Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – October 27, 2014

Cloud will never be fully secure, get over it;  CHP officers reportedly stole cell phone photos from women in custody;  10 Top iOS Apps Secured by Touch ID;  How to fill out a PDF form without software;  Personal finance apps – the best and the rest;  Google Rolls Out An Invite System For Its New Email App, Inbox;  Two good reasons to stick with POP3 email over IMAP;  Verizon Wireless injects identifiers that link its users to Web requests;  After uproar, Adobe begins encrypting user data;  Dell takes one last shot at selling Windows 7 Home Premium PCs ;  AMD slashes A-series desktop APU prices;  Google Bulks Up Video Game-Related Search Results;  The 5 most popular Linux distributions.

Cloud will never be fully secure, get over itIncreasing security breaches indicate that any data, once online, will never be completely safe from theft and malicious attacks, so enterprises and users may be better off focusing on risk mitigation.

CHP officers reportedly stole cell phone photos from women in custody – California Highway Patrol officers have allegedly been obtaining nude photos of female suspects from their cell phones and sharing them among other officers. Sean Harrington, 35, allegedly sent photos from the cell phone of a DUI suspect to his own phone, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. He then reportedly shared the photos with other CHP officers. The investigation began after a woman who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in August noticed that photos from her phone had been sent to a number that she did not recognize, according to the Contra Costa Times. The photos were sent when the woman was being processed in jail, the newspaper reported.

10 Top iOS Apps Secured by Touch ID – Touch ID makes unlocking your iPhone easier, but there’s more to Touch ID. Much more. Introduced with the iPhone 5s and refined in the iPhone 6, Touch ID is a marvel of simplicity and security. Press the home button to turn your phone on, and use your thumb or finger to log in with your fingerprint. What could be easier? But once you upgrade to iOS 8, you can do more with Touch ID than just unlock the phone.

Twitpic saved by Twitter just hours before planned shut down – Twitpic has reached its final chapter. The once-popular image sharing service announced today that it has reached an agreement to be acquired by Twitter, saving millions of photos that were set to go up in smoke later today. In a blog post, founder Noah Everett said “we have reached an agreement with Twitter to give them the Twitpic domain and photo archive, thus keeping the photos and links alive for the time being.” He added, “Twitter shares our goal of protecting our users and this data.”

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to fill out a PDF form without software – PDFs are great for sharing documents, but not always for editing them. That’s not too surprising when you consider that a PDF is really just an image, not raw text. And unless the file was generated in such a way as to allow editing (by which I mean the addition of text, like for a form), you often have little option but to print it, fill it out by hand, then scan or fax it wherever it needs to go. Thankfully, there’s a free and easy workaround. (Actually, there are several, but for today I’m focusing on one I’ve used successfully.) PDFescape is a Web-based PDF reader, editor and form-filler.

Google Rolls Out An Invite System For Its New Email App, Inbox By Gmail – Good news, you don’t have to scour eBay for an invite to Google’s new email application, Inbox. You just have to know someone who got in. Today, Google announced by way of its “Inbox by Gmail” Twitter account that each Inbox user will now receive three invites they can hand out to friends.

Looksery Launches A Video Chatting App That Makes You Look More Attractive – Want to look more attractive on video? Or just different? Earlier this year, a company called Looksery popped up on Kickstarter to raise crowdfunding for a new kind of mobile video chat application that allows users to look more attractive on video using special effects that can remove blemishes, let you change your eye color, slim your face, and more. The app, which is live as of today on the iTunes App Store, also lets you transform your face into an avatar for a bit of fun, too.


Cashing it in: Personal finance apps – the best and the rest – Although, fiscal junkies may argue the case for apps like Moneywiz – which sort all finances in one place, which Americans typically love – there are plenty of free or low cost alternatives that provide quick and easy calculations. The best of these financial operators have a unique “wow factor”, so here we have some for the sums and then some.

Two good reasons to stick with POP3 email over IMAP – Lately, I’ve noticed quite a few stories and discussions online centering around the always popular debate about whether to use IMAP or POP3 for email. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, IMAP and POP3 are the protocols you use to access email via clients like Outlook, Thunderbird, or Android’s stock email app. The general consensus is that the more modern IMAP is the way to go and the aging POP3 standard should be abandoned at all costs. But that’s just not the case. In fact, I am going to point out two very good reasons to go on using POP3, or perhaps even actively switch to it.

