Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 9, 2014

NSA Spying Hurts Cybersecurity for All of Us Say Privacy Advocates;  The Best Drone Videos From Around the Web;  By Selling Your Smartphone You’re Selling Yourself;  New Google Drive rolling out to users;  Patch alert: Update browsers’ Flash ASAP to block log-on theft;  AdBlock Plus sued by German marketing companies;  Windows 7 mainstream support ends in January 2015;  10 sites with stunning visual data that will change your world view;  2 Radical Free Games for Xbox One;  Hillary Clinton Denounces NSA Surveillance On German Chancellor; Partition Wizard Home Edition (free);  How to organize your Windows Start menu;  Declutter your Android apps with Nova Launcher;  Six World Cup social media highlights;  Watch YouTube explode with classic concerts.

NSA Spying Hurts Cybersecurity for All of Us Say Privacy Advocates – The surveillance debate has focused on the legality of spying on Americans but some say the biggest danger is in the methods the NSA uses.

Android reset doesn’t wipe your personal info – Businesses, beware! Vast amounts of personal data and photos can be recovered from second-hand Android smartphones, even if users have reset them to factory condition. With large numbers of Android phones now used by businesses, it’s also a threat to company data. Nowadays, this may well include banking data.

More on this:

By Selling Your Smartphone You’re Selling Yourself – Sometimes you can get a nice trade-in when you upgrade your old phone to the latest model. When that’s not possible, many electronics vendors offer a decent buy-back program. But if you’re already familiar with selling online through eBay or similar services, you may find it convenient to just put your old phone up for sale. When you click “Erase everything” on the phone, all your data is safely erased, right? Well, no. Forensic data recovery by researchers at Avast found that supposedly-erased phones harbored thousands of items of personal data, some of them significant.

How to organize your Windows Start menu – Every program you install in Windows 7 creates its own Start menu folder or at least its own free-floating shortcut. Some programs nicely ask you where you want to install their shortcuts, but most just dump them haphazardly into their own folders. The more programs you install, the more crowded and cluttered the All Programs menu becomes, especially with folders, subfolders, and shortcuts for items you may not even need. In Windows 7, such a setup forces you to keep scrolling and scrolling and scrolling down the list of programs until you find the folder or shortcut you want. So how can you manage your Start menu programs so they don’t remain a disorganized clutter?

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

New Google Drive rolling out to users – Google Drive is being updated today, bringing in an updated UI and usability tweaks. The update is rolling out slowly, but the differences are notable. Simpler and more effective, Drive is starting to look more like a desktop solution than a web-solution-gone-laptop.

Declutter your Android apps with Nova Launcher – Imagine not having to scroll through countless apps to find the one you want. Sure, you might know exactly what that icon looks like, but it’s easy for nearly any launcher to get lost in your collection of installed apps. Nova Launcher fixes this issue by allowing you to set up App Drawer Groups. This means you can have a group for Networking tools, Games, Productivity tools…you name it.

Three critical laptop accessories for summertime travel – Before you head out on your great summer vacation, you’ll want to make sure you pack well not only for yourself but your laptop as well. No matter if you’re headed across the country in a VW bus or across the Atlantic on a 777, here are three critical laptop accessories no summer traveler can do without.

Five awesome devices for your Wink connected home setup – You want a connected home, but what about the expense involved? Quirky’s Wink Hub makes having a connected home a pretty streamlined endeavor, serving as a base platform for all your connected devices. The hub itself is low-cost and readily available, but what about the devices that link to it? Here are five that we really like for starting your connected home project.

Australian government visualises geospatial data on National Map – The Australian government has launched a single platform containing a number of the data sets released by the government, including broadband availability and quality.

