Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 13, 2014

Can Your Security Software Block Exploit Attacks?  How to Record Your Customer Service Calls;  Track who’s buying politicians with “Greenhouse” browser add-on;  Dropbox with QuickDrop for Chrome;  The Best Upcoming Cell Phones;  Om One: a levitating speaker you never knew you wanted;  How to install a new hard drive in your desktop PC;  How to securely overwrite deleted files with a built-in Windows tool;  8.5 percent of Twitter accounts are bots;  Google tightens Gmail spam filtering;  The 16 best one-hand Android games for fun on the go;  Geek Answers: Why do we have blood types?  The Glov Will Make You The Inspector Gadget Of Sex Toys;  Nero MediaHome (free);  NSA Internet Metadata Program Collected More Than Was Allowed, Shared Data Too Broadly.

Can Your Security Software Block Exploit Attacks? – A typical exploit kit contains numerous attacks that gain control of victim computers through security holes in the operating system, in the browser, or in common applications. If you fail to keep your software updated, a security suite is your only defense. A recent test by China-based PC Security Labs showed that some products are much more effective than others at this particular task.

Track who’s buying politicians with “Greenhouse” browser add-on – Nicholas Rubin, a 16-year-old programmer from Seattle, has created a browser add-on that makes it incredibly easy to see the influence of money in US politics. Rubin calls the add-on Greenhouse, and it does something so brilliantly simple that once you use it you’ll wonder why news sites didn’t think of this themselves. Greenhouse pulls in campaign contribution data for every Senator and Representative, including the total amount of money received and a breakdown by industry and size of donation. It then combines this with a parser that finds the names of Senators and Representatives in the current page and highlights them. Hover your mouse over the highlighted names and it displays their top campaign contributors.

Dropbox with QuickDrop for Chrome – The QuickDrop extension gives you access to your Dropbox files and folders from a browser button and lets you upload files simply by dragging and dropping them to Chrome.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google Opens Classroom, Its Learning Management Tool, To All Teachers – Classroom, which is now available in 42 languages, gives teachers access to a content management system that allows them to post updates and homework assignments, add and remove students from their classes, and provide them with feedback (including grades). Unsurprisingly, the service is deeply integrated with Google Drive and the productivity applications, such as Google Docs and Slide. The service is free for schools as part of the Google Apps for Education suite.

How to Record Your Customer Service Calls – Tired of reneged promises and bogus charges? Flip the script on shady customer service and get it all on the record. Here are a few simple ways to record your next phone call.

Internet hiccups today? You’re not alone. Here’s why – It’s not just you. Many Internet providers have been having trouble as they run into long expected (but not adequately prepared for) routing table problems.

Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Free – You still need standard signature-based antivirus protection —those old viruses, Trojans, and other malicious programs aren’t going away. But antivirus alone isn’t sufficient to protect you against zero-day exploits. Zero-day means it’s never been seen before, so there’s no way a signature could exist. Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Free, the free, feature-limited version of Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Premium, protects against exploits and doesn’t need any signatures. Read my review of the premium edition, everything in that review applies to the free edition as well, with a few exceptions that ‘ll summarize here.

(I’ve been running with this freebie since the initial beta release – as per the following screen shot. A worthwhile addition to a layered security approach.)


The Best Upcoming Cell Phones – In the market for a new mobile phone? Don’t pull the trigger just yet: These models look promising. Many of these devices will see September launches and October or November releases as they filter onto the four major U.S. wireless carriers. We’ll have reviews of all of them as they hit the U.S., of course. Take a look at our top 10 upcoming cell phones below.

Twitter video ads enter beta, are heading to your feed – Video advertisements are heading to your Twitter feed, with the company announcing that after months of testing, it is pushing its so-called Promoted Video platform into beta mode. Fortunately, the ads won’t auto-play when you scroll past them.

Yelp reviewers file class-action suit, want compensation – Should you get paid for reviewing restaurants and other businesses on Yelp? More to the point, did you know a group of people already do? A new class-action lawsuit, filed by Yelp reviewers, aims to pay you for reviews.

Messenger app users worry how Facebook uses a device’s phone, camera – Facebook ignited a flood of criticism last week when it began requiring mobile users to load its Messenger app for Android and iOS separate from its basic Facebook app. Some users complained about having to use the separate app to send messages, photos or videos to their friends. Other users were concerned that the Messenger app stinks of Orwellian 1984-style invasions of privacy.


