Monthly Archives: June 2014

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 19, 2014

How sites secretly collect your data – and how to stop it;  How Secret Partners Expand NSA’s Surveillance Dragnet;  Top 10 fixes for common PC problems: The best of PCWorld’s Answer Line;  Adobe Photoshop Mix Brings Premium Editing Tools to the iPad for Free;  Pluto Mail Lets You Set An Expiration Time For Your Emails;  iOS Safer Than Android? Maybe Not;  Access your computer desktop from any Android device;  Amazon Announces The $199 Fire Phone; Thousands of secret keys found in Android apps;  The Big List of The 61 Best Social Media Tools;  Skype 4.3 now available for Linux;  A Beginner’s Guide to the Linux Command Line;  Bank not liable for customer’s $440,000 cybertheft;  Classrooms Need to Ditch PCs, Tablets;  SpringPublisher (free).

How sites secretly collect your data – and how to stop it – Have you ever wondered how social networking sites seem to know so much about you and your preferences? We take the lid off how these sites gather data about your activities.

Top 10 fixes for common PC problems: The best of PCWorld’s Answer Line – I’ve been answering questions from PCWorld readers since 1997, and I think I’ve read about every problem that Windows and PC hardware can provide. But some questions pop up over and over again. Others rarely come up, but nevertheless involve important issues that every user needs to know about. Still, others are unanswerable, and the only advice I can give is to have a professional look at the PC. Here are 10 Answer Line articles from the last two years that every Windows user should read.

Access your computer desktop from any Android device – With Google’s Remote Desktop app for Chrome, accessing a PC or Mac from any Android device is easy, and doesn’t require installing any clunky desktop software. The setup process is simple, taking roughly five minutes and little technical knowledge. With the goal of remotely controlling a computer, let’s start by installing the Chrome Web app. Using Chrome, visit and install the Remote Chrome Desktop app on your computer. You can find it on the Chrome Web Store site.

Pluto Mail Lets You Set An Expiration Time For Your Emails – Pluto Mail describes itself as “the Snapchat of email,” but the handy site does more than just make your messages disappear. It also lets you edit your emails before they are opened, see if they have been opened, and can save your messages to your Dropbox account instead of in your sent folders.

Remotely wipe your Android device with the help of Google – Your smartphone is your lifeline to your business when you’re on the go. If you lose that smartphone, sensitive company data (and even personal data) could fall into unwanted hands. There are plenty of third-party apps and security systems that can help you to protect that data — but sometimes, you simply must wipe the phone clean of anything that could bring about disaster to you personally or your company. Thankfully, Google and Android have you covered, without having to install any third-party software.

Adobe Photoshop Mix Brings Premium Editing Tools to the iPad for Free – Adobe is the undisputed king of image editing software, but it has been slow to innovate on mobile devices. We’ve got paid versions of Photoshop on iOS and Android, but those are overkill for most smartphone and tablet users. Meanwhile, less premium products do little more than apply filters. The newly announced Photoshop Mix for iPad fits in between those extremes with support for multiple file types, merging images, layers, and yes, filters.


Adobe Ink & Slide Review: The iPad stylus grows up – Adobe got tired of waiting for a great stylus for the iPad, and so it took on the challenge itself, coming up with Adobe Ink and its companion ruler, Slide. Pens for the iPad aren’t new, but neither have they been especially proficient, but Adobe is aiming to change all that with slickly designed hardware and tightly-integrated software. I’ve been using Adobe Ink & Slide with the iPad Air for the past few weeks; read on for my full verdict.


Amazon Announces The $199 Fire Phone, The First Smartphone With Head-Tracking – Meet the Fire Phone, Amazon’s first venture into smartphones. At first blush, the phone looks like any other smartphone currently on the market, but it has a secret: the ability to track a user’s head. This is done through four corner-mounted, front-facing infrared cameras and produces wild 3D effects. Jeff Bezos calls it the phone built for the Amazon Prime customer.

Here’s What The Amazon Fire Phone’s Crazy 3D Head Tracking Looks Like – As expected — Amazon announced their very first smartphone . While many of its features can be found on other devices, it’s got at least one trick that’s particularly unique: a complex camera system that tracks the position of your head and shifts the perspective of what’s on screen accordingly.

T-Mobile Will Give Potential Subscribers A Free One Week “Test Drive” On An iPhone 5S – In a new program that they call “Test Drive”, T-Mobile is offering free trials to potential customers, offering them an iPhone 5S and 7 days of unlimited service to give their network a spin. Starting on June 23rd, anyone interested in giving T-Mo a spin can sign up for a test drive online. A few days later, an iPhone 5S is dropped off at your house, complete with a week’s worth of unlimited data/text/web service. And when your week is up? If you’re unconvinced that T-Mobile is for you, you just drop the iPhone off at any T-Mobile store and you’re done.

Apple releases new low-end iMac, starting at $1,099 – Apple took down its online store earlier this morning, and when it returned, a new low-end iMac had appeared, with a starting price of $1099.00. For that new entry-level price, you can get a 1.4GHz dual-core i5, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and Intel HD 5000 graphics.


A Beginner’s Guide to the Linux Command Line – Do you think of the command line as an antiquated leftover from the past, or an old fashioned way of interacting with a computer? Think again. In Linux, it is the most flexible and powerful way to perform tasks. For example, searching for all .tmp files in a directory (and its sub-directories) and then deleting them can be a multi step process when done via graphical user interface, but is a matter of few seconds when done through the command line. In this article, we will discuss the basics of the Linux command line including directory navigation, file/directory operations, and more.

Skype 4.3 now available for Linux – With summer coming up, Microsoft has released a new version of Skype for Linux. The latest version, Skype 4.3, offers some UI enhancements, new features, and behind-the-scenes improvements to the software. Skype 4.3 is available for Ubuntu 10.04 32-bit, 12.04, Debian 7.0, Fedora 16 32-bit, OpenSUSE 12.1 32-bit, and Dynamic. The software is also available for Windows, OSX, iOS, Windows Phone, and Android.


Twitter now supports GIFs on mobile site – Twitter has been making interesting moves of late, teaming up with entities like Billboard to bring you real-time music sharing stats and even toying with auto-suggestion of movies. This one is likely a bit overdue, but welcome nonetheless. Via mobile, you can now view and upload GIFs to twitter.

Mac OS X Mavericks: 11 essential utilities – These are some of the very best utilities everyone should think about installing on their Mac.


Mobile video watching up 532 percent in two years, study says – Mobile and tablets now represent over 21 percent of all online video plays, up from 3.4 percent two years ago.

Swappa is the place to find lightly used smartphone, tablet and smartwatch gems – If you are tired of high eBay fees and meeting strangers for Craigslist transactions, then check out Swappa for some great values on high quality mobile gear.

The Big List of The 61 Best Social Media Tools – Small businesses are eager to find valuable tools that take a lot of the time and trouble out of social media marketing and that do so without costing an arm and a leg. I think we’d all want tools like that, right? Well, I went searching for just this kind of simple, easy, cost-effective tool, and I came up with 61 that made the cut. I tried out more than 100 in total, and I’m sure I missed a few along the way (please tell me in the comments or on Twitter which ones deserve a look). Hopefully you find one or two here that you can use in your small scale marketing that can get you big results.


Thousands of secret keys found in Android apps – Even among the top apps found on Google Play, researchers have found a crucial security flaw that could compromise user data.


YOU’RE HISTORY: goes titsup for TWO DAYS – The genealogy site has been blasted off the internet after reportedly being hit by a DDoS attack. The site’s owners said unknown assailants had launched their digital broadside on Monday. Some users are still reporting problems accessing the site, despite Ancestry’s promises that it has been fixed.

AT&T sends letter to victims of phone unlocking data breach – AT&T has begun mailing out letters to customers affected by a data breach that allowed employees of a “service provider” to access customer account information, including customers’ dates of birth and Social Security numbers. The data was exposed in April through a system used to obtain unlocking codes for used AT&T phones for resale, according to the letter, which has been posted by California’s Office of the Attorney General.

Bank not liable for customer’s $440,000 cybertheft – A Missouri escrow firm that lost $440,000 in a 2010 cyberheist cannot hold its bank responsible, an appeals court ruled this week. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit’s decision this month affirmed a lower court ruling in the case. The appeals court also held that the escrow firm can be held responsible for the bank’s attorney fees in the case. In a 25-page ruling, the appeals courts agreed with a Missouri district court ruling in March 2013 that blamed Choice Escrow and Title LLC for the loss because it failed to follow the bank’s recommended security precautions.

iOS Safer Than Android? Maybe Not – Common wisdom holds that iOS devices are inherently secure, like Macs. Android devices are inherently vulnerable, like Windows. Given that Macs are actually more vulnerable than people think, that mindset doesn’t work. A new study by Marble Security found that, at least in a corporate environment, Android and iOS devices pose nearly equal security dangers.

Company News:

Google dealt massive blow in Canada regarding search – The Canadian Supreme Court has put Google on its heels, ruling that search results must be scrubbed clean all over the globe. In a case that had one company asking that Google remove search results of a rival, the courts ruled that those results must be banished the world over, not just Canada. It’s an odd precedent, and one that could have a lasting snowball effect. (NOTE: This article is not correct (poorly researched). The British Columbia Supreme Court – NOT the Supreme Court of Canada – is the court in question. A horse of a different colour – entirely.)

German publishers start legal action against Google over news snippets – The publishers’ society VG Media has started legal proceedings against Google after the search-engine giant refused to negotiate with the collecting society and publicly declared it would not pay such a compensation, VG Media said Wednesday. Twelve German online news publishers took a 50 percent stake in VG Media last February with the aim of beginning to start collecting compensation from search engines. They want some of the advertising revenue that search engines and aggregators generate by republishing parts of their content.

BlackBerry Turns To Amazon To Fix BlackBerry’s App Problem – BlackBerry has partnered with Amazon in a deal that will bring Amazon’s Android Appstore to BlackBerry devices. Why? As BlackBerry’s CEO John Chen tells the WSJ, he simply doesn’t have time, energy and money to build a proper app ecosystem, which is about right. The Amazon Appstore will be available alongside the BlackBerry 10.3 platform this fall.

Games and Entertainment:

Dying Light and Dead Island 2 preview: Zombie vs. zombie – This whole zombie craze is something of a zombie itself—it refuses to die, despite plenty of efforts. Every year another zombie game (or five) is unveiled and people groan about how played out zombies are and then they buy more zombie games anyway. This year there were two big zombie games at E3. Even stranger: They’re brothers. Sort of.


Rainbow Six: Siege preview: Hands-on with the most exciting game of E3 2014 – “Okay, so uh, let go of the button and you’ll place a breaching charge.” I dutifully do what I’m told by the watching-over-my-shoulder developer, lurking during my E3 hands-on with Rainbox Six: Siege. The breaching charge takes about five seconds to affix—an eternity as I hang from a grappling hook on the side of the house, completely exposed.


Guardians of the Galaxy international trailer showcases more action – Guardians of the Galaxy arrives on August 1, and leading up to the release is yet another teaser trailer, this one launching internationally with over two minutes of clips and bits from the film. We’ve got the video for you after the jump.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Classrooms Need to Ditch PCs, Tablets – Tech firms are looking forward to selling more machines for the classroom, where student can struggle by themselves on what amounts to a “teaching machine” that essentially does not teach. Teaching machines have never worked in the past, and they will never work in the future. Computers are great, I agree. But teachers teach and computers compute. Get gadgets out of the classrooms and watch things improve. (John Dvorak, still stuck in the past.)

FCC boss says he’ll SHAME broadband firms for fibbing on speeds – Federal Communications Commission boss Tom Wheeler has said that he will issue written warnings to some US broadband carriers following an investigation that found some companies are still not delivering advertised speeds. Wheeler said that while the broadband market as a whole is doing a better job of offering users promised download speeds, some companies are still not able to give users the levels of performance offered in ads.

Microsoft teams with Adrien Sauvage, makes wireless charging pants – Microsoft has teamed up in collaboration with English fashion designer Adrien Sauvage, working together with him to develop a pair of pants that can charge your smartphone while on the go. The pants were showcased at a fashion show in London last night.


The Most-Liked Instagram Photo In The World Took 4 Days To Edit – Remember the time that Kim Kardashian proved that social media popularity has very little to do with talent by posting the most liked photo of all time? It was a photo of her and her brand spankin’ new husband Kanye West kissing at their wedding, and it stole the crown from Justin Bieber with 2 million likes in about 24 hours. (Both of these kooks need as much Photoshopping as they can get from where I sit. Two no-nothings capitalizing on a legion of no-nothings.)


Math has spoken: You’re cutting a cake all wrong – A fascinating exposition of humanity’s laziness shows the mathematically efficient way of cutting your gateau.

Goodbye world, hello personal isolation pod – Made in Japan, the self-sequestering box is called the “Cozy Room” and its manufacturers describe it as a “relaxation room for man and woman.” (Separately, mind you, this thing is not big enough for more than one person at a time.) This intimate pod is packed with everything you need to hide out and be entertained for a good long while. Hang up your TV or computer monitor and sit right back in your padded chair, because you’ve got some serious binge-watching and/or gaming marathons ahead of you.


Something to think about:

“No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

–    Edmund Burke

Today’s Free Downloads:

SpringPublisher – SpringPublisher is a professional and easy to use desktop publishing software. With its included various templates and online template store, powerful multi-layer editor, detailed help-files, SpringPublisher enables you to design and print Business Card, Flyer, Postcard, Letterhead and other artworks within a few minutes.


Enables you to add images, texts, vector shapes, logos and arrange them as you like;

Provides various image effect: shadows, opacity, rotation, etc.

Allows you to download high quality templates from the template store.

Makes it easy for you to print your artworks either with your own printer or in professional print shops.

Generates high resolution artwork with a maximum output of 350dpi.



XP Update Extender – XP Update Extender allows you to receive updates for Windows XP until 2019. Therefore all it does is to set a registry key pretending to be a version of XP Embedded called “POSReady“. It does not modify any system files.

Pretending to be running this particular version of Windows, you will receive updates made for exactly this version of Windows XP.

Those updates may not have been properly tested for your version of Windows XP and might harm your system. Use at your own risk! Microsoft can prevent this “hack” any time.


EventSentry – Failed service? Defective hard drive in a RAID? Database running out of space? Intrusion attempts resulting in logon failures? Performance bottlenecks? EventSentry will notify you immediately when important events occur and take corrective action before they result in expensive disruptions.

The modular design and wide spectrum of features make EventSentry suitable for just about any scenario – including compliance, health & network monitoring, troubleshooting, inventory and much more.


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.


Court Rules That Non-Relevant Files Seized Under A Warrant Cannot Be Held Indefinitely – Say the government gets a warrant for some of your data. They come to your house, image your computers, and then hold that data — even the data that isn’t pertinent to their warrant — for several years.

That’s not okay, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled. This is a good ruling, as it limits the ability of the government to hold files that are not party to its situational legal authority.

The ruling — worth reading in its original text here — dismisses several governmental claims relating to why it should hold the data, including that it “must be allowed to make the mirror image copies as a matter of practical necessity and, according to the Government’s investigators, those mirror images were ‘the government’s property.’” The court disagreed.

The government maintained that it must be allowed to search the “mirror images in its possession because the evidence no longer existed” the computer in question. Nope, according to the court. The government also argued that it would be “entirely impractical” to destroy non-relevant files. Denied.

The court maintained that holding the data that was non-pursuant to its original warrant was an “unauthorized seizure” and that the “retention of [the] documents was unreasonable.”

Funding Amendment To Curtail Warrantless Surveillance Proposed In House – A bipartisan group of Congress members have proposed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Act aimed at reining in government surveillance. The amendment would ban the funding of government to either demand or request a “backdoor” into products built by technology companies. It would also ban the funding of searches of the data of US persons under the authority of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The amendment is similar to what Rep. Zoe Lofgren offered in May to the National Defense Authorization Act. She proposed two amendments, also to curtail funding for the weakening of technology products, and preventing the financing of Section 702 searches on Americans.

Those amendments failed.

Supporting the new amendment is Rep. Zoe Lofgren, again, along with Rep. Justin Amash, Rep. Rush Holt, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, and Rep. Thomas Massie, among others.

Voting on amendments to the Defense Appropriations Act kick off today. Voting on this amendment should occur tomorrow.

Assange makes fresh bid for FREEDOM from Scotland Yard’s ‘physical encirclement’ – Julian Assange is attempting to break out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been encamped for two years.

His lawyers plan to file a request with the Stockholm District Court in Sweden, where Assange is wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual coercion, sexual molestation and rape.

The WikiLeaker-in-chief has always denied any accusations of wrongdoing, and has said that he fears being extradited to the US via Sweden. The Australia-born computer hacker claims that the Scandinavian country will despatch him to the United States, where he will be persecuted for leaking thousands of American and British diplomatic cables.

Irish judge denies request to investigate Facebook’s NSA ties – A High Court judge in Ireland has ruled that Facebook should not be investigated for alleged activities related to the sharing of user data with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

High Court Justice Gerard Hogan ruled Wednesday that Facebook won’t need to face an investigation into its alleged activities, following a ruling made by Ireland’s data protection commissioner who said the same. The commissioner argued that while Facebook users have the right to know what’s happening with their data, there’s no reason to hold an investigation into whether any of it was shared with the NSA.

Facebook is among several companies, including Apple, Microsoft, and Skype, that have been charged by a group in Europe known as “Europe-v-Facebook (EVF)” with allegedly working with the NSA to provide data on their European users.

In January, the group filed lawsuits against the companies, arguing that the European Union’s privacy laws fly in the face of data-sharing with the EU. More specifically, the group called on an “adequate level of protection” clause in Europe that would allow companies to share data with foreign governments only if the highest possible level of privacy was maintained.

