Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 19, 2014

Apple expands data encryption under iOS 8, making handover to cops moot;  Google to encrypt data by default on new version of Android;  Major studios pressure Netflix to block VPN access;  No, a new feature in iOS 8 does not let you charge an iPhone in the Microwave;  Tracking social media mentions: 4 tools;  Alternatives to Google’s $100 Android One in Asia;  Amazon, Apple – families share apps and media across devices;  Amazon’s Fire HD Kids Edition: rubber bumpers, free replacements;  Get started making Android apps with these online courses;  Infographic: U.S. iPhone Repair Bills Top $10.7B;  Home Depot: 56 million cards compromised;  Meet the Master Boot Record;  Get DLC-Packed ‘Need for Speed Rivals’ Complete Edition on Oct. 21;  All The Best iPhone Parody Videos In One Place;  Distracted driving laws stretch to your smartwatch;  BitTorrent Sync (free);  The CIA’s secret journal articles are gossipy, snarky, and no longer classified.

Apple expands data encryption under iOS 8, making handover to cops moot – Apple has updated its privacy policy as part of the rollout of iOS 8, announcing that devices with the latest version of the operating system installed can no longer be accessed by the company itself. Previously, as we reported in May 2014, if law enforcement came to Apple with a seized device and a valid warrant, it was able to access a substantial portion of the data already on an iPad or iPhone. But under the latest version of iOS, even that will be impossible.

Google to encrypt data by default on new version of Android – Encryption has been optional since 2011, but Android L, due out later this year, will include activation procedures for automatic encryption.

Major studios pressure Netflix to block VPN access – Gee, thanks Hollywood. In a bid to protect their rights at all costs—including the cost of consumers’ legitimate rights—major movie studios are reportedly pressuring Netflix to block VPN (Virtual Private Network) users from accessing its U.S. Site. The reason? The major studios are upset that up to 200,000 Aussies are accessing Netflix U.S. by using VPNs to hide their geographic locations, thus violating the studios’ content ownership rights.

Regular Facebook Users Are More Likely To Fall For Phishing Scams – Researchers at SUNY Buffalo have found that habitual Facebook users — those who are on the site more frequently than their peers — were more susceptible to phishing scams. How did they figure this out? By asking them about their habits and then surreptitiously creating a fake friend who then asked them for private information, including their student ID number and date of birth.

No, a new feature in iOS 8 does not let you charge an iPhone in the Microwave – Gullible iPhone users have fallen foul to a hoax that is trending on Twitter that claims you can “quickly charge” your iPhone in any “standard household Microwave” but it’s all fantasy.

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Facebook to push real-time stories to the top of News Feed – Facebook on Thursday said it plans to take into account trending topics and when people like a story to determine what to show you and when to show it. How this will work: When someone posts a status update related to a topic currently trending on Facebook, the network will display the post at the top of your News Feed so you see it sooner. Same goes for types of posts that attract a slew of likes, comments, and shares when they’re first posted, but later drop off. That indicates that the update is timely and should be surfaced to the top of your feed.

Tracking social media mentions: 4 tools – People are talking about your brand– or at least you hope, right? If you’re trying to keep up with the chatter, there are more than a few ways to do that. Keep up with the chatter surrounding your brand with these 4 tools.

How to clean your Windows Temp folder – Windows temporary files can stack up and waste storage space. Here’s how to check for clutter and clean it out.

Alternatives to Google’s $100 Android One in Asia – The new Android One phones may cost just $100, but there are cheaper phones in the market that are equally competitive and offer similar value.

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You may have not heard of the Samsung Galaxy V, but its low price of $98 makes it the perfect entry level device in developing markets.

Amazon, Apple updates let families share apps and media across devices – As long as everyone can agree on an operating system, Apple and Amazon are making it possible for families to share their apps and media across devices, making it just as easy to share a digital book as it is to share a physical one. It allows families with multiple Macs and iOS devices to access the same apps, movies, TV shows, music, and books, even if they’re using separate accounts. It also lets children ask permission to buy an app remotely, letting parents approve or decline the purchase from their own devices.

