Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – October 23, 2014

Four in ten web users have experienced online harassment;  Android version report card: How the top phones line up;  Not been a victim of cyber-crime yet? You’re now in the minority;  Bitdefender Adware Removal Tool Beta;  The Best First Smartphone for Your Child;  BitTorrent Sync file transfer speeds blow away Dropbox, Google, and OneDrive;  10 iPad Air 2 reviews in 10 quintessential quotes;  This Technology Could Change the Way Deaf People Live;  Windows 10: Enhancements to security;  Google unveils “Inbox” as combined toolset for mail, calendars, tasks;  Chromebook shipments leap by 67 percent;  DHS investigates 24 potentially deadly cyber flaws in medical devices;  Massive malvertising campaign on Yahoo, AOL … delivers ransomware;   Microsoft is ending free Xbox Music streaming;  ‘Titanfall’ to add new co-op game mode; Study reveals sugar-filled soda ages you just like smoking does;  Advanced SystemCare 8 Free Beta 3.0.

Four in ten web users have experienced online harassment, according to Pew survey – The internet is still a rough place, according to a new survey conducted in June by Pew Research’s Internet Project and released today. A full 73 percent of the survey’s respondents had witnessed someone being harassed online, while 40 percent had personally been the victim of harassment. Eight percent had been physically threatened, while seven percent had seen the harassment continue for a sustained period of time. Most alarming, more than a quarter of women between the ages of 18 and 24 reported some form of online sexual harassment. “The data show that men are more likely to experience name-calling and embarrassment,” the report says, “while young women are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and stalking.”


Android version report card: How the top phones line up – Wondering if your recently purchased Android handset will be updated with Lollipop? Check out our handy chart which covers a variety of top smartphones.

5 lesser-known killer features in Android 5.0 Lollipop – Android 5.0 Lollipop looks much different than all previous versions of Android thanks to its significantly updated design language. There’s also a fundamental shift in how apps are being run. These are the headlining changes, but there’s a lot more going on in Lollipop than you might expect — new features lurk behind every menu and around every animation. Here are the five coolest, lesser-known features of Android 5.0 Lollipop.

The Best First Smartphone for Your Child – There’s no more modern rite of passage than the first smartphone. How else for kids to text their friends (all of whom, rest assured, “already have one!”), swap Instagram and Snapchat photos, and stream the latest Iggy Azalea music video? Of course, if they’re clever, they’ll argue the practical side: You’ll always know where they are. They can text you when soccer practice ends early. Apps will help them keep tabs on homework assignments. Pretty good points. So let’s take a look at some kid-friendly smartphones, along with service-plan options that won’t obliterate an allowance — yours or theirs.

PreTweet saves you from looking like an idiot on social media – No more “amazeballs”! Avoid looking like a twit on Twitter by using the PreTweet service to scrub out overused words everybody is tired of seeing on social media.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

BitTorrent Sync file transfer speeds blow away Dropbox, Google, and OneDrive, BT says – When you need to share everyday files between devices, cloud storage services work wonders. But when you need to quickly transfer big files between PCs, tablets, and smartphones, it’s hard to beat the speed of BitTorrent Sync’s cloudless file sharing. And now BitTorrent Inc. says it has hard numbers to show just how fast its peer-to-peer sync app really is. The company behind Sync (and the newer Bleep messaging service) says that based on its tests, BitTorrent Sync transfers are up to 16 times faster than syncing with cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.

This Technology Could Change the Way Deaf People Live – A new device being produced to ship in fall 2015 could be the first compact, real-time interpreter for deaf people who cannot speak.

Check out these great music streaming apps for Windows Phone – Listening to music is great — and there’s no reason to be left out just because you’re on a Windows Phone. Music streaming services are out in force, and just about all of the most popular players have thrown their weight behind Microsoft’s smartphone platform. That gives Windows Phone fans plenty of options to choose from. Here are a few of my favorites.

10 iPad Air 2 reviews in 10 quintessential quotes – After four days with the devices, most outlets were impressed by the slimmed-down iPad Air 2 but would recommend it only to owners of early-generation iPads. The iPad mini 3’s slight update—a new gold option and Touch ID—weren’t enough to win a ringing endorsement from any expert. We’ll be weighing in with our in-depth analysis and test results on both tablets, but until then, we picked out some of the best insights from our fellow journalists around the web.

