Monthly Archives: December 2014

Merry Christmas –Joyeux Noel (2014)

Dear readers and subscribers,


The Christmas season is now upon us and perhaps (just maybe), we can put aside the worries of the moment and reflect upon the joy and the beauty, the giving and the sharing, that Christmas brings to so many of us.

Christmas remains wonderfully inescapable. Its traditions and rituals, established in simpler times, continue to remind us – that those we hold close, are the greatest gifts of all. The Grinch was on to something when he offered – “Maybe, Christmas doesn’t come from a store.”

May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace,
The happiness of Christmas give you hope,
The warmth of Christmas grant you love.

Have a wonderful Christmas, however you define it.


Tech Thoughts is winding down for the Christmas break – so, you will find us fairly quiet the next several weeks. Regular posting will begin again on Thursday, January 5, 2015.


Filed under Living Life, Personal Perspective

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 19, 2014

The 12 scams of Christmas;  EASEUS Todo Backup Free Edition 8.0;  Android power! 2014’s top tips, tricks, and buying advice;  Seven tips for securing your Facebook account;  A few good reasons to partition your SSD or hard drive;  Misfortune Cookie crumbles router security;  Google Rips MPAA;  Xbox One To Get Pandora, Vevo, Popcornflix And More Apps This Week;  Plex for PlayStation Arrives;  Sony hit with second employee lawsuit over hack;  Reaction to the Sony Hack Is Beyond the Realm of Stupid.

The 12 scams of Christmas – This year, cybercrime has evolved to new and more sophisticated levels — far beyond the days of phishing emails by “lawyers” who need to transfer millions of dollars to your account on behalf of a long-lost African uncle. So, what do you need to keep an eye out for as Christmas approaches?

4 Things Every Single Person Can Learn From the Sony Hack – Reporting around the Sony hack revealed the company and its employees did little to keep passwords and other sensitive data secure. Here are four things we can all learn about data security from the Sony hack.

The Sony Hack Is Not an Excuse to Pass Bad Cybersecurity Laws – “This will be a case study I can guarantee will be both used and misused in everything from legislation to cybersecurity sales pitches.” Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been warning of a ” Cyber Pearl Harbor” for years now. The Sony hack isn’t it, but it’ll do, for freaking-out purposes anyway.

Seven tips for securing your Facebook account – Facebook can be a tricky beast when it comes to keeping your account private and secure. Here are seven tips to help you tame it.

Android power! 2014’s top tips, tricks, and buying advice – Whether you’re shopping for a new gadget or ready to make your current device do more, this guide has everything you need to make this holiday season count.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

iOS productivity apps discounted in App Santa promotion – Several dozens apps, including many popular productivity applications, have been discounted up to 80% as part of an annual Christmas promotion. Here’s a look at what’s available.

Microsoft to discount Xbox Music by 50 percent in one-day promotion – The discount is part of Microsoft’s 12 Days of Deals. The Xbox Music Pass streaming-music service normally costs $99.90 a year, but it will go for $49.90 on Friday.

Organize and listen to your own music on the cloud – As an avid music fan, I spend ages getting my personal music collection just right, picking and choosing from CDs, vinyl and digital files to make a library that’s uniquely my own. But once all that hard work is done, it’s nice to be able to stream any of those tracks across devices — even when I’m away from my main computer. Here’s a guide on how to organize your music and choose a cloud streaming service to listen to tunes wherever you are.

Tell Antivirus Researchers What Matters To You – The researchers at AV-Comparatives have released a survey to find out just what users consider important. The survey starts with some general demographic questions, including your primary browser and operating system. It asks how you chose your current security solution (I checked “Recommended by a computer magazine.”) And it lists almost three dozen security vendors, asking which you primarily use. With the basics out of the way, now comes your chance to influence next year’s tests. To start, you pick a dozen vendors whose products you’d like to see tested. Don’t see your favorite? There’s a write-in option.

A few good reasons to partition your SSD or hard drive – So why would you want to make additional partitions? It’s not like making folders. Creating and resizing partitions is a hassle. One reason is to have multiple operating systems. If you want to run two versions of Windows, or Windows and Linux, partitions help separate the environments. Another reason, and the reason why I’ve partitioned my drive, is to separate system and data for backup purposes.

Keep encrypted files encrypted when you back them up to the cloud – You keep selected files or folders encrypted on your internal drive. But are they protected when you use an online backup service?

5 Things to Keep in Mind When Buying a Digital Camera – Whether you want a simple camera you can slip into a pocket, one with interchangeable lenses and plenty of controls, or something in between, here’s what you need to know to zoom in on the perfect camera.

Still Not On Inbox By Gmail? They Just Gave All Users 10 Invites Each – While Google has given users a slow trickle of friend-to-friend invites since launch, they just dumped a 10-pack of invites onto the laps of anyone and everyone who has already made their way past the front door. If you’ve got a friend on Inbox who has told you they were out of invites, get to pestering — they’ve got more now.

Instagram makes teens and celebrities angry by killing millions of spambots – A crackdown on spam Instagram accounts has triggered a cataclysm in the world of low-grade social media celebrities. The event, which began today after the photo-sharing service made good on its promise to start deleting millions of fake accounts, has been dubbed the “Instagram Rapture” after the follower counts of apparently popular Instagrammers were savaged. Rapper Tyga saw his followers drop from 5.5 million to 2.2 million, while Ma$e committed Instagram’s version of seppuku, deleting his account after freefalling from 1.6 million followers to around 100,000.

Microsoft’s 6000mAh Portable Power phone charger is finally available to buy for $49 – The Microsoft Portable Power DC-21 is a mobile battery pack that allows users to charge their devices on the move. The unit contains a rechargeable 6000mAh battery, and can connect to most smartphones – not just Lumia devices – via the USB-to-microUSB cable. Once it’s been fully charged from the mains, Microsoft says that the Portable Power can retain its full charge for months; even six months later, it will retain 80 percent of its power from a single charge.


Skype Translator is the most futuristic thing I’ve ever used – Truly, this is transformational technology. It’s not often that I use something that leaves me excited, something that makes me say “wow” not out of cynical sarcasm but because I’m genuinely impressed. But Skype Translator did it. Whether you call it a Star Trek Universal Translator or Babel fish, Microsoft is building it, and it’s incredible.


In video calls, you can both see the translation and hear it.

Fedora 21: Linux fans will LOVE it – after the install woes – Review As has become par for the course with Fedora, the latest – Fedora 21 – has arrived months behind schedule. To its credit, it’s well worth the wait. This release marks the start of the project. The big change is that Fedora 21 is available in three flavors: cloud, server, and workstation. All three build on the same base, adding packages relevant to the use case. For this review I tested both the server and workstation, primarily the latter since that’s the flavor targeted at desktop users. The cloud flavor is available preconfigured for OpenStack, Amazon AMIs and Atomic images meant for Docker containers.

Microsoft is pushing an update out for Windows 10 to prep for FBL_Awesome – Microsoft has said today that it is pushing out another update for Windows 10 that will prepare your build for the next release of the OS, which will arrive in late January.

Viber calls out ESET for flagging them, ESET responds with a digital uppercut – Whenever a user would try to install Viber, NOD32 would return a pop-up saying that a “potential threat” has been found (with what NOD32 appears to suggest is a toolbar that Viber tries to install into IE) and asks the user whether or not the user would want to proceed. This action appears to have annoyed the Viber team, prompting them to post an image of the pop-up with an overlay of “#EsetSucks” in big red text, alongside a tweet saying that the software is buggy and that users should uninstall it.


What Viber wasn’t expecting, however, was for ESET to respond, and the response was as classy as it can get. ESET tweeted back its own image, this time, however, it was an image of the Viber installer’s source code showing silent downloads and silent statistics being sent back to Viber, and a message from ESET saying that their users’ privacy comes first. Oh, and they also included an “#esetDOESNTsuck” hashtag at the end of their tweet.



Misfortune Cookie crumbles router security: ’12 MILLION+’ in hijack risk – Infosec biz Check Point claims it has discovered a critical software vulnerability that allows hackers to hijack home and small business broadband routers across the web. More than 12 million low-end SOHO routers worldwide are affected by the bug, dubbed Misfortune Cookie, we’re told. At least 200 different models of devices from various manufacturers and brands are vulnerable, it’s claimed, including kit from D-Link, Edimax, Huawei, TP-Link, ZTE, and ZyXEL. Anything connected to the network – PCs, phones, tablets, printers, security cameras, refrigerators, or any other networked device – is at risk from attack within that LAN, if a vulnerable router is compromised.

This Little USB Necklace Hacks Your Computer In No Time Flat – Quick! The bad guy/super villain has left the room! Plug in a mysterious device that’ll hack up their computer while an on-screen progress bar ticks forward to convey to the audience that things are working! It’s a classic scene from basically every spy movie in history. In this case, however, that mystery device is real. Samy Kamkar — developer of projects like that massive worm that conquered MySpace back in 2006, or SkyJack, the drone that hijacks other drones — has released a video demonstrating the abilities of a particularly ridiculous “necklace” he sometimes wears around.


Microsoft begins war against fake phone tech support scams – Microsoft has launched its first US lawsuit against companies offering phoney phone support for its products and says it plans further operations in the UK and India to stamp out the scammers. Fake tech support calls have been around for a few years now. A caller will claim to be calling from Microsoft technical support saying that a virus has shown up on their computer and offering to fix it for a fee. The “support’ usually costs hundreds of dollars and leaves the targtet computer either unchanged or with new malware added. The problem is widespread, and Microsoft says it has received 65,000 calls complaining about the scam since May of this year alone and estimates that such fraud brings in over US$1.5bn in illicit income every year.

Malicious Software Found on Coolpad Android Phones – Dubbed “CoolReaper,” the malicious software was discovered by enterprise security firm Palo Alto Networks, and allows Coolpad to control users’ phones and access data on the devices. As Palo Alto Networks explained, it is not uncommon for device manufacturers to install bloatware on top of Google’s Android OS; some mobile carriers also include apps that gather performance data. CoolReaper, however, appears to be taking that a step further.

Sony Hackers Used Widely Available Malware, Cybersecurity Experts Say – The malware that allowed hackers to break into and steal untold amounts of emails and data from Sony Pictures could have been carried out by almost anyone with financial backing to buy the right malware, cybersecurity experts said Thursday. Hackers carried out the attack using malware that was a “cut and paste” job, said Nimrod Kozlovski, a partner in JVP Labs, one of Israel’s leading venture capital firms with a focus on cybersecurity. Trojan-Destover, the malware used in the Sony attack, reused at least six components of previous malware, including two pieces of “wipers,” or data-erasing malware, used in attacks on Saudi Arabia in 2012 and South Korea in 2013. All the malware had to be only slightly tweaked before it could be used in the Sony attack.

How to train your staff on cyber security (and make it stick) – Getting your employees to take cyber security seriously can be a challenge. Use this hands-on approach to get them invested in securing crucial data.

Company News:

Google tipped in effort to build Android into future cars – According to unnamed sources that spoke to Reuters, Google is preparing to take its Android Auto to the next level, and will introduce a version of its software in the future that is built directly into cars. This embedded version of Android will have several perks over the current iteration, including doing away with the need to plug a smartphone into the infotainment center’s USB. The platform won’t be without its hurdles, however, and its embedded nature could be its undoing.

Google Rips MPAA For Allegedly Leveraging Local Government To Revive SOPA – Corruption in the American Hollywood style is something to behold. Today, Google published a short blog post alleging that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), alongside a number of film studios, funded what was essentially opposition research about the company. The resulting material was later fed to state attorneys general.

Flickr issues Wall Art apology, removes Creative Commons images – Not too long ago, Flickr introduced a new service for printing photos called Wall Art. At first it was a welcomed feature, allowing users to print their own photos using an integrated tool with a couple different printing options. The mood towards the feature turned sour a short while later, however, when Flickr revealed that Wall Art would no longer be limited to only one’s own images, allowing anyone to order prints from a massive library of others’ photos…with no compensation going to the photographer.


Sony hit with second employee lawsuit over hack – Sony Pictures has been hit by a second lawsuit alleging it didn’t do enough to safeguard the personal information of employees that was lost in a major hack in late November. Central to the lawsuit, which was filed at the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, is the assertion that “cybercriminals were able to perpetrate a breach of this depth and scope because Sony Pictures Entertainment failed to maintain reasonable and adequate security measures to protect the employees’ information from access and disclosure.” It follows a similar lawsuit on Monday filed in the same court by two former employees.

Boston Uber driver charged with sexual assault – An Uber driver who allegedly attacked a woman in Boston is charged with rape, kidnapping and two counts of assault and battery.

Apple ‘failing to protect Chinese factory workers,’ claims report – Workers in Chinese factories making Apple products are being poorly treated, undercover investigations by the BBC claims.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox One To Get Pandora, Vevo, Popcornflix And More Apps This Week – Microsoft might have said that they’re done shipping their big Xbox One software updates for the year — but that doesn’t mean they can’t release a few new toys in the form of apps. The company has just announced five new apps that should be available to Xbox One owners just in time for Christmas.


Steam’s holiday sale includes deals on Civilization, Dark Souls, and more – Valve has just kicked off its annual holiday game sale for Steam, which lasts from now until January 2nd, and it’s pretty big — Valve says that there will be more than 100 games featured throughout the next two weeks. Right now you can grab several blockbuster games for cheap, including Civilization: Beyond Earth for $29.99, Dark Souls II for $16.27, and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes for $13.39, just to name a few. As always, you’ll want to check back regularly for new deals: there are new deals every 12 hours, and the featured sales will be changing every day.

Zynga’s Looney Tunes Dash Updates a Classic – Zynga’s latest mobile title, Looney Tunes Dash, drops some of the most beloved cartoon characters into a Temple Run scenario—then adds a twist. By combining the massively popular runner gaming category with one of the most recognizable cartoon brands, Zynga and partner Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment hope to reach a new generation of fans.


GTA: Chinatown Wars released for Android, Online gets a Snow Day – The Grand Theft Auto universe is getting a couple of big additions this week, one in the form of a Holiday Fun update to Grand Theft Auto V, the other a platform-first. The platform-first is Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars, which will be coming to Android devices of all kinds. This game was previously released for Xbox and PlayStation consoles as well as iOS for iPhone and iPad. Now it comes to Android smartphones, tablets, Amazon Fire TV, and Google Nexus Player.


Plex for PlayStation Arrives – Plex is bringing its new console-friendly app for accessing locally stored movies to Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PS4, just a few months after doing the same for Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners. The app is now available in Europe and Asia, with a launch in United States and elsewhere set to “happen in the near future,” according to Plex.


D’oh! ‘MythBusters’ to take on ‘The Simpsons’ best stunts – Exploding toilets! Runaway wrecking balls! Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman will bust or prove “Simpsons”-inspired moments in their new season premiere in January.


Only “MythBusters” would dare to re-create a wrecking ball stunt with Homer Simpson.

Duck Hunt Will Land On Nintendo’s Wii U on Christmas Day – Duck Hunt, the legendary fowl-hunting, gun-slinging game originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, is coming to Nintendo’s newest console on Dec. 25. The game will be downloadable on the Wii U’s virtual console, which brings classic Nintendo titles to the system.


Duck Hunt – Nintendo

Off Topic (Sort of):

Tech decisions: Putting the experts in perspective – Summary:In the spirit of Hanukkah, I thought I would deep-fry my fellow technology writers in the very industry from which I feed.

Pointing up   I’m rather biased – but, this article sums up my personal perspective on mainstream tech writers. That is – too many have absolutely no idea, in a larger sense, what they’re talking about. By extension, the worst of these are the “talking head” security experts, often seen on cable news channels following a newsworthy internet security event. 

Reaction to the Sony Hack Is ‘Beyond the Realm of Stupid’ – It’s been a big day for news surrounding the massive, ongoing Sony hack saga. First, major movie chains announced that they would not be screening The Interview after a nonspecific threat of violence from the​ Guardians of Peace, the hacking collective that attacked Sony. Then, the company announced it was canceling the release of the movie altogether. Now, the government is suggesting that it really is North Korea behind the attack. To help make sense of it all, I called up Peter W. Singer, one of the nation’s foremost experts on cybersecurity and cyber war, to get his take. Singer is the author of  Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know and Wired for War and is a strategist at the New America Foundation.

Should you trust ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ and ‘The Doctors’? Study says be wary – A new study looked into medical claims made by popular shows “The Dr. Oz Show” and “The Doctors,” and concluded that viewers would be wise to take their advice with a grain of salt.


Though they obviously mean well, you can’t always trust the advice you get from doctors on TV, a new study says.

Want to stay healthy and fight off the common cold? So how did Carnegie Mellon test the effectiveness of hugs? They intentionally exposed 404 individuals to the common cold virus, put them in quarantine, and watched what happened. Beforehand they’d interviewed all participants and documented the regularity of hugging in their lives as well as any “interpersonal conflicts.”  What they found was that regular hugging did form some kind of protective barrier against infection and then ongoing symptoms if infection did occur. So not only may it stop you getting sick in the first place, hugging can make the illness much less severe. And that’s true regardless of how much stress there is in your life.

Colbert Report set added to Google Business View – Most people are familiar with Google’s Street View, which allows users to take virtual tours of just about anywhere. Lesser known is the company’s Business View, which is exactly what it sounds like: a virtual look inside of businesses, allowing you to take a peek at a place you haven’t visited before you make the trip. This comes in handy for glimpsing a place ahead of visiting it in person, but is also an excellent way to explore places you’ll likely otherwise never experience.


Something to think about:

“The public does not like you to mislead or represent yourself to be something you’re not. And the other thing that the public really does like is the self-examination to say, you know, I’m not perfect. I’m just like you. They don’t ask their public officials to be perfect. They just ask them to be smart, truthful, honest, and show a modicum of good sense.”

–       Ann Richards

Today’s Free Downloads:

Exact Audio Copy 1.0 Beta 4 – Exact Audio Copy is a so called audio grabber for audio CDs using standard CD and DVD-ROM drives. It works with a technology which reads audio CDs almost perfectly. If there are any errors that can’t be corrected, it will tell you on which time position the (possible) distortion occurred, so you could easily control it with e.g. the media player.

With other audio grabbers you usually need to listen to every grabbed wave because they only do jitter correction. Scratched CDs read on CD-ROM drives often produce distortions. But listening to every extracted audio track is a waste of time. Exact Audio Copy conquer these problems by making use of several technologies like multi-reading with verify and AccurateRip.

EAC now supports the AccurateRip plugin, which is included in the setup of the versions which support AccurateRip. The plugin called AccurateRip.dll is installed within the EAC directory and EAC should then recognize the plugin automatically.


EASEUS Todo Backup Free Edition 8.0 – EASEUS Todo Backup Free provides several of the key features from EASEUS Todo Backup Workstation to protect your PC.

Users are faced with the essential challenge: the need to secure their PC and important files, such as system, family photos, music, applications, personal data and financial documents. If you lose any files you like or need to go back to an earlier version, don’t worry, you can recover them in time. It is a complete free backup and recovery solution for home users.


System Backup and Recovery

Backup Schedule

File and Folder Backup

Incremental disk/partition backup

Backup Management to manage the backup tasks and plans

Disk Tools like clone disk, wipe disk

Backup to external hard drive, CD/DVD, NAS for double protection

Schedule backup ongoing indicator to timely notify whether your schedule is ongoing or not.

Backup network shared files

One-click system backup & recovery.

Support dynamic disk – back up and clone dynamic volume.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Google Claims 2015 Will Be A “Moment” For Surveillance Reform – Google thinks that next year will be a big moment for surveillance reform. So much so that the company set up a special page on its Take Action hub asking individuals to sign something akin to a petition of sorts to “help make the Internet more secure for everyone.”

Why does Google think that 2015 will be big? The company notes that “[i]n June of 2015, we have a huge chance to protect Americans from mass surveillance when a key part of the USA PATRIOT Act is set to expire.” That’s correct. Google goes on to state that “we need to be ready to take action this coming year.”

The potential sunsetting of some portions of the USA PATRIOT Act, a key piece of law that supports parts of current American government surveillance, will be a political scrap. Google and other large technology companies will have some sway through both community organizing and purchased political clout.

Google’s political expenditures have skyrocketed in recent years to become among the highest in the country on a per-corporation basis. That spending growth, of course, fits under the larger rubric of tech going politics and politics going tech.

The Limits of Police Subterfuge – “The next time you call for assistance because the Internet service in your home is not working, the ‘technician’ who comes to your door may actually be an undercover government agent. He will have secretly disconnected the service, knowing that you will naturally call for help and — ­when he shows up at your door, impersonating a technician­ — let him in. He will walk through each room of your house, claiming to diagnose the problem. Actually, he will be videotaping everything (and everyone) inside. He will have no reason to suspect you have broken the law, much less probable cause to obtain a search warrant. But that makes no difference, because by letting him in, you will have ‘consented’ to an intrusive search of your home.”

This chilling scenario is the first paragraph of a motion to suppress evidence gathered by the police in exactly this manner, from a hotel room. Unbelievably, this isn’t a story from some totalitarian government on the other side of an ocean. This happened in the United States, and by the FBI. Eventually — I’m sure there will be appeals — higher U.S. courts will decide whether this sort of practice is legal. If it is, the country will slide even further into a society where the police have even more unchecked power than they already possess.

Activist group sues San Diego Police Department over “stingray” records – A legal advocacy group has sued the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) and the city of San Diego in an attempt to force the release of public records relating to stingrays, also known as cell-site simulators.

Stingrays are often used covertly by local and federal law enforcement to locate target cellphones and their respective owners. However, stingrays also sweep up cell data of innocent people nearby who have no idea that such collection is taking place. Stingrays can be used to intercept voice calls and text messages as well.

Earlier this week, a local judge in Arizona ruled that a local reporter could not receive similar stingray documents from the Tucson Police Department because disclosure “would give criminals a road map for how to defeat the device, which is used not only by Tucson but other local and national police agencies.”

Australia: Note to data-retention law makers: The internet is not a telephone – Wednesday’s public hearing by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security (JPCIS) highlighted serious problems with the Australian government’s proposed laws for setting up a mandatory data-retention scheme — problems that should have been fixed long before things reached the committee stage.

I’m not talking about the problems we’ve discussed before. Problems like key definitions still missing, meaning that the law is “little more than a shell for such a scheme”, as the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at the University of New South Wales wrote in its submission (PDF). Or problems like the proposed two-year retention period being longer than almost anywhere else in the world.

Kerri Hartland, deputy director-general of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), actually addressed that last issue, telling the committee that around 10 percent of ASIO’s requests for communications data are for periods of 12 months or more, and sometimes up to two years and beyond.

“Those cases relate to — 10 percent may seem [like a] small number — our most serious and complex cases. Typically, these relate to activities of hostile foreign nationals or nations engaged in spying and influence operations against Australia. It absolutely needs to be two years from our perspective,” she said, indicating that ASIO’s confidential submission had more detail.

Alas, without that confidential submission in front of us, who can say?

