Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 30, 2014

Make your cloud safer: How to enable two-factor authentication;  Why Americans expect privacy: An open letter to FBI Director James Comey;  Use Google’s security settings to keep your account safe;  ASUS unveils new VivoMini PC, starts at $149;  GlassWire review: Free network security tool;  HP Plunges Downmarket With A $99 Windows Tablet;  How to use the Google Software Removal tool in Windows;  Spyware executive arrested, allegedly marketed mobile app for “stalkers”;  Apple accused by the EU of taking illegal tax aid;  You can now play Minecraft on your watch;  Study shows we’ll give up our children for free WiFi;  SAM: A DIY Internet of things;  Game consoles most widely used video streaming devices in US;  California cops don’t need warrants to surveil with drones;  Windows Inspection Tool Set (free).

Why Americans expect privacy: An open letter to FBI Director James Comey – Balancing liberty and security is one of the great challenges of this century. In this open article to FBI Director James Comey, ZDNet Government’s David Gewirtz explain why Americans demand both.

Make your cloud safer: How to enable two-factor authentication for the most popular cloud services – Step-by-step instructions to help you tighten security and dramatically reduce the risk that crucial cloud services will be compromised. If you use a Microsoft or Google account, Office 365, Dropbox, Facebook, or Twitter, keep reading.

Use Google’s new panel in security settings to keep your account safe – The settings aren’t new, but the wizard-like presentation is a new addition. It walks you through five important security settings for your Google account.

Facebook’s new ‘Atlas’ ad platform will follow us around on non-Facebook sites – Facebook’s new ‘Atlas’ ad platform will follow us around on non-Facebook sites. The ad technology will enable Facebook partners to siphon user data from Facebook’s deep, deep sea and use it to super-target ads at users on and off its website, no matter what wireless or wired device we’re using.

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Getting started with canned responses in Gmail – Canned responses in Gmail lets you compose replies to common messages you may receive, and saves them for future use. In just a few clicks, you can insert one of your pre-written replies, allowing you to tackle the messages that you might normally read and forget to answer when you have a free moment. Here’s how to use Gmail canned responses.

How to remove the Windows shortcut arrow from desktop icons – Shortcuts point to files–usually but not always programs–that are stored elsewhere on your drive. If you drag and drop a program from the Start menu to the desktop, you create a shortcut to the original program. To make it clear that it’s a shortcut and not the original file, Windows displays an arrow in the lower-left corner of the icon. If you don’t like the arrows, you can turn them off by editing the Windows Registry. But William asked for a safe solution, so I’m offering an easier, less dangerous way to make the change.

5 reasons why Ello isn’t the second coming of Facebook – Ello is not the revelatory social network that will finally kill Facebook. It’s a fledgling site with plenty of potential, but Ello won’t be able to coast on the ability to use pseudonyms and its lack of ads for long. The network needs to make five drastic improvements to prove it’s more than just a flash in the pan.

GlassWire review: This free network security tool tells all about your network traffic – Who is your computer talking to? Your browser isn’t the only application that’s sending data online. Your word processor might be phoning home; a file undelete utility might be talking to its mother ship, and even Windows’ own services may surprise you. These are not necessarily nefarious actions, but they’re worth knowing about. GlassWire is a free and beautiful utility that lays all of this bare.

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HP Plunges Downmarket With A $99 Windows Tablet, $199 Windows Notebook – The race to the bottom is back. Reminiscent of the netbook war of yesteryear, HP just followed Toshiba’s lead with a $99 tablet along with introducing a $199 Windows notebook. Expect to see these colorful devices at a department superstore near you. HP hasn’t revealed the specs powering these Windows 8 machines. That’s by design and as we’ve said for years, the spec is dead anyway. HP is clearly hoping to sell these devices on price alone although both include one year of Office 365 and 60 minutes of Skype calls each month.

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ASUS unveils new VivoMini PC, starts at $149 – This is considered a barebones PC which means you’ll have to provide a few of your own components to complete the package. In addition to the Celeron CPU, the VivoMini has a Gigabit Ethernet port (WiFi cards are supported), four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and DisplayPort out, 1/8″ audio out (headphones/PC speakers), SD Card slot, Intel HD graphics and two PCIe slots (one half length, one full length).  You’ll need to provide your own m-SATA SSD and RAM, to which the VivoMini will support up to 16GB of DDR3-1600 through two SO-DIMM slots.

