Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 27, 2014

Chrome 64-bit browser finally available as a stable version;  HP recalls millions of power cords in US and Canada;  7 Things You Didn’t Know Your Chromecast Could Do;  Five ways to improve battery life on Windows;  Where to Sell Your iPhone for the Highest Price;  Take ‘taxers’ to task in Republican video game;  Microsoft to offer the Acer Aspire E 15 for $199, for one day only;  Turn your Google Docs into a published ebook (free);  How to quickly unsubscribe from ‘liked’ Facebook pages;  Simplicam tackles Dropcam with face-detection;  iPhones, iPads connected to Windows PCs are at risk;  Online identity: how safe are you on the internet?  Social Media Is Silencing Personal Opinion;  Destiny is the Future of Gaming: Good or Bad?  Mittens, Not M4s: What Ferguson Police Really Got from the Pentagon’s 1033 Program;  We wanted the web for free – but the price is deep surveillance;  How much difference is there between MP3, CD and 24-bit audio?

Chrome 64-bit browser finally available as a stable version: 64-bit browser claims better stability, performance, and security – The browser’s advantages are speed, security, and stability. Security is enhanced both through enabling new protection systems and making existing protection systems stronger. The 64-bit applications have much more memory available, thereby creating a much larger haystack in which to hide the needles that exploits look for. Google has its own protection systems that similarly try to separate different kinds of data in memory, and 64-bit likewise gives them more space to play with.

HP recalls millions of power cords in US and Canada – During a year rife with recalls (mostly of the automotive sort), HP has been forced to recall more than six million laptop power cords following multiple reports of them overheating and more. The recall is for both the United States and Canada, and covers cords sold from September 2010 up through the summer of 2012.

Microsoft Promises Fix For Surface Pro 3 Overheating Issue – The issue that is causing some Surface Pro 3 devices to restart and tell users that they are overheating is an error, according to Microsoft. The company has promised a fix in short order.

Manage What Happens to Your Online Accounts After You Die – Consider the size of your online presence—your Facebook account, which details your daily life and personal history; your email account, which contains a wealth of your personal and business communications; photos, music and documents you have stored in the cloud; online banking accounts and records; frequent flier miles and more. Will heirs be able to access your accounts to manage your affairs or do you want to prevent them from snooping around in virtual territory you want kept private? Will your accounts simply evaporate over time or will your Facebook page still be up long after you’re gone? While some people don’t care, others find the idea of their digital assets outliving them disconcerting. Creating a digital will helps you determine which accounts survive and which you take to your grave.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

7 Things You Didn’t Know Your Chromecast Could Do – Google announced a few updates for Chromecast at Google I/O earlier this summer – from Android mirroring to options that will make your Chromecast screen more aesthetically pleasing. And while the ultraportable device is pretty much plug and play, there are a few tips and tricks that can make casting more magical. Check them out in the slideshow.

Five ways to improve battery life on Windows – You shouldn’t have to be tethered to your desk to use your laptop. While battery life is improving, it still isn’t perfect. If you’ve got a Windows 8.1 machine, these tips will help you squeeze the most juice of your computer’s battery.

iPhone 6 release could drive the most old iPhone trade-ins ever – As the iPhone 6 launch approaches, more trade-in sites are clamoring for your old iPhone. eBay is leading the charge with the promise of a $100 coupon if you can’t sell yours on the auction site.

Take ‘taxers’ to task in Republican video game – There’s an old truism in politics: If you want to turn out the youth vote, you need to build an odd 8-bit video game to reach them and hope the vaguely Italian and homophonic name of the game’s hero isn’t offensive. Actually, maybe that’s more of a noobism, but it also describes “Giopi: 2014 Mission Majority,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s attempt at reaching out to young voters and procrastinators of all ages. This Super Mario Bros.-style scroller has Giopi (pronounced G-O-P; get it?) the elephant hopping on “taxers” and “mudlsingers” who sarcastically spout the same dozen or so Democratic gaffes (most of which need a little more context to be understood by those who don’t dine on Republican talking points each evening) when you jump on their heads.