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‘Netflix for torrents’ app Popcorn Time adds Chromecast support – Apparently Chromecast viewers can eat their popcorn and watch it too: The “Netflix for pirates” app Popcorn Time can now stream pirated movies directly to Chromecast-enabled HDTVs. As of now, a Windows version of Popcorn Time with Chromecast support is in alpha, and Mac and Android versions are on their way. Beta versions of the apps without Chromecast support are already available for Android, Mac OS X 10.7 and above, Windows XP and above, and Linux 32/64 bit.

10 sites with stunning visual data that will change your world view – Mere words and concepts don’t drive home the sheer magnitude of the things buzzing all around us, all the time. For some things, actually seeing the data in real-time visualizations hits you in a far more visceral way than a wall o’ text ever could. These websites will change the way you see the world. If nothing else, you’ll never view your Facebook posts in the same, lighthearted way ever again.

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Digital Shadow

The Weather Channel for Android Gets Contentious Redesign in v5.0 – There are plenty of weather apps on Android, but The Weather Channel app is far and away the most popular one with more than 50 million downloads. That could mean a lot of very unhappy people very soon as a v5.0 update is slowly rolling out. People, it seems, are not happy with the changes.

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Watch YouTube explode with classic concerts – A vast trove of music concerts has arrived on YouTube this week thanks to the folks at Wolfgang’s Vault. That’s “Where Live Music Lives”, if you did not know, Wolfgang’s Vault being the pusher of Music Vault, the YouTube channel where you can see it all happen now. Bands from Bob Dylan to Fleet Foxes, Deer Tick to The Who – all appear in this 1,600+ video collection. In the very short amount of time this network has been online, under cover, it’s already gotten a whopping 10.8 million views.

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Sony has announced its selfie phone – Yesterday, Sony teased on Twitter with a post “see your #selfies in a whole new light”, bringing speculation that they might be releasing a new handset. Today, Sony has unveiled a new selfie-centric device, the Xperia C3. The Xperia handset will feature a 5MP wide-angle front-facing camera with LED flash, optimized for taking better “selfies”.

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CartoDB’s Odyssey.js Is An Open-Source Tool For Telling Stories With Interactive Maps – Everything happens somewhere. That’s the logic behind Odyssey.js, an open-source tool that utilizes maps to help turn data into interactive multimedia stories without the user needing coding skills. With a $35,000 grant from the Knight Prototype Fund, creators of the cloud-computing platform CartoDB have released a beta of the open-source tool today.

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Windows 7 mainstream support ends in January 2015, but it’s not time to freak out yet – The good news here is that for users of Windows 7, you don’t have much to worry about. The end of mainstream support indicates that the company will no longer build out features or deliver enhancements other than security updates. The mainstream support is typically a window of 5 years post launch, following this there is a period of extended support that lasts for an additional 5 years. In January, Windows 7 will transition into the extended support state, so your machine will be safe.

BlackBerry reveals why the Passport is hip to be square: It’s all about the spreadsheets – BlackBerry’s Passport has inspired a lot of head-scratching, but the company reckons it does have a good reason for going out on a square limb.

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Security:

Patch alert: Update browsers’ Flash ASAP to block log-on theft – Users of Google’s Chrome and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) and IE11 can rest easy today knowing that their browsers will automatically update to the latest version of Adobe Flash, which will block a credential-stealing attack disclosed earlier in the day. Those who rely on Apple’s Safari, pre-IE10 editions of IE, Mozilla’s Firefox and Opera Software’s Opera, however, should hustle to the Adobe website to download and install the latest version of Flash, security experts advised.

More on this:

“Weaponized” exploit can steal sensitive user data on eBay, Tumblr, et al – A serious attack involving a widely used Web communication format is exposing millions of end users’ authentication credentials on sites including eBay, Tumblr, and Instagram, a well-respected security researcher said Tuesday. The exploit—which stems from the ease of embedding malicious commands into Adobe Flash files before they’re executed—has been largely mitigated by a Flash security update Adobe released Tuesday morning to coincide with a technical analysis of the threat, including proof-of-concept exploit code. It will take days or weeks for a meaningful percentage of end users to install the fix, so the researcher who wrote the advisory is warning engineers at large websites to make server-side changes that will minimize the damage attackers can inflict on visitors.