5 Reasons We Love Facebook Messenger – The Android Messenger app requests permission to take pictures and videos; record audio; receive text messages; and read your contacts – all things you need to contact and interact with your Facebook friends within the app. So, is it really a big deal? Should you avoid Messenger or is it a handy tool? We polled the PCMag staff to see what they thought about Messenger, and most had good things to say, save for those concerned about the permissions snafu and the extra space eaten up by Messenger. Here’s a rundown of their favorite features.

Microsoft turns (almost) any camera into a Kinect – Microsoft has been working on ways to make any regular 2D camera capture depth, meaning it could do some of the same things a Kinect does. As you can see in the video below the team managed to pull this off and we might see this tech all around in the near future. What’s really impressive is that this works with many types of cameras. The research team used a smartphone as well as a regular webcam and both managed to achieve some impressive results. Of course the cameras have to be slightly modified but that’s only to permit more IR light to hit the sensor.


Om One: a levitating speaker you never knew you wanted – Bluetooth speakers are fairly boring in today’s market, but this one has set itself apart. So far apart, it’s not even touching anything. The Om One is a levitating Bluetooth speaker that has no wires during operation, and can be taken with you wherever you like.


Create a full realistic 3D avatar of yourself with Kinect for Windows v2 – Microsoft finally began shipping its second-generation Kinect sensor for Windows last month, priced at $199. Just a few weeks on, developers are already beginning to share some of the results of their efforts using the latest Kinect version. One such example, highlighted this week by Microsoft, is Mixamo, a 3D animation platform based in San Francisco. Mixamo created Fuse, a 3D modelling software suite that uses Kinect for Windows v2 to take a scan your body, and create a realistic 3D avatar of you on screen – one that actually looks like you.


Microsoft Updates Windows 8.1 And Surface Tablets – It’s a big day in the Windows world, with Microsoft rolling out a grip of security patches, updates for Surface tablets, and new capabilities for Windows 8.1 as part of its August update. Nine security updates are part of the package, addressing what Microsoft calls “37 unique Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures.” The Surface updates are a bit more interesting, impacting Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro and Surface RT devices. Expect a mix of stability improvements and hardware tweaks.

How to install a new hard drive in your desktop PC – Installing an internal hard drive is one of the more straightforward upgrades out there—and is often a better option than using external drives that are slower and may be dropped or misplaced. The process usually requires no more than mounting it, connecting a couple of cables, and formatting the drive for use. Still, there are a few things you should know to make installation as smooth as possible.

Next gen reversible USB system released – The USB 3.0 Promoter Group has announced the release of its next generation USB Type-C specification, delivering a reversible cable and connector system to the market almost two years after Apple did the same with its proprietary Lightning cable.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.6 beta is ready for testing – Want a more up-to-date Red Hat Enterprise Linux but not ready to jump all the way the RHEL 7? Then this beta is for you.


How to securely overwrite deleted files with a built-in Windows tool – When you delete a file in Windows, you’re just removing the pointer. The data is still there. Here’s how to make sure that data is gone, baby, gone.


Google tightens Gmail spam filtering – The company is tackling scammers’ use of similar Unicode characters for tricking users into going to malicious websites.

8.5 percent of Twitter accounts are bots – Twitter has confirmed in official documentation that 23 million – around 8.5 percent – of its 271 million monthly active users are actually automated ‘bot’ accounts, and not authored by real people.

Financial firms not offering two factor authentication – None of the financial firms mentioned in a recent New York Times article offered two factor authenticaton. But, even if they did, you should still use a Chromebook in Guest Mode for financial transactions.

ATM Skimming: A Refresher – Card skimming is not as well-known to the general public as phishing in this part of the globe. Fortunately, most major banks have stepped up their efforts to safeguard their clients from potential card cloning and fraud in general. Despite these, however, getting users involved by making them aware of tactics and skimming devices can result in very effective anti-fraud efforts. That said, dishing out some helpful resources at this point is timely.


Facebook ordered to disclose records on underage users – Facebook says it doesn’t keep them longer than six months, but a court in Belfast is nonetheless ordering it to hand over any records it might have or control about its underage users. The case concerns a girl who, starting at the age of 11, took out four Facebook accounts and used them to post sexually suggestive photos.

Company News:

OnePlus holds misguided beauty contest for women to bolster ailing image – In a move that’s guaranteed to go down in history as one of the most misguided attempts at positive PR in history, OnePlus has initiated a “ladies first” contest for smartphone invites. The best part? Contestants don’t get the chance to win a phone, they get the chance to win an “invite” to purchase a phone. Oh, and a T-shirt, of course.


Why Amazon won’t stop picking fights with its partners – The online retailer ramps up its public war with publishers and studios in the name of pricing. Will consumers care?

