Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 24, 2014

How to use the Tor Browser to surf the web anonymously;  Eight questions to ask before you buy your next smartphone;  Top free essential business apps for Android smartphones, tablets;  How to disable banner ads in Skype;  Top free, essential business apps for iPhone;  Craving a Cuddle? There’s an App for That;  Windows 7 faces Halloween deadline;  3 must-have app extensions for iOS 8;  How to remove bloatware from your rooted Android device;  College Campuses Get An “F” In Cybersecurity;  Facebook’s WiFi drones to begin testing next year;  UPS reveals plan to expand 3D printing locations;  Google’s Schmidt says Assange detainment is ‘luxury lodgings’;  Xbox One is now officially cheaper than PS4 in the UK;  The best apps for freelancers;  How Much Better Is Each New iPhone’s Camera? A court ruled that a swat raid on a barbershop was totally ridiculous.

How to use the Tor Browser to surf the web anonymously – Recently, BoingBoing ran an article about how some librarians in Massachusetts were installing Tor software in all their public PCs to anonymize the browsing habits of their patrons. The librarians are doing this as a stand against passive government surveillance as well as companies that track users online and build dossiers to serve highly-targeted advertising. It’s an interesting project and a bold stand for user privacy. But the good news is that if you want to browse anonymously, you don’t have to go to the library to use Tor. Connecting to the Tor network from your own PC is quick and painless thanks to the Tor project’s dead simple Tor Browser.

Pointing up  Quick tip: Don’t install add-ons (Tor is a version of Firefox and it will accept add-ons), since doing so will break anonymity.

Eight questions to ask before you buy your next smartphone – Wireless providers in the US make it easy to pay more than you should for a smartphone and an accompanying data plan. Here’s how to make sure you get the best possible deal.

Top free essential business apps for Android smartphones, tablets – What are some of the best, free business-related apps for Android devices on the market?

Top free, essential business apps for Apple’s iPhone – What are some of the best, free business-related apps for the iPhone on offer?

How to disable banner ads in Skype – Before the many updates to Skype post-Microsoft acquisition, simply disabling the promotions options in settings was enough to rid your conversations of unnecessary spam. However, a new banner ad has made its way to the conversation window. This ad wouldn’t be such a bother if it didn’t often cut into the video feed area when going full screen. Thanks to Reddit user N19h7m4r3, you can disable ads through just a few steps. Here’s how:

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The best apps for freelancers – The whole freelance, be-your-own-boss thing sounds liberating—until you realize you’re also your own business manager. You need to track your time and expenses. You need to make sure you get paid. Luckily, there are several apps that can make the business end of freelancing a whole lot easier.

10 Android features that still make it better than iOS 8 – Apple’s new iOS 8 may have blatantly appropriated some of Android’s marquee features—like the Notifications panel and support for third-party keyboards—but it still misses some of what Android users love about the mobile operating system. Your Apple-using friends may try to rub your nose in their shiny new version of iOS on their shiny new iPhone, so here are ten features that Android has that you can retort with. (And of course, don’t forget to remind them that Android L is coming soon, and that will have even more features to boast about.)

Windows 7 faces Halloween deadline – Microsoft is approaching the next cutoff date in Windows 7’s life cycle next month. Here’s what is and isn’t happening after October 31.

Craving a Cuddle? There’s an App for That – Released earlier this month, Cuddlr lets you find people near you who are down for a friendly cuddle sesh. It works like this — when you see someone who looks suitable, you send them a “cuddle request” and they have 15 minutes to accept. If they accept, you’ll both see each other’s location and you can send your potential cuddle buddy just one 140-character message to, perhaps, coordinate where to meet. You’ll also get real-time updates and walking directions so you can find each other. Not creepy at all.


3 must-have app extensions for iOS 8 – With iOS 8, Apple introduced extensibility in the OS through apps with built-in extensions that can be used inside of other apps like Safari, Photos, the Notification Center, and more. Several app updates have been released that focus on further integrating iOS with extensions. Here are just three must-have apps with extension support in iOS 8.

Wear Tip Calculator Splits the Bill in Seconds on Android Wear – The last thing you want to do after a hearty meal is math. But how are you supposed to figure out the tip without delving into that mishmash of numbers and figuring out who ordered what? Easy—just use your watch and the aptly named Wear Tip Calculator.