Jump on the taxer and hit the switch to turn the Senate red.

Where to Sell Your iPhone for the Highest Price – If you’re smart, you can ditch your old phone for cash before buying that shiny new iPhone 5S. We list some of your options. But as with all things in life, timing is everything. You’ll likely get a better price for your phone before September 10, since most people aren’t organized and won’t bother trying to sell or trade in until after the launch, upping the supply of older models and consequently decreasing the price you can fetch for yours.

The Art and Craft of Windows Search – Sophisticated Searching – In the first part of this two-part series, we did the groundwork for an efficient search index configuration, and rebuilt and tested the index. Now we’re going to go further than simply typing in words and phrases as search terms, to look at how we can set up and combine search terms and conditions using the Advanced Query Syntax. (Article originally submitted under the title: “On the Synthesis of Search Terms in the Application of the Windows Search Algorithm to the Location of Desired Objects, with Particular Reference to the Precepts of Symbolic Logic Established by Professor Boole”.)   Smile

Microsoft to offer the Acer Aspire E 15 for $199, for one day only – Back-to-school season has started and many of us are looking to grab some great deals for electronics. Thankfully, it seems like Microsoft noticed the trend and decided to offer the Acer Aspire E 15, a Windows 8.1 device with some decent specifications, for $50 off. However, it must be noted that the offer will only be valid for only one day, or while the stocks last. It will be only available via the Microsoft Store site and the device will be available to purchase for $199, instead of the usual $249. For those interested, don’t forget to visit Microsoft Store early on Friday as the demand may turn out to be higher than the supply. Given the specifications for the price, it is hard to complain after all.


Liberio review: Turn your Google Docs into a published ebook – As self-publishing rises in popularity, startup Liberio can simplify the often tedious process of turning a document into an eBook.

How to quickly unsubscribe from ‘liked’ Facebook pages – Facebook Cleanser can help you scrub your feed clean, but you can accomplish much the same thing in Facebook’s settings.

Google News and Weather: your next key Android app – This week Google has updated the app known as “News & Weather.” This app is built-in with newer Android devices and software builds, and requires that you have Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or higher – that includes Jelly Bean, KitKat, and Honeycomb too. You’ll also need 2.3MB of space to install it.


MIX for Android Lets You Create And Save Custom Photo Filters – MIX for Android is the app for you if you often feel like Goldilocks when confronted with the filters in other photo-editing apps. Not only does MIX let you edit photos, but it also allows you to create custom filters, which you can then save to use again. MIX, now available for free on Google Play, is the latest product from Camera360, which has already gained 300 million users with its other apps, including its flagship product Camera360 Ultimate.


Three ways to use BitTorrent Sync to share your files without the cloud – BitTorrent’s latest version of Sync is so much easier to use. If you haven’t tried it out, now’s a good time. Here are three ways you can use the new app to sync files across your devices.

Simplicam tackles Dropcam with face-detection – Wireless security cameras like Dropcam are shaping up to be an integral part of the smart home experience, and ArcSoft is hoping its Simplicam will carve a niche courtesy of face detection. A compact WiFi camera with a companion cloud-based recording service, Simplicam offers alerts only if a human face is spotted in-frame, rather than just responding to any sort of movement.


Hands-On With Hyperlapse, Instagram’s New Video Creation App – The app looks dead simple, but is actually doing a lot in the background. When you first open Hyperlapse, you’ll go through a very quick tutorial and are then sent straight into a full-screen camera. The button on the bottom starts and stops recording. Once you have recorded a video, the app gives you a single control over the content: speed. Users can switch from 1x speed (a slower version) all the way up to 12x speed (super fast). But beyond speed, the real draw here is the ability to shoot a steady video on mobile that appears professionally shot.


Use this $35 card-size computer to build your next robot army – The Raspberry Pi can power that, or a home media center, and much more. Here’s how to install Raspbian and get cooking with Pi.


The Raspberry Pi B+ with a MicroSD card for scale.

Ars Technica System Guide: August 2014 – For any new readers, the main Ars System Guide is a three-system affair, with the traditional Budget Box, Hot Rod, and God Box addressing three different price points in the market from modest to a little crazy. The main System Guide’s boxes are general-purpose systems with a strong gaming focus, which results in fairly well-rounded machines suitable for most enthusiast use. They also make a solid starting point to spin off into a variety of configurations.


Your secrets may not be safe with anonymous sharing app Secret – “Share with friends, anonymously,” runs the tagline for smartphone app Secret. But what to do if that anonymity starts to break down, or if the secrets being shared are distinctly unfriendly? The popular but controversial social Android and iOS app is facing new scrutiny of its security and ethics policies this week, with its crackdown on cyberbullying undermined by claims that hackers can uncover people’s posts in the app using nothing more than their email addresses.

Automattic Acquires BruteProtect To Help Keep WordPress Users Safe – WordPress now powers so many websites, it’s no surprise that it’s a favorite target for hackers. To keep its users safe, Automattic – the company behind both and the open-source WordPress project — today announced that it has acquired BruteProtect, a security and management tool for WordPress. The BruteProtect plug-in is currently used on about 110,000 sites, but with this acquisition, WordPress will not only make BruteProtect’s premium service available for free, it will also include it in its Jetpack service. Jetpack allows WordPress users with self-hosted sites to get access to many of the cloud-hosted services that offers its users.

Researchers: iPhones, iPads connected to Windows PCs are at risk – At the USENIX Security Symposium, Georgia Tech researchers show how PC botnets could infect iOS devices to steal passwords.

Online identity: how safe are you on the internet? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: are you sharing too much of your life online? For our Amnesty Teen Takeover, author Bali Rai shares what he learned about our internet habits while writing his book Web of Darkness. Life can be scarier than fiction…

This card skimmer is a frightfully well-crafted fraud machine – Your credit or debit card is pretty darn thin. The slot on the ATM that you slide it into? It’s thin, too, but apparently there’s just enough room in there for a fraudster to slip in this device, steal your card data, and scam you out of your hard-earned cash.


Amazon’s newly purchased is offline thanks to a DDOS attack – Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it would be buying for nearly a billion dollars and now the service is being hit with a DDOS attack much like Sony’s online service a few days ago.

Company News:

Silicon Valley tech companies use underpaid black and Latino workers, says report – Silicon Valley technology companies use underpaid black, Latino and immigrant workers as janitors, cooks and security guards, according to a study released Monday. Tech companies have been targeted by civil rights groups, including the Rainbow Push Coalition of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, for not employing enough blacks and Latinos. Following demands from Jackson, some companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook released employee diversity data which showed that their employees in the U.S. were predominantly white followed by Asian.

Comcast tells government that its data caps aren’t actually “data caps” – For the past couple of years, Comcast has been trying to convince journalists and the general public that it doesn’t impose any “data caps” on its Internet service. That’s despite the fact that Comcast in some cities enforces limits on the amount of data customers can use and issues financial penalties for using more than the allotment. Comcast has said this type of billing will probably roll out to its entire national footprint within five years, perhaps alongside a pricier option to buy unlimited data.

Rogers And Shaw Team Up To Launch A Netflix Competitor For Canada Called ‘Shomi’ – Canadian cable giants aren’t just going to watch their audience slip away to streaming services – two of the nation’s biggest providers have joined forces to launch shomi, a new subscription-based service that provides access to shows on-demand, with apps for tablets, phones, web, Xbox 360 and set-top boxes at launch. The shomi service will be available only to Rogers and Shaw Internet or TV subscribers in its beta form, and it’ll be available beginning in November with an $8.99 per month price tag (the same, you’ll note, as Netflix.)