Ubuntu Turns 10 With Version 14.10 – On the 10th anniversary of the original Ubuntu launch, Canonical has released Ubuntu 14.10. The latest desktop version focuses on the developer experience, boosts overall quality, and provides a number of important features and security enhancements. Most notably, this week’s release introduces the first iteration of the Ubuntu Developer Tools Center. The feature, according to Canonical, downloads all Android toolkits and their dependencies, then integrates them into the launcher with a single command.

The 5 most popular Linux distributions – Summary: It’s hard to say what the most popular Linux distributions are. There are no good surveys. But, these are the ones that have been getting the most buzz in recent months.

AT&T ruins Apple SIM by locking it to their carrier – The Apple SIM concept wasn’t exactly revolutionary, but it was a pretty great introduction of the technology. Unfortunately, it seems that AT&T was unhappy with this level of freedom. The CEO of T-Mobile, John Legere, posted a series of photos on Twitter showing that once a user selects AT&T as their carrier, they can never change it to something else. This effectively turns the Apple SIM into an AT&T SIM card, and ruining a fairly interesting element of Apple SIM.

VisionTek Pocket USB 3.0 SSDs available in 120GB and 240GB – VisionTek has announced the launch of a pair of new pocket size USB 3.0 SSDs that are designed to work with any major computer OS out there. These new drives will support Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows computers. VisionTek says that the performance of these USB 3.0 SSDs rivals the performance of an internal SSD and they can be used as a bootable Windows drive for Macs providing office-on-the-go use. Both the 120GB and 240GB SSDs are available to purchase at multiple online retailers right now. The 120GB SSD sells for $109.99 and the 240GB version sells for $174.99.


Find out what all the buzz is with Buzz Launcher – Looking for one of the most customizable home screen launchers for the Android platform? Jack Wallen introduces you to Buzz Launcher and Homepacks.


Nine questions about Google’s new Inbox by Gmail – Last week, Google announced its new restricted-beta Inbox service. Our Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan took it for a spin. While I have only just gotten my invite and haven’t yet played with the service or app, I have been thinking about the service and wondering how it will impact traditional Gmail. Below are seven questions I’d like to see answered.


Verizon Wireless injects identifiers that link its users to Web requests – Cellular communications provider Verizon Wireless is adding cookie-like tokens to Web requests traveling over its network. These tokens are being used to build a detailed picture of users’ interests and to help clients tailor advertisements, according to researchers and Verizon’s own documentation. It appends a per-device token known as the Unique Identifier Header (UIDH) to each Web request sent through its cellular network from a particular mobile device, allowing Verizon to link a website visitor to its own internal profiles. The service aims to allow client websites to target advertising at specific segments of the consumer market. While the company started piloting the service two years ago, privacy experts only began warning of the issue this week, arguing that the service is essentially tracking users and that companies paid for a fundamental service that should not be using the data for secondary purposes.

Tor exit node mashes malware into downloads – A Tor exit node has been found slapping malware onto downloads as users exit the hidden network and enter the public web. Leviathan Security Group researcher Josh Pitts found the operator of the Russia-based node compromising binaries only a month after raising concerns of the possible attack. He created the Backdoor Factory research tool to demonstrate how insecure binaries could be easily patched to compromise users, and said the greatest risk was in compromising Windows updates. “I had only circumstantial evidence until recently,” Pitts said. Tor Project bod Roger Dingledine flagged the exit node as bad on the network but this would not prevent copycat attackers from the more than 100 exit nodes in operation.

Ebola in your inbox: email spammers using virus to trick users – Despite much of the hysteria in the headlines these days, the American people have little chance of catching the Ebola virus. Our computers on the other hand, need to be careful. Email spammers are increasingly relying on Ebola scare-tactics in an effort to get recipients to open their messages and click on the links within.

After uproar, Adobe begins encrypting user data collected from Digital Editions app – Adobe Systems said Thursday it is now encrypting data it collects about certain ebooks after facing criticism earlier this month for not protecting the data. The Digital Reader blog reported on Oct. 6 that Adobe’s Digital Editions 4 software, used for downloading and reading ebooks, sent detailed logs to Adobe describing readers’ activity. Those logs were not sent using SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security), according to the blog. SSL/TLS encrypts data sent between a client and server, designated by “https” in a browser’s URL bar.

Whisper staff suspended amid investigations into Guardian report – Whisper, the social network/app built on the premise of allowing users to post brief statements and images in complete anonymity, has put its editorial staff on suspension, a decision made by CEO Michael Heyward. The decision comes as Whisper continues to defend itself in response to a newspaper report from The Guardian that said the company did in fact track its users even if they opted out of location-based features.