No, I’m talking about the fact that almost everyone involved still seems to think that the internet is a telephone.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 18, 2014

The Best Free Antivirus for 2015;  Why You Need Antivirus Software;  How to get the most free online storage;  Five mobile apps to help you run down key info;  Five tips for managing your money with;  Hands-on with the free Mailbox and Carousel apps;  Facebook Groups testing ‘Sell Something’ button;  Snopes debunks Elf on the Shelf as NSA spy;  Professor: Elf teaches kids spying is OK;  Up close with the BlackBerry Classic;  How to sell your unwanted gift cards;  Smartphone comparison chart could help you find your next phone;  Amazon employees strike in Germany;  Fixing Assassin’s Creed: Unity requires a 6.7GB patch;  Bing predicts the trends for 2015.

Why You Need Antivirus Software – These days, “antivirus” is just a word for a tool that protects your data and your PC against viruses, Trojans, botnets, rootkits, rogue security software, ransomware, and all types of malicious software. Actual viruses are the least of your worries, since they lay low to avoid detection. “But I only use my PC to surf the Web,” you may say. “I don’t keep any personal information on it. Who cares if a virus or some bad program goes along for the ride?” Well, it’s not as simple as that.

The Best Free Antivirus for 2015 – Going without antivirus protection isn’t an option. Even if you don’t care about your own computer, leaving it unprotected could let cyber-crooks turn it into a zombie minion and force it to participate in DDoS attacks. If you have any computers without antivirus software, you need to install protection. Right now. Don’t worry; it doesn’t have to cost you a penny.

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.

Five mobile apps to help you run down key info – One thing that’s boosted the popularity of smartphones and tablets is the way they put information at your fingertips right when you need it. Yes, you can find almost anything you’re looking for by using a Web browser and a little patience. But a number of reference apps can make it easier to track down all sorts types of information. Here are five apps I’ve found to be particularly useful.

Google Drive gets Gmail attachment capabilities, Open Doc Format support, and more – For two years you’ve been able to share links to Drive documents with just one-click. Now, you can send actual attachments. Drive for Android, meanwhile, is getting Google Now integration, which lets you use an “Ok Google” voice command to search for Drive documents. And users of iPhone and iPads are getting the ability to upload content from other apps on their device.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Dropbox users, try these: Hands-on with the free Mailbox and Carousel apps – Dropbox does more than stash stuff now. The email and photo-sharing apps are bonus features well worth exploring.

Five tips for managing your money with – It’s around this time of year — after more-than-intended gift spends and holiday travels — that bank statements get a brow-raise., a free personal finance site, is one of the most popular choices for budgeting and record-keeping, thanks to its clean interface and long-standing reputation. Whether you’re new to the service out want to get more out of it, here are some best practices.

TeachPitch Helps Educators Around The World Share Learning Resources – Creating lesson plans, learning about teaching methods, and finding new educational material are all part of a normal workday for teachers, but it can be difficult because most educators have extremely tight schedules. wants to help by bringing teachers around the world closer together so they can find and share the best resources on the web. The site, which launched officially in October, now has around 2,000 teachers from 55 countries on its platform, most from the U.S. and Asia.

Facebook Groups testing ‘Sell Something’ button – Facebook Groups is a strange (but cool) little app. You can exist within your own group, or join a new one blindly based on a common interest.. A new feature might hint at why Facebook created Groups, though, or at least something they had in mind when launching it. A “Sell Something” button has popped up next to the “Write Post” button for some users, which brings up a very Craigslist-like posting window. Users can add a picture of the item they’re trying to unload, along with pickup or delivery options.


Microsoft’s Xim app now shares photos to Apple TV, Chromecast, and Xbox One – Xim is Microsoft’s take on photo sharing and slideshows. A group Xim allows up to 50 photos to be shared between friends via their mobile number or email address, and Microsoft creates non-permanent cloud-based groups that are viewable in a browser and are synchronized across all users that are invited to a particular Xim. While there are a number of photo sharing services available, Microsoft’s Xim is shaping up to be a simple and unique cross-platform app that the company is clearly invested in. It joins a number of other apps that Microsoft has developed for iOS and Android recently.

Windows 10 Tech Preview: 1300 bugs fixed, 1.5 million registered Insiders – In a blog posting made today by a Microsoft employee, Gabe Aul reveals improvements to Windows 10, along with usage statistics that show a lot of promise for the platform.

Snopes debunks Elf on the Shelf as NSA spy; Professor: Elf teaches kids spying is OK – Even as Snopes debunked the claim that Elf on the Shelf is spying for the NSA, a digital technology professor claimed the elf is changing children’s expectation of privacy; it’s teaching kids that it is “cool for the NSA to watch them, to report back to the government.”


This smartphone comparison chart could help you find your next phone – So you need a new phone, but there are probably a zillion options out there with different screen sizes, memory configurations, and prices. It can be kind of overwhelming, right? There’s a neat tool you can use to help narrow down the search. The Gnod smartphone comparison chart lets you filter phones by size, price, resolution, and more. Then it slaps all the matching phones on a handy scatter plot.


Up close with the BlackBerry Classic – BlackBerry is returning to its roots. Today the company announced the release of the BlackBerry Classic, its latest smartphone with a full QWERTY physical keyboard and an optical trackpad, bringing back the best thing about the company that once dominated the smartphone market. The Classic isn’t for everyone, and with a $449 price tag, it won’t be cheap to pick up either. But for those who miss tapping on the physical keyboard made famous by BlackBerry in the mid 2000s, it doesn’t get much better than this.


MPAA wants DNS filtering even if it breaks the Internet – In a Sony leaked document, MPAA lawyers discussed using the Domain Name System (DNS) to block traffic to websites which hosts illicit or pirated content. MPAA wants to be able to delete records from the DNS which would make a website completely unreachable via its domain. The tactic was first proposed as part of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2011, however, the law failed to pass Congress due to a worldwide backlash.

How to sell your unwanted gift cards – Did you know you can sell or trade your unwanted gift cards? Most people don’t even know such an option is possible, when in fact it is, and can come in really handy around the holiday season when almost everyone gets at least one gift card. Below you will find a rundown of a few Web sites that facilitate the buying and selling of unwanted gift cards as well as an ingenious way of dealing with those Visa/Amex gift cards.


How to use your dSLR as a PC webcam – Maybe your webcam is broken. Or maybe, you just want to try something fun with your dSLR. Here’s how to turn your dSLR into a webcam for PC. First, you will need to check that your camera is compatible with the software for this tutorial. It’s called SparkoCam, and works with most Canon and Nikon dSLRs. Check the list at the bottom of this page for your particular model.


Priest jams cell phones in church – Fed up with his services being disrupted by technology, an Italian priest installs a jamming device. As the Daily Mail reports, phones even went off during funerals. So, instead of merely praying for a pestilence to descend upon these disrespectful phone-obsessives, Father Madonna found a technological solution. He bought a jammer, which reportedly cost him around $60. Peace and love now reign in his pews.


Everything We Know About Sony, The Interview and North Korea – Sony Pictures Entertainment said late Wednesday that it’s pulling The Interview, a comedy about two journalists tasked with killing North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un. Sony’s move came a day after a cryptic message appeared online threatening attacks against theaters that played the film, and several weeks after hackers first breached Sony’s system and posted troves of private emails and other data online. Shortly after Sony decided to scrub The Interview, a U.S. official confirmed to TIME that American intelligence officials have determined North Korea was behind the Sony hack, though no evidence has been disclosed. Here’s everything we know for sure about the Sony hack, up until now.

Google Hangouts: Too smart for privacy? – “Google’s Hangouts is gaining a handy, but slightly creepy new feature today. The popular chat app will now act as a digital spy-slash-valet by eavesdropping on your conversations to offer ‘smart suggestions.’ For instance, if a pal asks ‘where are you?’ it’ll immediately prompt you to share your location, then open a map so you can pin it precisely.” It’s sad that this sort of thing still gets meekly labeled as “creepy”. The privacy implications are serious and pretty easy to see in objective terms.

Business interrupted: Telstra reveals Australia’s security breach impact – Nearly a quarter of Australian organisations have suffered an interruption to their business due to an IT security attack or breach over the past 12 months, according to new research by Telstra.

TorrentLocker ransom rampage encrypts 285 million files and counting – Slovakian security wizards ESET have delved deep into the guts of the TorrentLocker ransom malware and pulled out some interesting details of its destructive life story starting with the number of files it has encrypted—a misery-inducing 285 million to date. Although TorrentLocker is nowhere near the scale of the infamous CryptoLocker, and will likely never acquire the latter’s notoriety, that sort of file scrambling still adds up to 39,670 infected PCs by ESET’s calculation.

Forensic software gets around Apple’s iCloud security features – A Russian software company has updated its forensic software to work-around the security features Apple recently added to iCloud and increased what information can be extracted from the cloud storage service. The catch to using the software, which pulls files including photos, calendar information and call logs from iCloud, is that some information about the account is required to access the storage service, according to information on the company’s website. Either an Apple ID, password and the second form of authentication or a binary authentication token are needed to use Phone Breaker.

Company News:

FCC expected to fine Sprint $105 million for overcharging customers – The Federal Communications Commission is reportedly on the verge of fining Sprint $105 million for cramming charges that brought complaints from tens of thousands of customers. The $105 million fine would match one levied on AT&T, which was accused of the same illegal practice. The US government has also sued T-Mobile over cramming charges.

Netflix shuts the door on offline playback: ‘It’s never going to happen’ – The position makes perfect business sense. Consumers have plenty of other options for downloading movies and TV shows to watch when they’re away from an internet connection. There’s iTunes. There’s Google Play. There’s Vudu / UltraViolet. And Amazon lets Kindle Fire tablet owners download some Prime Instant Video content for offline viewing as well. Adding offline support could further muddy Netflix’s already-complex licensing deals and introduce potential new headaches for subscribers.

Uber says they’ll invest in better background checks – Fun fact: Uber drivers don’t pass a rigorous background check before picking you up and (hopefully) dropping you off at your desired location. Seems a bit off that Uber doesn’t thoroughly vet their drivers, right? The company is pretty fastidious about what car you have and your driving record, but as for what crimes you might have been convicted of in the past — they’re not so worried. In China, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said his company would start checking the background of those working for his service in an attempt to better protect passengers.

Amazon employees strike in Germany – Amazon employees at German warehouses have gone on strike over better pay and conditions until at least December 20, but the company has promised it will deliver Christmas orders on time. In the long-running dispute which started in May 2013, the union has demanded that Amazon pay the same wages as employees in the mail order and retail industries. Amazon rejected the demands, saying it regards warehouse employees as logistics workers who receive above-average pay.

Oracle posts stronger-than-expected Q2 earnings, revenue results – Oracle’s last quarterly earnings announcement dropped with news of the biggest leadership shuffle in the company’s history. This quarter, things aren’t quite as dramatic down in Redwood City, Calif., but the pressure was still on given Oracle has missed revenue targets five out of the last six quarters. Not so this time.

Games and Entertainment:

Fixing Assassin’s Creed: Unity requires a 6.7GB patch – As for what the patch does, it’s a bit of everything to try and get Unity to the state it should have originally shipped in. The reason for the large size is because Ubisoft has had to replace large sections of Paris to resolve performance issues. Once applied, players can expect many of the navigation, world collision, HUD, framerate, save games, NPC behavior, and lock picking issues to be fixed. There should be a noticeable improvement in overall game performance, and a much improved online multiplayer experience. The full patch notes have all the details.


Dish becomes first big US TV provider to offer Netflix through your set-top box – Dish Network customers who are tired of switching inputs on their TV to move between satellite TV and online streaming will be happy to hear they can now sign into their Netflix accounts right from their Hopper set-top box. This makes Dish the first pay-TV provider in the U.S. to provide Netflix streaming through its DVR. Netflix service won’t come for free, of course; Dish subscribers will still need a Netflix subscription.


Microsoft’s 12 Days of Deals soldiers on with a 4GB Xbox 360 and free game for $149.99 – While today’s deal is different to that which was leaked last week for this day, it’s still quite a steal, offering both a discount on the Xbox 360 as well as a free game, while stocks last.


Cities: Skylines is more like SimCity than SimCity – It’s an ambitious title, for sure. I’d go so far as to say it’s the SimCity I thought I was getting from EA. It’s not as pretty, but I’ll trade a tilt-shift effect for a deeper simulation any day. And as a bonus: The game will have Steam Workshop support, and Colossal Order really means it. You’ll be able to model your own buildings and all sorts of other wild things, so if you really want to make that one-to-one scale replica of Manhattan? Well, you could. That’s the opposite tack from EA’s DLC-heavy approach to SimCity.


Controversial shooter Hatred reinstated on Steam Greenlight – Just over a day after it was taken down from Steam Greenlight, Hatred reappeared on the fan-voting section of Steam late Tuesday night. Valve has yet to publicly comment on the reversal, but Destructive Creations’ Facebook page includes a screenshot of an e-mail purportedly from Valve cofounder Gabe Newell, ostensibly apologizing for the mistaken removal. Hatred, from unknown Polish developer Destructive Creations, was first announced back in October. Its trailer seemed to revel in the massacre of civilians with a kind of gruesome glee. The video drew comparisons to ultra-violent game franchises like Postal and Manhunt for its apparently amoral focus on gunning down innocent bystanders in violent detail.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Bing predicts the trends for 2015 – The Bing team has done a wonderful job in 2014 predicting FIFA World cup match results and the US midterm elections with an almost unblemished record, correctly predicting that Scotland will remain a part of the United Kingdom and is also currently being used to speculate the outcomes of NFL games. Now the team is pushing its luck a bit more by envisioning the trends of 2015:


Judge keeps Steve Jobs video testimony from public release – A California judge has denied a request from a trio of media outlets to make video deposition of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs available to the public. The request was filed by the Associated Press, Bloomberg, and CNN during this month’s trial over security measures Apple added to iTunes and iPods nearly a decade ago, where 27-minutes of the deposition was shown in court. In a ruling today, US district court judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said that the video should be treated just like any other testimony in that particular federal circuit, and thus unable to be made public as a recording.

You Can Now Buy Tony Abbott Condoms – Stuck finding that special someone a Christmas present? Look no further! The long wait is over Australia! You can now buy Tony Abbott condoms, or Budgie Smuggler Condoms.


Watching a music video can tell doctors if you have a brain injury – Researchers at New York University’s Langone Medical Center have just published the results of a study that showed that a subject’s eye movements could be used to determine not only whether or not a brain injury was present, but also to pin down the exact location of the injury. All it takes is having a patient watch a short (around a 3.5 minute) video clip. Eye movements get tracked as the patient views the clip, and the ratio of horizontal movements to vertical movements is calculated.

Hummers sold in government auction for first time ever – It’s time for the US government to finally, at long last, put their hummers up for sale. This will be the first time in the history of the Humvee that the US government military has allowed their custom vehicles to go on sale after they’ve been used in the field. Previous rounds of HMMWVs have gone to scrap. You won’t be able to drive these beasts on the road, and there are no guns attached to any of them – but you can bet they’ll sell like hotcakes.


Texas plumber’s truck somehow ends up in Syrian civil war – If you’re in Syria and a Mark-1 Plumbing truck rolls by, don’t bother calling the number. Mark-1 absolutely, definitely does not service your area. As bizarre as it is, it’s no laughing matter: as the picture has spread on social media, KHOU reports that Mark-1 has received angry phone calls from individuals wondering why they’re supporting a bloody war worlds away. The company traded in the truck last year, which ended up going to auction; fast forward a few months, and the vehicle — Mark-1’s contact information and all — somehow shows up in Syria, modified to create problems rather than solve them. Always remove your phone number from your truck before you sell it.


Oto HOME otoscope iPhone case makes ear exams mobile – Mobile devices are becoming increasingly useful in the medical field, something demonstrated by devices like the Peek Retina, which makes eye exams mobile. Oto HOME is similar to Peek Retina, but rather than imaging eyes it is used as an otoscope to get a look at ears. Parents can use the Oto HOME to take videos of their child’s inner ear, for example, and then send it off to a physician who will remotely decide whether there is an ear infection.


Something to think about:


Today’s Free Downloads:


The Christmas gift pack contains the installers, license keys and register information for Video Converter Factory Pro & WonderFox Video Watermark and a freeware WonderFox DVD Ripper Speedy. Please activate the programs before Jan. 1st, 2015.

Video Converter Factory Pro – Do you always like to record the wonderful moments in holiday with the digital video camera? Here’s our gift for your digital life, to help you deal with the DV/MTS/M2TS video files.

License key: VC-VCFB-D0E2D00780-0066A88E9B-759641FFA4

Version: 8.5

WonderFox Video Watermark Pro – Do you always like to share the videos you made in holiday on the social network sites? Here’s our gift for your social life, to help you protect your copyright from unauthorized using.

Registration code: VC-VWPB-D0E2D00780-53287AFECE-1F79D0F8C5

Version: 3.3

WonderFox DVD Ripper Speedy –  Do you always like to watch movies to enjoy the happy time in holiday with your beloved family? Here’s our gift for your entertainment life,to help you rip any DVDs for family sharing.

Free license, just install.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

UK cops caught using 12 MILLION Brits’ mugshots on pic database – The legality of uploading of millions of photographs to the Police National Database for automated facial recognition tech searches has been called into question by the UK’s Biometrics Commissioner.

In his first annual report Alastair MacGregor QC said some 12 million custody photographs had been uploaded to the PND by the beginning of April 2014, with an automated searching mechanism having also gone live around the same time.

He said: “I have real doubts as to whether it can be wise at this stage – and without wider consultation and specific legal advice – to continue with the proposed operational use of the new system.”

In the report MacGregor said concerns arose around the inclusion and processing on that database of images of hundreds of thousands of individuals who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, an offence.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 17, 2014

How to avoid getting hacked when shopping online;  The very best tech you can buy for $200 or less;  Google Reveals 2014’s Top Searches;  Google Maps 9.2 adds navigation voice controls;  50 Best Free iPhone Apps for 2014;  Sway, Microsoft’s new Office app, opens up to everyone;  Facebook Starts Auto-Enhancing Photos;  Instagram Adds Five New Filters;  Skype Translator preview goes live starting today;  Hands On: Preview of HP’s new $200 laptop;  Turn a text message into a video message with Crumbles;  Gmail Now Protects Your Inbox From Malevolent Extensions;  Feds used Adobe Flash to identify Tor users;  Don’t let thieves steal your child’s identity;  Keycharge portable battery fits on a keychain;  Hearthstone finally comes to Android;  You Asked: How Does the Internet Work?

How to avoid getting hacked when shopping online – The hectic shopping season isn’t just about finding perfect gifts. It’s also prime time for identity thieves to snag your info. Here’s five tips from security experts on staying safe online.

The very best tech you can buy for $200 or less – Buying tech on a budget? These 15 gadgets are the very best on the market for their price — from speakers to content streamers, coffee machines, and computer peripherals.

Google Reveals 2014’s Top Searches – From Robin Williams to Flappy Bird, here’s what we Googled in 2014.

Dutch privacy watchdog asks Facebook to delay new privacy policy, while it investigates – Dutch privacy watchdog CBP said it will investigate how the new policy will effect users’ privacy, saying “Permission from the users will play an important role, … and permission for the use of personal data cannot be achieved by have a user just accept a long list of general conditions.” Facebook’s new privacy policy is due to take effect January 1 2015, but the watchdog has asked Facebook to postpone the introduction until the investigation is finished, saying it could take months.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google Faces $19M Fine Over Privacy Policy – The Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) accused the search giant of violating local laws that govern the application of user information. According to the watchdog agency, Google mines queries, emails, cookies, location information, and video viewing habits to curate personalized advertisements—a move the DPA says in “in conflict with the law.” Local rules require that the tech giant tell users about its data-gathering practices and get permission before analyzing private information. The Dutch are not the only ones who do not like Google’s privacy policy. Google was fined $1.23 million in Spain last year and about $200,000 in France earlier this year.

Google Maps 9.2 adds navigation voice controls, calibration tool – The Google Maps team isn’t quite done yet for the year. It has cranked out another update with a couple of nice tweaks to its navigation feature. They’re rather subtle, but if you head to the settings you’ll now find an option to re-calibrate your phone for more accurate map views and the ability to change the volume of voice instructions. Tilt gives you a more angled view of the map during navigation, whereas the traditional viewpoint is closer to a top-down view. If the app detects your calibration is off, it will ask you to wave your phone through the air in a back-and-forth pattern.


50 Best Free iPhone Apps for 2014 – Get the most out of your iPhone by loading it up with the best apps, all at no cost to you. Whether you’re interested in utilizing all the extra screen space on a new iPhone 6 Plus, or you just want to get the most out of an older model (and you’re a penny-pincher), start out with these 50 free iPhone apps.

NBC pushes live streaming to PCs – The network says TV watchers will be able to connect to its NBC live-stream once they prove they have a pay-TV subscription.

Sway, Microsoft’s new Office app, opens up to everyone – Microsoft said Monday that the company has opened up the Sway Preview to any user with a Microsoft account, without needing to request an invitation. Microsoft’s Sway sits somewhere in between Word, PowerPoint, and a Web editor, part of a new breed of blended apps that combine features from existing products. With Sway, users can quickly create documents that can be quickly supplemented with images and text, with Sway even providing input on design changes.

Facebook Starts Auto-Enhancing Photos Because Algorithms Are Better At Filters Than You – The tool could make it much quicker to post well-lit photos so you can share on the go and get back to what you were doing. Facebook and the other social apps are locked in a battle for photo sharing. To the winner goes tons of engagement. That’s why Twitter just revamped its filtering interface, Snapchat started letting you dual-filter with color filters and its geo-filter titles, and Instagram today added five new filters. Google+ added a similar auto-enhance feature a year ago.

Instagram Adds Five New Filters – Just like you’d expect, each of the new filters has a slightly odd-sounding name (unless you live in SF) which we will inevitably begin using as a verb. (And with a bit of a drumroll…) They are Slumber, Crema, Ludwig, Aden and Perpetua. “They soften and subtly shift colors to achieve the look and feel you want for your each photo,” says the Instagram blog. You can take a look at them for yourself below:

FullContact For Gmail Is The Latest Email Plug-In To Take On LinkedIn’s Rapportive – Like Rapportive, once installed, FullContact for Gmail users will be able to hover over or type in a new email address in order to see detailed contact information in the Gmail sidebar, including things like their name, location, title and company, email address, links to social networks, as well as their recent tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts. However, FullContact’s version goes a step further than the old Rapportive did by offering company information, too.

Skype Translator preview goes live starting today – Microsoft has been demoing its real-time Skype translator system for several months, but today is the beginning of the public preview. Users who want to try out the instant voice translation features of Skype on Windows 8.1 need only head over to the Skype site and sign up. If you’re not at least a little excited to try this out, the demo video below will get you there.


