Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – October 3, 2014

Computer repair: Prepare your PC for a trip to the shop;  USB has a huge security problem that could take years to fix;  Chase bank says 76 million affected in data breach;  Best Android smartphones (October 2014 edition);  Curb Facebook Atlas’s Reach With Adblock Plus;  The best calendar apps and widgets for Android;  Real-time captioning comes to Google Glass;  Windows 10 tips: Your first 30 minutes with the Tech Preview;  Lumia 530 priced at just $49.99 with no contract; New Apple tool helps you avoid buying a stolen iPhone or iPad;  Best mobile games of September 2014;  Tower Dwellers Hits Android;  Gates talks Apple Pay, Bitcoin, Nadella;  Would a curfew for men be good for society?  Comcast brings stream-anywhere cloud DVR to major cities;  Australian Senator calls for meme protest of data retention laws;  SoftPerfect WiFi Guard (free).

Computer repair: Prepare your PC for a trip to the shop – Your computer contains important information, much of it private. The people who will repair it may need to alter Windows, which generally requires access to your password-protected administrator account. They’re probably honest, but you can’t count on that. And even if they’re honest, they may still wipe your hard drive out of necessity or incompetence. But with the right precautions, taking your PC on a service trip shouldn’t result in a disaster.

Curb Facebook Atlas’s Reach With Adblock Plus – Facebook on Monday relaunched the Atlas advertising platform in an effort to expand its marketing reach across the Web. But not everyone is thrilled about it. Which is where ad-blocking plug-in Adblock Plus comes in.

Evernote everywhere? New collaboration tools hope to take over your workday – Evernote, with its new Work Chat messaging app and Context research tool, hopes to turn plain old chat into an enhanced communication medium. Whether these new features will woo workers away from established competition is a very open question.

Shop Amazon Smarter with These Quick Tricks – Many of us have shopped Amazon for years without really digging into some of its handier features. Here’s a quick list of tips and tricks.

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The best calendar apps and widgets for Android – No matter how much you’d rather be playing games or checking fantasy sports stats, you have to manage your calendar. All of the following choices work with Google Calendar and Microsoft Exchange, along with other cloud accounts, so you can keep all your appointments in one calendar app.

How to install the Windows 10 Technical Preview: Everything you need to know – Are you ready to walk on the wild side? Windows 10 is on the horizon, and even though it’s still roughly three-quarters of a year away from completion, Microsoft’s giving IT Pros and PC enthusiasts an early taste of what’s to come with the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Lots of things are sure to change going forward, from features to basic elements of the operating system. All that said, are you still curious? Can’t resist the lure of the bleeding edge? Just want to run away from Windows 8? Here’s how to install the Windows 10 Technical Preview right now.

Windows 10 tips: Your first 30 minutes with the Tech Preview – So you’ve downloaded Microsoft’s Windows 10 Technical Preview. Let PCWorld show you around your new OS with our newbie’s guide to Windows 10, complete with tips and tricks.

Real-time, real-world captioning comes to Google Glass – The wearable head-up display’s potential for the hearing impaired, though, did not go unnoticed by a team of researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology. They found a way to circumvent the limitation’s of Glass’ microphone to create an app that captions conversations in real-time. Captioning on Glass adds an Android smartphone to the mix. The speaker talks directly into the smartphone’s microphone; the free CoG Android app translates the speech into text using Google’s own speech recognition software and sends it to the free Captioning on Glass Glassware.

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Best Android smartphones (October 2014 edition) – Here is a selection of the best Android phones currently available on the market. Whether you’re after a handset for personal use, or one suited to BYOD, there’s bound to be an Android handset here for you.

New Apple tool helps you avoid buying a stolen iPhone or iPad – Buying a used phone from someone on Craigslist or eBay is never not sketchy, but thankfully Apple’s now rolled out a tool that could keep you from paying for stolen (and useless) property. The company has launched a new website that instantly checks to see whether Activation Lock — an anti-theft feature of iOS — is switched on for any iPhone or iPad. It’s part of iCloud, but you don’t need any type of Apple account to use it. You will need to access it from a desktop browser, though; mobile Safari bizarrely isn’t supported right now. That makes no sense, but oh well.

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Lumia 530 priced at just $49.99 with no contract on Cricket Wireless – Cricket Wireless will be the first US carrier to offer Microsoft’s most affordable Windows Phone ever, the Lumia 530, and when it goes on sale tomorrow, it will cost just $49.99 with no contract.

ComputerCOP: internet safety software distributed by police turns out to be spyware – If your local police department offered you a piece of free software claiming it helps protect your kids online, that should be a good thing. In reality, saying ComputerCOP is safety software is like saying that a peeping Tom is someone’s personal night watchman. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has done extensive digging and discovered that nearly 250 law enforcement agencies in 35 US states have purchased ComputerCOP over the years, typically buying thousands of copies at a time.

