Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 10, 2014

The U.S. military is studying your Facebook and Twitter habits;  Leaked Yelp docs say Google is gaming search results;  Can You Really Buy an iPad for $1.10?  Apple Is Dumping Old iPhones for Cheap on eBay;  Finally, A Way To Find Movies Worth Watching On Netflix;  In sexting case, Virginia prosecutors want to photo teen’s erect genitalia;  Microsoft gives away nearly 300 free, tip-packed ebooks and resource guides;  The top tablets for kids: 2014 edition;  Microsoft Flight Simulator returns!  Roku beats Apple TV — again — on usage, purchases;  Cutting the cord: Why I kicked my cable TV company to the curb;  Download Avira Free Antivirus;  Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, get optional July updates.

The U.S. military is not-so-shockingly studying your Facebook and Twitter habits – The Guardian reported Tuesday that DARPA, the Defense Department’s research arm, has given millions of dollars to projects that examine activity on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, Pinterest, and other social networks as part of its Social Media in Strategic Communication program. According to the newspaper, one of the studies involved sending messages to users to gauge their responses. DARPA even looked at Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber’s Twitter accounts to determine how messages spread across the network.

Can You Really Buy an iPad for $1.10? – Auction sites like QuiBids, uBid.com, HappyBidDay, and others might sound like they are magically underpriced versions of eBay, but they’re not traditional auctions. Rather, they’re penny-auction sites, a hybrid of auctions and gambling. On penny-auction sites, bids cost money and that money is gone whether or not you win. If that sounds a lot like gambling, more than a few have sued claiming that very thing.

Apple Is Dumping Old iPhones for Cheap on eBay – If you move quickly and don’t mind older technology, you can buy an unlocked iPhone 5 from Apple for a lot less than its asking price. As AppleInsider points out, Apple is currently selling “Certified Pre-Owned” iPhone 5 models on eBay. The 16 GB version, in either white or black, is selling for $449, which is $200 off the original price. That’s also $100 cheaper than the current iPhone 5c, which has nearly identical tech specs.

Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 R2 get optional July updates – During the recent Patch Tuesday, which took place on 8th July, Microsoft patched two critical bugs and as many as 29 vulnerabilities, out of which 24 were related to Internet Explorer alone. Now, Microsoft has announced a few updates to address issues in their latest operating systems. Some of the issues covered by these updates include, fixes for translation and localization, USB related bugs, sleep issues on Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2, request failures and networking issues.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Feed your greed for speed by installing SSDs in RAID 0 – Tired of waiting while your top-of-the-line SSD loads files? Is what once seemed blindingly fast just not cutting it any more? Relax, you’re not the only one suffering with Greed for Speed (GFS). Plenty of velocity addicts are stricken with the same affliction. Let us help. In this, the first step in PCWorld’s exclusive one-step program for the amelioration of GFS symptoms (extreme anxiety at the least pause in program launch, tantrums over large file load times, etc.), we’ll show you how to nearly double the performance of even the fastest SSD.

SpeakingPhoto Attaches Sound to Pictures for Simple Mobile Storytelling – So if a picture is worth a thousand words, then you add some more words, does that make it more than one picture? Philosophical conundrums aside, SpeakingPhoto is an app for Android and iOS that lets you do just that–add a recording to your snapshots , then share the resulting video or share it with others. It has been on iOS for a while, but the developers just came over to Android a few weeks back.

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Microsoft gives away nearly 300 free, tip-packed ebooks and resource guides – As he’s done in years past, Microsoft senior sales excellence manager Eric Ligman has compiled a veritable flood of free Microsoft ebooks and other resources, offering up nearly 300 gratis guides for your reading pleasure. There’s a hefty Windows 7 Power Guide up for grabs, as well as “Introducing Windows 8.1 for IT Professionals,” clocking in at 139 pages, and a teen-focused “Own Your Space—Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online” all the way at the bottom of the page.

Finally, A Way To Find Movies Worth Watching On Netflix – Netflix is like the candy dish at your grandmother’s house. Most of the movies are crap, but you know, buried somewhere in there, is something worth your time. A Better Queue is a site dedicated to finding the Werther’s Originals in Netflix based on Rotten Tomatoes ratings.

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The top tablets for kids: 2014 edition – Detecting a niche in the market for family-friendly devices, a number of tech firms have begun offering tablet computers aimed at the younger generation. Whether you’re looking for an entertainment, education-based or budget-friendly tablet, here are a number of options suitable for you — and tips on how to keep your device child-proof.