The group was specifically concerned with the NSA’s PRISM program, revealed last year through documents leaked by Edward Snowden, which allowed the NSA to cull and monitor data from companies operating servers in the United States.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 18, 2014

10 things you can do to make Android more secure;  U.K. allows British spies to intercept Google and Facebook traffic;  A free photo editor worth trying: Getting started with GIMP;  How to upgrade an old PC: No-brainer improvements anyone can do;  Microsoft patches antimalware engine vulnerability;  How to set up a smart garden for free;  Turn your webcam into a home security device with one app;  15 Chrome OS productivity apps that work offline;  Assassin’s Creed: Unity preview;  Quad HD vs. 1080p: A real-world display comparison;  Years of infosec education and users still click on anything;  New powerful banking malware called Dyreza emerges; FBI’s Twitter slang book goes public;  NSA Turned Germany Into Its Largest Listening Post in Europe;  Court: Terror suspect can’t get NSA evidence gathered against him.

U.K. allows British spies to intercept Google and Facebook traffic – British spies are authorized to spy on British citizens’ Internet communications transiting through servers outside the U.K., a civil rights group has discovered. Privacy International uncovered the information as part of a lawsuit it filed against the U.K. government over its alleged involvement in mass surveillance programs. It filed the suit with the U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a court that can investigate complaints about any alleged conduct by or on behalf of the intelligence services.

10 things you can do to make Android more secure – The fact that so many people are using Android suggests that more people will be targeting those devices to get at your data. So it’s crucial for you to practice safe Androiding. Otherwise, precious business data could be compromised. Fear not. There are several best practices and precautionary steps you can take to avoid a possible breach in mobile security. Here are 10 suggestions that will help ensure a more secure Android experience.

How to upgrade an old PC: No-brainer improvements anyone can do – Windows PCs slow down over time—that’s the popular wisdom, at least. Your PC’s hardware isn’t actually becoming slower, though. Startup programs, junk files, and even clumps of dust are just weighing it down. If you give your PC’s software and hardware a quick tune-up, it should run like it did the day you bought it. Inexpensive hardware upgrades can even make your PC run faster than it ever did.

The best portable hard drives: Our top picks are fast, light and spacious – Toss a portable hard drive in your laptop bag, and you can take everything with you. Most models are lightweight, and all but the SSD models offer terabytes of capacity. Here are eight great examples.

20 Siri tips that’ll make your life easier – There are so many ways Siri can make your life easier. But if you don’t know the proper commands, you might get a lot of unwanted sass. Here’s a growing list of tips and tricks that Siri a better personal assistant.

Chrome extension All Seeing Eye indexes all text in your Web history – In addition to the hugely helpful step of indexing all of the text of every page you visit in Chrome, All Seeing Eye captures a screenshot of each page you visit for a quick visual search of your Web history.


How to set up a smart garden for free – The price point of connected plant sensors diffuses the lure of the smart garden for many cost-conscious consumers. Yes, it would be cool if technology could give your plants a voice, make care recommendations, and send you reminders, but why would you want to pay $60 to $120 to monitor a houseplant that you only paid $10 for in the first place? Fortunately, you can set up a smart gardening system, complete with reminders and recommendations, and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime. Here’s how you can use the Internet to help you care for your plants for free.

A free photo editor worth trying: Getting started with GIMP – GIMP is a great open-source alternative to Photoshop if you’re not willing to spend the big bucks on Adobe’s software. Here are three common tasks you can accomplish with it.

Turn your webcam into a home security device with one app – If you’ve got a webcam lying around, you might be wondering what to do with it. Your computer probably has a pretty decent one you use as little as the webcam in the drawer, so that clip-on one is likely wasting away. A decent app, designed for home security, can breathe new life into your dusty old webcam. Called iCam, the app is available for both iOS and Android, and works well with OS X or Windows. For $4.99, you can get home security using the equipment you already have.


Using your phone to wake up rested in the morning – There’s an app by the name of “Sleep Cycle” that takes the prospect of waking up every morning completely refreshed and aims to make it a reality. All you need is a smartphone with an accelerometer to make it work – and you need the app too, of course, which will cost you a couple of bucks. We’re here to tell you that it’s worth the cash – based on our first few tries with the setup, that is to say.

Subscription eBook Service Oyster Comes to Android – Netflix’s massive success has freed many of us from buying video content one title at a time, but what about books? That’s where Oyster comes in. For a single monthly subscription fee, Oyster gives you access to unlimited books, and it’s out now on Android. So, it’s essentially Netflix for books.


15 Chrome OS productivity apps that work offline – Chromebooks are lightweight, inexpensive and efficient — in other words, great for business travel. But can these cloud-based laptops operate when you’re off Wi-Fi? Sure they can — here are 15 productivity apps that can work with you when you’re offline.

Virtru, A Secure Email App Built By An Ex-NSA Engineer, Raises $6M – Revelations about how the NSA tracks users online, the growth of malicious hacking and a general move towards people wanting more privacy in their online interactions have all contributed to a surge of apps that offer users ways to control how the content they create is used online. One of the latest of these services, Virtru, designed to work with cloud-based email services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail, is today announcing a round of $6 million that it will use to continue to build out its service.


Qplay Is An iPad App For Binge-Watching The Internet – While the seemingly infinite video options on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and elsewhere provide plenty of content, there’s definitely a “paradox of choice” effect when it’s time to pick the next thing to watch. Qplay is an iPad app that looks to reduce that stress of choice by turning videos from around the web into “Qs,” channels of content from your social feeds and around the web.


Apple releases OS X 10.10 and iOS 8 beta 2 – If you are running either of Apple’s next-generation operating systems, there is a new beta to download but you should do so with caution as these builds are not intended for production devices.

The 250 New Emoji? Here’s What They’ll Look Like – Yesterday afternoon, the Unicode Consortium published a list of 250 new Emoji that they hope Google, Apple, Twitter and the rest will all come to embrace. Spiders! Middle fingers! “Man in business suit levitating”! The problem? Except for a tiny handful of exceptions, the list of what’s to come was just a big pile of text. Now we have pictures!


Surface Pro 2 gets big price cuts ahead of Surface Pro 3 launch – With the Surface Pro 3 well on its way to a commercial release, it was only a matter of time before Microsoft sounded the death knell for the previous generation its tablets. The first part of that process has now started as Microsoft implements a substantial price cut of the Surface Pro 2 tablets across all available configurations.


LinkedIn-Owned Email Widget Rapportive Is About To Get Less Useful – All good things must come to an end. Rapportive, the fantastically helpful email widget which jazzed up your Gmail sidebar with rich contact information pulled from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and more, is getting its first big revamp following its acquisition by LinkedIn in 2012. And frankly, it’s not all good news.

Facebook tries to stop Snapchat drain with Slingshot – The world’s largest social network today unveiled Slingshot, a mobile app that lets users share photos, videos or selfies with a group of friends instantly. Slingshot does not direct users to Facebook nor does it post the shared images or video on the site. The app is also an effort to take back those important younger users who have started paying more attention to Snapchat, a photo sharing application, that has been draining younger users away from Facebook.


Microsoft patches antimalware engine vulnerability – Microsoft has issued an update to all their antimalware products to fix a denial of service bug in the engine they share. The advisory describing the update and vulnerability says that the denial of service is invoked when the engine scans a specially-crafted file. Denial of service bugs are often considered less-serious, but with this one: “[a]n attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could prevent the Microsoft Malware Protection Engine from monitoring affected systems until the specially crafted file is manually removed and the service is restarted.” The advisory goes on to say that exploitation might cause the operating system or an application to become permanently unresponsive until manually restarted, or cause an application to quit unexpectedly.

Years of infosec education and users still click on anything – Security professionals despair: Users will run dodgy executables if they are paid as little as one cent. Even more would sign up to botnets if the price was increased to five or 10 cents. Offer a whole dollar and you’ll secure a herd of willing internet slaves. The demoralising findings come from a study lead by Nicolas Christin, research professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab which baited users with a benign executable sold to users under the guise of contributing to a (fictitious) study.

New powerful banking malware called Dyreza emerges – Security researchers said they’ve spotted a new type of banking malware that rivals the capabilities of the infamous Zeus malware. The malware, which is being called “Dyreza” or “Dyre,” uses a man-in-the-middle attack that lets the hackers intercept unencrypted web traffic while users mistakenly think they have a secure connection with their online banking site.

Researchers warn of preloaded spyware in Android handsets – Security firm G-Data is warning users about their discovery of malware shipping preinstalled on some Chinese mobile phones. The German researchers said that they followed up on customer tips to study the Star N9500 mobile phone. The handsets, sold on eBay and many other online retail sites, are said to primarily be shipped out of China, and can be loosely described as a clone of the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Hackers use YouTube to sell stolen credit card numbers, group says – YouTube has thousands of videos promoting compromised credit card numbers, with the site sometimes running advertisements for legitimate credit cards or retail outlets alongside the hacker videos, according to a new report from an online safety group.

Hostile state-sponsored hackers breached government network – Hackers under the control of a foreign government managed to gain access to the UK government’s secure network, it has been revealed. The hackers, described as a “state-sponsored hostile group” gained access to a system administrator account on the Government Secure Intranet, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has revealed. In a speech to a security conference Maude said the “recent” attack was discovered early “and dealt with to mitigate any damage”.

Company News:

Nokia paid millions of euros to software blackmailers – Nokia paid millions of euros to blackmailers in 2008 who threatened to publish the source code for its Symbian OS – but after it left the money in a parking lot, police lost track of the suspects.

Microsoft is on the hunt for home automation startups – Microsoft is opening up a new accelerator program in which it is looking to work with home automation startups at its campus in Redmond, Washington and is teaming up with American Family Insurance.

Third Party Android App Store Files EU Antitrust Complaint – Google has a good and a bad problem in Europe. It’s now facing new accusations of anti-competitive behaviour in mobile, (it’s separately being scrutinised for its dominance of online search). Aptoide — a Portuguese company that runs a third party apps marketplace — claims Google is abusing its dominant position to push users away from app stores that compete with Google Play. Yesterday it filed a complain with European Union regulators.

YouTube confirms it will remove indie labels’ videos for not signing up to new music service – YouTube confirms that, “in a matter of days”, it will remove videos from its site from artists such as Adele and Arctic Monkeys who haven’t agreed to its terms for its new music subscription service.

Nuance may be in sales talks with Samsung and others – Nuance, a company rich in advanced digital assistant and speech recognition technology but poor in profits, has reportedly been looking for a buyer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Games and Entertainment:

Assassin’s Creed: Unity preview: Stealth stabbing sneaks into the French Revolution – This looks a lot like Assassin’s Creed II . It’s the only thought flitting through my brain as I watch this year’s awkwardly-clad assassin—seriously, doesn’t anyone think he stands out with his hood on?—leap down the wrought-iron-and-stone exterior of Notre Dame. Substitute Notre Dame for any of a dozen Roman or Florentine cathedrals, though, and you might not notice a huge difference between Assassin’s Creed: Unity and its earlier predecessors. After last year’s little tangent into Caribbean piracy, Assassin’s Creed has returned to its roots. This is the most “traditional” Assassin’s Creed game since 2011’s Revelations.


Microsoft offers new Deals with Gold savings of up to 80% on Xbox games – Microsoft’s latest Deals with Gold promotion is offering big savings of 50-80% on a range of Xbox One and 360 games and add-ons, including Tomb Raider, Red Dead Redemption, LA Noire, Bully and more.

The Best Android Digital Comic Book Apps – Yup, comics have gone digital. There are a ton of digital comic book apps in Android’s Google Play marketplace that let you read both classic and contemporary comics, but they’re aimed at different audiences. Some digital comic book apps feature integrated stores. Others are stand-alone readers that let you enjoy DRM-free comic files. A few others are publisher-exclusive apps for fans of a particular comic book house. In short, there are numerous ways to read comics on an Android tablet or smartphone—you just need to find the app (or apps) that works best for you.


New Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Trailer Tells the Story of Its Story – It’s short and splashy and won’t tell you any more about Kevin Spacey’s heavily hyped role in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, but Sledgehammer creative director Bret Robbins does clarify a few details about the futuristic arsenal you’ll be wielding in the game. That’s actually kind of important to understand for the following reason.


Sony Says PS4 “Wins” May, Game Sales Surge Across the Board – Monthly video game sales for May 2014 arrived late last night courtesy NPD Group, with the sales tracker noting — along with Sony, which deployed a beaming media email — that the PS4 was the best-selling games console for the fifth month in a row. Sony added that the Ps4 was numero uno for both hardware as well as “next gen” software sales, claiming four of the latter category’s top five slots. Numero two was not the Xbox One, but rather Nintendo’s 3DS (according to Nintendo).

Off Topic (Sort of):

Quad HD vs. 1080p: A real-world display comparison – Don’t get me wrong: I’ve got perfectly good vision. (With my contacts in, at least.) But smartphone manufacturers are now telling us we need super-high-res Quad HD screens on our mobile devices — and damn it, I can barely tell the difference between them and the already-impressive 1080p screens on smartphones today. So I must need some sort of special superhuman vision. Either that or, you know, we really don’t need these Quad HD displays after all.


And you know what? In most real-world use, the differences between the two are virtually impossible to detect.

FBI’s Twitter slang book goes public – The FBI, much like your grandma, wants to know what the kids are talking about on Twitter, and the myriad of abbreviations used can make that a bit difficult at times. To make sure everyone’s on the same page, it crafted a Twitter slang book, which has now been made public.

Man mistakes Blackberry for blackberry – A man went to the hospital after he swallowed a Blackberry mobile phone and it became lodged in his throat. Warning, the video is not for the squeamish, and bodily fluids are shown.


I stopped a ten million dollar robbery – “For various reasons, including my wife Claudia is slightly worried I could get killed, I am changing all of the names. All of the other details are intact.” A true story by James Altucher.

Meet “Spire”, The Wearable Breath Tracker That Calms You Down – “You haven’t taken a deep breath in 30 minutes”. This is the smartest thing a wearable has ever told me. Most fitness trackers just pump out near-meaningless numbers. But Spire could actually make you healthier, happier, and more productive. Just clip the subtle little stone-looking device to your belt or bra, and it measures and visualizes your breathing in real-time on its companion app. Spire can let you know if you’ve been sitting still too long or need to relax because your breaths are shallow. Today, Spire goes on pre-sale for $109. Soon, it could nudge you towards calm and focus like your own personal yoga master.


Something to think about:


Today’s Free Downloads:

iSpy – iSpy uses your webcams and microphones to detect and record movement or sound and provides security, surveillance, monitoring and alerting services. Any media that is captured is compressed to flash video and made available, securely over the web. iSpy can be setup to run on multiple computers simultaneously. iSpy is free, open-source software, so if you want it to do anything else, please download the source code and customise it to your requirements.

With iSpy you can:

Connect and monitor as many cameras and microphones as you like. Import and export object lists to share with colleagues.

Connect multiple computers in a group and manage over the web

Install iSpy Server and publish your webcam to other instances of iSpy, over your network and to the web

Detect, highlight, track and record movement

Detect loitering

Customise movement detection areas on your cameras

Detect and record sound

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is detected

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is not detected (monitor machinery or staff activity)

Receive email movement alerts with attached frame grab images from your webcams

Periodically receive image grabs via email from your webcams

Connect to any device, even webcams attached to other computers with JPEG, MJPEG, IP Cam, webcam and AVI file support

Watch live and recorded media over the web (through this website) and also via mobile devices

Access and control iSpy remotely

Password protect iSpy and hide it in the System Tray

Schedule sound and video capturing to start and stop automatically

Time-lapse record from any camera

Motion track and count moving objects

Connect multiple instances of iSpy and iSpy server running on different computers to this website and view all aggregated media online

Create groups, invite friends and share access to your webcams and microphones

Receive email alerts if your connection goes offline

Download the source code and customise it to your own requirements!



TeamViewer – Desktop sharing has never been easier: With TeamViewer you will be able to connect to the desktop of a partner anywhere on the Internet. This is the complete TeamViewer with install and uninstall support.

TeamViewer also works in the other direction: Show your own desktop to a partner over the Internet and illustrate your own developed software, presentations or solutions.


Remote Control without Installation:

With TeamViewer you can remotely control any PC anywhere on the Internet. No installation is required, just run the application on both sides and connect – even through tight firewalls.

Remote Presentation of Products, Solutions and Services:

The second TeamViewer mode allows you to present your desktop to a partner. Show your demos, products and presentations over the Internet within seconds – live from your screen.

File Transfer:

TeamViewer comes with integrated file transfer that allows you to copy files and folders from and to a remote partner – which also works behind firewalls

Works behind Firewalls:

The major difficulties in using remote control software are firewalls and blocked ports, as well as NAT routing for local IP addresses.

If you use TeamViewer you don’t have to worry about firewalls: TeamViewer will find a route to your partner.

Highest Security Standard:

TeamViewer is a very secure solution. The commercial TeamViewer versions feature completely secure data channels with key exchange and RC4 session encoding, the same security standard used by https/SSL.

No Installation Required:

To install TeamViewer no admin rights are required. Just run the software and off you go…

High Performance:

Optimized for connections over LANs AND the Internet, TeamViewer features automatic bandwidth-based quality selection for optimized use on any connection.

NOTE: Free for non-commercial use only.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA Turned Germany Into Its Largest Listening Post in Europe – The National Security Agency has turned Germany into its most important base of operations in Europe, according to a story published by Der Spiegel this week.

The German magazine reports that documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden “paint a picture of an all-powerful American intelligence agency that has developed an increasingly intimate relationship with Germany over the past 13 years while massively expanding its presence.” The magazine adds, “No other country in Europe plays host to a secret NSA surveillance architecture like the one in Germany…In 2007, the NSA claimed to have at least a dozen active collection sites in Germany.”

The story reveals that the NSA’s key facilities in Germany include Building 4009 at the “Storage Station” on Ludwig Wolker Street in Wiesbaden, which is in the southwest of the country. Officially known as the European Technical Center, the facility is the NSA’s “primary communications hub” in Europe, intercepting huge amounts of data and forwarding it to “NSAers, warfighters and foreign partners in Europe, Africa and the Middle East,” according to the documents.

Spiegel also reports that an even larger NSA facility is under construction three miles away, in the Clay Kaserne, which is a U.S. military complex. Called the Consolidated Intelligence Center, the facility will cost $124 million once it is completed, and will house data-monitoring specialists from the Storage Station.

