Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 11, 2014

Silent Circle Takes on Skype With Expanded Encrypted Calling;  Spotify launches invite queue for Canadian users;  What are all those other Microsoft updates?  Create a Google-free Android phone;  Video: How to Properly Delete Your Android Phone or Tablet Data;  Study: Most apps in the App Store are “zombies”;  11 ways LXLE Linux will make you forget all about XP;  The host with the most: make party planning easier with apps;  Hands-on iPad games with real pieces give kids new ways to play;  Sales of Big Smartphones Are Totally Killing Tablets;  Computer shutting down on its own? Maybe it’s time to play it cool;  Adobe Flash: The most INSECURE program on a UK user’s PC;  RocketSkates bring motors to your feet.

Silent Circle Takes on Skype With Expanded Encrypted Calling – The privacy-focused communications firm on Thursday announced a major international expansion of its so-called “Out-Circle” feature, which lets members make and receive encrypted calls to non-subscribers. Beginning today, those who enroll in Silent Circle’s encrypted international calling plans will receive a unique 10-digit Silent Phone number letting them chat with their friends in 79 countries without roaming charges, even if those people are not Silent Circle subscribers.

FreedomPop’s Free Mobile Service Goes International – FreedomPop’s free mobile service company is going global. The company is partnering with Dutch carrier KPN to test drive its service in Belgium. If all goes well, FreedomPop will expand to the U.K, Germany, France, Spain, and the Pacific Rim with additional carrier partners. FreedomPop arrived in 2012 with the intention of rewriting the rules of the telecom industry. Last year, it launched a free phone service using Sprint’s network, with calling and texting going through a voice-over-IP system.

Computer shutting down on its own? Maybe it’s time to play it cool – Heating problems are almost always ventilation problems. Most PCs use several fans to circulate air through the case to bring down the temperature. If your PC is getting too hot too often, something is probably blocking the ventilation. Desktops and laptops have different ventilation issues. Here’s how to fix each. (Quick Tip – install Open Hardware Monitor. Open Hardware Monitor is free open source software that monitors temperature sensors, fan speeds, voltages, load and clock speeds of a computer.)

Video: How to Properly Delete Your Android Phone or Tablet Data – Here’s an extra step to ensure it’s safe to get rid of your old Android device.

What are all those other Microsoft updates? – Microsoft released a lot more than security updates yesterday, as they do every month.  If you know where to look, you can keep on top of the non-security updates.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Secret to Happiness: Quit Facebook for 99 Days? – If that sounds like bliss, head over to the campaign’s website to join the experiment, dubbed 99 Days of Freedom. Participants are asked to post a “time-off” image as their profile picture and create a personal countdown to share on the social network, letting all your friends know what’s up. From there, you’ll receive anonymous “happiness surveys” at the 33-, 66-, and 99-day marks. The results will be posted to the group’s website as they’re compiled. There’s also a message board through which participants can anonymously share how the break from Facebook is affecting their lives.

11 ways LXLE Linux will make you forget all about XP – Windows XP’s long run may have finally come to an end, but that doesn’t mean your XP-era hardware has to go too. No indeed: There are numerous options available in the Linux world, and one shining example is LXLE. A brand-new LXLE 14.04 made its debut a few weeks ago, and it’s packed with new features while remaining lightweight and speedy. With an XP mode among several other desktop options, this zippy OS needs less than a minute to boot and get online. Don’t try that on your Windows machine. Ready for a look? Read on, then, and see what your older PC hardware could be doing.

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Spotify launches invite queue for Canadian users – The long-awaited arrival of Spotify in Canada is nearing, if a new pre-invite queue page that has surfaced is any indication. Interested parties in Canada can now submit their email address to get in line for an invitation to the music service.

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Microsoft updates Skype for Mac – Microsoft has updated Skype for Mac, bringing various stability improvements and bug fixes, including resolving an issue that would sometimes cause the app to crash when sending or receiving files.