Polaroid Cube Review – Is the Polaroid Cube worth the cash? Absolutely. Even without apps, even without a viewing screen. Even without the ability to toss it down a mountain. You’ll be able to pick the Polaroid Cube up in Orange/Red, Blue, or Black (we’ve got Black) supposing you’re able to find those colors in a store near you. We’d recommend checking in with Photojojo first and foremost. Again, the Polaroid Cube itself costs $99 USD while accessories vary in cost. We’ll see more soon!


How to remove bloatware from your rooted Android device – So, you’ve opted to root your Android device to enjoy new features and get rid of the bloatware installed by your carrier and the device manufacturer. You root the phone, only to find you still can’t uninstall those apps! Even with the rooted device, the Uninstall button never appears on the carrier-installed applications. What do you do? There are two options.

Microsoft Miracast dongle brings Chromecast-like streaming to the Windows world – Miracast was designed first and foremost to mirror what your screen displays, so it serves as a second, wireless monitor. (It also supports HDCP protected content, so you can “throw” a movie from your laptop to the dongle itself, playing the audio through the display’s speakers.)  That also means that while you can use it to wirelessly display YouTube videos, it can also be used to display a PowerPoint presentation, an Excel spreadsheet, or your PC’s desktop.


Getting started with Talko – New iPhone app from Ray Ozzie lets you talk, text and share photos as well as tag and bookmark key parts of your conversations.


College Campuses Get An “F” In Cybersecurity – This obviously isn’t very welcoming news for campuses and their inhabitants. In order to assess the cyber security performance of American higher education institutions, BitSight Technologies conducted a study on the most recognized collegiate athletic conferences: the SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big 10, Big 12, and Ivy League. These schools represent a student popular of over 2.25 million and network footprint of more than 11 million IP addresses.

Kali NetHunter turns Android device into hacker Swiss Army knife – One of the tools we’ve leaned on heavily in some of our lab testing of software privacy and security is Kali Linux. The Debian-based operating system comes packaged with a collection of penetration testing and network monitoring tools curated and developed by the security training company Offensive Security. Today, the Kali developer team and Offensive Security released a new Kali project that runs on a Google Nexus device. Called NetHunter, the distribution provides much of the power of Kali with the addition of a browser-driven set of tools that can be used to launch attacks on wireless networks or on unattended computers via a USB connection.


Free to download, ready to customize, NetHunter puts the power of a pen-tester’s Linux desktop on a Nexus phone or tablet.

The ‘Hacking’ Involved in Stealing Celebrity Nude Photos Isn’t Even Impressive – I talked to former hacker and leading internet security blogger Nik Cubrilovic about the process of stealing celebrity nudes, and to hear him tell it, the hacking skills required are pretty remedial.

Apple’s Touch ID still vulnerable to hack, security researcher finds – The Touch ID fingerprint reader on the iPhone 6 can be fooled by the same trick that unlocks the iPhone 5S — but it didn’t have to be that way, says security expert.

Company News:

Samsung gives up on Windows laptops and Chromebooks in Europe – Samsung has confirmed that it is ending sales of all of its laptops – including both Windows notebooks and Chromebooks – in Europe. The move comes as the PC market continues to struggle in the face of increasingly powerful smartphones and tablets, reducing users’ dependence on ‘traditional’ form factors, including notebooks and desktops.

Facebook’s WiFi drones to begin testing next year – Be it balloons, drones, sattelites or just plain laying cable under the surface, various companies are making an effort to digitally connect the world. Google and Facebook have both vowed to bring the Internet as we know it to parts of the world where connectivity is sparse or absent. Facebook is now laying out their plan of action, saying that they should be able to test drones by next year.


EU tells Google to make more concessions or face charges in antitrust dispute – Google has to improve its settlement terms in an antitrust investigation over its search practices or face charges, following opposition from some quarters to the deal, the European Commission’s competition chief Joaquin Almunia said Tuesday. Some of the 20 formal complainants “have given fresh evidence and solid arguments against several aspects of the latest proposals put forward by Google,” Almunia, who is vice president of the commission responsible for competition policy, said in a speech of which the transcript was posted on the European Union website.