Vulnerability in AVG security toolbar puts IE users at risk – The toolbar, also known as AVG SafeGuard, supports Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox running on Windows XP and later, and is often bundled as an optional installation with popular free software programs. According to researchers from the CERT Coordination Center (CERT/CC) at Carnegie Mellon University, versions 18.1.6 and older of AVG Secure Search and AVG SafeGuard install an ActiveX control called ScriptHelperApi in Internet Explorer that exposes sensitive functionality to websites.

Company News:

AdBlock Plus sued by German marketing companies – The popular extension, available for all web browsers, blocks advertisements on websites, which is the primary source of revenue for marketing companies. Adblock Plus vendors have a controversial arrangement with some websites which have been whitelisted from the extension by default. Now, a number of advertising companies in Germany have been reported to have filed lawsuits against Eyeo, the company behind Adblock Plus. The companies believe that the business model of Adblock Plus is illegal. It was recently reported that Google has been paying money in order to allow its ads to pass through Adblock Plus.

Former Mozilla CEO would’ve transformed Firefox into a pro-privacy anti-Chrome – Short-lived Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich says Firefox’s key to success lies in differentiation, starting with Google’s gobbling of your personal info.

BlackBerry Is One Of The Hottest Stocks Of 2014, Seriously – Don’t look now, but BlackBerry — you know, the butt of most cell phone jokes — is mounting an impressive comeback. BlackBerry’s stock is up 50 percent on the year and one of the best performers in its sector. In 2014 BlackBerry’s stock is outperforming all its peers. At the beginning of the year, the company’s stock was languishing at $7.44 a share. Yesterday it closed at $11.21. The stock is also up in trading today.

As smartphone sales tank, Samsung stares down a 25% drop in profits – Samsung Electronics is warning investors of a third straight quarter of declining profits. For Q2, the company is expecting a 22-26.5 percent drop in profits from a year earlier, thanks largely to piles of unsold smartphones. Smartphone sales have been Samsung’s primary driver of growth over the last few years, and the company is now facing a situation where many potential buyers already have a phone that’s “good enough.”

Games and Entertainment:

Respawn announces second ‘Titanfall’ DLC, ‘Frontier’s Edge’ – “Titanfall” has easily been one of the year’s biggest original game releases thus far, and it’s about to get even bigger with the release of its second downloadable content package, “Frontier’s Edge.” Announced today by Respawn, the game’s developer, “Frontier’s Edge” will feature three new maps, which are described as “the isolated mining outpost of Dig Site, the exclusive beach resort of Haven and the mining hub on the side of a mountain known as Export.” No media was released of the new maps, however, and a release date wasn’t announced.

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The Xbox One Just Learned A Few New Tricks – Another month, another itty-bitty update to the Xbox One. The Xbox One’s July update doesn’t bring any earth shattering features (like, say, a version of Hulu that doesn’t break in the last two minutes of literally every show I try to watch), but it does pack a few new tricks you might not notice on your own. Here’s the new stuff, which should be rolling out right about now…

Microsoft will give Xbox 360 owners $75 credit to buy an Xbox One – Own an Xbox 360 and don’t yet have an Xbox One? You may want to purchase one before the end of the month, as Microsoft will give you a $75 digital credit to use on games and other digital downloads. As spotted by NeoGAF user BeforeU, Xbox 360 owners are now being presented with an ad that promotes the deal, which lasts until 11:59 p.m. PST July 31.

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Let your creativity flow with the ‘Project Spark Starter Pack’ for Xbox One, coming this October – There has been much hype concerning “Project Spark,” a game that allows you to design your own experiences. The game was first demoed back in 2013 at E3, showing off the ability to create a world in about a minute, adding bad guys and even your own pet rock. With such an original concept, many consumers were wondering when the game would be released. Today on Xbox Wire, they have announced that a retail version of the game would be available for the Xbox One on October 7 for North and South America, October 9 in Asian countries, and October 10 for Europe.