Study: Most apps in the App Store are “zombies” – When announcing the prowess of their respective app marketplaces, both Google and Apple like to discuss how many apps there are. They don’t discuss the actual makeup of their marketplaces, though. A recent study notes that up to 80% of apps in the App Store are “zombie” apps — and no, we don’t mean games.

Advanced Android: Creating your own Google-free Android phone – When you buy an Android phone or tablet, it’s the expectation that Google will be deeply integrated. However, what if you don’t want to use Google’s services or apps because of privacy or ethical concerns? Android is open source, so there’s nothing stopping you from doing just that. Leaving the relative safety of the Google ecosystem means you’re cut off from all the usual apps and tools, but it’s quite possible to leave Mountain View beyond as you take your Android experience to the expert level.

Sales of Big Smartphones Are Totally Killing Tablets – The rising popularity of bigger ‘phablet’ smartphones is hurting tablet sales. Tablet PC shipments fell in the first quarter of 2014 for the first time, a sign that customers are turning to large-screen smartphones instead of products like the Apple iPad. The study forecasts that in 2014 the year-on-year growth rate of tablet PC sales — once a primary growth driver for the smart device market, especially after the iPad debuted in 2010 — will fall 14%, a revised estimate that docked NPD’s original predicted growth rate by 3%. By 2017, the rate will slow to single digits.

The host with the most: make party planning easier with apps – Don’t let your big bash become a big burden. Use these tips to remove the stress and crank up the fun for your next party.

Hands-on iPad games with real pieces give kids new ways to play – The iPad can be tons of fun for kids, but the trick is to balance hands-off activities like watching a movie with hands-on projects like making your own. Osmo is hands on—it’s a set of iPad games played with real-world pieces, and unique stand with a red plastic piece that redirects the iPad’s front-facing camera to the game pieces as your child interacts with them on a table or floor.

Open links in new tabs without loading them with Silent Tab – Firefox add-on adds an option to open a link in a new tab without loading the page until you switch to the tab.

New site: We’ll tell you how mansion owners made their money – Mansion Map is a faintly creepy new site that lets you discover who lives in the biggest houses and how the 1 percent of the 1 percent made their money.

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I wonder who lives there. Mansion Map

Marketing to women on social media: 5 tips for doing it better – Forget about pictures of women smiling eating salads. Here are 5 ways to update your brand’s approach to reaching women online. Women control the majority of household spending but still experience a disconnect in the ways brands talk to them.

‘Apple is TERRIFIED of women’s bodies and women’s pleasure’ – Apple is weathering a sexism storm after its website apparently refused to engrave a raunchy poem on a newly ordered iPhone. Enraged that the California giant allowed penis, dick and similar words to be engraved on mobes – but, crucially, not clit – men and women in favour of equal opportunities have given Apple boss Tim Cook a piece of their mind on Twitter. Using the hashtag myclitmychoice, huge numbers of angry feminists demanded the iThing CEO step in, and allow them to engrave various names for lady parts on their new gadgets. (Apple is hardly alone in it’s despicable behaviour. Facebook comes to mind as a misogynistic pile of crap. I often wonder, if the misfits who fail to address gender issues have a mother, sister, wife, girlfriend……. or, were they simply hatched out behind the barn.)

Big data is just a big, distracting bubble, soon to burst – Business has bought into the mythology of big data and pervasive “surveillance-based marketing and advertising”, but its time is coming to an end, says ‘Doc’ Searls. Big data, he said, is nothing more than the myth that collecting vast amounts of data can help companies know customers better than those customers even know themselves.

Security:

Adobe Flash: The most INSECURE program on a UK user’s PC – Adobe Flash Player was the most insecure program installed on UK computer users PCs throughout the second quarter of 2014, according to stats from vulnerability management firm Secunia. Nearly seven in 10 (69 per cent) UK PC users were found to have an end-of-life version of Adobe Flash Player 13 installed during Q2 2014. Users had not updated to version 14.

Emergency Windows update revokes dozens of bogus Google, Yahoo SSL certificates – Microsoft has issued an emergency update for most supported versions of Windows to prevent attacks that abuse recently issued digital certificates impersonating Google and Yahoo. Company officials warned undiscovered fraudulent credentials for other domains may still be in the wild. Thursday’s unscheduled update effectively blocks 45 highly sensitive secure sockets layer (SSL) certificates that hackers managed to generate after compromising systems operated by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) of India.