FTC shuts down Bitcoin mining rig maker Butterfly Labs – As Bitcoin rose in value and the popularity of cryptocurrencies spiked, companies began cropping up hawking pre-built PCs called mining rigs designed specifically for digital mining. One such company was Butterfly Labs, which was just recently shut down by the FTC over questionable business practices. A quick trot through the Internet will reveal customers less than happy with Butterfly Labs, reporting things like lack of communication and never receiving the product they ordered. The FTC caught wind of their troubles and took swift action, going so far as to call the folks behind Butterfly Labs “scammers”.

UPS reveals plan to expand 3D printing locations – As with Staples, 3D printing is available at UPS stores, something that has thus far been a pilot program. According to the company, it will be rolling out an expansion to almost 100 stores across the US, marking the highest number of printing locations available by a nationwide retailer.

Games and Entertainment:

Activision taps Rudy Giuliani in Call of Duty lawsuit – Back in July, former Panama dictator Manuel Noriega slapped Activision with a lawsuit over Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The reason? His likeness was used without permission, and he was shown committing “numerous fictional heinous crimes”, which apparently tarnished his reputation.


Follow PCWorld’s Steam Curator page for great, hand-picked game suggestions – PCWorld covers a wide world of PC gaming news, previews, and reviews, but sifting through a sea of old articles is a headache when you just want to know which cool PC game you should buy right now. Enter Steam’s recent revamp. The ‘Discovery Update’ overhauled the interface and added a wealth of new tools, all designed to make it easier to help you find games you actually want to play—including the ability to follow “curator” pages of game recommendations from sources you trust. I think you see where this is going.


League of Legends gamers face restricted ranked play over bad behavior – Most sane people know how to have fun and be a good sport, but there is always that one clueless guy who pops in and ruins something for everyone else. Riot Games has ramped up its penalties against those kinds of gamers, adding more restrictions in place for those who forget their manners.


Nintendo releasing transparent versions of the 2DS – Two new versions of the 2DS have been announced for gamers across Europe. They both have transparent casings, but come in a choice of Transparent Red or Transparent Blue. There’s no word on whether these models will be offered outside of Europe, but they will be available as standalone products on November 7.


Xbox One is now officially cheaper than PS4 in the UK – Amazon UK has all the deals listed in one place and the standard console with no games is priced at just £324.85. That’s £25 (US$40) cheaper than the official price. You can also select to buy the console with Call of Duty, Destiny, or pre-order it with FIFA 15, Halo, Forza Horizon 2, of GTA V and only pay the RRP of £349.99. So you’re basically getting a game for free. However, the best offer has to be the pre-order for the white Xbox One with Sunset Overdrive, which is listed at the new lower price of £329.99.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Google’s Schmidt says Assange detainment is ‘luxury lodgings’ – On the eve of the release of the WikiLeaks founder’s new book, titled “When Google Met WikiLeaks,” the Google executive chairman goes on the offensive.

How Much Better Is Each New iPhone’s Camera? Here’s An Excellent Comparison – It’s easy to say that the iPhone’s camera has gotten better over time — that’s pretty much a given. But how much better? Lisa Bettany, co-founder of Camera+, decided to put it to the test. Eight generations of iPhone, lined up in a row… all taking the same photo. The results are pretty damn neat.


Emma Watson urges UN to back feminism – 4chan trolls threaten to leak her ‘nude selfies’ – At the weekend, actress Emma Watson gave a well-argued and reasoned speech to the UN calling for better relations between the sexes. And lo, internet trolls have set up a website threatening to release nude photographs of the Harry Potter star. The website features a 4chan logo, a badly rendered snap of Watson apparently crying, and a countdown clock with about three and a half days left to run. Anonymous comments on a moron-infested board said Watson’s nude pictures would be leaked online when the countdown reaches zero.

This music video is shot in one-take and uses 14 different Apple devices – Brunette Shoot Blondes might not ring a bell, but the Ukrainian indie/electro/pop band is making waves with their new video “Knock Knock.” The new video uses 14 different Apple devices to tell a story.