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Amazon’s Fire HD Kids Edition: rubber bumpers, free replacements – Amazon has introduced a slew of new devices tonight, not the least of which is the Fire HD Kids Edition — a powerful tablet Amazon says it made “from the ground up” specifically for kids. Its child-centric aspects include both design, which is understandably robust with bumpers, and content, which includes Amazon FreeTime Unlimited.

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Facebook Won’t Budge On Letting Drag Queens Keep Their Names – Facebook will not be changing its real-name policy for the drag queen community. San Francisco drag queens met with representatives from the company yesterday afternoon to talk through a recent mass deletion of their personal profile pages. Facebook started deleting accounts of hundreds of members of the drag community last week after deciding these profiles were in violation of the policy.

Drag queens force Facebook to reevaluate real names – Facebook recently began cracking down on well-known San Francisco drag queens who use their performer names on the network instead of their birth names, going so far as to delete profiles, which has caused widespread outrage in the city’s LBGTQ community. Facebook reps met with some of the affected drag queens and city Supervisor David Campos Wednesday night, but it doesn’t look like the network will be changing its policy any time soon. That’s unfortunate. It isn’t just drag queens who eschew their birth names on the network. There are plenty of reasons you might want to use a different moniker or a variation on your given name. What if you have a stalker or a crazy ex?

Get started making Android apps with these online courses – Have you thought of building your own Android app? It’s not as insurmountable a challenge as you may think. There are many online free resources to get you started with the world of code. Others will cost money, but the fees are generally less than what you would pay to enroll in a university course or program. Better yet, most of these platforms offer an Android app to continue your work when away from the desktop.

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Infographic: U.S. iPhone Repair Bills Top $10.7B – It turns out a damaged iPhone can cost more than your pride: According to a new study, totaled Apple smartphones have cost Americans $10.7 billion since their introduction in 2007. About $4.8 billion of that damage happened in the last two years. Factor in Android, Windows, and BlackBerry handsets, and you’re looking at a whopping $23.5-plus billion in repairs and replacements over seven years.

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5 more killer features Windows 9 should steal from Linux – If the latest Windows 9 leaks are any indication, some of the operating system’s coolest new features will look a lot like what Linux users already enjoy: Like the virtual desktops Linux users have had since the 90’s, and a centralized notification center like the one available in GNOME Shell. But there are other great Linux features Microsoft should copy, too. And hey, I’m not just complaining here—Windows would legitimately be better if they stole these features.

Photos: Robots and drones – here’s what Intel’s answer to the Raspberry Pi can do – A walk through the electronics projects that people are cooking up using Intel’s $50 Edison board.

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Security:

Home Depot: 56 million cards compromised – Home Depot’s data breach has many consumers worried. If you’ve used a credit card at Home Depot since April of this year, there is a chance you have been compromised. According to Home Depot, 56 million cards were affected, which is the largest breach of 2014.

Large malvertising campaign under way involving DoubleClick and Zedo – Earlier today, we warned people that both The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post were affected by a malvertising attack. It appears that this is a much larger and ongoing campaign that is affecting a number of other popular websites. The reason this is really big is because it involves doubleclick.net (a subsidiary of Google for online ads) and Zedo (a popular advertising agency).

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BTW, if you’re not familiar with Malwarebytes’ free security application – Malwarebytes Anti Exploit – you can download it here – Malwarebytes.

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Malwarebytes Anti Exploit running on a personal system – protecting the 2 Browsers I’ve currently got running.

Healthcare.gov still lacks some basic security controls – Healthcare.gov lacks several basic cybersecurity controls — including strong passwords and consistent security patching — nearly a year after the troubled launch of the insurance-shopping website, a government auditor said. The website, a centerpiece of the 2010 insurance reform package the Affordable Care Act, does not have a complete system security plan in place, said a report released Thursday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Meet the Master Boot Record – MBR is short for Master Boot Record. Typically, the MBR is the first sector on a startup drive (or other partitioned media). Sometimes it’s referred to as Master Partition Table, because, among others, it contains the location of every partition on a hard drive. So, in essence it is the first code that gets executed after the BIOS has done its job. This is where malware comes into play. Being the first code to get executed gives you an advantage in the arms race between malware and anti-malware.

