Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 3, 2014

Obama’s privacy board OKs massive NSA surveillance;  Five ways tech can make this 4th of July easier on you;  How to delete or disable your Facebook account;  July’s Hottest Video Game Releases;  How to spot and avoid installing potentially unwanted programs;  Microsoft wants you to beta test new versions of Office;  Should a pocket breathalyzer be your drinking buddy?  Raspberry Pi gets a serious, more powerful, upgradeable rival;  Age of Empires Online shuts down permanently;  Lose days of your life to these 13 deep and meaty PC games;  Six apps that turn your pictures into memories;  10 tips for a more user-friendly Linux desktop;  Microsoft rolls out Visual Studio 2013 Update 3 RC.

Obama’s privacy board OKs massive NSA surveillance – A White House panel examining the privacy and legal fallout from the massive National Security Agency spying revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden concluded that the snooping was lawful yet “close to the line of constitutional reasonableness.” The Privacy and Civil Liberties Board said that the programs that tap undersea cables and acquire data from ISPs like Yahoo and Google with broad orders from a secret court are “authorized by Congress, reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, and an extremely valuable and effective intelligence tool.” The 191-page report (PDF), released late Tuesday, was largely condemned by civil liberties advocates and scholars.

Five ways tech can make this 4th of July easier on you – The Fourth of July is coming up, and you know what that means. Grilling, relaxing, and trying not to blow digits clean off your hands while lighting off fireworks. Before you head out to a fireworks show run by pros (and thus better than yours), be sure to check out some of our favorite tech, which will make your holiday easy and fun.

How to spot and avoid installing potentially unwanted programs – They’re called PUPs—Potentially Unwanted Programs—and they sneak onto your system as accessories to the program you actually intend to install. They’re annoying, and they can result in slower performance, space-stealing browser toolbars, annoying pop-ups, and even loss of privacy. You don’t have to give up free software to avoid PUPs, but you do have to pay attention. Each PUP first appears as a trap in the desired program’s installation wizard.

How to delete or disable your Facebook account – Facebook may boast 1.28 billion monthly active users, but the social network isn’t for everyone. Maybe you don’t find it all that useful, or you’ve received one too many FarmVille requests. Or perhaps the June 2014 disclosure that the company messed with users’ News Feeds as part of a research experiment proved to be the final straw (even if monkeying with News Feeds is what Facebook does all the time). Whatever the reason, you’ve had it with Facebook. So how do you make a clean break? You’ve got two choices—deactivating your Facebook account or deleting it outright.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

McDonald’s is testing an order-ahead app to make fast food even faster – 22 McDonald’s locations in Columbus, Georgia have been chosen to pilot a new app called McD Ordering. It allows customers to select the food they want included in an order before they reach the restaurant and pay for it with a debit or credit card. Then instead of approaching the counter to order, you present a generated QR code on your smartphone screen, this is scanned, and your order is handed over. McD Ordering is also setup to work at curbside pick-up stations.


10 tips for a more user-friendly Linux desktop – Learn a few simple tricks to make your Linux desktop experience as user-friendly as possible. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight my 10 best tips for creating more user-friendly Linux desktops. Not every one of these tips will apply to your particular desktop (be it GNOME, Unity, KDE, XFCE, Deepin Desktop, Cinnamon… the list goes on). But you should find more than one tip that will go a long way toward improving your experience.

Microsoft wants you to beta test new versions of Office – A new website from Microsoft allows you to sign up to receive pre-release versions of Office as long as you are willing to provide feedback based on your experiences with the software.

‘Bong With Friends’? Stoner dating site offers budding romance – No, dating app Bang With Friends hasn’t been rebranded again. is its own animal, allegedly the ideal place to meet someone with the same, um, lifestyle as you.

Should a pocket breathalyzer be your drinking buddy? – Making the determination about how intoxicated you really are has gotten easier than walking a straight line—three models of smartphone breathalyzers released last year let you measure your BAC from your bar stool. While personal breathalyzers have been around for a while, these new models leverage the interest in measuring personal metrics by offering up the smooth features of a smartphone app. But how well do they work?


CEO of European publishing giant accuses Google of downgrading rivals’ search results – The CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation says Google is downgrading rivals’ products in search results, and that a proposal to resolve this has “basically the business principles of the Mafia”.

VLC for Android Finally Available in the US Play Store – VLC has long been one of the top media players on the desktop, but its life on mobile platforms has been much more tumultuous. After coming to iOS a few years ago it was pulled because of Apple’s licensing requirements. It eventually returned to iOS, but the development of the Android version has been arduous to say the least. After nearly two years, VLC is available in the Play Store for US Android users.


