Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – October 22, 2014

Microsoft warns of Windows zero-day;  Congress to the FBI: There’s ‘Zero Chance’ We’ll Force Apple to Decrypt Phones;  Five Free Mobile Apps Every IT Professional Needs;  18 Google Maps Tricks You Need to Try;  Three social media apps for scheduling and more;  Website blocking is not internet filtering: Australian government;  Stop typing and start dictating documents in Windows;  Free videoconferencing tools: 5 creative ways they can help you get things done;  Second-screen apps for every World Series fan;  Google launches support for Security Key;  Simpsons World app and website stream all 500+ episodes;  Xbox One’s new digital TV tuner lets you stream TV to a tablet or smartphone;  Watch the ‘First Real’ Hoverboard;  Junkware Removal Tool (free);  Avast Free Antivirus 2015.

Stop typing and start dictating documents in Windows – Just because you can’t type doesn’t mean you can’t create documents. All you need is a microphone for your PC and Microsoft Word to take the stress off your hands and start using your voice. Here’s how.

Five Free Mobile Apps Every IT Professional Needs – A slew of new apps have stepped up to capitalize on the flood of smartphones and tablets in the hands of IT managers and administrators – aiming to make the day-to-day work of IT professionals easier and more flexible. Here are a few great apps that IT pros will find useful at the office, on the road and everywhere in between:

18 Google Maps Tricks You Need to Try – Regardless of how you feel about it, Google Maps (and its cousin Google Earth) remain powerful and versatile tools—and most of us are only scratching at the surface of what they have to offer. (And we’re just talking about the Web version, the mobile incarnations are a whole other bag of magic.) Here, we present 18 cool things you didn’t know Google Maps could do. Click on through and experience just a little bit of the power of the everyday.

Collaborate for free with Annotate Attachments in Gmail – Gmail users who collaborate with coworkers should check out the free Annotate Attachments in Gmail extension for Chrome from Framebench. The utility lets you mark on email attachments right in the inbox. It’s easier to do with a touchscreen but works pretty well on Chromebooks and other laptops with touchpads.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Post like a pro: Three social media apps for scheduling and more – Managing your social media presence can be a full-time job—and an expensive undertaking. A host of products is available to help, but not every tool is right for everyone. Read on to learn about three apps that can help you post your content across various social networks, and, in some cases, a bit more.

PhotoMath on Windows Phone lets you solve math problems instantly – PhotoMath, a camera-based app on Windows Phone and iOS, utilizes photo recognition to instantly display the results of almost any mathematical expression you point your phone at.

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First major update to Windows 10 Preview, delivered through Windows Update – We’ve written before about Windows 10’s new updating policy, and today we’re seeing the real-world result for the first time. The Windows 10 Technical Preview, build 9849, is being updated to build 9860. That update will roll out automatically to members of the Windows Insider program, and it will be delivered through Windows Update. The operating system upgrade is a little more heavyweight than a regular hotfix; systems will need to reboot to finish installation, and Microsoft says that the reboot will take longer than normal.

ZOTAC unveils the ZBOX PI320, a $200 Windows 8.1 PC the size of a chunky smartphone – ZOTAC – who, you may remember, were among the first companies to sign up to Valve’s Steam Machines platform – has unveiled a new Windows PC that has the footprint of a smartphone, albeit with a body that’s a good deal thicker than most modern handsets. Nonetheless, the ZBOX PI320 packs plenty of specs into its tiny form factor, including a quad-core Intel Bay Trail Z3735F processor, 2GB RAM, 32GB storage, three USB ports, full-size HDMI port, microSD slot, Ethernet port, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

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Homeboy WiFi camera cuts power cord with 3 month battery – WiFi cameras like Dropcam aren’t new, but while baking in wireless connectivity has helped cut one cord, they’ve always needed to be plugged into a power supply. Now, Homeboy claims to have severed that second tether, with its eponymous camera running on batteries and promising around three months of use from a single charge. That makes positioning all the easier, and Homeboy has taken advantage of that with a magnetic base that means the camera can be pointed in any direction or even hung upside-down from the ceiling.

