Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 17, 2014

U.S. government to Yahoo: Comply with PRISM, or we’ll make sure you go bankrupt;  Android Browser flaw a “privacy disaster” for half of Android users;  Insurance for your smartphone: Is it worth it? Is This Free Wi-Fi Safe? Search the Map of Dangerous Networks;  Facebook Has Built An App For Super-Private Sharing;  Three warning signs that email is malicious;  Toshiba’s 7-inch Windows 8.1 tablet – $119;  New Batch of Chromecast Apps for iOS and Android;  How to use Google Voice with the new Hangouts app;  Report Gives Facebook, Twitter, YouTube an ‘F’ in Handling Harassment;  My Maps: customize your Google Maps experience;  Swype keyboard launching on iOS 8 today for 99 cents;  New ‘Facebook for Rich People’ Costs Just $9,000 to Join;  SwiftKey’s Predictive Keyboard App Is A Free Download On iOS;  ‘Tiny banker’ malware targets US financial institutions.

Is This Free Wi-Fi Safe? Search the Map of Dangerous Networks – Search a location on maps.skycure.com and you can see how many naughty networks are in your area. You might be surprised, or just plain horrified.

Three warning signs that email is malicious – There was a time when nearly every scam email would land in your inbox. Thankfully that’s not the case anymore—especially if you’re a Gmail user. But no system is perfect. Here are three basic tip-offs you can look for to figure out whether you’re looking at an email with dishonest intentions. They’re hardly an exhaustive list, but more often than not one of these tips will save you from getting suckered.

Codenamed “Moments”, Facebook Has Built An App For Super-Private Sharing – Facebook has failed repeatedly to get us to use complicated lists and privacy settings to share intimate moments with just our closest friends and family. It’s clumsy and confusing doing that with the same composer for blasting News Feed updates to everyone. But now Facebook is polishing off a new app codenamed “Moments” designed to make this micro-sharing much simpler.

Insurance for your smartphone: Is it worth it? – Smartphone carriers offer insurance for your devices, but it may not be a good fit for all users. Find out whether you’re a match for a protection plan.

Hands on: Office Lens scanning app for Windows Phone now makes editable Word files – Most scanning apps generate a JPEG or PDF file, but Office Lens skips right to the good stuff: Word or PowerPoint files. Though some scrawls will still confound it, this is nevertheless a Windows Phone app worth bragging about—and downloading ASAP.

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Windows 9 preview download in 2 – 3 weeks – Prepare to download the Windows 9 preview build. Microsoft confirmed it’ll unveil the next version of Windows—codenamed Threshold—in two short weeks. The event in San Francisco is expected to herald availability of the not-quite-beta build, assuming Satya’s gang follow the usual playbook.

New Batch of Chromecast Apps for iOS and Android Includes Twitch, WATCH Disney, and More – Google’s Chromecast streaming dongle didn’t see a hardware revision this year, but that’s fine. The $35 device does everything it needs to do–it’s essentially a receptacle for content beamed in from other apps. Today there are a few more apps streaming to the Chromecast, including Twitch on Android and iOS.

Toshiba’s 7-inch Windows 8.1 tablet goes on sale for $119 – Toshiba’s new 7-inch Windows 8.1 tablet, the Encore Mini, is now on sale for just $119, which includes a 1.33GHz quad-core Intel Atom CPU, 1GB of RAM, 16GB storage and up to 7 hours of battery life.

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How to use Google Voice with the new Hangouts app – The newest update to Google’s messaging app includes Voice calling and texting, a further step towards fully combining the two services. Pulling this together on your phone takes a little bit of work, however. The new app requires some nuanced settings and requires one other download from the Play Store. If you are a Google Voice power user, or are just getting familiar with the service for the first time, follow our tutorial for understanding and getting the most out of what Google has put together.

iOS 8: how to download, when to expect – What to expect when you’re expecting iOS 8 for your device in the next 24 hours is the alternate title for this article. What you’re going to need to know is very little. Most of your iOS 8 upgrade will be automated. You just need to sit back, relax, and think about what you’ve done.

Six reasons why you should not immediately upgrade to iOS 8 – If you’re sticking with an older iPhone or iPad, or working in a business setting, upgrading to iOS 8 may be premature. Here are six good reasons not to upgrade just yet.