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Protecting email at a hacker conference – The upcoming hacker conferences, HOPE, Black Hat and DEFCON make this a good time to think about email security. Rather than end to end security, which requires both the sender and recipient to use the same security software, my focus here is on securing normal ordinary boring email. Hackers make for great headlines, but these techniques apply in any hostile environment. A case could be made that they apply on any shared network.

International law enforcement operation disrupts Shylock banking malware – Police from eight countries together with several private security companies disrupted the online infrastructure used by cybercriminals to control computers infected with a malware program called Shylock. Shylock is a Trojan program that first appeared in 2011, primarily targeting online banking. The threat is named after a fictional character in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” because it includes fragments from the play in its binary files.

Company News:

Satya Nadella’s Vision For A New Microsoft – This morning Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella released an internal memo detailing his vision for the company’s future. The new chief executive used the missive as a way to signal an intentional break with the past.

EU court upholds record €152m Telefonica antitrust fine – The huge fine, handed down for abusing its dominant broadband position, will have to be paid in full by Telefonica after its latest appeal failed.

FTC Takes Legal Action Against Amazon For Unauthorized In-app Purchases – The filing follows Amazon’s refusal to comply with the FTC’s request to implement a “consent” model similar to the one Apple conceded to earlier this year, according to a letter Amazon sent to the FTC last week. 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. (You can be sure that when Amazon is found in violation of the FTC’s directive, any fine (and that is debatable), will be a fraction of the fine imposed on Telefonica – as per the article above.)

Amazon wants FAA to let them stretch their drone wings – Do you remember those Amazon drones, the ones the company thinks will be delivering your packages? Those are a real thing, and Amazon is trying to make a go of it. They’ve sent a letter to the FAA asking to test the drones on longer flights. Their goal is innovation, as they say they need to let the little guys stretch their proverbial wings.

Games and Entertainment:

Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm is going to work, and we’re all going to love it – After playing the technical alpha for a little while, the success of Blizzard’s official attempt at a MOBA isn’t actually a question worth answering. Instead, you’re better off measuring how much of your life you plan to offer as tribute when the game finally launches.

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Seven years on, Halo 3’s last known Easter egg has been discovered – The next chapter in the hugely successful Halo series is due to arrive next year, with the launch of Halo 5: Guardians, and Xbox One gamers have the added excitement of the remastered ‘Master Chief Collection’ to look forward to as well. But as many look to the future, one tiny element in an earlier game has eluded discovery – until now. What appears to be the final ‘Easter egg’ hidden in Halo 3 has now been discovered, ending a search that has lasted almost seven years since the game’s launch in September 2007.

The Incredibly Difficult Wayward Souls Comes to Android in Search of More Gamers to Torment – There’s a bit of a trend lately to make games harder again. Maybe you remember playing games on the NES back in the day and dying for real. As in, “game over, all your hard work is lost,” kind of dying. The dungeon crawler Wayward Souls arrived on iOS a few months ago with punishing difficulty and permanent death. Now it has been ported over to Android so a whole new group of gamers can throw their devices in frustration.

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Watch Dogs Has Shipped 8 Million Copies to Date, Says Ubisoft – This is what lots of buildup and unparalleled anticipation will buy you: 8 million copies shipped of a game that’s really not too shabby, but at the same time nothing like the breakthrough event Ubisoft pitched it as in the lengthy lead-up to its debut.

Off Topic (Sort of):

RocketSkates bring motors to your feet – Skateboards, bicycles, even scooters — all valid ways to get around, but none quite as eye-catching as the RocketSkates, a Kickstarter effort that has hit its funding goal and promises to shuttle you around town using nothing but your feet.

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Tech Company With $39 In Assets Now Worth More Than $6B – Are we in a bubble? We’re in a bubble. CYNK Technology, a ‘company’ with a grand total of $39 in assets, has seen its share price rise dramatically, spiking to a valuation of more than $6 billion in a matter of days. The company’s 52-week low valued the firm at less than $18 million.