TechSpot: History of the Personal Computer, Part 2 – This is the second installment in a five part series, where we look at the history of the microprocessor and personal computing, from the invention of the transistor to modern day chips powering our connected devices.

Aireon unveils ALERT system for tracking, finding lost planes – Aireon is aiming to put an end to lost aircraft, announcing that it will have a free plane-tracking system in place in 2017. With the system, the location details on a plane that goes missing can be requested by rescue teams, helping to avoid future tragedies like the loss of MH370.


Can the iPhone 6 Plus stop a 50-caliber bullet? – It will certainly let you watch videos in full HD, but how does the iPhone 6 Plus fare when it comes to stopping bullets? RatedRR takes a shot at the Plus to find out.


Something to think about:

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”

–      Hermann Hesse

Today’s Free Downloads:

Win Toolkit – Win Toolkit is a lightweight and easy to use application that was created in order to help you customize your Windows installation!

With this tool you can integrate Addons, Drivers, Gadgets, Language packs, Modified Files, Theme Packs, Tweaks, Silent Installers, Updates. You can also remove features such as Windows Media Player and customize Windows default services state.

Win Toolkit also comes with extra tools which helps you convert files, make ISOs, download the latest updates (thanks to SoLoR and McRip), and completely customize your images to tailor your Windows installation disk to your exact needs.


Universal Media Server – Universal Media Server is a DLNA-compliant UPnP Media Server.

It is based on PS3 Media Server by shagrath. It is actually an evolution of the “SubJunk Build” of PMS.

UMS was started by SubJunk, an official developer of PMS, in order to ensure greater stability and file-compatibility.

Because it is written in Java, Universal Media Server supports all major operating systems, with versions for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

The program streams or transcodes many different media formats with little or no configuration.

It is powered by MEncoder, FFmpeg, tsMuxeR, AviSynth, MediaInfo and more, which combine to offer support for a wide range of media formats.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

After small victory in stingray case, Chicago man seeks more records – After successfully getting the Chicago Police Department to hand over records showing that it purchased cell site simulator devices, also known as IMSI catchers or stingrays, one local activist has now filed a second lawsuit in an attempt to better understand precisely how the stingrays are actually used.

The new lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by Freddy Martinez, a 27-year-old Chicagoan who works in the software industry.

Martinez’ earlier lawsuit resulted in three pages of invoices, dated 2009, showing that the department purchased an AmberJack upgrade (a model of stingray) and a StingRay II upgrade. While “StingRay” is a trademarked name and particular product of the Harris Corporation, it has entered the technical lexicon as a generic term, like Kleenex or Xerox.

As a result of the CPD’s disclosure of these documents, the agency has now filed for a motion to dismiss in the first lawsuit, and the two sides are set to meet in a Chicago court room on Wednesday. Martinez and his attorney will continue to press for more documents to be released.

The new suit specifically asks for, among other records:

All court orders for any instances in which Chicago Police deployed IMSI Catchers

All formal or informal policies, procedures, orders, directives, or other such records that pertain to when, why, where, how, and by whom IMSI Catchers may be deployed

All records discussing the constitutionality of deploying IMSI Catchers

“The public has a right to know the extent to which the police are secretly taking information from their cell phones and whether their Constitutional rights are being protected in the process,” Matt Topic, Martinez’ lawyer, said in a statement. “The Chicago Police Department has refused to produce a single document that would show the extent this is happening and with what Constitutional safeguards. This plainly violates the Freedom of Information Act and raises serious Constitutional concerns.”

A court ruled that a swat raid on a barbershop was totally ridiculous – It’s heartening to read the 44-page decision, which sarcastically insults the Orange County, Florida, Sheriff’s Department for launching absurdly over-the-top operations to check licenses of barbershops in the area. At one establishment, Strictly Skillz, about ten cops—some with their guns drawn and faces covered—stormed in looking for contraband. Police cuffed the shop owners and forcibly removed the customers, but found nothing illegal going on in the shop.

This bizarre use of heavy-handed tactics is not unique to Florida. Earlier this summer, several exotic dancers in San Diego filed a lawsuit after being allegedly mistreated by local police, whose excuse for detaining and photographing them was that they were checking identification. Last year, a 12-officer team raided an animal shelter in order to put down a baby deer. There are far too many examples to mention, but federal agencies in particular seem to have recently caught the raid first, question later bug.