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Adobe Brings Photoshop For Chromebooks To Its Education Customers – For the longest time, pundits said that Google’s Chromebook initiative wouldn’t amount to much because Chrome OS couldn’t run complex applications like Photoshop. Those pundits will have to find another example now, because starting today, Photoshop will run on Chrome OS and on Chrome for Windows (if you are an Adobe education customer).

GoPro’s New Entry-Level Hero Could Be The Category King – GoPro has a new lineup of Hero cameras, including the next-gen Hero4 with fancy 4K video features and touchscreen back displays, but the introduction of a new entry-level Hero today could be what brings the action camera category to the next level. The Hero is similar to the “White” tier of devices GoPro has sold until now, but it’s especially cut-rate at just $130, and packs features the competition just can’t match, like integration into a waterproof housing and automatic low-light shooting mode optimizations.

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How to use the Google Software Removal tool in Windows – Not sure if you have a malicious toolbar or extension messing with your settings? Check out this tool from Google to investigate what’s going on with Chrome.

SAM: A DIY Internet of things – Using Bluetooth modules and a drag-and-drop software builder, SAM is a kit that allows you to build almost anything you can dream up.

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10 things to know about the state of tech in education – Tech in education is facing several key challenges. As talk of the skills gap, and whether kids should be trained for jobs or broader skillsets like digital literacy gains steam, there are problems and solutions similarly gaining and losing ground. One point of consensus seems to be that there are going to be a lot of tech-based jobs in the future, and not enough people to fill them. And the education system needs to do a better job of stepping up to help groom more future tech workers. Here are 10 things you should know about tech and education, and how folks are looking toward preparing kids for that future.

Security:

Apple Just Patched The Shellshock Bug In OS X – While Apple was quick to proclaim that the “vast majority” of OS X users weren’t susceptible to the bug and that only users who’d tinkered with “advanced settings” needed to act, that doesn’t mean they want to leave the door open even a bit. They’ve just pushed a security patch for the bug, and you probably want to nab it sooner than later. The patch seemingly hasn’t made it into OS X’s built-in software update tool just yet, which just means you have to download it manually for now.

Spyware executive arrested, allegedly marketed mobile app for “stalkers” – The chief executive officer of a mobile spyware maker was arrested over the weekend, charged with allegedly illegally marketing an app that monitors calls, texts, videos, and other communications on mobile phones “without detection,” federal prosecutors said. “Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it’s a crime,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement. “Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim’s personal life—all without the victim’s knowledge.”

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No black art to the Blackphone’s quest for smartphone privacy – While the Blackphone is off to a lukewarm start, our hands-on with the privacy-protective, Android-based smartphone finds that it simplifies staying safe on the go.

Report: Crime-as-a-Service tools and anonymization help any idiot be a cyber-criminal – Almost any idiot with malicious intentions can jump into the cybercrime arena thanks to ‘Crime-as-a-Service’ tools that lower the entry barriers into cybercrime; wannabe cyber-criminals who lack technical expertise can simply buy the tools and skills needed. In fact, “Crime-as-a-Service business models” and anonymization have helped many traditional organized crime groups move to cybercrime, according to the 2014 Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment (iOCTA) published today. It’s easy to do and difficult to be busted since “criminals in cyberspace do not need to be close to the crime scene, they might never even travel to the target country, and can attack a large number of victims globally with minimum effort and risk by hiding their identity.”

Company News:

Apple accused by the EU of taking illegal tax aid – Apple will soon be publicly accused by the European Commission of taking illegal tax aid via a special deal with the Irish government. The deal ensured Apple was paying less than 2% taxes.

Google faces accusations Search isn’t fair to all – To further combat Google’s long-reach with regard to search, a collective of smaller entities have taken up arms against them. A new website, Focus on the User, has been launched to convince European lawmakers that Google isn’t playing fairly. Rather than foster a free and open Internet search engine, the site claims Google is using it to their advantage.