The Best Services and Software for the Untethered Employee – You work hard, you work at home, and you’re tired of the jokes about wearing your pajamas to your job or collecting a paycheck from the comfort of your home. But even more than that, you’re tired of being your own IT person. For every task you take on there is software to help, yes, but researching what’s out there, making comparisons, and making a decision is a job unto itself, and it’s one that you don’t have time for. The following products can help you with all of that, and also happen to be good for your budget, since most are free.

How to start chatting with webRTC, the no-hassle, in-browser voice and video tech – There’s a relatively new technology built in to most browsers that could revolutionize the way you talk with your friends and family. Called webRTC, the HTML 5-based tech could one day replace the need for third-party plugins from services like Google Hangouts or Skype, offering voice and video chat capabilities natively in your browser. Even better, most implementations of the technology don’t require an account of any kind. Chats take place on a web page that you set up on a site that supports webRTC. To get chatting all you have to do is share a link to the web page and you’ll be up and running in no time. Talk about hassle free! If you’d like to give webRTC a try, here’s how to get started.

Hands On: Preview of HP’s new $200 laptop – HP has a new $200 laptop and by pushing the barrier to entry so low, they had to cut a few corners but the question is, did they cut too deep or is this a good buy at such a low price?


“Shadowy” anti-net neutrality group submitted 56.5% of comments to FCC – “A shadowy organization with ties to the Koch Brothers” spearheaded an anti-net neutrality form letter writing campaign that tipped the scales against net neutrality proponents, according to an analysis released today by the Sunlight Foundation. The first round of comments collected by the Federal Communications Commission were overwhelmingly in support of net neutrality rules. But a second round of “reply comments” that ended September 10 went the other way, with 60 percent opposing net neutrality, according to the Sunlight Foundation.


Keycharge portable battery fits on a keychain – There is no shortage of portable battery options, some smaller than others but most large enough that you’ll need to keep it in a pocket or bag. That’s a hassle and makes it easy to forget the device somewhere, and is what makes the Keycharge stand out. Keycharge features a 1000mAh battery, and is small enough to fit on a keychain, meaning it is always available if you have your keys on you. Keycharge also doubles as a flash drive with up to 32GB of storage. The 1000mAh battery likely won’t fully charge your device, but is enough to give a smartphone about 5.5 or 6 hours of talk time according to the maker.


This New App Could Help Sex Workers Get Revenge on the Assholes Who Abuse Them – The free app allows sex workers to raise the alarm about violent clients by broadcasting a short message describing the person and the incident to other sex workers nearby.


Stills of the Safety Net app.

Turn a text message into a video message with Crumbles – This may be the coolest thing in the history of the universe. I’m referring, of course, to Crumbles, a Web app built on a huge database of movie and TV show clips. It works like this: You type in a phrase — like, say, “This may be the coolest thing in the history of the universe,” or “I am the most attractive guy on the planet,” and in a few seconds Crumbles spits out, well, you kind of need to see it for yourself. That’s pretty cool, but where it really geeks out is when you click the Dictionary pull-down and choose “Homer Simpson.” Now your phrases get converted to Homer-speak.


DHS finds no evidence for attack on theaters showing ‘The Interview’ – Alleged hackers have warned potential viewers of the film to “Remember the 11th of September.” The Department of Homeland Security says it has found “no credible intelligence” attacks will happen.

Gmail Now Protects Your Inbox From Malevolent Extensions – Content Security Policy in the way Google has implemented it is a blacklist/whitelist system for stopping sites from loading unsafe code from third-party sites and preventing cross-site scripting attacks. It uses the HTTP header to instruct the browser to only execute and render code from trusted sites. So if an attacker tries to trick the site into loading any other code, the site will simply throw an error. Google notes that most popular extensions for Gmail have already been updated and should continue to work as usual. In case one of your favorite extensions in Chrome or Firefox stops working, though, Google recommends updating to the latest version.


Feds used Adobe Flash to identify Tor users visiting child porn sites – According to Wired, “Operation Torpedo,” as the FBI sting operation was dubbed, targeted users of three darknet child porn sites. Taken together, Operation Torpedo and the campaign used last year to identify Tor-using child porn suspects demonstrate the determination feds show in bypassing Tor protections. They also underscore the feds’ rapidly growing skill. Whereas Operation Torpedo abused a six-year-old weakness that ensnared only people who ignored strenuously repeated advice, the latter operation exploited a vulnerability that had only recently been patched in Firefox.

Norton-approved jeans could keep your pockets as safe as your PC – Norton, a company best known for making security software, is getting into pants. Not like that, but with a team up with San Francisco-based Betabrand to make a pair of jeans, as well as a blazer with radio frequency identification (RFID)-blocking fabrics in the pockets. Both articles of clothing promise to keep identify thieves from swiping identifying information from things like passports and contactless credit cards. The pants include two such protected pockets, one in front and one in the back where your wallet typically goes, while the blazer includes just one.


Don’t let thieves steal your child’s identity – Identity thieves prefer the Personal-Identifying Information (PII) of children and young adults under the age of 18, as opposed to adults, because children are less likely to be checking their credit reports and catch the fraud. The paper Child Identity Theft: New Evidence Indicates Identity Thieves are Targeting Children for Unused Social-Security Numbers written by Richard Power, Distinguished Fellow at Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab, offers the following proof:

Company News:

Update: Firefox pleads for cash with in-browser fundraiser – Mozilla has been running a fundraiser from within its Firefox browser, a program that will continue until Dec. 31. When users launch Firefox they may see a PBS-style pitch for money on the browser’s start screen, which normally is a minimalist display of a search field and a few tool icons. “Dear Firefox users: Mozilla puts the public good and user privacy before profit,” the screen states. “If Firefox is useful to you, take one minute to support the non-profit behind it. If everyone reading this donates $3, Mozilla’s fundraiser would be over within an hour. Thank you.”


Apple Stops Online Store Sales In Russia Amid Ruble Value Drop – Apple’s decision to close down shop for the time being comes after it recently raised iPhone prices to try to compensate for the falling value of local currency, but the interest rate in Russia rose by 7.5 percentage points overnight, in an attempt to turn the Ruble’s nosedive around. That hasn’t succeeded, and Russia is in the midst of what’s being called “an economic crisis” by observing economists, so it’s unsurprising that Apple lacks confidence in its ability to continue selling products under those market conditions.

Baidu, Maker Of China’s Largest Search Engine, Confirms Its Strategic Investment In Uber – In an announcement, the two companies said that the investment will take the form of a strategic partnership, with Baidu allowing Uber’s drivers to use its apps Baidu Map and Mobile Baidu, which connects to Baidu’s search engine, the largest in China. The deal was struck at a “signing ceremony” at Baidu HQ in Beijing, which Baidu chairman and CEO Robin Li and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick both attended.

Indiegogo launches Life site to fund personal projects – Crowdfunding sites abound, with Kickstarter and Indiegogo being the two most recognizable of the bunch. Some of the services are welcoming to all types of funding projects, while others are fairly narrow in what can be posted. To lay any confusion about its own service to rest, Indiegogo has launched a new portal called Life that is dedicated specifically to personal projects in whatever form they might be — funding for medical treatment, social efforts, and more.

Apple wins iPod antitrust fight: Jury kills $1bn payout bid – A federal jury in Oakland, California, took just four hours to clear the iThings maker of wrongdoing – and tossed out calls for a $351m compensation package for eight million owners of late-2000s iPods. That figure could have been tripled if the iPhone giant had lost its fight. Apple was accused in a class-action lawsuit of designing its software to remove music and other files from iPods that weren’t purchased or ripped via iTunes – but the eight-person jury decided that mechanism was a legit feature.

Lawsuit filed against Sony after massive hack – Two former employees of Sony Pictures have filed a lawsuit against the company alleging it didn’t do enough to safeguard their personal information and prevent its loss in a massive cyberattack in late November. The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, asks the court to award monetary damages and also class-action status, That would mean thousands of Sony employees past and present could join the suit if they wished.

Games and Entertainment:

Controversial shooter Hatred taken down from Steam Greenlight – Controversial mass shooting game Hatred has been taken down from Steam Greenlight after its listing on the crowd-voting section of the service garnered widespread attention this morning. “Based on what we’ve seen on Greenlight, we would not publish Hatred on Steam. As such we’ll be taking it down,” Valve VP of Marketing Doug Lombardi told Eurogamer in the wake of the game’s removal this afternoon. Hatred, from unknown Polish developer Destructive Creations, was first announced back in October. Its trailer seemed to revel in the massacre of civilians with a kind of gruesome glee.


GTA Online Heists gameplay revealed by Rockstar in video trailer – GTA V players will be able to plan, prepare and execute heists together from early next year. The co-operative Online Heists feature seems to have taken the developers at Rockstar a little longer than they had originally planned. The delay was due to the intricate multi-tier, multi-player interplay elements and the introduction of new vehicles, new weapons and new clothing. Online Heists will be a free update on all platforms; Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 and PC.


Hearthstone finally comes to Android – The Android version couldn’t have released at a better time for both fans and Blizzard, as the game’s latest expansion, Goblins vs. Gnomes, released only a little over a week ago on December 8. Like with the iPad release, Blizzard is performing somewhat of a slow rollout with Android Hearthstone, and it starts with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand first. Blizzard states that the game will hit other regions — through the Google Play Store and Amazon Appstore for Android — “in the coming days,” so it’s anyone’s guess as to how quickly it’ll hit the US and Europe.


Off Topic (Sort of):

You Asked: How Does the Internet Work? – Poor Ted Stevens. For the past eight and a half years, the world has had many a laugh at the late Alaska Senator’s expense after he described the Internet as “a series of tubes” while arguing against a Net Neutrality amendment in 2006. Of course, anyone who’s ever sent an email or eyed a kitten photo online knows there aren’t any actual pipes involved. Still, the next time you hear someone essentially refer to the Internet as plumbing, ask them how the darned thing really works. According to Milton Mueller, a professor of information studies at Syracuse University, not only is the web not tubes (or a “web,” really), but it’s actually just a set of instructions.

How does the US government run the internet? This is how – The US government has posted a step-by-step guide to how it authorizes changes to the internet’s root zone – the heart of the world’s domain-name system. The 16-page slide deck [PDF] published by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) sheds light on what has been a contentious and largely secret process for the past 15 years. It also comes as an official proposal to move control of the global DNS away from the US government has been put out for public comment.


Congress rolled a major victory for medical marijuana in a spending bill – Inside the fiscal 2015 spending bill — yes, the one that’s 1,603 pages long — is a measure that prevents the federal government from interfering with states that have allowed medical marijuana or allow the drug entirely. Federal agents are now prohibited from raiding marijuana retail operations. Sound too good to be true? Here are the relevant sections:

This car’s skin is four times lighter than paper – You may have seen a waterproof jacket made with Texapore Softshell, but German engineering firm EDAG has stretched it over a 3D-printed frame to build a new ultra-lightweight concept vehicle. The material covering the Lightweight Cocoon — while strong, waterproof, and windproof — weighs just 19 grams per square meter. That’s about four times less than the 60-pound paper in your office’s copiers and printers.


Los Angeles cops latest to jump on the body-worn camera bandwagon – “With this program, LA will be a national leader in the use of these cameras,” the mayor’s office said in statement. “While events in Ferguson and President Obama’s call have brought this issue recent national attention, Mayor Garcetti’s administration has been moving forward on the use of on-body cameras for over one year.” This year the issue of body-worn cameras on police officers came to the fore after the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City at the hands of local cops.

Oakland cops disciplined 24 times for failing to turn on body-worn cameras – Over the last two years, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) has disciplined police officers on 24 occasions for disabling or failing to activate body-worn cameras, newly released public records show. The City of Oakland did not provide any records prior to 2013, and the OPD did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment. The records show that on November 8, 2013 one officer was terminated after failing to activate his camera. Less than two weeks later, another resigned for improperly removing the camera from his or her uniform. However, most officers received minor discipline in comparison.

Saving a file on a computer found to boost human memory – These results may speak to the way we are increasingly treating computer storage as an extension of our memories. When data is saved on a computer, our brains have learned to off-load it from active memory, allowing us to process new things more efficiently. Essentially, study participants weren’t hung up on remembering the first list of words when they had gone through the motions of saving it. Our brains might just know when it’s safe to forget.

2014: The year in quotes – From rattled airline passengers who fear the coming of smartphones to jurors who don’t know a smartphone from a tablet, here are some of the colorful quotes from IT news in 2014.

Engineer uses tape measure to beat speeding ticket – A retired UK engineer is reportedly convinced he wasn’t speeding, despite getting a ticket generated by a speed camera. So he gets on his hands and knees to prove white lines on the road are incorrectly spaced.

Something to think about:

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists of not exceeding the limit.”

–      Elbert Hubbard

Today’s Free Downloads:

Dashlane – Log in instantly, fill out any form, manage your passwords, and check out anywhere online without ever touching the keyboard, no matter where you are.

Dashlane is an award-winning service that revolutionizes the online experience by replacing the drudgery of everyday transactional processes with convenient, automated simplicity — in other words, letting you get to the good stuff faster.


PrivaZer – When you use your PC (at home or working at your office), go on the Internet, watch a video, download, copy/remove files on your PC, install/uninstall or use software, etc., you always leave sensitive traces which:

–   make your PC slower and cluttered

–   reduces free space available

–   puts you at risk for a bad consequence: what you have done could be easily recovered by analyzing your PC with an expert recovery software or with more advanced techniques.

We decided to develop a new type of cleaning tool to give you the peace of mind that once your data is gone, it is gone for good.

PrivaZer allows you to:

See exactly what can still be recovered of your past activities on your PC at home or at work

Clean in-depth unwanted traces of what you’ve done watched, downloaded, deleted, etc. and prevent recovery

Master your security & freedom. Free up disk space. Keep your PC fit and secure!!!


Screen shot from a personal machine.

ReminderFox – ReminderFox makes sure you remember all of your important dates via easy-to-use lists, alerts, and alarms, right in your browser without the need for a separate calendar program.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Over 700 Million People Taking Steps to Avoid NSA Surveillance – There’s a new international survey on Internet security and trust, of “23,376 Internet users in 24 countries,” including “Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States.” Amongst the findings, 60% of Internet users have heard of Edward Snowden, and 39% of those “have taken steps to protect their online privacy and security as a result of his revelations.”

The press is mostly spinning this as evidence that Snowden has not had an effect: “merely 39%,” “only 39%,” and so on. (Note that these articles are completely misunderstanding the data. It’s not 39% of people who are taking steps to protect their privacy post-Snowden, it’s 39% of the 60% of Internet users — which is not everybody — who have heard of him. So it’s much less than 39%.)

Even so, I disagree with the “Edward Snowden Revelations Not Having Much Impact on Internet Users” headline. He’s having an enormous impact. I ran the actual numbers country by country, combining data on Internet penetration with data from this survey. Multiplying everything out, I calculate that 706 million people have changed their behavior on the Internet because of what the NSA and GCHQ are doing. (For example, 17% of Indonesians use the Internet, 64% of them have heard of Snowden and 62% of them have taken steps to protect their privacy, which equals 17 million people out of its total 250-million population.)

Microsoft strikes back at US government with PR campaign – Microsoft seems to be going on a PR offensive against the government and is asking for the reformation of antiquated laws under which the US is trying to access the company’s clients’ data.

You’re probably aware of Microsoft’s troubles with the US judicial system that started back in April of this year when the government demanded that e-mails stored exclusively in Ireland be handed over to them.

The company has since been in a legal battle, fighting for its customers’ right to privacy and, some would argue, the respect of national sovereignty. After a subsequent loss and in the middle of an appeal right now, the company is fighting back by trying to get the public on its side.

The two videos embedded here have been published online and they try and explain what the cloud really is and why, in Microsoft’s view, the US government has no legal right to access the data it wants.

Apple, Amazon and more tech companies support Microsoft’s email privacy stance in court – Today, in an article on The Official Microsoft Blog by Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs at Microsoft it seems that Microsoft is not alone in its fight. Ten groups have filed “friend of the court” briefs in support of Microsoft’s stance. Amongst the leading technology companies involved are Apple, Amazon, AT&T, Verizon in addition to news and media companies including CNN, ABC, Fox News and the Washington Post.

Microsoft has published the entire list of signatories which also includes two of the largest US business organizations, civil liberties organizations, leading computer science professors as well as Digital Rights Ireland whose focus is upon privacy in Ireland and the EU.

Whilst Microsoft and various supporting members may be in competition with each other in their respective industries, it is reassuring to see these groups galvanized in their stance against authorities attempting to reach beyond their jurisdiction without due process.

Australia: Telcos and law enforcement split over data-retention period – Australian telcos have said that most requests for access to store customer data are for data that is less than 12 months old, but law-enforcement agencies have said that older data is just as valuable for criminal investigation as brand new data.

The government’s legislation to require Australian communications companies to retain an as-yet-undefined set of telecommunications customer data for two years is currently being reviewed by the Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security, ahead of being debated in parliament in February next year.

The legislation is strongly backed by law-enforcement agencies, who complain that criminal investigations are being hindered because they rely on “luck” for telcos to retain this data for access by law enforcement for criminal investigations.

Despite all law-enforcement agencies highlighting the critical need for the data, none of them were able to quantify in submissions to the inquiry exactly how many criminal investigations have been aided by access to telecommunications customer data.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 15, 2014

9 Steps to Make Your Smartphone Totally Hacker-Proof;  This free security camera app has got your back;  The moocher’s guide to cutting the cable cord;  Hulu offering free access to current seasons of any TV show for Android users;  6 browsers to change the way you surf the Web;  ‘ENDUI’ App Tests Your Reflexes, Memory After Drinking;  22 Top Tech Toys for Kids;  Must-have Linux desktop apps;  Your Linux PC isn’t as secure as you think it is;  Qualcomm’s Streaming Dock Turns Your Phone Into a PC;  Marco Polo now available on Netflix;  What Artificial Intelligence Is Not;  SIV (System Information Viewer) free.

Microsoft withdraws bad Windows 7 update that broke future Windows 7 updates – One of this week’s Patch Tuesday updates for Windows 7 has been withdrawn after some users discovered that it blocked installation of software containing digital signatures, including first- and third-party software, and even other Windows updates. Microsoft has issued a second update to remove the bad update from affected machines and has withdrawn the original update for Windows 7. However, the company continues to offer, and recommend, the patch for Windows 8, 8.1, Windows Server 2012, and 2012 R2.

9 Steps to Make Your Smartphone Totally Hacker-Proof – As our smartphones become our go-to devices for everything from shopping to business, it’s likely that the tiny computer in your hand – no matter which operating system it runs – will increasingly become a target for cybercriminals. Here are nine things you can do to ensure the security of your device now:

This free security camera app has got your back (pictures) – Salient Eye is an Android app that sounds an alarm when intruders enter its field of view. Simply download the free app and place it wherever you’d like to record.


The moocher’s guide to cutting the cable cord – So you got rid of cable, but now you’re going through withdrawal. If you’re willing to bend the rules, you might be able to rely on the generosity of loved ones willing to share passwords.

Hulu offering free access to current seasons of any TV show for Android users – Hulu, one of the popular streaming websites for TV shows and movies, has announced they are offering free access to current seasons of any TV show for Android users through their Android app. This is good news for those looking to save a few bucks, as a Hulu Plus subscription normally runs for $7.99. Unfortunately, unlike the Hulu Plus subscription, you’re limited to the current season with this offering – if you want to go back to an older season you’re out of luck. That is, unless you buy the Hulu Plus subscription.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

6 browsers to change the way you surf the Web – Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari are the most popular gateways to the Internet, but if you find these mainstream browsers lacking, we have six feature-rich alternatives worth checking out.

Let Truecaller prevent spammers and hidden numbers from wasting your time – Sometimes, the most annoying aspect of a smartphone is the phone itself. It seems once one spammer has your number, they all do… and your phone (and your sanity) suffers that consequence. That’s where applications like Truecaller come in — to help silence the noise you don’t want to hear. But Truecaller is much more than a spam blocker for your phone.


The hidden power of Windows Jump Lists – Many apps hide a treasure trove of efficiency under a right-click on the taskbar, Jump Lists.

22 Top Tech Toys for Kids – The choices are endless, the decisions daunting. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. PCMag has braved the store aisles and shopping sites for you. We’ve winnowed down the crop to the hottest toys and games this year. Some were released over the summer and fall, while others were rolled out specifically for the holiday season. Our picks run the gamut, from a new gaming console just for kids to a toy smartwatch that’s actually a camera. We have a quad-copter drone, flying cars, and even a laughing chair.

Maryland’s New ‘ENDUI’ App Tests Your Reflexes, Memory After Drinking – If you’re not quite sure, or if you want a quick status check as to how your night of partying could affect your reflexes and memory, then a new federally funded cellphone app recently announced by Maryland officials might be worth exploring. The app, dubbed “ENDUI,” or “End DUI,” puts users through a series of games to show them just how their current, altered state could affect their real-life operations across several tasks.


How to find images for Office documents now that Microsoft’s killing Clip Art – Microsoft is sending its Office clip art to the digital beyond, where it shall rest in glory with Clippy, Zune, and the rest of the Redmond saints. In other words, those wonky, yet charming images that graced countless PowerPoint presentations are in their last days. Here’s a rundown of your best options for grabbing the clip art that’s still there—and learning some new strategies for better images.

Apple’s Online Store Now Accepts PayPal – As first reported by Re/code, Apple is now allowing shoppers to pay for goods with PayPal. Previously, buyers had to user a credit/debit card or an Apple gift card to complete a purchase. The move might not sound like that big of a deal, but it’s interesting, given that Apple Pay now makes Apple a bigger competitive threat to PayPal.

Qualcomm’s Streaming Dock Turns Your Phone Into a PC – The dream of the Android PC lives. At Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 demo event in New York, one of the chipmaker’s more surprising products was a little streaming stick and a dock that, together, connect your phone to a TV or turn it into a desktop computer. The gadget is a proof of concept; it doesn’t even have a name. But as you can see in the photo, it’s a dock that connects wirelessly to your phone or tablet, with two USB ports, an audio out and an HDMI port – just enough to connect a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Qualcomm showed someone editing a document in WPS Office on the monitor.


Must-have Linux desktop apps – Who says you need a Mac or a Windows PC? With the right applications, a Linux desktop is every bit as good as either of the two mainstream desktop operating systems.


Official Navy SEAL training & fitness app ranks you against the elite – Thinking of joining the U.S. armed forces with the hopes of becoming a candidate for the Navy SEAL program? Or just in fit condition and looking for a new challenge? The Official Navy SEAL Training app for iPhone is probably what you’re looking for then, allowing you to test yourself against the actual physical screening test that SEAL candidates must pass to even be accepted into the program.


New Windows 10 screenshots surface as Build 9901 leaks – Cortana, taskbar tweaks, and an updated titlebar for Modern UI apps are among the highlights of the leaked Build 9901.


13 revelations from the Sony hack – Some of the revelations have been merely interesting, a few have been shocking invasions of privacy, while others could damage individual reputations. All of the revelations have been reported previously in a variety of publications. Here are 13 things we didn’t know about Sony:

New image format BPG provides better compression results – Better Portable Graphics (BPG) provides a modern lossy image format that outperforms the aging JPEG file format, providing more visually clear images with smaller file sizes.


