Monthly Archives: January 2015

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 30, 2015

New Chrome extension spots unencrypted tracking;  This Is the Future of Humanity in One Disturbing Photo;  Imgur just made GIF creation much easier with free online tool;  Apps let you prove your soul mate is real, even if it’s a lie;  How Can I Save My Phone’s Battery When it’s Cold Out?  LibreOffice 4.4 brings better looks and OpenGL;  Stop LinkedIn from sharing which profiles you view;  Nickelodeon to introduce its own video subscription service;  FREE: Outlook for iOS and Android;  February PlayStation Plus Free Game Lineup Revealed;  Comcast’s “asshole” problem;  Your shopping habits are one in a million, literally;  Windows User Manager (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

New Chrome extension spots unencrypted tracking – The Chrome extension, called TrackerSSL, alerts users when a website is using insecure trackers and gives them an option of tweeting a message to the website letting it know of the issue. TrackerSSL was created by Open Effect, a digital privacy watchdog, and Citizen Lab, a technology-focused think tank at the University of Toronto.


TrackerSSL, a Chrome extension, identifies third-party trackers on websites that are insecurely sending data across the Internet.

How to watch the Super Bowl for free: Cut the cable cord! – Just like other networks that have offered a free live stream of the Super Bowl in previous years, NBC will make the 2015 game available through its NBC Sports website and mobile app. Still, getting the spectacle onto the device of your choosing could be tricky, so read on for the best ways to watch the Super Bowl without a pay-TV subscription.

FREE: Outlook for iOS and Android, plus more mobe Office goodies – Microsoft is proud to unleash more ‘free’ mobile apps for iOS and Android. Along with the new Outlook app — based on Acompli — the Android tablet versions of the other Office apps are now fully supported, being no longer in preview.

Enter Windows 8 Safe Mode when you can’t boot Windows 8 – You can’t directly boot into Windows 8’s Safe Mode; you can only reboot into it. Here’s how to get around that using a key drive.

This Is the Future of Humanity in One Disturbing Photo – I have a dream: That one day, all women, men and children will live in a virtual world devoid of social connection and existential meaning, suckled by a constant stream of saccharine liquids and delectable quasi-nutrients, and preoccupied by an unending wave of sensory distractions and entertainments. Actually, that’s more of a nightmare, and we may be about to live it. Thanks to the increasing ubiquity of virtual reality headsets and the general physical ease of daily life, it’s going to be more and more common to see people living like the guy in this photo posted on Reddit.


Imgur just made GIF creation much easier with free online tool – Creating a GIF might seem like witchcraft to the uninitiated, but it’s really not that difficult. Apps like GIFBrewery for OS X make quick work of taking your videos from full-length to looping clips in seconds. Thanks to Imgur, you can do the same with any video, now. Via their GIF creation tool, which is now live, videos from a hosting site like YouTube or Vimeo can become GIFs. Keep in mind that whatever GIF you create becomes public domain.

Logitech Unifying app brings Chrome OS peripherals support – Chromebooks might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the inexpensive devices have found a solid footing among consumers and so it isn’t surprising there’s a demand for accessories that are compatible with them. Logitech has just made it easier to use its own peripherals with the new “Logitech Unifying” app specifically made for Chromebooks. Using this, Chrome OS users can plug a USB receiver into their Chromebooks and then connect things like a mouse and keyboard to the unit.

Apps let you prove your soul mate is real, even if it’s a lie – With Invisible Girlfriend and Invisible Boyfriend, you can show off a make-believe mate to get family and friends off your back. Crave’s Bonnie Burton explains why that’s so tempting.

Control music on your Mac from your iPhone’s Notification Center – With the TodayRemote app, you can control iTunes on your Mac with the added benefit of not needing to open an app on your iPhone to do so. TodayRemote lets you add a widget to Notification Center, giving you access to playback and volume controls just by swiping down from the top edge of your iPhone. The app is free, but a $1.99 in-app purchase lets you use TodayRemote with Spotify, Rdio, VLC and Vox, while also adding global volume control and the ability to control multiple Macs from a single iPhone.


Android shipments in 2014 exceed 1 billion for first time – That gave Google’s mobile operating system 81 percent of the worldwide market in 2014, compared with 15 percent for Apple’s iOS.

Video game simulates the frustration of building IKEA furniture – A new video game called Höme Improvisåtion does just that, placing an endless supply of flat boxes in front of you with the goal of putting together pieces of furniture for your virtual home. The game, free on both Mac and Windows PCs, was developed by a team of four people in 48 hours — Aj Kolenc, Jessica Jackson, Colton Spross, and Josh Faubel — as part of the 2015 Global Game Jam in Atlanta earlier this month. You can download the game from the team’s website, The Stork Burnt Down. I played the Höme Improvisåtion game for just a few minutes and got so frustrated that I closed it and vowed never to build virtual IKEA furniture ever again. Yep, just like in real life.


LibreOffice 4.4 brings better looks and OpenGL to your presentations – Free and open source office suite LibreOffice was updated today, with its developers calling it “the most beautiful LibreOffice ever.” The highlight of the new release is a far-reaching visual refresh, with menus, toolbars, status bars, and more being updated to look and work better. While LibreOffice retains the traditional menus-and-toolbars approach that Microsoft abandoned in Office 2007, the new version is meant to make those menus and toolbars easier to navigate. The new appearance is most significant on OS X, where a new theme has been made the default.

You Asked: How Can I Save My Phone’s Battery When it’s Cold Out? – If you’ve ever had a hunch your phone’s charge doesn’t last as long in the wintertime, you’re not crazy: Cold temperatures have a nasty effect on batteries. Just like wintertime makes it harder to get your car to start, your phone won’t last as long in cold weather. However, all is not lost — there are some ways to keep your phone as warm and happy as a skier sipping hot cocoa after a day on the slopes.


Malvertising hits xHamster thanks to recent Adobe 0-day – A massive malvertising campaign leveraging the recent Adobe Flash zero day vulnerability has surfaced on popular* adult site xHamster, analysts say. The attack served the Bedep Trojan to the site’s 500 million viewers a month through a surreptitious exploit on the landing page. It did not take advantage of the Angler exploit kit, where one of the latest Flash zero day flaws was found last week. MalwareBytes researchers said the attack was simple yet effective. “Contrary to the majority of drive-by download attacks which use an exploit kit, this one is very simple and yet effective by embedding landing page and exploit within a rogue ad network,” they wrote in a post. “While malvertising on xHamster is nothing new, this particular campaign is extremely active. “Given that this adult site generates a lot of traffic, the number of infections is going to be huge.”

Pointing up    If you’re going to porn surf, you should only do so using a sandbox environment such as that offered by Sandboxie. You can download the free application here.


Stop LinkedIn from sharing which profiles you view – There are a number of reasons that you may be perusing the profiles of others on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, LinkedIn is also good at sharing your profile browsing habits. Each time you visit a profile, the owner may receive an email or an alert on the website about your visit, depending on the type of LinkedIn account they have. If you want to stop this from happening, you’ll have to make an adjustment to your account settings. Here’s how:

Email scammers stole $215M from businesses in 14 months – The Business E-mail Compromise scam is alive and well, and expected to rise both when it comes to the number of victims and the total money loss sustained by them. According to a public service announcement released by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), in the period between October 1, 2013, and December 1, 2014 – 14 months in all – there have been nearly 1200 US and a little over 900 non-US victims of BEC scams, and the total money loss reached nearly $215 million.

Police ransomware scam drives UK teen to suicide – For most people, a ransomware infection is not a huge tragedy: they pay the bogus fine (or not), and ultimately get their computer back either because the criminals unlock it or because they clean up the machine themselves. But for 17-year-old UK schoolboy Joseph Edwards it was the end of the world. The autistic youngster had his computer blocked by the malware downloaded from an email containing a bogus Cheshire Police notice, which said that he visited illegal websites and downloaded images and that he has to pay a £100 fine or risk being prosecuted. The Telegraph reports that his developmental disorder apparently made him believe this poor attempt at blackmail and panic, and in his distressed state he chose to end his life by hanging himself in the family home.

Company News:

Google pulls in $4.76 billion in net income in the last quarter of 2014 – Google just announced its earnings for Q4 of last year, and it’s looking like one of the stronger financial quarters the company has had in some time. Overall revenue for the quarter was $18.1 billion, up from $16.86 billion one year ago, and net income of $4.76 billion was up 40 percent over a year ago, when the company pulled in $3.38 billion in profits. Despite the fact that both those revenue and profit numbers were up a healthy margin over a year ago, it wasn’t quite enough to be Wall Street expectations. Analysts had predicted $18.46 in revenue and earnings per share (EPS) of $7.11, and Google missed on both those fronts —  the actual EPS for the quarter ended up at $6.88.

Amazon’s Mixed Q4 2014 With $29.33B Revenue, And $0.45 EPS – Amazon just released its fiscal Q4 2014 earnings, reporting $29.33 billion in revenue, $214 million in net profit representing $0.45 per share. According to CNBC/Thomson Reuters, analysts expected the company to report earnings of $0.17 per share on $29.67 billion in revenue. While the company largely beat the expectations on earnings, it fell a bit short on revenue. For the past two quarters, Amazon unexpectedly posted losses. Three months ago, the stock market was very harsh with the company, pushing the stock down 10 percent.

Microsoft to invest in Android software maker Cyanogen Inc. – A report in the Wall Street Journal claims Microsoft is planning to plow some money into Cyanogen Inc. as part of a $70 million investment round. While it might seem odd for Microsoft to get in bed with a company that makes Android software, but it’s actually a perfect match. The stated goal of Cyanogen Inc, according to its CEO, is to take Android away from Google. That’s something Microsoft would like to see happen.

Report: Alibaba pumps $10 million into Ouya microconsole to launch in China – On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Ouya microconsole, the underpowered gaming system that has had a notable lack of major launches and announcements in recent months, might have some life in it yet—and that’s all thanks to Alibaba. The Chinese online merchant, fresh off its record-breaking American IPO in September, reportedly threw a relative pittance of $10 million at the Android-powered game console company “last month.” The report claimed that the cash offer was made in exchange for using Ouya’s marketplace and software library as a primary feature in Alibaba’s eventual set-top box for Chinese living rooms.

Games and Entertainment:

Everyday life can make an awesome video game – I’ve spent a lot of time saving the world from monsters and engaging in intergalactic warfare, but there are few games that let me experience the drama and excitement of everyday life. Life is Strange does just that. It stars a high school girl in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, and many of the key moments of the first episode deal with typical teenage dilemmas: drugs, relationships, figuring out who you are as a person. It’s incredibly refreshing to play a game that’s so fixated on everyday, modern life. And it’s even more amazing considering it’s also a game about time travel.

