Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 2, 2014

Google Says These Are 2014’s Best Android Apps;  I Asked a Privacy Lawyer What Facebook’s New Terms and Conditions Will Mean for You;  When to image a hard drive, and when to clone it;  The best Internet TV gadgets of 2014;  There’s an App for the Next Time Your Car Breaks Down;  Autodesk Software Now Free For Schools And Students Everywhere;  Setting up Linux Mint 17.1 for the first time;  How to turn a Chromebox into a video-streaming workhorse;  5 Must-Have Tech Gadgets for New Parents;  Apple faces trial in decade-old iTunes DRM lawsuit;  Xbox Live Down, Hackers Take Credit;  Get ‘Titanfall’ on Xbox One and all its DLC for $12;  FBI warns of ‘destructive’ malware following Sony hack;  New Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit 1.05 (free).

Google Says These Are 2014’s Best Android Apps – With more than 1 million apps available, parsing through the Google Play Store can be a challenge. Google has provided some help by offering a list of the best Android apps of 2014. Whether you’re looking to stream a movie, learn a new language or manage your business calendar, chances are there’s an app that will fit the bill. Here’s a look at what Google has highlighted as the best of the best.

I Asked a Privacy Lawyer What Facebook’s New Terms and Conditions Will Mean for You – Over the years, Facebook has slowly expanded its terms and conditions, and last month the company announced that come January 1, 2015 all users will have to agree to new Terms of Service (TOS) or be locked out of the site. Since the social network has roughly 1.32 billion users, that is a BIG deal. But just what is in these new TOS? And should you be worried about them? I spoke with Maninder Gill, a partner at London’s Simons Muirhead & Burton and an expert in intellectual property and privacy law to find out just how far Facebook’s new terms go and how it will affect your online life.

SSLPersonas, making the padlock obvious – This blog post will showcase a Firefox Add-on that illustrates the SSL status of a web page in a more visually striking manner than the traditional method.

When to image a hard drive, and when to clone it – Imaging and cloning will both copy the contents of your drive, but the best way depends on whether you’re upgrading or backing up. Here’s when you should use each one.

Combat holiday stress with Buddhify 2 for Android, iOS – Holiday stress got you down? How about job stress? Travel stress? Facing-another-dreary-day stress? Whatever’s ailing your brain, mindfulness meditation can help. A lot. And a great place to start is with Buddhify 2, an app for Android and iOS that costs $2.99, £1.99 or AU$3.79.

Pro tip: Troubleshooting 10 known OS X Yosemite issues – Jesus Vigo reviews 10 documented issues affecting OS X Yosemite and offers troubleshooting tips to work through them.

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Voice control comes to the forefront of the smart home – Forget about your phone or tablet — these voice-control products let you control your home via verbal command.

Six Clicks: The best Internet TV gadgets of 2014 – Today, “cord cutting” — switching off from cable or satellite TV to over-the-air (OTA) and the Internet for your television — still isn’t common. But it’s getting there. There is no single best device, but here’s the best of the best.

How to customize your Gmail signature on Android – Customizing your Gmail signature on Android will allow you to let people know you’re mobile, or help pretend you’re at work.

Compulab’s Utilite2 PC is so small it will fit in a Christmas stocking – The Utilite2 is the next generation in the Utilite range, and comes in at 30% smaller than the previous model. It’s a similar size to a typical desktop mouse, with the aluminum case measuring just 85 x 85 x 27mm. Inside you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor running at 1.7GHz combined with an Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB DDR3-1066 RAM. Storage comes in the form of 4GB on-board flash memory, but also an mSATA slot for up to a 512GB SSD and a microSD port for up to 128GB cards. Ports wise there’s 1x HDMI 1.4a and 4x USB 2.0 slots. WiFi (802.11/b/g/n) and Bluetooth 4.0 are also built in as standard.

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There’s an App for the Next Time Your Car Breaks Down – New companies are taking aim at an industry long-dominated by AAA

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Autodesk Software Now Free For Schools And Students Everywhere – The move means that Autodesk software, including AutoCAD, Sketchbook, 3D Max, Maya and more, will be available to around 680 million students and teachers across 800,000 secondary and post-secondary schools, according to the company, without any paid license required. The catch is that some cloud services and support require additional paid subscriptions, but that’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to enterprise software sales model these days.