Hands-on: Dashlane’s awesome new feature changes all your passwords with one click – Earlier this week we took a look at LastPass’ new Auto-Password Change—a beta feature that, as its name suggests, automatically changes your passwords for you. We also mentioned that rival Dashlane came out with a similar feature, which was a result of its recent acquisition of PassOmatic, an automated password changing service. We recently got our hands on Dashlane’s Password Changer to try out its main attraction: Changing multiple passwords for different online accounts simultaneously. Here’s how it went. (Hint: It blew LastPass’ implementation out of the water.)


Hackers promise “Christmas present” Sony Pictures won’t like – As the breach spills into another week, details have emerged that suggest the attack may have begun much earlier this year, or even earlier, and that the attackers were able to collect significant intelligence on the network from Sony Pictures’ own IT department. It’s clear that those behind the attack were deep inside Sony’s network for a long time before they set off the malware that erased Sony hard drives—and some of the data they collected could have been used in other attacks.

Your Linux PC isn’t as secure as you think it is – Security revelations in 2014 shattered the myth of Linux impenetrability. No, the sky isn’t falling, and yes, Linux is still inherently more secure than Windows—but this year proved that Linux lovers still need to pay at least some attention to their system’s protection.

Report: iOS users care more about privacy and data security than Android users – The data showed that iOS users are more concerned with data privacy, and more likely to back up and protect data than their Android-using peers. Here are the numbers: iOS users backed up 33 percent more photos, and nearly 20 percent more videos than Android users. iOS users were also more than 25 percent more likely than Android users to protect data in the cloud using private key encryption. To be clear, we’re not talking about anything inherent in iOS or Android itself, so the disparity in the results can’t be blamed on the mobile platform. The iDrive data is a measure of the choices that users made when presented with the same opportunity to back up or encrypt data.

Company News:

Yahoo Starts Prompting Chrome Users To “Upgrade” To Firefox – If you’re visiting any Yahoo property today, chances are you’ll see an “Upgrade to the new Firefox” link in the top-right corner of your browser window. The prompt also appears if you’re using Internet Explorer, Opera and even the new Yandex browser. However, the prompt is missing from Safari, which will surely prompt a new round of speculation about Apple’s rumored switch to Yahoo as its default search engine. Given that Firefox now uses Yahoo as its default search engine, this move doesn’t come as a huge surprise.


In wake of restrictive data law in Russia, Google pulls its engineers – The move comes a few months after Russia passed a new law, taking effect in September 2016, that will require data held on Russian citizens to be kept in-country. The Kremlin and the Russian data protection authority known by its local acronym Roskomnadzor have used the law as a way to exert more pressure on Russian companies and foreign companies doing business in Russia, like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others. Many Russia observers note that this law is likely to drive tech companies out of the country.

Spanish news organizations want Google News back – Following the approval of amendments in the tax laws in Spain, Google announced that Google News would be shut down in the country as well. But now, the publishers are asking Google News to return.

Uber has an army of at least 161 lobbyists and they’re crushing regulators – Just four years after launching in San Francisco, Uber has propagated across the world and could be worth as much as $40 billion. Part of that success — and what Uber makes headlines for — comes from its ruthless playbook to frustrate the competition and to invade any market it wants, even if it’s facing a government-protected taxi monopoly. Less glamorous but no less important: Uber appears to be completely dominating local politicians who get in its way.

Uber imposes 4X surge pricing in wake of Sydney crisis, then free rides – In the wake of the ongoing hostage crisis in Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD), the quasi-taxi service Uber initially imposed its surge pricing to astronomical levels—four times a normal fare, with a A$100 ($82.50) minimum charge—before correcting the fare, and instituting refunds and free rides in the area. The price increase was first reported by Mashable.

Apple intended to block third parties from iPods and iTunes – A former iTunes engineer, Rod Schultz, has testified that Apple intended to block third-party music players and songs from accessing iTunes and iPods, according to The Wall Street Journal. Schultz said the measures reflected the digital music landscape at a time where music labels demanded Apple use DRM on songs, while also forcing Apple to keep the iPod secured. However, he did admit the measures did lead to market dominance for the iPod. Schultz was the final witness in the case, which has been ongoing for ten years. The case is expected to be sent to the jury for deliberations early next week.

Games and Entertainment:

Batman Arkham anthology price slashed for a limited time – For the next three days, you can grab the Batman Complete Bundle to add to your Steam library for just $9.99 instead nearly $85 when bought separately on Steam. Given the great bang for buck, this could be a worthwhile virtual stocking stuffer for gaming friends and family which won’t drain your bank account.


Marco Polo now available on Netflix – As promised, Netflix launched Marco Polo today, making the first season available for all to enjoy. This is the company’s latest original series, and no doubt it is hoping to find the same fame it has with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. There are ten episodes to watch, all of them revolving around Polo’s adventures in Kublai Khan’s world.


An Open Letter To Tim Cook About Game Censorship – Prior to the App Store, selling games to the mass market was an expensive and difficult mess of approvals by powers-that-be, often at massive disadvantage to the game maker. Apple opened that closed shop, which in turn spawned multiple revolutions. It led to many new kinds of game, new powers, new economics for games and a whole raft of other innovations. I bring these examples up to frame my appreciation and disappointment appropriately. I think you’re doing an incredible job but there is one area in which you’re letting me down badly: Censorship.


Lindsay Lohan’s ‘Price of Fame’ mobile game pokes fun at Hollywood – Lindsay Lohan’s The Price of Fame app was released on both iOS and Android this week, making the titular Lohan yet another celebrity with her own branded game for smartphones. But while on the surface it mostly appears as a clone of Kim Kardashian Hollywood, which is intentional, Lohan’s game is actually a cynical satire on the Hollywood/celebrity lifestyle.


Frozen, Candy Crush Saga, and Facebook dominate Google Play downloads in 2014 – Google is highlighting the top apps, games, books, movies, and newsstand articles in a splashy infographic on its Android blog. Most of the winners aren’t huge surprises, like Facebook as the most popular social media app and Candy Crush Saga as the number one game. Pandora was the top music download (a little surprising it wasn’t Spotify) and NFL Mobile ruled the sports selection.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Apple’s holiday ad delivers a beautiful song from the heart – For the holidays, Cupertino could have shouted from the rooftops. Instead, it delivers a beautifully understated homage to a girl, her grandmother and music. This deceptively simple piece manages to express that one simple idea can triumph over a plethora of lesser ones — something upon which Apple has based much of its ethos. I fancy that many whose family lives ebb and flow in uncertain patterns will see this ad and be unable to fight off a tear.


Project Maelstrom detailed: More info about BitTorrent’s vision for a peer-to-peer web – BitTorrent recently announced Project Maelstrom, a plan to deliver web pages via peer-to-peer torrent technology using a special web browser—a drastically different method than the traditional server-to-client system powering most of the web. Yet BitTorrent’s announcement raised more questions than it answered, and we wanted to know what this thing was all about. After an email exchange with BitTorrent’s communications chief Christian Averill and product manager Rob Velasquez we have some more answers about Project Maelstrom. Does it work with the regular web? What is the Maelstrom browser based on? Will ads work? What about interactive web sites? Read on to find out.

What Artificial Intelligence Is Not – Artificial Intelligence has been in the media a lot lately. So much so that it’s only a matter of time before it graduates to meaningless buzz word status like “big data” and “cloud.” Usually I would be a big supporter. Being in the AI space, any attention to our often overlooked industry is welcome. But there seems to be more misinformation out there than solid facts. The general public seems to view AI as the mythical purple unicorn of technology; Elusive, powerful, mysterious, dangerous and most likely made up. And while there is plenty of debate in the scientific community, I can at least tell you what AI is definitely not.


This Guy Took 4 Leafblowers And A Skateboard Deck And Turned Them Into A Wonderfully Goofy Hoverboard – Want the experience of a kinda-sorta-hover-board, but don’t have $10,000 and a copper halfpipe laying around? Fret not! As Texan Ryan Craven proves, you can pull off something of a similar vein with four gutted leafblowers, a sheet of plywood, and some gorilla tape.


Darwin Awards study says men are far more idiotic than women – Scientists analyze the past 10 years of silly, avoidable deaths and find that almost 90 percent of the “protagonists” in these scenarios were male. In their study of Darwin Award winners from 1995 to 2014, the researchers offer a depressingly clear vision of, well, idiotic behavior. Published in the British Medical Journal, their paper is titled, “The Darwin Awards: Sex Differences In Idiotic Behaviour.”

Something to think about:

“You give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.”

–     Jesse Ventura

Today’s Free Downloads:

KeyLock – KeyLock is a program to lock your computer with an USB Flash Drive. It’s not possible to use your computer after you’ve locked it with KeyLock. Our exclusive technologies disable task manager, and disrupt the mouse, making it impossible to reach the desktop. After unlocking, everything will be recovered immediately and you can use your computer again.



It’s not possible to use your computer after you’ve locked it with KeyLock. Our exclusive technologies disable task manager, and disrupt the mouse, making it impossible to reach the desktop. After unlocking, everything will be recovered immediately and you can use your computer again.

Easy and Fast:

You quickly need your computer with the common Windows security? First you need to unlock, type your password, have a typo, type in again and finally, your pc is unlocked. With KeyLock, all these problems are solved: Put your USB Flash Drive in your computer and you can use it immediately.

Energy Saving:

Careful with your laptop battery? No problem with KeyLock. In the program, there are built-in features to save energy, like dimming the screen or slowing down the reaction speed. That way, you can have the best use of your battery with KeyLock!


Do you want to have another background or do you want to surprise the person that wants to unlock your computer with a different text? This is possible with the customizable options in KeyLock. Customize the lock-screen to your liking!

Limitations: Requires Microsoft .NET Framework.


SIV (System Information Viewer) – SIV by Ray Hinchliffe. ‘System Information Viewer’ is a general Windows utility for displaying lots of useful Windows, Network and hardware info – CPU info, PCI info, PCMCIA info, USB info SMBus info, SPD info, Machine Info, Hardware Sensors, Networked computers, Operating System Information and more. Uses pcidevs.txt for the PCI devices, usbdevs.txt for the USB devices, mondevs.txt for monitor descriptions and pcmdevs.txt for PCMCIA device descriptions.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Judge says reporter can’t get public records about cops’ “stingray” use – A local judge in Arizona ruled Friday that the Tucson Police Department (TPD) does not have to disclose records related to the use of stingrays, also known as cell-site simulators, under the state’s public records act.

According to a Saturday report from Capitol Media Services, a state news wire, complying with reporter Beau Hodai’s public records request “would give criminals a road map for how to defeat the device, which is used not only by Tucson but other local and national police agencies.” Hodai sued the TPD and the City of Tucson in March 2014 to force them to hand over such records.

The devices are often used covertly by local and federal law enforcement to locate target cellphones and their respective owners. However, stingrays also sweep up cell data of innocent people nearby who have no idea that such collection is taking place. Stingrays can be used to intercept voice calls and text messages as well.

Operation Socialist – The inside story of how British spies hacked Belgium’s largest telco –  When the incoming emails stopped arriving, it seemed innocuous at first. But it would eventually become clear that this was no routine technical problem. Inside a row of gray office buildings in Brussels, a major hacking attack was in progress. And the perpetrators were British government spies.

It was in the summer of 2012 that the anomalies were initially detected by employees at Belgium’s largest telecommunications provider, Belgacom. But it wasn’t until a year later, in June 2013, that the company’s security experts were able to figure out what was going on. The computer systems of Belgacom had been infected with a highly sophisticated malware, and it was disguising itself as legitimate Microsoft software while quietly stealing data.

Last year, documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters was behind the attack, codenamed Operation Socialist. And in November, The Intercept revealed that the malware found on Belgacom’s systems was one of the most advanced spy tools ever identified by security researchers, who named it “Regin.”

The full story about GCHQ’s infiltration of Belgacom, however, has never been told. Key details about the attack have remained shrouded in mystery—and the scope of the attack unclear.

Google moved to lock down data after NSA revelations – Google has worked hard to lock down the personal data it collects since revelations in the last year and a half about mass surveillance programs at the U.S. National Security Agency, company Chairman Eric Schmidt said.

The news of surveillance by the NSA and intelligence agency counterparts at allied nations has damaged the U.S. tech industry on “many levels,” with many Europeans now distrusting U.S. tech companies to hold on to their personal data, Schmidt said Friday at a surveillance conference at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Schmidt learned of efforts by U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ to intercept traffic between Google data centers through a newspaper article, he told the audience. “I was shocked,” Schmidt said.

Google had envisioned a complicated method to sniff traffic, but “the fact that it had been done so directly … was really a shock to the company,” Schmidt said.

German high court dismisses lawmakers’ bid to get Snowden to testify – The Constitutional Court’s December 4 decision, which was only announced (Google Translate) on Friday, said that the appropriate venue for such a petition was the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof), Germany’s highest court. The Constitutional Court, as the name implies, deals with the constitutionality of federal laws.

Founded in March 2014, the NSA Committee is tasked with specifically investigating “whether, in what way, and on what scale” the United States and its Five Eyes allies “collected or are collecting data” to, from, and within Germany.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 12, 2014

Does your computer have malware? Here are the telltale signs;  The Top 10 Desktops Under $500;  Avast Home Network Security;  New App Makes It Way Cheaper to Trade Stocks;  YouTube Gets A Built-In GIF Creator;  The 20 most interesting cameras of 2014;  7 iPhone Apps to Get You In the Holiday Spirit;  4 Apps For Managing Your Email Inbox;  Meet the future of Evernote: Hands on;  Chromecast now offers guest mode;  ComiXology Launches 12 Days of Free Comics;  17 Secret Messages Hidden in Tech Logos;  Omni Wheel is all you need to make your bike electric.

The Top 10 Desktops Under $500 – If your computing needs are modest, your budget is tight, or you’re simply looking for yet another home PC, a budget desktop may be the way to go. We once were wary of PCs that cost less than $500, but the forward march of technology combined with the introduction of low-cost operating systems like Windows 8.1 for Bing and Chrome OS are allowing PC manufacturers to produce fully functional PCs for as low as $180.


Does your computer have malware? Here are the telltale signs – Windows wouldn’t update on Warren Blake’s PC. Nor would system restore work. A malware infection seems likely. Here are some symptoms that could suggest foul play. Real malware is generally designed not to be noticed. The people who write these programs don’t want you to clean them off of your computer. But if you know what to look for, you can recognize a symptom that might be caused by malware.

7 iPhone Apps to Get You In the Holiday Spirit – It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas—trees on every app. So when you’re sifting through the App Store, how do you pick out the sugarplums from the coal? It’s tough to say, but these seven-apps-a-swiping are pretty much guaranteed to get you and your iPhone in the holiday spirit.

Meet the future of Evernote: Hands on with Work Chat, Context and more – When I heard that this note-taking and Web clipping app was adding even more features, like Work Chat and Context, which displays content related to your current selection, I was a little worried. Evernote already does so much—would these new feature overwhelm me even more? As it turns out, no. Evernote’s newest features make this app even more useful, especially in the mobile version, though they do require you to invest a bit of time learning how to use them.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Spotify now tracks songs popular with your friends – A new feature, called “Top Tracks in Your Network,” has been rolled out to Spotify apps on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, the company announced Thursday. The feature adds a new chart to Spotify’s mobile app that lets users find out what songs are most popular among their friends. The chart is updated daily and next to each song is a drop-down list for users to see which friends are listening to the respective tracks.

This New App Makes It Way Cheaper to Trade Stocks – A new startup is aiming to convince Millennials to dip a toe into the stock market by making it cheaper and easier to buy securities. Robinhood, a new mobile-first brokerage that launched its iOS app today, lets users buy U.S.-listed stocks without paying a commission, a cost that typically runs individual investors $7 to $10 per trade. The app’s slick interface lets users buy securities, track stock performance and keep tabs on their overall portfolio. Users don’t even have to maintain a minimum account balance, a common requirement of similar stock-swapping services.

4 Apps For Managing the Absolute Chaos That Is Your Email Inbox – The best new apps for sorting and managing your email have one thing in common: They help you quickly clear messages, whether it’s into a folder or straight into the digital trash. From Google’s brand new Inbox app, which retools the email interface, to an app that deals with newsletter subscriptions in one fell swoop, these email apps sort out the inboxes that have become the hub of nearly all our online activity.

YouTube offline viewing now rolling out in India and other Asian countries – YouTube has a new feature that lets you view videos temporarily in offline mode to ease viewing access for slow internet connections. A few Asian countries gets their hands first on this new feature.

The 20 most interesting cameras of 2014 – From overpriced to overwhelming and all stops in between, here are the cameras that made an impression this year.


Pentax Q-S1

Bing adds international hotel booking, improves mobile search – Microsoft is winding the week down with another two Bing announcements, this one most notably including the arrival of international hotel booking in 22 countries with support for 14 languages. This allows users to book accommodations from Canada, Mexico, throughout Europe, in Hong Kong, and more, and is done in partnership with TripAdvisor. Also joining this new feature are some improvements to Bing’s mobile search results.

Workflow Lets You Automate The Stuff You Do All The Time On Your iPhone – Built for the tastes of power users with an interface that anyone can understand, Workflow is a new app for iOS that lets you create shortcuts for the things you do all the time on your phone or tablet. With a simple, efficient interface, it lets anyone automate things like creating GIFs from the pictures in your photo roll to ordering an Uber going to the address for next event on your calendar.


YouTube Gets A Built-In GIF Creator – YouTube is now quietly rolling out its own GIF maker. It doesn’t seem to be enabled on all videos just yet, but it’s definitely there for some. GIF creation through the tool is quite simple: tap the share button, set your start/end points, set any captions you might want, and create away. The tool is SUPER fast, and YouTube hosts the GIFs themselves.


Chromecast now offers guest mode – Google just announced a guest mode feature for Chromecast, making the company’s affordable streaming stick just a little more powerful. Instead of needing to dish out your personal Wi-Fi network’s password any time a friend wants to push content from their phone to your TV screen, guest mode now allows them to do it directly to the Chromecast stick itself.

Create a live system ISO for your Ubuntu-based Linux machines using Systemback – You have that Linux desktop or server precisely how you want it and are interested in either creating a spot-on backup or a live ISO that you can then install on other (similar) hardware. How do you do it? You could go through the process of learning a number of commands to take care of the process, or you could install and use a handy tool called Systemback. The Systemback tool allows you to create restore points, backups, and live images of a running system. Currently, it only works for Ubuntu derivatives based on 14.04, 14.10, and 15.04. It does, however, work like a champ (and does so quite easily).


Avast Home Network Security – As more and more devices are added to your Home Network, securing that Network becomes increasingly important. It’s nice to know that even the free version of Avast includes Home Network Security (HNS). You can run a Home Network Security Scan as one of the many scans available within the scan options in Avast. The results may surprise you. Any vulnerability spotted and fixed will prevent access to your home network by the cyber crooks. This is especially important during the Holiday Season. The Holiday Season is a time for us to be happy, not a time for a Cyber crook to steal your information or identity. Here is a little video that shows you just how easy it is to run one of these scans.


DDoS of unprecedented scale ‘stops Sweden working’. The target? A gaming site – Much of Sweden’s fixed-line broadband became collateral damage as a result of a DDoS attack on a mystery gaming site this week. While DDoS attacks are par for the course for most online businesses these days, the vast majority of these attacks don’t go on to affect the broadband connections of an entire country. But that’s what happened to customers of Telia, Sweden’s largest ISP, for 45 minutes on Tuesday night and then again intermittently throughout Wednesday afternoon and evening. Telia hasn’t said how many of its 1.2 million residential subscribers were affected by outages but has confirmed the attack knocked out fixed-line broadband, digital TV, and VoIP connections.

Sony Was Also Hacked a Year Ago but Didn’t Say Anything – Sony kept mum about security vulnerabilities it noticed in February, almost a year before hackers began tossing large volumes of the company’s private data around the Internet.

Sony hackers could have slipped past 90% of defenses, FBI director says – The malware that thoroughly penetrated Sony Pictures Entertainment was so sophisticated it likely would have worked against nine out of 10 security defenses available to companies, a top FBI official told members of Congress. The comments don’t sit well with some security professionals, who say they appear to allow Sony to hide behind a veil of persistent threats posed by determined and well-resourced hackers. While successful hacks happen to just about everyone, careful planning can often contain the damage they inflict and limit the data available to people who gain unauthorized access. So far, Demarest, Mandiant, and Sony have declined to provide any specific details about exactly what makes the malware “unprecedented.”

Sony fights spread of stolen data by using “bad seed” attack on torrents – Those trying to download files and films from the recent Sony Pictures Entertainment leak are being widely frustrated thanks to a large number of Torrent filesharing nodes that advertise fake “seeds.” These files are offered via the Bittorrent file sharing protocol, and they match the signature of the stolen data while containing no usable content. Instead the bad seeds, which now may outnumber the computers actively sharing the actual files stolen from Sony, provide a download of corrupted or fake versions of the archive files for the vast majority of individuals attempting to access them.

New Norton Mobile Security warns of privacy problems – Research by Symantec shows that users value privacy highly, but constantly surrender it, knowingly and unknowingly, when they install apps on mobile devices, particularly free apps. Now Norton Mobile Security warns users in detail about these potential problems as they browse the app in the app store. These techniques used by Norton Mobile Security are not permitted on iOS or Windows Phone, although the company does sell a version for iOS with more limited functionality.


Norton Mobile Security overlays warnings and information onto Google Play app entries. Image courtesy Symantec.

Iran hacked the Sands Hotel earlier this year, causing over $40 million in damage – Sony wasn’t the only US company to face a cyberattack by a foreign power this year. According to a bombshell exclusive from Businessweek, Iranian hackers penetrated systems for the Sands Hotel and Casino this February. With no apparent financial motive, attackers seized comprehensive employee information and brought the company’s systems to a standstill. All told, the attack wiped out three quarters of the company’s Vegas-based servers, which insiders estimate cost the company more than $40 million in equipment costs and data recovery alone.

Company News:

Amazon job posts point to global same-day delivery – A series of job postings hint at Amazon’s desire to expand its same-day delivery service, including for products sold by third-party merchants.

Microsoft’s cross-platform push continues with MSN apps for iOS and Android – While none of these apps are unique on their own, they do help flesh out Microsoft’s vision of letting users easily roam across platforms. If you log in with a Microsoft account, many of the MSN apps’ features will sync online, so you can switch to another device and still have your weather locations, saved recipes and news topics intact. That alone makes them more useful than they ever were as Windows exclusives.

Ford Ditches Microsoft For QNX In Latest In-Vehicle Tech Platform – Ford today took the wraps off Sync 3, its next-generation, in-car technology package that’s, as you’d expect, faster, sleeker and much improved from the old one. It’s also more intuitive and easier on the eyes, and integrates smartphone apps better. But the biggest change is under the hood: Sync 3 is powered by QNX instead of Microsoft Auto.