You can now mirror your Android screen to your TV with Chromecast – Users will now be able to share whatever is on their phone or tablet screen to Chromecast and see it replicated – albeit much larger – on their TV. Simply open the Chromecast app on your device, and tap the ‘Cast Screen’ button in the navigation drawer – it’s as simple as that. It’s even easier on Nexus devices, which includes support for activating screen-casting via Android’s integrated quick settings menu.

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LG’s KizON band lets parents track, call, and listen in on their kids – While we certainly live in an age of connected homes and connected adults, kids aren’t usually the target demographic for technology outside of the home. LG’s new KizON wrist band is a unique exception to this rule, but that’s because it exists as a digital tether between children and their parents.

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Security:

Botnet brute-forces remote access to point-of-sale systems – Thousands of compromised computers are actively trying to break into point-of-sale (POS) systems using brute-force techniques to guess remote administration credentials. The computers are part of a botnet, dubbed BrutPOS by researchers from security firm FireEye, that has been active since at least February. The botnet scans attacker-specified IP (Internet Protocol) address ranges for systems that accept Remote Desktop Protocol (port 3389) connections. When an RDP service is identified, the BrutPOS malware attempts to log in with user names and passwords from a predefined list.

Crypto certificates impersonating Google and Yahoo pose threat to Windows users – People using Internet Explorer and possibly other Windows applications could be at risk of attacks that abuse counterfeit encryption certificates recently discovered masquerading as legitimate credentials for Google, Yahoo and possibly an unlimited number of other Internet properties.

Your favorite mobile apps leave a trail of cookie crumbs: We monitor our own smartphone traffic to see how much data apps are giving up – Many mobile apps are just Web applications wrapped in a package for an app store—they send cookies back to the same server to identify the user and provide location information and other data about a device to the application vendor, third parties, or anyone who happens to be watching network traffic. Taken together with other data, these cookies can be used to track individuals as they wander the world, posing a significant privacy risk. There are other components of the Web content consumed by mobile apps that can be used in tracking.

Don’t be a bonehead: Run antivirus on your Mac – Choosing not to run antivirus on a Mac is a boneheaded move that people choose to make based on nothing more than fanboy idealism, and has no place in the real world. Doubly so if your Mac takes on BYOD duties.

Malaysia Is Becoming a Global Hub For Internet Scams Preying on the Lovelorn – The conmen typically hail from Nigeria or Ghana and dupe lonely, middle-aged men and women from the U.S. and Western Europe through matchmaking services like Match.com, reports Reuters. A dozen new cases are reported to the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur every week, with scam complaints forming four-fifths of new work for duty officers. “This is a serious issue hurting many Americans financially and emotionally,” said a U.S. embassy spokesperson. “We would hope that through publicity more Americans would be made aware of these scams.”

Company News:

Leaked Yelp docs say Google is gaming search results – Google search is often thought of as an even playing field where we can get the results we want. Over time, Google has begun leaning on their own services — and thus information. That’s not concerning to most users, but what about other services? Recently leaked internal documents at Yelp insist Google is toying with Search results regionally to deceive regulators and mislead users.

Roku beats Apple TV — again — on usage, purchases – Roku is No. 1 for set-top-box purchases and usage, and the gulf between it and No. 2 Apple is widening, a study says — but opportunity may rouse the sleeping giant.

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Microsoft settles with No-IP in botnet hunt, after seizing its domains – Microsoft has reached a settlement with domain provider No-IP to disable some of its domains, after taking control of part of its network to shut down a botnet. In the course of combating the spread of the malware, Microsoft took control of more than 20 No-IP domains, knocking out service for the provider’s customers, some of whom were not even affected by the malware. In a statement released Wednesday by Microsoft and No-IP, Microsoft said it “regrets any inconvenience these customers may have experienced.”

Aereo believes it can operate despite Supreme Court ruling – In a lower court filing, the streaming TV service takes a new legal tack saying it could be eligible to license television content the same as cable companies.

Games and Entertainment:

The sky’s the limit as Microsoft Flight Simulator returns! – One of the most enduring titles of PC gaming came to an end in 2009, as Microsoft shut down the studio responsible for development of the Flight Simulator series. But now, Microsoft Flight Simulator has been cleared for take-off once more, as the company has signed a global licensing deal for its development, which will soon see the game sold on Steam for the first time.

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MOBA Games Come Of Age On The iPad With Hammer & Chisel’s Fates Forever – There are a few notable contenders vying to make the tablet’s definitive MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game. One, which made its debut this week, is Fates Forever.