Yahoo acquires ‘Pandora for places’ startup Zofari – Yahoo has added yet another startup to the fold with the purchase of app developer Zofari, a provider of location-based recommendations.

Games and Entertainment:

The 16 best one-hand Android games for fun on the go – With a few minutes to spare, and one hand free, you need to find some games you can play with the same hand you’re holding your phone with. Your choices aren’t as limited as you might think. You’ll find that most of the titles are designed specifically with the portrait orientation in mind. However, some games are good enough to bend the rules, and you’ll see a couple games sprinkled in that are played in landscape mode.

Goat Simulator coming to iOS, Android, and Xbox – Goat Simulator was originally released as a kind of joke; a really good joke, too. Since capturing the simple mindset of those of us who found favor in pretending to be a goat, the game has spread like wildfire for the desktop. Now it seems iOS, Android, and Xbox are getting in on the fun, too.


Xbox One Getting Mobile TV Streaming, Plus DLNA And USB Playback – Microsoft is still listening to fans when it comes to adding features to the Xbox One. A new update that will begin rolling out to people in the early access program this month adds a number of top requests, including media playback from USB or DLNA that will support a bunch of new file formats, including mpeg 2 TS and MKVs. The One will also gain the ability to stream TV on a local network to smartphones and tablets running the Xbox SmartGlass app.

‘Best Fiends’ Targets Angry Birds, Candy Crush – Seriously, the new kid on the mobile gaming block, has wasted no time making a play for the in-crowd. The startup today launched its Best Fiends website, providing a first look at an animated game heading to your smartphone or tablet in October.


Steam beta code hints at music, movies and TV shows on the way – Modern consoles offer not just gaming, but also access to a wide variety of entertainment services. It seems that this reality is not lost on Valve, as BGR reports. Twitter account @SteamDB noted that numerous new app types appear to be supported in the latest Steam beta update. Movies, TV shows, plugins and music are new additions that were not present in previous releases.


Sony Teases A Virtual Couch Mode For PS4 Multiplayer – Even If Your Friend Doesn’t Own  – The Share Play features include two new remote multiplayer modes, both of which give players the chance to experience playing with friends despite not actually owning their friends’ games. Pass The Controller lets two players alternate turns on a game, as if they’re sitting next to each other on a couch – passing the controller back and forth – in the same room. This means you can play fighters or have collaborative gameplay without one of the people involved actually owning the game. This is literally game changing. It greatly lowers the cost of entry for having great multiplayer experiences, and hopefully it gets picked up by a number of developers.

GameStop’s simplified trade-in pricing has 4 tiers, here’s how it works – GameStop was rumored to be removing all the complexity from its trade-in program last week, and the company has now confirmed it is doing exactly that. Next time you go to trade in a game at your local GameStop you can expect just 4 tiers of pricing rather than the 10+ you had to choose from before.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Geek Answers: Why do we have blood types? – Blood types are terribly inconvenient, aren’t they? In the case of injury or disease, you can’t just take blood from any nearby warm body and transfuse it into someone. No, their blood types have to match, but have you ever wondered what that collection of letters and mathematical operators really means? I mean, why do we have blood types anyway?


The Glov Will Make You The Inspector Gadget Of Sex Toys – The Glov is meant to solve the problem of putting any real effort into pleasuring yourself. The Glov lets you attach a fun sex toy to the end of an admittedly awkward glove so that you can use much less energy to get things going, so to speak. Obviously, this thing may make you look like the Inspector Gadget of sex toys, but at the same time, it could make you the Inspector Gadget of sex toys. Think about it.


Steve Ballmer is $2b lighter after Los Angeles Clippers purchase comes to a close – It’s official, after months of delays, ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is the new owner of the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Clippers. The decision became final this morning after disgraced former owner Donald Sterling, tried to prevent the sale, resulting in months of legal battles. The courts have ruled in favor that Donald Sterling’s wife, Shelly Sterling, had the authority to sell the team on behalf of her husband; Steve Ballmer will pay $2 billion dollars for the team.

Facial recognition tech leads feds to fugitive after 14 years – In 2000, after being accused of child sex abuse and kidnapping in New Mexico, Neil Stammer skipped town and went underground. Fourteen years later he was arrested in Nepal. How did the authorities catch this fugitive? Facial recognition technology.


The IBM PC: Was it really only 33 years ago? – It might seem to some that the IBM PC was invented aeons ago, but for me it seems like happened only yesterday and my, it was exciting.


Something to think about:

“Walk a mile in my shoes

Walk a mile in my shoes

Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse

Walk a mile in my shoes”

–     Joe South

Today’s Free Downloads:

Nero MediaHome – Organize, manage and control all of your media from one place.