Raspberry Pi gets a serious, more powerful, upgradeable rival – SolidRun has packed plenty of features into the HummingBoard, too. It’s got dual USB ports and a dual USB header, integrated 10/100 Ethernet, digital and analog audio, and HDMI and LVDS outputs. It also has a 26-pin IO header that’s compatible with the numerous RPi add-ons you can already buy. There are three HummingBoard configurations to choose from depending on how much power you need. The entry level i1 comes with a Freescale i.MX solo processor and 512MB of RAM and sells for just $42. The i2 adds a second processing core and doubles the RAM for an extra $30. Upgrading to the top-end HummingBoard i2eX gets you a fully-tricked out system with mini PCIe and mSATA slots, an integrated infrared receiver, and a gigabit NIC. It’s a powerful, flexbile little board for $99.


Microsoft rolls out Visual Studio 2013 Update 3 RC; Update 4 in development – Microsoft has announced the availability of Visual Studio 2013 Update 3 Release Candidate, and confirms that work has already begun on Update 4, with further details coming in the next few weeks.

Six apps that turn your pictures into memories – It’s time to get those photos off of your phone and somewhere they can be seen, whether that’s in an email, on social media, or on a physical piece of paper in a physical book. Here are six apps that can help you turn your phone photos from forgotten, hard-drive-space-wasters into cool, shareable memories.

To Xfinity WiFi we’re all hotspots, but you don’t have to be – As Xfinity WiFi spreads west, so do concerns about the use of customers’ modems as both private and public Wi-Fi connections. Luckily, you have choices for opting out of the program.

Share a hard drive with everyone on your Wi-Fi network – Cloud storage is expensive, but it’s not the only way to share a bunch of files across many devices. Instead, you can use an external hard drive and your router to create networked storage accessible to anyone on your Wi-Fi network. When it’s set up, any files stored on that drive can be accessed by all devices on your network — even phones and tablets. Here’s how to set it up on Windows.

How to get the most from a tablet on vacation – You may be taking a relaxing vacation this summer to recharge your battery. Getting away from the stress of everyday life, and especially work, is something we all need to do each year. Vacation means leisure time, and the tablet is tailor-made for such activities. With a little preparation you can make the most of having your tablet on vacation.


Cybercrooks breed SELF-CLONING MUTANT that STEALS your BANK DETAILS – Cybercrooks have put together a botnet client which bundles in worm-like functionality that gives it the potential to spread quickly. Seculert warns that the latest version of the Cridex (AKA Geodo) information stealing Trojan includes a self-spreading infection method. Infected PCs in the botnet download a secondary strain of malware – an email worm – from the botnet’s command and control servers. That worm pushes out an email with links to download a zip file containing the primary Cridex Trojan

RSA: Brazil’s ‘Boleto Malware’ stole nearly $4 billion in two years – RSA researchers uncovered a massive botnet fraud operation that has reaped nearly $4 billion through man-in-the-browser attacks that seamlessly intercept payment of Boletos — Brazil’s version of a money order.

CosmicDuke will steal your login data and own your network – All malware is bad, but some malware is more insidious than others. That seems to be the case with CosmicDuke. According to a new white paper from F-Secure, CosmicDuke meshes elements of two notorious malware threats—MiniDuke and Cosmu—to form a potent new attack.

Running Cisco’s VoIP manager? Four words you don’t want to hear: ‘Backdoor SSH root key’ – Cisco has warned Unified Communications installations can be remotely hijacked by miscreants, thanks to a hardwired SSH private key. In an advisory, the networking giant said unauthenticated attackers can log into its Unified Communications Domain Manager (Unified CDM) software as a root-level user by exploiting a default SSH key meant for Cisco support reps. The key is embedded in the software, and can be extracted by reverse engineering the Unified CDM’s binary.

Company News:

Amazon Stands Up To FTC Demands For More Parental Controls – Amazon is refusing to comply with a request from the Federal Trade Commission to implement stricter controls that would prevent children from making in-app purchases. The FTC is demanding Amazon implement a “consent” model similar to the one Apple conceded to earlier this year, according to a letter Amazon to the FTC Tuesday. Amazon believes it already has implemented effective parental controls consistent with the model the FTC settled on with Apple, and it says it refunded customers who complained of children making in-app purchases without their permission.

Facebook’s Head Of Policy On Emotion Experiment: “That’s Innovation” – While Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg today apologized for its controversial emotion manipulation experiment being “poorly communicated”, another executive said this kind of research makes the product better, and “it’s concerning when we see legislation that could possibly stifle that sort of creativity and that innovation.” Facebook’s head of global policy management Monika Bickert showed little remorse when she spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival yesterday, but did say “What I think we have to do in the future is make sure we’re being transparent, both to regulators and to people using the product about exactly what we’re doing.”