Life is Strange

Life is Strange

Nickelodeon to introduce its own video subscription service – As consumers continue to drop traditional cable in favor of various video streaming services, some companies and networks are (finally) accepting reality and getting on board with their own offerings. HBO announced its own video subscription service plans in the recent past, and consumers recently scored another option with the introduction of Sling TV. Viacom, which has notoriously been picky about where and when its shows are available online, is about to do its own dabbling in the world of video subscription services, and it’ll be doing so through Nickelodeon.

Dish will offer a Reverse AutoHop for the Super Bowl, showing only the commercials – For many viewers, the commercials run during the Super Bowl are more fun to watch than the game. So the day after this Sunday’s game, Dish Network customers using the company’s Hopper DVRs will be able to activate a special Reverse AutoHop feature. You guessed right: It will skip through the entire game to play just the commercials. “This day is about two things: football and commercials,” said Dish senior VP Vivek Khemka in a press release, “and for good reason—both are entertaining and our customers love them.”

February PlayStation Plus Free Game Lineup Revealed – Heads up, PlayStation gamers. Sony on Thursday announced the February PlayStation Plus lineup of free games, which will be available on Tuesday. On PlayStation 4$399.99 at Dell, you’ll receive “one of the coolest games from last year” — the sci-fi-themed strategy/action RPG Transistor, Sony said. PS4 owners will also get the Greek mythology action platformer Apotheon the day it hits the PlayStation Store. PS3 gamers, meanwhile, will get Yakuza 4, an open world adventure game set in the Tokyo underground, as well as the action game Thief, which promises “the most challenging heists, the most inaccessible loot, [and] the best kept secrets.”


Steam users have earned more than $50 million selling in-game hats and maps – Since Valve launched its community content marketplace Steam Workshop in 2011, creators have earned more than $57 million. According to the company, that money was made by more than 1,500 creators spread out across 75 countries. Steam Workshop is essentially a market where you can buy user-made items for games like Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. These items can include things like maps or new character skins, which help extend the life of popular games. “When we launched the Workshop late in 2011, we expected that it would grow, but not that it would grow this much, this quickly,” Valve says.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Comcast’s “asshole” problem – After Ricardo Brown called Comcast to cancel his TV service, a Comcast employee updated Brown’s account so that his next bill was addressed to “Asshole Brown.” The story has, predictably, spread quickly across the internet. People are, predictably, outraged. Comcast is, predictably, very very sorry. On the one hand, it would be unfair to read too much into this single incident. Comcast is a big company with many employees. Sometimes an employee does something dumb. That doesn’t mean that management approved of — or even knew about — the employee’s actions. On the other hand, I think the incident does say something about the culture Comcast management has fostered. Comcast prices its products in a way that puts its representatives in an adversarial relationship with customers. That makes this kind of bitterness more likely.


Your shopping habits are one in a million, literally – If what we watch is a touchy subject, what we buy is even more intimate and revealing. Programs like Facebook Beacon, designed to advertise users’ recent purchases to their friends, have been widely reviled. But the study, published today in Science, isn’t about personal sharing. It’s based on testing what the researchers call unicity: the odds that if you know fragments of a person’s shopping history, you can match them against a much larger amount of data, uncovering everything else they’ve bought. As it turns out, those odds are very high.

Data caps can’t be used to snuff out competition, Canada ruling says – Two wireless carriers in Canada have been ordered to stop exempting their mobile TV services from data caps in a ruling that targets discrimination against competing online video services. In the US, AT&T has been charging online content providers for the right to exempt their services from data caps. (AT&T also argued in 2012 that it could limit the use of Apple’s FaceTime to certain types of data plans.) T-Mobile exempts music services it offers with partners from data caps, but it also exempts music services from competitors. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has fought wireless carriers over their throttling of unlimited data plans, but the status of net neutrality rules for wireless is unsettled.

FCC chairman mocks industry claims that customers don’t need faster Internet – The Federal Communications Commission today voted 3-2 along party lines to change the definition of broadband to at least 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream. The vote was no surprise given Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Democratic majority. But Wheeler put on a show just before the vote by contrasting Internet service providers’ marketing claims with their statements to the government. “Let’s parse out what they say in their lobbying with us and what they say when they’re talking to consumers,” said Wheeler, a former cable and wireless industry lobbyist himself. While Verizon told the FCC that consumers are satisfied with 4Mbps/1Mbps and that “a higher benchmark would serve no purpose,” they push customers to buy much faster speeds, which cost more, Wheeler pointed out

Intel helps fund 13-year-old’s Lego braille printer – Last year we told you about Bragio, an inexpensive braille printer that a 12-year-old entered in a science fair. Now Shubham Banerjee’s creation is getting ready to go into production, thanks in part to Intel. The chip maker — more specifically its venture capital arm — has decided to help Shubham turn his incredible Lego Mindstorms creation into a sellable product. Intel is providing additional help beyond an injection of funds. They’ve also hooked Shubham up with their low-power Edison board to develop a new model based on his original Lego design.


Something to think about:

“The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory.”

–      Paul Fix

Today’s Free Downloads:

Windows User Manager – Windows User Manager is the free desktop tool to easily and quickly manage all the User accounts on your Windows system.