With the Strictly Skillz court ruling, barbers can proceed with a lawsuit against the cops for violating their Fourth Amendment rights. But as the law blog Simple Justice noted, there are various complicating factors and technicalities involved (aren’t there always). The main one is that the court didn’t broadly decree that a SWAT-style raid in the service of checking licenses is unconstitutional, just that this particular one was excessive in its forcefulness.

So it might be a minor victory, but I’ll take it. This ruling combined with the Senate hearing on police militarization from earlier in the month should give some police-reform advocates hope. Could the US finally be tilting away from SWAT raids and prisons as the answer to every societal ill? If so, it’s a change that’s a long time coming—and it’ll be longer still until we see departments across the country actually change their behavior.

The New Offensive On Canadian Government Spying – As parliament resumes in Canada, privacy advocates OpenMedia are hoping to stir up renewed public debate in the country, about the role of its spy agency, CSEC, in government surveillance.

Vowing to “stop illegal spying,” the group just launched a new video campaign designed to stoke concern about the Communications Security Establishment Canada’s shadowy mandate. The group alleges that said mandate allows for spying that is “secretive, expensive, and out-of-control.”

“Canada’s national spy agency can collect and analyze your private communication data without a warrant,” the video warns.”This could include your phone calls, your email, your internet data, and even wherever you go with your phone.”

The video is another phase of the organization’s campaign to raise awareness and exert pressure on the government over warrantless bulk data collection.

With the return of the Conservative party’s cyber-snooping legislation, under the guise of Bill C-13, OpenMedia cobbled together the Protect Our Privacy coalition to push Canadians to voice their views.

The group includes the usual suspects of Amnesty International, the BC Civil Liberties Association, and a slew of unions. It also includes some unlikely partners like the right-leaning Canadian Taxpayer Federation, the National Firearms Association, and several media groups.

The wider campaign by OpenMedia and its partners signals a growing concern and public debate surrounding privacy issues—a similar public dialogue to the one that Americans underwent shortly after the Edward Snowden leaks.



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

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 24, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    Google’s Schmidt says Assange detainment is ‘luxury lodgings’
    I do NOT trust Schmidt and his fellow co-founder of Google one bit and one can tell Assange must be on the up and up the way he has liberated truth and suffers the consequences for it.
    Google = Big Brother wearing a different mask

    Bill I did want to mention a couple of items that you’ve posted in the last several weeks that I really had fun reading about: the BMW with body armor a true James Bond fantasy care and the Survival Bike: Black Ops edition, a model outfitted with an end of the world arsenal, including a crossbow and tomahawk. I would love to have both of them and I shared it with a relative who said, “Damn I’ll have to win the lottery” LOL
    Best wishes,

    • Hi Fred,

      Schmid would surely be familiar with “luxury lodgings” wouldn’t he? What a maroon! 🙂

      I’m with you on that Survival Bike: Black Ops edition – extra cool!!



  2. Phoenix Tears Healed

    Hi 🙂 imagine you were not particularly tech savvy, an ordinary user say; I hand you an reformatted xp laptop and a Norton anti-virus; would you surf the web easily, and safely?

    I’m asking because I’m on Windows 7; but, I have an old one on xp; I would be quite willing to give this to someone I know does not have a computer at all; but I hesitate, because xp has no updates; I wouldn’t be doing them a favour in giving it to them to use on the internet would I?

    thanks 🙂

    • Hey Phoenix Tears,

      Cool! Instead of Windows, install a Linux distro. Mint 17 is an ideal distro for a “not particularly tech savvy” user. You can read a review here.



      • Phoenix Tears Healed

        Hi Bill,

        that’s a great idea, I forgot about Linux; I have an old Ubuntu on disc too, which I tried out inside Windows a few years ago; the Mint looks even easier to use. I appreciate your time in telling me this, because besides there being many folks who cannot afford the price of a secondhand laptop; older but still well-working machines don’t have to be wasted. I will download it and can now make two people happy for the future 🙂

        • Hi Phoenix Tears,

          Kudos to you for looking out for those who need a bit of a boost. It’s amazing how a small kindness can impact one’s own happiness. 🙂