3 reasons to invest in a Surface Pro 3 instead of an iPad Air 2 – Last week Apple unveiled its new tablet lineup and introduced the iPad Air 2. The Apple iPad is still the de facto leader of the tablet market, but it’s now only marginally compelling in a market saturated with a wide variety of alternative devices. The Surface Pro 3, on the other hand, includes some unique features and capabilities that make a persuasive case for why it should be the tablet you purchase.


Google unveils “Inbox” as combined toolset for mail, calendars, tasks – On Wednesday, Google revealed “Inbox,” a Web- and app-based e-mail platform that strives to integrate your mailbox with your calendar and to-do list. The Inbox interface screams “Material” redesign, and its sidebar comes with a much wider range of sub-categories, dubbed “bundles,” to divide your mail between. There are so many, in fact, that the typical Hangout list in Gmail has been forced to the right side of the Web app. The mobile app—only shown today as an Android option, natch—appears to put a stress around such bundling by default, as opposed to presenting e-mails in a default time orientation.

Google Inbox is great; here are two more awesome email apps – Google’s Inbox has some great features, and can definitely make your email experience a lot easier. It also might not be right for you. It might do quite a bit, but there are also a lot of things it doesn’t do. Rather than assume Inbox might solve your email woes, we suggest taking a look at a few other email apps that might actually suit you better. If you’re looking to make life easier via email, it depends on your needs.

Sprint undercuts AT&T, Verizon with $20, 1GB family data plan – At $20, Sprint is offering twice as much data as Verizon and more than three times the data as AT&T.

New Barnes & Noble Nook Galaxy Tab goes big with 10.1-inch screen – The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is launching with an “introductory price” of $300 directly from B&N, which implies the cost may eventually jump up, though it’s likely just marketing speak. To sweeten the deal, buyers get four e-books for free and an episode each of The Newsroom, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The Octonauts. Other perks include four, 14-day free trial magazine subscriptions. The internals match up with the non-Nook Galaxy Tab 10, sporting a 1280 by 800 screen with 149 pixels-per-inch. The tablet has 16GB of storage, expandable to 64GB with an SD card. It has a 3MP camera and 1.3MP front facer, if you really plan on taking photos with your 10-inch tablet.


Windows 10: Enhancements to security – Microsoft is in full development mode for Windows 10, and one item that is likely on the minds of many are the new security features coming with the platform. Seeing that data breaches, identity theft, and malware are real and consistent threats, Windows 10 needs to be built to project against threats of today and tomorrow too. To that degree, Microsoft has posted a rather lengthy piece that talks about the new security features coming with Windows 10, but to save you a bit of time, we have them summarized below.

Windows 10: You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers – There’s more to Windows 10 than just the revamped Start menu. I’ve been fielding questions from readers about the new release. Why is it called Windows 10? Does it really contain a keylogger? What happened to Internet Explorer? And where are the updates?

New Microsoft adapter lets Xbox One’s Kinect play nice with PCs – Xbox One owners will be able to attach their Kinect motion sensors to Windows PCs and tablets thanks to a new adapter introduced by Microsoft. The new $49.99 adapter is specific to Kinect sensors built for Xbox One, and it plugs into the USB 3.0 port of Windows 8 PCs. Microsoft already sold a separate $199.99 Kinect for Windows v2 motion sensor, which plugs directly into PCs without the need for an adapter. There will be no difference in the performance of the Kinect sensors, Microsoft said.

Shutter HALO review: a selfie’s best friend – Capturing the moment is something we all enjoy, and we’re turning to our smartphones more and more to do so. If you’d rather be in the shot than hidden behind the screen, Shutter Halo might be what you’ve been looking for. The small button links to your camera via Bluetooth, and lets you snap a picture remotely. Now you can be in the pic as well as the one taking it! Does a small button really stand up to your wants as a mobile photographer? We find out.


Avi-on Bluetooth light switch sticks to any wall – Imagine deciding you would like a light switch at some specific place in your home where no switch exists, and being able to add it simply by sticking a switch to the wall like a giant Bluetooth-toting sticker, no cutting or wiring necessary. Such is the nature of Avi-on, the latest product in the growing number of home-centric connected devices. The Avi-on light switch works in conjunction with various GE connected devices, including its Bluetooth light bulbs and Plug-In Smart Dimmer, and is joined by a mobile app. Unfortunately, you’ll not be able to run out and buy one of the Avi-on switches right now, as it is still being funded.


