Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 19, 2014

US Senate falls two votes short of shutting down NSA phone spying;  Swedish ISP to let users shield Internet activity from police;  Top tips on hack-proofing your life;  10 cool things to try with Android 5.0;  How to get the most free online storage;  Walmart Goes After Rivals With Early Black Friday Sale;  The 10 Best Shopping Apps to Compare Prices;  LittleBits Serves Up DIY Smart Home Kit;  Can I Delete All My Old, Embarrassing Tweets?  Use Google to flip a coin or roll dice;  IBM The Latest To Try To Fix Email;  Today I Deleted Uber: Here’s Why You Should, Too;  Russian dashcams catch another explosion in the sky;  Netflix Will Expand To Australia And New Zealand In March 2015;  Microsoft releases out-of-band security patch;  Watch What Has to Be the Most Epic Video Game Launch Trailer Ever;  OSForensics (free).

US Senate falls two votes short of shutting down NSA phone spying – The US Senate voted against reining in the NSA’s spying powers tonight, shooting down a proposal that was supported not just by intelligence reform groups, but by the director of the NSA himself. The USA Freedom Act needed 60 Senate votes to pass its key procedural vote, and it failed to get them. The bill got 58 yes votes and 42 no votes. The bill had widespread support, not just from civil liberties groups but from law enforcement—including the director of the NSA, and even the former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

Swedish ISP to let users shield Internet activity from police – Swedes have started to sign up for a free service from ISP Bahnhof to hide their Internet communications metadata from the police, and the company’s CEO is urging other European ISPs to follow suit. The Swedish ISP will start offering a free VPN (virtual-private-network) service to its customers on Monday. That same day it will also resume retaining customer location and traffic metadata for law enforcement purposes to comply with Swedish law, something it stopped doing in May. By complying again with the data retention rules, the ISP will avoid a fine of 5 million Swedish Kronor, or about US$678,000.

Top tips on hack-proofing your life – Summary: From drug cartels to passwords, security expert Brian Krebs weighs in on how to keep your personal data and bank account safe.

How to get the most free online storage – With the market for cloud storage services starting to get crowded, we take a look at how to get as much storage from the different providers as possible.

Got Lollipop? 10 cool things to try with Android 5.0 – Google’s Android 5.0 release is more than just a pretty makeover. Here are 10 fun features you’ll definitely want to explore once you have Lollipop in front of you.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Walmart Goes After Rivals With Early Black Friday Sale – After announcing details of its 2014 Black Friday promotion last week, Walmart has now revealed a pre-Black Friday savings event, which will offer deals on HDTVs, game systems, and more. Walmart’s second-annual early Black Friday event kicks off this Friday at 8 a.m. and runs through Nov. 27, or until supplies last, store executives announced during a media event Tuesday at the company’s North Bergen, N.J. store.

The 10 Best Shopping Apps to Compare Prices – The latest price-comparison apps are ringing in new features that will spread holiday cheer. There are apps to help the tech-deficient choose a gift for the tech-addicted, lighten the load of loyalty cards, predict prices and product releases to minimize buyer’s (and receiver’s) remorse, and offer up rewards. Price-comparison apps merely need to snap a barcode and perform a search to turn out all of the above, making the marketplace crowded. Because we don’t want you to start your holiday shopping panic before you’ve even left an app store, PCMag has found the 10 best apps out there.

Facebook rolls out Groups, brings another app to your screen – In their continued effort to take over your smartphone screen, Facebook has released Groups. The app’s purpose is simple enough; it’s for group messaging. Yeah, that’s really it. Facebook has taken an aspect of their messaging platform and splintered it off into a standalone app. The new Groups app is complimentary, though; there won’t be the divide we saw with Messenger months ago. You can still access Groups via the Facebook app, or via Messenger. Or, now, via a standalone app.