GoDaddy makes very funny ad (no, really) – To celebrate small businesses, GoDaddy presents a woman who’s proved everyone wrong and wants to tell them where to shove their views.

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Report Gives Facebook, Twitter, YouTube an ‘F’ in Handling Harassment – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have come under fire for not taking online violence against women seriously according to a new report. The Association for Progressive Communications’ Women’s Rights Program mapped each social media platform’s policy for reporting and resolving instances of harassment or violence against women, including online sexual harassment and direct violent threats. The APC also tracked the networks’ public responses to international abuses cases. The organization rated all three social networks with an “F” grade in their “public commitment to human rights standards.”

Microsoft has a new keyboard for your phablet, works with iOS and Android – Do you have a large smartphone or a small tablet? If you do, Microsoft has released a new keyboard that could be your new best friend if you like to get work done on your device.

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Microsoft OneNote, now on your smart watch – Microsoft has announced today that it’s OneNote application is now available for your smart watch and integrates with Google Now too for even easier use on these ultra-portable devices. You can use OneNote on your smart watch by saying ” Ok Google, take a note” and the app will allow you to dictate a note. While obviously not the most comprehensive solution, it is on a watch after-all, it does allow you to take quick notes on the go.

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My Maps: customize your Google Maps experience – A little-known system called My Maps has just been updated by Google for Google Maps. What you’re able to do – and what I’ll be showing you here – is take what Google has made with Google Maps and add your own special markers, trails, and directions. You can take what you’ve made, then, and share with friends, coworkers, and associates.

Swype keyboard launching on iOS 8 today for 99 cents – Apple will release iOS 8 for download later today, and you won’t be waiting long for the first third-party keyboards to hit the App Store. In fact, there won’t be any waiting at all. Swype will be available for 99 cents starting Wednesday, kicking off a competition between developers and Apple’s own, new QuickType keyboard to decide who’s come up with the best method for inputting text on your iPhone or iPad. Of course, with Swype and competitor SwiftKey — also launching alongside iOS 8 today for an even lower free — you no longer have to tap individual letters.

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SwiftKey’s Predictive Keyboard App Is A Free Download On iOS – Rejoice, long-time iOS users, for you can finally throw off the shackles of the native Apple keyboard — cursing its erratic autocorrect habits for (hopefully) the last time — as you download a third party keyboard adventure of your choice, including Android veteran SwiftKey, which is releasing its first system-wide keyboard software app on iOS as a free download.

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New ‘Facebook for Rich People’ Costs Just $9,000 to Join – Netropolitan is a new social network that bills itself as “the online country club for people with more money than time.” It launched today and organizers insist that it’s not a joke. The $9,000 fee includes a $6,000 initiation fee, plus a $3,000 annual fee. You must be 21 to join. You’ll supposedly be able to chat with like-minded individuals, though Netropolitan declined to provide details about its user base.

Docurama streams free, on-demand documentaries to iOS – Cinedigm’s Docurama is a free app that streams hundreds of documentaries. Having started out as Roku and Xbox channels, it’s now available for iPhone and iPad. And if you own an Apple TV as well, you can beam the movies to your big screen. The app provides easy on-demand access to over 600 films, a number expected to increase to over 1,000 by the end of 2014. According to Cinedigm, more than two-thirds of the selections currently available can’t be found anywhere else, including Amazon, Hulu, or Netflix.

Security:

Android Browser flaw a “privacy disaster” for half of Android users – A bug quietly reported on September 1 appears to have grave implications for Android users. Android Browser, the open source, WebKit-based browser that used to be part of the Android Open Source Platform (AOSP), has a flaw that enables malicious sites to inject JavaScript into other sites. Those malicious JavaScripts can in turn read cookies and password fields, submit forms, grab keyboard input, or do practically anything else.

Attorney General questions the security of health data on the Apple Watch – Attorney General George C. Jepsen has raised his own concerns around the security of health data used by the Apple Watch, suggesting a meeting in which he and Apple can discuss those concerns.

‘Tiny banker’ malware targets US financial institutions – A banking Trojan, known for its small size but powerful capabilities, has expanded the number of financial institutions from which it can collect data, according to security vendor Avast. A version analyzed by Avast showed Tiny Banker has been customized to target many new financial institutions, many of which are based in the U.S., such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase, wrote Jaromir Horejsi, an Avast malware analyst.

