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Windows 7 update that broke future Windows 7 updates – One of this week’s Patch Tuesday updates for Windows 7 has been withdrawn after some users discovered that it blocked installation of software containing digital signatures, including first- and third-party software, and even other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 Microsoft has issued a second update to remove the bad update from affected machines and has withdrawn the original update for Windows 7.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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Apple.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Security:

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Features:

Safe:

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!

Customizable:

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.

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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.

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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.

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6 Comments

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

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 15, 2014

  1. In the 9 steps to protect your mobile device, there is an error. The author lists Avast Free Mobile Security as protection for both Android and iPhones.
    It’s only available, at present, for Android devices.