Company News:

Oracle Stock Drops 2.5% On News That Larry Ellison Has Relinquished His CEO Title – Today after the bell, Oracle announced that its long-time premier Larry Ellison is no longer its CEO. Former HP CEO Mark Hurd will take over the job in partnership with Safra Catz. Catz will manage finance and manufacturing, while Hurd will handle sales. Ellison will take on the titles of Executive Chairman of the Board and CTO. Hurd left HP under negative circumstances, including allegations of sexual harassment.

Chinese e-tailer Alibaba prices IPO at $68, raising $21.8B – The online shopping company set its stock price at $68 a share Thursday, according to The Wall Street Journal, making for the largest US initial public offering ever. The company raised $21.8 billion from the IPO, a portion of which will go to investors like former CEO Jack Ma, Softbank and Yahoo. The additional capital will be critical to Alibaba’s plans to bolster its quickly growing and dominant business in China, as well as make inroads into other markets. That includes the US, where the e-commerce juggernaut’s path will take it toe-to-toe with major US players such as Amazon and eBay.

With Alibaba windfall, all eyes on Yahoo’s Mayer – The IPO promises to be one of the biggest events in Yahoo’s recent history. But after the expected multibillion-dollar windfall, the company’s going to be under intense pressure to improve performance.

Toshiba throttling down consumer PC efforts – Toshiba has always made solid PC hardware, but finding one of their devices may be a bit tough moving forward. Toshiba is announcing they are scaling down their consumer PC efforts, and pulling out of some markets entirely. The company is also cutting 900 jobs, or just over 20% of its non-manufacturing PC workforce.

Verizon, enemy of Open Internet rules, says it loves the “open Internet” – No company has gone to greater lengths than Verizon in trying to stop the government from enforcing network neutrality rules. Verizon is the company that sued to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order from 2010. Verizon won a federal appeals court ruling this year, overturning anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules and setting off a months-long scramble by the FCC to get enforceable rules into place. Verizon has also been spending money to press its case with lawmakers. “An analysis by San Francisco-based data firm Quid found that Verizon alone spent $100 million to lobby Congress on net neutrality since 2009,” NPR reported yesterday. As the FCC nears the end of its new rulemaking process, Verizon is trying to convince the public that it loves the “open Internet” after all.

Mysterious entity acquires TwitPic, saving it from death – TwitPic, the image-hosting company that two weeks ago said it would shut down after a trademark dispute with Twitter, has apparently been acquired, keeping its service alive. “We’re happy to announce we’ve been acquired and TwitPic will live on!” the company said Thursday in—and why not—a tweet. TwitPic said it will provide more details when it can disclose them. It didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ericsson quits modem business, cuts 1,000 jobs – The world’s biggest mobile network equipment maker will shutter its loss-making unit, in the process handing pink slips to about 1,000 employees.

Games and Entertainment:

It’s Not Enough To Make ‘Good’ Video Games Anymore – The sprawling but just OK Destiny proves that all the money in the world can’t make people like you. Mid-tier games find themselves unfairly marginalized for having a few nuts and bolts loose despite, generally, being a lot of fun. So, go on, embrace the mid-tier.

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Destiny

Get DLC-Packed ‘Need for Speed Rivals’ Complete Edition on Oct. 21 – Just in case you missed this big launch title for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One—or happened to overlook it on all the other consoles it was released for—Electronic Arts is taking its Need for Speed Rivals game and repackaging it into a brand-new release. The new iteration, dubbed Need for Speed Rivals Complete Edition, will arrive on Oct. 21. And, yes, it’s going to hit just about everyone: both major PlayStation and Xbox consoles and PC gamers.

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Shadowrun’s Dragonfall expansion tweaked, released as stand-alone Director’s Cut – Remember earlier this year when I said, “Dragonfall is the campaign [Shadowrun Returns] should’ve shipped with from the start.” Okay, maybe you don’t remember, but I swear I said it. Well, a lot of people must’ve felt the same way because Thursday, Harebrained Schemes released Shadowrun: Dragonfall as a standalone product, so those who just want to play the expansion can do so.

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8 Things Bungie’s Destiny Does Very Well – Destiny is an imperfect game, we know that much now. But it’s still a pretty good one as console shooters go. Bungie’s quasi-multiplayer sci-fi romp catches more balls than it fumbles, and whatever else you want to say about its hackneyed story or over-easy enemies or worshipful replication of Halo gameplay fundamentals, I keep coming back to play a little more.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Distracted driving laws stretch to your smartwatch – Thinking of smartwatches as sidestepping smartphones is a novel concept, but lawmakers in the UK are asking that we take a step back from that. The Department for Transportation there is asking drivers to think about how a smartwatches an contribute to distracted driving, just like a smartphone can. In fact, they’ll go after you all the same if you cause an accident.

One More Thing… All The Best iPhone Parody Videos In One Place – Whether you’re on Team Apple or Team Android, one thing remains true. When Apple releases a new iPhone, the tech media world goes nuts. And it’s not just about hands-on videos and analytical looks and bug reports and sales stats — fortunately, there are some hilarious people out there to remind us just how silly iPhone fever is. That said, we’ve compiled a few of the best parody videos on the internet for your viewing pleasure.

The Navy flew its new drone across the U.S. Wednesday night – The U.S. Navy’s new surveillance drone completed its first cross-country flight across the United States Wednesday night. The MQ-4C Triton took off from Northrop Grumman’s airfield in Palmdale, California, Wednesday evening and flew along the southern U.S. border and the Gulf of Mexico and Florida before turning north to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. It landed just before 8 a.m. Eastern time, about 11 hours after takeoff, according to Naval Air Systems Command. Northrop Grumman released video of the flight.

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Lens-less camera, costing pennies, brings vision to the Internet of Things – There’s a type of camera technology emerging with a view of the world similar to what a honey bee sees. The images appear blurry and hazy, but if you’re a bee, good enough for finding flowers and people to sting. It could also be perfect for the Internet of Things by making it cheap to add vision capability to just about anything. That’s the idea put forth by Rambus, a company that designs technologies and then licenses them, for its lens-less sensor. The sensor captures light and relies on computation to shape the data into an image that’s good enough to tell whether someone is in a room or a door has been left open. It can also be used to activate an optical lens if a higher-resolution image is needed.

3DPlusMe will 3D print you as a superhero starting tomorrow – Fancy yourself a superhero? Marvel and Hasbro have kicked off a new partnership with 3DPlusMe that will allow anyone to get their face 3D-printed on a superhero’s body…assuming they’re near one of the Walmarts or Sam’s Clubs that are participating.

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Geek Answers: Is it OK to pee in the ocean? – We hear a lot about the collective environmental impact that people can have — sure for you it’s just a shiny shell you picked up off the beach, but what if everybody did the same? Many a detention-shy youngster has had it pounded into their heads: everything you do to nature is, by definition, bad. Walking on grass? Bad for the grass. Tilling some soil? Bad for the bunny rabbits. But oddly enough, one of the more heinous activities in which a person could engage in regular society, public urination, might just be kosher. Though it might seem odd, taking the lazy way out and avoiding a sandy walk back to an outhouse really isn’t an unethical decision at all.

To mock Yelp, restaurant asks customers for awful reviews – A Richmond, Calif., restaurant is so fed up with what it calls Yelp’s “blackmailing” tactics, that it wants to become the very worst on the site.

Hamster-wheel standing desk: Embrace the rodent race – Why should hamsters have all the fun? Follow an Instructables guide for making your own standing desk with a human-size hamster wheel for exercise.

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Something to think about:

“The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself.”

–     James Thurber

Today’s Free Downloads:

BitTorrent Sync – Share directly from device to device. No cloud. No limits.

Sync uses advanced peer-to-peer technology to share files between devices. No cloud is required. This means there are no accounts, no file size limits, and transfer speeds are never throttled. You are free to share anything and everything you have.

Sync is a powerful and flexible application that equips users to get the job done. It is simple enough to share photos with friends, and powerful enough to sync terabytes of video between co-workers.

Sync is built from the ground up to ensure that you are in always in complete control of your files. Data is transferred directly from device to device. Files are never duplicated on to third party servers. Every connection is encrypted and secured against prying eyes.

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Carroll – Small utility allows you to set a different screen resolution for every user. After logon the screen resolution will be changed to the stored setting.

Carroll is started automatically for every user. At the first time, the application shows all available screen resolution. Select the desired screen resolution and click ‘Change screen resolution and restore with every logon’. Next time, Carroll changes the screen resolution automatically without displaying the user interface.