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A screenshot bearing Wells Fargo’s logo showed how Tiny Banker asks for more information when a person logs into their account. It shows a bogus warning about a system update, asking users to provider more information to verify their identity.

Fear not: Kindle flaw that opened your Amazon account to attackers appears fixed – A concerning XSS flaw discovered by a German security researcher appears to be fixed. Here’s what happened.

Apple toughens iCloud backup security – Two weeks after breach of celebrity iCloud accounts, Apple makes good on CEO Tim Cook’s promises to strengthen security.

Company News:

Microsoft Shakes Up Its Board, Boosts Its Dividend 11% – Microsoft has announced two coming board departures, two board additions, and a boost to its dividend. Leaving the board are Dave Marquardt and Dina Dublon. Marquardt is best known for his work in venture capital, and Dublon for her work at JPMorgan Chase. Taking their places are the appointed Teri List-Stoll from Kraft and Charles Scharf of Visa.

IBM’s New Watson Analytics Wants To Bring Big Data To The Masses – IBM today announced a new product called Watson Analytics, one they claim will bring sophisticated big data analysis to the average business user. The product goes into Beta this month and they are shooting for general release by the end of the year. As a cloud service, it will run on a variety of platforms including tablets, smartphones and PC/laptops, but there are no dedicated apps yet. They are offering a free version that’s free forever in the IBM Cloud Marketplace.

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Court upends $368M ruling against Apple for VirnetX patent infringement – A top appeals court has thrown out a jury ruling that ordered Apple to pay $368 million to VirnetX, a patent-holding company that many consider a “patent troll” because it exists exclusively to enforce patents. On Tuesday, the United States Federal Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the decision back to the lower federal court in East Texas.

Micro Focus buying Novell, Suse Linux owner for $1.2 billion – Micro Focus to pick up Attachmate for a little over half of what Attachmate paid for Novell three years ago.

Intel teams with Indian firm to launch ‘Eddy’ tablet for children – Intel has teamed with Indian education startup Metis Learning on an Android tablet that aims to keep children away from violent TV content and games on their parents’ smartphones. Targeted at children aged 2-10 years, Eddy is priced at Indian rupees 9999 ($163), and comes with over 160 apps selected by educators and experts to accelerate a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development, Intel said.

Games and Entertainment:

‘Destiny’ is a beautiful mess – And I can’t stop playing – I’ve spent close to two dozen hours playing Destiny. I completed a galaxy-spanning quest that took me to Venus and Mars, teamed up with complete strangers to take down massive space monsters in thrilling boss encounters, and jumped into a free-for-all multiplayer combat arena where I died many, many times. I spent an embarrassingly long time agonizing over which weapons to equip and what armor provides the best compromise between function and style. Hell, I even downloaded a mobile app so I could check on my character when I wasn’t near a console. It’s a game I love, and a game I hate, and it’s one that I can’t seem to stop playing.

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Nearly a year in, is anyone winning the current generation console war? – Those consoles, as they existed on their respective launch days, don’t really exist anymore. In the intervening months, the system software changed through downloadable updates, and the game library grew with dozens of new releases. With that in mind, it’s time to revisit the state of the console wars as it stands today and potentially amend our launch day thoughts with the benefit of a few hundred days of extra experience.

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The wired Xbox One controller for Windows is finally here – Microsoft has announced a wired Xbox One controller, coming this December, compatible with Windows 7 and Windows 8 for gaming on the PC without using a mouse or keyboard.

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Twitch Chromecast release live today – Televisions around the world will now be able to access Twitch in a new way. While Twitch has been available on gaming systems, Android and iOS devices connected to TVs with HDMI or Miracast, and a variety of other oddities, today things get extra Google-y. Today Twitch hits Chromecast.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

You can now attach your iPad directly to your face to experience virtual reality – AirVR is a Kickstarter project from Toronto design firm Metatecture that seeks $20,000 in funding from backers to create an inexpensive headset for converting your iPad Mini (Retina) or soon-to-be-delivered iPhone 6 Plus into a portable virtual reality viewer.

