Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 7, 2014

Microsoft’s next surprise is free Office for iPad, iPhone, and Android;  British Spies Are Free to Target Lawyers and Journalists;  Wiper app now lets you make free encrypted calls;  10 Great Tech Gifts Under $50;  50 resources for using an iPad, Android tablet in class;  This Easy iPhone Trick Will Save You Tons of Photo Space;  A Gentleman’s Guide to Not Being a Total Slob;  Home Depot Hackers Also Snagged 53 Million Customer Email Addresses;  These 3 Smartphone Apps Tell You When to Have Sex;  Microsoft warns of super-sized Patch Tuesday next week;  Australians at risk of IS cyber attacks;  Windows 10 will have four patches released on Tuesday;  Apple blocks WireLurker iPhone malware apps;  Showtime to join HBO, will stream content in 2015;  Where Did Soul-Sucking Office-Speak Come From? 11 deliciously old-school PC games that ooze retro appeal;  USB Image Tool (free).

Google and Mozilla told to limit browser’s ability to watch users – Researchers warn that web sites and apps communicating via WebRTC may have broader access to computer microphones and cameras than users realise.

Microsoft’s next surprise is free Office for iPad, iPhone, and Android – Microsoft’s Office suite for iPad, iPhone, and Android is now free. In a surprise move, the software giant is shaking up its mobile Office strategy to keep consumers hooked to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Starting today, you’ll no longer need an Office 365 subscription to edit documents or store them in the cloud. The move comes just days after Microsoft announced a strategic partnership with Dropbox to integrate the cloud storage service into Office across desktop, mobile, and the web. You can now download Office for iPad and store all your documents on Dropbox without paying Microsoft anything at all. Microsoft is also releasing a brand new iPhone app today, alongside a preview of Office for Android tablets, all with Dropbox integration.

Wiper app now lets you make free encrypted calls – Secure messaging is a big deal to many, with ephemeral services like Snapchat a popular choice. Still, that service has been violated many times, leading some to search for a new path forward. The last time we talked about Wiper, the service was new, and pretty amazing. For a messaging platform, the encrypted app-to-app pipeline and ability to clear the chat on both ends is special. The company has recently released version 2.0 of their app, bringing the encrypted platform full circle.

Battery-Draining Bug Delays Android Lollipop Rollout – Battery-draining bugs have reportedly delayed the full rollout of Google’s Android 5.0 Lollipop. The next-gen operating system launched on Monday with the Nexus 9 tablet, and was expected to hit the Nexus 4, 5, 7, 10 and Google Play Edition devices shortly thereafter. But thus far, Nexus owners are still waiting. Some reports are pointing the finger at a problem with the beta version of Lollipop on Nexus 5 that caused a severe battery-drain issue.

Odysee Automatically Saves Your Mobile Photos And Videos To Your Home PC – A new application launching today called Odysee offers a different way for consumers to back up photos and videos from their smartphones. Instead of backing up to the cloud, which can be both pricey and sometimes even insecure, with Odysee, content is backed up to your home computer. For free! Well, it’s free until next year when the $5/year pricing plan kicks in.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

50 resources for using an iPad, Android tablet in class – Summary: Seeking tips for using mobile devices in class? Check out these articles, how-to guides and tutorials.

10 Great Tech Gifts Under $50 – You’re not a fancy pants! And that’s okay! So, when it comes to buying gifts for your non-fancy-panted social circle, there’s no reason to go super nuts. When it comes to tech gifts, there’s a number of very cool (but also very affordable) items that will keep your peoples connected and modern.

Getting started with the new Google Maps – In July of this year, Google added voice commands and elevation information to the Maps app, but the design remained the same. This time, the update to version 9.0 — rolling out over the next few days — brings you a Material interface (for Android Lollipop), and a couple of new features. These new Maps features include the ability to make restaurant reservations, and also how to find the quickest and cheapest commute with the help of Uber. Here’s how to use each:

This Easy iPhone Trick Will Save You Tons of Photo Space – We’ve all been there: Running low on iPhone storage space, scrambling to delete photos we can live without to record new memories. Well, Apple’s newest iOS update gave us a handy new way to get more storage out of our iPhones without upgrading the hardware.

Xamarin offers free app-building tools to students – Xamarin has launched a new program designed to get its popular mobile app building platform into the hands of America’s students, because children are our future or something like that. Xamarin’s platform theoretically makes it fly-simple to write an app once in C# and quickly and easily adapt it for Macs, PCs, iPhones and Android devices, with 90% of the work already done for you. That last 10% of custom work is what makes it feel like a native app, which is a huge differentiator when building for mobile.