Free Consumer Credit Monitoring Company Credit Karma Raises $75M, Now Valued At Over – A consumer-facing credit monitoring startup, Credit Karma, is now worth more than a billion dollars following a new round of funding. The company announced this morning it has raised an additional $75 million in growth funding from Google Capital, Tiger Global Management, and Susquehanna Growth Equity. The new round comes 8 months after its Series C – a time when Credit Karma’s user base increased by over 50%. The WSJ reported the $1 billion+ valuation this morning, and the company confirms it’s accurate.

Blackberry promises a second Passport, new ‘concept device’ – This is an interesting device — and that’s putting it mildly. Though many see the device as an edge-case scenario at best, it may be part of Blackberry’s plan to get back into our mindset, if not our pockets. The Passport may not be a one-off, either, as CEO John Chen suggests they’ll have another attention-grabber soon.

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Apple gives tours of testing facilities to assuage iPhone bending fears – Following media reports about “widespread” bending of its new flagship smartphone, Apple pushed back, giving tours of its iPhone testing facilities and facts about the spread of “Bendgate”.

Games and Entertainment:

Report: Game consoles most widely used video streaming devices in US – Last week, a Dallas-based market research firm published a report about American video-streaming habits, and its numbers told a story that we saw coming for years: Video game consoles have become the leading device category for video streaming app use.

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Netflix’s first original movie will be a sequel to ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ – Netflix has made original, exclusive TV shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black a major part of its content strategy over the last few years, and now the company has a new piece of the puzzle to unveil. According to Deadline and Variety, Netflix will release the sequel to Ang Lee’s surprise international hit martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at the same time as it hits movie theaters.

You can now play Minecraft on your watch – You know the phrase “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should”? That has basically become the motto of Android Wear. We’ve seen crazy full screen keyboards and full-on web browsers, but Corbin Davenport has taken things to a whole new level. With a little bit of tinkering and an APK sideload or two, Minecraft Pocket Edition is now running buttery smooth on this Android Wear watch, which opens the door to a whole new kind of crazy for this platform.

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Deviously Simply Strategy Game ‘ICE’ Lands on Android – Can a game created in only 48 hours be any good? It turns out, yeah, it can. ICE is a new game on Android (coming soon to iOS) that was created for the Ludum Dare, an online game jam that encourages developers to make a game in just one weekend. Piotr Wójcik conceived of ICE as a simple real-time strategy game, but it’s also oddly addictive.

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Samsung Courts Gamers With 27-Inch Curved Monitor – The 27-inch curved monitor includes a Game Mode to automatically adjust the action. The device sports a 1,920-by-1,080 display with a 16:9 aspect ratio and 178-degree extra-wide viewing angle. It comes in at 24.54 by 14.40 by 2.34 inches, weighs just over 12 pounds, sits on a curved T-shape stand, and will connect to Macs as well as PCs.

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Leading ladies of gaming celebrated on Humble Bundle – Pay what you want for games like Lilly Looking Through, Ms. Splosion Man and The Cat Lady with female protagonists and help raise money for the Girls Make Games scholarship fund.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Study shows we’ll give up our children for free WiFi – When you’re logging into a public WiFi hotspot, do you read the terms and conditions? Probably not, but you’re not alone. While it’s not clear what percentage of people aren’t reading the fine print, quite a few Britons in London recently gave up their first-born child for free WiFi, all because they didn’t read the T&C when logging in.

John Oliver breaks down the United States’ troubling drone program – The US government has been continually criticized for how it operates its drone program, which is being used to kill militants in the Middle East using standards that are unclear and loose at best. The government’s unwillingness (or inability) to clarify all of this can make the entire situation fairly muddled, so this weekend John Oliver tried to trudge through it all. In the latest of his long and pointed segments, Oliver sorts out just how troubling the US drone program is. “When children from other countries are telling us that we made them fear the sky,” he says, “it may be time to ask some hard questions.”

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iPhone 6 Bendgate explained by confirmed fraud Uri Geller – There’s a magician in the wild this week who hopes to explain the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus bendgate incidents with talk of psychic energy. It’s Uri Geller, everyone’s favorite spoon-bender from the 1970s! He wants Apple to hire him to explain to the world that it wasn’t the hardware’s fault, but that of the energy of excitement in the air over the release of Apple’s newest smartphones.