On starting, it lists all user accounts along with following details for each user:

User Name

Account Type (Administrator/Normal User/Guest)

Account Status (Active/Disabled)

Password Status (Pwd Set/Not Set/Expired)

Last Logon Time

You can select a user from the list then Enable/Disable or Delete that account with just a click of button. This will be useful in recent systems (Win7, Win8 etc.) where built-in Administrator account is disabled by default and using this tool you can quickly enable it.


LibreOffice Productivity Suite – LibreOffice was developed to be a productivity suite that is compatible with other major office suites, and available on a variety of platforms. It is free software and therefore free to download, use and distribute.

LibreOffice Writer – LibreOffice Writer lets you design and produce text documents that can include graphics, tables, or charts. You can then save the documents in a variety of formats, including the standardized OpenDocument format (ODF), Microsoft Word .doc format, or HTML. And you can easily export your document to the Portable Document Format (PDF).

Writing – LibreOffice Writer lets you create both basic documents, such as memos, faxes, letters , resumes and merge documents, as well as long and complex or multi-part documents, complete with bibliographies, reference tables and indexes.

LibreOffice Writer also includes such useful features as a spellchecker, a thesaurus, AutoCorrect, and hyphenation as well as a variety of templates for almost every purpose. You can also create your own templates using the wizards.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

What do China, FBI and UK have in common? All three want backdoors in Western technology – The Chinese government wants backdoors added to all technology imported into the Middle Kingdom as well as all its source code handed over.

Suppliers of hardware and software must also submit to invasive audits, the New York Times reports.

The new requirements, detailed in a 22-page document approved late last year, are ostensibly intended to strengthen the cybersecurity of critical Chinese industries. Ironically, backdoors are slammed by computer security experts because the access points are ideal for hackers to exploit as well as g-men.

Foreign companies are concerned that the fresh regulations will effectively push them out of one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing markets. Western businesses criticized the policies as protectionist, and see it as the latest salvo in an ongoing standoff between China and the US over the control of technology. The US Chamber of Commerce has called for talks on the matter.

China wanting backdoors in US-built hardware and software will appall privacy and security activists – but it’s in line with the backdoors requested by senior FBI figures and UK Prime Minister David Cameron: the Feds and Brit spies would love to be able to pull information out of phones and other devices as they please.

“The FBI seems to have the same plan as the Chinese except they don’t even pretend to audit the software,” noted Tor developer and privacy activist Jacob Appelbaum.

The infosec expert known as The Grugq added: “China and FBI unite to demand reduced security for iPhones. Who knew they had so much common ground?”

A Year After Reform Push, NSA Still Collects Bulk Domestic Data, Still Lacks Way to Assess Value – The presidential advisory board on privacy that recommended a slew of domestic surveillance reforms in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations reported today that many of its suggestions have been agreed to “in principle” by the Obama administration, but in practice, very little has changed.

Most notably, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board called attention to the obvious fact that one full year after it concluded that the government’s bulk collection of metadata on domestic telephone calls is illegal and unproductive, the program continues apace.

“The Administration accepted our recommendation in principle. However, it has not ended the bulk telephone records program on its own, opting instead to seek legislation to create an alternative to the existing program,” the report notes.

And while Congress has variously debated, proposed, neutered, and failed to agree on any action, the report’s authors point the finger of blame squarely at President Obama. “It should be noted that the Administration can end the bulk telephone records program at any time, without congressional involvement,” the report says.

Obama said a year ago that he favored an end to the government collection of those records if an alternative — such as keeping the records at the telephone companies, or with a third party — still allowed them to be searchable by the government. The White House was recently said to be “still considering” the matter.

DOJ inspector general: reporter’s hacking claims can’t be substantiated – According to a US Department of Justice Inspector General report released today, an investigation “was not able to substantiate the allegations that [Sharyl] Attkisson’s computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise.” The report was introduced into the Senate record at the confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.

Attkisson, who has written a book about her experiences trying to cover the Obama White House which includes the allegation of hacking, has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, and the Postmaster General for the alleged hacking of her home and work computers. Today, Attkisson testified at Lynch’s confirmation hearing.

The report from the DoJ’s Office of the Inspector General casts a different light on Attkisson’s allegations:

The OIG found after inspecting Attkisson’s personal computer that the episode she recorded video of—in which the contents of a Word document were being deleted off her screen—was caused by a stuck backspace key. And examination of Attkisson’s iMac found that file metadata for the computer’s logs had been altered by whoever inspected it. “The OIG’s forensic examination further found what appeared to be searches and queries performed by an examiner with knowledge of computer logs,” the report noted.

“However, it appeared that the searches and queries were conducted while the computer was in operation and without write protecting the drive, which altered file information. This method of forensic examination is not forensically sound nor is it in accordance with best practices.” And when the OIG asked for a copy of the report from the technician who did the examination, Attkisson said, “My attorney says our material isn’t yet in a form that’s ready to share.”

Google, others could be ‘accomplices’ to hate speech under French law – France is preparing to draft a new law, and under it Google, Twitter, and other tech companies like them would be considered accomplices to hate speech if extremist messages are hosted on their services. The announcement was made on Tuesday by France’s President Francois Hollande, and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve will be traveling to the United States soon in an effort to build favor among tech companies. This follows the nation’s tragic terror attack earlier in January, and the subsequent efforts to squash extremist communications.

Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, France has turned its attention towards the Internet and the hate speech it harbors — as well as the recruitment methods terrorists use online to draw others into their dark web. President Hollande wants to see companies push back against such hate speech online.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 29, 2015

Do You Know What Your Apps Are Up To?  10 Must-Have iPhone Apps;  The 10 Most-Pirated Movies (this week);  How to convert music and videos with VLC ;  AV-Comparatives Names Product of the Year for 2014;  Mozilla dusts off old servers, lights up Tor relays;  Windows 10: You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers;  Rolling Stone opens its archives on Google Play;  Spies Know What You’re Downloading on File-Sharing Sites, New Snowden Docs Show;  Hopper’s New Travel App Tells You The Best Time To Fly;  Build your own home media center: Get started with Kodi;  Want to spy on your wife? Change your grades? Hire a hacker!  Bill Gates: I feel stupid for only speaking English;  What I’ll Do With My Parents’ Facebook After They Die;  Simple System Tweaker (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Hey, User! Do You Know What Your Apps Are Up To? – Suspending privacy concerns has become the tacit ‘payment’ exacted from consumers for accessing a ‘free’ service. Which of course means the service is not actually free. But that doesn’t mean people don’t care about privacy, more that they are being encouraged to trade it — to think of privacy as a currency which buys them digital access. To engage in a transaction. To illustrate both the transactional nature of privacy and how left in the dark consumers can be about the exact app permissions they are agreeing to when they tap ‘I agree’, the makers of encrypted communications software and hardware, Silent Circle and Blackphone, have put together the below video — which attempts to shed light on how extensive and unacceptable some app permissions can be.


10 Must-Have iPhone Apps – Look at any list of the best iPhone apps, and you could be there a while. Even if you narrow down your search to just the best free iPhone apps, there are still a lot of recommendations to consider. This list of ten must-have iPhone apps is for busy people who want to cut to the chase. These ten apps are the most essential ones that I think everyone should download.

The 10 Most-Pirated Movies (this week) – Three new flicks made it onto the most-pirated movies list this week—American Heist, Taken 3, and John Wick—and they feature Adrien Brody, Liam Neeson, and Keanu Reeves, respectively. If you want to learn more about those three movies, as well as the other movies that were popular among pirates, click through the slideshow linked both above and below.

How to convert music and videos with VLC – Getting software to convert music and videos for free is easy, but usually comes with some drawbacks. When you try to install the freeware, several other applications may try to sneak in by disguising themselves as tools for your computer. Also, you may end up with a converter that displays ads all over the interface. If you’re already using VLC on your desktop, you’ll be pleased to know that not only does it play pretty much all audio and video formats, it can convert them too. Here’s how to convert between formats in VLC:


Media menu in VLC. Nicole Cozma/CNET

Mozilla dusts off old servers, lights up Tor relays – Mozilla has given the Tor network a capacity kick with the launch of 14 relays that will help distribute user traffic. Engineers working under the Foundation’s Polaris Project inked in November pulled Mozilla’s spare and decommissioned hardware out of the cupboard for dedicated use in the Tor network. It included a pair of Juniper EX4200 switches and three HP SL170zG6 (48GB ram, 2*Xeon L5640, 2*1Gbps NIC) servers, along with a dedicated existing IP transit provider (2 X 10Gbps). French Mozilla engineer Arzhel Younsi (@xionoxfr) said its network was designed to fall no lower than half of its network capacity in the event of maintenance or failure.

People Looked at a Lot of Porn During the Northeast’s Short-Lived Snowmageddon – To the surprise of no one, Pornhub’s traffic spiked as snowbound Northeasterners spent Tuesday getting frisky with themselves.


AV-Comparatives Names Product of the Year for 2014 – 2014’s product of the year is Bitdefender Internet Security 2015. That’s not to say Bitdefender totally outperformed all of the other products tested by AV-Comparatives. In fact, there was a tie for the top spot, as Kaspersky Internet Security (2015) scored just as well as Bitdefender. In a case like that, the honor goes to whichever product had not won before, or, as in this case, the product that hadn’t won as recently. With Kaspersky, AVG, Avira, Emsisoft, F-secure, and Fortinet also made the cut-off for top rated products.

Pointing up   “the honor goes to whichever product had not won before, or, as in this case, the product that hadn’t won as recently.” LOL!

Time to admit, your “tests” serve no practical purpose.

Microsoft previews free, updated Power BI business intelligence tool – Aiming at a mass business-user audience, Microsoft has released a preview of the next version of its cloud-based data visualization software, Power BI, with a promise to maintain a free option even after its general release. Starting Tuesday, businesses can sign up at to test it (the first version premiered last February). A free version of the software is available immediately from the Apple App Store for the iPad. Power BI will also be available for free later this year for the iPhone, Android, and Windows 10.


A new edition of the company’s data visualization tool is now freely downloadable

Drone maker to add no-fly firmware to prevent future White House buzzing – The company that manufactured the drone used in the ill-fated flight has announced that it will issue a mandatory upgrade to the firmware for its Phantom 2 line of products to make sure that customers comply with the FAA’s no-fly zone around DC.DJI’s Phantom 2 drones already have firmware settings that prevent them from being flown near airports and other places where officials have set restrictions on flight. According to the company’s statement, DJI is also continuing to update the no-fly zone list for future firmware releases to prevent flights in other sensitive areas—and to prevent drones from being flown across national borders.