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SnapBox expands its high-quality, low-cost photo-printing options – From peel-and-stick posters for less than a dollar to framed canvas prints, the service lets you quickly turn your smartphone pictures (or camera shots, of course) into artwork and the results are fantastic.

Firefox 34 Launches With Yahoo As Its Default Search Engine – Mozilla today rolled out Firefox 34. While most browser updates these days aren’t all that exciting, this one includes a couple of interesting new features. What most users in North America will notice right off the bat, however, is that this is the first version of Firefox with Yahoo as its default search experience. It’s easy enough to change the default search engine in Firefox, and I would guess that most current users will quickly switch back to Google.

How to prevent Firefox from automatically switching you to Yahoo search – Dreading the notion of Yahoo becoming your default search engine in Firefox later this month? Here’s how to stop that from happening.

Setting up Linux Mint 17.1 for the first time – Linux Mint 17.1 with the Cinnamon 2.4 interface may well be the best Linux desktop to date — and I speak as someone who has been using Linux on PCs for over 20 years now. Mint will run on almost any PC from the last decade. It requires only any x86 processor and 512MB of RAM, although 1GB is recommended. You’ll also need 9GB of disk space, though 20GB is recommended, any graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution, an Internet connection, and a DVD drive or USB port. That’s it. To try it for yourself, just do the following steps.

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How to turn a Chromebox into a video-streaming workhorse – Chromeboxes practically beg to have their HDMI ports connected to televisions, so I asked Asus to loan me one for testing. (The company sent a much pricier Intel Core i3 model, but the cheaper Celeron-based Chromeboxes should suffice for basic media streaming.) The Chromebox quickly became a powerful tool in my media-streaming arsenal, going places that other set-top boxes can’t. But it took some work to whip it into TV-friendly shape. Here’s what I did.

5 Must-Have Tech Gadgets for New Parents – Any American who has ever procreated knows what a racket the baby industry is. So, instead of buying a high-tech bottle-warmer (you know a bowl of hot water does the trick too, right?) get mom and dad something they’ll be able to use for years, not months. (Unless you buy them diapers; you can’t go wrong with diapers.) For fresh ideas, try these five unexpected, must-have gadgets for new parents.

Microsoft and NORAD launch 2014 Santa Tracker – Following closely after Google, NORAD’s 2014 Santa Tracker website is up and running in partnership with Microsoft. As with past years, kids can keep track of Santa’s progress as Christmas nears, and while waiting they can play new games, watch some videos, and more. Microsoft says the latest NORAD Santa Tracker features improved performance over last year, as well as some other particulars we have detailed for you after the jump.

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You’ll be able to buy your next box of Girl Scout cookies online – Buying Girl Scout cookies is about to become much easier. For the first time ever, the Girl Scouts of the USA will accept online orders of Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Savannah Smiles, and other cookies during the upcoming selling season. After nearly 100 years of requiring purchases to be made in person, the Scouts are now giving girls the option of setting up a website where friends and family can order boxes from anywhere in the US.

Google Chromebooks trump Apple iPads in schools, says IDC – While some might contend Google’s dominance in certain markets, like smartphones and tablets, there is one sector where Apple’s products usually reign supreme: education. Initially a source of controversy because of price, iPads have become the gadget of choice for schools upgrading to current technology. But apparently, not anymore. According to IDC’s latest figures, Google’s Chromebooks have surpassed the iPad in shipping numbers as far as schools are concerned, revealing a shifting preference and mindset in the education sector and probably a new source of worry for Apple.

Security:

New ATM Skimmers Connect To The Card Reader Via A Nearly Invisible Hole – A new advance in credit card theft technology has hit the streets and it’s pretty clever. The ATM hackers are now drilling a small hole near the card reader and inserting a bit of electronics that connects to the ATM’s innards. The hole is then covered by a decal and the skimmer fished out once the thieves are ready to take in their haul. Discovered by the European ATM Security Team, the new skimmers are not physically attached to the outside of the machine and instead are hidden inside, out of sight. Thieves still have to use hidden cameras to steal user PIN codes, a fact that is key in preventing credit card theft. Hiding the PIN pad with your free hand is imperative no matter where you are.