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Roku hops on the screen mirroring bandwagon, adding feature for Android, Windows – Roku is striking back at Chromecast and Apple TV’s Airplay with screen mirroring for Android and Windows. The beta feature lets users beam video and audio from a phone, tablet or PC to the big screen. It’s available now for the Roku 3 and Roku Streaming Stick HDMI version, and requires a device running at least Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 or Android 4.4.2.

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Comcast brings stream-anywhere cloud DVR to major cities – The new service will let customers stream DVR’d TV recordings to PCs, Macs, iOS devices, and Android devices, even outside the home. It’s similar in function to Dish’s Hopper DVR, but because the recordings are stored in the cloud, it could eventually allow for new features such as unlimited tuners and unlimited storage, GigaOM reports.

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Lawyer wants to sue Google over celeb photo hack – With the recent celebrity photo hacking scandal, iCloud was quickly pointed to as a reason for us seeing far too much of those affected. Apple was quick to respond by pointing out the breach occurred by brute force, and not as a result of their lax security. Now, a lawyer representing some of the celebrities affected, is suing Google.

Security:

Chase bank says 76 million affected in data breach – Data breaches seem to be a daily occurrence of late, with companies left and right reporting they’ve been hacked. The latest puts the info grab a little too close to home, though, as JP Morgan Chase reveal they’ve been compromised. The scope of the breach makes it the largest we’ve ever seen. According to the banking giant, about 76 million households were compromised. Seven million small businesses were also affected, according to the nation’s largest bank. Via a regulatory filing today, Chase says names, phone numbers, email addresses and physical addresses were snatched.

USB has a huge security problem that could take years to fix – In July, researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell announced that they’d found a critical security flaw they called BadUSB, allowing attackers to smuggle malware on the devices effectively undetected. Even worse, there didn’t seem to be a clear fix for the attack. Anyone who plugged in a USB stick was opening themselves up to the attack, and because the bad code was residing in USB firmware, it was hard to protect against it without completely redesigning the system. The only good news was that Nohl and Lell didn’t publish the code, so the industry had some time to prepare for a world without USB. As of this week, that’s no longer true.

Check the permissions: Android flashlight apps criticised over privacy – Security firm SnoopWall warns that torch apps are requesting more access to users’ data than they need.

Rising interest in IT security careers  – Demand for cybersecurity professionals is growing 3.5 times faster than the overall IT job market, and 12 times faster than the total labor market.

Company News:

Apple and Google could be in crosshairs of Australian tax inquiry – Major international companies such as Apple and Google could soon have their accounts put under the microscope in Australia as part of a crackdown on corporate tax avoidance.

Facebook apologizes for manipulating news feeds in psychology experiment – In June, Facebook researchers announced the results of a 2011 study that manipulated the news feeds of nearly a million user news feeds to see how positive or negative posts affected user behavior. The experiment only encompassed a tiny fraction of Facebook’s more than 1.3 billion users, but saw incredible backlash from users who hadn’t been asked if they wanted to partake in the study. Today, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer finally apologized in a blog post, and outlined plans for more structured research in the future.

Angry Birds maker Rovio lays off 130 staff and tries to ‘reignite growth’ – Layoffs affect 16% of Finnish firm’s workforce as it focuses on its games, media and consumer products businesses.

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Kim Dotcom parts ways with Baboom: ‘The music industry hates me’ Digital music company confirms it has ‘severed all ties’ with its own founder, as it plans full launch in early 2015.

Games and Entertainment:

Wasteland 2: 10 hours in the desert of death – Set decades after a nuclear apocalypse, Wasteland 2 is the sequel to the 1988 role-playing classic. After choosing a small group of differently skilled survivors, players must head out into the heat-blasted wilderness to investigate the murder of an important tribal leader. This is what happened in my first 10 hours.

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Tower Dwellers Hits Android After Successfully Defending on iOS – At first glance Tower Dwellers is just another tower defense game—after all, “tower” is right there in the name. However, this game has a fun twist on the traditional gameplay that allows you to mix and match abilities to create a custom fighting force that will (hopefully) stop the waves of baddies in their tracks. This game launched on iOS a few months ago, but it has now made its way to Android.

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Best mobile games of September 2014 – Looking for a new game to play on your mobile device? Here’s our pick of the best released in September 2014.

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This train has zombies on it, and you can shoot them – Sure you can go trick-or-treating with the kids on Halloween. Or maybe go see a scary movie. Or even attend an epic costume party. But if you really want to get in the mix — you know, get your heart pumping and your hands dirty — what you want to do is book yourself aboard the Zombie Train. On the train, you’ll be armed with a laser gun and have the chance to shoot your way through hoardes of zombies looking to board your compartment and eat your brains (or at least your packets of travel snacks). “The ZOMBIE TRAIN is the most unique train ride in North America,” says the attraction’s website. “Be among the first to ride through an apocalyptic world inhabited by zombies in Sacramento’s newest attraction, the Zombie Train! One part passenger train, one part zombie killing machine, this one-of-a-kind experience arms passengers with laser rifles to pick-off walking zombies along the tracks.”

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An Hour’s Worth of Bloodborne Gameplay That’s Kind of Amazing – An alpha tester just uploaded an hour’s worth of high-definition video of grueling hack-and-slash Bloodborne gameplay.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Gates talks Apple Pay, Bitcoin, Nadella and how Office needs to be dramatically better – In a 17 minute interview with Bloomberg, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates gives his opinions on Bitcoin, mobile payments, Tim Cook, and that improving Office needs to be one of Nadella’s top focuses.

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Guy legally trolls Instagram by registering domain about magical duck – A Redditor registered the domain slutsofinstagram.com and, when Instagram sent him a cease and desist letter, responded by claiming the domain is for a fictitious fantasy tale about a duck named Slütsöf who travels throughout the land of Stagram. “Slütsöf in Stagram.” She has a goat brother named Whöresof. He responded to Instagram’s letter, though, claiming that the company doesn’t own the alpahbet, and any similarities to their service are simply unfortunate. It’s obviously a joke, but the Redditor kind of has a point.

Vicious great white shark battle caught on camera – Great white sharks don’t fight each other often, but when they do, it’s no-teeth-barred.

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Would a curfew for men be good for society? – Back in the early 70s, Golda Meir, the then prime minister of Israel, was faced with a government cabinet full of men discussing how best to curb a wave of violent rapes. The idea of banning women from the streets after dark was floated. Meir made a counteroffer. “Men are attacking women,” she said. “Not the other way around. If there is going to be a curfew, let the men be locked up, not the women.” Ultimately, the idea was dismissed as unworkable. But since then it has been seriously considered by a handful of communities around the world. This time, it’s Bucaramanga—a city in the Colombian state of Santander—that will be taking up Meir’s metaphorical baton. Next week—on Thursday, October 9—the city of just under 600,000 will experience its first “women-only” night as part of a campaign launched by the state governor’s office.

Crystal invented that can store, release, and replenish oxygen on command – In what sounds like the most efficient weapon that an alien race can threaten the human populace with, scientists at the University of Southern Denmark have invented a crystal that pulls oxygen from a room and even water. According to the researchers, only a bucket full of the crystalline material is needed for the effect to take place. The substance is a salt made from cobalt, and aside from rhyming, is capable of slurping up oxygen at 160 times the concentration of the air we breathe.

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Drone Captures Epic Footage of Iceland Volcano Eruption – If you want to capture close-up video of a volcano erupting, you better be prepared to risk your life. Unless, of course, you have a drone. The folks at drone company DJI recently took a trek to Iceland to capture the massive Bardarbunga Volcano erupting, and the footage is nothing short of amazing.

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Something to think about:

“Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”

–    John Adams

Today’s Free Downloads:

PCMark – With PCMark 8 you can test the performance of all types of PC, from tablets to desktops. With five separate benchmark tests plus battery life testing, PCMark 8 helps you find the devices that offer the perfect combination of efficiency and performance. PCMark 8 is the complete PC benchmark for home and business.

What makes PCMark 8 different from other benchmarks? Real-world relevance.

With PCMark 8 you measure and compare PC performance using real-world tasks and applications. We’ve grouped these applications into scenarios that reflect typical PC use in the home and at the office.

This approach ensures that PCMark measures the things that matter, highlighting performance differences that will be apparent to end users and consumers.

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SoftPerfect WiFi Guard – SoftPerfect WiFi Guard is an essential tool for everyone running a small WiFi network and striving to keep it secure. Generally, modern WiFi networks are well protected, but there is a number of weaknesses that can compromise your WiFi password; this includes vulnerabilities in encryption and brute force attacks. As a result, someone can gain unauthorised access to your Internet and LAN, exploit them and stay unnoticed.

You may think: it’s ok, who cares, I have got an uncapped plan. But what about someone reading your personal emails, stealing private information or breaking the law online while using your Internet connection?

Here comes our little application that allows you to know immediately if your network is used without your knowledge. It’s a specalised network scanner that runs through your network at set intervals and reports immediately if it has found any new connected devices that could possibly belong to an intruder.

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Pointing up    SoftPerfect WiFi Guard running in my system tray.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The NSA and me – James Bamford literally wrote the book on the National Security Agency, spending 30 years obsessively documenting the secretive agency in print. Today, for the first time, he tells the story of his brief turn as an NSA whistleblower.

(A very long but comprehensive article.)

Let slip the doges of war: Australian Senator calls for meme protest of data retention laws – After new national security surveillance powers were ushered through Australian parliament this week, one Senator has called on the internet to protest further national security reforms through mass meme power.

Senator Scott Ludlam has been an outspoken critic of the three tranches of anti-terrorism legislation that are currently making their way through the two houses of Australian parliament, backed by both major political parties.

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