BuzzFeed Jumps Aboard The Messaging App Train, Starting With WeChat – BuzzFeed’s next step is messaging apps, and it’s teamed up with Tencent to become a media partner on the Chinese firm’s WeChat app, which counts 468 million monthly active users across the world.

Google’s trusted places just made my life so much easier – As with the two existing options, trusted faces and trusted devices, the new location-based automatic unlocker bypasses the usual lock screen when it detects the proper circumstances. You can set multiple trusted locations and it works without adding any delays to accessing the phone.


LittleBits Serves Up DIY Smart Home Kit – The Smart Home Kit was designed to help DIYers retrofit and connect their existing home appliances rather than tossing out perfectly fine equipment in favor of expensive new gadgets, littleBits said in a Tuesday blog post. “Current smart home companies are encouraging us to throw out all of our ‘dumb’ home products and appliances (lamps, coffee machines, speakers, etc),” the company said. “We think that’s expensive, unrealistic, and unnecessary. It’s a lot of buying, replacing, and spending and it adds up! We shouldn’t have to throw away an appliance just to connect it to the Internet.”


Twitter’s powerful new search engine includes every tweet ever sent – Twitter’s always been about speed and immediacy. It’s where news breaks, it’s where topics trend, it’s where your timeline flies by so fast you’re bound to miss things. In an effort to make itself a more permanent home for all that information, Twitter has announced today that you can search through every tweet sent on the service since 2006.

You Asked: Can I Delete All My Old, Embarrassing Tweets? – Twitter just made its search tool more powerful than ever. The social network has now made it easy to search any of the 500 billion public tweets that have been sent in Twitter’s eight-year history. Yes, that includes your tweets—even the drunk ones. If you’re nervous about what an Internet sleuth might uncover if they searched for all your references to “weed” or a comprehensive listing of your embarrassing unanswered pleas directly to a celebrity, you might want to review your old tweets and delete the bad apples. Here’s how to head off your future PR nightmare at the pass:

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Android Lollipop Review – This week we’ve had a look at what it means to be rolling with the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet with a full Android 5.0 Lollipop upgrade. This isn’t your everyday average upgrade – it’s not like we’re using the Nexus 9 that just happens to be branded by NVIDIA. Instead, this is the first non-Nexus tablet to receive the update, complete with NVIDIA’s own apps under the hood. This is more than just a software update just for the sake of having the latest and greatest – this is a real-deal update of the abilities of the unit.


Google program mimics human brains and vision to automatically caption photos – Next time you’re stumped when trying to write a photo caption, try Google. The search giant has developed a machine-learning system that can automatically and accurately write captions for photos, according to a Google Research Blog post. The innovation could make it easier to search for images on Google, help visually impaired people understand image content and provide alternative text for images when Internet connections are slow.


Use Google to flip a coin or roll dice – To get rolling, enter roll die, roll dice or roll a dice into Google’s search bar by voice or fingertip and Google will roll a single die. Unfortunately for backgammon players, you can’t roll two dice at once. And I’m sorry to report to D&D players that the only die Google offers is a six-side one.


Microsoft releases out-of-band security patch for Windows, recommends immediate installation – Microsoft has put out a notice today that they will be releasing an out-of-band security patch and it affects many of the company’s Server operating systems; immediate installation is recommended.

WhatsApp rolls out end-to-end encryption using TextSecure code – WhatsApp partnered with Open Whisper Systems for the launch, using open source code to build in the new features. It’s unclear when the features will come to iOS, but just reaching WhatsApp’s Android users represents a huge step forward for everyday encryption use. “End-to-end” means that, unlike messages encrypted by Gmail or Facebook Chat, WhatsApp won’t be able to decrypt the messages itself, even if the company is compelled by law enforcement. The company will set up the key exchange between users, but only the two users will have access to the conversation itself.

How asymmetric encryption works – Instead of the usual terms of “public key” and “private key” this tutorial uses “lock” and “key”.


Mozilla, EFF And Others Band Together To Provide Free SSL Certificates – Ideally, every time you visit a website, that connection should happen over a secure HTTPS connection so nobody can snoop on your surfing habits when you are using a public network at a coffee shop or at the airport. But in reality, most smaller websites don’t offer these kind of secure connections because getting the kind of digital public-key certificate that makes HTTPS connections work involves a rather annoying and manual process. They also typically don’t come cheap. It doesn’t have to be like that, though. Starting soon, Mozilla, Cisco, Akamai, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, IdenTrust and researchers at the University of Michigan are working through the Internet Security Research Group to create a new certificate authority to offer these digital certificates for free to anybody who owns a web domain. The “Let’s Encrypt” group will launch this service next summer.


Uber emphasizes privacy stance following exec’s comments – In case you managed to miss it, one of Uber’s top executives recently made comments about how the company could dox reporters that have been critical of the service, something that quickly spawned harsh comments and ample backlash. Though an apology and clarification were made soon after, users are still raising privacy concerns, and in an apparent effort to quiet the noise comes a new blog post from Uber. It has emphasized its privacy policy, pointing out the bits it feels are relevant, though it seems like a case of too little, too late.

All the Reasons Why Uber Is the Worst – A high-profile Uber executive suggested that the company should spend $1 million digging up dirt on journalists. We’re not surprised.

Today I Deleted Uber: Here’s Why You Should, Too – Uber is an unethical company run by bad people. It’s time to delete their app and use an alternative.

Company News:

Netflix Will Expand To Australia And New Zealand In March 2015 – In its last quarterly earnings video streaming service Netflix teased that it would be soon launching in more countries and today comes confirmation of that: the company will be expanding Down Under, to Australia and New Zealand, in March 2015. “Internet-connected users in Australia and New Zealand will be able to subscribe to Netflix and instantly watch a curated selection of popular movies and TV shows in high-definition or even 4K where available,” the company says.

Samsung decides 56 smartphones a year is too many, will cut lineup by 30% – Samsung’s 2015 lineup will be still be massive—just slightly less massive.


Samsung’s 2014 product lineup.

Facebook now wants to be your tech news source – Facebook today launched a new Page devoted to surfacing strictly tech news in your timeline. FB Techwire, an extension of FB Newswire, will serve as yet another tool for journalists for exposing the highest-quality work of those working in the tech community. Like Newswire, which launched earlier this year, Techwire will verify and aggregate the best content of the today in a manner that makes the conversation surrounding the news accessible to its audience.

Nokia’s Future Explained Simply – Does Microsoft own Nokia? Is Nokia ever going to make another smartphone? Will Nokia start making Android phones and tablets in the near future? What we’re about to do is set the record straight on a few key points about the Nokia brand – where they are, what happened with Microsoft, and where they’re going in the near future. It’s from this point that you can move forward with Nokia, understanding all the basics. The software, the hardware, and the support as well.

Former BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins is now the top boss at Powermat – Thorsten Heins couldn’t reverse BlackBerry’s deep troubles during his time as CEO, but now he’s got a new challenge: making Powermat the clear winner in wireless charging. Today, Powermat Technologies announced that Heins has been appointed CEO and Chairman of the board, immediately making him the most powerful and influential executive at the company.

IBM The Latest To Try To Fix Email – IBM wants to take on email and today released its new email product called IBM Verse. IBM’s answer is to throw some design sense at the problem, and mix it with analytics and intelligence and when you’re done, you have a smarter and more usable email tool, and it seems to work to some extent, but it doesn’t really address the fundamental underlying issues with email, no matter how pretty or well designed it is.

Games and Entertainment:

The creators of classic ‘Maniac Mansion’ are making a spiritual successor – 25 years ago, Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick designed Maniac Mansion, one of the defining titles from the golden era of adventure games. Now they’re making a spiritual successor. The two creators just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund development of Thimbleweed Park, a new game that not only plays like a classic Lucasarts game, but looks like one too. “We don’t want to make a game ‘inspired by,’ or ‘paying homage to’ classic point and click adventures,” the duo says, “we want to make a real classic point and click adventure.”

Thimbleweed Park

LittleBigPlanet 3 Review: A Great Platformer With A Lower Barrier Of Entry For Creativity – For all the emphasis LittleBigPlanet games put on your ability to create new worlds and build custom game experiences of basically any sort you can imagine, the core story mode of the titles is always the first thing I run to try out. In LittleBigPlanet 3, the game’s consistent mix of fun and frustrating gameplay, which is made even better when you have between one and three additional players over for local co-operative fun, means it follows in the footsteps of previous installments in this regard.


Far Cry 4 Review: A Quirky Open-World Shooter You’ll Want To Explore – Launching today, Far Cry 4 is the latest in Ubisoft’s franchise of first-person shooters set in exotic locales. It takes place in a big, beautiful open world roughly based the area around the Himalayas in Nepal. As a player, you’re free to explore this environment through a variety of means, including driving ATVs, cars, and trucks to water vehicles, small helicopters, and even a wingsuit for quickly bailing from great heights. When navigating towards a specific mission or location, the game conveniently lets you turn on Autodrive so you can take in the surroundings or deal with enemies in vehicles of their own.

Far Cry 4

Watch What Has to Be the Most Epic Video Game Launch Trailer Ever: You kind of have to see it to believe it – BioWare’s role-playing epic Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the most anticipated new video games of the year. The title, which releases Nov. 18 for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PCs, is an open-world epic with a Game of Thrones aesthetic.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Elon Musk’s private warning on AI: “seriously dangerous” in 5 years – In October during an MIT event, Elon Musk shared a word of caution about artificial intelligence, saying that humanity needs to be careful with the technology, and that it is likely “our biggest existential threat”. He drove the point home, saying that by trifling with artificial intelligence “we are summoning the demon.” Following this, a comment from Musk about artificial intelligence efforts that was supposed to remain private was inadvertently published for all to see, and it paints a far more dire warning.

U.K. Government Funds Free Online Courses Teaching Startup Skills – A tech industry-backed, U.K. government-funded initiative offering free online courses to those wanting to learn commercial digital business skills goes live today, aiming to upskill Brits to work for tech companies or even start their own startup.

Bob Marley will be the face of the first global weed brand – Plenty of ground has been broken since Washington and Colorado became the first states to make the sale and recreational use of marijuana legal earlier this year. We’ve seen the first medical marijuana ad on television, the first rules governing how banks handle the money coming from dispensaries, and even the first weed publishing vertical at an established newspaper. Now the world’s first international marijuana brand is being created — and it will use Bob Marley’s likeness to promote it.


Tracour Launches To Prove That Some Financial Analysts Are Full Of It – Financial analysts matter. That’s why you often hear them asking questions at the end of earnings calls, when the CEOs of public companies try to avoid answering them directly. They research, analyze, and make recommendations that the regular person can follow. Too bad they are often so damn wrong. Tracour, co-founded by Brad Sams (Sams is a well-known technology writer, and generally decent human that I have known professionally for some time) aims to vet analyst recommendations to help people avoid lemons. Tracour launched into open beta this morning.

From Cracked16 Awesome Life Hacks Hidden in Technology You Use Every Day.


Russian dashcams catch another explosion in the sky – Russia is well-known for the number of dashcams around to catch all varieties of interesting things, and thanks to those cameras we’ve seen quite a few explosions in the sky. This past April, some cameras caught another meteor on video, this one having happened in the nation’s Murmansk region. That wasn’t the last of the night-time light show however, and just recently another explosion has happened — this one exceptionally bright and long-lasting — and it was caught on camera in the Sverdlovsk region.


The Planet’s Most Hated Pick-up Artist Has Apologized – After outrage from citizens around the world at pick-up artist Julien Blanc’s demonstrated aggression towards women and questionable dating advice seminars, he appeared on CNN last night and tried to defend his actions.

10-second kisses come with a side order of 80 million bacteria – New research quantifies just how much bacterial transfer happens during a kiss — and how kissing can change our mouths in the long term.

Something to think about:

“I suppose that I shall have to die beyond my means.”

–      Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900), upon being told the cost of an operation.

Today’s Free Downloads:

OSForensics – Discover relevant forensic evidence faster. Find files quickly. Search within Files. Search for Emails. Recover Deleted Files. Uncover Recent Activity. Collect System Information. View Active Memory. Extract Logins and Passwords.

Find files quickly

OSForensics™ allows you to search for files many times faster than the search functionality in Windows.

Results can be analyzed in the form of a file listing, a Thumbnail View, or a Timeline View which allows you to determine where significant file change activity has occurred.

Search within Files

If the basic file search functionality is not enough, OSForensics can also create an index of the files on a hard disk. This allows for lightning fast searches for text contained inside the documents. Powered by the technology behind Wrensoft’s acclaimed Zoom Search Engine.

Search for Emails

An additional feature of being able to search within files is the ability to search email archives. The indexing process can open and read most popular email file formats (including pst) and identify the individual messages.

This allows for a fast text content search of any emails found on a system.

Recover Deleted Files

After a file has been deleted, even once removed from the recycling bin, it often still exists until another new file takes its place on the hard drive. OSForensics can track down this ghost file data and attempt to restore it back to useable state on the hard drive.

Uncover Recent Activity

Find out what users have been up to. OSForensics can uncover the user actions performed recently on the system, including but not limited to:

Opened Documents

Web Browsing History

Connected USB Devices

Connected Network Shares

Collect System Information

Find out what’s inside the computer. Detailed information about the hardware a system is running on:

CPU type and number of CPUs

Amount and type of RAM

Installed Hard Drives

Connected USB devices

and much more. Powered by Passmark’s SysInfo DLL.

View Active Memory

Look directly at what is currently in the systems main memory. Attempt to uncover passwords and other sensitive information that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Select from a list of active processes on the system to inspect. OSF can also dump their memory to a file on disk for later inspection.

Extract Logins and Passwords

Recover usernames and passwords from recently accessed

websites in common web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Opera.

Limitations: There is a Free edition of the software and a Professional edition for commercial and government use. The professional version is $499.00.


McAfee Stinger – Stinger is not a substitute for full anti-virus protection, but a tool for dealing with an infected system.

Stinger utilizes next generation scan engine technology, including process scanning, digitally signed DAT files, and scan performance optimizations.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA Reform Bill Dies As Republicans Hype Threats From Islamic State – Senate Republicans, ratcheting up their rhetoric about the threat posed by the Islamic State, on Tuesday night sank the only significant legislative attempt to rein in the National Security Agency in the nearly year and a half since  American citizens first learned they were being spied on by their own government.

The procedural vote to move forward on the USA Freedom Act required 60 votes. It received 58. All but one Democrat and four libertarian-leaning Republicans voted in favor of the bill. The rest of the Republicans — including libertarian firebrand Rand Paul (R-Ky.) —  voted against, along with Florida Democrat Bill Nelson. (Here’s the rollcall of the vote.)

During a brief debate before the vote, Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss warned that members of the Islamic State “want people to walk the streets of New York… and start killing people.”  And, displaying either a real or feigned ignorance of the extraordinary latitude the NSA will continue to enjoy when it comes to spying on international communications, he suggested that the bulk collection of domestic phone records was necessary to ferret out such plans. (Watch video of the debate.)

“God forbid we wake up tomorrow morning… to the news that a member of ISIL is in the United States and federal agents need to determine who this person is coordinating with to carry out a potential attack upon the homeland,” Florida Republican Marco Rubio said. “I promise you, if God forbid a horrifying event like that would happen, the first question that would be asked is why didn’t we know about it?”

AT&T demands clarity: Are warrants needed for customer cell-site data? – AT&T has entered the legal fracas over whether court warrants are required for the government to obtain their customers’ cell-site location history.

The telecom, while not siding one way or the other, said Monday the courts should adopt a uniform policy nationwide. As it now stands, there’s conflicting appellate rulings on the matter. The Supreme Court has yet to decide the issue.

Woman posts “love” of ISIS on Facebook, charged with “promoting” terrorism – A 29-year-old Virginia woman is set to appear again in federal court Wednesday after being charged in connection to favorable Facebook posts about the Islamic State of in Syria (ISIS). One of her posts simply read, “I love ISIS.”

The woman, Heather Coffman, was caught in a terrorism sting operation after the authorities got a search warrant to unmask her Facebook account information. The warrant noted that there was probable cause to unveil who was behind several Facebook accounts because there were pictures of ISIS freedom fighters with words at the bottom that said “Allah has preferred the Mujahideen over those who remain [behind] with great reward.” She also shared a job description on the social networking site that said “jihad for Allah’s sake.”

“In my experience, this indicates support for violent jihad. Further, the mujahideen are individuals that fight violent jihad,” FBI agent Odette Tavares said in court documents (PDF). Additionally, in response to a question on Facebook about why she published pro-ISIS pictures, Coffman responded, “I love ISIS,” according to the government. The feds also said she posted that she hates gays and Zionists and that “they should all die.”

The months-long investigation ultimately led to Coffman being charged Monday with making “false statements” to federal agents “involving or promoting international domestic terrorism.” Now jailed, she is to appear in Virginia federal court Wednesday for a detention hearing (PDF). She is accused of telling an undercover FBI agent that she could help facilitate sending somebody to join the ISIS fight in Syria, and she then lied to FBI agents about it. (The authorities have so far offered no evidence she has connections to ISIS.)

Prosecutors drop key evidence at trial to avoid explaining “stingray” use – In a Baltimore trial courtroom on Monday, a local judge threatened to hold a police detective in contempt of court for refusing to disclose how police located a 16-year-old robbery suspect’s phone. Once the Baltimore Police were able to locate Shemar Taylor’s phone, they then searched his house and found a gun as well.

But rather than disclose the possible use of a stingray, also known as a cell site simulator, Detective John L. Haley cited a non-disclosure agreement, likely with the Harris Corporation, since the company is one of the dominant manufacturers of such devices. Stingrays can be used to determine a phone’s location, and they can also intercept calls and text messages.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams retorted, “You don’t have a nondisclosure agreement with the court,” according to the Baltimore Sun.

The prosecution then withdrew the evidence of the phone and gun but said it would still pursue the case.

Without Net Neutrality the Web Will Be a Dark, Dangerous Place – If we’re forced to say goodbye to net neutrality, we’ll be saying hello to a new world of unregulated technologies.

I’m scared of three things. One, that the inmates are about to take over the asylum in Congress, and no amount of common sense about net neutrality will matter, because in the end it will just be about garnering votes and winning a political victory for deep thinkers like Cruz.

Second, the Internet will basically become a toll highway, and the repercussions from that dramatic shift will spark a flood of unregulated technologies. The Internet is essentially the informational equivalent of running water, and once politicians with political axes to grind and greedy ISPs start messing with our water, it’s pretty much game over for consumer trust.

That leads to my third fear, where entities similar to Tor, Wikileaks, and Anonymous, whether they are perceived as good or bad in the online world, are going to multiply like rabbits and creep into the mainstream much more quickly. Some will rejoice when that happens. Others will want to declare martial law on the Web. I will probably just want to find a dark corner and hide.

Ferguson Racial Profiling Data – Data for this Silk comes from the Ferguson Police Department and U.S. Census Data. See here for the original publication.


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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 19, 2014

  1. You might even enjoy the discription on this video.
    Thanks again for your daily informative and very helpful News Letter and Blog.