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Battleborn – the MOBA that Borderlands creator Gearbox wants you to play – The folks behind Borderlands are taking their talents to the increasingly crowded MOBA genre with a new title called Battleborn. Details surrounding what Gearbox is calling a “hero shooter” are still a little scarce, but so far it looks like this game could actually be something new and interesting in the genre.

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Grim Fandango remaster confirmed for PC (of course) – Yes, despite the implication at E3 that this was a Sony exclusive, the game will indeed be coming to its true and rightful PC home. And Mac. And Linux. It’s not really a surprise, considering Grim Fandango creator/Double Fine founder Tim Schafer tweeted about “other platforms” during E3, but still—go ahead and heave a sigh of relief.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Nissan invented something every car needs – What with airbags, electronic stability control, and crumple zones galore, you could be forgiven for thinking there was no safety feature left untouched on the modern car, but Nissan would prove you wrong. The humble rear-view mirror is next in line for a smart update, and as Nissan showed me with its prototype system, the way we look around our car is well overdue a high-tech update.

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In sexting case, Virginia prosecutors want to photo teen’s genitalia – A Virginia teen is facing felony charges for allegedly sexting his girlfriend a video of his penis, and the authorities want to photograph his erect genitalia to bolster their case, according to news reports. If found guilty, the 17-year-old boy, whose name Ars is withholding, could be jailed until his 21st birthday and be forced to register as a sex offender. The boy’s attorney said that Prince William County prosecutors have obtained a warrant allowing them to photograph the boy’s erect private parts, a development his attorney is fighting along with the accusations. (The prosecutors should be subjected to a battery of tests designed to expose their deviancy. What a sick group!)

Cutting the cord: Why I kicked my cable TV company to the curb – I decided I was sick of spending crazy amounts of money for video content I could get for free, or for far less using various streaming services.

Prostitute accused in Google exec’s death – Police have arrested a high-end escort for suspicion of murder in the death of a Google executive, according to a police statement and the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The executive, 51-year-old Forrest Timothy Hayes, is said to have overdosed on heroin last November on a yacht in Santa Cruz, Calif., after allegedly being injected by Alix Catherine Tichelman. Tichelman is a 26-year-old call girl from Georgia who police said Hayes had an ongoing relationship with.

Telecom-Funded Congressional Group: Don’t Regulate Telecom Industry! – At an event funded by the telecom industry, organizations funded by the telecom industry argue against – wait for it! – regulating the telecom industry.

World Cup’s Germany-Brazil game is most-tweeted sports event – The social network tweeted yesterday that there were 35.6 million tweets published during the match between Brazil and Germany, making it “the most-discussed single sports game ever on Twitter.” Brazil’s Júlio César and Germany’s Miroslav Klose were the most-mentioned players from the match.

Something to think about:

“A good man would prefer to be defeated than to defeat injustice by evil means.”

–    Sallust (86 BC – 34 BC)

Today’s Free Downloads:

Skype – With Skype’s free software – by the way, it works seamlessly with your internet connection – you can chat away with free Skype-to-Skype calls and never worry about cost, time or distance. Share the love and get your friends to download Skype so you can talk, chat or make video calls for nothing. You can also make local, long distance and international calls to phones and mobiles at great rates too.

You can use it on a computer or get Skype on your mobile so you can keep in touch on the move, whatever you’re up to. Skype works on a wide range of mobiles, plus on devices like the PlayStation Portable (PSP). There’s also a great range of WiFi and cordless phones with Skype built-in.

Just for starters you can instant message with anyone on your contact list or even use group chat to chat with up to a hundred people. You could hold a conference call with up to nine other people to organise a get-together and then use SkypeFind to search for the perfect venue to hold it.

There are also really cool video features. All you need is a webcam to make free video calls or even take photos of yourself to personalise Skype.

Use Skype to give your friends a call and voice chat with them at the highest quality on the market.

Features:

Make free calls to anyone else on Skype, anywhere in the world

See who you are talking to with free video calls

Chat with up to 100 people in group chats

Conference call with up to four people for free

Call ordinary phones with SkypeOut

Superior sound quality

Works with all firewall, NAT and routers ? nothing to configure!

Friends list shows you when your Skype friends are online and ready to talk or chat

Super-simple and easy to use

Your calls are encrypted “end-to-end” in order to safeguard your privacy

Avira Free Antivirus – Avira AntiVir Personal FREE Antivirus was developed to be a reliable free antivirus solution, that constantly and rapidly scans your computer for malicious programs such as viruses, Trojans, backdoor programs, hoaxes, worms, dialers etc. Monitors every action executed by the user or the operating system and reacts promptly when a malicious program is detected.

Avira AntiVir Personal is a comprehensive, easy to use antivirus program, designed to offer reliable free of charge virus protection to home-users, for personal use only, and is not for business or commercial use.