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Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight Monitors Home Alarms From Afar – The Smart Alert Nightlight plugs into the wall and connects to your home Wi-Fi network using the Leeo app. The nightlight then “listens for the frequency and pattern of your existing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms” and sends an alert to your phone if they go off. It can also monitor climate for anything too hot or cold. The Smart Alert Nightlight also works as, well, a nightlight. Use your phone to set its brightness, or to go on at a certain time – illuminating your way to the bathroom or kitchen at night, for example. The plug-in Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight is on sale now for $99.

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Free videoconferencing tools: 5 creative ways they can help you get things done – A free videoconferencing tool belongs in any productivity kit, and not just for meetings. Used creatively, the combination of webcams and collaboration features can help you streamline other tasks and interactions in your workday, in ways you might never have considered.  Here are five extra ways you can put a free system to work for you.

Lowly DSL poised for gigabit speed boost – DSL was one of the first widely adopted technologies for bringing high-speed Internet access to homes and businesses, but it hasn’t been the fastest. That’s all changing. At the Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam this week, several companies are announcing and demonstrating products that bring DSL — or digital subscriber line — into a future with a speed of 1 gigabit per second. That’s about 1,000 times the data-transfer speed the technology offered when it arrived in the late 1990s.

Second-screen apps for every World Series fan – The World Series has returned, with the San Francisco Giants set to battle the Kansas City Royals for baseball supremacy. And thanks to second-screen apps, you don’t have to be merely a passive viewer of the this year’s Fall Classic. These apps for your iPhone or iPad can enliven the experience, whether you’re watching on TV, streaming the games online—or you’re even lucky enough to attend in person.

Security:

Microsoft warns of Windows zero-day; hackers serve exploits in PowerPoint files – Microsoft on Tuesday warned Windows users that cyber criminals are exploiting a zero-day vulnerability using malicious PowerPoint documents sent as email attachments. In an advisory, Microsoft outlined the bug and provided a one-click tool from its “Fixit” line that customers can use to protect their PCs until a patch is available.

Flash vulnerability being exploited in large-scale attacks, mere days after patch – If you haven’t updated your Flash Player with the fixes released on Oct. 14, you may be vulnerable to new attacks using a commercial exploit kit called Fiesta, security researchers warn. The vulnerability, which is being tracked as CVE-2014-0569 in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) database, was fixed in Flash Player updates last week.

Google launches support for Security Key, a simpler kind of two-factor authentication – It just got a little easier to log into Gmail. Today, Google launched support for Security Key, an open standard that lets you log in to an account with a physical device, usually in the form of a USB. The device takes the place of the six-digit confirmation codes currently used by Google’s two-factor authentication. Instead of typing in the code, you’ll simply insert your USB key before logging in. A password is still required, so a thief wouldn’t be able to log into your account just by stealing your security key. On the other hand, if your account password ended up leaking onto the web, it would be useless without the corresponding security key.

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First man convicted in child predator sting with virtual girl Sweetie – An Australian man with previous child pornography charges is believed to have been the first convicted in an operation using a CGI child to lure predators.

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Company News:

Yahoo’s Minuscule Growth Enough to Exceed Expectations – Yahoo beat Wall Street estimates with $1.15 billion in third-quarter revenue, up from $1.14 during the same quarter last year. Surprising analysts is always nice, but the Internet search giant should be especially happy about the revenue bump, even if it is just a 1% increase. Sales had declined in four of the previous five quarters, including a 3% year-over-year drop in this year’s second quarter.

Google, Facebook continue massive lobbying efforts in Q3 – Google and Facebook continued to pour millions of dollars into federal political lobbying in the third quarter in attempts to influence U.S. lawmakers and have legislation written in their favor. Google spent $3.94 million between July and September while Facebook spent $2.45 million, according to disclosure data published Tuesday. The only tech-related company to outspend Google was Comcast, which is trying to convince politicians to look favorably on a merger with Time Warner and spent $4.23 million during the quarter. But Google stands as the largest spender in the entire tech industry to date this year.

More lawsuits over “no poach” deals get filed against Oracle, Microsoft – A class action lawsuit against Google, Apple, and other tech companies that struck deals to not “cold call” each other’s employees may be on the verge of wrapping up. Similar cases against Oracle and Microsoft have just been filed. The suit against Microsoft (PDF) says that in 2007, the company struck a deal with several other tech companies not to pursue employees who were at “manager level or above,” even if the candidate reached out.