Three Senators Decry The House’s NSA Bill, Citing “Watered Down” Reform – A trio of Senators wrote an op-ed for the LA Times calling for NSA reform and decrying the bill that passed the House recently as insufficient for the protection of the privacy of U.S. citizens.

The Senators, Rand Paul, Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, come from both parties. Senator Wyden is known as the senator that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to, regarding government surveillance.

The editorial is punchy, saying that “for years […] senior government officials claimed that domestic surveillance was narrow in focus and limited in scope. But in June 2013, Americans learned through leaked classified documents that these claims bore little resemblance to reality.”

The senators also mention a “loophole” in American law that allows the government to “read some Americans’ emails without ever getting a warrant.” This is likely a comment on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 that, somehow, still allows for the government to get its hands on email that is older than 180 days with a simple subpoena.

The group wants to ban bulk collection of “American’s private information,” fix the ECPA, and install an “advocate” in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Here’s How UK Spy Agencies Justify Snooping On Brits’ Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google  – Some new details about UK government thinking regarding mass surveillance of domestic Internet users have emerged today, in a witness statement made by Charles Blandford Farr, Director General of the UK Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism.

The statement was made in response to a legal challenge made by a group of privacy rights organisations, including Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union. That challenge was made in the wake of revelations about the US Prism program, revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and the UK’s own Tempora data collection program.

In the witness statement, Farr reveals that UK spy agencies could legally justify the mass harvesting of UK Internet users’ Facebook missives, tweets, YouTube and Google searches because those type of communications can be defined as ‘external comms’ if the servers of the hosted content are located outside the UK.

External comms do not require a warrant to be intercepted under the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), unlike internal comms which do require a warrant.

Which means that Brits using US-based Internet platforms should be aware that their communications could be subject to routine capture and scanning by domestic spy agencies — as a matter of course. Although Farr did not go so far as to confirm the existence of such a mass surveillance program, rather he was detailing how the UK government would be able to justify one, should such a program exist.

City of London Police Commissioner says TOR is ’90 per cent of the net’ – Of course he’s wrong: the TOR-using population is tiny – Yet again, someone who should know better is hyping up the size of the so-called “darkweb” to push a law enforcement case.

As reported by TorrentFreak, the remarks were made to the IP Enforcement Summit in London.

According to that report, among other things, Commissioner Adrian Leppard of City of London Police said: “Whether it’s Bitnet, The Tor – which is 90 per cent of the Internet – peer-to-peer sharing, or the streaming capability worldwide. At what point does civil society say that as well as the benefits that brings, this enables huge risk and threat to our society that we need to take action against?”

It’s a piece of silly scare-mongering, and would be laughable except that numbers like this are being used to shape public policy. As the TorrentFreak report states, Leppard believes counterfeit goods is a trillion-dollar market.

Court: Terror suspect can’t get NSA evidence gathered against him – The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled against terrorism suspect Adel Daoud, saying that he and his attorneys cannot access the evidence gathered against him. The Monday ruling overturns an earlier lower district court ruling that had allowed Daoud and his lawyers to review the legality of digital surveillance warrants used against him.

In May 2012, Daoud, an American citizen, was arrested in Chicago after having orchestrated the bombing of a downtown bar. However, the bomb was a dud, provided by FBI handlers who encountered his postings online.

In a December 2012 session of the US Senate, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) cited Daoud’s case (although not by name) as an example (PDF) illustrating why her colleagues should support renewing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). That piece of legislation contains the controversial Section 702, which provides the legal authority that the National Security Agency uses as the basis for Prism and other surveillance and data collection programs.

When Daoud’s lawyers discovered that this case involved secret evidence that they had not been privy to, they eventually asked the court to notify them if any evidence gathered had been done so under a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) order. Under the normal procedures of American jurisprudence, a defendant has the right to see the evidence against him or her and can challenge the basis on which such a warrant was authorized.

The government responded with its own affidavit from Attorney General Eric Holder, who told the court that disclosing such material would harm national security.

Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 18, 2014

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 17, 2014

You’ve fallen for a scam! Now what?  Geohot releases root tool for Galaxy S5 and most other Android devices;  Three things that will speed up your smartphone right now;  A Phone That Lies for You;  Simple techniques for better-looking video;  Find out how fast you type on Android;  Make your own little Lego movie (yes, even PG-13);  Take secret photos by exploiting Android’s camera app;  Freeing yourself from Facebook’s new web trackers;  Rainmeter 3.1 – A great free tool for creating interactive desktop customizations;  Department of Transportation wants control over your phone’s navigation apps;  Pinterest Hacked for Second Time in Four Months;  Take secret photos by exploiting Android’s camera app.

You’ve fallen for a scam! Now what? – Don’t feel bad. We all make stupid mistakes. But with these sorts of mistakes, you have to act fast to avoid disaster. What you need to do depends on how you were tricked. Did you give them your email password? Your bank and/or credit card numbers? Your passwords for Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites? Did they remotely access your PC, or trick you into installing software?

Freeing yourself from Facebook’s new web trackers – Once upon a time — 2011 — a hacker discovered that Facebook was tracking you on the Web even after you had left the site. Facebook denied that it was using cookies to track you off-site, but strangely enough, after many protests, Facebook changed its tracking behavior anyway. Now, in 2014, Facebook has announced — stop me if you’ve heard this before — that they’ll be tracking your web browsing. Don’t want Facebook tracking your every move across the Web? Here’s how to get out of the new Facebook traps.

Simple techniques for better-looking video – Since some of the best videos are shot with our trusty smartphones, we kick of with a few tips on how to make the most of their built-in tools and features. Even the most basic techniques can make a big difference. Plus, find out which essential accessories will take your clips to the next level.

Three things that will speed up your smartphone right now – You pull out your Android smartphone to check on something, and again the first thing you notice is how slow it is running. You’ve meant to check out why it might be running at a sluggish pace and how to fix the problem, but by the time you have a chance you’ve again forgotten. We’re here to help with that. If you’ve got a slow Android handset, fish it out of your pocket and do these three simple things right now to make it run faster.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Hacker Geohot releases root tool for Galaxy S5 and most other Android devices – Google and the big Android OEMs have been beefing up security of the years, which is a good thing for everyone. As a consequence, however, it’s harder to gain root access to new Android devices. Some particularly tough phones  include the AT&T and Verizon versions of the Samsung Galaxy S5. After XDA members took up a collection now valued at over $18,000, famed developer George “Geohot” Hotz has come forward with a working root method. Oh, it also roots almost every other Android phone.

A Phone That Lies for You – Local police confiscate a suspected drug dealer’s phone—only to find that he has called his mother and no one else. Meanwhile a journalist’s phone is examined by airport security. But when officials look to see what is on it, they find that she has spent all her time at the beach. The drug dealer and the journalist are free to go. Minutes later the names, numbers and GPS data that the police were looking for reappear. A new programming technique could bring these scenarios to life

Patch Tuesday disaster breaks Office 2013 for thousands; here’s how to fix it – Click-to-Run installations of the popular office suite fall prey to a crippling bug that leaves the software unable to launch whatsoever.

Rainmeter 3.1 – A great free tool for creating interactive desktop customizations – You may have heard of Rainmeter, the desktop customization tool that lets you display all kinds of information on your PC desktop in a much smoother and more elegant manner than Windows 8 ever did. The problem was that Rainmeter wasn’t really interactive in the way Windows 8 apps are. Well, that’s about to change.


Tired of Facebook? Try these three social apps instead – Are you tired of using social media channels like Facebook to share pics, or schedule a get-together? Sometimes, you just want to create your own little bubble, apart from the larger one that is social media. If you’ve been looking for a way to go “off the social grid”, here are three apps you and your friends can use to forge a new path.

Take secret photos by exploiting Android’s camera app – By manipulating Android’s camera app, pictures can be taken without the user even knowing. This is a boon for secretly taking a photo of the thief who stole your camera, but could easily backfire.

AirDog auto-follow drone wants to be your personal aerial cameraman – What makes AirDog special is its ability to follow the AirLeash, the wrist-worn control unit it ships with. The AirLeash not only acts as a beacon, but it also lets you specify how high the AirDog flies and how closely it tracks you. Pre-configured flight profiles will be packaged with the AirDog app for iOS and Android, and you’ll also be able to program your own — complete with control over which angle AirDog films the action from.


A Drone Map That Delivers You Anywhere In The World – Drones deliver champagne and cookies to our hotels and chocolate to our bellies, and promise to follow our every move. Now a new site delivers us via drone to over 1,500 destinations using an interactive map.


Rendor Turns Your Single-Camera Smartphone Into A Real 3D Scanner – Using a piece of paper with a specially printed grid and a regular smartphone, Rendor may have just cracked the 3D scanning code. The system allows you to create a 3D scan of almost any object simply by taking video of it from every angle. The program interpolates the shape of the object based on how it is positioned on the grid and then generates a usable 3D file.


Printeer Is A 3D Printer Designed For Schoolkids – Meet Printeer: a colourful 3D printer that’s being designed to appeal to kids. Ergo it looks fun, with brightly coloured parts displayed safely behind clear perspex panels, and also aims to be child’s play to use — using object design software that will run on an iPad.


Department of Transportation wants control over your phone’s navigation apps – The next time Google-owned Waze decides to add a new feature to its app, the U.S. government—not users—may decide whether the feature is worth keeping. The U.S. Department of Transportation is asking for explicit power to regulate navigation devices of all types, including apps on your smartphone or tablet. (How’s that living in the “land of the FREE” working out for you?)

Find out how fast you type on Android – Curious about whether one keyboard lets you type faster than another on your Android? Now you can test their claims with this free app.


A sample of the test data you can access in Typist. Nicole Cozma/CNET

Outrage grows as Google axes some Chrome extensions – Their ire stems from Google’s forced disabling of extensions that shipped with paid software that have yet to be replaced, effectively hamstringing those services. Games, financial software, third-party Windows security suites, and productivity tools are among those affected. Some of the people who develop and use the extensions have registered their complaints on Google’s product forums.

Make your own little Lego movie (yes, even PG-13) – Skit has secured the assets of “The Lego Movie,” so that kids can make their own skits and adults can too. Oh, the possibilities.



Android Ransomware Encrypts Your Files. Don’t Pay Up! – In May, Bitdefender pointed us toward what might have been the first Android ransomware—that is, a malicious application that attempts to extort money from victims. Now, F-Secure tells SecurityWatch that a far more insidious ransomware has debuted on Android. Called Simplelocker, this Trojan encrypts your personal files and claims it will delete the keys necessary to decrypt them unless you pay up. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same strategy used by Cryptolocker to extort money from PC users. We’ve been expecting this style of attack to make the jump to mobile for some time, and that grim day has arrived.

Here’s why you should wipe your device before trading it in – Our devices have a lot of information about us, and we give them more and more every day. The information stored within our smartphones and tablets also links to a bigger entity, stored in some mysterious cloud somewhere. When you give up a device, either selling it or via trade-in, do you clear all the data? Here’s why you should — and how.

For Internet Explorer 11 users, no update now means no security fixes – Windows 7 users who’ve installed Internet Explorer 11 are required to install the KB2929437 update. This is the Internet Explorer 11 update that corresponds to the Windows 8.1 Update; it doesn’t just include security fixes for Microsoft’s browser. There are also some new and improved features, including a more capable WebGL implementation and some additional high performance JavaScript features. If users don’t install the update, Windows Update will not provide any more security fixes for their browser.

Evernote’s forum site hacked; Note Service untouched – Evernote’s forum site, which hosts 164,644 members, has been hacked, and the note-taking and archiving site sent an email to affected members Monday recommending they change their passwords if those credentials were reused on other sites. The company said the hackers stole profile data, password hashes, email addresses and birth dates. It did not say how many users were directly affected.

Hackers target Domino’s Pizza, demand $40,000 ransom for customer data – Hackers have targeted Domino’s Pizza servers, downloading details of over 650,000 customers, saying that the full database will be published unless the company pays a $40,000 ransom by today.

Back to the future: Domino’s app bakes-in voice ordering for pizzas – A new version of the Domino’s Pizza app tries to offer the convenience of voice ordering without having to speak with an actual human. Voice ordering is now available in the Domino’s apps for iOS and Android, courtesy of speech recognition capabilities from Nuance Communications.

That’s the ticket! Pile on more and more worthless  features – but securing user data – forget about it! It seems that a customer’s best interest doesn’t rise above the horizon with this company – or many others, for that matter.

Pinterest Hacked for Second Time in Four Months – Pinterest was hacked on Sunday when many Pinners’ feeds were spammed by posts and pins about weight loss. Messages flooding the website advertised “an Asian fruit that burns fat for you,” while other posts hinted at a secret substance that accelerates weight loss.

BlackBerry Launches BBM Protected For Confidential Instant Messaging – BlackBerry today began the rollout of its first eBBM suite product, which tailors its BBM instant messaging service to enterprise users. Today marks the debut of BBM Protected, FIPS 140-2 cryptographic library-enabled messaging, between users within the same enterprise, or between organizations who also use BBM Protected, for secure and confidential communications. Who cares about this? Specifically, companies or organizations working in regulated environments, like defense contractors, for instance.

Intelligence firm Stratfor wasn’t very smart about data security – Stratfor is a secretive, shadowy, somewhat-scary company that refers to itself as a “geopolitical intelligence and consulting firm.” The company attracted (unwanted) attention in 2011 for a website data breach, finding itself “pwned” by hackivist group AntiSec, and highly embarrased to boot. The incident and resulting data theft revealed details on hundreds of high-profile clients, all of which were uploaded to data-leak haven Wikileaks. Why was Stratfor so easily hacked? According to new reports based on leaked internal documents, Stratfor should pay as much attention to its own security as much as it does everyone else’s. (I’ve been in business for 40 years and I can assure you, a company that buys into it’s own bullshit pronouncements is par for the course).

Special Security Guide:

The paranoid computer user’s guide to privacy, security and encryption – Hack-proof computers don’t exist. That’s an important truth to keep in mind as you browse this guide to building a more secure computer. Covered here are myriad tools and services to help protect you from malware, spam, bot-nets and even that amorphous threat of government monitoring. But even if you implement every piece of advice mentioned here and more, you’ll still have, at best, a hack-resistant computer.

Ever hear the old chestnut “it’s not paranoia if they really are after you”? Not long ago, we published the first two instalments of a Globe and Mail Guide to Safer Computing. We had intended it to be a compendium of tools to make your digital life more secure, and planned to run it over the course of a week. Then the Heartbleed bug came to light, and we had to re-evaluate everything again.

As such, we pulled the guide, went through it to look for potential vulnerabilities in the recommended software, and updated the text accordingly. The re-edited version is presented below in its entirety. We will update it regularly with new software and/or whenever new catastrophic security flaws come to light. This is by no means an exhaustive guide. Indeed, if you have any suggestions to add, let us know.

Company News:

Microsoft launches Internet Explorer developer version; shows us the browser’s future – Microsoft has launched Internet Explorer Developer Channel, a beta version of IE that bundles together upcoming features. This is where IE’s upcoming changes will be made public for the first time.

Bitcoin security platform BitGo raises $12M in funding – Silicon Valley security firm BitGo is working with new ways to beef up Bitcoin safety to protect the digital currency from cyberthieves and hackers. And, investors appear to be showing their confidence in the company. BitGo announced Monday that it received $12 million in Series A financing.

Public unconvinced, Google pushes Glass at Work – As the relentless Glass parodies show, Google’s wearable still has a long way to go to engage the mainstream market, which might explain the latest push into more open-minded markets. Google has announced its first “Glass at Work Certified Partners”, five companies looking to use the head-mounted device for doctors in hospitals, journalists in the field, and other highly-targeted cases.

Amazon’s expected smartphone already faces skeptics – If Amazon announces a smartphone on Wednesday, as is widely expected, it will face an avalanche of skeptics. In a smartphone market heavily dominated by Android, iPhone and new sub-$100 unlocked phones, it’s clear that an Amazon smartphone wouldn’t be focused on grabbing smartphone market share any time soon.

Apple settles state AGs’ e-book antitrust lawsuit – Apple has agreed to settle an antitrust lawsuit that sought hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for conspiring with book publishers to fix e-book prices. The class-action lawsuit’s resolution was revealed Monday in a brief court filing by US District Judge Denise Cote that ordered Apple and the attorneys general in 33 states that filed the lawsuit to submit a copy of the settlement agreement to the court within a month. Terms of the agreement were not revealed in the filing.

Games and Entertainment:

Kill countless hours aboard the pixelated USS Enterprise – Pixeltrek, an exquisitely detailed, pixelated look at the “Star Trek” USS Enterprise, lets you go boldly go where no man has gone before — like the guys’ restroom on the ship. By using the WASD keyboard keys, players can explore the Enterprise through the eyes of Lieutenant Commander Data. There’s really not much to Pixeltrek aside from exploration, but it’s super easy for even the casual Trekkie to spend countless hours lost aboard the ship exploring the various nooks and crannies.


Rovio Looks To Tap The Power Of The AllSpark With Angry Birds Transformers – Finnish casual game maker Rovio is back at it with a new title in its Angry Birds series, this one a branded partnership like the Star Wars version released previously. The new game pairs Blockbuster Transformers with the squabbling birds and pigs, in an upcoming game teased by the company with a new landing page and press release today. For Rovio, which has reportedly seen its profits drop 50 percent year-over-year between 2012 and 2013, the partnership might be a good indicator of the path back to growth.


Here’s why Destiny is a winner post-Alpha – I can’t wait for Destiny to be released for all platforms. It’s developed on an in-house engine, looks like a combination of Star Wars* and Halo, and it sounds nice too. And it’s only the Alpha – it’s going to look and feel BETTER than this when it’s eventually released in full.


Facebook focuses on games with iPad app refresh – Games are big business on Facebook, especially on tablets, so the network is updating its iPad app to give you easier access to games you like and offer recommendations for titles you might want to play. Facebook has been trying to convince app developers to integrate Facebook Login into their games so the company can improve its games platform, and that effort seems to be paying off. In a Monday blog post, Facebook’s Victor Medeiros said more than 70 percent of people who use the iPad app played a Facebook-connected game in the last three months.

