designed to offer reliable free of charge virus protection to home-users, for personal use only, and is not for business or commercial use.

Avira AntiVir Personal gives you the following functions:

Control Center for monitoring, administering and controlling the entire program

Central configuration with user-friendly standard and advanced options and context-sensitive help

Scanner (On-Demand Scan) with profile-controlled and configurable search for all known types of virus and malware

Integration into the Windows Vista User Account Control allows you to carry out tasks requiring administrator rights

Guard (On-Access Scan) for continuous monitoring of all file access attempts

Integrated quarantine management to isolate and process suspicious files

Rootkit protection for detecting hidden malware installed in your computer system (rootkits) (Only for 32-bit systems)

Direct access to detailed information on the detected viruses and malware via the Internet

Simple and quick updates to the program, virus definitions, and search engine through Single File Update and incremental VDF updates via a webserver on the Internet

Integrated Scheduler to plan one-off or recurring tasks, such as updates or test runs

Very high rates of virus and malware detection using innovative search technologies (search engines) and heuristic search processes

Detection of all common archive types, including detection of nested archives and smart extensions

High-performance multithreading function (simultaneous high-speed scanning of multiple files)

Features:

AntiVir protection against viruses, worms and Trojans AntiDialer protection against expensive dialers

AntiRootkit protection against hidden rootkits

Faster Scanning up to 20% faster

AntiPhishing protection against phishing

AntiSpyware protection against spyware and adware NetbookSupport for laptops with low resolution

QuickRemoval eliminates viruses at the push of a button

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

How Secret Partners Expand NSA’s Surveillance Dragnet – Huge volumes of private emails, phone calls, and internet chats are being intercepted by the National Security Agency with the secret cooperation of more foreign governments than previously known, according to newly disclosed documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The classified files, revealed today by the Danish newspaper Dagbladet Information in a reporting collaboration with The Intercept, shed light on how the NSA’s surveillance of global communications has expanded under a clandestine program, known as RAMPART-A, that depends on the participation of a growing network of intelligence agencies.

It has already been widely reported that the NSA works closely with eavesdropping agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia as part of the so-called Five Eyes surveillance alliance. But the latest Snowden documents show that a number of other countries, described by the NSA as “third-party partners,” are playing an increasingly important role – by secretly allowing the NSA to install surveillance equipment on their fiber-optic cables.

The NSA documents state that under RAMPART-A, foreign partners “provide access to cables and host U.S. equipment.” This allows the agency to covertly tap into “congestion points around the world” where it says it can intercept the content of phone calls, faxes, e-mails, internet chats, data from virtual private networks, and calls made using Voice over IP software like Skype.

The program, which the secret files show cost U.S. taxpayers about $170 million between 2011 and 2013, sweeps up a vast amount of communications at lightning speed. According to the intelligence community’s classified “Black Budget” for 2013, RAMPART-A enables the NSA to tap into three terabits of data every second as the data flows across the compromised cables – the equivalent of being able to download about 5,400 uncompressed high-definition movies every minute.

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Tell a lie, remove the gear: How the NSA covers up when cable taps are found – Sometimes, the spooks do get caught. German magazine Der Spiegel yesterday revealed a new slide (PDF) from the Edward Snowden document cache that offers a tantalizing glimpse of what it looks like when someone stumbles on an intelligence agency cable tap.

The NSA’s Special Source Operations (SSO) branch isn’t in the business of computer hacking but of cable tapping; its logo shows an eagle flying above the globe and clutching a string of wires in its talons. These taps, each obscured with a codename, are often made deep within the network of telecom providers and often with the cooperation of key executives. But sometimes non-cleared people start raising questions about just what might be going on, as was the case with AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein, who revealed an NSA “secret room” in San Francisco.

On March 14, 2013, an SSO weekly briefing included a note regarding such a discovery. The unit had been informed two days earlier that “the access point for WHARPDRIVE was discovered by commercial consortium personnel. Witting partner personnel have removed the evidence and a plausible cover story was provided. All collection has ceased.”

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Microsoft: NSA security fallout ‘getting worse,’ ‘not blowing over’ – Microsoft’s top lawyer says the fallout of the NSA spying scandal is “getting worse,” and carries grim implications for US tech companies.

In a speech at the GigaOm Structure conference in San Francisco on Thursday, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith warned attendees that unless the US political establishment figures out how to rein in its spy agencies, there could be heavy repercussions for tech companies

“What we’ve seen since last June is a double-digit decline in people’s trust in American tech companies in key places like Brussels and Berlin and Brasilia. This has put trust at risk,” Smith said.

“The longer we wait or the less we do the worse the problem becomes,” he explained. “We are seeing other governments consider new procurement rules – procurement rules that could effectively freeze out US-based companies.”

This could already be happening. China banned Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system from a recent public sector procurement contract. Two weeks later, a report by the Middle Kingdom’s state-backed media quoted Chinese analysts and academics warning of the dangers of using Windows 8. “It’s a big challenge for our cybersecurity,” said one academic.

The Chinese government is also rumored to be considering a ban on IBM servers as well, due to security issues.

NSA jitters are ‘just a bummer’ for cloud growth, HP says – Revelations about U.S. National Security Agency snooping have made some buyers outside the U.S. think twice about public clouds, placing a drag on one of the world’s biggest technology trends, the head of Hewlett-Packard’s enterprise group said.

Bill Veghte, executive vice president and general manager of the HP Enterprise Group, joined the chorus of tech executives lamenting a new wariness among customers just hours after Amazon.com CTO Werner Vogels said his company had seen no impact.

Since documents exposed by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden last year revealed purportedly widespread collection of data in numerous countries, enterprises outside the U.S. have become skittish about U.S. tech products, according to some IT executives. Cisco Systems’ Chairman and CEO John Chambers, for one, has said those worries have affected his company’s business in China and has asked President Barack Obama to intervene to stem effects on U.S. technology sales overseas.

In an appearance at the Gigaom Structure conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, HP’s Veghte echoed Chambers’ concerns about attitudes in China in particular. The worst of it is that there’s such an opportunity there to quickly embrace cloud computing, he said.

Cops hid use of phone tracking tech in court documents at feds’ request – Keeping tabs on civilian phones? There’s more than one way to skin that cat. On Thursday evening, the ACLU published a 2009 e-mail exchange (PDF) between police departments in Sarasota, FL and North Port, FL indicating that local law enforcement had concealed the use of cell phone-tracking Stingray devices in court documents. Stingray is a trademark, but it has come to generally mean devices that can be used to track phones or even intercept calls and text messages.

As the ACLU wrote tonight, “Concealing the use of stingrays deprives defendants of their right to challenge unconstitutional surveillance and keeps the public in the dark about invasive monitoring by local police.”

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Pakistan, Iran, and… USA? New heatmap shows where NSA hacks – A screenshot from the National Security Agency’s Boundless Informant visualization tool shows that the NSA was heavily focusing its network hacking efforts in 2013 on Iran and Pakistan. All the while, the NSA also had active “computer network exploits” within the United States. The new document, published by Der Spiegel, is part of 53 documents recently released from the Edward Snowden cache, which appears to be from the same set initially released a year ago in Glenn Greenwald’s first article on Boundless Informant from June 2013.

The new “heatmap” from Boundless Informant, which provides the NSA a way to analyze the volume of data and distribution of sources that it is being collected from, shows “computer network exploitation” activity over an unspecified 30-day period in 2013. During the displayed period, Pakistan appears to have been the target of most of the NSA’s network hacking activity, displaying red on the heat map of intelligence activity. Iran appears to be the second most active country for the period, appearing in orange.

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Wikileaks leak shows data sovereignty threat – A leak of documents from the Trade in Services Agreement negotiations show Australia and other negotiating parties would be prevented from ensuring sensitive customer data remains in the country of origin.

The secret draft text for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Annex released by Wikileaks shows 50 countries including Australia and the US may be signing away rights to ensure sensitive customer data remains in its country of origin.

Australia, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and the European Union, among others, have all been in negotiation for new financial services rules for operating between participating countries. In Australia, it has been reported that the negotiations would result in a deregulation of Australia’s banking and finance sector, resulting in the end of the “four pillars” policy, and allowing more freedom for foreign banks operating in Australia.

In Article X.11 of the annex, the draft document reveals that the United States and the European Union are pushing to prevent signatory countries from preventing the transfer of data across nation borders.

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