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Frogger Remake – Go old school with this remake of the classic Frogger game.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

AFTER LYING AND APOLOGIZING, BRENNAN QUALIFIES BOTH – CIA Director John Brennan today petulantly denied that he lied in March when he publicly insisted that the CIA had not improperly accessed the computers of Senate staffers investigating the agency’s role in torturing detainees.

Since then, an  internal investigation found the CIA had done just that, and Brennan was forced to apologize to Senate intelligence committee members.

In March, Brennan told Andrea Mitchell  at a Council on Foreign Relations event: “As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth… We wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the, you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we do.”

But on Thursday, facing questions at an industry trade conference, Brennan carefully parsed his earlier statement, insisting that he had only been  denying the parts of Mitchell’s question that involved accusations of hacking with the intent to thwart the investigation.

CLAPPER DENIES LYING, ANNOUNCES NEW ETHICS POLICY – An unapologetic James Clapper bristled at accusations of misconduct in front of a trade group today, announced that he intends to continue serving as national intelligence director through the rest of the Obama presidency, and released a new “National Intelligence Strategy” that includes a “Code of Ethics” that seems disconnected from the reality of intelligence collection as revealed by Edward Snowden.

Speaking in public, but in a friendly setting, Clapper mocked the notion of intelligence collection without risk, the potential for embarrassment or invasion of privacy. He snidely called it “Immaculate Collection.” (see NBC video.)

Clapper also confirmed a report that, in commemoration of Constitution Day, he led his staff this week in two separate “re-administrations” of the oath of office to the Constitution, which he characterized as a good bonding experience, rather than an urgently needed recommitment to observing the constitutional rights of Americans.

“While we’ve made mistakes, to be clear, the IC [intelligence community] never willfully violated the law,” he insisted.

And he complained bitterly of being “accused of lying to Congress.”

THE CIA’S SECRET JOURNAL ARTICLES ARE GOSSIPY, SNARKY, AND NO LONGER CLASSIFIED – The CIA declassified a trove of articles from its in-house journal, articles that mock excessive secrecy and bad writing, dish on problematic affairs, and brag about press manipulation.

FRENCH CRIME DATABASE BREACHES PRIVACY RIGHTS, EU COURT RULES – The human rights court objects to storing data for 20 years in a criminal database when charges were dropped.

SNOWDEN’S NSA LEAKS HAVE GALVANISED THE STORAGE WORLD – Anyone following the fortunes of the world’s biggest technology companies will have noticed a trend: every one of them has gone potty for privacy.

This is not out of some sudden moral urge but because their futures depend on proving that they are good at protecting people’s personal data.

The Edward Snowden leaks, in particular the revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) PRISM project, which saw the intelligence agency hoover up data from servers at Google, Facebook, Microsoft and many others, have brought about this predilection for privacy.

It is not just the average consumer the tech titans have to pander to either. Businesses have clear concerns about who can access their information and whether they have a Snowden-type character in their ranks.

Apple omits ‘warrant canary’ from latest transparency reports; Patriot Act data demands likely made – Apple has removed text from its latest transparency reports, which suggests that the company has received a top secret data demand.

These so-called “warrant canaries” can be issued ahead of a Patriot Act demand, because technology companies are not allowed to disclose whether or not they have received such an order. Apple, however, preemptively asserted it “never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act,” in its debut transparency report in November 2013.

That text has now been removed from its latest two reports, suggesting Apple has, in the second-half of 2013 onwards, received such an order.

Apple does add in its latest report covering the first-half of 2014 that, “To date, Apple has not received any orders for bulk data,” suggesting a broad-ranging warrant was not served.

Patriot Act requests are highly controversial. Section 215 particularly raises eyebrows, as it allows the National Security Agency to hand over “all tangible things,” including customer data and business records.

By going to the secretive Washington D.C.-based Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the government’s go-to court for surveillance requests, a Section 215 order can be filed in secret, and force a company, like Apple, to hand over data.

The “bulk metadata” program, which forced phone giant Verizon to hand over on an ongoing basis its entire store of phone call data, was authorized under Section 215. The program was first disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

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2 Comments

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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 19, 2014

  1. Great tech news roundup. Includes almost everything that one needs to know about the tech world. Thanks a lot for these updates, Bill 🙂