Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 13, 2014

Pew Privacy Study Finds Huge Concern About Control Of Personal Data Online;  It’s a Dangerous World Out There for a Phone;  The 50 Absolute Best iPad Apps;  Which mobile productivity suite is right for you?  Verizon Offering Pre-Black Friday Freebies (for Everyone);  Adobe fixes 18 critical vulnerabilities in Flash Player;  Microsoft has a new free version of Visual Studio;  Windows 10 enterprise ISO of build 9879 now available;  Fire HD 6 Kids Edition Review;  6 killer video-streaming apps for low-effort TV watching;  Free games alert: Witcher 2, Mount & Blade giveaways;  Swig: The new Facebook for drinkers (all drinkers);  Virus discovered that makes you dumber;  Who will save Europe’s privacy from the NSA? Oh God … it’s Google;  Why Amazon Echo is the future of every home.

Pew Privacy Study Finds Huge Concern About Control Of Personal Data Online – The Pew Research Center has published a new study into Americans’ attitudes to privacy in the digital age. The wide-ranging survey, called Public Perceptions of Privacy and Security in the Post-Snowden Era, includes plenty of interesting tidbits but one stat that really stands out is how overwhelmingly U.S. consumers believe they have lost control over their personal data, owing to a perception that online companies are doing what they like with harvested personal info.


It’s a Dangerous World Out There for a Phone – Your phone is the most personal device you own. Here’s how to choose the right mobile security software to keep it protected from malware and other threats.

The 50 Absolute Best iPad Apps – TIME’s list of essential software every iPad owner should download.

Working on the go: Which mobile productivity suite is right for you? – This year, both Microsoft and Google completely overhauled their mobile apps for Office and Drive, while Apple updated its iWork suite too, making small improvements here and there. All three services have three apps; one for documents, one for spreadsheets and one for slideshow presentations. The apps are cross-platform, meaning you can use them to create and edit files on multiple devices. With so many similarities between these services, how do you pick the one for you? Let this article be your guide.

Android Lollipop over-the-air update, factory images now available for Nexus 5, 7, 9, and 10 – The staggered rollout might take a few days to reach your device—if you just can’t wait, head over to Google’s Factory Images page to download and install it yourself. You’ll need the developer tools to do so, and the procedure is the same as it was for the Developer Preview released this summer, with just a few obvious file name changes (follow our guide).

Netflix iOS app brings high-res video to iPhone 6 Plus – The movie and TV-show service is now streaming programs to Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus at 1,080 pixels, to take advantage of the gadget’s big screen.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Verizon Offering Pre-Black Friday Freebies (for Everyone) – Traveling on Thanksgiving Eve this year? Verizon wants to make your journey a little more entertaining. The nation’s largest wireless carrier just announced that it will be giving away loads of free goodies — including movies, Wi-Fi, audio books, and streaming music — on Thanksgiving Eve (Nov. 26), one of the busiest travel days of the year. The best part? You don’t even need to be a Verizon customer to get the deals.

Walmart Black Friday Ad: Tech Deals Abound – Black Friday isn’t just a one-day event these days. At Walmart, the deals this year will continue for five days. The big-box retailer on Wednesday announced its plans for the so-called Super Bowl of retail, including deals on HDTVs, iPads, game consoles, Beats headphones, smartphones, laptops, and more. The sales kick off Thanksgiving morning on Walmart’s website and in stores at 6 p.m. that evening. The deals will run through Monday.

FreedomPop Adds International Calls To Its Free Mobile Service – FreedomPop — the U.S. startup disrupting the carrier world with free mobile and broadband services, and now apparently catching the attention of carriers that want to buy it — has added two more international features to its product that puts it up against the likes of Skype in the world of low-cost calls. It will now let users of its phone service, as well as any mobile user who has downloaded the latest FreedomPop Android or iOS app, make free international phone calls; and it will also let people buy local numbers in other countries.

Quirky tries making the smart home less scary with cheap, unbundled devices – Quirky is trying to remove some psychological barriers to home automation, adding new devices with a low up-front cost. The new lineup under Quirky’s Wink brand include a $40-and-up multi-purpose sensor, a $50 connected wall outlet and an $80 thermostat, and they all place nicely together using a $50 hub. It’s a major expansion for a platform that been relying heavily on third-party devices such as the Nest thermostat and Schlage locksets. Here’s a rundown of the new devices.


Quirky’s Spotter UNIQ comes with a choice of up to four sensors for things like ambient lighting and motion.

Microsoft has a new free version of Visual Studio, now available for download – Visual Studio Community 2013 is the latest addition to the Visual Studio family for Microsoft. This community edition is a free, full-featured development environment designed for students, open source contributors, small companies, startups and individual developers. This edition includes all the features needed to create non-enterprise applications across desktop, devices, cloud, web and services, including coding productivity features, cross-platform mobile development tools for Windows, iOS and Android, and full extensibility with access to thousands of extensions. In short, this is the perfect application to get you started in the world of development or to use to create your next big app.

Xamarin integrates with free Visual Studio Community to let developers build Android, iOS apps – The development tool combo will be available in the coming weeks.

Facebook releases ‘Say Thanks’ video creation tool in time for Thanksgiving – Facebook found a surprising amount of success earlier this year when it let its users generate “Look Back” videos of their time on Facebook, and it’s now rolling out a new video generator in time for Thanksgiving. The new tool is called Say Thanks, and it lets Facebook’s users put together a video filled with photos and other posts between them and a friend. There are a number of different themes to choose from, though it doesn’t sound like customization will extent far beyond choosing that and what photos appear.


YouTube announces Music Key subscription service beta, offers six months free – After months of rumors and speculation, YouTube has finally announced its subscription service, Music Key beta, and for a limited time, the service will be available for $7.99 a month.


What’s new in Windows 10 Technical Preview 3 – Microsoft released a third Technical Preview of Windows 10 last night that includes many changes and updates based on feedback from the Windows Insider Program, and we have a compiled list.

Windows 10 enterprise ISO of build 9879 now available – Microsoft has released the enterprise ISO’s of Windows 10 build 9879 and you can download them after the jump, provided you fill out a simply form before downloading.

Fire HD 6 Kids Edition Review: Christmas Morning – It’s Christmas morning. Your child woke you up with an ear-piercing scream of excitement – Santa has come. Once your child sees the present you’ve wrapped in special paper – next to the Santa gifts, of course – they snatch it up. They realize it might just be socks. They open it. It’s the Amazon Fire HD 6 Kids Edition. They go wild. Then it’s your turn. Your task is opening the box and setting the tablet up so that they might play the whole day long. How difficult (or incredibly easy) is this going to be, you might ask?

wps7F37.tmp brings the IoT to everyone with tiny board – The DIY aficionado has a new toy: the Spark Photon. Today, Spark is releasing their Photon board, which has the ability to add WiFi to just about any device you’d like. About the size of a postage stamp, the Photon is designed more for prototype devices, or the aforementioned tinkerer. While Photon is the board for your WiFi endeavors, Spark is also introducing the P0 and P1 modules, which are what actually go into your end product. The pricing for each is pretty special, too. If you’re ready to start tinkering, the Spark Photon is $19, and the P0 and P1 are $10 and $12, respectively. All can be found via Spark’s website (source link below).


Twitter may copy Facebook, make features into apps – Some like to poke fun at Facebook for making several impressions on our devices. We’ve got Messenger, Instagram, Facebook, Paper (for iPhone users, at least), WhatsApp — it’s a lot. At their “Analyst Day” soiree, Twitter is teasing that they may do just the same. Executives at Twitter told analysts they were working on improving their direct messaging service, and were very high “applications that can live outside of Twitter”. The microblogging platform may also get a “best of” feature to show you what cool things you might have missed, and will get some interesting video features.

Swig: The new Facebook for drinkers (all drinkers) – The new app insists it’s the one and only virtual meeting place for drinkers of all tastes. Think of it as the ultimate virtual bar.


OpenSUSE 13.2 supercharged with smoother setup, system snapshots, Btrfs, and more – OpenSUSE 13.2 was released a week ago. As with the recent Fedora update, the latest release of openSUSE took a year to develop instead of the standard six months as the organization retooled its development practices. SUSE Linux has now been around for over 20 years, and it’s still going strong. As usual, the latest release serves as a foundation for developing Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise and brings some significant new improvements. So let’s dive right in!

6 killer video-streaming apps for low-effort TV watching – Sure, over-the-air broadcasts will give you a steady stream of things to watch, but they’re not much help when you want a break from network TV. If you’ve got a Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV or other streaming device, then you already have access to some great lean-back TV apps. So check out the following if you want to watch streaming TV with minimal effort:

Is now the time to buy a 4K TV? – Now that TVs with 4K resolution have fallen to mainstream prices, you might be wondering whether it’s worth the extra cash to invest in extra pixels over 1080p. Here’s what you need to know.


Adobe fixes 18 critical vulnerabilities in Flash Player – Adobe Systems released critical security updates Tuesday for Flash Player to address 18 vulnerabilities, many of which can be remotely exploited to compromise underlying systems. Fifteen of the patched vulnerabilities can result in arbitrary code execution, one can be exploited to disclose session tokens and two allow attackers to escalate their privileges from the low to medium integrity level, Adobe said in a security advisory. The company advises Windows and Mac users to update to the newly released Flash Player version Linux users should update to Flash Player

Microsoft fixes severe 19-year-old Windows bug found in everything since Windows 95 – With help from IBM, Microsoft has patched a critical Windows vulnerability that flew under the radar for nearly two decades. The bug has existed in every version of Windows since Windows 95, and would have allowed an attacker to run code remotely when the user visits a malicious website. IBM researcher Robert Freeman described the vulnerability as “rare, ‘unicorn-like’ bug found in code that IE relies on but doesn’t necessarily belong to.”


This $50 device lets you kick people off wireless networks – Worried that your wireless network may be playing host to unwanted surveillance devices or visitors? Just plug in the Cyborg Unplug and give ‘em the boot. The Unplug is the brainchild of Julian Oliver, who created quite a stir with a script he wrote called Yep, it was written to kick Google Glass users from WiFi networks using ARP scanning, spoofed MAC addresses, and de-auth packets. Unplug takes things a step further. It’s capable of booting any device from any WiFi network using the same technique. You’ve got to enable “All Out Mode” for that to happen, but the capability is there.


Target, Home Depot and UPS attacks: Dude, you need to rethink point-of-sale security – A new report on point-of-sale malware presents the most detailed examination of the malicious code behind high-profile attacks against US retailers to date. Cyphort Labs’ in-depth look focuses on Target, Home Depot and UPS breaches and involved an analysis of BlackPOS, FrameworkPOS and Backoff malware samples. The researchers concluded that the attackers had acquired a good understanding of their targets, and that defences need fundamental rethink.

How the FBI Took Down Silk Road 2.0 and 400 Other Dark Web Sites – By now, virtually anyone on the Internet should have heard that law enforcement agencies around the world in a concerted effort have taken down over 400 website pages belonging to around 27 services suspected of providing illicit services on November 5 and 6. What no one seems to be able to confirm is how these agencies gained control of these Tor hidden services. There is now rampant speculation of FBI’s new Tor-breaking technology and widespread compromise of the Tor network.

US weather agency confirms cyberattack – Four websites run by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been compromised in recent weeks, the agency said on Wednesday. Chinese hackers were suspected in the attack, according to a Washington Post story, but a NOAA spokesman declined to talk about the source of the attack. The announcement from NOAA comes just days after the U.S. Postal Service announced a breach that potentially compromised the personal information of 800,000 employees, as well as some customers who contacted the government service. Chinese hackers were also suspected in the Postal Service attack.

Snapchat starts actively warning users that third-party apps aren’t safe – Some developers build services that trick users of Snapchat and compromise their accounts, the company said.

Company News:

Unhappy Yahoo investors urge merger with AOL – Some investors are less than pleased with the turnaround plan of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and want AOL CEO Tim Armstrong to consider a merger, says Reuters.

Investors Fav Twitter’s Instant Timeline Onboarding And Retention Fix, Shares Soar 7% – Wall Street wants more Twitter users, so when the company revealed a powerful way to gain and keep them on its analyst call, investors boosted its   share price 7.53% up to $42.57. An upcoming feature called Instant Timeline will equip new users with a feed full of high-quality content upon signup, proving Twitter’s worth until users can voluntarily follow the right accounts.

NVIDIA responds to Samsung’s “false advertising” claim – It is a well known legal tactic, especially between companies, for one to fight back a lawsuit with a countersuit. So when NVIDIA sued Samsung and Qualcomm last September, in what it claims to be the first patent suit it has ever filed, it fully expected Samsung to hit back with a suit of its own, which it did this week. But what it didn’t expect was for Samsung, in the same lawsuit, to accuse NVIDIA of falsely advertising its Tekgra K1 as “the world’s fastest mobile processor”.

Google Is Driving A Bus Across Bangladesh To Help 500,000 Students Learn About The Internet – Google is literally hitting the road to promote the potential of the internet in Bangladesh. The company today launched ‘Google Bus Bangladesh’, an educational program aimed at teaching key digital skills to more than half a million students in the South Asian country.


Microsoft: Xbox One nearing ten million shipments worldwide – Since Microsoft lowered the asking price for Xbox One bundles to $349 on Nov. 2, the company says console sales have “more than tripled” week over week in the US. Such a sudden sales spike in the biggest market for game consoles in the world can go a long way to pushing worldwide shipment numbers higher, even though the spike is still relatively recent.

LG records its highest-ever market share in North America – LG Electronics posted its highest market share ever in North America in Q3, thanks to the performance of its newest flagship phone, the G3.

Games and Entertainment:

Free games alert: Witcher 2, Mount & Blade giveaways kick off’s fall games sale – The site’s Fall Games Sale launched this morning, with a bevy of pretty fantastic deals—chief among them free copies of both medieval warfare sim Mount & Blade and the supremely excellent RPG The Witcher 2. There are caveats, of course. You can snag Mount & Blade immediately by going to the main page and looking for the subsection marked “Free Game: A Special Gift for Everyone.” That deal’s only on offer for the next 48 hours though, so be sure to grab it soon.


Sony Is Launching Its Own Internet TV Service, PlayStation Vue, In Early 2015 – Sony is the latest contender to enter the content streaming game after it announced plans to launch PlayStation Vue, a cloud-based service that includes programming from 75 channels, for owners of its PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 consoles next year.


Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PC pre-orders begin, coming Dec. 11 – As promised, Square Enix is bringing the thirteenth, at least by number only, installment of the venerable Final Fantasy Franchise to PC gamers. It has done so for Final Fantasy XIII and now it is announcing when its sequel, Final Fantasy XIII-2, will land. It’s still a good few weeks before the December 11 date arrives, but those who will pre-order the game will be treated to a discount for being an early bird. Even those who bought the first game have something in store for them as well.


The beautiful ‘Monument Valley’ just got even bigger – The expansion adds eight new chapters, nearly doubling the length of the game, and the variety on display is pretty incredible. Some stages are expansive and sprawling in comparison to the original game, taking place across multiple screens, while others are tight, adorable dioramas that you’ll just want to stare at. It’s not just eye candy though: “Forgotten Shores” introduces new game mechanics, like structures that literally twist, and some clever level design that makes it feel fresh and distinct. The penultimate chapter might just the best video game level I’ve played all year.


Breaking the lock: Why all game content should be unlocked from the outset – It’s past time developers stop restricting when and how we play their games. It doesn’t have to be this way, as Halo: The Master Chief Collection and its immediate unlocks show. Original campaigns aren’t going anywhere, and we’re not about to start skipping content by default. But there’s no reason to prevent players from deciding how and when they can access whatever content is in a game—from levels and items to weapons and costumes—at the moment they first launch it.


Gigabyte’s Waterforce triple GTX 980 graphics card kit needs its own radiator case – What Gigabyte has done is to bundle 3 watercooled, pre-overclocked GeForce GTX 980 graphics cards with an external radiator for cooling. So big is the radiator that it has its own case that sits on top of your PC case. You’ll also lose your top 5.25-inch drive bay because the water pipes need to exit the case and feed into the radiator block.


Assassin’s Creed Unity issues: Ubisoft blames AMD – It’s not been a great couple of days for Ubisoft. Assassin’s Creed Unity was put on sale a full 12 hours before the review embargo was lifted, reviews were less than positive, and there’ve been several reports of graphics glitches in-game for both the console (PS4, Xbox One), and PC versions of the game. Today Ubisoft has responded to a couple of complaints, suggesting in one case that “graphics performance” could be “adversely affected by certain AMD CPU and GPU configurations.” Ubisoft appears to be suggesting this performance hit is only present on PCs, not necessarily Xbox One or PS4.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Virus discovered that makes you dumber – A person’s gut “microbiome” is better at identifying them than their fingerprint, and you’ve probably heard that there are more bacterial cells in your body than human ones — more by quite a margin — but the sheer numbers are less affecting than how powerfully they can affect our behavior. Everything from indigestion to your level of energy can be dictated by the gut microbes without whom you would quickly die, and new evidence has implicated them in yet another aspect of life: intelligence.

Windows 8: Why Microsoft’s giant gamble didn’t pay off – Summary: Windows 8 was designed to bridge the gap between tablets and PCs, but left customers cold. What does this mean for Microsoft and for Windows 10?

Pointing up    Excellent analysis.

The Man Who Photographs Plane Wrecks – Dietmar Eckell has been snapping photos of plane wrecks for years. He began as a hobbyist who framed landscapes with ruins like disused train tracks, cars, and buildings. Then came a point in his life where he began working less at his job and more at photography, which culminated in him crashing a paraglider while taking aerial shots. He only broke a leg, but it gave him a lightbulb moment: What happens to crashed planes? Not the ones that kill people, but the ones ending in stories of wilderness survival. He did some research and found that there are dozens of remote crash sites around the world. So in 2010, he quit his job and set out to photograph zero-fatality plane wrecks for his series Happy End. He’s just returned from a week in the Australian bush, so I caught up with him to talk about what he’d found and what it all means.


African Donors – Using the data on donations for Ebola-stricken countries from the Financial Tracking Service, Silk took at a look at the donations coming from Africa (governments, foundations and corporations).

Why Amazon Echo is the future of every home – Don’t laugh at or ignore Amazon’s new home virtual assistant appliance. Devices like this will soon be as common as toasters.


Internet goes ad-free for an hour as Google ad server fails – A Google ad server went down Wednesday morning, leaving many websites without advertising. Sites like Computerworld and were affected. “DoubleClick for Publishers experienced an outage this morning impacting publishers globally, across their video, display, native and mobile formats,” Google said in an email to Comuterworld. “Our team has worked quickly to fix the software bug and [DoubleClick for Publishers] is now back up and running, so our publisher partners can return to funding their content.” Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said the outage likely cost companies across the world millions of dollars.

Former Apple CEO Sculley’s Revenge: A $25 Phone – Many blame Apple’s 90s doldrums on former CEO John Sculley. But his new smartphone company will get the last laugh.

Something to think about:

“If you have great talents, industry will improve them; if you have but moderate abilities, industry will supply their deficiency.”

–     Sir Joshua Reynolds    (1723 – 1792)

Today’s Free Downloads:

Predator – PREDATOR locks your PC when you are away, even if your Windows session is still opened.

It uses a regular USB flash drive as an access control device, and works as follows:

you insert the USB drive

you run PREDATOR (autostart with Windows is possible)

you do your work…

when you’re away from your PC, you simply remove the USB drive:

– once it is removed, the keyboard and mouse are disabled and the screen darkens

when you return back to your PC, you put the USB flash drive in place:

– keyboard and mouse are immediately released, and the display is restored.

Limitations: PREDATOR Free Edition is for private, non-commercial use only.


BirdFont – BirdFont is a free font editor that lets you create vector graphics and export TTF, EOT & SVG fonts.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

California cities, counties have spent $65M on spy tech in past decade – New research from two American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) affiliates definitively shows local law enforcement surveillance technology spreading throughout California—with hardly any public oversight.

The ACLU of Northern California (ACLUNC) and the ACLU of California (ACLUCA) reported Wednesday that California’s 58 counties and its 60 largest cities have collectively spent over $65 million on such technology over the last decade. Often, the money comes through federally funded grants or outside foundation money that city councils and county boards of supervisors are all too ready to accept.

“We found evidence of public debate related to surveillance technology adoption less than 15 percent of the time,” the ACLUCA told Ars in a statement by e-mail. “None of the 52 communities with two or more surveillance technologies publicly debated every technology. We found a publicly-available use policy for fewer than one in five surveillance technologies.”

In conjunction with its research, the ACLUCA also published model legislation that it hopes to spread throughout the Golden State at both the local and state level. The proposed legislation aims to impose “legally enforceable safeguards be in place to protect civil liberties and civil rights before any surveillance technology is deployed.”

Who will save Europe’s privacy from the NSA? Oh God … it’s Google – A Google lawyer says Europeans spied on by the NSA should get the same rights as Americans – such as the right to sue the US government for privacy invasions.

David Drummond, chief legal officer for the information-harvesting monster (Google), published a blog post on Wednesday titled “It’s time to extend the US Privacy Act to EU citizens.”

The European Commission has been calling for such a move ever since ex-NSA techie Edward Snowden blew the lid off Uncle Sam’s global internet spying last year. New Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova is in Washington this week to try to negotiate such a deal.

According to Drummond, who was in Brussels last week as part of Google’s “right to be forgotten” roadshow, there is an “urgent need for surveillance reform” to repair severely damaged relations between the US and Europe.

FBI defends “ruse” of undercover agents posing as hotel cable guys – The Justice Department says it’s perfectly legal for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to cut Internet access of hotel rooms, pose as repairmen, and gather evidence of illegal activity—without a court warrant.

The government said in a court filing late Monday that the Caesars Palace occupants—who called the hotel desk to fix the problem—invited the undercover agents into their Las Vegas rooms, which is enough consent where a warrant is not needed.

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