New evidence points to North Korean involvement in Sony Pictures hack – As Sony Pictures employees still struggle to get back online, new evidence is emerging that suggests North Korea may be behind the hack. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that researchers investigating the hack have found the malicious code to be almost exactly the same as the code used in a March 2013 attack on a series of South Korean banks and broadcasters, an attack widely believed to have been conducted by North Korea. Re/code had previously reported that Sony was investigating a North Korean connection, but this new analysis is the most definitive evidence unearthed so far.

FBI warns of ‘destructive’ malware following Sony hack – The US agency has warned US businesses to stay alert due to the discovery of some particularly nasty malware in the wild — while North Korea refuses to deny involvement.

Uber reportedly gave a job applicant full access to customer travel records – Citing an anonymous source, The Washington Post reports that an Uber job applicant was given unfettered access to the company’s customer ride database after interviewing at its Washington DC offices last year, allowing him to see the travel records of anyone — including family members of politicians. The experience was time-limited, though The Post says that it lasted for “several hours” after the interview concluded.

Phishing scam that penetrated Wall Street just might work against you, too – Researchers have uncovered a group of Wall Street-savvy hackers that has penetrated the e-mail accounts of more than 100 companies, a feat that has allowed them to obtain highly valuable plans concerning corporate acquisitions and other insider information. FIN4, as the group is known, relies on a set of extremely simple tactics that in many cases has allowed them to remain undetected since at least the middle of 2013, according to a report published Monday from security firm FireEye

Officials seize 292 domain names to protect consumers during holiday season – The holiday season is rife with online rip-offs. In a move to protect consumers, law enforcement officials have seized 292 domain names for sites that allegedly were selling counterfeit goods. The sites were being used to illegally sell counterfeit merchandise including luxury goods, sportswear, electronics, pharmaceuticals and pirated goods like movies and music, Europol said Monday.

Company News:

Apple faces trial in decade-old iTunes DRM lawsuit – The past is coming back to haunt Apple, as a nearly 10-year-old class-action antitrust lawsuit accusing the company of trying to monopolize online music distribution is headed to trial. The Apple iPod iTunes antitrust litigation accuses Apple of violating U.S. and California antitrust law by restricting music purchased on iTunes from being played on devices other than iPods and by not allowing iPods to play music purchased on other digital music services. Plaintiffs are seeking about US$350 million in the case.

Microsoft acquires email app Acompli – After accidentally announcing it a little early, Microsoft is officially confirming it has acquired email startup Acompli. The surprise acquisition means Microsoft is picking up a powerful email client for iPhone and Android in another move that further cements CEO Satya Nadella’s focus on cross-platform technologies.

PayPal Reports Record-Breaking Number Of Black Friday Shoppers And Sales On Mobile – The move to offer online shoppers earlier access to Black Friday deals – beginning as early as Thanksgiving Day this year – resulted in record-breaking numbers of consumers shopping on mobile, reports PayPal. Based on its online commerce data, the company reports having seen a 47% increase in PayPal global mobile payment volume on Thanksgiving compared with Thanksgiving 2013, and a 62% increase for Black Friday 2014 over last year. Meanwhile, the company also saw a 43% increase in the number of customers shopping through PayPal mobile this Thanksgiving, and a 51% increase across the same metric on Black Friday.

Zenefits Faces Shutdown In Utah For Giving Its Cloud-Based HR Software Away For Free – Zenefits has become the latest startup to face regulatory scrutiny in a market it serves, as it is now faces opposition from the Insurance Commission of Utah. The Commission is taking the company to task essentially for giving its cloud-based HR software away for free, which the regulator says violates local laws and is unfair to traditional insurance brokers.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox Live Down, Hackers Take Credit – Hackers belonging to the “Lizard Squad” claimed to have taken down Xbox Live on Monday evening, apparently by means of a DDOS attack. The hacking group, which Attack of the Fanboy noted has been targeting gaming servers for several months, tweeted a short message at 8:37 p.m. Eastern celebrating their latest exploit: “Xbox Live #offline.”