Man staring at iPad causes airport evacuation – On Saturday morning, a man got off a plane at Sydney Airport in Australia and was so enchanted by the fascinating content on his iPad that he walked into a domestic terminal without bothering to go through security. This event was captured on CCTV and unnerved officials so much that they evacuated passengers.

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This is the chaos, captured by one flier, after a man with an iPad wandered past security without being screened.

Something to think about:

“There are a terrible lot of lies going around the world, and the worst of it is half of them are true.”

–     Sir Winston Churchill

Today’s Free Downloads:

DocFetcher – DocFetcher is an Open Source desktop search application: It allows you to search the contents of files on your computer. — You can think of it as Google for your local files. The application runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, and is made available under the Eclipse Public License.

Supported Document Formats:

Microsoft Office (doc, xls, ppt)

Microsoft Office 2007 and newer (docx, xlsx, pptx, docm, xlsm, pptm)

Microsoft Outlook (pst)

OpenOffice.org (odt, ods, odg, odp, ott, ots, otg, otp)

Portable Document Format (pdf)

EPUB (epub)

HTML (html, xhtml, …)

TXT and other plain text formats (customizable)

Rich Text Format (rtf)

AbiWord (abw, abw.gz, zabw)

Microsoft Compiled HTML Help (chm)

MP3 Metadata (mp3)

FLAC Metadata (flac)

JPEG Exif Metadata (jpg, jpeg)

Microsoft Visio (vsd)

Scalable Vector Graphics (svg)

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Windows Inspection Tool Set – Windows Inspection Tool Set (WiTS) provides list and detail views of various components and objects in a Windows system. WiTS also provides event monitoring and logging capability.

The Windows Inspection Tool Set (WiTS) slices a Windows system in multiple ways, providing you with flexible, cross-linked, filtered views into a Windows system. View operating system information, processes, services, users, network interfaces and connections, file shares, printers and more. Get notified of system resource status and events such as new network connections, process starts, service status and other system events.

Features:

Customizable list views show properties of objects in table form.

Flexible user-defined filters and sorting modes allow focusing on specific objects.

Change tracking to allow highlighting of changes or limiting display to only those objects whose properties have changed.

Property page views provide details about objects.

Supported object types include processes, services, CPU’s, modules, drivers, network connections and interfaces, disks, shares, users, groups, logon sessions and the windows event log.

Event monitor displays user-selectable events such as process starts, new network connections, system resource levels and more.

Optional logging of all events to a file.

Cross-linking of all objects, including events, for easy point-and-click navigation.

User command line for running external as well as internal commands.

A full Tcl console with access to the Tcl Windows API for advanced users.

Automatic startup and multifunction hotkey support for quick access.

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Gadwin PrintScreen – Gadwin PrintScreen is an easy to use utility that allows you to capture any portion of the screen, save it to a file, copy it to Windows clipboard, print it or e-mail it to a recipient of your choice.

There are several hotkey combos to choose from (PrintScreen is the default). Once you’ve chosen your favorite combo, head to the Destination tab and have the screen print out instantly, copy the capture to the clipboard, save it to a specific folder, or even send it through e-mail. You can perform full screen captures, or only capture a specific window.

There are also six different image formats to choose from, and each one can be resized. With all the customization capabilities, what more could you ask for?

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The Ghost of Ronald Reagan Authorizes Most NSA Spying – U.S. intelligence agents have broad authority to spy on U.S. companies as long as they are “believed to have some relationship with foreign organizations or persons” — a description that could conceivably apply to any company with foreign shareholders, subsidiaries, or even employees—according to newly released government documents published this morning by the ACLU.

The trove, which includes documents from the NSA, Department of Justice, and Defense Intelligence Agency, confirms long-standing suspicions that the bulk of U.S. foreign surveillance operations are governed not by acts of Congress, but by a 33-year-old executive order issued unilaterally by President Ronald Reagan.

The documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School, and they detail the extent of the order — which is extraordinarily broad and until recently largely obscure — and which underpins expansive U.S. surveillance programs, like siphoning internet traffic from Google and Yahoo’s overseas data centers, recording every call in the Bahamas, and gathering billions of records on cellphone locations around the world.