Mobile app development platform Xamarin now includes a free offering for students.

Not everyone needs to learn to code – Many are suggesting that everyone learn computer programming, and that coding be a core component of our educational system. Here’s a more measured approach.

Pointing up     What a terrific idea – teaching computer programing to students who can barely read and write! The need to focus on core education continually gets lost in utopian nonsense, such as this, pushed out as reality.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Not Being a Total Slob – Style: not everyone has it. But just because your fashion sense leaves something to be desired doesn’t mean all hope is lost. You don’t have to max out your credit card at Barney’s or hire a personal shopper. With the help of a few choice apps you can get the basics of selecting outfits, grooming, and how to handle a few life emergencies smoothly.

These 3 Smartphone Apps Tell You When to Have Sex – A small fluorescent object in your pocket tells you when to have sex in order to create children. It may sound like a dystopian future a la Aldous Huxley, but it’s actually a helpful way of figuring out when to have sex in order to conceive.


Home Depot Hackers Also Snagged 53 Million Customer Email Addresses – Remember that Home Depot hack? The one where 56 million credit cards were stolen? Of course you do. Hell — if you’re anything like me, you’re probably still in the middle of updating your various accounts to point to the replacement credit card. Alas, things are a bit worse than previously believed.

Australians at risk of IS cyber attacks – Australia has flown 144 sorties on Islamic State extremists, but it’s believed IS had already struck first, launching a cyber-missile on Australian computer systems. It’s thought the Middle Eastern extremist group is now holding computers, and not just people, hostage. Detected by international cyber-crime company checkpoint ThreatCloud, the Cryptolocker attack was created by the Syrian electronic army – with the beneficiary IS. But it’s not clear how IS got the hack program from their sworn enemies.

Microsoft warns of super-sized Patch Tuesday next week – It’s getting close to security update time in Redmond yet again, and Microsoft has given notice that Windows and Office users can expect another nice, big pile of fixes on November’s Patch Tuesday. The software giant gave advance notice of no less than 16 security bulletins to be addressed on November 11, five of which have been flagged as “critical.” Nine more are marked as “important” and the remaining two are considered “moderate” risks.

Windows 10 will have four patches released on Tuesday – On Tuesday of next week, Microsoft will push out four patches that will apply to the Windows 10 technical preview and it is advised that you install these items to keep your machine secure.

Hackers use DRAFT emails as dead-drops for running malware – Sneaky hackers are using Gmail and Yahoo! drafts to control compromised devices, with the tactic designed to make detection of malware-related communications more difficult to pick up in enterprise environments. Attacks occur in two phases. Hackers first infect a targeted machine via simple malware that installs Python onto the device, enabling simple attack scripts to run. Using Gmail (or Yahoo! Mail), hackers then use draft emails to run command and control prompts on these compromised systems, allowing them to siphon data from infected devices.

Apple blocks WireLurker iPhone malware apps – Apple has blocked the suspect apps behind the WireLurker malware discovered targeting iPhone users in China, effectively minimizing the likelihood of casual infections. The exploit made headlines yesterday for its supposed virulence, watching out for iOS devices being connected to compromised Macs and then grabbing data from them. According to Apple, however, the issue has already been addressed for the most part, while a little common-sense could prevent anyone still at risk from succumbing.

Cisco patches serious vulnerabilities in small business RV Series routers – Cisco Systems released patches for its small business RV Series routers and firewalls to address vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to execute arbitrary commands and overwrite files on the vulnerable devices. The affected products are Cisco RV120W Wireless-N VPN Firewall, Cisco RV180 VPN Router, Cisco RV180W Wireless-N Multifunction VPN Router, and Cisco RV220W Wireless Network Security Firewall. However, firmware updates have been released only for the first three models, while the fixes for Cisco RV220W are expected later this month.

Google digs deep in the world of manual hijacking – In Google’s study, the firm gets up close and personal with hijackers that target not businesses, not governments, but you.

