Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 18, 2014

Browser comparison: How the five leaders stack up in speed, ease of use and more;  Security: Users show more paranoia than practical skills;  The complete guide to iOS 8;  The five most common tech support nightmares;  Seven privacy settings you should change immediately in iOS 8;  30-Second Tech Trick: Send Money from Gmail;  California passes “landmark bill” to protect students’ personal data;  Twitter is run by potheads, suggests famed investor Thiel;  Apple said to be unveiling new iPads on Oct. 21;  Samsung’s curved display brings flex to your desktop;  Presenting the 6 absolute best gaming mice of 2014;  Halo: Reach is now free on Xbox 360 (if you’ve got Xbox Live Gold);  Destiny sales exceed $325M in first five days;  Facebook meets with LGBT community over real-name policy;  Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google.

California passes “landmark bill” to protect students’ personal data – There’s a lot at stake: think student records that cover attendance, grades, discipline, health, academics, intimate details about family members, parent and student contact information, biometrics, and sometimes even a child’s geolocation.

Browser comparison: How the five leaders stack up in speed, ease of use and more – Do you like your browser fast, easy on system resources, or simple to use? We tested Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari, and found surprising differences on these measures.

wps3E7B.tmp

You can now try BitTorrent’s secure chat app Bleep – With revelations of government surveillance continuing to roll in, BitTorrent decided late last year that it was high time someone made a chat client that would let people communicate in a secure way without actually having to know a whole lot about security. The result of that project is coming out today in the form of a public alpha release: it’s a chat client called BitTorrent Bleep, and BitTorrent says that it will allow people “to speak freely without worrying about who might be eavesdropping.” Bleep keeps messages encrypted for their entire ride, so theoretically only their sender and receiver should be able to see them.

Security: Users show more paranoia than practical skills – Users are still clinging to hopes for the best without preparing for the worst, even with two-factor authentication and identity management advancements.

The five most common tech support nightmares – Every user of tech products has a story. They contact tech support or customer service, waste a lot of time, and end up no better off than they started. Sometimes, they end up worse. To make you more aware of the most common tech support fails, here are five common experiences that drive customers crazy.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The complete guide to iOS 8 – iOS 8 looks to be one of the biggest updates to Apple’s mobile platform, since the launch the App Store, with new features galore. Learn how to use the latest in iOS.

Seven privacy settings you should change immediately in iOS 8 – Before you sync your iCloud or reinstall your apps, you need to lock down your iPhone or iPad. Here are seven important tweaks (and more) you can set to bolster your privacy.

30-Second Tech Trick: Send Money from Gmail – For when saying, “Sorry I ate your plants. I was drunk,” isn’t enough.

Amazon Announces New Fire Tablets, E-Ink Kindles And A Special Fire For Kids – Amazon released six new devices today with an eye on shipping them before the holiday season. The collection, which ranges from a new e-ink tablet called the Voyage to an 8.9-inch tablet that is lighter than the iPad Air and features Fire OS 4.0, an OS based on KitKat, is designed for reading, work and play. There’s also a new Kindle for kids that includes a $25 case and free parental control software and apps.

wps3E9B.tmp

Twitter is run by potheads, suggests famed investor Thiel –  Iconoclastic investor Peter Thiel says Twitter is horribly mismanaged because there’s “probably a lot of pot-smoking” there.

Samsung’s curved display brings flex to your desktop – You’d be forgiven for thinking that if you wanted a curved Samsung display you’d need to cough up thousands for one of its huge TVs, but a 27-inch display could bring some flexed screen tech to your desktop. The Samsung S27D590C isn’t going to impress guests to quite the same extent as a 60-inch curved Ultra HD OLED might, but the claim is more immersive gaming and entertainment on a more domestic scale.

wps3EAC.tmp

Dremel gives high-tech tools a spin with $999 3D printer – Available for preorder tomorrow, the toolmaker’s 3D Idea Builder goes on sale at Home Depot and Amazon in November.

wps3EBD.tmp

The 3D Idea Builder from Dremel.

Scary video highlights danger of damaged Lithium Ion batteries – A Japanese safety institute has released a video that serves as a graphic reminder of the danger posed by damaged Lithium Ion batteries. The batteries are extremely common in portable consumer electronics, providing power for smartphones, laptop computers, smartwatches and many other devices, and are typically safe. But if a battery is damaged, the results can quite literally be explosive.

wps3EEC.tmp

Open document formats campaign backed by Europe’s digital commissioner – “When open alternatives are available, no citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to use a particular company’s technology to access government information.”