Dragon Age: Inquisition Review – I seldom spend 100 hours on anything these days, let alone a video game, but I spent at least that much time with Dragon Age: Inquisition, the latest sprawling epic RPG from BioWare, studio that brought us Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and the Mass Effect series. Dragon Age: Inquisition is the third game in its high fantasy franchise, and it’s easily the most ambitious. It’s also one of the most engrossing games I’ve ever played, and for a fan of this kind of conversation clicker, that’s saying something.

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Great deal: Get ‘Titanfall’ on Xbox One and all its DLC for $12 – “Titanfall,” one of the best-reviewed original multiplayer shooter in years, can now be purchased with all its downloadable content for $12 with an Xbox Live Gold account.

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Kicking it old-school: How EverQuest, RuneScape, and Quake stood the test of time – These PC games have been around far longer than most. Developers behind Quake, EverQuest, and RuneScape explain how they keep gamers coming back after all these years.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Europe has good reasons to fear Google – What the European Parliament is proposing sounds like Ayn Rand’s worst nightmare. Let’s take Google, one of the best and most cohesive set of web services we have, and fragment it into smaller businesses. Let’s introduce friction and bureaucracy between the various parts so that lesser companies with worse products can have a chance to compete. It feels like a classic case of over-regulation — penalizing a successful company for the crime of being better than everyone else — however its fundamental premise is not wrong: Google is too powerful.

The first true color image of Comet 67P looks like Mars – Though the Philae lander did (most of) its job and has gone into hibernation, Comet 67P is no further from the collective consciousness of armchair astronomers across the world. A few images of the comet have been around the block since Rosetta first reached space rock, but they’ve all been in a drab greyscale. Rosetta’s not yet done with 67P, though, and has taken the first true color image of the rock, replacing the grainy, grey image that has been burned into our brains with something more vibrant.

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Coming soon: Murder by Internet – Security experts now believe that the Internet of Things will — eventually — be used for murderous purposes. You can dismiss these concerns as hype or exaggeration, but many security community predictions about earlier Internet-related risks have become true. As businesses raced to develop Web platforms, security experts imagined massive breaches and thefts of personal and financial data in every way possible. There’s no question they were right.

Net neutrality: Five myths, and the real facts – Regardless of where you stand on the net neutrality debate, one thing doesn’t help: misleading or confusing statements. Unfortunately there are plenty of them. We’ve teased out the facts behind five net neutrality myths. It won’t resolve the debate, but it’ll help you understand what’s really going on.

Nature bends to scientists by making archives free – Research studies published in respected scientific journal Nature are now free to read online, publisher Macmillan announced today. The studies are free to read using a software platform Nature describes as “similar to Apple’s iTunes,” but only accessible if you have a direct link provided by a subscriber, and kept in a format that prohibits copying, printing, or downloading. Nature says the shift comes as those who offer scientific funding are demanding that research is made free to read.

Obama Proposes $263M Fund for Police Body Cameras – President Obama on Monday proposed spending $263 million to help equip the nation’s law enforcement officials with body cameras. The move comes amidst unrest in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. There have been conflicting reports about what actually happened that day in August, and many have suggested (including our own Sascha Segan) that requiring police to wear body cameras would reduce the likelihood of police misconduct or provide officers with proof of their actions if there is a dispute.

Two-phone standoff after cop stops man for ‘walking with hands in pockets’ – In Michigan, a police officer stops a man who apparently was doing nothing wrong. They both pull out their mobile phones and film each other. Uploaded originally to the Facebook page of Brandon McKean on Thanksgiving Day, it’s yet another bracing reminder of what sometimes goes on between authority figures and those they deem suspicious. African-American men, for example.

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Lumia 1030 leaks: bigger body, 50-megapixel camera – There’s nothing like a Lumia to get your brain excited about massive smartphone-based camera technology. This morning we’re getting a look at the successor to the Lumia 1020. Nokia’s first Windows Phone with a massive camera at its back, the Nokia Lumia 1020 was originally released with a 41-megapixel sensor. This new Lumia 1030 is said to run with a 50-megapixel sensor, taking the biggest photos any smartphone will have taken yet. By a large margin. And only really beating Nokia’s previous release – now made by the same crew, but owned by Microsoft instead.

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Something to think about:

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

–      Mark Twain

Today’s Free Downloads:

Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit – While we’re still riding high on Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit winning the V3 Security Innovation of the year award, we are also happy to announce the general availability of the new Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit 1.05.1.1014.

While with 0.10 beta we did a complete re-write of the underlying service architecture, this build is a complete re-write or refactor of the protection DLL. This refactoring greatly improves the overall stability and reduces most known conflicts with third-party applications as detailed in the Known Issues list.

In addition we’ve added a whole new protection layer. The new Layer0 called “Application Hardening” now includes protections such as DEP Enforcement, Anti-HeapSpraying and BottomUp ASLR Enforcement. The other protection layers have also been improved by including ROP protection and StackPivoting 64bit mitigations in Layer1, 64bit caller mitigations for Layer2 and new application behavior mitigations for Layer3. As an example of Layer3, we’ve added a mitigation for the much talked-about recent PowerPoint zero-day vulnerabilities CVE-2014-4114 and CVE-2014-6352. After some testing we saw that the mitigation suggested by Microsoft for EMET could cause system instabilities and conflicts with third-party applications. We have therefore designed a much more stable mitigation for these type of vulnerabilities.

This 1.05 version also introduces a 14-day trial mode. There are some other UI improvements that can be seen immediately, such as a re-designed shielded applications counter which counts unique instances of applications rather than total number of processes, traybar balloon messages when protection is stopped, or different UI designs depending on the build (Free vs Premium vs Corporate), among others.

TeamViewer – Desktop sharing has never been easier: With TeamViewer you will be able to connect to the desktop of a partner anywhere on the Internet. This is the complete TeamViewer with install and uninstall support.

TeamViewer also works in the other direction: Show your own desktop to a partner over the Internet and illustrate your own developed software, presentations or solutions.

Remote Control without Installation – With TeamViewer you can remotely control any PC anywhere on the Internet. No installation is required, just run the application on both sides and connect – even through tight firewalls.

Remote Presentation of Products, Solutions and Services – The second TeamViewer mode allows you to present your desktop to a partner. Show your demos, products and presentations over the Internet within seconds – live from your screen.

NOTE: Free for non-commercial use only.

Features:

Remote Control without Installation:

With TeamViewer you can remotely control any PC anywhere on the Internet. No installation is required, just run the application on both sides and connect – even through tight firewalls.

Remote Presentation of Products, Solutions and Services:

The second TeamViewer mode allows you to present your desktop to a partner. Show your demos, products and presentations over the Internet within seconds – live from your screen.

File Transfer:

TeamViewer comes with integrated file transfer that allows you to copy files and folders from and to a remote partner – which also works behind firewalls

Works behind Firewalls:

The major difficulties in using remote control software are firewalls and blocked ports, as well as NAT routing for local IP addresses.

If you use TeamViewer you don’t have to worry about firewalls: TeamViewer will find a route to your partner.

Highest Security Standard:

TeamViewer is a very secure solution. The commercial TeamViewer versions feature completely secure data channels with key exchange and RC4 session encoding, the same security standard used by https/SSL.

No Installation Required:

To install TeamViewer no admin rights are required. Just run the software and off you go…

High Performance:

Optimized for connections over LANs AND the Internet, TeamViewer features automatic bandwidth-based quality selection for optimized use on any connection.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Feds dig up law from 1789 to demand Apple, Google decrypt smartphones, slabs – The FBI has made it no secret that it hates Apple and Google’s efforts to encrypt files in your smartphones and tablets.

Now court documents have emerged showing just how far the Feds are willing to go to decrypt citizens’ data.

The paperwork has shown two cases where federal prosecutors have cited the All Writs Act – which was enacted in 1789 as part of the Judiciary Act – to force companies to decrypt information on gadgets.

The Act, which was signed into law by none other than George Washington and later revised in the 20th century, gives the courts the right to…

“issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”

That’s a pretty broad remit, but the Feds think it’s just the thing to force Apple and others to break down privacy protections.

Device fingerprinting tech: It’s not a cookie, but ‘cookie’ rules apply – Website operators that turn to new “device fingerprinting” technologies to track internet users’ behaviour in place of “cookies” have to obtain users’ consent in accordance with the same EU legal standards that apply to the use of cookies, an EU privacy watchdog has said.

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