This Is How Stunning GTA V Will Look on Next-Gen – That Rockstar’s sprawling crime epic Grand Theft Auto V is headed to next-generation consoles is no surprise. But just how good it looks on better hardware is impressive. Now, Digital Foundry has put together footage (above) from last-gen promos and the newest ones to show just how much prettier the title will be. Additional shots below. The new version will be out for PS4, Xbox One, and PC this fall.

Modder supercharges Watch Dogs graphics using files hidden in the PC game – With a little technical know-how you can fix Watch Dogs to look nicer and run better. The worst part? The files are already included in the PC version. They’re just hidden.


Game of Thrones finale piracy hits 2 petabytes in 12 hours – Once again, Game of Thrones has broken all torrenting records — records the show had already set itself. According to TorrentFreak — almost the unofficial industry body for this sort of information — the episode also saw “roughly” 1.5 million downloads in the first 12 hours after airing. That equates to around 2 petabytes of data. (For some scale on just how big a petabyte is, Deloitte Analytics offers this: it would take 233,000 DVDs to store a single PB.)

Off Topic (Sort of):

22 Videos of Things Exploding in Slow Motion – The people behind Mythbusters like to fancy themselves as educators who draw in viewers by applying the scientific method to unearth the truth behind urban myths, Hollywood trickery, and other common historical misconceptions. But we all know that’s not why people are watching. The only reason viewers stopped by was to see all the explosions! And they want to see them repeatedly; from multiple angles; and most importantly, in slow motion. They want to take in every last splintery, melty, crunchy, chaotic detail.


Goal-Line Tech Causes Controversy at World Cup – World Cup goals have been equipped with technology that can accurately determine whether or not a goal has been scored, and it was put to controversial use this weekend in the France vs. Honduras match. As noted by the BBC, the French team beat the Honduras national team 3-0 yesterday. But it was France’s second goal that caused all the controversy and required the goal-line technology. The ball first bounced off the goal post, and despite Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares’s best efforts, it crossed the goal line.


SCOTUS to weigh in on when online rants become criminal threats – The US Supreme Court on Monday announced that it will consider a case involving a thorny free speech issue in the digital age: at what point does a statement made on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter cross the threshold from protected free speech under the First Amendment to a criminally actionable threat?

This robot plans to hitchhike across Canada – Hitchbot will rely on the kindness of strangers as it thumbs a ride this summer. Along the way, it might teach us a thing or two about the human-robot relationship.


Stephen Harper and Tony Abbott deserve each other – What a pair they made, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Canada’s own Stephen Harper — Gollum and Mr. Potato Head — publicly thanking each other for their honesty in Ottawa last week. Unlike most world leaders — if that’s the right term — these two want to be frank; they will do nothing to stop global warming, they proudly declared, if it might hurt the economy. Not one dollar, certainly not one job, shall be lost in the fight to control climate change, the gravest issue we face today. The difference between us and them, we were reminded, is that other nations are hypocrites and we’re not. We’re upfront about it — the environment is not our issue. Other leaders may say they care; but they don’t.

Something to think about:

“Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.”

–    Thomas Sowell

Today’s Free Downloads:

ChrisPC DNS Switch – ChrisPC DNS Switch provides you a simple but effective graphic user interface to select the network adapter/card and change its corresponding DNS with the selected DNS from the preset lists or with a custom DNS. Features are diverse and give you the possibility to maintain your DNS database.

The software will make your life easier: You may want to protect your anonymity in which case you can select a server from the anonymous DNS preset group list. Or you may choose to use secure DNS servers that filter out websites that are potential threats to your PC (avoiding viruses, malware, trojans etc).

Furthermore with your children browsing the internet you might choose to switch to a Family Safe DNS server to steer clear of harmful websites like adult ones, or those that encourage violence, drugs and/or indecent behavior. In the end it might be that you just want a faster DNS than the one your internet provider has, in which case you might use one of the regular DNS preset group or one from your custom DNS group.


Change your computer DNS with just 1 click.

Set your favorite DNS or select one from the software’s DNS database.

The DNS Database contains presets grouped by type: regular DNS, secure DNS, family Safe DNS, anonymous DNS and custom DNS.

Protect your online experience by using a secure DNS server that filters out websites that are potentially threats to your PC (avoiding viruses, malware, trojans etc.)

Block adult websites or those that encourage violence, drugs and/or indecent behavior by selecting a Family Safe DNS.

Improve your privacy while you surf the internet by using an anonymous DNS.

Gain access to websites that are blocked or restricted in your country/area using a regular or anonymous DNS.

Saves your initial DNS settings so you can safely restore them back at any time.

Easy add and edit your own DNS address in the Custom DNS preset list.

Fast switch your DNS from systray popup menu.

Launch software on Windows boot.

Minimize ChrisPC DNS switch to systray



LastEnd Blackjack – New to the game of 21? Still trying to figure out when to hit and when to stand? Don’t waste your money learning at a real casino table. Play LastEnd Blackjack first is a much smarter option to improve your strategy and have a real chance of winning; because LastEnd Blackjack does not use real money.

LastEnd Blackjack features an online high scoreboard that allow you to compare your skills against other players from around the world.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

No cloud privacy or security: If NSA wants your cloud data ‘be big boys about it’ – Most of us don’t like the idea of intelligence agencies or law enforcement accessing our data stored in the cloud; that doesn’t mean your data is, by default, being accessed, but it’s likely a matter of principle. As NSA spying scandal revelations rolled out over the last year, many businesses and individuals decided they don’t want their data stored in the US. Countries want their cloud data to be stored locally in hopes of keeping it safe from US snooping. Whether you regard that as a privacy issue or a security issue, one security expert basically says, “Get over it.”No digital privacy or cloud security

Last month at the re:publica 14 conference held in Berlin, F-Secure’s Mikko Hypponen and David “the Hoff” Hasselhoff  talked about digital privacy and the Digital Freedom Manifesto. Hypponen said the Snowden saga made it clear how much control western intelligence agencies have over the rest of the world. Part of the problem, he said, is that “we, the rest of the world, the 96% of the planet, keep using the services run by the 4% of the planet, services in the United States. Why? Because they are great.” He named Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft as a few examples.

That digital freedom campaign states, “We’re fed up with espionage, with having our private information gathered without our consent, with certain parties thinking they have the right to violate anyone’s privacy. They don’t. We decided it’s time to do something about it.”

The manifesto is divided into four parts: mass surveillance, digital persecution, digital colonization and right of access, movement and speech. You have until June 30 to help write it and then this crowdsourced manifesto will be sent to leaders around the world.

Congressman asks NSA to provide metadata for “lost” IRS e-mails – Representative Steve Stockman (R-TX) has sent a formal letter to the National Security Agency asking it to hand over “all its metadata” on the e-mail accounts of a former division director at the Internal Revenue Service.

“Your prompt cooperation in this matter will be greatly appreciated and will help establish how IRS and other personnel violated rights protected by the First Amendment,” Stockman wrote on Friday.

The request came hours after the IRS told a congressional committee that it had “lost” all of the former IRS Exempt Organizations division director’s e-mails between January 2009 and April 2011.

The IRS has been under investigation since 2013, when the tax agency revealed that it selectively targeted political groups applying for tax-exempt status, particularly those with conservative and “Tea Party” leanings and later those with liberal and “Occupy”-related names.

Designers create a Faraday-cage cloak to foil NSA, other spies – Storing phones in odd places has become a favorite practice of those afraid of spies infiltrating their devices. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden famously asked visitors in Hong Kong to stash their phones in a refrigerator. And it’s not an unfounded fear: it is theoretically possible for even a phone that is powered off to be actively listening.

Tools for combating surveillance have become a new frontier for design experimentation. The latest is from the Austrian design firm Coop Himmelb(l)au and looks very much like a large Snuggie made from a comforter that also happens to block radio signals.


Protect yourself from drone detection with anti-thermal clothing – The sky will soon be littered with drones delivering packages, filming movies, delivering champagne, and taking selfies. What is a privacy-conscious human to do? The folks at the Privacy Gift Shop think they have the answer with their Stealth Wear lineup, which includes a burqa, hijab, and hoodie that shields the wearer from thermal imaging used by drones for detection. The burqa ($2,500) even comes with a hat that adds an extra layer of thermal image blocking.



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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 16, 2014

CIA rendition jet was waiting in Europe to SNATCH SNOWDEN;  Gov’t must give up 5 secret surveillance docs for court to review, judge orders;  Internet users’ privacy upheld by Canada’s top court;  The Sims 4 Digs Emotionally Deeper;  Stay Safe While Staying Connected to Your Tablet;  How your phone gives you up to companies and criminals;  Turning your Android smartphone into a productivity hub;  Avoid installing bundleware with the help of Unchecky;  7 big-name PC games that now call Linux home;  How to block people and app invites on Facebook;  The 10 most popular enterprise tablets of all time;  GameOn Adds Real-Time Game Stats to Sports Group Chat;  Tweetz is a tiny Twitter client for Windows;  Six ways to protect your privacy on LinkedIn; LinkedIn Must Face Lawsuit Over Spammy E-Mails.

Turning your Android smartphone into a productivity hub – They’re small enough to fit in your pocket, many come with battery life that will take you through a full day (or longer), and the hardware inside probably trumps the laptop you were using a decade ago. Constant data connectivity and access to thousands of apps increases their usefulness ten-fold, yet many still under-utilize their handset, using it to scroll through Facebook and browse for nearby restaurants. With the right tools, however, you can break out of that pattern and transform your smartphone into a productivity hub for no matter where you’re at.

Stay Safe While Staying Connected to Your Tablet – Thanks to wireless technology, all-day battery life, and a bevy of useful apps, tablets give you the power to get online and stay productive from almost anywhere. But it only takes one security mishap to bring everything crashing down. Here’s how to protect your tablet, your data, and yourself when you’re working remotely.

How to block people and app invites on Facebook – Besides having to deal with those friends who feel the need to update their status for every little thing, one of the most annoying things about Facebook are the endless app and event invites. It’s time to put a stop to it. Here’s not only how you can block invites, but also individual users.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Tweetz is a tiny Twitter client for Windows – One of the most popular ways to use Twitter on Windows is TweetDeck. With the ability to add multiple users, columns, see direct messages, and do all sorts of managing, you won’t be missing many features of the website itself. But what if you’re looking for a more clean and simple app that lets you use Twitter on one account? Tweetz fits the bill.

How to avoid installing bundleware with the help of Unchecky – Every now and then, some desktop apps still try to sneak annoying toolbars and other software past you during installation. Known as bundleware, the options to not install these additional programs can be easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. That’s where a utility called Unchecky can come in handy, by watching over third-party installations so that you don’t have to. It should work with most software and is well worth using when it does. Unchecky works in the background, monitoring the desktop programs you install. If a program tries to sneak in some extra bundleware, Unchecky will deselect the option for you.


Online shoppers across Europe now have new rights – Online shoppers in Europe now have new protections under laws that introduce a 14-day ‘cooling-off period’ for digital purchases, ban retailers from ‘pre-ticking’ boxes for optional extras, and more.

GameOn Adds Real-Time Game Stats to Sports Group Chat – The big game is about to start, but your friends aren’t there to watch it with you. That’s a bummer, but you can still talk about what that professional athlete should have done with the newly released GameOn for iPhone.


Stuck at work? Google lets you follow the World Cup on the sly – For those who love “the beautiful game,” being stuck at work during the 2014 FIFA World Cup is playing is akin to torture. But fear not: Google is providing some discreet World Cup coverage that will ease your torment, while allowing you to say quite truthfully to your boss, “I’m not watching soccer online! I’m just on Google!”


Google takes National Baseball Hall of Fame digital – Following on the heels of its graffiti endeavors, Google has taken the National Baseball Hall of Fame digital, giving anyone with an Internet connection the ability to view classic images and take a Street View walk through the exhibits.


Iraq bans social networking sites in bid against insurgents – Iraq has followed in the footsteps of some of its nearby neighbors, putting a blanket ban on all major social networking websites in a bid to prevent possible political uprising. Reports are coming in saying Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google have all been blocked.

Linux gaming rising: 7 big-name PC games that now call Linux home – For the first time in a long time, Linux gamers have a reason to smile. Gaming on the open-source operating system has long meant dabbling in Wine and arcane workarounds, but ever since Valve launched Steam for Linux just over a year ago the number of native Linux games has positively exploded.


Photos: The 10 most popular enterprise tablets of all time – Tablets have swept into the enterprise in recent years, transforming business processes and changing the ways people work. Here are the top 10 most popular.

Type more efficiently on your tablet with SwiftKey Keyboard – Jack Wallen shows you why the SwiftKey Keyboard is one of the finest third-party keyboards available for the Android platform.


Six ways to protect your privacy on LinkedIn – With over 300 million members LinkedIn is the business professionals network that connects you to potentially every other business professional around the world. With so many connections how do you protect your own LinkedIn connections whilst making sure that you share only the data you choose to share? You can get to all of the settings mentioned here by clicking on the Privacy and Settings link under your profile photo in the top right hand corner of the LinkedIn screen.


AT&T customer data compromised in scheme to unlock smartphones – Accounts were accessed without authorization between April 9 and April 21 by employees of one of AT&T’s service providers and would have provided access to Social Security numbers and dates of birth, AT&T said in a letter sent to customers. AT&T did not say how many customers were affected, but California law requires a company to disclose incidents that affect at least 500 customers in the state. AT&T declined to offer more details on the breach. AT&T has notified law enforcement of the breach. They are also offering affected customers one year of free credit monitoring.

Tapped in: How your phone gives you up to companies and criminals – A lot has been done to secure major Web services and Internet applications, particularly on the PC. But one of the lessons learned from our collaboration with NPR and Pwnie Express was that for every data leak that has been plugged by the major websites, another springs up on mobile. And mobile devices are the ones that face the greatest risk of surveillance and attack—not so much from the National Security Agency, but from companies and criminals looking to track and target individuals on a smaller scale.

P.F. Chang’s experiences credit and debit card breach – P.F. Chang’s has become the latest company to experience a data breach. The restaurant chain first learned of the breach on June 10th and it included credit and debit card data being compromised.

Yo Facebook, Ban Links With Fake Video Play Buttons – Oh, cute cat video? Let me watch that for a second in the News Feed. Click the play button. NOPE. It was a lie. Just a static image of a play button designed to dupe me into clicking out to some crappy website. Feed reading, interrupted. User experience, injured. Likelihood I’ll click legitimate videos in the future, diminished. Facebook. Seriously. This BS needs to stop. I get it.

Company News:

LinkedIn Must Face Lawsuit Over Spammy E-Mails – LinkedIn is in hot water with some users over its spammy marketing practices, and the problem isn’t going away as easily as the company would have liked. A federal judge this week ruled that LinkedIn users can move forward with a class-action lawsuit, which claims that the business-focused social network spammed their email contacts with annoying invitations to join the site.

Yelp, Zillow And Groupon Rise In Wake Of OpenTable Acquisition Announcement – The $2.6 billion acquisition of OpenTable by Priceline bounced a number of companies’ share prices today, including a 3.91 percent rise for Groupon, and a 2.39 percent bump for Zillow. Yelp, however, shot north 13.79 percent. Yelp has OpenTable integrated into its platform, powering restaurant reservations and making it more than an adjacent service. Yelp’s comparably higher market capitalization of $5.36 billion, makes it a harder piece to swallow, but still potentially in play.

Chinese gov’t reveals Microsoft’s secret list of Android-killer patents – For more than three years now, Microsoft has held to the line that it has loads of patents that are infringed by Google’s Android operating system. Microsoft has revealed a few of those patents since as it has unleashed litigation against Android device makers. But for the most part, they’ve remained secret. That long guessing game is now over. A list of hundreds of patents that Microsoft believes entitle it to royalties over Android phones, and perhaps smartphones in general, has been published on a Chinese language website.

Games and Entertainment:, GamersGate kick off the PC game deals season with massive Summer Sales – E3 and all of its shiny new game launches may be winding down, but the gaming goodness is just getting started. Friday morning, games site launched its summer games sale, unloading a slew of games at dirt-cheap prices, with deals being swapped out day-by-day and even hour-by-hour.


CyberPower PC announces the ‘Syber,’ a Steam-centric gaming PC with Windows 8.1 – CyberPower PC has announced their new “Syber” Steam-centric gaming PC that will compete with Valve’s recently delayed “Steam Machine.” It will start at $599.99, and offer a higher end model.


Ridley Scott’s live-action Halo series will tell story of ‘mystery Spartan’ Agent Locke – Microsoft’s new original series, ‘Every Street United’, is coming very soon, but it won’t be the company’s only show to launch this year on the Xbox One. Fans of the Halo franchise are eagerly anticipating the new series being produced by Ridley Scott, and a couple of new details have emerged on what to expect.


Double Fine’s Broken Age Comes to iPad – Broken Age is a traditional point-and-click adventure, meaning you tap on the screen where you want the character to walk or interact with the environment. This simple control scheme is how you solve puzzles and explore the tale in Broken Age. There are two playable characters living in vastly different worlds and experiencing their own parts of the story simultaneously. You can switch back and forth between them at any time, but they don’t interact in any way.


The Sims 4 Digs Emotionally Deeper – The game, which allows a player to customize his or her character’s destiny, has evolved into a cultural phenomenon extending beyond merely ‘play’; Sociologists have written papers on the Sims and it has become fodder for writers, journalists and bloggers to explore cultural trends. In this newest iteration of the franchise, Sims 4 packs in new features, including the ability to allow characters to embody a wider range of emotional states beyond just sad or happy. The emotion component now affects not only how your Sim character executes tasks, but also how you as a player manage him or her. The Sims 4 releases on Sept. 2.