Facebook meets with LGBT community over real-name policy – Facebook’s recently been cracking down on stage names, locking drag queens and transgenders out of their accounts until they switch accounts to their legal names. After mounting protests, Facebook reps scheduled a meeting with San Francisco activists and city officials over its real-name policy, which many say discriminates against the LGBT community.

Security:

Credit card data theft hit at least three retailers, lasted 18 months – In July, it was revealed that Goodwill Industries had suffered from a credit card data breach that affected the charitable retailer’s stores in at least 21 states. The Goodwill breach seemed by many to be just the latest case of criminals taking advantage of the weak underbelly of retailers—their point-of-sale systems. But now, as it turns out, the Goodwill breach was just part of a much larger attack on an outside managed service provider that affected at least two other companies. And many more may have been affected without their knowledge. For over 18 months, attackers were able to harvest credit card data from at least three retailers at will, without the companies’ knowledge. There is no current estimate of how many credit cards were compromised in the breach. And it’s not certain that there will ever be a full accounting.

Apple adds app-specific passwords for iCloud – In their ongoing effort to better secure iCloud, Apple is taking additional steps to let us safeguard our stuff. In addition to two-factor authentication, which came back to iCloud not long ago, Apple is also letting us create app-specific passwords for various third-party apps that access iCloud. The feature will also become standard very soon.

8 Security Tips for a Safe iOS 8 Upgrade – Apple’s iOS 8 is here. If you’ve got an iPhone, you’re probably champing at the bit to download Apple’s latest and greatest OS. Or perhaps you’ve already pre-ordered an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus and are ready to party with a totally new handset.  Either way, now is a great time to spruce up the security of your iOS device.

Adobe releases previously delayed security updates for Reader and Acrobat – The updates fix eight vulnerabilities, including some that could be exploited to infect computers with malware.

Company News:

Apple said to be unveiling new iPads on Oct. 21 alongside OS X Yosemite release – Apple is reportedly planning to unveil its next-generation iPad Air and iPad mini at an event on October 21, and is also said to be preparing for the full release of OS X Yosemite on the same day.

Gogo, Virgin Atlantic Partner for In-Flight Internet – Virgin Atlantic is about to get a lot more tech-savvy. The airline has partnered with Gogo to introduce high-speed Internet connectivity services on flights, the companies announced Wednesday. The deal makes Virgin Atlantic the first European airline to partner with Gogo.

Sony estimates $2.14bn loss for smartphone business – Sony is struggling with its smartphone business thanks to stiff competition from Apple and Samsung, and plans to focus on its higher-end devices, while reducing its mid-range line-up.

Report: iPhone 6 Demand Overwhelms Foxconn – Another iPhone launch, another round of reports about overseas suppliers overwhelmed by orders. According to The Wall Street Journal, Foxconn is operating 100 production lines “around the clock,” churching out 140,000 phablets and 400,000 smartphones every day, but it’s still not enough to satisfy pre-orders.

Yelp, TinyCo Fined for Improperly Collecting Kids’ Data – Yelp has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit accusing the company of violating childrens’ privacy rights. App developer TinyCo was also fined $300,000 for similar violations. The FTC’s complaint claims that Yelp and TinyCo collected information about kids under 13 without their parents’ consent, in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). That law bans sites from collecting information about kids under 13 without parental consent.

Reports of another wave of layoffs rekindle bad press for Microsoft – Microsoft’s massive staff reduction, which shocked many when it was announced in July, is back in the spotlight with a pair of reports that the ax will come down on another group of employees Thursday. It would be the second wave of job cuts in the plan to ultimately eliminate 18,000 positions, or 14 percent of the company’s staff, by the end of its fiscal year on June 30, 2015, according to reports this week from ZDnet and GigaOM, both based on anonymous sources.

Cisco acquires Metacloud, boosting Intercloud, OpenStack efforts – The privately-held cloud player will be snapped up for an undisclosed sum as the networking giant aims to bolster its inter-connected cloud effort, run on open-source OpenStack.

Games and Entertainment:

Presenting the 6 absolute best gaming mice of 2014 – I laid hands on six new gaming mouse for this story and evaluated their performance with both productivity apps—such as writing this review in Word—and games: Lining up headshots in Sniper Elite V3, and clicking frantically on the denizens of hell in Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. Before I reveal my opinions of these six new rodents, here are the features you should consider when doing your own evaluations.

wps3F1C.tmp

Halo: Reach is now free on Xbox 360 (if you’ve got Xbox Live Gold) – As part of its latest Games with Gold promotion, Microsoft is making Halo: Reach on the Xbox 360 free for everyone with an Xbox Live Gold membership, along with two free games for the Xbox One.

wps3F2D.tmp

Review: Hyrule Warriors is junk food gaming at its absolute finest – Some games provide a mental challenge, some serve as a simulation of an activity you are otherwise unable to do, and recently many others strive to position you in an adrenaline loop that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Sometimes though, the very best kind of game is the one that doesn’t challenge you at all. These games exist purely to entertain, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Hyrule Warriors is a massive deviation from what you think when someone tells you they are playing a Zelda game, but what was created instead is still a ton of fun to play.