One-Click Copying – Whether it’s a home video of your baby’s first step or a series of clips from your skydiving trip, these are the memories that are worth saving. Make backup copies of your favorite videos onto DVD and Blu-ray Disc to watch and relive those unique moments anytime your heart desires.

One-Click Sync and Upload – From your digital camera to your Android™ phone or from your PC to tablet, no matter what you’re moving, all it takes is one click. Import, sync and convert your favorite tunes to your Android phone, import photos from your digital camera or watch a movie on your tablet and never worry if it’s in the correct format or not. – With Nero MediaHome.

Play everything – Party video from your mobile phone? Vacation videos from your AVCHD digital camera? Or your favorite HD movie on Blu-ray Disc? You’ve got digital content from so many places, sometimes it’s a hassle to have to format your files before enjoying them—until now. Nero MediaHome Playback gives you the freedom to play it all straight through, no matter where the video clip is from or which camera took the photo. We’ll deal with the formatting so you can sit back and enjoy. – With Nero MediaHome Playback.

Face the World – A photo captures a moment, but a slideshow tells a story. Share the stories from your life with friends, family, and the world. We make it easy to create and share your slideshows of life’s finest moments to Facebook or YouTube.


Counter-Strike Online – Counter-Strike Online brings you the same action packed game as the original plus new feature, weapons, maps and mods. And zombies!

Survive the onslaught of the undead in the Dark City. Turn the day into your ally and use it as an advantage over the zombies. But when darkness falls, all hell breaks loose and the zombies turn the tables on the survivors. Be wary of the Night Stalker as he walks among the living…


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NPR Is Laundering CIA Talking Points to Make You Scared of NSA Reporting – On August 1, NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast a story by NPR national security reporter Dina Temple-Raston touting explosive claims from what she called “a tech firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.” That firm, Recorded Future, worked together with “a cyber expert, Mario Vuksan, the CEO of ReversingLabs,” to produce a new report that purported to vindicate the repeated accusation from U.S. officials that “revelations from former NSA contract worker Edward Snowden harmed national security and allowed terrorists to develop their own countermeasures.”

The “big data firm,” reported NPR, says that it now “has tangible evidence” proving the government’s accusations. Temple-Raston’s four-minute, 12-second story devoted the first 3 minutes and 20 seconds to uncritically repeating the report’s key conclusion that ”just months after the Snowden documents were released, al-Qaeda dramatically changed the way its operatives interacted online” and, post-Snowden, “al-Qaeda didn’t just tinker at the edges of its seven-year-old encryption software; it overhauled it.” The only skepticism in the NPR report was relegated to 44 seconds at the end when she quoted security expert Bruce Schneier, who questioned the causal relationship between the Snowden disclosures and the new terrorist encryption programs, as well as the efficacy of the new encryption.

With this report, Temple-Raston seriously misled NPR’s millions of listeners. To begin with, Recorded Future, the outfit that produced the government-affirming report, is anything but independent. To the contrary, it is funded by the CIA and U.S. intelligence community with millions of dollars. Back in 2010, it also filed forms to become a vendor for the NSA. (In response to questions from The Intercept, the company’s vice president Jason Hines refused to say whether it works for the NSA, telling us that we should go FOIA that information if we want to know. But according to public reports, Recorded Future “earns most of its revenue from selling to Wall Street quants and intelligence agencies.”)

NSA Internet Metadata Program Collected More Than Was Allowed, Shared Data Too Broadly –  now-defunct National Security Agency (NSA) bulk collection program that collected information about online communications exceeded its authority, collected too much, and shared that information too freely, recently declassified court documents show.

The program collected, according to the official IC On The Record Tumblr page, “certain electronic communications metadata such as the ‘to,’ ‘from,’ and ‘cc’ lines of an email and the email’s time and date.” The compliance issues detailed below are generally self-reported, and thus cannot be treated as the full extent of the NSA’s overreaches of its authority during the life of the particular program.

The government, the document indicates, “acknowledges that NSA exceeded the scope of authorized acquisition continuously during the more than [redacted] years of acquisition under [the] orders.”

According to the document, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC, which in this post is referred to as the FISA court) authorized the NSA to “engage in the bulk acquisition of specified categories of metadata about Internet communications.” Queries were to be executed through the use of “seed” accounts, which the material defines as “Internet accounts for which there was a reasonable articulable suspicion (‘RAS’) that they were associated with a targeted international terrorist group.”


1 Comment

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

One response to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 13, 2014


    Excellent article on npr-nsa.