Magic Leap Secures $542M Led By Google For “Lightweight Wearable” Tech That Merges Physical And Digital Worlds – It’s rare that a company can stay relatively secretive while raising a huge amount of funding, but Florida’s Magic Leap has managed that. The startup, led by CEO Rony Abovitz, announced today the close of its $542 million Series B, featuring investors led by Google, Inc., and including KPCB, Andreessen Horowitz, Obvious Ventures, Qualcomm and Legendary Entertainment.

Microsoft Drops Nokia Name, Sticks With ‘Lumia’ For Windows Phones – After a long and complicated relationship that first involved just a close partnership with Nokia handling hardware duties, and then Microsoft acquiring Nokia’s phone-making business during what appeared to be a fairly acrimonious separation, there will be no more confusion as to who’s making first-party Windows Phone hardware going forward: they’ll be called just “Microsoft Lumia” devices going forward. The rebranding will begin in France, according to The Verge, and then move around the world from there, and will apply across product branding, social media accounts and all online presence.

Verizon misses Q3 mark as it shrugs off rivals’ promotions – The carrier still managed to post strong customer growth, again driven largely by an increase in tablet sales.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox One’s new digital TV tuner lets you stream TV to a tablet or smartphone – Microsoft announced its digital TV tuner back in August, and it’s finally going on sale in European countries today. The 29.99 EUR ($40) accessory plugs into a USB port on the Xbox One to pick up channels using free-to-air DVB-T, DVB-T2, and DVB-C television standards. This also enables the TV functionality on Xbox One along with TV listings from OneGuide. While recording isn’t supported yet, Microsoft is allowing Xbox One owners to pause live TV and rewind or fast-forward. The pausing works even if you switch back to a game. It’s not clear if the software maker plans to enable DVR functionality in future, but the pausing live TV temporarily uses part of the 500GB hard drive storage on the console

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Launch trailer for Xbox One exclusive ‘Sunset Overdrive’ released – “Sunset Overdrive” from Insomniac Games and Microsoft will be released for the Xbox One on Oct. 28, and the duo today released the final trailer for the game. A launch trailer highlights the game’s plot and humor, but it also gives a good look at the gameplay from various sections in “Sunset Overdrive.” The launch trailer follows commercials for the game that recently began airing on major networks.

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Indie game pulled off Steam after dev threatens Gabe Newell on Twitter – In a post on the Code Avarice blog, Mike Maulbeck announced that he is stepping down from the company, and has sold his interest in it to fellow developer Travis Pfenning. The move is an effort to convince Valve that it “has no reason to harbor any more ill will towards the company, and maybe even if we can’t see Paranautical Activity restored [to Steam], at least future Code Avarice games may be allowed onto the platform.” After apologizing again for his intemperate tweet, Maulbeck noted that “my temper and tendency to use twitter to vent has been a consistent problem since I entered the games industry, and I just can’t do it.

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Simpsons World app and website stream all 500+ episodes, but require a cable subscription – Fox was pleasantly surprised when its recent Simpsons marathon on extended cable channel FXX pulled in massive ratings. It turns out people are interested in watching at least some of the more than 500 episodes of The Simpsons that have been created in the past quarter century. In order to take proper advantage of that, a new FXX app is coming that will let you watch every single episode whenever you want. The catch? The FXX Simpsons World app will require a cable subscription.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Take an action flight over Paris on the back of an eagle – An eagle’s breathtaking flight at 180km/h over the City of Light has been captured by a Sony Action Cam attached to the bird’s back.

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The top 10 Dilbert cartoons, according to creator Scott Adams – The first syndicated comic that focused on the workplace, the exploits of the office everyman and his crew of incompetent colleagues never loses relevance.

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Why are some sugars sweeter than others? Chew on this – The American Chemical Society looks at why some foods taste sweet, and why some sweeteners are, well, sweeter than others.

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About GamerGate – If you’re sick of GamerGate, consider this a trigger warning. We’re entering month three of the controversy, and things aren’t getting any better. In fact, the whole issue seems to be increasing in frequency of mentions. It was on the front page of the New York Times the other day and your co-workers and relatives are going to start asking you about it because “You play games, right?” So now’s your time to ask away. Let’s get started.

IllumiBowl turns your toilet into a color-changing party light – If you install the colorful IllumiBowl light, it will look like someone’s hosting a party in your toilet.

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Watch the ‘First Real’ Hoverboard – The idea that a man or woman could someday glide effortlessly through the air has captured our imaginations ever since Michael J. Fox hopped on a hoverboard in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II. Now it’s even more so, thanks to the Hendo, touted as “the world’s first REAL hoverboard,” named after inventor Greg Henderson.

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Something to think about:

“To FBI Director Comey and the Admin on criticisms of legitimate businesses using encryption: you reap what you sow.”

–      California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa

Today’s Free Downloads:

Avast Free Antivirus 2015 – Download.com Exclusive – Keep your system updated and protect it against the latest viruses and spyware with the new Avast Free Antivirus 2015, featuring Smart Scan. Avast Free Antivirus 2015 has added utilities to an already comprehensive set of security tools. The new Smart Scan detects vulnerabilities in your home network, checks for program updates, and fixes PC performance issues with just one click. Avast continues to improve its anti-malware protection, as well as making it easier to manage security for multiple devices via the Web client.

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Junkware Removal Tool – Junkware Removal Tool is a security utility that searches for and removes common adware, toolbars, and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) from your computer. A common tactics among freeware publishers is to offer their products for free, but bundle them with PUPs in order to earn revenue. This tool will help you remove these types of programs.

Junkware Removal Tool has the ability to remove the following types of programs:

Ask Toolbar

Babylon

Blekko

Claro / iSearch

Conduit

Crossrider

DealPly

Delta

Facemoods / Funmoods

Findgala

Globasearch

Hao123

iLivid

Iminent

IncrediBar

MocaFlix

MyPC Backup

MyWebSearch

PerformerSoft

Privitize

Qvo6

Searchqu

Snap Do

Swag Bucks

Wajam

Web Assistant

WhiteSmoke

Zugo

And many more…

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Congress to the FBI: There’s ‘Zero Chance’ We’ll Force Apple to Decrypt Phones – The FBI’s director wants Congress to force force Apple and Google to do away with default smartphone encryption. Congress, however, doesn’t look to be with him.

Last week, FBI director James Comey suggested that encryption “threatens to lead all of us to a very dark place” and suggested that if Apple and Google don’t remove default encryption from iOS and Android then “Congress might have to force this on companies.”

But years of National Security Administration surveillance and other privacy oversteps and surveillance creep by the federal government has lawmakers skittish to do anything that’ll be seen as expanding the surveillance state, even if Congress still isn’t ready to roll back the laws it already has on the books.

“To FBI Director Comey and the Admin on criticisms of legitimate businesses using encryption: you reap what you sow,” California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa tweeted. “The FBI and Justice Department must be more accountable—tough sell for them to now ask the American people for more surveillance power.”

Issa holds considerable power on such matters, and The Hill reported that other lawmakers have echoed his sentiments. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (a California democrat who has been staunchly anti surveillance for some years now) said that Comey’s proposal would have “zero chance” of passing; Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told the publication that he doubts more than “a handful” of lawmakers would support such a bill.

So, while it’s disappointing Congress won’t roll back NSA surveillance, it’s at least heartening to hear that Congress thinks that passing a bill like Comey has suggested would be political suicide.

Website blocking is not internet filtering: Australian government – Summary: The Department of Communications has argued that forcing ISPs to block certain websites under Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act is not a form of internet filtering.

Supreme Court to decide if cops can access hotel registries without warrants – The Supreme Court is weighing in on another Fourth Amendment privacy case, this one concerning a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotels to surrender guest registries to the police upon request without a warrant.

The justices agreed Monday to hear Los Angeles’ appeal of a lower court that ruled 7-4 that the law—meant to combat prostitution, gambling, and even terrorism—was unconstitutional. The law (PDF) requires hotels to provide the information—including guests’ credit card number, home address, driver’s license information, and vehicle license number—at a moment’s notice. Several dozen cities, from Atlanta to Seattle, have similar ordinances.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) welcomed the high court’s intervention in Los Angeles v. Patel.

“The Supreme Court will consider both the scope of privacy protections for hotel guests and also whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits laws that allow unlawful searches,” EPIC wrote. “The second issue has far-reaching consequences because many recent laws authorize the police searches without judicial review. Thus far, courts have only considered “as applied” challenges on a case-by-case basis.”

The appeal is the third high-profile Fourth Amendment case the justices have taken in three years.

More Crypto Wars II – FBI Director James Comey again called for an end to secure encryption by putting in a backdoor. Here’s his speech:

There is a misconception that building a lawful intercept solution into a system requires a so-called “back door,” one that foreign adversaries and hackers may try to exploit.

But that isn’t true. We aren’t seeking a back-door approach. We want to use the front door, with clarity and transparency, and with clear guidance provided by law. We are completely comfortable with court orders and legal process — front doors that provide the evidence and information we need to investigate crime and prevent terrorist attacks.

Cyber adversaries will exploit any vulnerability they find. But it makes more sense to address any security risks by developing intercept solutions during the design phase, rather than resorting to a patchwork solution when law enforcement comes knocking after the fact. And with sophisticated encryption, there might be no solution, leaving the government at a dead end — all in the name of privacy and network security.

I’m not sure why he believes he can have a technological means of access that somehow only works for people of the correct morality with the proper legal documents, but he seems to believe that’s possible. As Jeffrey Vagle and Matt Blaze point out, there’s no technical difference between Comey’s “front door” and a “back door.”

Britain’s Intel Chief: Our Spies Would Rather Quit Than Do Mass Surveillance – GCHQ Director Sir Iain Lobban has continued to equivocate and dissimulate around the issue of surveillance in his valedictory speech, which he gave today ahead of his retirement at the end of this week.

Though the British intelligence agency is the NSA’s closest foreign partner in defending the West from critical threats to national security, Lobban neither mentioned Edward Snowden nor directly addressed the many allegations of mass snooping that have recently been levelled at the organisations. Instead, he chose to talk up the agency’s work against paedophiles, drug cartels, and terrorists, whilst defending GCHQ as a bastion of liberty.

However Snowden, the ex-NSA contractor who exposed the epic surveillance operations of intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic, can’t have been far from Lobban’s mind. “The people who work at GCHQ would sooner walk out the door than be involved in anything remotely resembling ‘mass surveillance,” Lobban said.

But then Lobban described some of the work the agency carries out in a way many would deem as resembling exactly that. “We access the internet at scale so as to dissect it with surgical precision,” he said during his speech at the Churchill War Rooms in London. “You can’t pick and choose the components of a global interception system that you like—catching terrorists and paedophiles—and those you don’t—incidental collection of data at scale: it’s one integrated system.”

He claimed only a small percentage of global communications are within reach of the agency’s sensors and GCHQ only intercepts a small percentage of that. And of the data it intercepts, it stores only a “miniscule” amount for a limited period of time.

But Professor Ross Anderson, a long-time critic of the UK’s intelligence operations and head of cryptography at the University of Cambridge, said over email that Lobban’s definition of ‘mass surveillance’ is “nothing like yours or mine.”

“How come they collected over a million people’s Yahoo video chats, including a significant number of intimate chats?” Anderson asked. “There is no conceivable way that can be justified as targeted, proportionate or necessary. It fails the human rights test. It is mass surveillance.”

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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 – October 22, 2014

  1. Hello Bill,
    I had the honor of being invited by Avast for their Launch Party of Avast 2015 last night. To say the least, it was a very interesting and enjoyable evening.
    I have prepared a video to help those people who are interested in installing this latest release of Avast.:

    Step by Step instruction are available at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TCCX0R7AAF2WOxAMQ_kcun2nNnCPFAk2P4RBzFXSgds/edit?usp=sharing

    Bob

    • Hi Bob,

      I hope you partied hardy. 🙂

      I downloaded this first thing this morning and I’ll install later in the day. Looking forward to that.

      Thanks for the tips.

      Best,

      Bill