Hyrule Warriors

Goat Simulator Arrives on Android to Make Your Fondest Goat-Related Dreams Come True [Update: iOS Too] – The simulator game genre has never been more popular. You can fly a plane, be a trucker, and much more through the magic of video games. Perhaps Goat Simulator on the PC was the logical conclusion, or maybe it’s just a wacky sendup of the whole simulator gaming thing. Either way, you can now pretend to be a goat on Android.

wps3F4E.tmp

Gearbox Software enters the age of Battleborn – The maker of the Borderlands series is back with a brand-new sci-fi shooter. Here’s a first look at Battleborn.

wps3F6E.tmp

Destiny sales exceed $325M in first five days despite meh reviews – The sci-fi shooter isn’t close to selling as fast as titles from existing franchises like Grand Theft Auto, but for a nonsequel, it’s humming right along.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Hey, Scots. Microsoft’s Bing thinks you’ll vote NO to independence – Microsoft’s seldom-used digital yellow pages has waded into the independence referendum with the claim that Scots will vote no and the United Kingdom will be preserved. According to the world’s other search engine, some 48.1 per cent of Scots will tick the Yes box, while 51.9 per cent will choose No. Its claim was concocted using a system called Bing Predicts, which is being beta tested during the referendum. Bing’s new toy uses machine-learning to analyse and detect trends from the web and social networks.

wps3F7F.tmp

Irate NSA staffer doesn’t like being filmed in public, for some reason – In two videos posted on YouTube—each shot from a slightly different perspective—you can watch Beale politely question Mr. Z. about NSA programs, and watch Mr. Z. attempt to parry those queries with blatant falsehoods like, ”NSA is not permitted to track or collect intelligence on U.S. persons.” After a few minutes of back-and-forth, Mr. Z announces, “You’re done,” and attempts to grab the phone that Potter had been using to film the encounter, literally at the very moment he says, “I’m not touching your phone.”

wps3F8F.tmp

Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please – Rupert Murdoch’s minions have written to the European Commissioner for Competition Joaquín Almunia, urging him to mete out stern punishment to Google in the ongoing search market dominance probe. The minion in question is News Corp Chief Executive Robert Thomson and his urgings are detailed in a letter he sent to Almunia last week. The central thesis of Thomson’s complaint appears to be his belief that “Google must do more to ensure that rights are respected and that its powerful search platform is not abused to eliminate competition.”

How will new device to help cops detect texting drivers know it wasn’t the passenger? – Texting while driving is dangerous and a new device is being developed to help cops catch texting drivers; but how will the device tell the difference between texting drivers, voice-to-text, automatic text replies and a texting passenger?

Air Force funds pocket-sized drone for surveilling tight spaces – The US Air Force has awarded a contract to CyPhy Works, a Danvers, Massachusetts-based startup led by CEO (and iRobot co-founder) Helen Greiner. CyPhy will design and deliver a pocket-sized drone for use in search and rescue operations in collapsed buildings, tunnels, and other confined spaces and steep grades that may be difficult for crawling robots to negotiate. The drone, called the Extreme Access Pocket Flyer, will also provide a way to search for improvised explosive devices and conduct surveillance of tunnels and other spaces without the use of radio frequency controls.

wps3FB0.tmp

An illustration of the Extreme Access Pocket Flyer released by CyPhy Works.

TechSpot: History of the Microprocessor and the Personal Computer – The invention of the microprocessor, DRAM, and EPROM integrated circuits helped bring computing to the mainstream. This is the first in a five-part series exploring the history of the CPU and PCs.

How a Cat Parasite Affects Your Behavior, Mental Health, and Sex Drive – We used to believe that a healthy human could control the Toxoplasma parasite indefinitely. New evidence suggests the opposite. Through a delicate finessing of the neurotransmitters in our brains, it is us who are being controlled

Something to think about:

“The truth is not simply what you think it is; it is also the circumstances in which it is said, and to whom, why and how it is said.”