Microsoft announces Windows 10 press event for January 21st – Microsoft will be releasing the next major installment of Windows 10, the consumer preview, on January 21st and will be shown off at its campus in Redmond, Washington.

Amazon app kicked from Google Play – The app you may have used for the past several years to access Amazon (outside of your web browser) has been axed from Google Play’s app store. As was found earlier this year, Amazon updated their app to include app and game purchases and downloads – effectively making their app an app store within an app store. Google did not like that, and since have brought up a bit of a rule tweak on what should have otherwise banned the sales of apps within apps listed on Google Play.


Apple is being investigated for anti-competitive practices in Canada – Apple’s Canadian arm is being investigated by Canada’s Competition Bureau for allegations it used anti-competitive practices to negotiate deals with Canadian cell carriers, Reuters reports. The Competition Bureau — Canada’s antitrust watchdog — wouldn’t say who made the allegations, but did say Apple is being looked at for putting clauses that would hinder competition in its contracts with carriers. While it has sought a court order compelling Apple to hand over records related to the investigation, the Competition Bureau wouldn’t reveal whether it has gone after corresponding records kept by Canadian carriers.

Games and Entertainment:

Car-nage: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ trailer looks absolutely demented – “What a day — what a lovely day!” Turn your speakers up loud and prepare to pick your jaw off the floor with the new trailer for “Mad Max: Fury Road”. This demented slice of vehicular mayhem combines spectacular stunt work and automotive action as the road warrior makes a long-awaited return to the big screen. “Fury Road” promises to be one of the most gobsmacking movies of 2015. “Out here everything hurts,” intones Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. “Now pick up what you can and run.”


Scrolls launched: Minecraft creators take a whole new road – Unless you follow the company Mojang very closely, you haven’t likely heard that these creators of the ultra-popular Minecraft series have created another video game. This game goes by the name Scrolls, and it’s ready to take on the world via Android tablets, Mac computers, and PCs. This is a massive title taking a rather different direction from Minecraft, creating a hybrid title that takes “the best bits of card and board games” to create an addictive machine the likes of which you’ve never seen before.


Apple forces nude immigrants to cover up in iPad version of Papers, Please – After naming Papers, Please our favorite game of 2013, we were of course excited to hear from developer Lucas Pope that a version will be coming to iPad on December 12. The version we get on iOS won’t be precisely identical to the one we loved on the PC, though, thanks to some apparent worries about brief nudity from the App Store approval folks at Apple.


An example of the “covered up” nude scanner images in the iPad version of Papers, Please. The coverings were a user-selectable option in the PC version.

Xbox One breaks the PS4’s winning streak with 1.2 million sales in November – Sony’s PlayStation 4 has been at the top of the next-generation sales charts for almost its entire lifespan, but Microsoft just broke through in a big way. According to the latest NPD data drop, the Xbox One was the number one selling console in both the US and the UK for November. The PS4 had previously been on top in the US for months, but it sounds like the holiday season and corresponding price drops for the Xbox One made a big difference for the console. Geekwire reports that US Xbox One sales last month were 1.2 million.

ComiXology Launches 12 Days of Free Comics – ComiXology has an early holiday present for all the comics lovers out there — 12 days of freebies. The third-annual 12 Days of Free Comics event starts today and runs through Monday, Dec. 22 with one new free comic from a surprise publisher every day. To kick off the promotion, comiXology is currently offering The Wake #1, written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Sean Murphy, for free.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Four Microsoft licensing missteps that could cost you big bucks – If you’re an IT pro, much of what you do every day is governed by practical considerations. Deployments are judged by how well they work, and when things fail it’s usually a matter of troubleshooting to find and fix the problem. But you can throw all that common sense and consistency right out the window when it comes to the licensing restrictions behind those IT deployments. And if you’re deploying Microsoft products, innocent errors can become very expensive — quickly. (Registration required.)

One Omni Wheel is all you need to make your bike electric – While bicycles are great for their health benefits, of course paired with their transportation uses, there are times when you wish you could have some added boost to get through some added distance or some more challenging terrain. Electric bikes or e-bikes have answered that call, but not many are willing to trade in their faithful steed for some hi-tech replacement. Smart wheels, then, offer a bit of a compromise, and Evelo’s Omni Wheel is one that promises convenience and simplicity without sacrificing power.


Zuckerberg muses on ‘dislike’ button, the emotion study and pizza – In another Q&A session with users, the Facebook CEO says the social network is trying to figure out a way to help express a broader array of emotions.

Cops use taser on woman while she recorded arrest of another man – A 36-year-old Baltimore woman claims she was tased by police and arrested while filming the arrest of a man with her mobile phone, according to a lawsuit to be served on the Baltimore City Police Department as early as Thursday. Video of the March 30 melee surfaced online this week. Police erased the 135-second recording from the woman’s phone, but it was recovered from her cloud account, according to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City lawsuit (PDF), which seeks $7 million.


“You a dumb bitch, you know that?”

Antique Apple-1 computer sold today for $365,000 – A vintage Apple-1 computer sold today for a whopping $365,000, despite failing to meet the pre-auction estimate. This comes two months after another original Apple-1 sold for nearly a million dollars.

17 Secret Messages Hidden in Tech Logos – Graphic designers are tasked with finding creative ways to pack a lot of information into only a few visual elements. Sometimes these messages are so subtly rendered that you won’t notice them on a first, second, or possibly even third pass. Take a look through our slideshow to discover some of the hidden secret messages in 17 top tech logos that you probably didn’t even know were there.


For example, when you look at the instantly recognizable FedEx logo, some may only see the name of the company split into its two syllables by color. But take a closer look at the white space between the “E” and the “x,” you’ll see an arrow pointing forward. Not only do those colors and that font automatically make you think “FedEx,” but on a subconscious level you also associate the brand with moving something forward. Neat, right?

‘Space Wars’: A visual guide to the battle for space supremacy – Discover everything you need to know about the private sector’s race to space in just a few minutes with one colorful and informative infographic.


Something to think about:

“That is the greatest fallacy, the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful.”

–    Ernest Hemingway

Today’s Free Downloads:

HTTPS Everywhere – HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.

It automatically switches thousands of sites from insecure “http” to secure “https”. It will protect you against many forms of surveillance and account hijacking, and some forms of censorship.

HTTPS Everywhere is produced as a collaboration between The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Many sites on the web offer some limited support for encryption over HTTPS, but make it difficult to use. For instance, they may default to unencrypted HTTP, or fill encrypted pages with links that go back to the unencrypted site. The HTTPS Everywhere extension fixes these problems by using a clever technology to rewrite requests to these sites to HTTPS.


Manager Desktop Edition – Manager is free accounting software for small business. Windows, Mac and Linux.


Money In: Every time you receive money, it should be recorded in this module. It doesn’t matter whether you put money into bank account, cash register or into your own pocket. Every time you receive money

Money Out: Every time you spend money, it will appear in this module. It doesn’t matter whether you take money from your bank account or from your own pocket. Every time you spend money

Sales Invoices: This module contains all invoices that you have issued to your customers and other debtors. It provides useful reports such as Aged receivables which will assist you analyze your debtors further

Purchase Invoices: This module will show all the bills that you have received from your suppliers and other creditors. It provides useful reports such as Aged payables which will assist you analyze your creditors further

Contact Directory: Do you need to view history or contact details on person or organisation you’ve been dealing with? Then Contact Directory is the module that will provide you with all information you require

Chart of Accounts: This module shows all accounts that are used in your accounting system. Accounts are being created automatically so if you are not familiar with Chart of accounts, you don’t need to worry about this module

Journal Entries: Usually only skilled accountants and bookkeepers are using this module to set opening balances or adjust account balances on financial statements. If you are not familiar with journal entries, you don’t need them

Reports: Many reports available such as Balance Sheet, Profit & Loss Statement, Tax Summary, General Ledger Summary, Aged Receivables, Aged Payables and more depending on your country and other settings


Wireshark 1.99.1 Beta – Wireshark is a network packet analyzer. A network packet analyzer will try to capture network packets and tries to display that packet data as detailed as possible.

You could think of a network packet analyzer as a measuring device used to examine what’s going on inside a network cable, just like a voltmeter is used by an electrician to examine what’s going on inside an electric cable (but at a higher level, of course).

In the past, such tools were either very expensive, proprietary, or both. However, with the advent of Wireshark, all that has changed.

Wireshark is perhaps one of the best open source packet analyzers available today.


network administrators use it to troubleshoot network problems

network security engineers use it to examine security problems

developers use it to debug protocol implementations

people use it to learn network protocol internals

Beside these examples, Wireshark can be helpful in many other situations too.


The following are some of the many features Wireshark provides:

Available for UNIX and Windows.

Capture live packet data from a network interface.

Display packets with very detailed protocol information.

Open and Save packet data captured.

Import and Export packet data from and to a lot of other capture programs.

Filter packets on many criteria.

Search for packets on many criteria.

Colorize packet display based on filters.

Create various statistics.

… and a lot more!


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Senators demand answers from Justice, Homeland Security on “stingray” use – A handful of United States senators have finally woken up to the questionable use of cell-site simulators, also known as stingrays.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, 10 Democratic senators and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) posed some of the most direct questions about the digital surveillance devices.

The devices are often used covertly by local and federal law enforcement to locate target cellphones and their respective owners. However, stingrays also sweep up cell data of innocent people nearby who have no idea that such collection is taking place. Stingrays can be used to intercept voice calls and text messages as well.

Both manufacturers and law enforcement have been notoriously tight-lipped about precisely how such devices are acquired and implemented. Former federal magistrate judge Brian Owsley (now a law professor at Indiana Tech) has been unsuccessful in his efforts to unseal orders that authorize their use despite intimate familiarity with the legal system. And just last month, local prosecutors in a Baltimore robbery case even dropped key evidence that stemmed from stingray use rather than allow a detective to fully disclose how the device was used.

Berners-Lee Troubled by ‘Growing Inequality’ on Web – The World Wide Web creator and founder of the Web Foundation, Berners-Lee suggested that, in an increasingly unequal world, the Internet has the power to be a great equalizer. But only “if we hardwire the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, affordable access, and net neutrality into the rules of the game,” he said.

The Web Foundation this week released its annual Web Index report, which focused on issues like privacy, censorship, gender-based violence, equality, and now net neutrality, across 86 countries.

This year’s findings point to a less free Web, which remains unavailable to almost 60 percent of the world’s population, or about 4.3 billion people. What’s more, half of those people who do have access to the Internet live in areas that restrict access to the Web. Almost 40 percent of countries are now censoring politically or socially sensitive content—up 6 percent from 2013.

“It’s time to recognize the Internet as a basic human right,” Berners-Lee said in a statement. “That means guaranteeing affordable access for all, ensuring Internet packets are delivered without commercial or political discrimination, and protecting the privacy and freedom of Web users regardless of where they live.”

The foundation suggested that 84 percent of communities have weak or even non-existent laws to protect citizens from mass surveillance.

Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 12, 2014

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 11, 2014

7 Ways to Prevent Holiday Shopping Identity Theft;  Lenovo Recalls 544,000 Power Cords Over Fire, Burn Hazards;  Microsoft now offering 100 albums for free for a limited time;  Keurig 2.0 spoofing vulnerability: Hack bypasses coffee DRM;  The Best iPhone Apps You Should Download This Week;  Microsoft Just Solved the Biggest Headache in Business;  How Well Do You Know Your Facebook Friends?  Xbox, Windows Store now accepting Bitcoin payments;  Data sent between phones and smartwatches wide open to hackers;  Hangouts adds smarter location sharing, phone number search, and zany stickers;  The most disappointing games of 2014;  Microsoft Flight Simulator returns;  SoftPerfect Network Scanner (free).

7 Ways to Prevent Holiday Shopping Identity Theft – Sometimes it seems like we’re helpless to protect ourselves against identity theft when shopping for holiday gifts, whether online or in brick-and-mortar stores. Fraudsters have myriad ways to steal credentials or otherwise gain illicit access to personal information, and we only have to slip up once. However, a recent survey by Experian’s ProtectMyID service suggests that savvy shoppers are doing a good job of arming themselves against the threat of identity theft. Here’s what they’ve been doing, and what you can do too.

Lenovo Recalls 544,000 Power Cords Over Fire, Burn Hazards – If you own a Lenovo laptop, you better go check your power cord. The computer brand has issued a recall for hundreds of thousands of AC power cords over fire and burn hazards, according to a notice from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The recall affects 500,000 power cords in the U.S. and 44,000 in Canada. According to the notice, the affected power cords can potentially overheat, causing a fire and/or burns.

Keep your data safe with one of these five cloud backup tools – Cloud backup continues to grow in popularity, offering an affordable, flexible, and convenient way to safeguard your data. But which cloud backup solution is right for you? Here are five excellent apps that range from free personal tools to business-centric solutions.

The Best iPhone Apps You Should Download This Week – It seems like hundreds of new iPhone apps pop up every week, but which ones should you bother trying? We explored the App Store and found five apps actually worth downloading.

All aboard the internet of things infosec hype train – Myriad new connected devices may represent an easy target, but criminals are still making plenty of money by hacking what they’ve always hacked. So why bother with Refrigergeddon?

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Facebook plans to use advanced AI to stop you from putting up embarrassing selfies – Ever uploaded a photo in a subconscious state and regretted it afterwards? Not anymore. Facebook is working on a digital assistant which will question you before you upload embarrassing selfies.

Instagram is now bigger than Twitter – Not only does Instagram now have more users, it’s also growing at a faster rate than Twitter. Instagram has doubled the amount of its active monthly users since last fall, when the service passed the 150 million mark. Twitter reached 200 million active monthly users in December of 2012, but it has seen its growth slow since then while also being passed by services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger — both of which have over 500 million.

Microsoft Just Solved the Biggest Headache in Business – Microsoft has an updated app that can scan and save business cards to your phone, letting you sweep your unruly stacks of business cards into the trash. The new “business card” feature was released in an updated version of the Office Lens app for Windows Phone. Snap a photo of any business card, and the app will automatically crop the image down to the relevant text, format it for legibility and save it to OneNote, a Microsoft document management app.

HBO streaming service will launch in April with Game of Thrones – HBO wants to be your streaming service of choice, and is poised to offer their content free of a cable subscription. We’d previously heard the move was in the works, but a new report details when we might see it, and the pains associated with getting it up and running. By the time you’re tuning everyone else out to watch Game of Thrones, HBO GO might be available without the need to work with your cable company. HBO is also changing their back-end tech to support the new streaming.

Microsoft now offering 100 albums for free for a limited time – The Music Deals application is now showcasing 100 free albums from various artists that are up for grabs to anyone with the Xbox Music and the Music Deals apps. Users interested in taking a look at the full catalog should start by browsing the “Holiday Freebies” section within the Music Deals app. When you find albums you’d like to download, select them and you’ll see a “get it for free” button that will link you to the album within Xbox Music. Clicking on the price (which should show up as “get it free” while the promotion lasts).


Google+ adds custom gender option to profiles – If you’ve been putzing around in Google+’s settings today, you might have noticed some new options under “Gender”. Google software engineer Rachael Bennett announced on the company’s social site today the arrival of “an infinite number of ways” for users to display their gender identity. Previously those who didn’t want to use the “male” or “female” options were only given an “other” selection, but now there are four options, one of which is customizable.

Keurig 2.0 spoofing vulnerability: Hack bypasses coffee DRM, allows brewing of any pod – Want to brew any brand of coffee, tea or hot cocoa pods in a Keurig 2.0? Thanks to a ‘spoofing vulnerability’ — and a piece of tape — you can ‘hack’ Keurig’s coffee DRM.


Bing shines some light into its black box, gives guidance on SEO – The team behind the Bing search engine is giving some new insights about how it ranks content which will help webmasters and SEO gurus better optimize campaigns for better search result placement.

Palm-sized Zano auto-follow drone takes extreme selfies – Zano’s creators have big plans for their tiny drone. Not only will it be capable of recording HD video and snapping 5 megapixel images, but it’ll also feature a slick follow mode that tells Zano to track you from a distance (between 15 and 30 meters away from your tethered phone or tablet). You don’t need to worry about Zano veering off course, either. Zano utilizes OriginGPS’ Nano Hornet, which has the distinction of being the world’s smallest with an integrated antenna. While Zano will eventually sell for around $265, you’ll save a bit of cash if you back the Kickstarter project right now. There are still plenty of rewards (the Zano drone in either black or white) available for a pledge of $230.


Xbox, Windows Store now accepting Bitcoin payments – Microsoft has added Bitcoin support to Microsoft accounts. Bitcoin funds can be added to accounts to enable digital purchases from the Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox Games, Xbox Music, and Xbox Video stores. Bitcoin support is currently limited to adding fixed dollar amounts to accounts; there’s no direct purchase option. Up to $100 can be added at a time, and presently the option is only available to US accounts. The Bitcoin support comes via BitPay. Other early commercial Bitcoin supporters, including PayPal and Newegg, also use BitPay.


Hangouts adds smarter location sharing, phone number search, and zany stickers – Google’s Hangouts app is getting some design touch-ups and useful new communication features in its latest update. The most unique addition is the ability to auto detect when someone wants to know your location and serving up a button to share it right away. Also, you can now send wacky stickers just as you can in Facebook Messenger. There are 16 new sticker packs, which are essentially jumbo-sized GIFs and cartoony images. There are some pretty zany choices, including pirates, koalas, Santa, and of course cats in various poses.


Find your Hangout friends by phone number and send then some wacky stickers.

Apple and IBM reveal 10 iOS apps that aim to change the way you work – The two companies now have 10 apps designed to streamline business operations behind the scenes, which may lead to better service for the rest of us. The new apps are the first wave in a lineup that’s expected to include up to 100 iOS apps for business. IBM is firmly entrenched in enterprise, while Apple’s presence in the halls of giant corporations has been largely unofficial, in the form of employees using their personal iPhones to send company emails. So the two companies partnered up in July to bring their complementary strengths to businesses on iOS.

How Well Do You Know Your Facebook Friends? – We all have Facebook friends with certain tells in their choice of status updates. There are the unabashedly peppy, the unrelenting complainers and the 800-word posters. To test how well you can identify your Facebook friends by these clues, we’ve built a simple quiz: This app will randomly select status updates from your recent newsfeed and present you with five possible authors for each one. (Note: This will not work for all users due to differences in privacy settings. If you’re asked for your password, you’ll be logging into Facebook. TIME is not recording or storing your password.)


Nation-backed malware targets diplomats’ iPhones, Androids, and PCs – Inception, as the malware is dubbed in a report published Tuesday by Blue Coat Labs, targets devices running Windows, Android, BlackBerry, and iOS, and uses free accounts on Swedish cloud service Cloudme to collect pilfered data. Malware infecting Android handsets records incoming and outgoing phone calls to MP4 sound files that are periodically uploaded to the attackers. The researchers also uncovered evidence of an MMS phishing campaign designed to work on at least 60 mobile networks in multiple countries in an attempt to infect targeted individuals.

Microsoft takes slow, cautious path to protecting IE against POODLE – Microsoft yesterday added an optional anti-POODLE defense to Internet Explorer 11 (IE11), and promised that additional protection would be switched on by default in two months. With Tuesday’s update to IE11, the browser can now be set to kill what’s called “SSL 3.0 fallback,” a mechanism that forces the browser to switch to the buggy SSL 3.0 from more secure encryption protocols, such as TLS 1.2. The option can be set in IE11 by editing the Windows Registry, downloading and running a small tool, or for corporate IT staffs, with the Group Policy Editor. Starting on Feb. 10, 2015 — that month’s Patch Tuesday — IE11 will default to disabling fallback for most sites. Mozilla disabled SSL 3.0 in Firefox 34, which was released three weeks ago, and Google has scheduled a similar move for Chrome 40, which should ship between the end of this month and the middle of January 2015.

Data sent between phones and smartwatches wide open to hackers – Researchers from security firm Bitdefender mounted a proof-of-concept hack against a Samsung Gear Live smartwatch that was paired with a Google Nexus 4 running Android L Preview. Using readily available hacking tools, they found that the PIN obfuscating the Bluetooth connection between the two devices was easily brute forced. From that point on, they were able to monitor the information passing between the watch and the phone.


Sony – This data breach isn’t like all other data breaches – In addition to the juicy stuff, attackers claim to have stolen terabytes of data and have proved that they got internal employment and medical data on employees, HR documents, criminal background checks AND more than 11,000 documents with RSA SecureID tokens, Lotus Notes IDs and certificates, vendor passwords, FTP access info, login data for outside services, lists of networking hardware, servers, QA, staging and production database servers and maps detailing much of Sony’s internal IT infrastructure. “In short, the IT data leak is everything needed to manage the day-to-day operations at Sony,” according to a Dec. 4 story by Steve Ragan at CSOonline that thrummed with tension but still underplayed how bad the damage really is. The risk involved in a simple data breach are a lot more serious than they were a month or so ago. Back then you could only lose information that could ruin your customers’ lives. Now you can lose your company.

Company News:

Qualcomm, Intel, and others speak out against Title II net neutrality – Much of the fight over how to handle net neutrality has been between the two industries that have the most obvious stake in it: cable companies and web services. Today, though, 60 tech companies, including Intel, IBM, and Qualcomm, have signed a letter opposing reclassifying broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — a solution that’s favored by many of net neutrality’s supporters and President Barack Obama himself. The letter is addressed to members of Congress and the FCC, and it warns that this stricter regulation would stop companies from investing in broadband.

eBay planning massive job cuts following PayPal split – report – Holiday good cheer may be short-lived for eBay employees this year, many of whom could reportedly lose their jobs not long after the Christmas shopping season. According to The Wall Street Journal, the online tat bazaar is considering cutting as much as 10 per cent of its workforce in the New Year, with most of the 3,000 layoffs hitting its core marketplace division. The move would come as part of an effort to slim down eBay’s operations following the spinoff of its PayPal division into a separate company, which is due to complete in 2015.

Acer reportedly plans to launch a range of Windows Phones in 2015 – Despite saying in February that it could not “take the risk” on Microsoft’s mobile OS until its market share and app situation improved, Acer is said to be launching multiple Windows Phones next year.

McDonald’s to roll out in-store tablets to let customers configure their own burgers – 30 McDonald’s restaurants in the US are to be equipped with tablets allowing diners to design their own burgers, with plans to expand to 2,000 of the chain’s 14,000 US locations by the end of 2015.

Sony Pictures mad at Netflix’s failure to block overseas VPN users – Netflix’s tolerance of overseas VPN users was a sore point in negotiations with Sony over licensing Breaking Bad, leaked e-mails revealed. The latest data leaked from Sony Pictures Entertainment by hackers reveals that Sony executives had accused Netflix of breaching its licensing contract for Sony Pictures Television (SPT) shows by allowing customers in foreign markets to use virtual private

Google News to shut down in Spain – Google News has faced a fair bit of opposition in recent times from publications struggling to sustain themselves in the digital age. Many publications have demanded Google pay for showing news it sources from them, even if it is only a snippet, and the Internet giant has strongly opposed such measures. While Google did see victory in Germany last year, it hasn’t had the same fortune in Spain, and now it has announced plans to shutter its service there.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft Flight Simulator returns, heading to Steam on December 18 – An updated version of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X will soon be available on Steam for a “spectacular introductory price”, with new original games and add-on packs coming next year.