The ill-fated DJI Phantom 2 drone flown by a drunken intelligence agency employee into a tree on the White House grounds has kicked up more than a few wood chips.

OneDrive updates make Microsoft’s cloud storage system better for photos – Over the next few weeks, the company says it’s introducing changes that will automatically import photos from external devices, allow users to categorize them in new albums with clear thumbmail images, and use an updated search function to find specific files and photos saved on the service. OneDrive users were already able to upload smartphone pictures straight to OneDrive using Microsoft’s iOS, Android, and Windows Phone apps, but the updates mean that you’ll be able to transfer files to the cloud service from cameras, USB sticks, and external hard drives linked to your computer.

Windows 10: You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers – On January 21, in a two-hour-plus event at its Redmond headquarters, Microsoft unveiled features that will be appearing in Windows 10 “over the next three, four, five months.” Two days later, the company released a new Windows 10 Technical Preview version, build 9926, for anyone who signed up with the Windows Insider program. If you’re eager to get started with the new build, read my hands-on installation guide first. In this post I cover what’s in Windows 10 and what you can expect through the remainder of 2015.

Hidden tweaks that will make Windows 10 even better – You’ve already seen some of the changes Microsoft is making in Windows 10, but there’s even more in the January preview than what you see by default. All you need to know is where to go to unlock the extra goodies.

VexBox disciplines teens with slow internet – The device we’re looking at today is a box that hooks up to your home internet network to slow it down. Madness, you say? This device is made for parents of teenagers. Parents who, apparently, do not allow their children to own smartphones. This box controls the internet speed of your router, slowing it down to the same speed you’d have had if you clocked in at the birth of widespread internet – 56k and dial-up. Instead of turning the web connection throughout your house off entirely, this device just cuts your internet speed down to a crawl. If this KickStarter is funded, the VexBox will retail for a cool $79 USD. Just eighty dollars to slow your internet down to a crawl to infuriate your child to such a level that they … do their homework.


Watch the first super slow GoPro footage recorded at 240 frames per second – GoPro has a huge lead over its competition these days — we found out just how big when we pitted the best action cameras against each other last fall. Now, a new firmware update is about to widen the gap even further. Set to release in February, the update will add the ability to record 720p footage at 240 frames per second — 10 times slower than the standard framerate — to the Hero 4 Black, GoPro’s 4K action camera. Gizmodo got an early version of the update and shot some footage with it at and around the X-Games last weekend. The results are a mixed bag.


Amazon is taking on Microsoft Exchange with its own enterprise email service – WorkMail data is deeply encrypted with private keys, and the company is letting enterprise clients pick a geographic region where their emails will be stored. That could help employees access messages faster, but more importantly means that privacy-minded businesses can pick a region with favorable laws designed to keep prying eyes away from their data. WorkMail will cost $4 per inbox, a rate that’s largely in line with what Microsoft and Google charge for their enterprise offerings. It’ll launch in the second quarter of this year, so Amazon still has time to show businesses exactly how WorkMail can surpass Exchange.

Rolling Stone opens its archives on Google Play Newsstand – Rolling Stone is opening up its archives, making select stories from its nearly 50 years of publication free for anyone to read. The stories will all be available through Google Play Newsstand, making this a big grab for Google that should help to promote the app’s sales of digital magazines and use as a news reader. Fast Company reports that three to four big stories from each issue will show up in the open archives, which Rolling Stone reportedly plans to augment with sound and video content next year. Every issue will have a presence in the archives, and all cover stories will be available. Newsstand is available on both iOS and Android, so a wide audience should be able to access these stories.


Hopper’s New Travel App Tells You The Best Time To Fly – A mobile application called Hopper, out today on iTunes, is using data and analysis from “billions” of flight prices in order to tell travelers when they should fly and buy tickets. The company claims that it’s able to save users as much as 40 percent on flights, and in 95 percent of cases will get you a cheaper flight or one that’s at least the same price as you would have otherwise found elsewhere. By monitoring trip prices 24/7 and further in advance, Hopper says your chances of scoring a deal increase.


Build your own home media center: Get started with Kodi – Want to build one PC to rule all your living room media needs? Meet Kodi! In part one of this series we show you how to set up the media player software formerly known as XBMC.

FCC warns against Wi-Fi hotspot blocking and hints at further crackdowns – After shutting down Marriott’s attempt to block personal hotspot use, the FCC says it’s looking into more violations elsewhere.


Want to spy on your wife? Change your grades? Hire a hacker! – Since being profiled in The New York Times two weeks ago, Hacker’s List has buckled under a deluge of traffic and still goes up and down on a regular basis. If Hacker’s List job postings are any indication, people largely want to hack the social media or e-mail accounts of lovers and ex-lovers, remove negative personal and professional feedback posts from the ‘Net, and alter the databases that guide so much of our lives—including grades, DMV records, and even hotel rewards programs. What follows is a curated selection of Hacker’s List job postings from the last several weeks, along with the amounts of money on offer.


Stop using your birthday, start using one of these password manager apps – Sure, you could go without a password manager—if you want to try to remember all of your super-secure passwords and login credentials on your own, or if you live dangerously and use the same password for all of your accounts. But let’s get real: There’s no reason to do that, not when there are so many excellent password managers out there that can store passwords securely for you, and generate them, too.