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Star Trek and Archer combine to make a hilarious abomination – Splicing audio and video from sources that don’t really belong together is a time honored tradition among silly folks who like a good laugh, and as video editing tech becomes cheaper and more powerful, it only gets easier for this sort of thing to happen. Star Trek is often a target for this kind of thing, due to its popularity and the volume of content. As a result, there are now three episodes of Star Trek: The Animated Series where the audio has been replaced with bits from multiple episodes of the FX original series Archer. The end result, which the creators lovingly refer to as Starcher Trek, is nothing short of riotously funny.

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Double Review: 2 Radical Free Games for Xbox One – This month two games are popping up free for Xbox Live Gold members: “Max: the Curse of Brotherhood” and “Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition.” Both games are generally considered to be “indy”, and they certainly play that way – but they’re bringing a fine mix of nostalgia and high-end graphics (flat as they may be) that give us pause.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

It’s raining smartphones in India – The Gods seem to be smiling down upon the Indian cell phone consumer. Never before in the country’s history have they been so spoilt for choice. For the past few years, it was local players like Micromax and Karbonn who began offering cheaper yet slick alternatives to brands like Samsung. Then came the MotoG which was a bonafide star and vanquished the Micromaxs as well as Samsungs of the world in its category. A little after that came Nokia’s attractive X series of budget smartphone (under Rs 10,000 or US$166) that hitched its wagon to the Android platorm. And, just a few days ago, I wrote about Firefox’s potentially revolutionary US$25 phone soon to be manufactured and flogged in India by local manufacturers Spice and Intex.

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Xiaomi’s Mi3 5 inch Smartphone is destined to vanquish most phones in the category

The Best Drone Videos From Around the Web – Drones can act as flying cameras — they can go where we can’t, get footage we can’t. Here, TIME has collected some of the coolest drone videos from around the web. Enjoy!

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Nerf Rhino-Fire will leave your foes begging for mercy – The world of dart tag just got a whole lot more dangerous, thanks to some mad genius in the Nerf design lab. A new blaster popped up early on Amazon, and it’s darn near the Nerf equivalent of the Death Machine from Call of Duty. You don’t get that kind of firepower without deep power reserves. The Rhino-Fire will require six D-cell batteries. That adds around a kilogram of weight, but no worries: Nerf has included a tripod so that you can camp and dominate your enemies without breaking a sweat.

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Google’s Larry Page envisions a world with less work – In a Fireside chat with Vinod Khosla, both Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin talked a lot about Google and the world surrounding it, with the entire chat (featured in the video below) lasting a bit over 40 minutes. Among the different topics was discussion about our working future.

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How Your Tech Is Made – While your mass-produced gadget may not get the due respect it deserves on Etsy or at your local artisanal market, keep in mind that it takes just as much time, blood, sweat, and tears (if not more) to create that gadget (and all the other ones just like it) as it does for the solitary artiste to hone their craft into a singular unique item. Here we present 11 behind-the-scenes glimpses into how all the hottest electronics of today are made.

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Zuckerberg: Everyone Should Have Basic Web Access – Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg this week argued that a basic level of Internet service should be as readily available as access to 911. “In the future, everyone should have access to basic Internet services … even if they haven’t paid for a data plan,” Zuckerberg wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. “And just as basic phone services encouraged more people to get phones, basic Internet services will encourage many more people to get a data plan.” He pointed to the fact that anyone can call 911 even without a phone plan. A similar option for the Web should also exist, he argued.

Urban Airship CEO takes leave amid sexual assault probe – Scott Kveton, co-founder of the push notification startup, tells employees that he had been thinking about stepping aside for a while but the decision was accelerated by a story about his “personal situation.”