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Time Spent In Apps Up 21% Over Last Year – While there may be an upper limit as to how many apps people interact with over the course of a month, new data from mobile marketing platform Localytics out this morning shows that the time spent actually using apps is increasing. The new study was based on data from Localytics’ customer base, which includes 28,000 applications installed across 1.5 billion devices. For these findings, which cover August 2013 to August 2014, the company says it multiplied the average sessions per user in app by the average session length across all apps, and then broke it down by category.

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Man Attempting To Visit Every Country In The World Captures Terrifying Armed Robbery On Video – A man on a mission to visit every country in the world was recently on a bike tour of Argentina when he captured the terrifying moment an armed thief attempted to rob him in broad daylight.

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A Silk Database of US death penalty executions since 1976 – This site contains close to 60 datapoints for more than 1300 executions, including state, county and annual totals and averages. On this homepage we present some of the relevant findings but this is just a fraction of what’s to be found! Explore the complete database, customize and share your visualizations: start with the Explore-button of any graph or use the search bar.

The little-known Soviet mission to rescue a dead space station – The following story happened in 1985 but subsequently vanished into obscurity. Over the years, many details have been twisted, others created. Even the original storytellers got some things just plain wrong. After extensive research, writer Nickolai Belakovski is able to present, for the first time to an English-speaking audience, the complete story of Soyuz T-13’s mission to save Salyut 7, a fascinating piece of in-space repair history.

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The view of Salyut 7 from Soyuz T-13 after undocking and beginning the journey home.

California Starts Issuing Self-Driving Car Permits – Self-driving cars can now officially hit the road in California, though they will still require some help from their human passengers for awhile. The California Department of Motor Vehicles today started issuing permits that allow for testing of autonomous vehicles on public California roads. Those who pay a $150 application fee get permits for 10 vehicles and 20 drivers. Adding another 10 drivers costs $50 more.

Something to think about:

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Today’s Free Downloads:

BB FlashBack Express – BB FlashBack Express is a free screen recorder with the best-of-breed recording features of BB FlashBack.

Advanced Technology – Our ‘capture driver’ technology gives us a head start on other free screen recorders. It creates high frame rate, high quality movies without affecting PC performance, even on lower powered PCs.

WebCam Recording – Give your movies the personal touch. Make an appearance with a picture-in-picture webcam recording. One click, and BB FlashBack Express records from the webcam while it records the screen.

Sound – Record a commentary at the same time as the screen. It’s easy to record the microphone, PC speakers or other sources.

Easy To Use and Always Ready – BB FlashBack Express lives in your taskbar, system tray or floating above the desktop, so its always available. Click the record button and let the wizard guide you to great recordings, first time.

Publish on the Web – Its never been easier for everyone to see your screen recordings. Upload to YouTube, Blip.tv, Viddler or Revver. Get the URL and share it around.

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WinToBootic – WinToBootic is a free application that can help you to create bootable Windows hard disk or USB flash drive. You can use a CD/DVD, Folder or ISO image to create your bootable disk. This is a portable application that you can start using as soon as you extract it from the ZIP archive.

Using WinToBootic is as easy as selecting your USB drive and then formatting it to make it bootable. Of course, you need to add the CD/DVD, Folder, or ISO with bootable Windows files using either file browser or “drag and drop” feature.

You may also use WinToBootic to create a “Windows To Go” disk if you are using Windows 8. You can create the disk with a Non-Enterprise Windows Install ISO on a Non-Certified USB disk.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

U.S. government to Yahoo: Comply with PRISM, or we’ll make sure you go bankrupt – After a lengthy battle, documents on Friday showed the Bush administration threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 per day for failing to comply with the U.S. government’s PRISM program.

That fine alone would have been troubling for the company. But according to a new first-hand testimony by Yahoo’s lawyers, that was just the beginning.

Attorneys Marc Zwillinger and Jacob Sommer, who represented Yahoo during the case, said in a blog post on Monday that the fines could have been significantly worse. The Bush administration is said to have pushed for contempt, forcing Yahoo to comply, and threatening prosecution if it didn’t comply with government data demands.

If Yahoo didn’t comply, those fines could have doubled each week until Yahoo complied.

“Simple math indicates that Yahoo was facing fines of over $25 million dollars for the first month of noncompliance, and fines of over $400 million in the second month if the court went along with the government’s proposal,” the lawyers wrote.