The Little Prince could be one of the most beautiful animated films of 2015 – The trailer itself is a gorgeous blend of papercraft animation (for the story of the Little Prince himself) and Pixar-esque CG (for the framed story around it). There’s no English-language version of the trailer yet, but we’re expecting one soon enough — the voice cast for this one is pretty phenomenal (Rachel McAdams, James Franco, Jeff Bridges, Marion Cotillard, Ricky Gervais, and Benicio del Toro, among others).


Microsoft’s Minecraft finally arrives on Windows Phone – Minecraft: Pocket Edition appears to be the same version that’s available for Android and iOS, and costs the same, too: $6.99. It requires Windows Phone 8.1. Given that its download size is just 12 megabytes, it seems realistic that the game will run on even low-end phones with just 1 Gbyte of RAM.

The most disappointing games of 2014 – No game is perfect, but a lot of games promise one thing and deliver something totally different. To be clear, not all of the games on our are list are necessarily bad — they just didn’t live up to the hype.


Off Topic (Sort of):

‘Carry’ a stranger’s package for $500? What could go wrong? – Startup Carry aims to be the Airbnb that will disrupt FedEx, UPS and the like. It will pay individuals to deliver packages to and from strangers. How safe can it be?

Watch the world’s thinnest phone hammer nails, crack nuts and smash through fruit – Some people were concerned with how strong the 4.8mm Oppo R5 smartphone was, so Oppo decided to release a video detailing exactly how tough the Chinese smartphone really is.


YouTube celebrates the moments, memes, and people that made 2014 – While we get ready to close out the year, YouTube has unveiled a video that hopes to encapsulate some of the best moments, memes, and people that made 2014. The ‘YouTube Rewind’ video attempts to encapsulate the most interesting moments and sounds from 2014 in six minutes and thirty five seconds. The upbeat soundtrack is mixed by DJ Earworm and jumps from Pharrell’s “Happy” to Frozen’s “Let It Go” and everything in between.


Ancient doodle hints that Homo erectus was smarter than we thought – When piecing together the story of human capabilities, one of the most useful sources of evidence available is the presence or absence of an ability in other species. Humans make art; chimpanzees do not. This gives us some clues about the time bracket where we should search for the emergence of symbolic and abstract thinking. It wasn’t clear whether extinct species of humans like Neanderthals engaged in these behaviors until earlier this year, when a group of researchers announced evidence of Neanderthal etchings in a cave wall from more than 39,000 years ago. Now, a new paper in Nature reports a more startling discovery: etchings on a shell that date back to 500,000 years ago, created by an entirely different species: Homo erectus. The shell was actually found with the first Homo erectus skeleton, Java Man, but has sat in a collection until recently re-analyzed.


Video: Navy tests awesome new Laser Cannon at sea – The United States Navy has massive weapons. Big, booming guns that can destroy all kinds of things, and their latest is equally impressive, save for its ability to pinpoint its target. As you’ll see in the video below, the Navy’s new laser cannon is really powerful, but can pick a small target out. The new Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, is currently being tested, and if the video below is proof if its prowess, we’re not sure how much cooler it can get.


Bah humbug: Stop sending Seasons Greetings spam – Are you getting too much holiday spam from your friends and associates? So is our own David Gewirtz, who lets loose with a particularly cranky rant. So much for holiday cheer.

Something to think about:

“What mattered was not what happens to you, but how you handle it. Self-command is required to overcome the dangerous misinformation of our emotions, and because for the most part the self is the only thing that we can command. We have no control, ultimately, over what people do or think. What we can influence is our understanding of these circumstances and how we respond to them.”

–       Daniel Akst, We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess, 2011

Today’s Free Downloads:

SoftPerfect Network Scanner – SoftPerfect Network Scanner is a free multi-threaded IP, NetBIOS and SNMP scanner with a modern interface and several advanced features. It is intended for both system administrators and general users who are interested in computer security. The program pings computers, scans for listening TCP ports and displays which types of resources are shared on the network (including system and hidden).

In addition, it allows you to mount shared folders as network drives, browse them using Windows Explorer, filter the results list and more. SoftPerfect Network Scanner can also check for a user-defined port and report back if one is open. It can also resolve host names and auto-detect your local and external IP range. It supports remote shutdown and Wake-On-LAN.


Pings computers.

Does not require administrative privileges.

Detects hardware (MAC) addresses even across routers.

Detects hidden shared folders (normally invisible on the network) and write accessible shares.

Detects your internal and external IP addresses.

Scans for listening TCP ports and SNMP services.

Retrieves currently logged-on users.

You can mount and explore network resources.

Can launch external third party applications.

Exports results to HTML, XML, CSV and TXT

Supports Wake-On-LAN, remote shutdown and sending network messages.

Retrieves potentially any information via WMI.

It is absolutely free, requires no installation, and does not contain any adware/spyware/malware.


Style Jukebox – Jukebox is a free app that automatically keeps your music in the Cloud and lets you play it anytime, anywhere, no matter the device.

Ever been on the subway and wanted to listen to a song but you forgot to sync it from your laptop? With Jukebox you never have to be in that situation. All you have to do is add your music on one device and it will be automatically available on all your other devices. Forget about the sync button. In a blink of an eye you will be jamming to your favorite artists.

There’s nothing to set up. Once you install Jukebox and create a cloud account, all your music and playlists will be automatically managed and brought to you on any device you want.


Alternate Pic View – A simple open source picture viewer and manipulator that can do Slideshow, Thumbnails, Drawing operations, Several picture formats, Tile pictures, Combine pictures, Size pictues/extend and more.




Drawing operations

Serveral picture formats

Tile pictures

Combine pictures

Size pictures/extend

Batch conversation/Sizing

Icon extraction from DLL

and EXE-files

Save selection to file

File properties

EXIF/IPTC information is not lost while saving a picture

Red eye reduction

Scale colors

Rotate colors

Drawing arrows

Available in polish and slovak language

Size display correction for saving JPEGs compressed

Rectangle selection enhanced

Multipage TIFFs

Now also in danish and italian language

Compare pictures

Create/edit animated GIFs

Search for pictures

Now also available with chinese language

Print all pages or a range of multipage GIFs/TIFs


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

For CIA, Truth about Torture Was an Existential Threat – For the CIA officials involved in torture, one thing was clear from the very beginning: The only way they would be forgiven for what they did was if they could show it had saved lives.

It was the heart of their rationale. It was vital to public acceptance. It was how they would avoid prosecution.

The executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s grindingly exhaustive torture report released Tuesday indelibly captures CIA officials  turning their back on human decency,  and it all starts with a “novel” legal defense floated in November 2001 by CIA lawyers – and arguably prompted by their White House masters, lurking offstage  –  that the “CIA could argue that the torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.”

Specifically, they pointed out: “states may be very unwilling to call the U.S. to task for torture when it resulted in saving thousands of lives.”

And so, when the tragically predictable sequence of events began to unfold – and torture, as it always has, produced false confessions and little to no intelligence of value – admitting that it had failed was not even an option.

Instead, those involved made up stories of success.

Senate’s torture report will provoke hacktivist reprisals – The release Tuesday of the U.S. Senate’s report that excoriated the Central Intelligence Agency for torturing suspected terrorists will result in retaliation by cyber-hacktivist groups, a security expert predicted today.

“I expect there will be some sort of retribution,” said Tom Chapman, director of cyber operations at Edgewave, a San Diego-based security firm. A former U.S. Navy cyber-warfare commander, Chapman joined Edgewave in September and leads the company’s threat intelligence unit.

“We’ll see denial-of-service attacks, we’ll see attempted hacks and we’ll see site defacements,” said Chapman. “This is something we’ll be keeping an eye on.”

Chapman was referring to the news from the U.S. Senate’s Intelligence Committee, which released a 500-page summary of its years-long investigation into CIA interrogation practices in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks against New York and Washington D.C. The report blasted the agency for torturing Al Qaeda suspects, not on moral grounds, but on practicalities: It concluded that the repeated torture of terrorist suspects produced little or no information of value.

Australia’s security agencies quiet on metadata definition – The security agencies that will most use stored telecommunications data under new legislation before the Australian parliament will not reveal exactly what data they want retained until negotiations with telecommunications companies have finished.

When Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull entered legislation into parliament in October that would force telecommunications companies to retain customer data for a period of two years for warrantless access by law-enforcement agencies, the exact data set to be retained had not been defined.

The type of data is detailed as call records, assigned IP addresses, customer billing details, and other so-called metadata. The legislation specifically rules out retaining internet browsing history, but Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis said the data set would be defined through regulation after the passage of the legislation, and once negotiations with telecommunications companies had concluded.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) are leading the charge demanding the retention of this data, stating that it is vital for their work in investigating terrorist-related activity and espionage.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 10, 2014

PC Infected? Which Antivirus Does the Best Cleanup?  Dashlane, LastPass Launch Automatic Password Changers;  How to search for old Facebook posts;  Super-Easy Way To Beat Twitter’s 140 Character Limit; Most Popular Videos on YouTube in 2014;  YouTube Revamps Apple TV App;  Best Linux desktop of 2014: Linux Mint 17.1;  Two stealthy Linux malware samples uncovered;  Electronic Arts offers SimCity 2000 Special Edition for free;  Adobe fixes Flash zero day;  These Are the Best Facebook Games of 2014;  A Laymen’s Guide to the Finance Industry’s Cryptic Jargon;  Microsoft tells US: The world’s servers are not yours for the taking;  The 8 biggest lies the CIA told about torture;  USBFlashCopy (free).

PC Infected? Which Antivirus Does the Best Cleanup? – It’s essential that your antivirus utility detects all kinds of malicious software, including very new zero-day threats. Indeed, tons of independent lab tests specifically measure how well antivirus products detect viruses and other malware. However, it’s just as important that your antivirus manages to correctly remove the malware it does detect. A new report from AV-Comparatives focuses specifically on the malware-removal abilities of 17 popular antivirus tools.

Dashlane, LastPass Launch Automatic Password Changers – It seems like there are now daily reports of security breaches, from banks to retailers. And every time one of these hacks are reported, we are urged to change our passwords. But as our digital footprints expand, changing codes on every single site we use can be a labor-intensive process. New, separate services from password managers LastPass and Dashlane aim to simplify the task of changing those passwords.


Here’s a Super-Easy Way To Beat Twitter’s 140 Character Limit – Twitter’s 140-character limit for tweets is rooted in its origin as a text-based service: SMS messages have a 160-character limit, so tweets were limited to 140 characters, leaving 20 for users’ handles. But it’s been years since most of us used text messages as our primary means of tweeting. Instead, it’s all about desktop or mobile apps. And yet that 140-character limit hangs around, taunting us. Well, here’s a crafty way to break that limit

How to search for old Facebook posts – A new feature is rolling out now, enabling users to search for specific posts, photos or videos on Facebook.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

These Were the Most Popular Videos on YouTube in 2014 – A cute puppy playing with a Clydesdale, an overly flexible iPhone 6 Plus and a deranged robotic baby were among the videos we watched most on YouTube this year. The Google-owned website has released its annual list of the most popular videos of the year, and they cover a wide range of topics. At the top of the charts is the much-feared Mutant Spider Dog, a video in which a Polish prankster dressed his dog up as a giant tarantula and terrified unsuspecting passerby.

Home networking explained, Part 1: Here’s the URL for you – As the guy who reviews networking products, I generally receive a couple of emails a day from readers, and most of them, in one way or another, are asking about the basics of networking (as in computer-to-computer; I am not talking about social media). Instead of saying the same thing over and over in individual messages, I’ll talk about the basics of home-networking, in layman’s terms, in this series.

Hands-on with the Dropbox Mobile app’s new managing, editing, and syncing features – The vastly improved mobile app lets you do almost everything the desktop app can do. Microsoft Office integration is the biggest highlight.


Dropbox Carousel deletes phone photos once they hit the cloud – The next generation of cloud storage from Dropbox has been revealed – deleting your phone-stored photos after they’ve been uploaded to their webspace. There are two ways to look at this. One is that you’re freeing up space on your smartphone by allowing Dropbox to hold them for you using Dropbox Carousel. The other is that you’re trusting Dropbox to have a perfect copy of your files before deleting them from your phone, also trusting that they’re only deleting said photos after the upload is complete.

Free up space on your hard drive using your cloud storage’s selective sync option – This tip is not for the privacy cautious, but if you need to make space on your hard drive try offloading infrequently used files to the cloud.

If You’re Running Windows 10 You May Have To Reinstall Office – Microsoft’s Gabriel Aul, one of the most prominent members of the Windows 10 team, announced today that a security update to the current build of the operating system will not install if a user has Office already installed. Instead, users of build 9879 of Windows 10, if they want to install the security fix, may have to uninstall Office, and later reinstall it.

YouTube Revamps Apple TV App – With the update, you can now watch every single video on YouTube from your Apple TV, meaning there will no longer be any gaps in the video library. On the downside, however, you’ll also have to deal with ads on the platform for the first time, according to Re/code. There’s also a new predictive search feature, which should make it easier to find specific videos you ant. Besides that, you can also now subscribe to your favorite channels from the app.

VLC’s Android media player app finally exits beta and hits the Play Store – VLC has long been the go-to media player on PCs with its native support for just about any audio or video format, and now it’s finally hitting Android in stable form. If you’re running a newer tablet your hardware should be able to handle the update just fine, enabling you to watch and listen to all your music, movies, and network streams with minimal hassle. VLC for Android also includes a file browser, so you can easily navigate and find anything saved on your device.


Best Linux desktop of 2014: Linux Mint 17.1 – Summary: The new version of Mint may be the best Linux desktop ever. Heck, it may be the best desktop operating system ever, period.


Netflix testing button that sends reminder tweets – With all the new content Netflix is adding and has planned for the coming months, keeping track of what’s new and shows you’ve been watching might be difficult. Potentially arriving in the future to help with that is a new feature Netflix is testing that leverages Twitter, something many of us check daily — a “Tweet Me a Reminder” button, which does exactly what it suggests. The reminder button seems to have first surfaced via Twitter user Rich Greenfield, who posted the screenshot below showing the feature.


The Pirate Bay goes offline after police raid server room – Infamous torrent site The Pirate Bay was taken offline on Tuesday after a raid by Swedish police. Officers investigating the decade-old file-sharing portal’s alleged copyright infringements targeted a server room in Stockholm, seizing “several servers and computers,” according to veteran file-sharing case prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad. The site only reappeared hours later, at a new address hosted in Costa Rica, and with regular 500 internal server error codes. At present, searching or browsing for torrents on the new site is impossible.

Google’s Chromecast coming to India – The launch of the Internet giant’s streaming device is the latest example of Google’s push into the second most populous country in the world.


Patch Tuesday updates aim for Exchange and Explorer flaws – Overall, Microsoft has issued seven security bulletins for December, including three that are critical, covering security vulnerabilities found in Windows (both the server and desktop editions), Office, Exchange Server, SharePoint Server and Internet Explorer.

Adobe fixes Flash zero day, plus bugs in Acrobat, Reader and ColdFusion – The Acrobat updates are regularly-scheduled but the Flash and ColdFusion updates are a surprise. One Flash vulnerability is being exploited in the wild.

Hackers Reportedly Warn Sony Pictures Not to Release The Interview – An open letter from hackers who claim to have infiltrated Sony Pictures Entertainment warned studio executives not to release The Interview, a comedy that imagines a U.S. assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

Two stealthy Linux malware samples uncovered, following in Windows variants’ tracks – Security researchers have uncovered two Linux variants of a complex piece of Windows malware, which is known to have previously targeted embassies, the military, and pharmaceutical companies. The new Linux malware follows the discovery of a family of Windows malware known as Turla, which researchers at Kaspersky and Symantec uncovered earlier this year. The malware is thought to be government-created and originating from Russia.

Company News:

Qualcomm laying off about 600 employees globally – Qualcomm, the world’s largest maker of computer chips for mobile devices, is laying off roughly 600 employees worldwide, as it plans to refocus its business into new areas, a company spokesperson confirmed to CNET on Tuesday. The layoffs come amid a difficult stretch of regulatory investigations into the company’s business practices and Qualcomm’s softer-than-expected fiscal outlook for 2015.

Mom and daughter SUE Comcast for ‘smuggling’ public Wi-Fi hotspot into their home – Comcast-supplied routers broadcast an encrypted, private wireless network for people at home, plus a non-encrypted network called XfinityWiFi that can be used by nearby subscribers. However, Toyer Grear, 39, and daughter Joycelyn Harris – who live together in Alameda County, California – say they never gave Comcast permission to run a public network from their home cable connection. Grear – a paralegal – and her daughter claim the Xfinity hotspot is an unauthorized intrusion into their private home, places a “vast” burden on electricity bills, opens them up to attacks by hackers, and “degrades” their bandwidth.

California cities sue Uber for misleading customers about driver background checks – Los Angeles and San Francisco are suing ride-sharing startup Uber for making misleading statements and breaking California law, the latest in a series of setbacks for the company. In a statement, the two cities’ district attorneys say that Uber misled passengers about the effectiveness of its background checks, misrepresented fees for safety checks and airport tolls, operated in airports without permission, and did not get state approval for the system it used to calculate pricing.

Judge Shuts Down Uber In Spain, Pending Taxi Association Court Action – We might be at the point of losing count of the number of places Uber is being shut down at this point. Now, after a series of protests by taxi associations in Spain, a Madrid judge has ordered ride-sharing app Uber to cease all activities as of today. The judge accepted the ‘cautionary measures’ put forward by the Madrid Taxi Association, pending a future court case the organisation wants to file against Uber.

Supreme Court says Amazon doesn’t have to pay workers to wait in security lines – Amazon warehouse workers have not been happy for years now with their need to stand in line waiting for a security check. The checks are necessary to ensure no products are being stolen, but with the amount of staff and thoroughness of the checks, it is claimed they take up to 25 minutes, all of which is unpaid. So Amazon warehouse staff started a lawsuit, and today they lost. The Supreme Court has ruled that security screenings fall under the same category as a number of other tasks workers carry out without being compensated.

Apple to open new tech center in Japan – Apple will open a technology development center just outside of Tokyo, a move that will bring it closer to parts suppliers. “We’re excited to expand our operations in Japan with a new Technical Development Center in Yokohama which will create dozens of new jobs,” Apple spokesman Takashi Takebayashi said via email. He wouldn’t say why Apple is building the facility but stressed it is not an R&D center.

Games and Entertainment:

Uncharted 4 gameplay shown for first time, looks off the charts – At Sony’s PlayStation Experience in Las Vegas, Naughty Dog showed off nearly 16 minutes of gameplay footage. Unlike the initial teaser where all we really see is Drake’s now-older, beat-up face in a pre-rendered scene, we get to see Nathan in action, and in-engine.


Electronic Arts offers SimCity 2000 Special Edition for free – Long before Electronic Arts got its hands on the SimCity franchise, there was the inaccurately named SimCity 2000. This iconic title debuted on MacOS in 1994, and continued being quite popular all the way through the actual year 2000 on PC, DOS, and a variety of game consoles. Now you can grab this piece of gaming history on PC for free. EA is graciously giving SimCity 2000: Special Edition away. They say there’s no catch, but there is: you have to use EA’s Origin platform to play it.


The Brilliant and Depressing Reality of ‘Black Mirror’ – A few days ago, the U.K. import Black Mirror arrived on Netflix. In typical “less is more” fashion, it’s only six episodes over two seasons, and I watched them all. While Black Mirror is technically science fiction, many of the show’s storylines feels dangerously close to becoming reality in the not-too-distant future.


These Are the Best Facebook Games of 2014 – Facebook is out with its annual roundup of the year’s top Facebook games, with one game taking the ultimate crown.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Trustev Uses Fraud Detection Software To Crack Down On Internet Trolls – While this first anti-trolling release is intended for major news sites (it’s controlled via an analytics-like web app), it’s possible for other platforms and publishers to integrate the system as well. The possibility of wider deployment has put trolls on full alert: in the GamerGate community on 8chan (the site GamerGate moved to after 4chan decided they were too awful and permanently banned the topic), there’s currently a discussion thread discussing how to argue against Trustev’s tool on censorship grounds.


Watch ISIS Surveillance Drones Film the Battlefields of Aleppo – A video uploaded today to an ISIS-linked YouTube account shows what appears to be footage captured by aerial drone. The four-minute clip features peaceful images of an annihilated Aleppo, as the drone hovers hundreds of feet in the air, far from the chaos, cut with visceral battle footage of fighters running in between the bombed out streets below.


Everyone should learn to drive in a simulator – Many new drivers are learning the same way they did decades ago, but there’s a better way.


This is the most hilarious local TV weather report we’ve ever seen – What do you do when you’re a local weather reporter and the computer that animates the forecast for the green screen freezes up? Yes, that’s right: you get help for your friends. Other than some grumbling, the first 80 seconds or so is actually pretty normal. At that point, the audience is introduced to local news hijinks — silly but nothing too out of the ordinary. It isn’t until 2:15 that we reach the zenith of local news surrealism. It’s better than 1,000 holographic Wolf Blitzers.


CoolChip Technologies Is Redesigning The Humble Computer Fan – If there’s one part of a PC that doesn’t get enough love, it’s the fan. These small plastic spinning pieces cost almost nothing and keep hundreds or thousands of dollars of advanced technology from cooking itself. For many, these fans are becoming increasingly unnecessary. Chips built for phones, tablets and even some laptops are designed to use small enough amounts of power than they can dissipate heat without blowing a bunch of air all over everything. But for users who demand power — gamers, video editors and the like — fans are still a reality that has to be dealt with every day.


A Laymen’s Guide to the Finance Industry’s Cryptic Jargon – Wall Street can therefore seem like a very private club. But in fact anyone can participate; the barriers to entry are as much linguistic as they are financial. With that in mind, here’s a primer on the A to Z of the financial multiverse.


Something to think about:

“A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.”

–        Mark Twain

Today’s Free Downloads:

USBFlashCopy – USBFlashCopy is a small Windows utility to back up your flash drives and storage cards on the fly. It runs in the background and copies files from inserted media to a safe location on your hard drive.


Nothing to install: Simply download and run. No installation, no registry entries.

Small: USBFlashCopy is a really small utility taking no more than 300KB of space, it doesn’t require additional libraries, frameworks or anything else to download and install.

Portable: Run USBFlashCopy from any folder or drive.

Simple and clever: USBFlashCopy automatically detects when you insert a media and copies its content to a safe location. By default, it creates a sub-folder for each removable media in “My DocumentsRemovable Media Backups”.

Supports Profiles: Create profiles with separate settings for different flash sticks or storage cards. You can change default settings for new or rarely used medias.