Avira AntiVir Personal gives you the following functions:

Control Center for monitoring, administering and controlling the entire program

Central configuration with user-friendly standard and advanced options and context-sensitive help

Scanner (On-Demand Scan) with profile-controlled and configurable search for all known types of virus and malware

Integration into the Windows Vista User Account Control allows you to carry out tasks requiring administrator rights

Guard (On-Access Scan) for continuous monitoring of all file access attempts

Integrated quarantine management to isolate and process suspicious files

Rootkit protection for detecting hidden malware installed in your computer system (rootkits) (Only for 32-bit systems)

Direct access to detailed information on the detected viruses and malware via the Internet

Simple and quick updates to the program, virus definitions, and search engine through Single File Update and incremental VDF updates via a webserver on the Internet

Integrated Scheduler to plan one-off or recurring tasks, such as updates or test runs

Very high rates of virus and malware detection using innovative search technologies (search engines) and heuristic search processes

Detection of all common archive types, including detection of nested archives and smart extensions

High-performance multithreading function (simultaneous high-speed scanning of multiple files)

Features:

AntiVir protection against viruses, worms and Trojans AntiDialer protection against expensive dialers

AntiRootkit protection against hidden rootkits

Faster Scanning up to 20% faster

AntiPhishing protection against phishing

AntiSpyware protection against spyware and adware NetbookSupport for laptops with low resolution

QuickRemoval eliminates viruses at the push of a button

Limitations:

Avira AntiVir Personal is free for personal use only.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Anger mounts as Germany unearths second U.S. spy suspect – German politicians reacted angrily on Wednesday to news of a suspected U.S. spy in the Defence Ministry, which came days after the arrest of a German foreign intelligence agency worker as a double agent.

After the federal prosecutors said authorities had conducted searches in connection with a second spying case, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partners said Washington should remove any U.S. embassy staff involved and cease spying on its ally.

Security sources told Reuters the latest suspect was from the military and worked in the Defence Ministry in Berlin, but no arrest appeared to have been made. The ministry confirmed its premises had been searched but gave no further details.

“It is not yet clear what is behind this,” Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper, in an excerpt of Thursday’s edition.

Merkel has already said the arrest last week of a BND foreign intelligence officer for spying for NATO ally the United States would, if confirmed, be a “serious case”. But she also says it will not affect transatlantic free trade talks.

The chancellor faces criticism for not taking President Barack Obama to task sufficiently for surveillance in Germany by the U.S. National Security Agency, which monitored her own mobile phone. The new cases put further pressure on Merkel to react.

Civil Rights Organizations Demand Answers From White House on Surveillance of Muslim Leaders – In the wake of our story this morning reporting on the FBI and NSA’s monitoring of prominent Muslim-Americans, a coalition of 44 civil rights groups organized by the American Civil Liberties Union has sent a letter to President Obama demanding  a “full public accounting” of the government’s “targeting of community leaders” for surveillance. Separately, the White House told the Guardian that it has asked the intelligence community to “review their training and policy materials for racial or religious bias” after we published an internal instructional memo that referred to a hypothetical surveillance target as “Mohammed Raghead.”

The joint letter, which also requests meetings with President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and FBI Director James Comey, compares the surveillance detailed by the Intercept—including the monitoring of Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Committee on American-Islamic Relations—to the government’s history of spying on political dissidents:

In an earlier era, during the 1960s and 1970s, civil rights leaders, activists and members of minority communities were subjected to unlawful and abusive government surveillance based not on what they had done, but what they believed and who they were. Despite reform efforts, abusive practices continue today. Federal, state, and local law enforcement are targeting entire communities—particularly American Muslims—for secret surveillance based on their race, religion, ethnicity or national origin.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to the letter. But White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the Guardian that the administration takes the publication of the memorandum using an ethnic slur “extremely seriously”:

Upon learning of this matter, the White House immediately requested that the director of national intelligence undertake an assessment of intelligence community policies, training standards or directives that promote diversity and tolerance, and as necessary, make any recommendations changes or additional reforms.

An earlier response to the story by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice—which repeatedly refused to discuss the story with The Intercept prior to publication—denied that any individuals had been targeted for surveillance solely for political dissent or an ethnic basis and stressed that “with limited exceptions…intelligence agencies must have a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to target any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident for electronic surveillance.”

American Surveillance Victim Is Not Surprised The NSA Was Spying – Hooshang Amirahmadi feels like a celebrity. That’s what happens after Glenn Greenwald publishes your name, with consent of course, as one of five identified Muslim-Americans monitored by the National Security Agency and the FBI.

