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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Security:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Furious GTA V gamers seek similar ban on violent, misogynistic title: the Holy Bible – Last month campaigners started a petition on Change.org 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 Change.org 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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2 Comments

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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 8, 2014

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: 19 Times Australian Politicians Were Complete Morons In 2014

    Very embarrassing, dumb comments by those who we voted into government. Actually, I think every word that comes out of their mouths is a waste of oxygen.

    I would have liked to have seen Tony Abbot “shirtfront” Putin. Putin is a master in Judo, whereas Phoney only ever did a bit of college boxing. Puting would crush him lol.

    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      Yeah, I’d pay big bucks to see Abbot(t) and Costello (Harper), put up, or shut up. Nothing but big nasty mouths on the pair of them though – so, that ain’t likely to happen. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill