Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 30, 2014

The top 10 Windows 8 questions everyone asks; Surprise!  NSA’s first ever ‘transparency’ ‘report’ is anything but;  What to look for in your new PC;  Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Calls Supreme Court Cellphone-Warrant Case “Seminal”;  Take control of the Command Prompt with PromptPal;  Microsoft puts an end to ‘Patch Tuesday’ email alerts;  How to reinstall Windows like a pro;  Serious Android crypto key theft vulnerability affects 86% of devices;  Comcast XFINITY WiFi: Just say no;  CNBC Chats Tim Cook’s Sexuality, Gets Super Awkward;  You’ll want to avoid this Steam Sale malware scam;  PlayStation Plus free games rundown hits July;  Facebook manipulated 700,000 user posts for research paper;  VCs Don’t Think We’re In A Tech Bubble — Yet;  Immunet FREE Antivirus.

Surprise! NSA’s first ever ‘transparency’ ‘report’ is anything but: Spies do spying … and dictionary rewriting, too – The US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has published the NSA’s first “transparency report”, revealing the number of “targets” spied on by the agency. Its definition of the word transparency, however, makes the data somewhat hard to fathom. “Within the Intelligence Community, the term ‘target’ has multiple meanings,” the report [PDF], published today, notes.

Airship flies above NSA data center, decries “Illegal Spying Below” – Greenpeace flew its 135-foot-long thermal airship over the National Security Agency’s Utah data center on Friday morning, featuring a new slogan, “Illegal Spying Below,” painted on a downward pointing arrow. The stunt was meant to highlight the diversity of groups pushing against the widespread government surveillance that was revealed last year. The environmental group Greenpeace was joined by the Tenth Amendment Center, which pushes for states’ rights, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

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The top 10 Windows 8 questions everyone asks – You’ve finally made the leap to Windows 8 (or, more probably, Windows 8.1), and a pretty big leap it was. Everything looks different. Everything acts differently. Even a simple task like shutting down your PC suddenly becomes a challenge. We know. We’ve lived through Windows 8, too, and we’ve received many, many questions about it. Here are the 10 most common ones we hear about Microsoft’s latest operating system. With these answers under your belt, you can consider yourself well past the beginner stage.

What to look for in your new PC – Time to buy a new PC? If it is, you’re in luck. There’s never been a time with more great choices, whether you’re looking for a computer to run the most demanding applications, play the coolest games, or fly coast to coast without a recharge. But picking the right PC can be a daunting task — and that’s why we’re here to help.

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Diagnose battery drain on your tablet with Windows 8.1’s Sleep Study tool – In a detailed blog post on the Windows blog, Microsoft, has provided information about a new tool called Sleep Study useful for diagnosing battery drain when the tablet is put to sleep.

8 ways the password is dying – From smartphones that know you’re near to tattoos and even pills, high-tech companies are busy replacing pesky strings of text with easier ways to authenticate.  Check out the future here.

Take control of the Command Prompt with PromptPal – When it comes to working from a Command Prompt, Greg Shultz says that PromptPal gives you a lot more control and convenience. Take a look at some of his favorite features in PromptPal.

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Mobile Trounces Desktop Media Consumption – Mobile usage is leaving the desktop in the dust, according to new stats from comScore. Smartphones and tablets accounted for 60 percent of total digital media time spent in May—up from 50 percent a year ago. What’s more, mobile app usage has surpassed all other digital media consumption, coming in at a peak 51 percent.

A Brief History of Tiny Cameras Enabling Pervs and Creeps – Technology is a tool. And as with all tools, some people will use it for nefarious, gross, weird, or mean purposes. And so goes the spread of ubiquitous, affordable cameras. Now, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that there is not some coming wave of peeping drones headed our way. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a very real minority undercurrent of creeps who will use technology to serve The Dark Side. Here we present a brief—a very brief—survey of some recent ways that these new technologies have empowered the wrong people.

GE Reveals $15 ‘Link’ Smart LED Light Bulb – Smart home? How about smart light bulbs? GE has revealed a brand-new LED light bulb that can connect to the Web shortly after you’ve twisted it into an available socket. Dubbed the Link, the $15 light bulb will be controllable by a companion appn for iOS and Android — “Wink.”

Microsoft puts an end to ‘Patch Tuesday’ email alerts – While Microsoft does update its various blogs about the patches, one service they did offer was to send out an email alerting those who signed up about the patches. Unfortunately, thanks to a change in government regulation, that practice will be halted on July 1st. Below, you can find a copy of the email that Microsoft began sending out today that let readers know that the emails would be coming to a stop next week.