Company News:

AMD slashes A-series desktop APU prices – AMD recently slashed the suggested prices of its Kaveri A-Series accelerated processing units (APUs) by about 20 percent. The new prices mean a 3.7GHz quad-core AMD A10-7850K will soon cost around $143, down from $179. A slew of other AMD APUs are also receiving price cuts, and AMD will even throw in a free game with some models to sweeten the pot even further (and show off the superior graphics capabilities of its Radeon-packed APUs).


About That Microsoft Quarterly Report – Microsoft’s first quarter of its fiscal 2015 was big. The fiscal quarter, corresponding to the calendar third of 2014, brought stronger than expected revenue and profit. The company’s cloud business continued to grow, Windows Phone put points on the board, Surface took off and Office 365 picked up a grip of new paying users.

Developers of “Room” app threaten legal action against Facebook for stealing idea – Facebook recently launched “Rooms,” a chatroom application for the iPhone, but there already is a similar app called “Room” whose developers are now threatening to take legal action against Facebook.

Google’s New Skybox For Good Program Gives Real-Time Satellite Imagery To Nonprofits – On the heels of acquiring satellite startup Skybox in August, Google and Skybox have announced the Skybox for Good program, which will provide real-time satellite imagery to organizations and programs that save lives, protect the environment, promote education and positively impact humanity, according to the official blog post.

Google shuffle: CEO Larry Page transfers product power to Pichai – Sundar Pichai has been moving up in the world over the past several years. Word this afternoon is that Google CEO has done some reorganizing of staff duties, putting Pichai in charge of core Google products. While he’d had responsibilities with Android, Chrome, and Google Apps before, Pichai will now take control of search, maps, Google+, commerce and ads, research, and infrastructure. Page has suggested that these powers – until now his – would be transferred so that he might focus on the “bigger picture” – instead of these slightly smaller duties, that is to say.


Dell takes one last shot at selling Windows 7 Home Premium PCs – Just days before Microsoft orders OEMs to stop building new PCs with Windows 7 Home Premium, Dell tried one last time to spur sales using the lure of the five-year-old consumer OS. In a banner that ran on its website over the weekend, Dell promoted Windows 7 systems with the tagline, “Windows 7 for the win,” and discounts of up to 30% in a sale that runs until early Thursday.


Games and Entertainment:

15 terrifying PC horror games to play with the lights off – Horror games are a dime a dozen. Good horror games—well, those are much rarer. We’ve rounded up some of the best horror games ever made, running the gamut from big-budget extravaganzas released this very year to… text adventures. I’m serious. Turn out the lights, put on some headphones, make sure you’ve got a spare pair of underwear nearby, and enjoy these spine-tinglers.


Google Bulks Up Video Game-Related Search Results – If you often find yourself flooding Google with queries about the latest video games that have been released—or are scheduled for release soon—then you might have noticed a bit more information gracing your search results page lately. Google has added Knowledge Graph panels for video games. Search for a fairly well-known title and you’ll get a little box that links to some of the game’s reviews, a Wikipedia summary of the game, as well as information about the titles’ release date, publishers and developers, and platforms on which you can find said title.


3D Realms signals its return with 32-game anthology – You can purchase the anthology with the soundtrack included for $19.99. However, that price is set to double tomorrow to $39.99, so be quick if you want to play some classics at a bargain price. The full list of games included can be viewed below:


You Can Now Build Oculus Rift Projects In The Free Version Of Unity – Hey, you! Yeah, you! The one with the awesome idea for something that needs to be built in virtual reality! Remember a few weeks back, when Oculus mentioned that their development tools would soon work with the free version of the Unity game engine, rather than just the $1,500 Pro Version? It’s done.

Dragon Age gets sexy, Assassin’s Creed: Unity gets ridiculous, and more must-know gaming news – Plus Mortal Kombat is getting a live-action series, we get a glimpse of the Star Wars Battlefront sequel that never was, and someone threatens Gabe Newell’s life.

Off Topic (Sort of):

In pictures: Google exec secretly shatters Felix Baumgartner’s skydiving altitude record – Move over, Felix Baumgartner. Alan Eustace, a senior vice president at Google, rode a balloon more than 25 miles up, then cut the cord.


Woman turns home into anti-WiFi zone with shielding paint – There’s an interesting story coming out of the United Kingdom this week about an elderly woman who has paid a substantial amount of money to turn her house into an anti-wireless technology zone. Stefanie Russell, who is 72-years-old and from Steyning, according to The Argus, has spent several thousand dollars to have her home painted in a type of radiation shielding paint that keeps all wireless signals out, making it an Internet and cell phone-free zone. The reason, she says, is concern about her health.