Snapchat valued at $10 billion, has 100 million monthly users – Snapchat is becoming ubiquitous with messaging, and that’s never been more evident than with today’s news of their valuation and user-base. A fresh funding round tells us that those backing Snapchat are doing so at a $10 billion valuation. That’s not just rare air for a messaging app — it’s an exclusive club not many startups can claim to be in.

Amazon’s Fire Phone is a dud, according to research – If you see someone on the street with a Fire Phone, take a picture. According to a new report, those folks are rare, and should be photographed as proof that yes — someone really did buy a Fire Phone. Combining data from comScore and Chitika, we find the Fire Phone may have been a dud, right from the get-go.

Games and Entertainment:

Bolt II Battle Box Titan Z Special Edition gaming PC includes liquid cooling – Digital Storm has introduced a new beast of a gaming machine, the Bolt II Battle Box Titan Z Special Edition. The mouthful title aside, the new computer is a liquid-cooled offering the maker says is designed to NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX Battle Box standard. The machine is available now for under $5,000.


Destiny is the Future of Gaming: Good or Bad? – Destiny, which will launch in around a month, is arguably the most anticipated game launching this year. The title, which is developed by Bungie in partnership with Activision, is being called a “shared-world shooter” and the first of its kind. It’s the game house’s first prominent go at the gaming space after Halo, and will ultimately make or break Bungie as a developer. But Destiny is more than just a game that could make or break a developer. The game is a title that could dramatically alter the course of our beloved industry and send it into a new direction. Destiny is a groundbreaking game that could invite a wide range of new gaming opportunities for developers to exploit.


Amazon proves it’s serious about gaming with Twitch buy – By dropping nearly a $1 billion to buy video game streaming site Twitch, Amazon is telling gamers that it’s no longer playing around. The move, which includes a price tag of $970 million in cash, may seem odd to the online retailer’s main customers, but it indicates Amazon wants a bigger piece of a multi-billion dollar gaming business. Buying Twitch, a site that live streams people playing games like League of Legends and DOTA 2, lets Amazon tap into the most loyal consumers of games — the hardcore gamers.

Moon Hunters: Where Legend of Zelda meets Gauntlet – Shattered Planet’s Kitfox Games is back for round two, this time exploring the fantastical rather than sci-fi: it has launched a Kickstarter for Moon Hunters, a game for up to four players the developer describes as a “myth-weaving RPG”. Set in an ancient fantasy world, you take the role of a hero: a generic adventurer who is called upon to help out when the Moon goes missing. With the Moon no longer providing its magical influence on the world, monsters begin to rise up, and your quest becomes a battle of life, death, wits, magic, and might.


Off Topic (Sort of):

How much difference is there between MP3, CD and 24-bit audio? – Debates rage over whether hi-res music is a gimmick. Three Guardian writers put four music formats – and their ears – to the test.

Social Media Is Silencing Personal Opinion – Even In The Offline World – Social media is not living up to its promise of being an online outlet for discussion that mirrors our communications and conversations that take place in the offline world. In fact, people are less willing to discuss important issues on social media, than they are in real life, a new report from Pew Research Center has found. It may seem like an obvious conclusion: of course, people are more hesitant to speak up with a contrary opinion when all their friends, family or colleagues feel differently. But there’s been little research that quantifies just how unwilling people are to take a potentially unpopular stance on outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

How the web lost its way – and its founding principles – When Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web 24 years ago he thought he’d created an egalitarian tool that would share information for the greater good. But it hasn’t quite worked out like that. What went wrong?

15 insanely stupid Apple predictions – The years have not been kind to Apple’s critics. Here are fifteen laughable predictions that show how Apple has been going out of business since 1984.

Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case – A top government cybersecurity official who secretly joined an online pedophile network to swap child sex abuse material and rape fantasies has been convicted. Timothy DeFoggi, 56, is described by the Department of Justice as being the former acting director of cyber security at the US Department of Health and Human Services. He was arrested, charged and brought to trial in Nebraska after the FBI investigated three child abuse websites – and found he had signed up as a member to at least one of them.