Windsor cops arrest man over Facebook video that showed police HQ being ‘shot’ with rocket – A 44-year-old man is facing a criminal charge because he allegedly posted on Facebook a video using a phone app depicting police headquarters being blown up.

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Comment following this newspaper article – “Would it still have been a crime if he used ‘zombies’ rather than a rocket launcher on the same app? Absolutely ridiculous waste of tax dollars. It will get tossed out of court and I hope he sues.”

Y2K bug sends draft notices to 14,000 19th century Pennsylvanians – Remember that whole Y2K thing? I sure do, what with my older brother furiously correcting COBOL code for panicked businesses throughout northeast Ohio. Amazingly, 15 years later Y2K bugs are still causing shenanigans: thousands of Pennsylvania citizens — most of whom died many, many years ago — were just sent draft notices by the U.S. Army.

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Couple jailed for selling both their sons to fund in-game item purchases – An unwed couple in China are currently in jail awaiting trial after they sold not one, but both of their sons in order to be able to buy items in their favorite free-to-play online games. The first son was not a planned pregnancy and the father did not want to pay for his upbringing, so they decided to sell him to a child trafficker. Typically these children are then sold on to Chinese couples wanting a child, to orphanages for sales overseas, or even to street gangs!

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This guy turned his basement into the Starship Enterprise – Anthony Sforza can count himself among the most dedicated “Star Trek” fans of all time. Over the course of the last three years, Sforza logged over 1,500 hours working primarily at night to convert his basement into an awesome, livable tribute to the Starship Enterprise.

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The Most Common Misconceptions About 8 Big Tech Companies – The Internet has an established narrative for every big tech company. There are the innovators and the copycats, the rising stars and the dying veterans, the money-makers and the time-wasters. While there’s probably a little truth in all of these labels, each company’s story is built around a common misconception. So here’s my take on what we tend to get wrong about eight of the biggest tech titans.

Something to think about:

“Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.”

–     Elie Wiesel

Today’s Free Downloads:

StudioLine Photo Basic – StudioLine Photo Basic is an easy-to-use yet powerful management and editing software for digital photos. Images can be imported from camera, scanner and all popular file formats.

The image archive is the central database where you conveniently categorize your images and add keywords and descriptions. Standard IPTC and Exif tags are fully supported. 30 professional image tools are included to improve exposure problems, red-eye effects, color tones, etc.

Photos can be printed, emailed or uploaded as web galleries. CD/DVD writing is included.

New Customizable User Interface – The newly designed user interface offers panes for you to neatly organize descriptors, hints and image/folder information. Size, move, dock or hide panes to perfectly adapt StudioLine to your work flow. Even image tools can be restricted to a pane so that they don’t obstruct your view of your images.

XML Format for Exchanging Data with Other Applications – StudioLine Photo 3 can export metadata in XML format. This standard format simplifies the exchange of image descriptors with other applications.

Backup Reminders – A new backup assistant can remind you in regular intervals to backup your images and offer to launch the appropriate backup task. You choose whether the reminder is based on days elapsed or the number of new images.

Expanded Database Search by Time Spans – The new search engine has intuitive controls to restrict the search to a certain time span. This makes it even easier to find images of a particular event.

Convenient Search and Replace – The new function to replace image descriptors is ideal for correction spelling mistakes or to standardize similar keywords, e.g., “vintage car” vs. “classic car”.

Special Export and Email Filters – StudioLine Photo Classic 3 offers special filters for exporting and emailing. Images canbe cropped, sharpened and overlaid with text to prepare them for a particular one-timeuse.

Web-Gallery Design Wizard – Make up your own web gallery designs with the help of the new wizard. You choose the thumbnail size, borders, backgrounds and the use of image descriptors. Detail view pages with navigation links are designed in the same fashion. You can save your creations for later reuse.

Loading and Managing Media Files – With StudioLine Photo Classic 3 you also load and manage the audio and video files recorded by your digital camera. A new icon in the image archive allows you to play any voice annotation that you associated with an image.