Yahoo’s average revenue for 2008 amounted to $7.2 billion. That year, the government’s surveillance court, the FISA Court, was pushing for Yahoo to join PRISM.

Had Yahoo held out for just a few weeks, fines could have easily surpassed the company’s net worth, let alone its annual revenue or profit. By the fifth month, Yahoo was facing fines that amounted to the entire U.S. debt, accounting for about $9.5 trillion. And it wouldn’t stop.

Yahoo would have lost everything — any profits gained, assets, cash reserves, and equivalents.

US law would safeguard free-speech rights to criticize business online – A member of the House of Representatives is offering legislation that would make it illegal for businesses to take action against consumers who write “honest” negative reviews online about products and services.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) told the National Journal that the forthcoming measure would make it illegal for companies to have non-disparagement clauses in their consumer contracts.

“It’s un-American that any consumer would be penalized for writing an honest review,” Swalwell said. “I’m introducing this legislation to put a stop to this egregious behavior so people can share honest reviews without fear of litigation.”

The Problem With Transparency Reports? They’re Not Very Transparent – In the continued push for transparency post-Snowden, many communications companies and service providers are publishing reports with more details on what sort of data, and how much, they’re being asked to hand over to law enforcement.

But even with this shift, chunks of the reports rather obscure, rather than clear up, exactly what data is requested.

According to their latest transparency filing, cloud storage service Dropbox received 120 search warrants and 109 subpoenas for user information. Responding to the former, they handed over 103 pieces of “content and non-content”—files within the customer’s account, and other pieces of their data such as IP address, respectively. When it came to subpoenas, Dropbox provided law enforcement with 80 pieces of “non-content.”

“While that number is small compared to our 300 million users,” Bart Volkmer, Dropbox’s legal counsel, told the Guardian, “we treat all the requests we receive seriously and scrutinize them to make sure they satisfy legal requirements before complying. We also push back in cases where agencies are seeking too much information or haven’t followed the proper procedures.”

The report reads, “Protecting our users’ privacy is a top priority at Dropbox, so we continue to apply our Government Data Request Principles to every request we receive.” This means that they will fight blanket requests, or ones they deem too broad.

Dropbox may have also received over 200 requests for customers’ data from the US government for reasons of national security. However, this is where the transparency becomes less clear.

California lawmakers want to limit police drones, but activists want them banned – The police hate a bill just passed by California lawmakers, saying it unjustly limits their ability to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to fight crime. The Los Angeles District Attorney hates it too, complaining that requiring police to obtain a warrant before deploying a drone to conduct surveillance goes “beyond what is required by Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” which the seasoned political observer knows police and politicians are supposed to gut, not exceed.

But there’s another, somewhat unexpected source of opposition to AB 1327, passed last month by the California State Senate: anti-drone activists.

“We are gathered here today to we reject the use of drones by law enforcement under any circumstances,” said Hamid Khan, an organizer with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, at a September 15 press conference in front of City Hall in downtown LA. Activists here are particularly anxious about drones since the Los Angeles Police Department obtained two small surveillance UAVs from police in Seattle, who had to give them away in the face of overwhelming public opposition to their use. The drones have not yet been deployed, with Mayor Eric Garcetti promising to seek public input before ever letting them fly.

While the American Civil Liberties Union of California has endorsed the legislation, which would be the state’s first attempt to restrict the use of UAVs—if Democratic Governor Jerry Brown actually signs it into law—Khan argued that “when you look at the actual bill, it has enough waivers and exceptions and loopholes you can actually drive a drone through it.”

NSA reform bill stalled with Congress headed toward fall recess – The U.S. Congress is unlikely to pass legislation to end the National Security Agency’s widespread collection of U.S. telephone records before leaving Washington, D.C., on a two-month break.

Congress is scheduled to leave town for its fall recess by the end of this week, with the USA Freedom Act still awaiting action in the Senate. Members of Congress will head back to their home districts to campaign for November’s elections, with all members of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate on the ballot.

The USA Freedom Act, with significant support in the House and the Senate, still has some lawmakers questioning whether reining in the NSA’s phone records collection program would hurt the U.S. government’s war on terrorism.

Absent congressional action, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced late Friday that they have asked for, and received, court authorization to continue the telephone records collection program. The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court reauthorized the program to continue until Dec. 5, with some limits proposed by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

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