Off Topic (Sort of):

World’s worst pirates and their parents face walking the plank – Attorney-General George Brandis has heralded the end of a golden era for online piracy in Australia, declaring Australia the “worst offender” in the world. Australian Internet users, service providers, and file-sharing websites have been put on notice. But some argue insufficient attention is being paid to the needs of local TV and movie audiences keen to keep up with digital pop culture. “Australia, I’m sorry to say, is the worst offender of any country in the world when it comes to [online] piracy, and I am very concerned that the legitimate rights and interests of rights holders and content creators are being compromised by that activity,” Senator Brandis said recently in Senate estimates hearings in Canberra. “We want to do something about that.” (Now, Oz may be first in a lot of things – great beer, great mates, great beaches, great scenery (if you catch my drift   Smile ) – but, first amongst the pirate crowd? Ahh, that would be China. As Mark Twain reportedly said – “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”) Recommended by Mal C.

The history of Android: The endless iterations of Google’s mobile OS – Android has been with us in one form or another for more than six years. During that time, we’ve seen an absolutely breathtaking rate of change unlike any other development cycle that has ever existed. When it came time for Google to dive in to the smartphone wars, the company took its rapid-iteration, Web-style update cycle and applied it to an operating system, and the result has been an onslaught of continual improvement.


Android’s home screen over the years.

Are we too connected? Intel, Microsoft, HP CEOs weigh in – Are our brains wired for data overload? Is it overload? Intel, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard CEOs have some thoughts.

Man who beat NSA in T-shirt parody case wins against Ready for Hillary – The Ready for Hillary organization, a group that’s laying the groundwork for a potential presidential campaign by Hillary Clinton, has backed down from its demand that a parody T-shirt and related items be removed from an online store. The T-shirt reads: “I’m Ready for Oligarchy,” a parody of the group’s slogan: “I’m Ready for Hillary.” The maker of the shirt, a Minnesota-based activist named Dan McCall, had previously won a bid to make and sell T-shirts parodying the National Security Agency.


The Daily Show tackles Google Glass ‘Explorer’ discrimination in San Fran – While Google Glass certainly offers a real world advantage in some areas – for example, in the customer service sector – one can argue that in other uses it’s just plain annoying and intrusive. Take the United States for example; a country where your social media updates can get you fired on the spot, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why some people have a problem with a “glasshole” filming them in a bar or restaurant without permission or knowledge of it happening. The issue has been widely discussed, and with good reason.

NASA figures out how to smell Uranus (and other planets) – A new technique lets NASA scientists look deep into the atmosphere of alien worlds — and figure out how bad they smell.


Motorcyclist who filmed, uploaded police flight video to serve hard time – In a bizarre (but somewhat unsurprising) twist of fate, a motorcyclist who recorded video of himself speeding away from a police car while wearing a court-ordered GPS anklet for an unrelated offense—and who then proceeded to post the video footage to YouTube—has been apprehended, tried, and sentenced to a four-year prison term.


Still from seven-minute police evasion video taken from camera mounted on Ali’s motorcycle.

Something to think about:

“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”

–    Mark Twain

Today’s Free Downloads:

Hybrid – Hybrid is a multi platform Qt based frontend for a bunch of other tools which can convert nearly every input to x264/Xvid/VP8 + ac3/ogg/mp3/aac/flac inside an mp4/m2ts/mkv/webm/mov/avi container, a Blu-ray or an AVCHD structure.

Here’s a general feature list:

extensive ability to configure x264s setting (with dependency checks)

ability to configure x265s setting

tagging support for mkv/mp4/mov

chapter support for mkv/mp4/Blu-ray

subtitle suppot for mkv/mp4/Blu-ray

separated audio-, video-, filter profiles, audio&video combi profiles

an integrated bitrate calculator

accepts vc-1 and avc raw input

manual&automatic creation&pass-through of chapters

ability to encode single title/chapters

a job-control

aac/mp3/ac3/ogg/flac/dts/pcm audio encoding with dcaenc/mencoder/ffmpeg/aften and different aac encoders

supported aac encoders: qaac, fdk, faac, fhg, neroaacenc, vo-aacenc

filtering through mencoder (+ some resize automation) or avisynth if the ‘avisynth extension’ is used

acceptable Input: avs and everything that mplayer/ffmpeg can decode

supported video output formats: MPEG-4 ASP (Xvid), MPEG-4 AVC (x264, cuda), VP8/VP9 (vpxenc), ProRes (ffmpeg), MPEG-4 HEVC (x265)

supported audio output formats: dts, ac3, ogg vorbis, mp3, aac, flac, pcm, opus, pass-through

supported containers: mov/mp4/mkv/m2ts/webm/avi, Blu-ray or a AVCHD structure

audio/video pass-through -> can be used for muxing, tagging, chapter editing

a lot of option to automate stuff



Dictionary .NET – Dictionary .NET is a tiny, easy and smart multilingual dictionary translating from/to 52 languages using Google´s services.

Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese-simp, Chinese-trad, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Welsh, Yiddish

Integrates Google Dictionary, Translate, Search, Suggest, Wikipedia 5-in-1 without installing them.


Smart Translation

Translate selected text with a hotkey

Full-Text Translation

Text suggestions

Single click without selected text

Translate a web page

Open File to Translate

Multilanguage List

Wikipedia Search


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Internet users’ privacy upheld by Canada’s top court – Canadians have the right to be anonymous on the internet, and police must obtain a warrant to uncover their identities, Canada’s top court has ruled.

The landmark decision from the Supreme Court Friday bars internet service providers from disclosing the names, addresses and phone numbers of their customers to law enforcement officials voluntarily in response to a simple request — something ISPs have been doing hundreds of thousands of times a year.

It also means parts of the cyberbullying and digital privacy bills that are currently before the House of Commons may be unconstitutional.


(Associated Press)

The Supreme Court says it’s reasonable for internet users to expect their online activities to be anonymous and for their subscriber information to be private.

CIA rendition jet was waiting in Europe to SNATCH SNOWDEN – As the whistleblowing NSA sysadmin Edward Snowden made his dramatic escape to Russia a year ago, a secret US government jet – previously employed in CIA “rendition” flights on which terror suspects disappeared into invisible “black” imprisonment – flew into Europe in a bid to spirit him back to America, the Register can reveal.

On the evening of 24 June 2013, as Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong intending to fly on to Cuba, an unmarked Gulfstream V business jet – tail number N977GA – took off from a quiet commercial airport 30 miles from Washington DC. Manassas Regional Airport discreetly offers its clients “the personal accommodations and amenities you can’t find at commercial airports”.

Early next morning, N977GA was detected heading east over Scotland at the unusually high altitude of 45,000 feet. It had not filed a flight plan, and was flying above the level at which air traffic control reporting is mandatory.

Gov’t must give up 5 secret surveillance docs for court to review, judge orders – In a key transparency case, a federal judge has ordered the United States government to hand over four orders and one opinion from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) published in secret between 2005 and 2008. US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers will then review those documents in private.

The case, known as Electronic Frontier Foundation v. Department of Justice, hinges on which, if any, documents from the FISC should be made public. The original lawsuit (PDF) dates back to October 2011, when the EFF asked the government to handover “all reports, memoranda, guidance, presentations, legal briefs, e-mails or any other record” pertaining to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.

Following the Snowden revelations, we’ve learned that this is the crucial section of US law that governs the routine metadata handover program from Verizon (and presumably other telcos) to the US government. However, EFF v. DOJ case began nearly two years before Snowden.


Local journalist and artist Susie Cagle drew this sketch at the June 3, 2014 EFF v. DOJ hearing in Oakland.

Tech Giants Join Microsoft In Calling For US Gov To End Use Of Warrants To Demand Overseas Data – Microsoft’s case to prevent the United States government from using search warrants to demand data that is not stored in the United States has picked up a number of high-profile backers, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Verizon, AT&T, and, recently, Apple and Cisco.

The final two filed a joint amicus brief, which details their protest of the practice. Microsoft lost its initial suit, as it expected, and has refiled the case. I reached out to both Apple and Cisco for additional comment.

The United States government had issued a warrant for data stored on the company’s servers in Ireland. Microsoft didn’t think that it was reasonable for a United States-specific warrant to apply to overseas and extra-national data. As TechCrunch previously reported, it’s a reasonable point.

What’s noteworthy now is the amount of backing that Microsoft has picked up. More than a trillion dollars in market capitalization are behind the cessation of this specific practice. That’s institutional heft of the material sort.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 13, 2014

How to Stop Facebook From Sharing Your Web Browsing History;  Is Amazon Prime Music worth it?  Turn your smartphone into a scanner, voice recorder, and more;  Install Snap on BlackBerry 10 for unlimited Android app access; CloudFlare Offers Free DDoS Protection to Small Firms;  Twitter Makes the Grade in Online Trust Audit;  You hate Facebook ads: Now you can change them;  Malwarebytes: With Anti-Exploit, we’ll stop the worst attacks on PCs;  OneNote tricks to make you an instant expert;  DVDVideoSoft Free Studio; Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit (free);  How to charge your iPhone wirelessly at Starbucks;  Angry Birds Epic hits all major app stores for free; Far Cry 4 preview;  Banking malware using Windows to block anti-malware apps.

Defend yourself against World Cup scams – While you’re busy figuring out how to stream games to your work PC while appearing to be busy with an Excel spreadsheet, you should be aware that World Cup will also be a feeding frenzy of malware and phishing attacks. Guillaume Lovet, senior manager of the FortiGuard Labs’ Threat Response Team, shared his thoughts with me about the top four scams you should be on the lookout for as the World Cup gets underway.


How to Stop Facebook From Sharing Your Web Browsing History – Facebook is going to start sharing app and Web browsing history it collects with advertisers to display more targeted ads. This includes all those non-Facebook sites you visit. If this skeeves you out as much as it does me, you can opt out, kind of.

Malwarebytes: With Anti-Exploit, we’ll stop the worst attacks on PCs – Imagine a world where attackers seeking to gain access to your computer are stopped before they can use your technology against you. That world doesn’t exist yet, but it took a giant step closer to reality with Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit, a new security program for Microsoft Windows released Thursday. The software, which aims to protect users of the world’s most popular operating system software, is powered by exploit-blocking technology that Malwarebytes acquired last year when it bought ZeroVulnerabilityLabs. (I’ve been running with the Beta for several months – works seemlessly with no system impact. You might consider running with the free version.)

Phone it in: turn your smartphone into a scanner, voice recorder, and more – Sometimes, staying productive is all about the little efficiencies, whether it’s the ability to dictate a quick note into my phone or using its camera in lieu of my big, bulky scanner. This week, I’ve found a few apps that take care of these tasks and more.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Twitter Makes the Grade in Online Trust Audit – With a new security breach in the news seemingly every day, it can be hard to know which online service to trust. According to a new “online trust audit,” however, you can feel safe with Twitter. Twitter took top honors for the second year in a row, earning the highest overall “trustworthiness score” from the Online Trust Alliance (OTA). Others in the top-10 list include Netflix, Newegg,, and Sony Electronics.

Angry Birds Epic hits all major app stores for free – Rovio, the company behind the Angry Birds mobile games, announced the worldwide launch of Angry Birds Epic on Thursday. Unlike the slingshot-focused gameplay of most of the franchise’s earlier games, Epic is a turn-based role-playing game. As with other Angry Birds titles, the heroes in Epic are the birds and the antagonists are “the dastardly King Pig, his advisor Wiz Pig, and his son Price Porky.” King pig and his gang have stolen the eggs, and its up to a cast of “feathery heroes” controlled by the user will help get them back.


CloudFlare Offers Free DDoS Protection to Small Firms – While most sites have a security team to help combat distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, non-profits often have limited budgets to fend off cyber attacks. Enter CloudFlare’s Project Galileo, which is offering up its enterprise-level security system to help non-profits battle cyber criminals. CloudFlare has partnered with non-governmental organizations and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, and the Open Technology Institute to help at-risk public interest websites.

You hate Facebook ads: Now you can change them – Facebook is changing the way it shows adverts, giving users more control over the topics and advertisers they see in their News Feed, even if it’s not going to let them opt-out altogether. The tweaks address one of the common complaints about adverts based on previous browsing behaviors: that they persist in showing you related content, like a new smartphone purchase, even after your original hunt is long over.

OneNote tricks to make you an instant expert – Microsoft’s OneNote is a completely cross-platform app now, which means it can go you with anywhere. In this gallery, I present six of my favorite OneNote productivity secrets to help you get your personal and work projects organized.

How to maximize storage space on your Windows tablet – One of the unfortunate hallmarks of affordable Windows-based tablets is limited storage space. It is not uncommon for low-priced tablets to come with only 32GB or 64GB drives. A large chunk of that space is taken up by the Windows operating system and any preinstalled applications. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to rid Windows tablets of unneeded data to stretch that storage space as far as possible.

How to charge your iPhone wirelessly at Starbucks – Now that Starbucks and Duracell are rolling out a nationwide wireless charging initiative at Starbucks stores, will it work with your phone? Not a lot of us have phones that can accept a charge via a contact pad like the Powermat Starbucks will be using. Especially those with iPhones, which has never had any method of wireless charging. That’s changed, though, and we’ll tell you how you can charge your iPhone wirelessly at Starbucks in the near future.

Is Amazon Prime Music worth it? – Amazon recently introduced their streaming music service, which finally opens up their massive catalog for our listening pleasure. They’ve also entered a crowded, changing music landscape which has migrated from downloading to streaming tracks. Like Apple’s acquisition of Beats, it seems the online shopping giant just couldn’t resist. Is Prime Music worth it, though? We compare it with similar services to find out.

KAZAM launches £40 smartphone in UK, including free screen repair service – For that price, of course, you can hardly expect flagship specs; the Trooper X3.5 offers a dual-core 1GHz processor, 3.5-inch touchscreen with HVGA (480x320px) resolution, 4GB of storage (plus microSD slot supporting cards up to 32GB), Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi, FM radio, along with a 3.2MP rear camera with flash and a VGA front-facing cam.


This blue version of the handset does not seem to be available yet via Phones 4u.

Raydget SlimBox PC is the size of a chocolate bar – There are three models based on Intel’s QM77 Express chipset, the same one that you’d find in any number of Windows 8 convertibles and laptops. You can choose from a 1.4GHz Celeron, 1.6GHz Core i3, or go all in on a 2.8GHz Core i7. 64GB of internal storage comes standard, but you can pop a larger SSD into the mSATA socket if you need more space. RAM starts at 4GB and can be upgraded to 8GB using standard SODIMMs.


Bing takes a shot at predicting World Cup results – Microsoft’s Bing search engine can do a lot more than simple searches. Recently, the company started dabbling in the ‘predictive’ arena with trying to anticipate who would get voted off TV shows. With the World Cup kicking off this week, Bing is now taking its prediction tool to the football (or “soccer”) pitch and will take a shot at seeing who will win each game. You can search an individual match over at Bing or simply type ‘World Cup prediction’ to get the results.


Skype’s new Windows Phone-style iPhone app is available now – While Skype has seen regular updates on iOS, version 5.0 is the first major overhaul of the app since 2010, when it launched with Apple iOS 4. With the new release, Microsoft has given the UI a completely new look on iPhone – one that closely mirrors the design of its Windows Phone platform. The company said on Monday that this was intended to bring its interface in line with that used by Skype on other mobile devices, adding today that its goal was to make the app more “simple and intuitive.”


More cafes ban laptops: the growing push against tech – Coffee shops — cafes, if you prefer — are a staple for many, serving as the perfect destination to stop for a mid-day meal or that necessary cup of coffee. As the proliferation of mobile technology increased over the years, these shops came up with a simple idea to draw in more customers: free Wi-Fi. There was a time when such an offering was a novelty, but over the years it has become so expected that cafes without it are seen as odd relics. What started as a novelty courtesy service to draw in customers transformed the nature of the industry as a whole, and shops coast to coast began to suffer for it. That’s when the bans started.

Nyrius Aries Pro review: Cut the wire clutter in your home entertainment setup – Your television is surrounded—maybe you have a Roku or Apple TV, a game console or three, a DVD player for old time’s sake, perhaps a cable box if you haven’t cut the proverbial cord. Cutting out actual cords with all of those electronics in tow? Good luck with that. Hiding a terrifying web of wires behind an entertainment center is no big deal, but what if your flat screen is mounted to the wall, or you’re running a projector from the ceiling? The Aries Pro was created for such needs. (Wow! Be prepared for “sticker shock” with this one.)


20 Cool New Things in Apple OS X Yosemite – Apple OS X Yosemite—the tenth version of the operating system already named OS Ten—is due to arrive in the fall as a free upgrade, usable on just about any Mac manufactured since mid-2007. It’s a classic Apple-style upgrade: Despite dozens of changes and new features, you won’t need to relearn anything to use it. But if you own an iPhone or iPad, you’ll find that your Mac and iOS device will work together in ways you never imagined. When both Yosemite and the forthcoming iOS 8 are on your devices, you’ll be able to answer your phone on your Mac, or start a mail message on your phone and finish typing it on your Mac.

Microsoft Promises Not to Scan Accounts for Targeted Ads – The software giant just announced it has updated its Services Agreement and privacy statement, eliminating much of the legal mumbo jumbo to make its policies more transparent. With the update, Microsoft is also taking a more definitive stand against targeted advertising, pledging not to use the content in your emails to target you with ads.

Install Snap on BlackBerry 10 for unlimited Android app access – A free app called Snap is available for BlackBerry 10 devices running OS and above. The app mimics Google’s Play Store, providing you access to the same apps you would find in the Play Store on an Android device. The benefit of using this over the Amazon method is that not all developers release apps in Amazon’s store, opting instead to stick with Google only.


Banking malware using Windows to block anti-malware apps – A trojan that’s currently doing the rounds in Japan is using Windows itself to try to defeat security software on infected machines. Trend Micro reports that the BKDR_VAWTRAK malware, which steals credentials used for online banking at some Japanese banks, is using a Windows feature called Software Restriction Policies (SRP) to prevent infected systems from running a wide range of security programs, including anti-virus software from Microsoft, Symantec, and Intel. A total of 53 different programs are blocked by the malware.

Nasty mobile banking Trojan gets ransomware features, starts targeting U.S. users – An Android Trojan program originally designed to steal mobile banking credentials from Russian users was recently retrofitted with ransomware functionality and has started infecting users in the U.S., using photos of its victims to intimidate them into paying a fictitious FBI fine.