Air New Zealand’s epic, ‘Hobbit’-themed safety video is the most fun you’ll have finding your exit row – New Zealand’s tourism industry has benefited greatly from Peter Jackson’s films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, so it was natural for airline Air New Zealand to partner up with Jackson, branding itself as the “official airline of Middle-earth.” Alongside its plans emblazoned with imagery from Jackson’s films, the airline also produced a Hobbit-themed air safety video in 2012 to go along with the first Hobbit film.


Silicon Valley startup unveils Internet-connected smart guns for cops – A Silicon Valley startup said Friday that police agencies were field testing its new product: a wireless sensor that transforms officers’ weapons into smart guns with real-time telemetry. Yardarm Technologies’ sensor is a small device that goes inside gun handles and provides dispatchers with real-time geo-location tracking information on the weapon. The Yardarm Sensor also sends alerts when a weapon is unholstered or fired, and it can “record the direction of aim, providing real-time tactical value for commanders and providing crime scene investigators valuable data for prosecution,” the company said.


NYPD to equip every officer with Windows smartphone – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed on Friday that all 35,000 of the city’s police officers were going to be issued smartphones as part of a $160 million technology initiative. While it wasn’t officially stated, a glimpse at some of the devices, which also includes 6,000 tablets to be installed in police vehicles, seems to indicate that Windows will be operating system flavor.

Something to think about:

“I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

–      Sir Arthur Conan Doyle    (1859 – 1930)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

All the NSA Will Say About Its Alarmingly Entrepreneurial Top Spy Is That She’s Resigning – Teresa Shea used to be the National Security Agency’s director of signals intelligence, plus the wife of an executive in the business of selling things to agencies like hers, plus the host of a home-based signals intelligence business, plus the owner, via yet another business, of a six-seat airplane and resort-town condo.

She’s going to have to drop the first arrangement. After controversy in the press about her apparent conflicts of interests, Shea is stepping down from the NSA, according to Buzzfeed’s Aram Roston.

Roston, who has been diligently documenting Shea’s family businesses, revealed last month that the director’s husband was vice president at a signals intelligence contractor that appeared to be working for, or bidding to work for, the NSA. The same husband was also linked to a signals intelligence-related company registered at the couple’s home. Then last week Roston showed that Shea herself had evidently incorporated an obscure business in her name that nonetheless owned its own airplane and condominium in Hilton Head. All of this came while Shea was serving at the highest levels in one of the most significant divisions within the NSA.

All the NSA would tell BuzzFeed is that Shea’s exit from her role was routine and long planned — “well before recent news articles” — and that she would remain employed in some capacity.



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

11 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – October 27, 2014

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Two good reasons to stick with POP3 email over IMAP

    I got rid of email clients years ago. I think it’s safer to stick with web based email. If you don’t download it, you are always safer.

    I sent two posts through the other day, but they haven’t appeared :(. Did you get them?


    • Hey Mal,

      The only comments I’ve gotten, are the 2 (including this one), from Oct. 27. Funny though – the only other time comments have not been delivered was a few years back (yep – yours). 🙂

      I’m with you on the web mail issue. Let the big lads handle the security issues.



      • Mal

        Hey Bill,

        Ah well, it happens. Could be I often use Opera which is locked down tighter than a frogs proverbial. I’ll post using my regular browser from now on.


  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Tor exit node mashes malware into downloads

    I’ve never tried Tor because I keep reading about stories like these. I know a lot of people use and like Tor, but to me, it just isn’t safe unless you are tech savvy. I’ll stick to VPN


    • Hey Mal,

      I hear ya – but, Tor is not complicated and doesn’t require a “tech savvy” degree. Tor offers a short tutorial – Want Tor to really work? – which helps take the mystery out of Tor.

      Additionally, since Tor is open source, vulnerabilities draw instant attention and are quickly dealt with. Commercial VPN products may have vulnerabilities – known (yet to be fixed), or unknown (much more likely).

      No, I’ll take my chances with Tor. You and I know that no matter the choice – caution is the word. 🙂



  3. delenn13

    Ad Muncher: Free ad blocking for all browsers
    Been in production for over 14 years….Was $29.95. Now Free!
    I have used it several times when it was on sale. Broke my heart when it expired.

    Better than AdBlock Pro. It not only blocks ads from your browsers but it does programs too. You can block the ads on Evernote and Steam..just to mention a few. It saves you bandwidth

  4. pseudoid

    I hope everything is well with you BillM. No blog for 2 days and I was needing my fix!