Copies newer files only: USBFlashCopy copies only newer or updated files, you can optionally keep old versions of the files.

Move your settings: USBFlashCopy keeps its settings in an INI file, automatically created in the folder it is running from. Copy USBFlashCopy.ini along with executable to keep your settings.

For experienced users USBFlashCopy can run completely invisible. No icons, no progress bars, no prompts, it just does the job. This feature requires purchasing a key.


JetAudio – JetAudio is integrated multimedia software made up of a single compact rack. Not only does it play various music and video files, it also has features such as CD burning, recording, and conversion to other file formats.

You can create your own Internet broadcast by using JetCast, provided with JetAudio, and you can play all major file formats, including WAV, MP3, MP3Pro, OGG, WMA, MPEG, AVI, WMV, MIDI, RM, and video and audio CD tracks.

Supports All Major File Formats

Audio CD burning


Tag Editing including multiple file tag editing

Multi-channel sound ouput



Media Center window with Device Manager


Internet CD Database

Convenient album management & Playlist



Audio CD Ripping

Internet Broadcasting

Various sound effects

Plus many more features!

Be careful that you choose the right download button!


Display Driver Uninstaller – Display Driver Uninstaller is a graphics driver removal tool that helps remove all remnants of AMD, NVIDIA and Intel graphics card drivers including old registry keys, files, folders and driver stores.

Intel, AMD and Nivdia drivers can normally be uninstalled with the Windows Uninstall Programs window. However, often the standard uninstall fails or does not completely delete the old video card drivers. This can cause issues installing new / updated drivers.

After running Display Driver Uninstaller the program will make it as if you are about to install a new video driver on a fresh, clean install of Windows.

Display Driver Uninstaller makes many system changes and the author has wisely built in a function to help you remember to create a new system restore point before running the cleaner so you can revert your system if have problems. However, make sure you familiarize yourself with how to use system restore prior.

So if you having issues installing a new driver or uninstalling an old one, Display Driver Uninstaller may do the trick for you.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Microsoft tells US: The world’s servers are not yours for the taking – Microsoft’s fight against the US position that it may search its overseas servers with a valid US warrant is getting nasty.

Microsoft, which is fighting a US warrant that it hand over e-mail to the US from its Ireland servers, wants the Obama administration to ponder a scenario where the “shoe is on the other foot.”

“Imagine this scenario. Officers of the local Stadtpolizei investigating a suspected leak to the press descend on Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany,” Microsoft said. “They serve a warrant to seize a bundle of private letters that a New York Times reporter is storing in a safe deposit box at a Deutsche Bank USA branch in Manhattan. The bank complies by ordering the New York branch manager to open the reporter’s box with a master key, rummage through it, and fax the private letters to the Stadtpolizei.”

In a Monday legal filing with the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, Microsoft added that the US government would be outraged.

“This case presents a digital version of the same scenario, but the shoe is on the other foot,” the Redmond, Washington-based company said in its opening brief in a closely watched appeal.

The appeal is of a July court decision demanding that Microsoft hand over e-mail stored on an overseas server as part of a US drug trafficking investigation. Microsoft, which often stores e-mail on servers closest to the account holder, said the e-mail is protected by “Irish and European privacy laws.”

The 8 biggest lies the CIA told about torture – The newly released Senate report has already drawn attention for its harrowing view of the details of US torture, but it also comes at the end of a long and frightening effort to keep those details secret. As the new report makes clear, CIA officials lied to Congress over and over in defense of the program, whether it was to make torture seem more effective, less brutal, or more legally sanctioned than it really was, making it impossible for the legislature to provide effective oversight.

Here are the eight biggest lies, noted with frustration over and over again throughout the report. It’s an incomplete list, but an important one to keep in mind if there’s ever going to be a meaningful check on the power of US intelligence agencies.

The man who did the most to fight CIA torture is still in prison – Today, John Kiriakou is in a federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, serving two and a half years for disclosing classified information — confirming the name of a CIA agent to a New York Times reporter. Facing 30 years, he took a plea deal for 30 months. He has five children, and it’s been difficult to see them while he’s been inside. He’s scheduled to move to house arrest in February, before his sentence finishes up in May.


Already, it seems unlikely that anyone of the interrogators revealed today will have to face the same troubles. The same Attorney General that put Kiriakou in jail has already declined to prosecute any of his colleagues. The international courts have called for prosecutions, but it’s unlikely they’ll come to anything. It seems absurd to say that what Kiriakou did was more criminal than what the interrogators did, but politics has never shied away from the absurd.

It’s worth remembering Kiriakou not as a call for retribution or even justice, but just to make sense of what happened. Why were we so committed to useless atrocities? Why did it take six years to give up practices that had been outlawed for decades? Why was it so hard to stop doing the wrong thing? The sad answer is that when someone did the right thing, we gave them hell for it.

DOJ: Companies need to trust gov’t on cybersecurity – The U.S. fight against cybercrime would be more effective if companies put more trust in the country’s law enforcement agencies, a top U.S. Department of Justice official said.

The DOJ and private companies already cooperate on many cybercrime investigations, but more trust is still needed, said Leslie Caldwell[cq], assistant attorney general with the DOJ’s Criminal Division.

“There’s a tendency among the public, including private-sector technology companies, to a little bit conflate what the Criminal Division does with what other government agencies might do,” Caldwell said Tuesday during a forum on cybersecurity in Washington, D.C.

Revelations over the past year and a half of U.S. National Security Agency surveillance have caused “an erosion of trust and a kind of a demonization” of the government, she said. Investigations by the DOJ’s Criminal Division require search warrants and other court supervision, Caldwell added.

“I would like to see a little more feeling of trust” from private companies, she said, when asked how companies can help with cybersecurity investigations.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 9, 2014

40 Reasons Why You DON’T Need An Antivirus;   How and why to set up and use a password manager;  11 Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search;  Report: Android Security Apps Improving;  Translate text into a different language as you type;  Why you should take another look at Google Keep;  Google offers $20 Play Store credit with Chromecast;  Beware this online shopping scam: Fake order confirmations;  Fedora 21: Worth the wait;  Hackers tell Sony to halt the release of The Interview;  Your Christmas Gaming Guide [Updated];  How to make the most money from old gadgets;  Corporate Abuse of Our Data;  Amazon Fire TV Stick or Google Chromecast: Why not both?  Samsung SSD Magician.

How and why to set up and use a password manager – A password manager stores the passwords for your various online accounts and profiles and saves you from having to remember and enter each one each time you visit a password-protected site. Instead, your passwords are encrypted and held by your password manager, which you then protect with a master password. With a password manager, you can create strong passwords for all of your accounts and keep all of those passwords saved behind a stronger master password, leaving you to remember but a single password. Which password manager you choose to use is less important than actually choosing one and then using it.

11 Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search – Google Search’s learning curve is an odd one. You use it every day, but still all you know is how to search. But the search engine has plenty of tricks up its sleeve. Here’s an overview of some of the most useful Google search tricks, from basic tips to new features just recently released.

Report: Android Security Apps Improving – The latest Android antivirus report from AV-Test comes with good news; almost half of the products earned a perfect score. While there aren’t nearly as many malicious applications aimed at Android devices as there are targeting Windows, that’s no reason to be complacent. If one of those malware apps hits your phone, you’ve got trouble whether it’s common or not. AV-Test Institute rated 31 Android security applications and found that for the most part they’re even more effective than when last tested.

Tablets growing at a faster rate than that of any other connected device, claims NPD –  Tablet ownership among US consumers is on the rise, and growing at a faster rate than that of any other connected device, claims The NPD Group Connected Intelligence, Connected Home Report. The report gives us a general idea of what people are doing with their tablet. For example, 55 percent of tablet users report leveraging a video feature of their device, which means that they used it for video calling or taking, posting, and uploading videos, as well as watching video from a streaming service or app from a TV channel or pay TV provider. Video usage is even more prolific among younger consumers, with 67 percent of tablet users aged 18-34 use these video features compared to 53 percent of 35-54 year olds, and 45 percent of users age 55 and older.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Microsoft discounts its subscription services bundle to just $149 – Microsoft only announced its special “Work & Play Bundle” of subscription services last month, but the company is already discounting it in time for the holidays. The Work & Play Bundle, which includes Office 365 Home, Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Music Pass, and Skype Unlimited World subscriptions, is now just $149 for the year. Separately, the subscriptions would cost around $450 annually, so It’s more than 65 percent in savings for services that provide access to the full Office suite, unlimited OneDrive storage, Xbox Live gaming, music streaming without ads, and unlimited Skype calls.

Google Translate to decipher words in images, better recognize speech, says report – International travel could get much easier if all you have to do is point your phone at a menu, or speak into it for an instant translation. That’s the magic promised in a leaked build of Google Translate that’s apparently in the works. The new version of Google’s translation app adds features courtesy of Google’s acquisition of Word Lens, which already has much of this functionality in place. You can grab the app now to get an idea of what the new image translation in Google Translate will be like.

Translate text into a different language as you type – There are some amazing language-translation apps, everything from Google Translate to Word Lens. But few of them integrate with iOS proper. Translate Keyboard Pro ($1.99) does. It takes advantage of iOS 8’s support for third-party keyboards, effectively translating text from 30 source languages into as many as 80 other languages as you type. But using it can be a little confusing at first. Here’s how to get started:


Google offers $20 Play Store credit with Chromecast – Google wants the Chromecast to be your one and only streaming stick this holiday season. The company recently launched yet another limited time offer to sweeten the deal for prospective Chromecast buyers. From now until December 21, anyone who picks up a Chromecast from Google Play or participating retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy will get a $20 credit for Google Play Movies. That’s on top of the two other deals you can get if you buy your Chromecast from Google Play: two free months of free Hulu Plus and three months free of Google Play Music All Access.

Amazon Fire TV Stick or Google Chromecast: Why not both? – The comparison is certainly inviting. Both streaming media devices fit in the palm of your hand and plug directly into your TV’s HDMI socket. The pricing is nearly the same as well, at $39 for the Fire TV Stick and $35 for Chromecast. But beyond those skin-deep similarities, Chromecast and the Fire TV Stick couldn’t be more different. You could choose one or the other, but owning both isn’t a crazy idea.

Kakao Talk adds encrypted ‘secret chat’ feature amid privacy worries – Chatting on Kakao Talk will become more secure with a new hidden chat feature that has end-to-end encryption for all messages. Secret Chat is a chat room that requires messages to be read with a decryption key stored in a user’s mobile device, Daum Kakao, the South Korea-based operator of the service, said in a release. That means the messages cannot be intercepted by outsiders, even if they’re going through servers, it said.

Why you should take another look at Google Keep, the best free organizational tool on Android – Google has been plugging away at strengthening its capabilities, making it a real contender for your home screen in a crowded field of productivity apps. It’s great not only for taking notes, but also saving articles and images, sharing lists, and setting reminders. It doesn’t have the same litany of features as software like Evernote, but that’s partly the point: There is great power in its simplicity.

Facebook Brings Graph Search To Mobile And Lets You Find Feed Posts By Keyword – Facebook is finally getting serious about search. Today it’s challenging Google for finding answers and Twitter for checking real-time chatter with the launch of keyword search. Two years after debuting semantic “My friends who…” search for people, places, and photos on the web, Graph Search is rolling out on iOS in the US along with a new keyword search option for dredging up old News Feed posts by friends.


YouTube shows video creators what copyright restrictions their audio will face – With the new feature in Audio Library, video creators can see whether an audio track will affect playability in certain markets (YouTube will prevent videos containing copyright for certain tracks from being played in, say, Europe or Canada). Creators can also discover whether a track can be monetized (that is, whether a copyright holder will let a video creator use the copyrighted audio in exchange for a cut of the profit from pre-roll ads that run before the video).


Google’s Android Studio now available, ready for your app creations – Android now has an official IDE. Android Studio has come out of beta today, and provides the first true cross-platform IDE for Developers who can’t get enough Javascript. Announced way back at Google I/O 2013, Android Studio is the first official IDE from Google, and could end up serving as a watershed moment in Android development history. It’s also likely to get some add-ons in the near future, which could make it much easier to work with for novices and experienced developers alike. With Android Studio, Google has done the hard work of making sure you can develop for any one of their Android platforms. Android Wear, Android Auto, Android Tv, and Google Glass are all included. Oh, yeah, regular Android, too.


Windows 10: Microsoft plans to let users upgrade from Preview to RTM builds – The full launch of Windows 10 is still around 6-9 months away, but some users are already looking ahead to what the launch will mean for them. In particular, some have been wondering whether or not those enrolled in the company’s Windows Insider program – which gives them access to pre-release builds of the new OS – will be able to simply upgrade to the full and final version when it’s released. There’s good news on that front – although it does come with one important caveat.

Fedora 21: Worth the wait – After a full year of development, Fedora 21 is due for release on 9 December. I have installed Release Candidate 5 (RC5), which was declared ready for release and so should be the final released version. I actually have two consecutive posts lined up for this release: first, this one which will cover the five different desktops on five different laptops; and then a second one which will focus on Anaconda, the Fedora installer, which has been improved again, and is better than ever with this release.


Fedora 21 Workstation (Gnome 3)

With Comcast’s Ethernet @Home, your holiday break could be even more like work – Want to work from home? Great. On your corporate network? So that your employer can monitor you 24/7? Comcast can help.

10 things end business users should ask when making tech purchases – More and more business users are taking on the role of IT decision maker — but they may not know what they should ask vendors. If you find yourself in this boat, keep these 10 critical issues in mind..

Seagate offers low-cost 8TB hard drives – Got a lot of data? Finding your PC a little cramped when it comes to free space? Would a Seagate 8TB hard drive help? Sold by Seagate under the “Archive Label” brand and aimed at those looking for a cost-effective storage solution, the drive retails for around $270, which is far more palatable than the $1,000 or so that 8TB drive from HGST are currently going for. That works out at around $0.033 per gigabyte.

Samsung SSD 850 Evo brings 3D V-NAND tech to consumer drives – Long promised, the day when 3D V-NAND would reach consumer SSDs has finally arrived with the launch of Samsung’s SSD 850 Evo family. The new technology promises enhanced endurance and lower costs, the latter of which is borne out by the competitive price of the new drives. While not dirt cheap, the 850 Evo’s starting price of $100 for a 120GB version is certainly not much more than traditional SSDs. Also in the series are 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB flavors for $150, $270, and $500, respectively.


40 Reasons Why You DON’T Need An Antivirus – There is no way around it: viruses do exist, trojans do infiltrate your PC, and most users will act to guard against them. With software, but also with sensible behavior online. Malware relies partly on users doing the hard work for them. Most of the time you know when you are straying into the murkier waters of the internet. Do you ever think that your good behavior is enough to protect you from attacks, and that antivirus software is not necessary? You may be right. Here are 40 reasons why you don’t need an antivirus.

Beware this online shopping scam: Fake order confirmations – Brian Krebs, a respected authority on security and all-things-cybercrime, wrote a cautionary post earlier this week. “If you receive an email this holiday season asking you to ‘confirm’ an online e-commerce order or package shipment, please resist the urge to click the included link or attachment: Malware purveyors and spammers are blasting these missives by the millions each day in a bid to trick people into giving up control over their computers and identities.” If you do receive a message about a problem with an order or shipment, don’t click any links or open any files. If it appears legitimate, open a new browser window and visit the vendor’s website yourself to check on order status, or just pick up the phone to clarify any potential issues without risking compromising your PC.

Hackers tell Sony to halt the release of The Interview – A new message has been posted on GitHub, purporting to be from the Sony hackers and offering a fresh batch of sensitive corporate data. The message threatens further consequences if the studio continues with its release of “the movie of terrorism,” believed to refer to The Interview, an upcoming comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, which depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It’s the most explicit reference to the film that the attackers have made so far, although many had previously linked the attacks to North Korean retaliation for the film’s release.

Company News:

Blackphone launches app store for personal security and privacy – Together with the launch of updated custom Android software PrivatOS, the handset maker has revealed a new store dedicated to security and privacy applications.

BlackBerry, NantHealth put genome browser on Passport – The collaboration, first in what the companies hope will be a series of offerings, highlights how BlackBerry is going after regulated verticals such as healthcare.

Amazon tipped to be testing bike delivery in NYC – Latest among Amazon’s new delivery projects is a bike delivery service being tested in New York City. The program is called Amazon Prime Now, according to sources that spoke to the Wall Street Journal, and it aims to provide customers with their orders within an hour of placing them. This will give the company an edge on competing online retailers, and will give consumers the immediacy that results from shopping at brick-and-mortar shops.

Oracle asks Supreme Court to reject Android copyright case – Oracle is trying to make sure its billion-dollar copyright dispute with Google over the Android OS doesn’t make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. The companies have been battling for years over whether Google infringed Oracle’s copyright when it lifted programming interfaces from Java for use in its Android mobile OS. There’s a lot of money at stake, with Oracle seeking at least $1 billion for the alleged infringement. Some programmers are also watching the case, believing the outcome will affect their freedom to use other software APIs (application programming interfaces).

Alibaba’s Alipay Now Sees Over Half Of Its Transactions In China From Mobile Devices – China is in the midst of a mobile commerce boom, according to a new report from Alipay, the Alibaba-affiliated payments service that handles more than 80 million transactions per day. The company‘s latest report found that 54 percent of the number of transactions on its PayPal-like service during the first ten months of 2014 were from mobile devices. That’s a huge increase on last year, during which mobile accounted for just 22 percent of all payments.

Portland sues Uber over unapproved launch – This past Friday, Uber announced its arrival in Portland, OR, with the ridesharing service sending out drivers to pick up riders without city approval. Portland officials immediately denounced the move, threatening to go after drivers and to “throw the book at” Uber. That didn’t deter the service, however, which encouraged its drivers to start working in the city despite the risks. Merely one weekend later, Portland has filed a lawsuit against Uber.

Games and Entertainment:

Mario Maker lets you change the game on the fly – Almost every game developer, at one point in their early lives, tried recreating the classic Mario game in one form or another. Last June, Nintendo made a surprise move by revealing Mario Maker, a Wii U exclusive that actually let you do exactly that, no programming required. At the Game Awards over the weekend, Nintendo stepped it up a notch and wowed would be game designers and gamers alike with a new trailer that shows the full power of Mario Maker’s interface, letting you change Mario’s world even as you play.


General George Patton’s rights holders go to war with video game maker – US Army Gen. George S. Patton once said that “the object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” Decades later, the rights holder to the Patton namesake is launching another war, this one against California video game maker Maximum Family Games. The publisher produced a strategy game called History Legends of War: Patton, and it now has until Friday to answer a federal infringement lawsuit from CMG Worldwide, which owns the rights to the former World War II legend. It’s the third lawsuit of its type lodged this year. Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega sued the publisher of Call of Duty: Black Ops II over his likeness being used without permission in that game. And celebrity Lindsay Lohan sued Rockstar, the maker of Grand Theft Auto V, alleging that elements of the game tread too close to her real life.


A “let’s play” video from Outside Xbox of History Legends of War: Patton.

The Importance of Aimlessness in Gaming – One of the best ways to play Far Cry 4 is blindly. Don’t look at the map—either on the menu screen or the miniature version that sits at the screen’s bottom left. Just open the door, head on out and keep walking. You’ll soon enough find something to occupy your time: a skirmish between forces you’re loyal to and recruits from the royal army; a rampant rhinoceros wrecking a convoy; a glittering lake protecting its sunken secrets with a pair of all-teeth demon fish. Or, y’know what’s just as fun? Simply looking around. Or hanging out with elephants, or clambering over a hill just to see what’s on the other side (it’s usually something that wants to kill you).


The procedurally generated space exploration game No Man’s Sky looks amazing – UK-based Hello Games released another trailer for its highly-anticipated upcoming PC and PS4 title, No Man’s Sky. The game, slated for a 2015 release, is a procedurally generated space exploration game with stunning visuals. In other words, players will be able to explore planets and solar systems that are randomly generated. The results continue to look promising; here’s a closer look.


Your Christmas Gaming Guide [Updated] – We have put together a large guide to gaming gifts for Christmas. So if you are wondering what to buy a gamer for Christmas, look no further. We’ve covered the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the PC.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Grumpy Cat has made over $95 million in two years – Bad news, Internet. A smallish cat with a permanent grimace has earned more money in two years than you’re likely to see in your entire lifetime. According to her owner, Grumpy Cat has raked in $95 million in just two years. Nowadays, that money is coming from numerous sources. The original YouTube video posted in September of 2012 is still going strong; it’s now closing in on 17 million views. That’s nowhere near enough to break YouTube’s counter code, but it’s still a heck of a lot of views and a good chunk of advertising income.


Bondic liquid plastic welds plastic, wood, and fabric together – A new product called Bondic has debuted and this isn’t a glue. The makers of Bondic say that people should think of it more as welding than gluing. Bondic is a liquid plastic that remains a liquid and hardens into a plastic that can be sanded and painted after exposure to UV light. Bondic can be built up layer by layer to achieve the strength needed for repairs. It will work on multiple materials include wood, plastic, and fabric. As far as glue goes, Bondic is rather expensive at $22 per tube. The tube contains the glue and a UV light source on one end for hardening the plastic.


How to make the most money from old gadgets – Selling old electronics doesn’t need to be a hassle if your end game is making the most cash. The bad news first: if you want the absolute best price possible, shop around and compare deals. Don’t rely on one source, because a better deal may be waiting around the corner. The good news? With a few tips, that sweet cash return can help subsidise your new devices.

Something to think about:

“It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.”

–     Malcolm Forbes

Today’s Free Downloads:

FileBot Portable – FileBot is the ultimate tool for renaming your movies, tv shows or anime and downloading subtitles. It’s smart, streamlined for simplicity and just works.


A simple user-interface tuned for drag-n-drop

Rename hundreds of media files in a matter of seconds

Fetch episode lists from TVRage, AniDB or TheTVDB

Download subtitles from OpenSubtitles, Subscene or Sublight

Find exact/linked subtitles from OpenSubtitles and Sublight

Easily create and verify sfv, md5 and sha1 files


Homedale – With Homedale you can monitor the signal strength of multiple WLAN Access Points.

You can view a summary of all available access points with their:

signal strength

encryption [WEP/WPA/WPA2]



other settings

You can also see the signal strength of selected access points in a graph over the time. With a right mouse click, you can start logging and create a screenshot.

Homedale is freeware. However, if you enjoy using Homedale and would like to help support its development, please consider making a donation.


Samsung SSD Magician – The Samsung SSD Magician software facilitates easy maintenance and use of Samsung SSD products connected to a desktop or notebook computer.

In addition to providing information about the user’s system and SSD product, Samsung SSD Magician also supports advanced features, like SSD performance management, benchmarking for optimum performance, new firmware updates, etc.

Get Samsung SSD Magician and give it a try to fully assess its capabilities!

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA warrantless bulk phone metadata spying continues unabated – The NSA’s bulk phone metadata spying program was renewed for another 90 days, the fourth time the warrantless snooping has been reauthorized following President Barack Obama promising reform last January, the government said Monday.