Wi-Fi is now free when you visit the UK, if you have a MasterCard – MasterCard customers can enjoy free Internet on trips to the UK without paying out a single pound, shilling or ha’penny.

Target offers free holiday shipping, wish lists for the first time – The increasing reach of Amazon has brick-and-mortar retailers changing their game plans. The latest is Target, who for the first time is offering free shipping.

Chromebook shipments leap by 67 percent – ABI Research found that, in the most recent quarter, Chromebook shipments increased by 67 percent quarter over quarter. The research company expects that year over year, Chromebooks shipments will double. They’re not the only ones who’ve seen Chromebook’s growth. Stephen Baker, consumer research company NPD’s VP of industry analysis for consumer technology, said Chromebooks accounted for more than 5 percent of notebook sales and almost 20 percent of the under-$300  category.


Not been a victim of cyber-crime yet? You’re now in the minority – Just over half the people in Britain have been the victim of an online crime, or cybercrime, according to the latest survey of the issue by Get Safe Online, costing £670m a year in fraud. The crimes include ID theft, hacking and illegally accessing and stealing from bank accounts, but a significant proportion of the crime is never reported because people are not sure who they should report the crime to, the report says. That £670m is the figure for the top 10 internet-enabled frauds reported between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2014. Clearly the actual full figure will be higher because not all crime is reported. Of those who’ve fallen victim to cyber-crime, the Vision Critical poll suggests that only a third, 32 percent, actually reported the incident to the authorities.

DHS investigates 24 potentially deadly cyber flaws in medical devices – When the FDA released recommendations to manufacturers to strengthen the cybersecurity of medical devices earlier this month, the agency quoted Dr. Suzanne Schwartz as saying, “There is no such thing as a threat-proof medical device.” Now, coinciding with the “Collaborative Approaches for Medical Device and Healthcare Cybersecurity” public workshop, Reuters revealed that DHS is investigating 24 cases of suspected cybersecurity flaws in medical devices and hospital equipment. “The two dozen cases currently under investigation cover a wide range of equipment, including medical imaging equipment and hospital networking systems.”

Massive malvertising campaign on Yahoo, AOL and other sites delivers ransomware – Malicious advertisements made their way last week to almost two dozen popular websites and used browser-based exploits to infect computers with CryptoWall, a nasty file-encrypting ransomware program. The malicious advertising, or malvertising, campaign was discovered by researchers from security firm Proofpoint and had an impact on visitors to at least 22 popular websites including Yahoo’s Finance and Fantasy Sports sites,,, and

Facebook prowls the internet looking for your password – Facebook explains that it’s keeping its eye out for credentials – email, password combinations – dropped on sites after data breaches, running them against its own users’ credentials to see if password reuse is going to land its users in trouble.

Company News:

ARM vs. Intel: Why chipmakers want your Chromebook’s brains – As Chromebooks gain credibility among consumers, corporations and schools, Intel has every reason to elbow into what used to be ARM’s turf exclusively.

Apple defeats GPNE’s $94M patent-infringement claim – A San Jose jury rules against the nonpracticing entity, which had accused Apple of infringing its mobile device technology. Apple on Wednesday defeated GPNE in a patent-infringement trial, with a jury determining the electronics giant’s devices didn’t infringe mobile technology owned by the nonpracticing entity. Apple, which called GPNE a patent troll, said in a statement that it was “pleased” by the verdict.

Apple plans to open 25 new stores in China by 2016 – Apple CEO Tim Cook plans to open an additional 25 retail stores in China within the next two years. The Apple executive hopes to increase the number of stores from 15 to 35 within 24 months, according to an interview transcript posted on The company’s future plans in the region were revealed during a visit by Cook to China, where the 53-year-old has been inspecting Apple facilities and has also met with China’s Vice Premier Ma Kai.

Microsoft and IBM commit to providing their enterprise software on Azure, IBM clouds – Microsoft and IBM have cemented a cloud alliance via which they will provide elements of their respective enterprise software on each other’s clouds. The partnership, announced on October 22, will enable IBM’s middleware software — including WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere MQ and DB2 database — to run in virtual machines on Azure for development and deployment purposes. In addition, Microsoft and IBM are working together to provide .NET runtimes and tooling in IBM’s Bluemix, which is IBM’s platform-as-a-service offering. The pair will start by providing a limited preview of .NET within Bluemix.