Transition Effects for Slide Shows – The updated slide show offers a wide range of transition effects. You can pick your favorite or have StudioLine randomize the effect for each image.

Limitations: After installation you’ll be able to test all functions of StudioLine Photo Basic for 30 days. To continue using StudioLine Photo Basic 3 as a home user at no cost, simply request the complimentary activation code. StudioLine Photo Basic is only “Freeware” for personal use. Business or other commercial use requires purchase of a license.

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Speak-A-Message – Speak-A-Message offers the widest range of features for voice recording and voice email. Audio recording is three times faster than typing, great fun and lets you communicate with a more personal touch! New: Post your voice and photo messages to Facebook!

Speak-A-Message can automatically convert voice messages into text (requires Windows 7 or Vista). No need to type!

Features:

Record audio, voice and photo messages

Send voice emails

Upload to Facebook

Automatically convert voice messages into text

Insert voice comments into MS Word documents*

Add sound effects, dubbing

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

UK Fast Tracks Emergency Surveillance Law – The UK government has confirmed it will introduce emergency legislation next week that will require Internet and phone companies to keep records of customer metadata.

It said the aim of the new emergency legislation is to maintain existing data retention powers, after a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling — back in April — struck down European data retention powers on the grounds that they were too broad.

The UK government argues that without a new law, communications companies might start deleting user metadata, which would jeopardise law enforcement and security agencies’ abilities to conduct investigations and gather retrospective data for “evidential purposes.”

The coalition has secured cross-party support for the move, meaning it will be able to rush the legislation through parliament with the support of opposition MPs.

That support has been secured on the basis of the law having a two-year sunset clause, and a new oversight board being set up to have eyes on the functioning of the powers and ensure civil liberties are “properly considered” in the formulation of new counter-terrorism policy.

The board will be called The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and will be based on a US model — with the government citing David Anderson’s existing role as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation as its inspiration here. The board will report annually, detailing the frequency with which the police and security services are using the powers.

(The UK continues apace, setting new standards for western Europe’s premier failed democracy.)

Germany asks US intelligence chief in country to leave over spying affair – The top American intelligence officer in Germany has been asked to leave the country in the wake of revelations about National Security Agency spying and two recent cases in which the U.S. reportedly recruited German spies.

The request was made after months of questions about the activities of U.S. intelligence agencies in Germany went unanswered, the German federal government said in a news release Thursday.

A Parliamentary committee has been established to investigate U.S. intelligence operations in Germany, the government statement noted.

On July 2, an employee of the German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) intelligence agency was arrested, according to news reports.

The employee was arrested under suspicion of passing on information to Russian intelligence services, and also because he allegedly received money to pass information to a U.S. contact, according to reports. The information allegedly included details about the Parliamentary investigation into U.S. spying, according to German news media reports. German authorities confirmed the arrest.

(Until such time as the economic consequences to the American economy of Obama’s attacks against the WORLD become apparent (not only in IT), there is little hope that the troglodytes who continue to implement this unprecedented and ultimately self-defeating fiasco will admit their culpability. And damn, are they culpable.)

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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 11, 2014

  1. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    I would certainly give Spotify a try when it comes to Canada (if you’ve not already done so;)).

    I downloaded the free version a few months ago. I then got the offer of three months Premium for the price of one, which I am currently enjoying. With Premium, normally £9.99 a month in the UK, you get access to a vast amount of music of all genres from indie to classical. You can download newly-released albums to play offline, make playlists using suggestions based on your musical taste and, best of all in my case, stream the music to your Sonos system.

    Spotify may take a bit of getting used to but, to my mind, it’s well worth it. I did try Google’s Play Music All Access, following an article in a previous blog of yours. After a short time, though, I cancelled the subscription.

    As you can guess I’m a big fan of Spotify. My only gripe is that, in the US, the monthly subscription is only $9.99, equivalent to £5.84 at today’s rates.

    Even so, for the price of a single CD each month, I reckon it’s good value.

    Kind regards,
    John