New MakerBot app lets you design, modify, and print 3D objects from your iPad – The MakerBot PrintShop app might not technically be the first 3D printing app for the iPad, but it’s one specifically designed to make it simple to use with the MakerBot line.

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How to reinstall Windows like a pro – It’s super-easy to reinstall Windows 8, and not much more difficult to reinstall Windows 7. Use these tips to get the most out of a reinstall.

Woman photoshopped to ‘ideal’ beauty of 25 countries – Radio journalist Esther Honig conducted an experiment using Photoshop and international graphic artists to explore cultural differences in concepts of beauty. It all started with a photograph of Honig, a straightforward self-portrait. She isn’t made up. She wasn’t attended to by an army of stylists. It’s just an honest image. Honig then hired 40 different graphic artists in 25 countries to rework the image with the simple instruction, “make me beautiful.” She used freelancing platforms like Fiverr to locate the digital artists and paid between $5 and $30 for each image. She calls the project “Before & After.”

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California governor signs bill legalizing Bitcoin, other digital currencies – California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Saturday that legalizes the use of Bitcoin and other digital currencies, reversing what backers called an outdated prohibition against use of alternative currencies. The bill, dubbed AB 129, ensures that various forms of alternative currencies such as digital currencies, coupons, and points are legal for use to purchase goods and services in the state. The new law repeals a provision in existing state law that prohibits anything but US currency being used for commerce.

How one tweet can land your company in court – Take a cue from the Katherine Heigl, Duane Reade lawsuit and make sure your social media team knows its legal boundaries. Duane Reade might have sent the most expensive tweet in Twitter history. The New York City drug store chain is being sued by actress Katherine Heigl after they posted a picture in March of her coming out of their store, saying “Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even @KatieHeigl can’t resist shopping #NYC’s favorite drugstore ……… The tweet seems fairly innocent — a light hearted mix of celebrity and self promotion — but Heigl is suing Duane Reade for not so light hearted sum of $6 million.

Security:

Serious Android crypto key theft vulnerability affects 86% of devices – Researchers have warned of a vulnerability present on an estimated 86 percent of Android phones that may allow attackers to obtain highly sensitive credentials, including cryptographic keys for some banking services and virtual private networks, and PINs or patterns used to unlock vulnerable devices.

Comcast XFINITY WiFi: Just say no – About a year ago, Comcast started modifying the routers of some of their customers to create a quasi-public wireless system called XFINITY WiFi intended for use, mainly, by Comcast customers. Home users would see a new Wi-Fi network called “xfinitywifi” alongside their existing private wireless network. Focused on Defensive Computing as I am, XFINITY WiFi seems like a bad idea for Comcast customers, both those offering the free Wi-Fi on their routers and those using the system away from home. If you read this entire article to the end (warning: it’s long), I am sure you will agree.

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Rare text message worm targets Android devices – A rare Android worm that propagates itself to other users via links in text messages has been discovered by security researchers. Once installed on a device, the malware, which was dubbed Selfmite, sends a text messages to 20 contacts from the device owner’s address book. Most malware programs for Android are Trojan apps with no self-propagation mechanisms that get distributed from non-official app stores. Android SMS worms are rare, but Selfmite is the second such threat discovered in the past two months, suggesting that their number might grow in the future.

Company News:

CNBC Chats Tim Cook’s Sexuality, Gets Super Awkward – Is Tim Cook gay? Here’s our stance: Who cares? So long as the CEO keeps churning out interesting and innovative Apple products, he can be whatever he wants to be; in fact, he could be whatever he wants to be regardless (we just like shiny new devices). That doesn’t stop the usual media speculation over Tim Cook’s sexuality, which is as interesting a story as debating whether Jony Ive is getting his hair cut this weekend or not. It’s a non-issue turned into an issue, and it made for the world’s biggest awkward turtle when it as discussed on CNBC this past Friday morning.

Aereo Shutters Its TV Streaming Service… For Now – In an email sent at 9 AM Eastern Saturday, Chet Kanojia informed customers that because of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this week , the company would temporarily halt its operations at 11:30 Eastern as it consults with the court to plan its next steps.

BlackBerry: We’re still “a leader in mobile”, despite what everyone else says – BlackBerry has accused its rivals of spreading “fear, uncertainty and doubt” about the company, and says the media have “crowded the airwaves” with “sensationalized reports” about its performance.

