Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 18, 2014

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

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

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

How to get the most free online storage – With the market for cloud storage services starting to get crowded, we take a look at how to get as much storage from the different providers as possible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Something to think about:

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Today’s Free Downloads:

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

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

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

Version: 8.5

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

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

Version: 3.3

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

Free license, just install.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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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 18, 2014

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Tony Abbott condoms. Lmao. Too funny. I will keep it clean and only say that I think one would fit on over his head.

    Cheers