P.F. Chang’s confirms theft of customer card data – Asian-themed restaurant says it would switch to old-style card imprint system after learning that customer data and debit card information was stolen.

AT&T breach allowed customer data to be used to unlock smartphones: Social Security numbers were accessed in a bid to unlock smartphones – Personal information, including Social Security numbers and call records, was accessed for an unknown number of AT&T Mobility customers by people outside of the company, AT&T has confirmed. The breach took place between April 9-21, but was only disclosed this week in a filing with California regulators. While AT&T wouldn’t say how many customers were affected, state law requires such disclosures if an incident affects at least 500 customers in California.

Gmail had a simple flaw that allowed anyone to obtain every email address – A gaping security flaw in Google’s Gmail email service has been publicized that could have allowed hackers to extract the email address of every single user from Google’s database. Oren Hafif, a security penetration expert, discovered last year that he could manipulate the little-used account-sharing feature in Gmail to edit the ‘Rejection Confirmed’ webpage. After changing one character in the URL of the page that appears when you reject access to a shared account, Hafif found he could make the page tell him that he had been declined access to another email address.

Hacker claims PayPal loophole generates FREE MONEY – A PayPal loophole can be exploited to earn free cash according to a convicted former NASA hacker turned white hat. Fraudsters can double their money, says Razvan Cernaianu, by funnelling cash into a mule account before filing for a transaction refund. To pull off the rort a fraudster needs three PayPal accounts. One is a legitimate buyer, another is a disposable seller and the third is a mule. The latter accounts would be linked to virtual credit cards.

Company News:

Court confirms Intel’s record-breaking €1.06 billion fine – In a ruling issued Thursday, the European Union’s General Court rejected Intel’s appeal of a €1.06 billion ($1.44 billion) penalty for antitrust violations. Instead, the EU General Court upheld the record-breaking penalty against the US computer chip giant, which had been issued in 2009 by the EU Commission. Intel had been seeking annulment of the large penalty for what the EU Commission previously ruled to have been the company’s antitrust infringement actions.

Tesla opens up its patents to anyone acting in ‘good faith’ – Tesla isn’t giving up all claim to the technologies it has developed, though. There’s no legal document that says “these patents now belong to the world.” Instead, the company is pledging not to initiate any patent lawsuits against a person or company that acts in good faith while utilizing Tesla’s patents. That’s probably vague enough that Tesla can still have some control over what happens with its patents, while also encouraging the industry to create new electric vehicle tech.

Huawei bypassing carriers, selling directly to U.S. smartphone shoppers – Blame it on Huawei’s earlier troubles with Congress, the reluctance of carriers, or the general disinterest of U.S. consumers. Whatever the reason, Huawei has had difficulty breaking into the American market and is now trying to take its message right to U.S. smartphone shoppers.


Citing strong PC demand, Intel boosts Q2 revenue expectations – Spurred by stronger demand for business PCs than expected, Intel raised its revenue guidance for this quarter. Intel now expects quarterly revenue of US$13.7 billion, plus or minus $300 million, it said Thursday. The company’s previous guidance was $13 billion, plus or minus $500 million, for the quarter.

Google reportedly readying health service called Google Fit – Joining a burgeoning field of tech giants focused on health, the Web giant will unveil new platform in late June, Forbes reports.

Games and Entertainment:

Far Cry 4 preview: Choose your own attack – One of the greatest joys in the Far Cry games in simply wandering around the vast, detailed worlds, looking for things to wreak projectile havoc upon. So it was a bit disappointing that the short E3 demo of the game eschewed exploration for a single, focused attack on an adobe fortress in the Himalayan countryside. Then again, this is E3, so perhaps a more focused experience is better suited to the environment.


TechSpot: E3 2014 PC Game Trailer Roundup – Didn’t clear your schedule to track E3? Here are 40 plus PC game trailers from the event along with expected release dates and launch platforms for each title. The games are ordered alphabetically and if they are due to appear on both generations (Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 and Xbox One/PlayStation 4), then we generically labeled them as Xbox and PlayStation games to reduce clutter.


Bioware’s Dragon Age: Inquisition will have 40 different endings – E3 is rife with impressive upcoming games, but for fans of Dragon Age, there is no substitute. Dragon Age: Inquisition, the latest incarnation of this epic action RPG, was demoed at E3, but the gameplay is only half the story from the land of Thedas. Dragon Age producer Cameron Lee has let it slip on Twitter that the game will have 40 major endings, plus a number of minor variations based on decisions a player makes.


Destiny Alpha gameplay first impressions: it’s just beautiful – The first thing I wrote about Destiny after I’d first began to play it was “Destiny is nothing if not gorgeous.” This game immediately reminds one of Killzone: Shadow Fall once inside a map, but before you there, you’re given the impression that you’ve dropped into the wrong game. I thought this was supposed to be a first-person shooter – why am I picking facial features and hair color? As it turns out, Destiny is a bit more complicated than I first expected.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Americans think ‘Star Trek’ is the future, not ‘Star Wars’ – A survey shows Americans have little idea what the Internet of Things is, but that the story that most aligns with their view of the future stars James T. Kirk.

Local cops in 15 US states confirmed to use cell tracking devices – A new map released Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union shows that fake cell towers, also known as stingrays, are used by state and local law enforcement in 15 states. Relatively little is known about precisely how police decide when and where to deploy them, but stingrays are used to track targeted phones and can also be used to intercept calls and text messages. However, privacy advocates worry that while the devices go after specific targets, they also often capture data of nearby unrelated people.


US government OKs sharper satellite images – Until this week, satellite operators like DigitalGlobe were prevented by law from selling images to foreign or commercial organizations in which features smaller than 50 centimeters were visible. The restriction was meant to ensure that foreign powers didn’t get access to satellite images that were too good. But now that’s changed. DigitalGlobe said it has received approval from the U.S. Department of Commerce to sell sharper images to its clients.


Samsung Smart Bike packs an Arduino and frickin’ laser beams – Merely having a smartphone mount on the handlebars doesn’t make a normal bike smart. That requires a lot of additional design, engineering, and even more tech — including cameras and laser beams. Samsung’s been working on a concept bike in conjunction with Maestros Academy.


US to auction off 29,656 bitcoins seized from Silk Road, worth over $17.5M – On Thursday, the United States Marshals Service posted a notice that it will be administering the sale of the over 29,600 bitcoins seized in the Silk Road case. At present exchange rates, those bitcoins are worth over $17.5 million. These bitcoins resided in six different wallets found on Silk Road servers and do not include the “bitcoins contained in wallet files that resided on certain computer hardware belonging to Ross William Ulbricht, that were seized on or about October 24, 2013.” The USMS said that the first deadline for bidders will be 9am Eastern Time on June 16, 2014.

Why online tracking is getting creepier – Currently, many companies track where users go on the Web—often through cookies—in order to display customized ads. That’s why if you look at a pair of shoes on one site, ads for those shoes may follow you around the Web. But online marketers are increasingly seeking to track users offline as well, by collecting data about people’s offline habits—such as recent purchases, where you live, how many kids you have, and what kind of car you drive. Here’s how it works, according to some revealing marketing literature we came across from digital marketing firm LiveRamp.

Something to think about:

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”

–    Thomas Szasz

Today’s Free Downloads:

Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit – Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit, formerly ExploitShield by ZeroVulnerabilityLabs, protects you from zero-day exploits targeting browser and application vulnerabilities. Its proprietary technology shields your browser and applications in that critical period between the release of a new exploit and its subsequent security patch. Easy to install and lightweight. Download Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit now and crush the most dangerous breed of malware attack.

Popular software programs contain millions of line of code. Bad guys exploit flaws (vulnerabilities) in the code to deliver malware. Except when they can’t. Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit wraps three layers of security around popular browsers and applications, preventing exploits from compromising vulnerable code. Not an antivirus, but compatible with most antivirus, Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit is a small, specialized shield designed to protect you against one of the most dangerous forms of malware attacks.

Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit

Protects Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera browsers

Protects browser components, including Java, Adobe Reader, Flash, and Shockwave

Defends against drive-by download attacks

Shields vulnerable applications, including Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Apple Quicktime, and VLC Player

Blocks unknown and common exploit kits, including Blackhole, Sakura, Phoenix, and Incognito

Is compatible with most common anti-malware and antivirus products

Doesn’t use a signature database—no need for constant updating



Screen shots from my personal system.

DVDVideoSoft Free Studio – Free Studio is a single package which bundles all free software from DVDVideoSoft to work with DVD, video and audio files!

With this free software you can convert video and audio files between different formats and to iPod, PSP, iPhone, BlackBerry and other portable devices; burn and rip DVDs and audio CDs; upload and download videos and music to your computer, iPod, PSP, iPhone and BlackBerry; perform basic editing of audio and video files.

Tools included:

Free YouTube Download

Free YouTube to MP3 Converter

Free YouTube to iPod and PSP Converter

Free YouTube to iPhone Converter

Free YouTube to DVD Converter

Free YouTube Uploader

Free DVD Video Converter

Free Video to DVD Converter

Free Video to Flash Converter

Free 3GP Video converter

Free Video to iPod and PSP Converter

Free Video to iPhone Converter

Free Video to MP3 Converter

Free Video to JPG Converter

Free Audio Converter

Free Audio to Flash Converter

Free DVD Video Burner

Free Disc Burner

Free Audio CD Burner

Free DVD Decrypter

Free Audio CD to MP3 Converter

Free Screen Video Recorder

Free Video Dub

Free Audio Dub

Free Video Flip and Rotate


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tech companies are raising their game (and pants) post-Snowden – If there’s a positive to the disclosures by ex-National Security Contractor (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, it’s that it’s been a disaster for technology and internet firms.

Yes, a positive.

In the last year we’ve learned the NSA has backdoors placed in the hardware that makes networks, the existence of massive funnels placed in internet and phone companies’ data centers to suck up vast amounts of data, and the breaking of internet encryption.

The effect of all this should be a raising of these companies’ games and a shaking of users’ complacency in relying on “free” products and in being too accepting of what they’re given and of standard “solutions.”

Already, tech and web companies are coming back. Caught with their pants down, they are now being given the time and money to pull them back up again.

Pre-Snowden it was generally assumed the government was carrying out some sorts of surveillance against key targets and that the bright boys and girls at the National Security Agency (NSA) could subvert security systems if they really wanted to.

There had long been rumors of backdoors in operating systems and government malware-writing teams, but very little in the way of proof.

Snowden’s leaks showed not only that security weaknesses are being built into software but also that the large companies to whom we entrust our data are helping in this – and they have been criminally lax about the security of users’ data within their own organizations.

Snowden did the tech industry a big favor – I am not an Edward Snowden fan and I don’t even assume that his motives are good, but clearly some good has come from his leaks. One major one is that tech companies are able to fight back against government pressure to give up their customers’ private data.

The Edward Snowden revelations have rocked governments, global businesses, and the technology world. When we look back a decade from now, we expect this to be the biggest story of 2013. Here is our perspective on the still-unfolding implications along with IT security and risk management best practices.

Microsoft made yet another example of this recently when it was revealed that they are resisting US government efforts to force the company to disclose user data stored abroad. In fact, since the Snowden disclosures, the big tech companies have tried hard to make clear that whatever data they disclose to the government they do so under legal order. They have also obtained, in the end as a negotiated settlement, the ability to disclose aggregate data about the number of government requests for data they receive.

As time has gone on, they have gotten bolder about challenging the government. The case of Microsoft protecting data in their Irish datacenter from US orders is one of several cases they have been able to bring in open court, rather than in the secret FISA court. This is both good law and good public relations.

To my mind, the first example of this happening was when, after stories came out about it in 2006, the telephone networks began resisting the NSA requests for bulk metadata and insisted that the government seek warrants. This is how the system of FISA court warrants for that data began.

Since then, we’ve heard claims that the companies are in bed with the NSA, such as the early claim that the PRISM program allowed the government “direct access” to the companies’ servers. These have turned out to be untrue, merely a perverted form of wishful thinking by some who, as a rule, think the worst of everything done by government and corporations.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 12, 2014

We’re ALL Winston Smith now – and our common enemy is the Big Brother State;  Get a warrant for cell phone location tracking, US appeals court says; How to easily root an Android device;  Microsoft updates Terms of Use for higher privacy, transparency and simplicity;  Replacing your laptop with a tablet: must have accessories;  Feedly, Evernote And Others Become Latest Victims Of DDoS Attacks;  What’s a DDoS attack? Zombies, shopping help explain it all;  Poison PDF pusher released to public;  10 awesome improvements in Linux Mint 17;  3D-printed dress exposes your body as you reveal data;  Two enterprise-worthy password managers: LastPass and RoboForm;  Easy dictation and transcription with Recordense;  Star Wars: The Old Republic (free).

US Appeals Court rules warrantless phone location tracking is illegal – A panel of appeals judges has ruled that police must obtain a warrant before collecting cellphone location data, adding further weight to the pro-privacy argument.

Microsoft Refuses U.S. Request to Hand Over Email Stored Abroad – The tech giant said acceding to the U.S. request for an email from a data storage site in Dublin, Ireland would “violate international law and treaties, and reduce the privacy protection of everyone on the planet.”

Microsoft updates Terms of Use for higher privacy, transparency and simplicity – Microsoft is changing their Terms of Use and Privacy statements in an effort to build trust with customers of their products and services. In an email sent to users of Microsoft’s services, they claim that the needs of the users is at the center of everything they do, and as a result are trying to increase that level of trust with the users. Given that they highlight trust as a user’s “need,” it appears that Microsoft is paying close attention to the concerns of their users.

How to easily root an Android device – Rooting is the Android equivalent of jailbreaking, a means of unlocking the operating system so you can install unapproved (by Google) apps, update the OS, replace the firmware, overclock (or underclock) the processor, customize just about anything, and so on. Thankfully, there’s a new Windows utility that makes rooting a one-click affair: Kingo Android Root. It’s free, and based on my initial tests with a Virgin Mobile Supreme, it works like a charm. (Be sure to check the compatibility list before you proceed, keeping in mind that although the Supreme wasn’t on it, the utility had no problem with it.) Here’s how to get started.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Replacing your laptop with a tablet: must have accessories – The debate about whether a laptop can be adequately replaced with a tablet is a hot one, usually drawing passionate arguments from both sides of the fence. For some it isn’t a viable option, but others who use their laptops for casual browsing, watching videos, and playing simple games increasingly wonder the point of keeping around a laptop when a tablet best suits their needs. For those people, a handful of accessories will take you full circle, enabling your tablet to double as a laptop when necessary.

2014 World Cup: three ways to watch – The 2014 World Cup is upon us, and for those forced to watch from a distance, the options for doing so can be tricky if you don’t have the right cable channels (particularly for the cable-cutters among us). The games, which kick off tomorrow, will be broadcast on ESPN and ABC, but options remain for those who prefer to watch from their Android smartphone or tablet, iPad, or iPhone.

Easy dictation and transcription with Recordense – Jack Wallen takes a look at an audio recording app for Android that includes a web-based transcription tool. It could be exactly what you need to record and transcribe your meetings.

Google Introduces “Google My Business,” A New One-Stop Shop To Help Business Get Found Online – Google announced a suite of tools this morning for business owners, offering them a one-stop shop to update their business information, add photos, read reviews and, of course, use Google+. The service, called “Google My Business,” seems to be aimed at those who have yet to figure out how to “get on Google” so to speak; in fact, there’s a button that even uses that same expression.


3D-printed dress exposes your body as you reveal data – An NYU graduate student explores what it means to expose ourselves online by creating a dress that translates data sharing into real-life exposure.


Microsoft adding highlights, geo-tagging and easier browsing to Photosynth – If you don’t know, Photosynth from Microsoft is a photo sharing website and mobile application that can analyze digital photographs to create a panoramic or three-dimensional image (or snyth) of a setting or location. At the start of the year, Microsoft created a 20 gigapixel panorama of Seattle, with Photosynth used as one of the applications to create the final 360 degree image. Following the initial release in January, the Photosynth team has been working hard to add more features to the application; the latest update to the Technology Preview has arrived.


Audibly Turns Multiple iOS Devices Into A Wireless Surround-Sound System – A team of three young coders has come up with a way to turn your iPhone’s speakers into a wireless surround-sound system, thanks to a mobile app called Audibly. The app, which is perfect for parties or for blasting music when decent speakers aren’t readily available, uses technology found on newer devices (running iOS 7 or higher) in order to sync songs to multiple people’s iPhones or iPads simultaneously, effectively turning them into an ad hoc surround-sound system.


10 awesome improvements in Linux Mint 17 – If the end of XP demonstrated anything, it’s that disruption ensues when an OS reaches end of life. Linux users have long had LTS releases to stave off some of that, but the new Linux Mint 17 offers even more stability. Not only will it be supported until 2019, but it’s also built on a base that was made to last. Linux Mint 17 is a great choice for stability-minded individuals and businesses, in other words. Here’s a close-up look.


Comcast Is Turning The US Into Its Own Private Hotspot – On paper it looks like a win-win: in the next few days, Comcast is quietly turning on public hotspots in its customers’ routers, essentially turning private homes into public hotspots. Comcast customers get free Wi-Fi wherever there is a Comcast box and the company gets to build out a private network to compete with telecoms. Win-win. But here’s the problem: Comcast is essentially using your private residence as a corporate resource. They’re using your electricity. They’re using your Internet connection (although they claim they aren’t) and they’re opening up your private browsing to potential hackers.

Google Releases Official Google I/O App on Android – Google is set to have it’s annual developer conference in a few weeks, and the official app has just hit Google Play. Google I/O is technically for designers and programmers, but just like Apple’s WWDC, it has become a forum for Google to demo new technology and unveil devices. Even if you’re not going, the Google I/O app can help you feel like you’re there.


8 ways you’ll use Apple’s iOS 8 HealthKit every day – Apple’s HealthKit will let developers use your iPhone as a digital health hub. I’ve gathered together a bunch of existing products and solutions to show how these might work with you and HealthKit across a typical day.


Lifefitness products are already iOS-compatible

Insert adventures into GifMill, get animated GIFs – Peak Systems’s GifMill is a quick and easy way to make animated GIFs on your iPhone from video or images, and it’s this week’s Macworld staff pick.