Microsoft smartwatch tipped for October with 11 sensors in tow – Microsoft’s rumored smartwatch is the topic of choice this weekend, with unnamed sources cropping up to state that the wearable will arrive this October. The same sources corroborated some past rumors we’ve heard regarding the device, as well as tossing some new details into the mix.

Indie Music Labels File EU Complaint Over YouTube Terms – A European independent music group has filed a formal complaint with the EU against YouTube, citing the video service’s ongoing battle with the indie label community. IMPALA (the Independent Music Companies Association) this week lodged its complaint, which cites what it considers to be five breaches of European competition rules, with the European Commission.

The Nexus line isn’t being killed, says Android’s engineering head – Google’s Nexus line is not dead yet, according to Google’s Android engineering chief. “People have been commenting about Nexus because there is something else and they think that means the end of Nexus. That is the totally wrong conclusion to make,” Google’s Dave Burke told ReadWrite in a recent interview.

Games and Entertainment:

You’ll want to avoid this Steam Sale malware scam – Hackers have decided to take advantage of the massive interested generated by Valve’s Steam Summer Sale this season with some digital phishing. While you’re still free to enjoy the Steam sale for all its worth, there’s a couple of things we’d have you watch out for. You don’t want to get targeted by this particular scam, that’s for certain.

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Xbox Live July Games with Gold: ‘Guacamelee!’, ‘BattleBlock Theater’, and more – Xbox One users will only get one new game in July: ‘Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition’ is available starting on July 1st, and it will replace last month’s offering of ‘Halo: Spartan Assault’. ‘Guacamelee!’ is an action platformer where you play as a “humble agave farmer” turned luchador from Mexico who tries to save the president’s daughter after she is kidnapped by a marauding skeleton horseman. Since only one new game is being offered for Xbox One users, last month’s free game, ‘Max: The Curse of Brotherhood’, is still available for free download until the end of July.

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PlayStation Plus free games rundown hits July – This week the folks at Sony have revealed the games you’ll be able to download and play for free on your various PlayStation devices. For the PlayStation 4 you’ll have TowerFall Ascention and Strider. For PlayStation 3 there’s Dead Space 2 and Vessel. For PS Vita you’ll find Doki-Doki Universe and Muramasa Rebirth.

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GameStop launches trade-in program, paying for your Xbox One Kinect – GameStop has recently announced a trade-in deal for users who wish to drop their Xbox One Kinect for some extra money. The company is offering a $32 pay-out in cash or $40 in-store credit and is reportedly available in all U.S stores. It’s also worth noting that if you’re a PowerUp Rewards Pro member you’ll receive an extra 10 percent credit if you take up the offer.

Gigabyte BRIX Gaming mini PC: as mean as it is green – Gigabyte has rolled out yet another mini computer, this one with a snazzy bright green shell and focus on gamers. The PC, aptly called the BRIX Gaming PC, is square in shape and comes with multiple Intel hardware options, able to meet different needs. The newest BRIX offers an Intel Core i5 (Haswell) processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760, which Gigabyte says allows it to be used for both gaming and image/video editing. Later on in August, a version running an Intel Core i7 will also be available. The machine supports up to three displays and 4K.

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Watch this Space Hulk: Deathwing UE4 trailer crush puny graphics – The surprisingly little-known series known as Space Hulk is back with a vengeance, this time taking on the world with Unreal Engine 4. Everything we’ve seen with the UE4 stamp of approval on its back thus far has looked fantastic, and Space Hulk: Deathwing is no exception to the rule.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Watch This Film About Why Aaron Swartz Matters More Than Ever – Aaron Swartz was a young, bright genius who believed in the open Internet. A self-made millionaire by the age of 19, he co-founded Reddit, was part of the creation of RSS and became a political organizer and Internet hacktivist who was instrumental in the fight against SOPA. The Internet’s Own Boy, a film first released at Sundance and now opening to the public today, follows the story of his life and his tragic suicide in 2013 at the age of 26. Swartz had been in a two-year legal battle for using MIT’s network to systematically download 4.8 million academic journal articles from JSTOR. He was facing $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison. As Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow put it, Swartz was being prosecuted for “taking too many books out of the library.”

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Facebook manipulated 700,000 user posts for research paper – Facebook conducted a secret study of 700,000 users back in 2012 according to a research paper released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) journal. The study took place during the 11th-18th of January 2012 and involved “Secretly manipulated” news feeds. According to the research paper Facebook engineers adjusted the emotional content of the 700,000 users’ posts to see if “Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.”

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The results of the research basically showed that when Facebook reduced users positive expressions, users posted far fewer positive posts and increased their negativity, while the opposite was true when negative posts were adjusted.

VCs Don’t Think We’re In A Tech Bubble — Yet – At the PreMoney 2014 conference in San Francisco this morning, Andreessen Horowitz managing partner Scott Kupor argued that there doesn’t seem to be a bubble in tech. In a presentation that lasted a bit over 10 minutes, Kupor laid out a series of trends that indicate things aren’t quite as exuberant as some fear.

Stanley Cup hockey mob destroys what they think is an LAPD drone – Los Angeles residents were pretty stoked when the Kings beat the Rangers to win the 2014 Stanley Cup. Heck, even the mayor went on TV to raise a pint and swear in celebration. Out in the streets, it was a mob scene… and things went south in a hurry for one unlucky quadcopter. Some members of the Staples Center crowd apparently thought the eye in the sky belonged to the LAPD, and you know how mobs get when they smell a police presence.

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Fleshlight builds an iPad you can bang – Fleshlights rose to popularity for their supposed ease of use and attempt at simulating a human. However, if you wanted to video chat with your significant other on a mobile device and move onto video sex, it’d be a chore to steady the mobile device and employ the help of a toy. Fleshlight has a solution for this, the Launchpad, which basically turns your iPad into something you can bang.

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Watch a Harrier Jump Jet land on a stool – This might not be the kind of impressive aeronautic feat you pulled off when your Cobra pilot was flying round your Rattler years ago, but it’s an undeniably amazing display of skill — and teamwork.

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Something to think about:

“It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”

–   Aristotle

Today’s Free Downloads:

Immunet FREE Antivirus – Fast Antivirus Protection leverages the speed of cloud computing to deliver real-time protection to your PC. Stay protected against over 13 million viruses and thousands of new threats daily without ever downloading another virus detection file again. Simply stay connected to the Immunet Cloud to keep all virus detections up to date.

Immunet FREE Antivirus is ideal for consumers who want fast protection that doesn’t slow down their PC, including students, families, and netbook users.

Features:

Fast Antivirus Protection – Won’t slow down your PC

Community-Based – Protect your closest contacts

Realtime Detection – NO virus updates required

Companion Antivirus – Compatible with existing antivirus (2.0 Companion Products list)

Strength in Numbers – Powered by Collective Immunity™

Intelligent Scans – Fast, configurable smart scans

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MP3 Skype Recorder – This software is designed to record Skype calls even ones over landlines. The recordings can be saved at the desired bit-rate and in mono or stereo.

Features:

Automatic or manual recording capabilities.

Compact format of stored records (mp3 files).

May be used to record P2P, SkypeOut calls and calls made to Online number.

Capable to track simultaneous calls and to save them separately.

Easy integration with Skype Conference recording.

Intuitive easy to use interface.

Free Ringtone Maker – Free Ringtone Maker is an extremely simple and handy Windows software for making your own free ringtones.

Make Your Own Ringtones in 3 Easy Steps.

Step 1: Pick a Song

To make your own free ringtones, just click button “Choose a Song from My Computer”.

Step 2: Cut Out the Best Part

In this step, you´ll select the best part of the song for your ringtone. Just drag the sliders to set the start and end point of the selection.

You can pre-listen the ringtone using the player buttons. You can also add some fade-in and fade-out effects to your ringtone.

Step 3: Get the Ringtone!

Just click button Save Ringtone to My Computer. Then you can choose a location to save your ringtone file.

When the ringtone file is saved, you can locate it by clicking button Locate in Windows Explorer, or start to create a new ringtone by clicking button Make a New Ringtone.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Calls Supreme Court Cellphone-Warrant Case “Seminal” – The unanimous Supreme Court decision on Riley v. California caused a stir because it set new precedent regarding digital privacy: To search a cell phone, the court ruled, the government must procure a warrant. The decision will set the tone for future legal action regarding technology, data, user privacy, and Fourth Amendment protections.

I’d like to highlight some commentary on the decision from a perhaps unlikely source, Microsoft.

Microsoft, in the past week, has become a leading voice for user privacy and a less active surveillance state. The company’s de facto spokesperson on the matter, its top lawyer Brad Smith, recently gave a lecture in which he called for the end of bulk surveillance, warrant reform, and more transparency in the FISA court. He also called on the Senate to strengthen the somewhat gutted USA FREEDOM Act that recently passed the House.

When Smith speaks, under his official title, he’s speaking for slightly more than himself.

Capping the week with a blog post this weekend, Smith called the Riley decision “seminal.” Continuing, the lawyer wrote that the decision will have “positive implications both for smart devices and the storage of personal information in the cloud.” Correct.

Who gives a F about privacy? New scorecard rates US pols on spying – Civil-rights groups and other campaigners have built a website that tracks US politicians’ voting records on privacy laws.

Members of the bipartisan outfit Stand Against Spying say their scorecard database will publish an overview and tracker of how senators and representatives in Congress vote for or against key issues on privacy and mass surveillance by intelligence agencies.

The scorecard keeps track of votes on key issues such as the USA Freedom Act and the Massie-Lofgren amendment. Congresscritters are then scored on how they voted, and are given a numerical score and corresponding letter grade.

An early tally of the scorecard found that 45 per cent of Congress qualified for an “A” grade – meaning they voted against laws to increase surveillance – while 5 per cent got an “F” and 14 per cent did not show up to enough votes to even qualify for a grade in the study.

Perhaps most interesting about the Stand Against Spying effort is its diverse group of backers. Along with usual suspects such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Sunlight Foundation, the project has won the backing of the conservative FreedomWorks PAC and the US Libertarian Party.

NSA Transparency Report Offers More Questions Than Answers – The Director of National Intelligence on Friday followed through on calls for the government to be more open about its NSA surveillance programs, releasing its first transparency report.

The problem is the transparency report wasn’t all that transparent.

When reading the report, I was immediately struck by the revelation that under the bulk telephony metadata collection program, there were as few as 248 “known or presumed U.S. persons who were the subject of queries of information collected in bulk or who were subject to a business records application.”

Since former government contractor Edward Snowden first leaked documents about the NSA’s programs last year, the bulk telephony metadata program has been the most controversial of the revelations.

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Gov Oversight Board Will Weigh In On The Legality Of PRISM – On July 2nd, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) will release a report on the government’s use of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to execute surveillance. The NSA’s PRISM program, for example, is legally grounded in Section 702.

The independent oversight group is part of the Executive Branch, and is notable for its sharp rebuke of the government’s program under Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect the phone call metadata of U.S. citizens. Its January dissertation called the program illegal and likely unconstitutional.

The group promised to review both the 215 and 702 programs, releasing the 215 decision first, followed by its 702 verdict. So, the report is not a surprise. According to the PCLOB’s first report, it received deep access to the NSA, even being able to view classified opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and saw the Section 215 program in action. In short, they got to see the full stack, from legal foundation to technical execution.

Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 is a big threat to individual privacy, say privacy groups – A draft U.S. Senate bill aimed at making it easier for organizations to share cyberthreat information poses serious threats to personal privacy, several rights groups said in a letter to Congress on Thursday.

A discussion draft of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 (CISA) was released last week by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The proposed bill would facilitate a vast flow of information to the National Security Agency at a time when the agency faces many questions about its surveillance practices, the groups said in the letter.

The bill ignores many civil liberties protections incorporated into an earlier version, called the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, the letter said.

The letter, addressed to Feinstein and committee vice chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), was signed by the Center for Development of Technology (CDT), the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several other groups.

Facebook Reveals User Data Spat With NY – Facebook may have lost its bid to quash a New York judge’s bulk search warrant. But it won the battle to unseal court proceedings, allowing the social network to notify those users involved.

Since last summer, the company has been fighting the Manhattan attorney general’s demand for data (photos, private messages, etc.) from the accounts of 381 users—the largest request in Facebook history.

“We have argued that it was unconstitutional from the start,” Deputy General Counsel Chris Sonderby said in a blog post.

The original case involved more than 130 police officers, firefighters, and other civil servants who allegedly defrauded the Social Security system with fake disability claims.

But, as the New York Times reported, those “disabled” people were spotted in Facebook photos looking perfectly healthy—some even riding watercraft, teaching karate, and deep-sea fishing. The images, which supported other evidence gathered during a three-year investigation, were enough to issue sweeping Facebook search warrants.

According to Sonderby, only 62 of the 381 people whose accounts were the subject of court summons were later charged in the disability fraud case.

Facebook was under a gag order that banned it from discussing the case or notifying those users involved. Until now. Last Friday, the social network filed an appellate brief, after which the government moved to unseal its warrants and court filings.

But Facebook’s fight isn’t over, and the organization intends to continue its push to retrieve data seized and retained by the government.

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