Mittens, Not M4s: What Ferguson Police Really Got from the Pentagon’s 1033 Program – VICE News obtained the complete inventory of military leftovers secured since 2007 by the Ferguson Police Department under the Pentagon’s 1033 program—and nothing on the list matched up with the militarized equipment police deployed during the protests.


Something to think about:

“Failure is the foundation for success, and the means by which it is achieved.”

–      Lao-tzu

Today’s Free Downloads:

Advanced SystemCare 8 Free Beta 1.0 – Advanced SystemCare 8 Free takes a one-click approach to protect, repair, clean, and optimize your PC. With over 150 MILLION downloads worldwide, this fantastic, award-winning, free PC repair software is a “must-have” tool for your computer. It’s easy to use and 100% safe with no adware, spyware, or viruses.

Why waste money on expensive “registry cleaners” to fix your PC when Advanced SystemCare Free can repair, tune up, and maintain it for you – for FREE!

What’s new:

+ Brand New User Interface – Simpler design with supporting maximizing UI.

+ New Theme Customization – Change theme easily with your loved pictures.

+ New Protect Module – Protect your browser homepages, search engine, online surfing and reinforce system.

+ New Plugin/Toolbar Cleaner – Monitor browser toolbars, plugins in real-time to remove the malicious ones to better protect your browsers.

+ New Browser Cleaner – Offer 1-click technique to clean browsing histories and other privacy issues when browsers closed.

+ New IObit Uninstaller 4 – Remove unwanted programs, plugins, toolbars and pre-installed Windows 8 metro applications.

+ New Software Updater – Keep your important software up-to-date.

+ Rebuilt Startup Manager – 1-click method to speed up system boot time and easy management for Startups, Services, Task Schedule.

+ Rebuilt Disk Optiomization – Add SSD (Solid State Disk) optimization and multi disk defragment.

+ Rebuilt Performance Monitor – Monitor your PC performance in real time and boost it with just one click.

+ Privacy Sweep – Add clean for Windows Metro Apps and clean for iTunes.

+ Registry Fix – Add fix for “Windows Services” and enhance scan engine’s scanning speed and stability.


Hola – Install Hola on your PC, phone or tablet to make your Internet faster, save data costs, and view sites that are otherwise censored in your country.

Bypass Internet censorship

Speed up your web browsing

Save on bandwidth costs

Improve your privacy online


Graphic: Hola running on my system (Firefox).

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

We wanted the web for free – but the price is deep surveillance – ‘Be careful what you wish for,” runs the adage. “You might just get it.” In the case of the internet, or, at any rate, the world wide web, this is exactly what happened. We wanted exciting services – email, blogging, social networking, image hosting – that were “free”. And we got them. What we also got, but hadn’t bargained for, was deep, intensive and persistent surveillance of everything we do online.

We ought to have known that it would happen. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, after all. Online services cost a bomb to provide: code has to be written (by programmers who have to be paid); servers have to be bought or rented, powered, housed, cooled and maintained; bandwidth has to be paid for; and so on. So there were basically only two business models that could have supported our desires.

One model involved us paying for stuff. But we (or most of us, anyway) proved deeply resistant to this idea. We had the fantasy that everything online should be free, after we’d paid an ISP for a connection to the net. So paying for stuff was a non-starter.

The companies that provided the “free” services therefore had to find another business model. And in the end they found one: it was called advertising or, rather, putting advertisers in touch with the users of “free” services. And it turned out that the only way to do this involved intensive surveillance of everything those users did online.

Which brings us to where we are today, a world in which, as the security guru Bruce Schneier puts it: “The business model of the internet is surveillance. We build systems that spy on people in exchange for services. Corporations call it marketing.”

