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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

Security:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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

Features:

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

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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.

Examples:

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.

Features:

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!

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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.

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