Amirahmadi is a professor of international relations at Rutgers University. He says he has been swamped with interview requests since The Intercept published a report about how the NSA monitored several Muslim-Americans allegedly due to their religious beliefs, which the the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice on Court-ordered Legal Surveillance of U.S. Persons refuted.

Despite the surveillance revelation, Amirahmadi, who describes himself as a peace activist, wasn’t surprised or angry when Greenwald and his team told him about the government’s surveillance about a month ago.

“The reason I’m not surprised is because I personally have spent 25 years in U.S.-Iran relations and that relation has been the most inimical in the last three decades of any foreign policy matter,” he said. “So it’s not easy to be in the middle of two enemies, and obviously you expect to be suspected.”

He has been on the faculty at Rutgers since 1983, and is the former director of the university’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He is the founder and president of the American Iranian Council, a public policy think tank that delves into U.S.-Iran relations.

Global protest calls for canning SOPA-by-stealth treaty’s IP bits – Fears about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have surfaced again, with a pair of open letters calling on negotiators to remove provisions applying to intellectual property.

The TPP is a treaty being negotiated among Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Controversially, the treaty’s full text has not been released for public scrutiny: citizens of the negotiating nations have generally been told the treaty is in their best interests and they therefore needn’t ask too many questions.

That may not sound too bad if you live in non-participating nations, save for two things.

The first is that the TPP is thought to contain provisions a lot like those contained in the hated, and ultimately defeated, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The second is that the USA likes to harmonise its relationships, so if the TPP gets up it will be a way for the USA to bring SOPA to the world, by stealth.

The second letter (PDF) attacks the expected TPP provision to extend copyright to 50 years beyond the death of a content creator on the grounds that the public domain is stronger the more stuff is in it. Extending copyright, the letter adds, just puts more cash into publishers’ pockets at the expense of the rest of us.

Verizon Fielded 150K User Data Requests This Year – The U.S. government made approximately 150,000 requests for Verizon customer information in the first half of 2014, the nation’s largest mobile carrier reported on Tuesday.

From January until June, Verizon received 72,342 subpoenas, 37,327 court orders, and 14,977 warrants from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the company said in its latest transparency report. Verizon also received 24,257 emergency requests and between 0 and 999 National Security Letters from the FBI in the first half of 2014.

Verizon said the “vast majority” of the requests it received related to consumer customers. The company got “very few” demands regarding its enterprise customers.

“We do not release customer information unless authorized by law, such as a valid law enforcement demand or an appropriate request in an emergency involving the danger of death or serious physical injury,” the report notes.

In the first half of the year, Verizon rejected approximately 3 percent of the subpoenas and approximately 4.5 percent of court orders and warrants it received.

Report: Snowden applies for extended asylum in Russia – U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has applied for extended asylum in Russia, according to news reports.

Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has leaked details of the agency’s worldwide surveillance activities, will seek an extension after Russia’s approval for him to stay expires on July 31, according to a Wednesday report in Russia news site RT.com.

Snowden, living in Russia for the past year, has submitted documents to “prolong his stay,” said his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, quoted in the story.

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2 Comments

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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 10, 2014

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill

    Re: In sexting case, Virginia prosecutors want to photo teen’s genitalia.

    What a pack of sick bastards. What are they going to do, camp out in his bedroom until he is “aroused”? Tie him to a chair and hold his eyes open with matchsticks and make him watch porn?

    Yet, here in Australia, I read an article yesterday about how some “expert” thinks that sending children in school to the “naughty corner” breaches their human rights. What a total load of crap. My money is on the teenager in Virginia who has a case of his rights being breached.

    I really wonder where this world is headed sometimes, I really do.

    Cheers
    Mal

    • Hey Mal,

      You may have the solution – “Tie him to a chair and hold his eyes open with matchsticks and make him watch porn?” In a multilevel “justice” system such as the one which operates in the U.S., and elsewhere – the poor (you’re going to jail), middle income (much less likely than the poor to be incarcerated), upper income (connections and money means one is unlikely to be incarcerated despite the gravity of the offense) – such an extreme solution will in all probability, be employed. They may hold off on the matchsticks. 🙂

      Despite the fact that the U.S. holds roughly 5% of the world’s population, it currently hold approximately 27% of the world’s prisoners. Ideology, once more, trumps common sense – particularly in this case.

      Here’s hoping that the District Attorney who signed off on these charges gets his ass kicked out the door. Forever and a day, he should be held up to shame and ridicule.

      Have a great weekend, mate.

      Best,

      Bill