That means the nation’s telecoms will continue forwarding a database to the government that includes the phone numbers of all calls, the international mobile subscriber identity number of mobile callers, the calling card numbers used in calls, and the time and duration of those calls to and from the United States.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the program 18 months ago, but the numerous calls for reform since have fallen on deaf ears.

UK court to review legality of fast-tracked surveillance law – A surveillance law that was rushed through by the U.K. government will be reviewed by the country’s High Court to determine if it violates human rights.

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, also known as DRIPA, was adopted in July by the U.K. government, after the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) invalidated EU laws requiring communication providers to retain metadata. The EU court said those laws seriously interfered with fundamental privacy rights. Since the U.K. law that preceded DRIPA was based on the invalidated EU laws, it needed replacement legislation.

However, the new law is worse than the one it replaces, according to civil rights groups which pointed out that, for instance, it not only gives law enforcement officers access to metadata but also allows them access to the content of messages, even if they are held by companies outside the U.K.

Even though DRIPA is quite new and now under review, the U.K. government is already planning to add onto the law to address a so-called “capabilities gap” that authorities face when trying to obtain communications data.

Idaho mom’s suit over NSA database gets a cool reception from appeals court – An Idaho woman named Anna Smith filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NSA telephone database. She was represented by her husband, Peter Smith, pictured above at today’s 9th Circuit hearing.

Since the Snowden leaks first made clear the US government’s sweeping database of phone call data, four separate legal challenges to that program have been filed in federal courts. Three of them now await decision from appeals courts.

This morning, a federal lawsuit directly challenging the NSA’s vast phone call database was heard by the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. And the three-judge panel that heard Smith v. Obama seemed skeptical of the plaintiff’s claims that the database should be ruled unconstitutional.

Anna Smith is an unusual plaintiff. In an interview last year with The Washington Post, she described herself as a “northern Idaho mom” with no particular legal background. “It’s none of their business what I’m doing—who I call, when I call, how long I talk… I think it’s awesome that I have the right to sue the president,” Smith, then 32, told The Post. “I’m just a small-town girl.”

Her husband Peter Smith, who argued the appeal this morning, is a commercial litigator with no experience handling a constitutional or national security lawsuit. For the appeal, Smith accepted legal help from the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation, both of which have their own lawsuits challenging the NSA database.

Corporate Abuse of Our Data – Last week, we learned about a striking piece of malware called Regin that has been infecting computer networks worldwide since 2008. It’s more sophisticated than any known criminal malware, and everyone believes a government is behind it. No country has taken credit for Regin, but there’s substantial evidence that it was built and operated by the United States.

Right now, antivirus companies are probably sitting on incomplete stories about a dozen more varieties of government-grade malware. But they shouldn’t. We want, and need, our antivirus companies to tell us everything they can about these threats as soon as they know them, and not wait until the release of a political story makes it impossible for them to remain silent.

What Bad, Shameful, Dirty Behavior is U.S. Judge Richard Posner Hiding? Demand to Know – Richard Posner has been a federal appellate judge for 34 years, having been nominated by President Reagan in 1981. At a conference last week in Washington, Posner said the NSA should have the unlimited ability to collect whatever communications and other information it wants: “If the NSA wants to vacuum all the trillions of bits of information that are crawling through the electronic worldwide networks, I think that’s fine.” The NSA should have “carte blanche” to collect what it wants because “privacy interests should really have very little weight when you’re talking about national security.”

His rationale? “I think privacy is actually overvalued,” the distinguished jurist pronounced. Privacy, he explained, is something people crave in order to prevent others from learning about the shameful and filthy things they do:

Much of what passes for the name of privacy is really just trying to conceal the disreputable parts of your conduct. Privacy is mainly about trying to improve your social and business opportunities by concealing the sorts of bad activities that would cause other people not to want to deal with you.

Unlike you and your need to hide your bad and dirty acts, Judge Posner has no need for privacy – or so he claims: “If someone drained my cell phone, they would find a picture of my cat, some phone numbers, some email addresses, some email text,” he said. “What’s the big deal?” He added: “Other people must have really exciting stuff. Do they narrate their adulteries, or something like that?”

I would like to propose a campaign inspired by Judge Posner’s claims (just by the way, one of his duties as a federal judge is to uphold the Fourth Amendment). In doing so, I’ll make the following observations:

Australia: Data-retention costs report kept confidential – Attorney-General George Brandis has cited Cabinet confidentiality as being behind his decision to reject a Senate motion for the government to release a PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the cost of the government’s data-retention legislation.

Legislation currently being reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security would require Australian telecommunications companies to retain a set of customer information, including IP addresses, call records, and other personal information for a period of two years for warrant-less access by designated law-enforcement agencies.

The legislation has been resisted by a number of telcos on cost grounds, as well as civil rights and privacy advocates, due to the associated privacy implications with a large wealth of data collected over that two-year period.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 8, 2014

Laptop or Tablet? 5 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself First;  Don’t throw it out! 5 handy uses for a secondary PC;  5 privacy fixes your Facebook News Feed needs by New Year’s;  December Delights on Netflix;  The best (and worst) PC upgrades;  Use Overlay Blocker to close pop-up overlays in Chrome;  8 Free Online Courses to Grow Your Tech Skills;  Microsoft’s Cortana Learns French, Italian, German, Spanish;  Fake browser warning delivers malicious Trojan;  The Best Apps For People Who Don’t Like Spending Money;  Multiple vulnerabilities found in Google App Engine;  Google pulls piracy apps from Play Store;  The 10 Best Nintendo Wii U Games;  Furious GTA V gamers seek similar ban on violent, misogynistic title: the Holy Bible;  Grueling endurance test blows away SSD durability fears.

Laptop or Tablet? 5 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself First – By the way Microsoft is marketing the Surface Pro 3, you’d think tablets and laptops were practically interchangeable: just a matter of personal preference. We’re not convinced. Using a mix of product testing and data crunching, we’ve come up with five key questions to ask yourself before you commit to one device over the other for yourself or for a holiday gift.

5 privacy fixes your Facebook News Feed needs by New Year’s – It seems like Facebook is constantly adding new settings or changing old ones. Sometimes it’s under the guise of simplifying your options, like with the new Privacy Basics walk-through. Other times it’s because new kinds of ads are coming and Facebook wants you to be prepared. So there’s no better time than the present to update your privacy permissions than the present. Let’s face it: You’re not going to remember to check on your Facebook settings once the chaos of holiday parties and New Year’s resolutions takes hold.

Don’t throw it out! 5 handy uses for a secondary PC – With Black Friday and Cyber Monday past us, the holiday shopping season is now in full swing, and many people are pondering a new PC purchase. Whether you’re getting a new tower for gaming or an ultraportable to tote around at meetings, don’t throw out your old PC! Sure, its glory days may lay in the past, but as long as the aging machine you’re about to replace still runs there are plenty of ways to put it to good use.

The best (and worst) PC upgrades – PCs are lasting longer than ever, but interest in upgrading them so that they last even longer, or can handle newer software, is still high. But to get the best bang for the buck from an upgrade you have to spend money wisely. And buying the wrong thing might not only give you nothing in return, but it could mean that you have to spend even more money. What follows are the best and worst PC upgrades you can spend money on, along with an idea of how much the upgrade will set you back.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google to begin contacting customers about in-app refunds – Google will soon begin to contact customers who made in-app purchases on Android devices about potential refunds under a settlement of an unfair billing complaint by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The $19 million settlement is targeted at Google account holders whose children made unauthorized in-app purchases. Google is responsible for the entire cost of those in-app purchases, according to the settlement.

December Delights on Netflix – December is traditionally a time when studios release their specialty films, award contenders, grownup films, holiday favorites, movies for kids on Christmas vacation, etc. Some of the following films were December releases, many of them were critical favorites that received some year-end accolades, and mostly they just make good wintertime movies. All 10 of the movies are new to Netflix and highly recommended for your end-of-2014 viewing.

Use Overlay Blocker to close pop-up overlays in Chrome – This Chrome extension adds a button to your right-click menu, providing a quick and consistent way to close annoying overlays.


New communications app Wire tones down encryption claims – During its launch this week, Wire promised a Skype built with today’s technologies. But when it comes to use privacy the new service doesn’t appear to be that different than other platforms that came before it.

Cortana for Windows 10 gets demoed in new video – Cortana has been one of the more celebrated features of Windows Phone and it’s no secret that Microsoft is working to bring the uniquely personal digital assistant to the desktop in Windows 10. As we slowly move towards its full release sometime in 2015, it’s becoming clear that Windows 10 is shaping up to be the most feature-complete iteration of the OS in years. And while we were able to give you a sneak peek of Cortana on Windows 10 yesterday, there’s now some video of her in action too.


Microsoft’s Cortana Learns French, Italian, German, Spanish – Redmond’s answer to Siri is now rolling out in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain as part of an “alpha” launch, Microsoft has announced this week. “Alpha means that Cortana is new to these countries, most of the features in the beta version are available but some are missing or coming soon,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

Call+ app provides free international calls – You can make unlimited calls to a handful of countries and earn credits toward free calls to 85 others.


Grueling endurance test blows away SSD durability fears – An oft-discussed drawback to solid state drives was that they were ultimately unreliable. Despite the performance gains for your PC, it was only a matter of time before “poof!” your SSD would just up and die with almost no warning. But an ongoing project from Tech Report demonstrates what the experts have been saying for some time: fearing an SSD’s untimely death is more about myth than substance.

Skype and Lync Now Play Nice for Video Chat – Skype video calling is getting more open and interoperable. Microsoft on Friday announced that Skype users can now place video calls to their contacts on Lync, Redmond’s video and Web conferencing platform for businesses, and vice versa.

Comcast Makes It More And More Difficult To Opt-Out Of Internet Sharing – As we learned back in June, Comcast has decided to turn every cable router on its network into a public wi-fi access point. While this may sound like a good idea – free Internet for all Comcast subscribers everywhere is the goal – the reality clashes with the Internet user’s sense of freedom and control. And, unfortunately, Comcast is making it harder and harder to opt out of their service. DSLReports has noted that many users have found that even after disabling the sharing updates to the firmware re-enable it automatically.

8 Free Online Courses to Grow Your Tech Skills – If money was the only thing holding you back from learning more about technology, we’ve got good news for you. There are many places offering free online tech training that while may not be degree/certificate driven can still give you a leg up on the competition. While many of the courses listed here offer either a certificate or credit for a fee, they also all are free for those who just want to learn about technology or add a new skill to their “toolbox.”

New Wakie alarm clock forces you to have a conversation with a stranger – There’s a new app on the market aimed at trying to help you wake up in the morning, but rather than a blaring tone, Wakie forces you to have a minute-long phone conversation.


VLC for Windows Phone enters beta, for old-school video viewers – VLC is legendary for being able to play pretty much any video. Now that streaming services are common, however, it’s more of a niche app than it used to be.


Hands-on with the latest challenger to the Raspberry Pi – Raspberry Pi not powerful enough for you? Imagination Technologies MIPS Creator CI20 offers a faster processor, more memory and beefier GPU but is also more expensive.

Want an iPhone 6? Better pick one up soon because shortages are predicted for next year – The iPhone 6 could be harder to find next year as Apple shifts production to favor the larger and more expensive iPhone 6 Plus.

The Best Apps For People Who Don’t Like Spending Money – With these five apps, you’re not cheap, you’re thrifty.


Fake browser warning your uncle might fall for delivers malicious trojan – Hackers have an almost unlimited number of ways to install malware on the computers of unsuspecting people. One of the more effective ones is, paradoxically itself, preying on the fear of being hacked. In fact, the above warning is generated by attackers pushing ZeuS, a highly malicious computer trojan that steals online banking credentials and makes infected computers part of a botnet that can carry out a variety of other criminal acts. Researchers from PhishLabs who came across the warning still don’t know exactly how people encounter the advisory hoax. They were, however, able to track the malware that gets installed when a user falls for it and clicks the update button. It’s tied to a ZeuS command and control server.


Bebe Stores says credit card data hacked – Women’s clothing retailer Bebe Stores has become the latest national retailer to be hit by an attack on its credit card payment system. The company said Friday that the cardholder name, account number, expiration date, and verification code could have been stolen by hackers who apparently had access to the company’s payment processing system between Nov. 8 and 26.

Hackers send e-mail to Sony employees threatening their families – The e-mail is just the latest affront to Sony in the last two weeks since it was hacked in late November. Sony Pictures Entertainment suffered a devastating blow to its internal corporate network at the hands of hackers who promptly released passwords, e-mails, identification documents for cast and crew members of Sony’s productions, business documents listing salaries, and media files from employees’ computers. Today’s e-mail was poorly written and cryptically asked that employees “Please sign your name to object the false of the company at the email address below.” “If you don’t, not only you but your family will be in danger,” the e-mail added. Sony said it was working with law enforcement on the matter.

Multiple vulnerabilities found in Google App Engine – Researchers find many security holes in the Java parts of Google’s Platform as a Service offering, but get kicked off the service before finishing.

Company News:

Apple Betting Big on India With Plans for 500 Stores – Apple is taking the old saying “go big or go home” to heart when it comes to its strategy for India. The tech giant is planning to open 500 iOS-centric retail stores in the country in a major expansion into smaller Indian towns and cities, according to a report from The Times of India. The move will represent Apple’s first major push into the fast-growing Indian phone market.

Uber Faces Legal Action In India Following Arrest Of Rape Suspect – A suspect in the alleged rape of an Uber customer by her driver in New Delhi, India has been arrested. The man is named Shiv Kumar Yadav, and he will go before a New Delhi court on Monday, according to Reuters. Madhur Verma, New Delhi police deputy commissioner, said that Uber may also face legal action for failing to run background checks and failure to have a GPS device in the car

Apple’s iPod ‘deleted music’ trial may be dropped due to lack of plaintiffs – Apple is facing a big lawsuit in relation to its alleged anti-competitive actions taken against rival music services. However that lawsuit might simply go away due to lack of a plaintiff. In a surprise move, Apple’s lawyers have found a major issue with the two plaintiffs named in the case: neither of them actually purchased one of the iPods that the suit covers. In other words the suit may actually be dropped because the two women plaintiffs haven’t actually suffered any damages.

Google pulls piracy apps from Play Store – Following its recent changes to Search, Google has pulled a handful of piracy apps from the Play Store, citing violations of the company’s Content Policy. The pulled apps are said to have offered optimized web experiences for using The Pirate Bay, and include the apps “The Pirate Bay Premium”, “The Pirate Bay Proxy”, “The Pirate Bay Mirror”, and the “PirateApp”. This is the latest Google effort to combat piracy and steer users towards legally obtained content.

Angry Birds developer Rovio lays off 110 staff – Rovio has announced that it will be making 110 staff — of a global workforce of around 800 — redundant in a company “reorganisation”, as well as closing up its game development studio in Tampere, Finland. The cuts, which were initially announced in early October, were fewer than anticipated, Rovio said.

56% of Google’s Online Ads are Never ‘Seen’ – According to some new research from Google, 56.1 percent of ads on its various display advertising platforms remain unviewed. That’s not to say that the ads disappear, or that some code in the page itself makes the ad impossible to see. When it speaks of “viewability,” Google defines an advertisement as having been viewed if 50 percent of the ad’s pixels are in view for at least one second’s worth of time.

Games and Entertainment:

The 10 Best Nintendo Wii U Games – This generation’s most underappreciated home video console has some of the best games on the market. These are the Wii U games that you should own.


Get The First Look at the New Zelda’s Massive World – Nintendo has been dropping hints all year that the next Legend of Zelda game for the Wii U would have a huge overworld. New footage of the upcoming title shows just how massive that world is.


This is what the new King’s Quest looks like – Back in August, classic video game company Sierra announced that it was coming back from the dead — and it was bringing the beloved franchise King’s Quest with it. Tonight at The Game Awards in Las Vegas, during a tribute Roberta and Ken Williams, the creators of the original game, we got our first look at the rebooted King’s Quest. The new game looks to maintain the spirit of the original, but with a revamped, sleek new 3D art style.


Holocaust Video Game Competes Against US Army Drone Sim in Bizarre Face-Off – Each year, the American defense industry sponsors a ‘Serious Games’ video game competition in Florida. This time it was between a US Army simulator that teaches you how to pilot a drone, a tactical Warfare game funded by the Navy, and an educational game that has the player experience the civilian psychotrauma of war. The point-and-click adventure game Czechoslovakia: 38-89 was one of the finalists in the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge, a five day conference held in Orlando for games and simulations that have “clearly defined, measurable learning objectives.”


This is what the new Uncharted looks like on the PlayStation 4 – Today at Sony’s first-ever PlayStation Experience event, the company showed off the first real-time gameplay footage of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End — originally announced in November 2013 and due out sometime next year. What’s new here is graphic fidelity, and the footage we’re seeing is rich in texture — from the rustle of foliage to the dust-up of stray bullets hitting rock. (It’s worth noting that at one during the live event stream, the game seemed to glitch as Drake fell into unfinished… uncharted territory. That glitch isn’t present in the official gameplay video, above.) The animation, particularly with close quarter combat, looks more detailed and nuanced.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Why do we cling to beliefs when they’re threatened by facts? – People hold beliefs for a complex variety of reasons. Some of these beliefs may be based on facts, but others may be based on ideas that can never be proved or disproven. For example, people who are against the death penalty might base their belief partly on evidence that the death penalty does not reduce violent crime (which could later be shown to be false), and partly on the notion that the death penalty violates a fundamental human right to life. The latter is an unfalsifiable belief, because it can’t be changed purely by facts. According to a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, unfalsifiability is an important component of both religious and political beliefs. It allows people to hold their beliefs with more conviction, but it also allows them to become more polarized in those beliefs.

4D hockey broadcasts will hip-check you at home – Watching sports on TV got a whole lot better with the advent of high-definition video. But as good as the action looks, you still can’t feel it. Not yet, anyway, but you’ll be able to soon enough. The Guitammer Company, based in my home state of Ohio, are working on a more immersive home viewing experience for sports fanatics. Guitammer is the force behind ButtKicker low-frequency transducers, piston-powered devices that turn audio input into physical vibrations. They’re used in loads of 4D theaters like the ones at Disney, Universal Studios, and perhaps even your local IMAX.


Furious GTA V gamers seek similar ban on violent, misogynistic title: the Holy Bible – Last month campaigners started a petition on to get GTA5 banned by the big-box retail chains, claiming the game “encourages players to murder women for entertainment.” The campaigners also claim the game trains young men to link sex and violence, although academics disagree. After nearly 50,000 people added their signatures to the petition, both store chains caved and withdrew the title. Gamers haven’t taken this lying down, however. They have started a petition of their own seeking to ban another form of media packed with sex, violence, and misogyny – the Holy Bible.

German Chancellor voices support for fast lane internet, opposing net neutrality – German leader Angela Merkel made comments earlier in the week on the topic of net neutrality, an important issue being discussed by a number of European governments, not to mention the U.S. Unfortunately for those in support of an internet with speeds unregulated by telecommunications companies, Chancellor Merkel doesn’t feel the same, arguing instead for the controversial “two-lane” setup that has many users concerned.

19 Times Australian Politicians Were Complete Morons In 2014 – Girly-men, shirtfronts and Ebola infected suicide bombers. The year kicked off with South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi writing a book, linking single families to crime and “promiscuity”.


Video game console pioneer Ralph Baer dies at 92 – It’s a sad day for video gamers, particularly those who remember or know well the industry’s history and roots on this side of the world. Ralph Baer, a luminary in the video game world and creator of the Magnavox Odyssey, passed away December 6 at a ripe and well-lived age of 92. Baer received the National Medal of Technology from then President George W. Bush in 2006 and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010.

Something to think about:

The Mushroom Theory of Management and Politics – “Keep them in the dark, feed them a lot of horse shit and they will come along nicely.”

–      Anonymous

Today’s Free Downloads:

Universal Media Server – Universal Media Server is a DLNA-compliant UPnP Media Server.

It is based on PS3 Media Server by shagrath. It is actually an evolution of the “SubJunk Build” of PMS.

UMS was started by SubJunk, an official developer of PMS, in order to ensure greater stability and file-compatibility.

Because it is written in Java, Universal Media Server supports all major operating systems, with versions for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

The program streams or transcodes many different media formats with little or no configuration.

It is powered by MEncoder, FFmpeg, tsMuxeR, AviSynth, MediaInfo and more, which combine to offer support for a wide range of media formats.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Mass surveillance programs do not violate human rights, UK tribunal rules – The U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) made the ruling in a case that rights groups brought against the U.K. government over alleged mass surveillance on U.K. citizens via programs run by the British intelligence agency GCHQ and the U.S. National Security Agency. Both programs were brought to light in documents leaked by Edward Snowden last year.

However, those programs are legal under the 14-year-old Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which regulates the U.K. government’s surveillance powers, the Tribunal ruled Friday.

“The ‘Snowden revelations’ in particular have led to the impression voiced in some quarters that the law in some way permits the Intelligence Services carte blanche to do what they will. We are satisfied this is not the case,” the IPT said in its Friday ruling, which was published by complainant Privacy International.

However, the tribunal, which was set up in 2000 to deal with complaints relating to the use of covert techniques, did ask for more comments about whether receiving bulk intercepted material from foreign intelligence agencies such as the NSA would be legal.

Not satisfied with the outcome, Privacy International and its co-claimant, Bytes for All, will lodge an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, challenging the Tribunal’s finding that mass surveillance could comply with Britain’s human rights.

Rand Paul is right about police brutality: our laws are a huge part of the problem – Protests for police reform are sweeping the United States following the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and an untold number of other unarmed or innocent people of color. Amid the anger and sadness one thing is clear: policing in America is a huge and complex problem. It’s also a historical problem. As Ta-Nehisi Coates observed in The Atlantic, the insane incarceration rate of blacks in this country is part of a long tradition; “America’s entire history is marked by the state imposing unfreedom on a large swath of the African American population.”

That tradition is as deep and as old as our revered constitution. The condition of possibility of America’s existence was a racist compromise baked into our founding document. We’re a country founded by people who declared forcefully that “all men are created equal” as a self-evident fact, and then twelve years later declared that black slaves were only worth three-fifths of free white men to avoid giving the south greater representation in Congress. The chokehold on people of color in America is written in ink. And it has always been about property.

So, perhaps ironically, I find myself sympathetic to the words of a southern white man, Senator Rand Paul. Listen to what he said when he was asked this week about Eric Garner’s death on MSNBC.


Wu-Tang Clan’s ‘A Better Tomorrow’ video is a powerful tribute to nationwide protesters – “A Better Tomorrow,” the title track from Wu-Tang Clan’s new album, is a powerful and contemplative song about social injustice, racial violence, and police brutality, anchored by Teddy Pendergrass’s haunting vocals from 1975’s “Wake Up Everybody.” So it’s especially fitting that the accompanying video, released just last night, incorporates dramatic footage of the peaceful and ongoing nationwide protests for both Brown and Eric Garner — just two of countless unarmed people of color that have died tragically at the hands of the police.



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