–    Vaclav Havel

Today’s Free Downloads:

GlassWire 1.0.25 Beta – GlassWire displays your network activity on an easy to understand graph while searching for unusual Internet behavior that could indicate malware or violations of your privacy. Once unusual network activity is discovered you’re instantly alerted with detailed information so you can protect your computer, privacy, and data.

Features:

Network Monitor – Visualize your current and past network activity by traffic type, application, and geographic location, on an easy to use graph. GlassWire lets you see what applications are sending out data over the Internet and shows you what hosts they are communicating with.

Internet Security – GlassWire adds extra Internet security to your computer or server by visualizing all past and present network data in an easy to understand graph. Instantly see every application or process communicating over the Internet, then dive in deeper to see who or what your computer is communicating with.

Bandwidth Usage Monitor – Keeping track of your daily, weekly, or monthly bandwidth usage is easy with GlassWire. Go to the usage tab to see what apps, traffic, or hosts are using the most bandwidth.

Internet Privacy Protection – GlassWire shows all your network activity on an easy to use graph to help protect your Internet privacy. Easily see what apps are sending out data to the Internet and what host in what country they are communicating with. When you visit a website click the graph to see every server that your computer communicated with while that web page loaded.

Remote Server Monitoring – GlassWire installs easily on servers so you can monitor their network activity on your local computer via our remote access feature. Go to GlassWire’s settings and choose “remote server” to logon to your server after you have installed GlassWire on your local computer and remote server.

Discreet Alerts – We specifically designed the GlassWire alert system so it wasn’t annoying to users. GlassWire alerts appear briefly and then disappear into the background.

Network Time Machine – Use the sliders to go back in time and analyze past network activity on the graph. Check your bandwidth usage by day, week, and month in detail with resolved hosts.

wps3FD0.tmp

GlassWire running on a personal Win 7 system.

System Explorer – Detailed informations about Tasks, Processes, Modules, Startups, IE Addons, Uninstallers, Windows, Services, Drivers, Connections and Opened Files. Portable version also available.

System Explorer is free, awards winning software for exploration and management of System Internals. This small software includes many useful tools which help you Keep Your System Under Control. With System Explorer You get also fast access to File Database which help you to determine unwanted processes or threats. System Explorer is translated into 21 languages and is available for download in installer and portable version.

Features:

Detailed information about Tasks, Processes, Modules,

Startups, IE Addons, Uninstallers, Windows, Services,

Drivers, Connections and Opened Files.

Easy check of suspicious files via VirusTotal, Jotti

service or our File Database.

Easy monitoring of processes activities and System changes.

Usage graphs of important System resources.

Tray Hint with detailed System and Battery status

WMI Browser and System Additional Info

Multilanguage Support

wps3FE0.tmp

Graphic – System Explorer running on a personal Win 7 system.

wps4001.tmp

Graphic –  System Explorer running in the system tray on a personal Win 7 system.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

New e-mail shows “stingray” maker may have lied to FCC back in 2010 – A newly published e-mail from 2010 shows that Harris Corporation, one of the best-known makers of cellular surveillance systems, told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that its purpose “is only to provide state/local law enforcement officials with authority to utilize this equipment in emergency situations.”

That e-mail was among 27 pages of e-mails that were part of the company’s application to get FCC authorization to sell the device in the United States. Neither the FCC nor Harris Corporation immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment, and Harris traditionally stays mum on its operations.

“We do not comment on solutions we may or may not provide to classified Department of Defense or law enforcement agencies,” Jim Burke, a spokesman for Harris, told Ars last month.

If Harris has misrepresented how the devices are used as part of law enforcement operations, then it would mark another controversial moment in the company’s shrouded history. In recent months, more information has come out about how stingrays have been used in violent crime investigations, including instances where cops have lied to courts about the use of such technology.

Relatively little is known about how stingrays are precisely used by law enforcement agencies nationwide, although documents have surfaced showing how they have been purchased and used in some limited instances. Last year, Ars reported on leaked documents showing the existence of a body-worn stingray. In 2010, Kristin Paget famously demonstrated a homemade device built for just $1,500.

wps4021.tmp

The 15 states in which the ACLU knows that police use cell phone tracking devices.

Republicans in Congress don’t know what internet freedom means…unless it means the freedom to kill the internet – In 2011, Joshua Kopstein wrote a killer piece for Motherboard titled “Dear Congress, it’s no longer ok to not know how the internet works.” Back then, the clumsy ignorance of our lawmakers allowed a charade called the Stop Online Piracy Act to make serious steps toward becoming law.