Sony to slash its smartphone forecast, again — report – The company had planned to ship 50 million smartphones this year, but that figure has been falling and will drop even more, according to Bloomberg.

Games and Entertainment:

‘Titanfall’ to add new co-op game mode – With the new game mode, called Frontier Defense, four players will be able to take on waves of A.I. opponents, with new enemy types also being added to the game. Players will defend objectives in the mode, which will take place on all maps already available in the game. The update, which will be available tomorrow, will be free to all users.


Microsoft is ending free Xbox Music streaming – Microsoft is closing its free Xbox Music streaming service effective December 1st. The company will continue to offer music streaming through its Xbox Music service, but users will need to purchase an Xbox Music Pass to do so, at a monthly price of $9.99. The company doesn’t specify why it’s removing the free, ad-supported streaming option, but says it’s “focusing Xbox Music to deliver the ultimate music purchase and subscription service experience for our customers.”

Voice Commander is an insanely addictive game for the Xbox One from Microsoft Garage – What would happen if Resogun and Asteroids had a baby, only instead of being on the PS4 it’s taking advantage of all the Kinect goodness on the Xbox One? Voice Commander is an Xbox One game made through Microsoft’s Garage, which basically means it was made by Microsoft employees in their extra tim. Plus, it’s free, so if you have an Xbox One there is no reason to not give it a shot.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Camera made from one tiny Lego brick actually works –  The inspiration began with a pine nut. Ryan Howerter, a graphic design student at Colorado State University, took a photography class and his teacher shared the story of the Pinholo, a miniscule functioning pine-nut pinhole camera. Howerter hollowed out a tiny Lego brick (just two studs square) and turned it into a working pinhole camera. He place photographic paper inside, exposed it and processed it to turn out some seriously small black-and-white images. To truly understand the scale, look closely at Howerter’s image of a minifig holding up a pinhole photo showing a tree on the campus at Colorado State.


This Lego brick is also a camera.

I’m wearin’ it! Survey shows users would buy wearable tech from McDonald’s – The future of wearable technology could involve strapping a few Big Macs to your body for convenient snacking. At least that’s one possible conclusion from a new survey on wearables from PricewaterhouseCoopers. One of the survey questions asked the 1,000 respondents how excited they’d be about wearables from various brands. While Apple unsurprisingly came out on top, the bottom of the list is much more interesting.

Study reveals sugar-filled soda ages you just like smoking does – Before you crack that next can of soda, you might want to think again. The results are in on a study that followed 5,309 adults for 14 years to see what, if any effect drinking sugary soda had on aging. The study conducted by University of California professor Elissa Epel indicates that high sugar consumption may result in increased aging in the same way regular smoking does. After analyzing the data, researchers found that people who drank one 8-oz serving per day (i.e. less than a standard 12-oz can) resulted in 1.9 years of additional aging. Consuming 20-oz each day caused about 4.6 extra years of aging, which the authors are keen to point out is the same seen in studies of smoking. Epel arrived at these estimates by tracking the length of telomeres in the participants’ cells.

Hungary’s Internet providers could soon be taxed per gigabyte – Internet usage is still mighty expensive in some regions, but all could pale in comparison to what residents in Hungary may soon be paying: the country is set to impose the first-ever tax on Internet usage, and it’s a hefty one. The announcement was made earlier today by the nation’s Minister for National Economy Mihaly Varga, and it has received harsh criticism from both locals and those abroad. Calls for protests have already happened, but as of right now, the measure is set to start in 2015.

Zuckerberg Wows Beijing Audience With Fluent Mandarin – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited Beijing this week, where he sat down for an interview at the Tsinghua University School of Economics, speaking to students and faculty members for 30 minutes. In Mandarin. That’s right, Zuck spoke for a half hour in front of an auditorium full of native speakers, conversing in Chinese the entire time.

This is how NASA banishes odors in space – How do space agencies keep the International Space Station from smelling like a sweaty locker room? NASA engineer Robert Frost and retired astronaut Clayton C. Anderson reveal a few secrets.