Company News:

Twitter Will Open Hong Kong Office To Target Advertisers – In Asia, Twitter is up against rivals like Sina Weibo and the ubiquity of messaging apps like Line, WhatsApp, and WeChat. But the region is still an important one for the microblogging platform, a point it underscored today by announcing plans to establish an office in Hong Kong. Twitter’s vice president for Asia Pacific, the Americas, and emerging markets, Shailesh Rao, told WSJ that the office, which will open in early 2015, will focus on selling advertising to companies based in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Lenovo’s 2014 Q2 saw upswing in profits, new record – Lenovo’s second quarter financial report is in, and in it we see profits on the upswing, with the company hitting a 7-percent revenue increase over the same quarter last year. With its numbers, Lenovo managed to take top slot in the PC+Tablet category and saw a record number of shipments across its tablets, PCs, and smartphone at 35.6 million units. Said Lenovo’s CEO and Chairman Yuanqing Yang on the company’s new #1 slot, “In May, we set this as a two year goal, but achieved it in two quarters.”

AOL Q3 Beats The Street On Sales Of $626.8M, Falls Short On Income Of $121.8M – AOL this morning reported its earnings for Q3, a mixed result that saw it beating estimates on sales but only matching on earnings, and missing on operating income (OIBDA) as the company continues with its turnaround strategy based around more savvy ad technology in the face of Google domination of market share, and display sales, and works through sales declines as a result of shuttered brands like Patch. AOL Platforms, where its ad tech business resides, was actually the only division that saw a rise in revenues over a year ago, up 44 percent. The company reported revenues of $626.8 million, EPS of $0.52 and adjusted operating income of $121.8 million. Analysts were expecting sales of $623 million, EPS of $0.52 and OIBDA of $125 million.

Games and Entertainment:

Halo’s 20GB day-one patch reduced to a still huge 15GB download – Last month developer 343 Industries issued an apology relating to Halo: Master Chief Collection, which is due for release on November 11 for the Xbox One. The apology was warranted because anyone choosing to purchase the game was also committing to a 20GB day one content update. The good news is that 343 has managed to shave 5GB off the size of the download. That still means it’s big at 15GB, but the reduction could shave an hour or two off the download time depending on your connection speed.


Showtime to join HBO, will stream content in 2015 – The promise of HBO without a cable subscription has many excited for what’s on the horizon for non-cable TV service. Not to be outdone, CBS is now saying Showtime will join the streaming fracas in 2015. In the company’s third quarter earning’s call, CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves was more than on the fence about Showtime’s streaming-sans-cable aspirations in 2015, saying it’s “fairly definitive”. In the hopes we won’t take it lightly, Moonves also called what’s coming “over the top”.


How the Hell Did NFL Blitz Ever Get Made? – NFL Blitz’s gameplay started with the words “Deadly long-range passes. Linebackers without conscience. A wretched assault on the senses of fair play. No refs, no rules, no mercy.” This is the story of the most violent football game ever made.

Call of Duty didn’t kill Titanfall: it was already dead – It’s an absolute tragedy, the number of players that are playing Titanfall right this minute. It should be a good indicator that the game is in dire need of players that the game has been reduced to $19.99 for both PC and Xbox One – a good deal, by any measure. Unless you consider the possibility that you might not have enough players online to play the game. Is this Call of Duty’s fault? Not by a long shot. Attempting to find a game that wasn’t Attrition for the past several months (on PC, anyway) has been a mess.

Pixar is making ‘Toy Story 4’ – Toy Story is coming back for another installment, and original film director John Lasseter is on board to direct. The film will be released on June 16th, 2017. This is likely to be exciting, if trepidatious news for fans of Pixar and the series: Pixar has increasingly relied on sequels for big hits, while creating great new properties has been put on the back burner. It’s likely that Pixar’s move toward sequels is in part a result of being owned by Disney, which would rather see Pixar continue to mine its most successful properties — of which Toy Story is perhaps the biggest.


11 deliciously old-school PC games that ooze retro appeal – What makes PC gaming glorious? Sure, the performance that’s possible only with a high-end graphics card in a roomy desktop is a big draw—“Can it run Crysis?” is a meme for a reason. But there’s also PC gaming’s willingness to embrace the classic gameplay of the consoles of yesteryear.


Microsoft expands Upload to the web and Xbox 360 – The Upload feature found on the Xbox One is now available on the web and there’s even a new Xbox 360 app, which users can download to access all the uploaded gaming clips on Microsoft’s platform.

The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt will get 16 pieces of free DLC – The Witcher 3 will receive a hefty amount of downloadable content. Sixteen different pieces, to be exact. What is surprising is that 16 pieces of planned DLC for The Witcher 3 will be completely free. For everyone. Forever. It doesn’t matter which version of the game you purchase, or whether you pre-order, you’ll still get the same sixteen pieces of DLC. These aren’t all huge story-pieces of course, though I’d expect a few of those to be announced before this is over. Right now we’ve heard of four DLC bits: three costumes and a quest. In a joke at DLC’s expense, one of those costumes even includes the legendary horse armor of yore.


Off Topic (Sort of):

The Memory Hole Collects the 90s Home Movies That Were Too Weird for TV – The Memory Hole is a place of horror and wonder. When you’re inside the Hole it’s easy for minutes to turn into hours, hours into days, days into weeks, weeks into years. It’s a place where you can find a man blasting baloney with a homemade flamethrower, satan vacuuming the rug with his tongue, and a guy shooting a stack of pumpkins with a cannon. Also, toast.


Screengrabs from the Memory Hole collection via their YouTube channel.

Facebook’s Ebola stand: Zuckerberg donates, wants you to also – The world’s biggest Social Network is getting pumped up about fighting Ebola. To do this, Mark Zuckerberg has released a video outlining how Facebook is teaming up with UNICEF to help provide people in affected and nearby countries by sharing information on Facebook. They’ll be helping people prevent, detect, and treat Ebola by providing internet connectivity in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Zuckerberg himself also donated $25 of his own dollars to fight Ebola while Facebook’s internet service will cost millions more.

Where Did Soul-Sucking Office-Speak Come From? – How did we get to the point where people are constantly spouting nonsense about “deliverables,” “drill-down,” “catch-up,” “moving forward,” and “quick wins”?

Scientists find young star with small planets orbiting – How did we come to encircle the sun? Why do we orbit as we do, and why are other planets circling the big orange globe with us? Those are questions we may understand to some degree, but a new finding may shed light on how it all really began. A young star has been discovered with some very small planets beginning to form around it, with their orbit already being decided. It may not be the birth of our universe, but it’s very similar.

Something to think about:

“And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make”

–      Paul McCartney

Today’s Free Downloads:

WinUtilities Free – WinUtilities is a multi-functional system performance and optimization suite for Microsoft Windows. This collection of tools lets you supercharge your PC’s performance, enhance its security, tweak and optimize its settings, and customize and personalize your screens.


BeeDoctor – MajorGeek says: There are a lot of choices in all-in-one suites and here is the latest called BeeDoctor. It includes a cleaner, speedup tools, an uninstaller and optionally can download and install Avira Antivirus. At the time we reviewed this, the program is completely free, very simple to use and seems a bit more geared towards the casual user who has no interest in more advanced features like registry tinkering, monitoring, process and service management, startup and so on. As a new program, we expect to see more of these sort of tools added in later.


USB Image Tool – USB Image Tool can create images of USB flash drives and MP3 players, that are mounted as USB drives. It allows you switch between images with different music styles on your MP3 Player or to make an exact backup image of your USB Stick.


create image files of USB flash drives

restore images of USB flash drives

compressed image file format

show USB device information

manage favorite USB images

command line utility

USB Image Tool works with any device, that implements the USB Mass Storage protocol. This includes flash drives, card readers and a lot of other devices, like digicams, cell phones and mobile music players.

USB Image Tool supports the globull secure mobile work environment.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The Justice Department Wants Wider Hacking Authorities for the FBI – Privacy and technology groups are sounding the alarm on an obscure government rule with major implications for law enforcement hacking.

Hiding behind the nondescript title “Proposed Amendment to Rule 41″ of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure is a dangerous increase in authority for federal investigators to use invasive hacking techniques to spy on computers and access data, according to testimony submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and others to a regulatory panel in Washington, D.C., yesterday.

The rule change would allow law enforcement agents to get warrants to search and seize electronic materials from any jurisdiction, “if the district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means” or in the case where a network of infected computers spreads across multiple districts.

“The likely effect would be for far more remote searches of far more machines,” said Joe Hall of the Center for Democracy and Technology. The ACLU described it as “a game changer in degrading online security [that] could green light systemic constitutional violations.”

British Spies Are Free to Target Lawyers and Journalists – British spies have been granted the authority to secretly eavesdrop on legally privileged attorney-client communications, according to newly released documents.

On Thursday, a series of previously classified policies confirmed for the first time that the U.K.’s top surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters (pictured above) has advised its employees: “You may in principle target the communications of lawyers.”

The U.K.’s other major security and intelligence agencies—MI5 and MI6—have adopted similar policies, the documents show. The guidelines also appear to permit surveillance of journalists and others deemed to work in “sensitive professions” handling confidential information.

The documents were made public as a result of a legal case brought against the British government by Libyan families who allege that they were subjected to extraordinary rendition and torture in a joint British-American operation that took place in 2004. After revelations about mass surveillance from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden last year, the families launched another case alleging that their communications with lawyers at human rights group Reprieve may have been spied on by the government, hindering their ability to receive a fair trial.

In a statement on Thursday, Reprieve’s legal director Cori Crider said that the new disclosures raised “troubling implications for the whole British justice system” and questioned how frequently the government had used its spy powers for unfair advantage in court.

Why the Constitution Can Protect Passwords But Not Fingerprint Scans – Cellphone fingerprint passcodes weren’t on James Madison’s mind when he authored the Fifth Amendment, a constitutional protection with roots in preventing torture by barring self-incriminating testimonials in court cases.

Yet those tiny skin ridges we all share were at the heart of a Virginia court case last week in which a judge ruled that police, who suspected there was incriminating evidence on a suspect’s smartphone, could legally force the man to unlock his device with its fingerprint scanner. While the Fifth Amendment protects defendants from revealing their numeric passcodes, which would be considered a self-incriminating testimonial, biometrics like fingerprint scans fall outside the law’s scope.


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

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 7, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    “Microsoft warns of super-sized Patch Tuesday next week”

    Among the plethora of prudent advice you’ve given me over the years the one about NOT immediately installing Windows updates has to be one of the best. With their recent track record it is most prudent, to put it mildly.

    “Not everyone needs to learn to code”
    “What a terrific idea – teaching computer programing to students who can barely read and write! The need to focus on core education continually gets lost in utopian nonsense, such as this, pushed out as reality.”

    Quite right Bill. I don’t know what has happened to education but it surely seems that the children are NOT being educated. The powers that be were always in a rush to “improve” education, well maybe the old ways were better. Look at space exploration, whether one thinks it is a prudent expenditure of resources or not the MINDS capable of doing such feats appear to be scarce nowadays and that coincides with all the “improvements” to education. All that I do know is that the state of the children today is just as you put it and that is TRAGIC.

    “11 deliciously old-school PC games that ooze retro appeal”

    What has always puzzled me, as a mere user of computers, is why games that played on Windows 95 and 98 don’t play on Windows versions since 2008, one would think these latest whiz-bang computers could easily handle an old game. But alas…

    Best to you as always,

    • Hi Fred,

      The problem with “old game” – “new computer” revolves around the fact that as Windows progressed (which might be open to some discussion 🙂 ), various bits and pieces of DOS were eliminated. Bits and pieces that old timey games relied on.

      There are are number of solutions with DOSBox being the best known –

      “DOSBox is a DOS-emulator that uses the SDL-library which makes DOSBox very easy to port to different platforms. DOSBox has already been ported to many different platforms, such as Windows, BeOS, Linux, MacOS X…

      DOSBox also emulates CPU:286/386 realmode/protected mode, Directory FileSystem/XMS/EMS, Tandy/Hercules/CGA/EGA/VGA/VESA graphics, a SoundBlaster/Gravis Ultra Sound card for excellent sound compatibility with older games…

      You can “re-live” the good old days with the help of DOSBox, it can run plenty of the old classics that don’t run on your new computer!

      DOSBox is totally free of charge and OpenSource.



  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Where Did Soul-Sucking Office-Speak Come From?

    I enjoyed reading this. I totally understand where this guy is coming from, having worked in office environments for years (usually doing accounting work). It sent me mad, literally. Apart from the office speak (which was bad enough), I really didn’t care about somebody’s new flower garden, the latest article in Woman’s Day magazine, how they camped under a rock in the bush on the weekend, how the receptionist was now pregnant to the guy in IT, blah blah blah. I wanted to say “I don’t give a shit”, but then, I would not have had a job. So glad I got out of that environment.


    • Hey Mal,

      Man do I hear ya!

      Quite recently, one of my neighbours has taught me all about becoming a good gossiper. Takes me back to the days of “somebody’s new flower garden, the latest article in Woman’s Day magazine, how they camped under a rock in the bush on the weekend, how the receptionist was now pregnant to the guy in IT, blah blah blah.” 🙂