Three plant sensors want to be your garden assistant – These plant sensors can connect your garden to give your plant a voice. We break down their strengths and weaknesses.


Two enterprise-worthy password managers: LastPass and RoboForm – Everyone in your company needs a password manager — and there are lots of great options. But two cross-platform tools rise above the rest, thanks to their excellent support for enterprise networks.


Feedly, Evernote And Others Become Latest Victims Of DDoS Attacks – Who have the DDoS attackers not hit? That’s the question. This morning, RSS reader and feed-syncing platform Feedly is being hit by a distributed denial-of-service attack, where again the criminals are attempting to extort money in return for returning the service to normal operations. And only yesterday, Evernote was a victim of a similar attack. These attacks seem to be increasing in frequency, and now leave a long line of victimized sites in their wake, including Meetup, Basecamp, Vimeo,, SAY Media/TypePad, Namecheap, Plenty of Fish and Moz, to name a few of the more recent victims.

Incapsula’s Report: 2014 DDoS Trends – Botnet Activity is up by 240% – Today we are releasing a DDoS Threat Landscape report which provides several important, and often surprising, facts about DDoS activity in 2013 and the beginning of 2014. When we started working on this report back in January, our goal was to provide a recap of 2013 DDoS trends. However, the offenders had other plans. And so, just as we were preparing for the report to come out, we started encountering new types of DDoS events which were too significant to overlook.

What’s a DDoS attack? Zombies, shopping help explain it all – There has been a lot of news today about DDoS; Feedly went down, and at the time we publish this article, still is. Those types of attacks happen often, and can cause some major headaches. What are they, though? Are you at risk if it happens? We explain DDoS in layman’s terms to help you understand a bit about what’s going on.

Poison PDF pusher released to public: A quick download, a couple of clicks, a naughty URL and you’re in the business of crime – Attacking enterprises just got easier with the development of an idiot-friendly tool that spits out booby-trapped PDFs with a few clicks. The tool weaves existing exploits into PDFs, allowing attacks against Adobe Reader and Acrobat versions 8.x prior to 8.2.1 and 9.x before 9.3.1. Users can insert their own URL pointers into the program, which then spits out an exploited PDF. Microsoft’s free anti-virus had blocked the attack (CVE-2010-0188) in a test and it was likely other platforms would raise flags too. Only unpatched users could be effectively targeted, but given the poor state of patching, that provides a pretty big pool of potential victims.

Powerful worm on Twitter unleashes torrent of out-of-control tweets – Twitter on Wednesday was briefly overrun by a powerful computer worm that caused tens of thousands of users to tweet a message that contained self-propagating code exploiting a bug in the TweetDeck app. Within a few hours, the cross-site scripting (XSS) attack caused at least 37,000 84,700 users to retweet a single message originally transmitted by the user @derGeruhn. The body of the message contained JavaScript commands that caused anyone viewing it in TweetDeck to automatically retweet it. The message spread virally. The more times it was retweeted, the more times it was viewed and retweeted by other people using the vulnerable app. The BBC News Twitter account alone pushed the message to 10.1 million followers.

Watch Dogs video game will inspire more road sign hacks, warns cyber alert – Shortly after the game was released, conservative TV and radio host Glenn Beck announced that Watch Dogs teaches you to hack. “They’re teaching you to hack and then become the ultimate voyeur in other people’s lives, including their bedrooms, by hacking into their phones and everything,” Beck proclaimed. Then he talked about docking your iPad or phone right next to the bed, before adding, “This game is teaching people to hack in to whatever is docked in your bedroom.…We are inviting it into our homes….We are teaching our kids for entertainment purposes.” Beck is no hacker, no gamer for that matter, and likely has no clue about the true state of vulnerable critical infrastructure. But when the Center for Internet Security starts issuing cyber alerts blaming Watch Dogs, then this could be a long, painful journey.

Israel develops wireless-malware-injection-by-smartmobe tool – It’s not the next Daniel Suarez plot; Israeli academics have developed software they say can use your mobile phone to detect electrical impulses, and foist malware to computers physically disconnected from any internet facing network. Ben Gurion University professor Yuval Elovici told The Times of Israel that his team successfully sucked data off an air-gapped machine by implanting malware using the method. He said the attack works up to six metres away from a targeted machine.

Company News:

Amazon Launching Streaming Music Service As Soon As This Week, Says NYT – E-commerce giant Amazon is planning a streaming music service of its own in order to join the ranks of virtually every other tech company in existence, according to the New York Times. The streaming feature would give Amazon Prime subscribers free access to a library of thousands of songs, sans any advertising. It won’t include new releases, however, and Universal Music Group artists will be left out, according to the report.

Microsoft continues its push in China with two new Lumias landing this summer – The two devices have identical hardware and design but will be heading to different mobile carriers; 636 to Chinia Unicom and 638 to China mobile. Seeing that Microsoft is getting this device on to two carriers in China will certainly help boost the availability of the device and should result in more sales. For Microsoft, they know that China is a critical market for the company and one where they can grow significantly. With two new low-cost devices that will soon be available in the market, we would expect to see the company move quite a few more units over the summer.


Starbucks rolling out wireless charging stations – Starbucks has introduced a new way for its customers to charge up their devices: wireless charging stations. The new offering is rolling out now, having kicked off with the company’s San Francisco stores. If you’re not in that area and want to take advantage of the feature, you might have to wait a while: the roll out is planned over the next three years.

Tizen OS declared ‘dead in the water’ – Days after Samsung introduced a Tizen OS-based smartphone, a UK-based analyst declared the operating system a non-starter, despite its backing by a consortium of heavyweights including Intel, Samsung and LG Electronics. “Is Tizen going anywhere? In a word, no,” wrote Andrew Sheehy, chief analyst for Generator Research in an online research report. To support his view, Sheehy said the OS is five years behind Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS and has the support of only a small cadre of developers compared to the millions writing applications for Android and iOS. “Watching Tizen’s development is like watching a car crash in slow motion,” he wrote.

Expedia to begin accepting Bitcoin for hotel reservations – You can buy electronics and every day goods with Bitcoin. You can order powerful custom PCs with Bitcoin. Heck, you can even pay your satellite TV bill in Bitcoin. But Bitcoin took yet another stride toward mainstream acceptance on Wednesday, as Expedia announced that it would start accepting Bitcoin for hotel reservations, becoming the first major travel agency to embrace the digital currency.

EU starts in-depth probe into Apple’s tax affairs – The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into Apple’s corporate tax affairs on suspicion that the company did not pay its fair share of income taxes.

Games and Entertainment:

Battlefield: Hardline Beta gameplay hands-on – When you dive in head-first to the Beta of Battlefield: Hardline, you expect things to be different from the rest of the Battlefield series. It seems like it would be a big jump to go from fighting in the hairiest of wartime locations to moving in on the city. But it’s not. If you enjoyed Battlefield in the past, DICE and Visceral Games have a treat for you in Hardline, and it tastes delicious.


Sonic the Hedgehog heads for Hollywood with new movie – According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Sonic movie will combine both computer animation and live action, perhaps in a similar style to the hybrid live/animated Smurfs movies, which were also produced by Sony. It will be made in collaboration with Japan’s Marza Animation Planet, part of the Sega Sammy Holdings group.


Hands on with The Witcher 3, an RPG for your ‘Game of Thrones’ withdrawals – It’s like GoT, but with a much bigger budget for monsters. The Witcher 3 gets bloody fast. Here’s our limb-by-limb account.


Hands On With LittleBigPlanet 3 at E3 – LittleBigPlanet 3 for the PlayStation 4 introduces three new characters in addition to series mascot Sackboy, each of which has new gameplay mechanics. I tried LittleBigPlanet 3 at Sony’s booth, where I jumped in the burlap shoes of Toggle, one of the three new characters. He looks like a big, gray Grimace, and can switch between being a beefy, heavy sack and a tiny little beanbag with a tap of the L1 button. The level, “Escape Toggle’s Labyrinth,” was designed specifically to show off Toggle’s powers and the puzzles you can build around them.


Off Topic (Sort of):

The social network bugaboo: being connected isn’t all bad – Social networking is the next great bugaboo, being pegged as the sole source of this generation’s seemingly inevitable (not to mention unfounded) decline into self-obsession and isolation. It has been called a great threat, a facilitator of narcissism. Critics say social networking in its many varied forms will lead to a sort of deconstruction of society, an ironic twist on its social-centric underpinnings. Is it all really so bad, this ever-present reality of social connections in an often solely-digital form?

500K Women Gave Up Their Boob Data To Build This Bra – True&Co, the e-commerce startup that aims to bring us the perfect fitting bra, took data from a million boobs to build its own line of intimates — in an effort to truly support your bust. Using 7 million different data points and gathering information from 500,000+ women for the last two years, the company has identified over 6,000 different types of boobs. Its data scientists then arranged all those different shapes, sizes and angles on a color-coded system they call True Spectrum.


The depressing truth about e-waste: 10 things to know – Where do our cell phones and laptops go to die? Here are 10 things to know about the growing electronic waste problem and how to properly recycle these items.


School cancels reading program rather than promote “hacker culture” – After the Booker T. Washington Public High School in Pensacola, Florida, placed best-selling author and popular Boing Boing blog editor Cory Doctorow’s young adult novel Little Brother on its “One School/One Book” summer reading list, the school’s administration promptly cancelled the school-wide reading program. The school’s principal, Michael J. Roberts, cited reviews that emphasized the novel’s “positive view of questioning authority, lauding ‘hacker culture,’ discussing sex and sexuality in passing” as his motivation for trying to steer students clear of the book. He also said that a parent complained about profanity in the book.

Private firms sue Arkansas for right to collect license plate reader data – Companies sue Utah to halt law that blocks private gathering, use of such data. Two major firms in the license plate reader (LPR) industry have filed a new lawsuit against Arkansas’ governor and attorney general, alleging that their corporate rights have been violated under a new state law banning the private collection of such data.

Samsung unveils a smarter smart fridge (pictures) – You can stream music through the refrigerator’s integrated Pandora app. If your TV supports external devices, you’ll be able to share its broadcast feed with the fridge, too.


5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Air Conditioner – Here’s how to choose the right size A/C unit, and some tips for how to best cool down once you’ve bought one.


Something to think about:

“I’ll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there’s evidence of any thinking going on inside it.”

–    Terry Pratchett 

Today’s Free Downloads:

3DMark – 3DMark is the latest benchmark from Futuremark designed to measure the performance of computer hardware. This version includes three different tests, each designed for a specific type of hardware ranging from smartphones to high-performance gaming PCs. More tests will be added over time.

This version adds Sky Diver is a new DirectX 11 benchmark test for gaming laptops and mid-range PCs. It’s ideal for testing mainstream graphics cards, mobile GPUs, integrated graphics and other systems that cannot achieve double-digit frame rates in the more demanding Fire Strike test. Together, Sky Diver and Fire Strike let you test the full range of DirectX 11 graphics hardware. Fire Strike is equivalent to testing a system with a modern DirectX 11 game on ultra-high settings. Sky Diver is more like running a game on normal settings.


CCEnhancer 4.0 – CCEnhancer is a small tool which adds support for over 1,000 new programs into the popular program CCleaner. The tool uses the winapp2.ini system built into CCleaner to easily add new rules and definitions for programs. The rules were sourced mainly from the Piriform Support Forum, with several sourced from other places around the internet.

The actual file containing the definitions is not included with the program, but is instead downloaded by the program. Simply press ‘Download Latest’ and the tool will automatically download the most recent version of the definitions. If CCEnhancer cannot locate the CCleaner.exe file you can open a dialog box and select the page yourself.


Star Wars: The Old Republic – Star Wars: The Old Republic is the only massively-multiplayer online game with a Free-to-Play option that puts you at the center of your own story-driven Star Wars saga. Play as a Jedi, a Sith, a Bounty Hunter or as one of many other Star Wars iconic roles and explore an age over three-thousand years before the classic films. Become the hero of your own Star Wars adventure as you choose your path down the Light or Dark side of the Force.

This is a downloader. Expect about a 20 GB download.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

We’re ALL Winston Smith now – and our common enemy is the Big Brother State – The latest thing we’ve all got to worry about in this brave new world of ours is that the young, not having read Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, are simply too eager to give up their information and privacy to the tech giants.

Those richer in years have been forewarned by the novel and are thus less likely to get sucked into this Faustian bargain. We greybeards are thus cleverer than the puling youth. Or summat.

The problem with this particular worry is that O’Brien and the Party wanted that information, that privacy to be stripped away, for one reason, and the tech giants want the information for quite another. The two situations simply aren’t comparable. The Telegraph reports:

Young people willingly give up their privacy on Google and Facebook because they have not read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four unlike previous generations, a leading academic has warned. Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at Sheffield University, said that large corporations were hovering up private information and modern generations did not realize it was wrong. He said that older people who had grown up reading George Orwell’s 1984 about ‘Big Brother technology and ‘ authoritarianism’, were in a better position to resist the creeping erosion of privacy.

One way of putting this is that there’s privacy and then there’s privacy. Sure, you can track my web visits if doing so means that I get free searches of the accumulated wisdom of mankind. Or you can track who I link to on Bitchbook and in return I get the free use of the site. That’s one form of privacy and its loss.

Poll Indicates Broad Support For Email Privacy Overhaul – While we argue about how to best curtail the NSA, and precisely what constitutes meaningful reform, a gaping privacy hole remains open regarding our email: The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 allows for email that has been stored by a user for more than 180 days to be accessed without a warrant.

No, this issue still isn’t resolved. A new poll shows broad support for reform, unsurprisingly. Polling by Vox Populi Polling shows that in five states, including Georgia, Colorado and New Hampshire, as well as the city of Los Angeles, more than 80 percent in each support changing the law.

That’s a huge margin across ideologically distinct areas.

Sixty-four percent think that the issue of digital privacy is “increasingly important” following the now year-long saga of NSA revelations, and 72 percent indicated that they would be more willing to vote for a candidate who supports reforming the ECPA.

Microsoft challenges US gov’t on international data searches – Microsoft has challenged a ruling that would allow US government authorities to search its overseas facilities.

The company said in a petition filed to the US District Court for Southern New York that it objects to an order that would allow law enforcement to search all Microsoft-owned facilities worldwide.

At the heart of the issue is a warrant granting authorities access to a datacenter facility in Dublin, Ireland. Citing the US Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a magistrate judge ordered Redmond to open its doors to investigators seeking access to emails stored at the facility.

According to Microsoft’s appeal, the government’s order to search the Dublin facility is a violation of Redmond’s right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.

Get a warrant for cell phone location tracking, US appeals court says – A federal appeals court ruled today that the authorities must get a warrant before obtaining a suspect’s mobile-phone location history. It’s a decision squarely at odds with other appellate rulings and one likely to force the Supreme Court’s hand.

The ruling (PDF) from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerns a Florida man, Quartavious Davis, sentenced to life for a string of robberies. His 2012 conviction rested largely on mobile phone records that pegged his location near six of seven heists.

“The court’s opinion is a resounding defense of the Fourth Amendment’s continuing vitality in the digital age,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who argued the case before the court. “This opinion puts police on notice that when they want to enlist people’s cell phones as tracking devices, they must get a warrant from a judge based on probable cause.”

It’s the first time a US circuit court of appeals has said cell phone location data is constitutionally protected. However, the circuit’s ruling only covers Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 11, 2014

One-click test finds Gameover Zeus infections on PCs;  Control your climate with these smart devices;  Three new software freebies worth checking out; Tech icons: 10 biographies worth reading;  Android Antivirus Protection Even Better After Latest Round of Testing;  Backup and Recovery options for Your iPhone or iPad;  Adobe updates Flash, fixes several vulnerabilities;  SwiftKey’s Predictive Keyboard App Switches From Paid To Freemium;  Redmond patches 66 flaws on Patch Tuesday;  Google’s URL-hiding ‘origin chip’ is ‘backburnered’; Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.0 Is Here;  Personal data for Twitter founders leaked on Tor network;  Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plans US debut; GTA V finally comes to PC;  Maps: 15 apps that take you beyond Google and Apple.

Enough with the cyber ‘wake-up calls’ – We already know information security is in dire shape, so let’s get on with fixing it — because we do know how.

Android Antivirus Protection Even Better After Latest Round of Testing – Security company AV-Test has released its latest snapshot of Android security, after subjecting 30 popular security apps to a battery of tests. These tests are a great way to see how antivirus apps for Android are really performing. This round of testing saw several new arrivals, including Baidu Mobile Security, G-Protector Anti Virus Utility, Trustlook Antivirus, VisualThreat ThreatCert, and White Gate AntiVirus.

One-click test finds Gameover Zeus infections on PCs – Users can test by simply visiting a Web page if their computers have been infected with Gameover Zeus, a sophisticated online banking Trojan that law enforcement officers temporarily disrupted last week. The one-click test was developed by security researchers from antivirus vendor F-Secure and takes advantage of the malware’s aggressive URL matching algorithm. (Shown below – quick test results on my personal PC.)


Three new software freebies worth checking out – For a total cost of zero, you can score basic tools for editing video, ripping DVDs, and migrating to a new PC. Plus: two bonus deals!

17 Spotify Tricks That Will Make You a Streaming Samurai – When it comes to technology, my 60-something-year-old father maintains a lingering skepticism of newfangled beep-boop digital doodads. With one notable exception: Spotify. And why not? Spotify’s a magical, minimalist piece of software that beams all the world’s recorded music (well, nearly all the world’s recorded music) directly to his computer. For free!

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google’s Chromecast: Holding market share, losing viewers – Google’s $35 streaming-video TV dongle is holding its market position but usage is dropping, according to data from Parks Associates.

Maps: 15 apps that take you beyond Google and Apple – Whether you’re walking a trail, searching for food halfway across the world, or exploring a new city, there are tons of great mapping apps beyond just Google Maps or Apple Maps.

Control your climate with these smart devices – Looking for a more intelligent way to keep your home comfortable this summer? We’ve got the gadgets and appliances you’re going to want to dial in on.


How to use PushBullet to send notifications from your Android phone to a computer – This free app lets you leave your phone in your pocket or bag, and check on notifications and messages just by glancing at your desktop display. It shoots all notifications and alerts right to my desktop browser. It’s similar to apps like AirDroid, since it wirelessly tethers your Android device to your computer, and it’s not just limited to notifications. You can use the app to reply to emails, as well as transfer images, contact cards, to-do lists, and a variety of other of other file types back and forth between your computer and your Android device. It’s simple to set up, too.

Bankable Backup and Recovery options for Your iPhone or iPad – There are plenty of different ways to prepare for an iOS disaster, each with its own merits. Here are some of the most bankable backup methods – each applicable to Windows and OSX – to ensure the important data on your iPhone or iPad is always at the ready, even in the event of a catastrophe.

Ringly Lets You Know Who’s Calling By The Buzz Of Your Finger – Ringly is a truly wearable fashion technology in the form of finger jewelry. This high-tech ring actually buzzes and lights up when you get a phone call or text or even when someone likes your Instagram.


Chrome extension provides easy button to close overlay pop-ups – If you use Chrome, the BehindTheOverlay extension can help you in your battle against overlay pop-ups. The extension simply installs a button to the right of Chrome’s URL bar that you can click to close an overlay that you encounter. BehindTheOverlay just works; it does not require you to sign up for an account or restart Chrome.


Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

1Password for Android is here, does justice to its namesake – One of the best password managers around is now available for Android. 1Password, long an iOS mainstay, has a brand new Android app. Full featured and comparable to the iOS version, 1Password for Android is free to use until August.


Windows 8.1 users: Install the spring update or you will no longer receive patches – It has been one month since Microsoft extended the update requirement for Windows 8.1 and starting today users who haven’t updated to the “Spring” update will stop receiving support.

SwiftKey’s Predictive Keyboard App Switches From Paid To Freemium – SwiftKey, the startup that makes the popular eponymous Android word-predicting keyboard software which last year pulled in $17.5 million in funding from Index and Accel – is switching its consumer keyboard app from a $3.99 paid download to free. The full machine learning keyboard technology, which adapts to its users’ use of language so it can better predict their next likely words, is now free, with additional customization options offered as in-app purchases to pay for the switch. So SwiftKey is basically going freemium.


Amazon Now Lets You Buy Any Kindle On A Payment Plan Without A Credit Check – Those interested in buying an Amazon Kindle e-reader or tablet can now pay in a series of five equal monthly payments instead of one lump sum at checkout. According to the promotion page, this payment plan doesn’t require a credit check and doesn’t add anything to the price of the gadget, making it a pretty sweet deal for those on a budget looking to pick up a device.

Gamers to Microsoft: We don’t need no stinking ecosystem in our living room – While customers have bought into the increasingly blurred lines between the desktop, tablet, and mobile, Microsoft and its Xbox One console have quickly learned that the living room can be much more unforgiving.

“Digital deadly sins” project calls out porn, Instagram vanity, stalking – The Guardian has unveiled a new project that aims to get a sense for how people feel about—and commit—modern technological transgressions. Digital Deadly Sins, which launched Monday, gives a variety of examples of questionable online and tech-related behaviors, from monitoring your kids’ activity on Facebook to keeping a secret e-mail account. The behaviors are divided up among the traditional “seven deadly sins” of lust, sloth, greed, wrath, gluttony, envy, and pride. While not all the sins fit very neatly into every category—”Wikipedia is my library” goes under sloth—some, like “illegal downloading” under greed, are spot-on.



Redmond patches 66 flaws on Patch Tuesday – Microsoft has released updates for critical flaws in Word, Office, and Internet Explorer, along with firmware updates for its Surface 2 tablet line. Redmond said that the June edition of Patch Tuesday would address a total of 66 common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE)–class vulns, most of them in Internet Explorer. In total, the IE bulletin addresses 59 flaws, an unusually large patch load considering Microsoft’s monthly update cycle. The update, which applies to all versions of Internet Explorer 8 through 11, includes fixes for remote code execution and elevation of privilege flaws in the browser.

Adobe updates Flash, fixes several vulnerabilities – Adobe has issued an update to Flash Player on Windows, Mac, Linux and Android. The bugs affect versions and earlier for Windows and Macintosh and versions and earlier for Linux. The new version for Windows and Mac is Adobe did not say what else may have changed, given the new major version number. The new Linux version is

Security-focused Blackphones launch in three weeks, designed to lock down data – Encrypted communications provider Silent Circle and manufacturer Geeksphone introduced the Blackphone earlier this year to give users a way around data collection by governments and private companies. The $629 device, made by a Swiss joint venture called SGP Technologies SA, runs a custom Android-based OS and was designed from the ground up to prevent hacking. It will offer secure and private voice and video calls, text messaging and file exchanges, as well as anonymous Internet use, the companies say.


Google’s URL-hiding ‘origin chip’ is ‘backburnered’ – Google has “backburnered” a controversial feature that would have hidden full details of web addresses from Chrome users. The feature was called “origin chip” and, as we explained a few weeks back it removed all the characters beyond the top-level-domain from Chrome’s Omnibox, as you can see below.


The hackers behind those iPhone ransom attacks have been arrested in Russia – Russian authorities arrested a man and a teenaged boy from Moscow under suspicion that they compromised Apple ID accounts and used Apple’s Find My iPhone service to hold iOS devices for ransom. The two allegedly compromised email accounts and used phishing pages and social engineering techniques to gain access to Apple ID accounts. They are then accused of using the Find My Phone feature to lock the associated devices and send messages to the owners threatening to delete data unless the ransom was paid.

Personal data for Twitter founders leaked on Tor network – The names, addresses, and SSNs for Twitter founders and CEO are published to the “hidden” Internet, possibly in retaliation for account suspensions.


Company News:

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plans US debut – Following the announcement of what may potentially be the largest IPO in tech company history, Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba has announced that they will expand operations outside of China with a US debut which is coming soon. Alibaba plans to debut under the name, which, while not currently available to the public, boasts an email field for early invites and a shortlist of news outlets which have mentioned the site. They intend to provide early access to customers and retailers by invitation only, with a full release later on.


Amazon Said To Start Selling Babysitting And Other Home Services Later This Year – Amazon wants to be your one-stop shop for everything – including trades and services, according to a new report by Reuters. The company is looking at debuting sales of things like babysitting, handymen services, painters, haircuts, home repair and more. The move would extend Amazon’s range of competitors to sites like Angie’s List and Craigslist.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.0 Is Here, Guarantees 10 Years Of Support – Red Hat released version 7.0 of their Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) flagship operating system today. It boasts Windows interoperability, a new default file system, Docker containerization and guarantees 10 years of support across any future major or minor releases. In an effort to provide more stability for its customer base, Mark Coggin, senior director of marketing at Red Hat, says they have guaranteed that they will support this release for 10 years. Coggin says this is a serious commitment to customers by Red Hat and means providing bug fixes, security releases and updates for the 10 years.

Apple’s slice of the enterprise market has doubled in three years – Those Windows XP boxes may still be whirring away in the forgotten corners, but Apple’s slice of the enterprise market has doubled across the last three years, JAMF Software reports.

Google Confirms Purchase Of Satellite Startup Skybox Imaging For $500M – Google is today confirming that it has purchased Skybox Imaging, the satellite startup that we reported it was close to acquiring last month. The price is somewhat lower than we had heard it would be: $500 million rather than close to the $1 billion our sources had told us.

Games and Entertainment:

GTA V finally comes to PC; pre-orders start today – After such a long time waiting, it’s almost incredible that Grand Theft Auto V is finally coming to PC, alongside the Xbox One and PS4. Pre-orders will begin later today from the Rockstar Games site.


Mario Maker Lets You Build Your Own Levels For The Greatest Platformer  And Tweak Graphics – Nintendo debuted Mario Maker at its E3 special digital event, which allows you to build your own courses for the famous plumber to navigate. You can build the courses on your Wii U, and paint using tiles and objects you’ll remember if you’ve played the series at all, including bricks, enemies and pipes, and you can render them in either 8-bit or New Super Mario Bros. U-style 3D graphics.


Sony game streaming service PlayStation Now hits open beta on July 31 in US and Canada – Games, on every platform, are getting bigger. With some games hitting a 50GB install on consoles, Sony is looking to push its PlayStation Now game streaming platform to its PS consoles.

DOOM 4 teaser trailer ignites E3 2014 – There’s a teaser trailer now for DOOM (or DOOM 4), a game that might not appear before the end of the year is up. This teaser trailer teases to no end, giving some hints about storyline and not one whole heck of a lot else. It does look fantastic, of course – and it proves again that DOOM does, indeed, exist.


Fantastic Indie Puzzler VVVVVV Is Coming To iOS And Android This Thursday – If you haven’t gotten around to playing through VVVVVV in all of its wonderfully frustrating indie puzzler glory, first of all: shame! Second: You’ll be able to play it on your phone soon, so now you have no excuse.

Halo Master Chief Collection available for pre-order; tops Amazon charts – The new Halo Master Chief collection is now available for pre-order on Amazon where in less than a day it took the number one spot. The pack includes HD remakes of Halo 1-4, and beta access to Halo 5


Off Topic (Sort of):

Speed through your day with this (legal) white powder – To stay stimulated on the cheap, a powdered product made for adults lets caffeine fiends keep their energy levels high without the high cost. Just don’t go snorting it. Touted as the “world’s first non-bitter caffeine in a handy shaker bottle,” CaffeinAll is a white powder (insert your blow jokes here) that you shake on food or mix up with a beverage. It costs about 9 cents per dose and each bottle contains roughly 200 doses (one dose roughly equals the caffeine in one cup of coffee).

U.K. – Here are 63 million reasons why politicians need to take technology seriously – Few of our elected representative understand the importance of technology. That’s a big problem for us – and them. I’m not suggesting every MP should want to code their own app, but we need them to understand that the impact of new technology on society is significant and important; that our elected appointees have a responsibility to engage in and lead the debate here in order to benefit all 63 million of us. There are also massive questions about state surveillance, the right to be forgotten, the future skills mix in this country, and more that won’t be answered by politicians who laughingly dismiss boffins and techies.


The Houses of Parliament were built in the mid-nineteenth century; some politicians haven’t updated their attitudes towards technology since then. Image: Shutterstock

Male faces may have evolved to take a punch – That square jawline isn’t just there to make menfolk ruggedly handsome, according to a new study from evolutionary biologists at the University of Utah. The heavier bones of the face may actually have developed in males to protect them from the flying fists of other males who were seeking the same mates. The past was a rough place, apparently. The so-called “protective buttressing hypothesis” is not new, but this study provides more evidence for it gathered from the fossil record and fistfights in modern times.


A fast look at Swift, Apple’s new programming language – While we haven’t yet produced any Swift code, we have read the entire language guide and looked at the code samples Apple provided. What follows is our first take on the language itself, along with some ideas about what Apple hopes to accomplish.

Check out Google’s Street Art project for graffiti around the world – If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if someone aimed to collect all the street art they could, all around the world, with the power of a major tech company at their back – your wondering days are over. Today Google has let it be known that they’re launching their Street Art Project. This is a project based in Maps and Google Earth that shows off the whole world’s graffiti.


Chimps outsmart humans at simple strategy game – When it comes to simple strategy games, chimpanzees consistently outperform humans at tasks that involve short-term memory and predicting opponents’ moves.


Tech icons: 10 biographies worth reading – Whether you read them on a tablet, an e-reader, or the dead tree version, here are 10 biographies that sketch the rise of the tech industry.

Something to think about:

“Politicians and diapers should be changed often, and for the same reason.”

–     Bumper Sticker (unknown origin)

Today’s Free Downloads:

Mozilla Thunderbird – Thunderbird makes emailing safer, faster and easier than ever before with the industry´s best implementations of features such as intelligent spam filters, a built-in spell checker, extension support, and much more.

We designed Thunderbird from the ground up to boost users´ productivity. That´s why we´ve made it easier for you to simply get your work done, without the hassles of wading through advertisements and other junk mail. Emailing should be efficient and convenient. We make that possible using fully open and industry leading standards. Read on to find out more about the reasons why you should use Thunderbird as your mail and news client.

Smartest Way to Stop Junk Mail – Thunderbird provides the most effective tools for detecting junk mail. Our tools analyze your e-mail, and identifies those that are most likely to be junk. You can automatically have your junk mail deleted or you can put in a folder you specify, just in case you like reading junk mail.

Your Mail, Your Way – View your e-mail the way you want it. Access your e-mail with Thunderbird´s new three-column view. Customize your toolbar, change its look with themes, and use Mail Views to quickly sort through your e-mail.

Safe and Secure – Thunderbird provides enterprise and government grade security features such as S/MIME, digital signing, message encryption, support for certificates and security devices.

Thunderbird gives you IMAP/POP support, support for HTML mail, labels, quick search, smart addressbook, return receipts, advanced message filtering, LDAP address completion, import tools, powerful search, and the ability to manage multiple e-mail and newsgroup accounts.

Unlimited Features – Thunderbird lets you add additional features as you need them through extensions. Extensions are a powerful tool to help you build a mail client that meets your specific needs.


Tor Browser Bundle – Protect your privacy. Defend yourself against network surveillance and traffic analysis.

The Tor software protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.

The Tor Browser Bundle lets you use Tor on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux without needing to install any software. It can run off a USB flash drive, comes with a pre-configured web browser to protect your anonymity, and is self-contained.




SyMenu – SyMenu allows you to manage portable applications resident on a removable drive. SyMenu can be installed in pen drives, external USB disks, memory cards and even CDs and DVDs.

Moreover SyMenu can automatically link any application residing on host pc. Any linked item (SyItem) can be organized in a hierarchical structure with colorful folders and found with the internal search tool.

You can customize SyMenu, adding links to portable programs, documents, Windows commands, folders and urls. Linked items can reside on the same USB device or even on host since SyMenu supports absolute path (such as C:\Windows\Explorer.exe).


Start Search bar: (Windows Vista like) allows to quickly search amongst any SyItem configured on menu;

Windows Start Menu wrapper: SyMenu exposes through Start Search bar every program linked in host PC Windows Start menu too;

Extension Manager: allows to temporarly replace normal Windows extension associations with SyMenu custom extension association;

Autoexec: allows to launch a custom list of SyItems at SyMenu startup or closing.

Execution modes: Run, RunAs, Open folder and Show Properties.

Batch Import: allows to make massive imports of new SyItems.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Former Vice President Al Gore Declines To Call Edward Snowden A Traitor – Speaking at the Southland Conference, former Vice President Al Gore declined to call former NSA contractor Edward Snowden a traitor for leaking tens of thousands of secret government documents to journalists.

In response to the question “Is Edward Snowden a traitor?” Gore dismissed the dichotomy, not putting him into the category of being a traitor or not. Continuing, Gore noted that Snowden “clearly violated the law,” but also pointed out that his revelations have shown “violations of the United States’ Constitution that were way more serious than the crimes that he committed.”

Gore’s stature at home and abroad makes his unwillingness to call Snowden a traitor notable. Also, his implication that the NSA has violated the Constitution is something to chew on.

Snowden provided an “important service,” according to Gore.

Current government members have endeavored to paint Snowden as not merely a traitor, but also possibly an agent of a foreign power. New head of the NSA Admiral Michael Rogers recently stated that Snowden is “probably not” a foreign spy, but that admission comes at the end of a parade of insinuations. Gore’s comments, coming after the Admiral’s, underscore what Snowden’s supporters have been arguing for a year now: That he leaked of his own accord, and that the revelations that have come from those leaks have been productive on a national level.

Ars tests Internet surveillance—by spying on an NPR reporter – On a bright April morning in Menlo Park, California, I became an Internet spy.

This was easier than it sounds because I had a willing target. I had partnered with National Public Radio (NPR) tech correspondent Steve Henn for an experiment in Internet surveillance. For one week, while Henn researched a story, he allowed himself to be watched—acting as a stand-in, in effect, for everyone who uses Internet-connected devices. How much of our lives do we really reveal simply by going online?

Henn let me into his Silicon Valley home and ushered me into his office with a cup of coffee. Waiting for me there was the key tool of my new trade: a metal-and-plastic box that resembled nothing more threatening than an unlabeled Wi-Fi router. This was the PwnPlug R2, a piece of professional penetration testing gear designed by Pwnie Express CTO Dave Porcello and his team and on loan to us for this project.

Enlarge / NPR’s Steve Henn in his home office and studio, with the Pwnie Express PwnPlug R2 that collected his Internet traffic for a week.

The box would soon sink its teeth into the Internet traffic from Henn’s home computer and smartphone, silently gobbling up every morsel of data and spitting it surreptitiously out of Henn’s home network for our later analysis. With its help, we would create a pint-sized version of the Internet surveillance infrastructure used by the National Security Agency. Henn would serve as a proxy for Internet users, Porcello would become our one-man equivalent of the NSA’s Special Source Operations department, and I would become Henn’s personal NSA analyst.

EFF asks Supreme Court to rule on secret surveillance memo – The Electronic Frontier Foundation has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in its effort to obtain a copy of a secret government memo authorizing the FBI to collect phone records.

The EFF, a digital rights group, on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to decide whether a January 2010 U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel [OLC] opinion, apparently allowing the FBI to informally collect phone records from telecom carriers without further legal authority, should be made public.

The OLC opinion “establishes the scope of the executive branch’s authority to obtain private communications records without legal process or a qualifying emergency, despite apparent statutory prohibitions to the contrary,” EFF’s lawyers wrote in their request to the Supreme Court.

The FBI’s informal telephone records requests, revealed in a 2010 report by the DOJ’s Office of Inspector General, is separate from the U.S. National Security Agency’s controversial telephone records collection program revealed in leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The OLC opinion appears to rely on legal authority that is different than that used by the NSA program, which cites the Patriot Act, said Mark Rumold, an EFF staff attorney.”In fact, we can’t say with 100 percent certainty what statute the [FBI] collection authority is based on, because they’ve kept that secret,” he said by email.

A DOJ spokesman declined to comment on the EFF’s Supreme Court request.

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