Something to think about:

“We all know that the beautiful dream of the internet as a totally ungoverned space was just that — a beautiful dream. Like all utopian visions, it was flawed because it failed to account for the persistence of the worst aspects of human nature”

–       Sir Iain Lobban, the departing director of GCHQ

Today’s Free Downloads:

Unchecky Beta 0.3.3 – Unchecky aims to keep potentially unwanted programs out of your computer.

Have you ever felt, while installing software, that the installer tries to push additional unwanted programs at all cost? Ever missed a checkbox, and spent hours afterwards removing adware? Ever opened your browser after an installation, only to find out that you have a new homepage, a new search engine, or even a new browser?

Nowadays it’s a reality that many software installations are bundled with potentially unwanted programs, such as toolbars or scareware system cleaners. If you’re a power user, you probably know that you have to be very careful while installing software, because if you miss a checkbox you might spend hours afterwards cleaning up the mess. If you’re an average PC user, you possibly leave everything by default, thus installing lots of additional unwanted programs without even knowing it.

Unchehky’s primary feature is automatic unchecking of unrelated offers, such as potentially unwanted programs, offers to change your homepage or your search engine. With Unchecky, these offers become opt-in instead of opt-out, i.e. they will be installed only if you explicitly choose you want them (you usually don’t).

Another important feature of Unchecky is that it warns when you accept a potentially unwanted offer. Installers often provide them as a natural part of the installation, so they can easily be accepted by mistake. With Unchecky, it’s less likely to accidentally accept such offers.

Unchecky is not an universal solution, and might not support installers which were not released yet. Thus, it’s worth noting that Unchecky updates automatically, so you don’t have to worry about running the latest version.


Bitdefender Adware Removal Tool Beta – Bitdefender Adware Removal Tool for PC is a free app that identifies and removes unwanted apps such as adware, malicious hijacker programs, annoying toolbars and other browser add-ons. Keep the apps you like, get rid of the programs that bug you. The tool will only erase those apps that you wish to be removed. It scans your computer for adware, and produces a list of apps marked for removal.

App is portable, no install or uninstall needed.


Advanced SystemCare 8 Free Beta 3.0 – Advanced SystemCare 8 Free takes a one-click approach to protect, repair, clean, and optimize your PC. With over 150 MILLION downloads worldwide, this fantastic, award-winning, free PC repair software is a “must-have” tool for your computer. It’s easy to use and 100% safe with no adware, spyware, or viruses.

Why waste money on expensive “registry cleaners” to fix your PC when Advanced SystemCare Free can repair, tune up, and maintain it for you – for FREE! Study reveals sugar-filled soda ages you just like smoking does


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

After review, NSA’s CTO can no longer work part-time for agency’s former chief – A top National Security Agency official will no longer be moonlighting part-time with a private consulting firm run by former NSA chief Keith Alexander. The end of that arrangement comes days after the NSA said this particular work situation was “under internal review” due to potential conflicts of interest.

The private company at issue— IronNet Cybersecurity—was founded by Alexander, who ran the spy agency from August 2005 until March 2014. IronNet Cybersecurity offers protection services to banks for up to $1 million per month. Patrick Dowd, the NSA’s current chief technology officer, had been working with Alexander’s private venture for up to 20 hours per week.

It’s the second possible conflict of interest involving former NSA head Keith Alexander.

Reuters reported Tuesday that the deal was over. “While we understand we did everything right, I think there’s still enough issues out there that create problems for Dr. Dowd, for NSA, for my company,” Alexander said.

Hidden camera fingerprints link photos to individuals – Your camera’s digital sensor has a unique fingerprint. Due to minute manufacturing variations across millions of pixels, some pixels are consistently “hotter” or “cooler” than intended.

Signal processing algorithms can extract this unique Sensor Pattern Noise (SPN). Since each sensor is slightly different, the SPN is also different — and unique — a fact that has been known for almost ten years.

Recently researchers in Europe — see their paper (pdf) On the usage of Sensor Pattern Noise for Picture-to-Identity linking through social network accounts — took the next logical step in our social media-mad culture: exploiting SPN fingerprints to see if they could link social network accounts to specific cameras.

How this works: A lot of computing goes into digital images. The artifacts of these processes can identify a brand of camera, but only if the SPN is unique.

Here’s a diagram from the paper:


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