The brief history of SOPA is this: the music and movie industry lost the battle against online piracy in the 2000s, and then decided it would just be easier to get Congress to blow up the internet. The bill was so odious that it led to unprecedented efforts to kill it, including an internet “blackout” intended to inform internet users that Congress was about to embark on a disastrous adventure in legislative stupidity. It worked, and the bill was tabled indefinitely, but the fundamental problem Kopstein rightly underscored hasn’t been fixed. The government is still pretty dumb when it comes to the internet. If you don’t believe me, just look at how well Healthcare.gov turned out.

It’s 2014, and the future of the internet is still at stake, and there’s still a lot of ignorance about technology on both sides of the aisle. But right now there’s only one party in Congress that’s actively threatening to kill the founding principles that have made the internet the booming success it is today.

Just like it was during the SOPA crisis, people who love and understand the internet are mad again. This time it’s about the looming death of net neutrality: the set of principles that so far have kept companies like Comcast and Verizon from kidnapping the internet and demanding ransom from users and other businesses on top of the fees they already pay to get internet access. As the FCC now considers caving on net neutrality with a “paid prioritization” scheme, after years of trying and failing to establish net neutrality protections, the issue is back in Congress.

Egypt launches deep-packet inspection system with help from an American company – Deep-packet inspection is the one of the most invasive things a country can do to its internet. Employed by repressive regimes from Russia to Bahrain, it lets governments look into the content of web traffic as it moves over the network, allowing them to censor websites in real time and conduct detailed surveillance of citizen’s activities on the web. They also require sophisticated equipment, usually provided by a western company. As a result, DPI installations are usually kept secret for as long as possible.

But sometimes, they can’t. A Buzzfeed report seems to have caught the Egyptian government in the act, confirming that the country is currently installing a new DPI system with a company called See Egypt, a sister company to the American Blue Coat. Blue Coat got in trouble a few years ago for selling a similar system to Syria, which launched a subsequent State Department investigation, but it doesn’t seem to have slowed them down.

New Google transparency report details hike in government user data requests – Governments around the world are demanding increasingly larger amounts of user data from Google, according to the company’s latest Transparency Report.

In the first six months of 2014, the company received just under 32,000 data requests from governments, an increase of 15% when compared to the second half of 2013, and two and a half times more than when Google first started publishing the data in 2009.

The latest transparency report, released Monday, is a service Google and other big name companies provide to detail how many times governments ask the company to hand over user information to aid investigation of alleged criminal cases.

According to the report, the top ten countries requesting data from Google this time around were the US, Germany, France, India, the UK, Italy, Singapore, Australia, Spain and Brazil.

Advertisements

5 Comments

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

5 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 18, 2014

  1. Glass Wire causing BSOD on Windopws 8.1. I’ve reported it on their Google+ account

  2. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Re Scottish Independence; it’s been an interesting few days!

    Cameron promised “substantial” “new” powers “immediately”. The Noes won by a decent margin. Cameron promised more powers for Wales, Northern Ireland AND England on the same timescale as Scotland. Salmond resigned. Miliband, who clearly had not read Cameron’s fag packet, is starting to backslide already.

    Next time I’m voting “Yes”.

    FREEDOM!

    (from politics)

    Kind regards,
    John

    • Good morning John,

      I love Scotland and it’s people – and why wouldn’t I – being a Celt and all. 🙂

      I’m familiar with separatist movements (Quebec), having lived through two such – one of which was defeated by the slimmest of margins (less than a 1% difference). Scary times indeed.

      Still, were I a young Scotsman, I’m convinced that the smell of “FREEDOM” would have moved me over into the YES column.

      Not been a young Scotsman however, mystic dreams soon fell to the overriding real world concerns of dissolution. I doubt that we’ve seen the last of the movement – if anything, the legitimacy of the movement has been more than satisfied.

      I noticed that Salmon is already on “they cheated” kick. Stay tuned. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill

      • John Bent

        Hi Bill,

        There’s absolutely no doubt about the legitimacy of the independence movement. What the referendum has done is to shake up the whole of the UK system of government. Decentralisation is the name of the game, which is what Cameron said he wanted when talking about the “Big Society”. Not surprisingly, the waters got muddied by the coalition and the recession. However all eyes are back on the local powers theme with many, including Boris Johnson, the mayor of London and putative Conservative MP/Leader, jumping on the bandwagon. From a Scottish point of view Cameron needs to ensure the promise of more powers in a short timescale is kept and the SNP has a big role to play in that.

        I’m not an expert on Canadian politics but it seems that very narrow majorities, like the one you refer to, do not necessarily result in another referendum after a few years. However, If the UK government does renege on Cameron’s promises, there are bound to be demands for another one sooner rather than later.

        Kind regards,
        John