Ferguson officials charging “exorbitant” fees to provide e-mails to press: AP says the tactic keeps public-interest documents from seeing the light of day – On Monday the Associated Press wrote that officials in Ferguson, Missouri have been charging exorbitant fees to turn over public records like e-mails and texts from city officials. The informational paywalls come in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, that spurred weeks of protests in the St. Louis suburb.

The AP notes that charging high fees for public records is a tactic that some government agencies use to discourage journalists and activists from discovering unflattering or problematic information. Officials in Ferguson have said that forwarding certain e-mail and text messages requires expensive IT analysis, despite the fact that public records laws in Missouri maintain that public access to government records should be provided at little to no cost.

“Ferguson told the AP it wanted nearly $2,000 to pay a consulting firm for up to 16 hours of work to retrieve messages on its own e-mail system, a practice that information technology experts call unnecessary,” the AP wrote on Monday. “The firm, St. Louis-based Acumen Consulting, wouldn’t comment specifically on Ferguson’s contract, but said the search could be more complicated and require technicians to examine tape backups.”

In another incident, the AP says that the city of Ferguson billed the news organization $135 per hour for a whole day’s work to recover “a handful of e-mail accounts since the shooting.” Conversely, the Washington Post was quoted fees of at least $200 to receive “city officials’ e-mails since Aug. 9 discussing Brown’s shooting, citizen complaints against Ferguson officers, and Wilson’s personnel file.” Ferguson city officials quoted Buzzfeed “an unspecified thousands of dollars” to pull “e-mails and memos among city officials about Ferguson’s traffic-citation policies and changes to local elections.”

California cops don’t need warrants to surveil with drones – California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have required the police to obtain search warrants to surveil the public with unmanned drones.

Brown, a Democrat facing re-election in November, sided with law enforcement and said the legislation simply granted Californians privacy rights that went too far beyond existing guarantees. Sunday’s veto comes as the small drones are becoming increasingly popular with business, hobbyists, and law enforcement.

“This bill prohibits law enforcement from using a drone without obtaining a search warrant, except in limited circumstances,” the governor said in his veto message (PDF). “There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill’s exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the 4th Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution.”

At least 10 other states require the police to get a court warrant to surveil with a drone. Those states include Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin.

As Slate described it, “California’s drone bill is not draconian. It includes exceptions for emergency situations, search-and-rescue efforts, traffic first responders, and inspection of wildfires. It allows other public agencies to use drones for other purposes—just not law enforcement.”

The widespread acceptance of drones has even caught the attention of a member of the US Supreme Court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said two weeks ago that she was concerned over a lack of unified privacy standards concerning drones.

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4 Comments

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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 30, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    ‘iPhone 6 Bendgate explained by confirmed fraud Uri Geller’

    This fraud was popular on the talk shows and made a lot of money taking in the suckers in the 1970s. He hoodwinked the geniuses at Stanford University, yet all it took was a fellow magician to expose the tricks the Israeli was using. I thought he was history and then about 15 years ago he popped up again selling magic crystals and a course in psychic powers.
    I tell you when one looks into Uri Geller and then the powers of media and government it is a wonder there are ANY free thinkers around who can see through the smokescreen.
    People today think they are so sophisticated and not at all gullible, what a laugh.
    I have to tell you that Tech Thoughts is not just a necessity in today’s world but an EDUCATION in more ways than one.

    My best to you,
    Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      I read this morning, that Uri Geller is now claiming that he can “bend” the iPhone 6. Sorta like back to the future with this guy. 🙂

      I think it was Randi (James Randi is a Canadian-American retired stage magician and scientific skeptic best known for his challenges to paranormal claims and pseudoscience. Randi is the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation), who blew away Geller’s “smokescreen”.

      Best,

      Bill

  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: GlassWire review

    I downloaded this last night, what a neat little tool. In the past, if I wanted to know what was connecting to where, I would import the Current Ports log into a spreadsheet and have a look there. This app makes it all so much easier. Good find.

    Cheers
    Mal

    • Hey Mal,

      I’ve been running with this for a few months and I’ve come to rely on it – particularly the built-in virus scanner under the Alert tab.

      Good to hear you found use for it.

      Best,

      Bill