Six World Cup social media highlights – As the biggest soccer tournament in the world reaches its final stages, there is no doubt that this has been the most social World Cup ever. We list some of the social media highlights of the event so far.

Something to think about:

“At least two-thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity: idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political ideas.”

–    Aldous Huxley

Today’s Free Downloads:

Partition Wizard Home Edition – MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition is a free partition manager software designed by MiniTool Solution Ltd. Our partition manager supports 32/64 bit Windows Operating System including Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.

Home users can perform complicated partition operations by using this powerful yet free partition manager to manage their hard disk. Functions include: Resizing partitions, Copying partitions, Create partition, Delete partition, Format partition, Convert partition, Explore partition, Hide partition, Change drive letter, Set active partition, Partition Recovery.

MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition is designated for home user only, to use MiniTool Partition Wizard in a business environment, MiniTool Partition Wizard Professional Edition is required.

Features:

Support RAID.

Extend system partition to maximize computer performance.

Manage the hard disk for substantial performance increase.

Create, Delete and Format partitions with simple steps.

Disk Copy to protect or transfer data.

Support disk and partition size larger than 2 TB.

Convert partition format from FAT to NTFS.

Partition Copy: Copy the entire content of one hard disk to another.

Copy Disk Wizard: Copy the entire hard disk to another without having to reinstall Windows.

Disk Map – Visually demonstrate your disk/partition configuration; preview the changes before applying.

Hide/unhide partition, set active partition, etc. – Change partition properties easily.

Explore FAT/NTFS partition.

Set partition as primary.

Set partition as logical.

Rebuild MBR.

Disk Surface Test.

Partition Surface Test.

Change Partition Serial Number.

Change Partition Type ID.

Hot Extend Partition without reboot.

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LastActivityView – LastActivityView is a tool for Windows operating system that collects information from various sources on a running system, and displays a log of actions made by the user and events occurred on this computer.

The activity displayed by LastActivityView includes: Running .exe file, Opening open/save dialog-box, Opening file/folder from Explorer or other software, software installation, system shutdown/start, application or system crash, network connection/disconnection and more…

You can easily export this information into csv/tab-delimited/xml/html file or copy it to the clipboard and then paste into Excel or other software.

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Another neat tool from NirSoft! They pump out the most interesting freeware – especially if you consider yourself a bit of a hobbyist, geek, techie, whatever, on the PC. Take a run over to their site for a look-see at the offerings.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying On – The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.

According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the list of Americans monitored by their own government includes:

• Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;

• Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;

• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;

• Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;

• Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.

The individuals appear on an NSA spreadsheet in the Snowden archives called “FISA recap”—short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under that law, the Justice Department must convince a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is probable cause to believe that American targets are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also “are or may be” engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism. The authorizations must be renewed by the court, usually every 90 days for U.S. citizens.

The spreadsheet shows 7,485 email addresses listed as monitored between 2002 and 2008. Many of the email addresses on the list appear to belong to foreigners whom the government believes are linked to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Among the Americans on the list are individuals long accused of terrorist activity, including Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who were killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.

But a three-month investigation by The Intercept—including interviews with more than a dozen current and former federal law enforcement officials involved in the FISA process—reveals that in practice, the system for authorizing NSA surveillance affords the government wide latitude in spying on U.S. citizens.

Hillary Clinton Denounces NSA Surveillance On German Chancellor – Hillary Clinton criticized the National Security Agency (NSA) for spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, calling it “absolutely wrong” in an interview with German media outlet Spiegel published Tuesday.

Former government contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks revealed in October that Merkel’s phone calls were intercepted by the NSA, damaging diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Germany.

Tensions have only escalated in the wake of a new spying scandal this week. Germany is currently in an uproar over reports a German intelligence service accused of spying was working for the United States. Merkel has said it will be a “serious case” if the recent spying allegations were true.