Silk Road paid thousands in shake-downs from malicious hackers – When operating outside of the law, you can’t rely on the police to protect your illegal enterprise from other criminals. The Silk Road marketplace founders likely learned this lesson in 2012 and 2013, after paying thousands of dollars to cyber extortionists who threatened to expose serious site vulnerabilities or hit it with denial of service attacks, according to evidence presented in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday. On at least two separate occasions, Silk Road operators paid malicious attackers ransoms in exchange for keeping the site up and secure.

One Step Ahead: Pedophiles on the Deep Web – Criminals are always one step ahead. While the public can enjoy anonymity tools or hard-drive encryption for privacy and security, people with more nefarious motivations are going to use these technologies to stay undetected, make money, or improve the efficiency of existing criminal enterprises. Nowhere is this more apparent than with pedophiles. Getting an introduction to the tools these people use to cover their tracks is easy enough. On the uncensored version of The Hidden Wiki, a site that maintains a regularly updated list of what’s available on the deep web, is a selection of guides for pedophiles who want to browse, download, or share material.


Linux C library exploit affects all systems dating back 2000 – Sometimes, the price of popularity is more scrutiny. As the Linux operating system, and open source in general, gets more and more coverage in mainstream media and news, a lot of security holes, and big ones at that, are being exposed, or at the very least sensationalized. After the “Shellshock” bug last September, which was reported to be even worse than the “Heartbleed” bug of the open source OpenSSL vulnerability, comes a “GHOST” security exploit that affects almost all Linux systems that date all the way back to 2000.

The Ghost security hole perfectly illustrates the efficiency of open source – A new security hole has been found (and patched) on Linux systems. Jack Wallen uses this example as yet more proof the open-source community exemplifies how patching should be done.

Spies Know What You’re Downloading on File-Sharing Sites, New Snowden Docs Show – The program, code named LEVITATION, is based on newly released documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. It was created by Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to identify and locate users around the world who access files such as “Jihadist propaganda” or bomb-making guides on file sharing websites such as Rapidshare and the now-defunct Megaupload. According to the documents, CSE analysts “see about 10-15 million” uploads and downloads each day, but only “350 interesting download events per month,” which amounts to less than 0.0001 percent of all events.

Use Siri to find a lost iPhone’s owner – This works even if a found phone is locked. But there’s something you should know about this feature.

Company News:

Facebook’s Powerful Ad Tools Grew Its Revenue 25X Faster Than User Count – Facebook’s been a quest to improve its ad measurement, and it’s definitely paying off. In Q4 2014, Facebook’s user count in the US & Canada only grew by a tiny 0.97% from 204 million to 206 million, but the average ad revenue it earns from each of those users grew 24% from $6.64 to $8.26. That’s insane. Jawdropping.


Samsung’s profits continue to slip – Samsung Electronics made an operating profit of 5.29 trillion won ($4.87 billion) off the back of 52.73 trillion won ($48.6 billion) in revenue last quarter. These are big numbers by almost anyone’s standards, but the problem is that they don’t meet the company’s own; last year operating profit was 8.31 trillion won from 59.28 trillion won revenue, meaning that these latest results reveal respective dips of 36 and 11 percent. Although Samsung points to increased sales of the Galaxy Note 4 as a bright spot, its mobile division is still down 64 percent year-on-year in terms of operating profit, leaving others like the processor and RAM businesses to pick up some slack.

Apple Shipped As Many Smartphones As Samsung In Q4 2014, According To Analysts – It looks like making larger screen smartphones was a good decision from Apple. Fresh off a monster earnings report — including the largest profit of any corporate company in history — Apple sold as many phones as Samsung in the final quarter of 2014.

LG’s Annual Profit Doubles To $475M After Shipping 59.1M Smartphones In 2014 – Samsung may be stumbling after posting its lowest annual profit for three years, but the same can’t be said for fellow Korean company LG, which just revealed that it shipped 59.1 million smartphones last year, a 24 percent increase on its figure from 2013.

Qualcomm admits “large customer” loss amid Samsung speculation – They’re not naming names, but we can pretty much read between the lines. In its Q1 2015 fiscal report, chip maker Qualcomm is lowering its revenue outlook for the second half of this fiscal year due to a number of huge factors. Aside from a shift in share among OEMs and higthened competition in China, where is actually facing some legal battles, Qualcomm also mentions the loss of a “large customer” of its Snapdragon 810. Given how things are going, it’s hard not to believe that it is referring to Samsung.

Games and Entertainment:

5 fun multiplayer games for your Google Chromecast – Swing through the official Chromecast website and you’ll find a growing library of single- and multi-player games. Some come from larger brands, while others are from independent developers looking for exposure. I’ve gathered up five of my favorite Android — and iOS! — games that come with Chromecast compatibility or enhancement. The next time you’ve got friends over and want to liven the mood, break out one of these. You might be surprised at how interactive that media device can be.

Hit mobile game Badland is headed to consoles – After launching on iOS to much acclaim in 2013, the dark and wonderful Badland has since made its way to all the major mobile platforms — you can even pick it up for your BlackBerry. No specific release date has been announced — you can expect to see the game on consoles this spring — but it’s coming to a huge range of platforms. That includes the PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, and Wii U, along with Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam. At first glance, it might not seem like the most natural fit: one of Badland’s defining characteristics is that it’s designed to work perfectly with a touchscreen.