Yahoo Does A “Summer Cleaning,” Shuts Down Its Xobni Acquisition, Plus Other Under-Performing Products – Yahoo’s spring cleanings have extended into the summer months, the company announced today, detailing a series of product changes and closures, many of which are nearly obsolete, obscure, or just unpopular. But among the more high-profile of these closures is Yahoo acquisition Xobni, the maker of smart email and contacts management apps that were acquired last summer.

Samsung puts plasma TV out of its misery: Death this year – Lower the flags to half-mast: Samsung will stop producing plasma panels for TVs by the end of November, the company’s display arm has confirmed, as interest in the screen type dwindles in the face of LCD and OLED. The decision follows in the footsteps of Panasonic, which opted to cut its own plasma production in 2013.

Facebook Buys Video Ad Firm LiveRail – Facebook on Wednesday announced it has agreed to acquire video-advertising company LiveRail for an undisclosed sum. The company provides marketers with access to video content and information about where to show their ads. Its customers include Major League Baseball, ABC, A&E Networks, Gannett, and Dailymotion. Facebook said it hopes the acquisition will allow it to improve video advertising for marketers and users.

Games and Entertainment:

Lose days of your life to these 13 deep and meaty PC games – Whether you’re looking for an entertaining way to blow a long weekend or simply want to wrap your head around a satisfyingly complex experience, these 13 deep, intricate, and just plain great PC games will hold you for hours and hours and hours on end.


July’s Hottest Video Game Releases – July is here, and the sticky heat of summer is settling in like a disgusting damp blanket you won’t be able to kick off for next few months. Fortunately, there’s an alternative to weathering the feverish warmth outside. Rather than heading into the humid maw that is the outside world, you can stay inside your hopefully comfortable, air-conditioned homes and play a few video games. And there’s plenty to keep you busy too.


Age of Empires Online shuts down permanently – Age of Empires Online, the massively multiplayer game launched by Microsoft on the lines of its popular strategy game has been shutdown permanently after nearly 3 years since its launch. The free-to-play online game is believed to have become too expensive to manage with new content being created continuously. Last year, Microsoft announced that they would discontinue Games for Windows Live, which was a key part of the Age of Empires Online game, in addition to various other Windows-based games with online multiplayer functionality.


Civilization Revolution 2 is Now Available on iPad and Phone – It has been a long time coming, but Civilization Revolution 2 has finally been released on iPad and iPhone. This shrunken-down version of the storied desktop gaming franchise retains many of the traditional elements, but brings an interface and gameplay mechanics ideal for a mobile device. It costs a pretty penny, but you get what you pay for.


Minimum Early Access: ditching graphics never looked so good – Inside this third-person shooter multiplayer game you’ll find a stripped-down masterpiece. Developed by Human Head and Atari, this game conveys a sense of grandeur the likes of which we’ve never seen done with such flat surfaces. It’s online, it’s played from a third-person perspective, it’s got RTS and RPG elements, it’s blocky, and its out in Steam Early Access. This is Minimum.


Lindsay Lohan sues Rockstar Games over GTA V – Lindsay Lohan is suing the makers of Grand Theft Auto V, alleging that they created a character in the game with an “unequivocal” similarity to the ‘Mean Girls’ actress, without her permission.


Watch Sunset Overdrive’s ultra-crazy multiplayer gameplay immediately – This morning the folks behind Sunset Overdrive have revealed a whole lot more about their multiplayer experience, starting with notes on how you’ll be switching back and forth between single and multiplayer seamlessly. Your accomplishments in single-player move over to multiplayer and vice-versa, creating an excellent experience for those that play as much in one universe as they do in the other.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Beach reads for techies 2014 – The Pew Research Center noted in a recent survey that 76% of adults read a book in some format over the previous 12 months, with the average adult reading 12 books. We polled a dozen technologists to find out what they hope to read this summer and in which medium. Click through to discover what your colleagues are reading, then use the comments tab to share your own recommendations.

Tetris Gets Hacked Onto The Only Thing It’s Not Already On: A Playable T-Shirt – Tetris. Since its debut in 1984, it’s found its way onto nearly every possible platform. Game consoles. Graphing calculators. Lab equipment. Buildings. Now its found its way onto the most elusive and coveted platform of all: some dude’s chest. In honor of Tetris’ 30th anniversary, tinkerer Mark Kerger grabbed 128 LEDs, a fistful of batteries and an Arduino Uno, and crammed ‘em all together inside of a plain white tee. The end result: Tetris. On his T-shirt. Tee-tris? Chestris?

teetris 2

Dell laptop explodes in 72-year-old’s face as she plays Spider Solitaire – Loretta Luff was using the laptop to play Spider Solitaire on a small computer desk when she noticed an unusual new smell from the machine. What happened next was the Inspiron laptop blew up, shooting debris into her face, as well as on to her chest and arms. The burning battery broke into pieces and fell on the carpet setting it on fire. Luff’s jumper was also set on fire, which she removed quickly, but still managed to get burns on her arms, face, and chest. She also burned her foot as she stepped on part of the battery by accident.


Goldman Sachs asks judge to force Google to unsend an email – The investment bank has gone all the way to the New York Supreme Court to scrub an email containing confidential info accidentally sent to a total stranger.

Something to think about:

“To obtain a man’s opinion of you, make him mad.”

–    Oliver Wendell Holmes

Today’s Free Downloads:

USB Image Tool – USB Image Tool can create images of USB flash drives and MP3 players, that are mounted as USB drives. It allows you switch between images with different music styles on your MP3 Player or to make an exact backup image of your USB Stick.


create image files of USB flash drives

restore images of USB flash drives

compressed image file format

show USB device information

manage favorite USB images

command line utility


Donkey Kong Craze – Relive the adventures of a large gorilla called Donkey Kong with this remake of the classic arcade game. Choose between a classic Donkey Kong remake, with all the original levels or Donkey Kong 2.


Songza – Songza provides tailored playlists depending on a users location, time of day and even the weather. Working? Relaxing? At the gym? Songza plays you the right music at the right time.


Named “Editors’ Choice” by Google Play.

Free, with no listening limit.

Let Songza’s ‘Music Concierge’ find the right music for your moments.

Browse a curated playlist library organized by activity, genre, decade, & mood.

Stream thousands of original playlists handmade by music experts.

Save your favorite playlists & share them via Facebook, Twitter or email.

Tablet support

Limitations: Free version has some in app adds – the $0.99 a week premium service disables them.



In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The EFF Calls Gov Report Supporting Surveillance “Legally Flawed And Factually Incomplete” – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) isn’t enthused with a report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) concerning government surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The current report generally upheld the program, offering a few motes of potential reform as suggestions. The report was, I think it fair to say, expected to have more teeth.

PCLOB previously made friends among activists by indicating in a prior report that certain bulk surveillance under Section 215 of the Patriot Act is unconstitutional.

The EFF, often the voice of dissent on this sort of issue, called the report “legally flawed and factually incomplete.” Its core argument against the report is that it fails to properly deal with the issue of upstream collection, that it doesn’t handle privacy protection for non-U.S. persons, and that the document hides “behind the ‘complexity’ of the technology” employed by the U.S. government in its surveillance efforts.

“Factually incomplete”… AKA LYING!

NSA, GCHQ spies have hurt us more than they know – cloud group – The PRISM revelations – a real shocker for anyone that didn’t already realise governments monitor their own and other countries’ citizens – have undermined business confidence in moving to the cloud.

This is according to the UK-based Cloud Industry Forum, which conducted an annual survey of 250 private and public sector organisations and noted a reverse in patterns seen in recent years.

More than half of those questioned (52 per cent) voiced security as a major concern when asked about moving data to the cloud, up from 37 per cent a year ago.

“In the previous two surveys, people [in the UK] were less sensitive about moving to the cloud,” Andy Burton, founder of the Cloud Industry Forum, told The Channel.

Security worries were most prevalent among large enterprises, with 63 per cent of big biz voicing heightened worries since former NSA sys admin Edward Snowden blew the whistle on government snooping.

Left-Field ISPs File Hopeless Legal Complaint Against UK Spy Agency GCHQ – In a move that feels a bit like turkeys complaining to Christmas, a consortium of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), in conjunction with Privacy International, have filed a legal complaint with the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a judicial body that claims to be independent from the British Government, over how the UK spy agency GCHQ reportedly operates.

The complaint relates to what the group call “GCHQ’s attacking and exploitation of network infrastructure in order to unlawfully gain access to potentially millions of people’s private communications” — the type of revelations that came to light courtesy of the Edward Snowden files, which include the targeting of ISPs’ systems, as well as their system admin staff.

Specifically, the group of rather left-field ISPs argue that GCHQ’s attacks on providers are not only illegal, but are “destructive, undermine the goodwill the organisations rely on, and damage the trust in security and privacy that makes the internet such a crucial tool of communication and empowerment.” As a result, they are demanding an end to such network “exploitation” and the infringement of their users’ rights.

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE: US govt backs mass spying by US govt: Sucks to be you, Johnny Foreigner – The US government’s Privacy and Civil Liberty Oversight Board (PCLOB) has dealt a blow to opponents of the NSA’s surveillance programs in a new report that reaffirms the controversial Section 702 program.

The PCLOB said in its official review of the program that 702 represented a “considerable value” to the government despite some concerns about the scope with which the program has been collecting information on US citizens.

Section 702 is part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which as the name suggests is not allowed to be used against US persons. Yet Americans can end up being snooped on by systems targeting foreigners – consider a US citizen answering a call from a relative abroad, for instance.


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