Canada’s cyberspy agency, csec, hijacks computers worldwide to build their spynet – Glimmers of new information about CSEC, Canada’s version of the NSA, have recently been released through a variety of media sources, which has provided a slightly clearer picture of what Canada’s mysterious cybersurveillance activities actually entail.


This is how a criminal botnet works, which is very similar to the kinds of botnets CSEC uses. Image via Wikipedia.

The biggest revelation came from an unexpected report in c’t magazin, a German publication, authored by five individuals, including Laura Poitras, one of the few journalists to have met Edward Snowden IRL, and Jacob Applebaum, a hacker-turned-reporter with ties to the TOR foundation.

Their report, entitled “NSA/GCHQ: The HACIENDA Program for Internet Colonization,” focuses not on a Mexican ranch, but rather on a “covert infrastructure” of programs that have been designed to takeover the internet, by locating vulnerable computers around the world that can be hijacked and clandestinely repurposed into spybots for government agencies.

c’t cites leaked slides from the NSA, CSEC, and GCHQ, which are not credited to Edward Snowden’s leaks; this further fuels speculation that there is a second source leaking information from within the spy agencies to the press. A possibility that Snowden himself refuses to address on the record.

One key part of the HACIENDA infrastructure, however, is a Canadian program called LANDMARK, which looks for “ORBS” (Operational Relay Box) that were recently defined by Colin Freeze in the Globe and Mail as “computers [the Five Eyes spy agencies] compromise in third-party countries.” I spoke to Chris Parsons from the Citizen Lab, who explained that these ORBs are quite possibly the property of innocent citizens, and not exclusively intelligence targets.

Pew study warns about ‘spiral of silence’ in US discussion of Edward Snowden’s NSA online surveillance revelations – Americans have been self-censoring their discussions about state surveillance in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013, researchers have found.

Approximately 86% of adults were “very” or “somewhat” willing to discuss the findings in person with family, friends or work colleagues or at public meetings, yet only 43% said they would discuss the issues on Facebook.

The Pew Research Centre surveyed 1,801 US adults in August and September 2013, and also found that only 41% of people would be willing to discuss surveillance on Twitter which is a more visible, public medium than Facebook.

Pew’s report, which was published on Tuesday, warns of a “spiral of silence” capable of spreading from the online to the offline world, especially for people who think most of their social networking contacts disagree with their views on a particular topic:

“The typical Facebook user – someone who logs onto the site a few times per day – is half as likely to be willing to have a discussion about the Snowden-NSA issues at a physical public meeting as a non-Facebook user.

Similarly, the typical Twitter user – someone who uses the site a few times per day – is 0.24 times less likely to be willing to share their opinions in the workplace as an internet user who does not use Twitter.”

The report also notes that of the 14% of Americans who were unwilling to discuss the Snowden revelations offline, just 0.3% said they would be willing to join conversations on the topic on social networks instead.

Police called on video game developer over ‘Global Thermonuclear War’ plans – A British games developer’s letting agency called the police after mistaking diagrams of his new game for a planned thermonuclear attack on Washington.

Henry Smith is a software engineer from Bristol working on a game called “Global Thermonuclear War”, which uses Google Maps to simulate an atomic conflict between nations. Smith was planning out the game using whiteboards in his home when his letting agent made a pre-arranged visit.

A few days later, the agent rang, Smith says, and told him that “the person who did the inspection did have some concerns about one thing. There were some … whiteboards? And some … drawings on them?”

Although Smith believed he assuaged the agents’ fears by explaining that the sketches were plans for a game, he received a follow-up email the next week informing him that the matter had been referred to the local police.

“At first I was ridiculously frightened by the whole thing,” he told the Guardian. “When they said they’d told the police I absolutely bricked it. I ran home to check if the police had raided the house or something. It was definitely very frightening to think that the police had a report in their system alleging that I was up to something suspicious involving nuclear warheads. Knowing how the police here deal with suspected terrorists, I was worried they’d do a dawn raid or worse. It was genuinely scary for a while.”


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