Clinton did not comment on the current controversy, saying an investigation was underway and she only knew what she read.

“But clearly, we have to do a much better job in working together between Germany and the United States to sort out what the appropriate lines of cooperation are on intelligence and security,” Clinton told Spiegel. “I think the cooperation is necessary for our security, but we don’t want to undermine it by raising doubts again and again.”

Clinton declined to comment on whether or not she thought it was “taboo” for the U.S. to acquire a source within the German intelligence service. She emphasized the U.S. could not enter a no-spy agreement with any country, including Germany. The Obama administration dismissed requests for such an agreement after the revelation last fall about the NSA’s surveillance practices.

Clinton was also asked if Merkel deserved an apology, and sidestepped the question, saying Merkel and President Barack Obama have “had numerous talks.” When pressed, she said she was sorry, but noted she was no longer in government.

UK extends device charge test to all air travellers – All air passengers flying into or out of British airports, and not just those on US-bound flights, must ensure their electronic devices are charged.

Advice issued at the weekend concerned passengers flying to the US, but on Tuesday night the British the Department for Transport widened the instruction to affect anyone flying into or out of the UK.

A spokesman for the department said: “In line with the US advice, passengers on some routes into and out of the UK may now also be required to show that electronic devices in their hand luggage are powered up or face not being allowed to bring the device on to the aircraft.

“Passengers flying into or out of the UK are therefore advised to make sure electronic devices being carried in their hand luggage are charged before they travel.”

No specific routes have been highlighted, and the spokesman said they hope to “minimise disruption as far as possible”.

New restrictions requiring all electronic devices, including mobile phones and tablets, to be charged so they can be switched on for security staff were announced by US authorities on Sunday.

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4 Comments

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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 9, 2014

  1. info@alandonson.com

    Dear Bill—aldous huxley started off well–and  careened  into a drug crazed  heroin addict  among other drug problems  at  the middle  to end of his  life-no  intelligent person would choose  to end up as  aldous huxley/nietzche-marx-did—the  quote  you chose sounds *clever-trendy*on the  superficial  face  of the  quote-a  thinking person would  also consider  the  end  result of  a  writer s  life,words, statements. —i  love  your  anti-fascist-anti–NSA  stupidity articles.I despise  these leftwingnut authoritarian cyborg manipulators  of  freedom-manipulators  of  facts..never  was  a  fan of  political correctness,selective compassion,statism or flagrantly  self destructive  misuse /abuse  of  human freedoms.In today s  world–there  are no  real—liberals—only  cowardly fascists  –very  strong  when unified in mass–very angry,pointlessly weak and frustrated  when alone.All best.Dont  ever  stop.

    • Hi Alan,

      Perfectly put – “a thinking person would also consider the end result of a writer’s life,words, statements.” My fondest wish is that others will see “Something to think about” for what it is – something to think about; without referencing the examples given as representing my personal beliefs. In this particular case for example (IMHO), Huxley’s ideas are far too strident to be taken at face value.

      Politically, we’re virtual overlapping shadows – now that’s cool. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill

  2. Fred

    Hi Bill,
    “Windows 7 mainstream support ends in January 2015”
    Now I have Vista and I am only interested/worried about security updates. When will security updates for Vista end? I suppose sooner or later will be facing what the XP people did just recently.
    One would think with all the money MS has they could do updates, security, for their products for as long as there were users. But that would take a sense of humanity,
    As always, Thanks for your help,
    Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      Here’s the info from Microsoft’s lifecycle page

      Windows Vista – End of mainstream support, April 10, 2012. End of extended support, April 11, 2017. End of support refers to the date when Microsoft no longer provides automatic fixes, updates, or online technical assistance.

      You’ll be OK Fred – and in a real sense, when 2017 rolls around I suspect that you’ll be ready to install the “best” OS. Given the rapid development of alternative operating systems, don’t be surprised if that new OS is not Microsoft. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill