Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 8, 2014

German Mistrust of the U.S. Deepens Amid Latest Spy Scandals; You don’t know Docs from Drive: Google’s productivity apps, explained;  Fridge hacked. Car hacked. Next up, your LIGHT BULBS;  How to use your Android tablet as a second laptop screen;  How to Delete Yourself from the Internet;  Free Red Hat clone CentOS-7;  10 ways your memory fails you;  One of my sites got hacked, and it’s my own fault;  50 Best Android Apps for 2014;  SCOTUS cell phone case may hold big repercussions (Q&A);  Apple has released beta 3 of iOS 8 and OS X 10.10;  Mom Banned From Facebook Over Coppertone Ad Recreation;  Wink’s Connected Home Collection Arrives At Home Depot.

German Mistrust of the U.S. Deepens Amid Latest Spy Scandals – Last week alone saw two separate scandals involving U.S. espionage in Germany. The first one broke on Thursday, when German media reported that the U.S. National Security Agency, or NSA, has been spying on a German privacy advocate who works to protect Internet users from the snooping of … the NSA. The following day, July 4, a second scandal broke in the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung and other media, which reported that an employee of Germany’s foreign-intelligence service, the BND, had confessed to selling secrets to the U.S. government. New details of that case continued to emerge on Monday, with Reuters reporting that the CIA was involved in the spying operation that led to the man’s recruitment.

You don’t know Docs from Drive: Google’s productivity apps, explained – Docs or Drive? Apps for Business or Drive for Work? Follow our guide to determine which Google service offers what, and which one is best for you.

How to Delete Yourself from the Internet – With our digital footprints expanding, we are relaying more personal data than ever to trackers, hackers and marketers with and without our consent. Are we sharing too much? Do we have the right not to be tracked? Is withdrawing from the Internet entirely to preserve your privacy even possible? Let’s go over each of these issues.

Some files need encryption and some files don’t – Of course there are exceptions. If you’re an accountant, a lawyer, or a spy, you probably should have your entire hard drive encrypted. If everything you work on is confidential, then everything has to be protected. But what should the rest of us encrypt? Bank statements and legal documents, of course. Any file containing your (or anyone else’s) social security number, bank account information, driver’s license, or credit card information should be encrypted.

50 Best Android Apps for 2014 – From high-end Android handsets to low-cost prepaid phones, you’re not getting the full value unless you load up on great apps. We’re here to help, with recommendations for news, weather, productivity, task management and more.

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Brush up on classic literature with these immersive apps – Back in the early days of personal computing, the promise of interactive, multimedia, hypertext books was exciting, notably with Voyager’s Expanded Books. But in those days, the limits of technology prevented those “books” from gaining a foothold. The iPad offers such powerful features—and excellent resolution—that truly enhanced books are possible. Here are six apps for the iPad that have popped up in recent years that look at great literature, paying homage to fantastic works while adding new layers.

Free Red Hat clone CentOS-7 is full of Linux Container love – The CentOS Project has announced general availability of CentOS-7, the first release of the free Linux distro based on the source code for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 7. It’s also the first major CentOS release to ship since the CentOS Project entered into a new funding and co-development partnership with Red Hat in January. Because CentOS-7 is built from the freely available RHEL 7 source code tree, its feature set closely mirrors that of Red Hat’s latest OS, which shipped in June after a six-month beta period.

Apple has released beta 3 of iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 – 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.

How to use your Android tablet as a second laptop screen – There’s no denying that multiple monitors is a boost to productivity. It’s convenient, and lets you keep an eye on more windows at once, so none of those important interruptions go unanswered. But in an age of ubiquitous laptops, the whole multi-monitor thing sort of ties you down. It’s not like you’re going to lug around a monitor to use as a display with your laptop. Fortunately, there’s a smaller, lighter alternative: use your Android tablet as overflow screen. Plus, you can use the Android device for touchscreen computer input.


Wink’s Connected Home Collection Arrives At Home Depot – The Wink platform is basically a central hub for devices from manufacturers, including Dropcam, Honeywell, Quirky, Schalge, Kwikset, Honeywell and more, giving users a single app for either iOS or Android from which to customize and control them all. Wink gets its compatible products on store shelves in over 2,000 U.S. retail locations today, with branding tied to 60 Wink-certified products ranging from light dimmers, to air conditions, to smart locks and beyond.


Paid Android Wear Apps Currently Impossible Thanks to DRM – Developers finally got their hands on the final version of the Android Wear SDK at Google I/O last month, and have set to work building apps for Google’s smart watch platform. Wear apps don’t work exactly like regular Android apps, and that seems to have led to some unintended consequences. It is currently impossible to distribute a traditional paid app via Google Play for Android Wear.


BlackBerry Explains The Passport, Its Square Tablet… Phone Thing – BlackBerry previously gave us a sneak peek at a device that’s as category-busting as the revolutionary Padfone, called the Passport. I expressed my …uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the design decisions made in creating this 4.5-inch square thing with a hardware keyboard then. But now it’s BlackBerry’s turn to articulate some of its reasoning behind the Passport, with a blog post in which it avoids calling it either a phone or a tablet directly.


Mom Banned From Facebook Over Coppertone Ad Recreation – You know that adorable vintage Coppertone ad where the little girl is getting her bathing suit pulled down by a dog? It’s perfectly innocent, right? Well, Facebook apparently doesn’t think so. One North Carolina mom was recently banned from the social network after recreating the iconic image with her daughter. Photographer Jill White was on a trip to the beach when she decided to copy the famous “Coppertone girl” pose from the 1950s ad. Her daughter stood at the shoreline as a friend pulled down her red checkered bathing suit, exposing the 2 year-old’s bare bottom and tan line. The mom posted it to the Coppertone Facebook page, thinking it was clever and cute. But not everyone agreed.

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Rumor: Microsoft’s ‘Windows 9’ campaign begins this fall – Microsoft plans to launch “Windows 9” this fall, backed by a substantial advertising campaign, according to Russian leaker Wzor. The Russian blogger also predicted that the release will be accompanied with a new distribution method that will be keyed to the user’s PC and the online Microsoft Store, rather than an activation key that will be sold and/or distributed to an individual user.

Microsoft adds Yammer to more Office 365 editions – Microsoft will bundle Yammer with more editions of Office 365, adding the enterprise social-networking product to the suite’s editions for schools and midsize businesses. Existing subscribers of Office 365 Midsize Business and Office 365 Education plans will get licenses for Yammer’s Enterprise edition at no additional cost, the company said Monday.


Fridge hacked. Car hacked. Next up, your LIGHT BULBS – Those convinced that the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) will become a hackers’ playground were given more grist for their mill with news on Friday that security researchers have discovered a weakness in Wi-Fi/mesh networked lightbulbs. Researchers at Context Information Security discovered that LED light bulbs from manufacturer LIFX – which are designed to be controlled from a smartphone – have security weaknesses. By gaining access to the master bulb, Context was able to control all connected lightbulbs and expose user network configurations.

‘Warbiking’ highlights the need for better wireless security – Don’t let the lycra fool you: James Lyne isn’t your traditional cyclist. Lyne has a high-tech rig installed on his bike that sniffs out Wi-Fi networks and lets him see just what their security is like. He calls it warbiking — named after the old-school wardriving in the early days of wireless networks — and last week we took a ride with him around Sydney. Sydney is just the latest stop on Lyne’s World of Warbiking tour — he’s been through Hanoi, London, San Francisco and more. While in town, Lyne’s ride scanned a total of 34,476 networks with some depressing results.

One of my sites got hacked, and it’s my own fault – No web site can be stuck in time, even if the content is. The server software and security systems supporting a web site must be constantly updated to prevent incursion and corruption.

Company News:

Oculus buys RakNet, whose engine revved up ‘Minecraft,’ ‘Lego Universe’ – Virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR, which is being bought by Facebook, has acquired RakNet, an open-source C++ coding engine for games, as part of its plan to develop more software for its head-mounted device ahead of a consumer launch. The deal was the second announced by Oculus in the last two weeks and comes after Facebook said in March that it would acquire Oculus for $US2 billion.

AMC’s answer to Netflix is to spend $600 million on recliner seats in theaters – AMC is spending $600 million to reseat a large portion of its chain theaters with comfy, puffy, fully reclining seats like you’d have in your living room. Yes, the company has to remove a bunch of its existing seating in order to fit the larger seats — which means AMC’s strategy to get more people in theaters will actually lessen how many people can actually fit in them. If the seats AMC would remove are usually empty anyway, then sprucing up the often-used seats shouldn’t hurt attendance, and would instead — AMC hopes — raise it.


Isis mobile wallet is rebranding to avoid sharing a name with the terrorist group – Isis, the mobile payment system which launched last year, has announced that they will rebrand and change their name to avoid similarities with the militant Jihadist group of the same name.

Foxconn to deploy 10,000 robots on assembly lines to replace human workers – According to comments made by CEO Terry Gou in a recent shareholders’ meeting, Apple manufacturer Foxconn may soon roll out robots on its assembly lines in order to replace human workers and cut down on manufacturing costs. The robots, which could potentially help construct Apple’s rumored-to-be-upcoming iPhone 6, are in the final stages of testing and are set to be deployed in at least one Foxconn factory in the future. The robot worker plan was first announced in 2011, and the ‘Foxbots’ are entering the final stages of testing — which means that they could see deployment on Foxconn assembly lines very soon.

Google steps up e-commerce war with Amazon, report says – The search giant plans to go after Amazon in an effort to beef up product search and e-commerce offerings. Google’s first target: groceries.


Google looks to bolster its e-commerce offerings – Screenshot by Richard Nieva/CNET

Games and Entertainment:

Destiny beta dates announced, Xbox One gets it last – Starting June 17 at 10am Pacific, select PS4 and PS3 owners who have pre-ordered the game will be granted access to check out what Activision calls a “diverse sampling of major activities featured in the full game.” This beta will conclude on July 21, and will open back up on July 23 at 10am Pacific. The second opening will see the addition of select Xbox One and Xbox 360 players who have pre-ordered the game, with the flood gates opening to all pre-order participants on July 27.


Guardians of the Galaxy trailer: extended look at the team – Guardians of the Galaxy has been teased from many angles: trailers galore, a playlist of the upcoming movie soundtrack, and even a 17 minute look at the film for those who don’t fear spoilers. Latest among them is a new trailer showing off extended footage of the team.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Music abilities come from DNA, not practice: so says study – According to a study published in the latest release of Psychological Science would suggest that most musical skill comes from your genes. If you happen to be the descendent of a musical genius, you may want to get practicing – it would seem that you’ll have a lot easier time finding success than your less fortunate associates with less musically-inclined parents.

10 ways your memory fails you – Who hasn’t walked from one room to another and completely forgotten what they were going to do when they got there? Or had either a name or word on the tip of their tongue, but just couldn’t manage to put their finger on what it was? These are just 2 of the 10 ten examples of ways we can’t completely trust our memories, according to this new video from AllTime10s, purveyor of top-10 lists. The video, based on various studies on memory, explains 10 ways our memories aren’t always accurate, such as our tendency to believe that events occurred much more recently than they actually did.


Bankers beware: Technology is going to get you (and none of us will care) – Technology is about to take a big slice of the traditional banking business. Bankers have been slow to see what’s coming, but they’re starting to realize what’s at stake.

Nature’s fireworks: 10 stunning volcanic GIFs – Volcanoes give us a tantalizing peek at the interior workings of the Earth — the hellish inferno raging beneath the crust. Totally fascinating to observe, of course, but the GIFs keep you nice and safe at home. No heat-resistant environmental suits required.


Something to think about:

“A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to.”

–     Granville Hicks

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

SCOTUS cell phone case may hold big repercussions (Q&A) – The US Supreme Court came out strongly in favor of personal privacy last month, unanimously declaring that law enforcement must first obtain a warrant before searching someone’s cell phone. But one of the lawyers who helped argue the case says many questions about you, your smartphone and privacy remain.

Key legal issues involving mobile devices have yet to be decided, such as how long law enforcement can store seized data and whether police are allowed to compel someone to provide the password of a locked mobile device.

“The court spent about 20 years wrestling with how the Constitution and search and seizure work in the context of an automobile. I think that’s basically what we’re going to see now,” says Bronson James, an attorney and former network engineer from Portland, Ore., who spent more than a decade arguing against warrantless searches of mobile devices in lower courts. “We’re going to see 10, maybe 20 years of litigation about computing, digital data, mobile computing, and how that interplays with the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and a number of issues.”

James was part of the team assembled by lead attorney Jeffrey Fisher to produce some briefs in Riley v. California, one of two cases decided by last month’s Supreme Court opinion. In the Riley case, a San Diego man was charged for having concealed weapons, but was then charged and convicted of attempted murder after police found photos and other records on his phone.

“All of these things flow out of Riley and it’s going to be a fascinating time,” James said. “There’s so much more to flesh this out in our court system that we’re going to be talking about this a lot.”

James spoke with CNET last week about the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling and what it felt like to come out victorious after years of defeats.

The Privacy Implications Of NSA Searches Should Not Be Minimized – The Obama administration on Sunday attempted to downplay the damning revelations made in the Washington Post about the NSA’s broad data sweeps under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA).

In response, officials told the New York Times that “the agency routinely filters out the communications of Americans and information that is of no intelligence value.”

The administration’s response quickly jumping to the NSA’s defense is in line with its previous pattern of standing in front of the agency whenever damaging news leaked about its practices. Soon after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s first revelations were published last year, President Barack Obama staunchly supported the surveillance programs. His stance softened as public outcry grew, and he suggested reforms including an overhaul of the collection of telephony metadata program in January.

Almost half of the communications in a large trove collected under Section 702 that Snowden supplied to The Post last year contained e-mail addresses or other details the NSA identified as belonging to U.S. citizens. More than 65,000 references were “masked” to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 email addresses in the files that were not minimized that could be linked to Americans. In the same initial June 2013 speech, Obama said Americans’ emails weren’t being collected.

The government’s claim that information found to be “of no intelligence value” is filtered seems farcical when the report revealed that the Snowden cache included a photo of a young girl smiling in front of a mosque and school children’s academic transcripts.

‘Voluntary’ oversight for Australian agencies blocking sites – Australian government agencies can ‘voluntarily’ inform the Communications Department each time they ask ISPs to block websites under Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act, but none have done so since September last year, the department has told ZDNet.

Over a year since it was first revealed that government agencies had been using a power in the Telecommunications Act to ask ISPs to block websites believed to be in breach of Australian law, the government still has yet to decide how to improve accountability over the practice.

The power only gained public attention after it was revealed that the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) had accidentally blocked 250,000 websites in April 2013 when seeking to block websites associated with investment fraud, including the website of Melbourne Free University.

At the time, it was suggested that three government agencies including ASIC, the Australian Federal Police, and one other national security agency had used the power, but there was no oversight into the power across the entire government.

Given the controversy, in June last year, then-Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said he had directed his department to begin looking into how to improve the transparency and regulation of agencies that have been using the power, and the department began working on a discussion paper into the use of the powers, which never saw the light of day prior to the September election that saw the Coalition opposition elected into government.

In December, the Communications Department told ZDNet that it was “consulting with agencies” on the use of Section 313 to block websites.

Seven months later, however, and the government has yet to reach a decision on how to provide greater transparency into Section 313 powers. The Department of Communications also confirmed it still has no mandatory oversight over agencies asking ISPs to block websites.

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