Unreal Engine 4 Paris virtual tour: indistinguishable from reality – A virtual Parisian apartment has been rendered in video form for your enjoyment this week. Not by an architecture firm, nor a home furnishings group, but by a video game developer by the name of Dereau Benoît. This short journey through a virtual space was made real with Unreal Engine 4, the latest from Epic Games in graphics engine delivery. Everything you’re seeing here – modeling, texturing, lighting, and post-production – have been created with Unreal Engine by Benoît. The music you’re hearing comes from Sigur Rós.


The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of LucasArts’ Adventure Classics – With Grim Fandango remastered for 2015, The Secret of Monkey Island turning 25, and Full Throttle 20 this year, here’s an overview of the company that made these adventure classics happen.


Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge

10 multipayer Android games where you share the same phone – These aren’t tired pass-and-play games. These are games where you and a friend swipe and tap your phone at the same time.



PlayStation to dump Music Unlimited app in favor of Spotify – On Wednesday, Sony announced a shake-up to its PlayStation-branded music-streaming service, complete with a new app, a switch to Spotify as a content provider, and an indefinite disconnection for PlayStation Vita owners. As a result, the old Music Unlimited app will be retired on March 29. No release date for the new app was listed, but we can assume it will launch some time after February 28, as current Music Unlimited users will receive “up to 30 days” of free PlayStation Music access during that span.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Bill Gates: I feel stupid for only speaking English – Technically Incorrect: The Microsoft co-founder admires Mark Zuckerberg’s grasp of Chinese and laments his own linguistic inabilities.

GoDaddy yanks Super Bowl ad over puppy mill faux-pas – Animal rights activists quickly set up a petition in response to GoDaddy’s puppy ad, which they said endorsed puppy mills. Selling a puppy via a website to an owner that hasn’t been vetted? That can be a one-way ticket to a dog fighting ring, they claimed. With more than 42,000 signatures gathered in less than 24 hours, GoDaddy decided to pull the ad. They even yanked it from YouTube, but someone else predictably put it right back up:


What I’ll Do With My Parents’ Facebook After They Die – My mother and father have long made it clear what their wishes are for when their times come—except for when it comes to their online footprints.


This skull may provide a new link between Neanderthals and modern humans – This accidental find may upend what’s known as the assimilation model, or partial replacement model. According to this model, modern humans originated from Africa but then evolved through interbreeding with European Neanderthals. It’s estimated that human DNA today has between 2 and 4 percent Neanderthal genes, so it’s not a question of if interbreeding occurred, but when and where. The Manot skull shares some physical characteristics with Neanderthals and could suggest this interbreeding happened in the Levantine corridor instead of Europe. Without genetic testing, however, the morphological comparisons are just speculative.


Clara Amit / Israel Antiquities Authority

Temporary tattoos measure sugar levels without drawing blood – Diabetics need to closely monitor their blood sugar levels. However, this crucial routine becomes more than a chore since it usually involved drawing blood. That is why researchers are continually searching for non-invasive, not to mention not painful, ways to measure glucose levels. Researchers from the University of California San Diego are looking into using temporary tattoos to perform this function without even breaking the user’s skin, paving the way for other medical use cases as well, like delivering medicine through the skin as well.


Something to think about:

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

–       Dorothy Parker

Today’s Free Downloads:

AquaSnap – AquaSnap is a free software that greatly enhances the way you can arrange windows on your Desktop. It gives you the possibility to move and resize windows exactly the way you want, without losing a pixel, with simple gestures which makes you more productive.

AquaSnap is a great replacement for the Aero Snap and Aero Shake features of Windows 7 and is compatible with every Windows versions and consumes very little memory and CPU.


SyMenu – SyMenu allows you to manage portable applications resident on a removable drive. SyMenu can be installed in pen drives, external USB disks, memory cards and even CDs and DVDs.

Moreover SyMenu can automatically link any application residing on host pc. Any linked item (SyItem) can be organized in a hierarchical structure with colorful folders and found with the internal search tool.

You can customize SyMenu, adding links to portable programs, documents, Windows commands, folders and urls. Linked items can reside on the same USB device or even on host since SyMenu supports absolute path (such as C:\Windows\Explorer.exe).


Start Search bar: (Windows Vista like) allows to quickly search amongst any SyItem configured on menu;

Windows Start Menu wrapper: SyMenu exposes through Start Search bar every program linked in host PC Windows Start menu too;

Extension Manager: allows to temporarly replace normal Windows extension associations with SyMenu custom extension association;

Autoexec: allows to launch a custom list of SyItems at SyMenu startup or closing.

Execution modes: Run, RunAs, Open folder and Show Properties.

Batch Import: allows to make massive imports of new SyItems.

wps1562.tmp – Simple System Tweaker – – Simple System Tweaker is designed to bring only the safest tweaks to your system to increase speed and stability.

Windows is setup in a default configuration. By fine tuning your Windows configuration you can increase the speed and snappiness of the operating system. These tweaks are the ones that are safe and shown to cause no side effects with any programs. Each tweak only gives a small performance boost. But they all add up, so the more tweaks you do the more performance you get.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Regin super-malware has Five Eyes fingerprints all over it says Kaspersky – The Regin malware, often described as the devil spawn of Stuxnet and Duqu, is the handiwork of the Five Eyes nation state spy apparatus, analysis reveals.

The malware was named in November by researchers impressed with the smarts that helped it hide in plain sight for up to six years.

Analysis overnight by Kaspersky malware reversers Costin Raiu and Igor Soumenkov found a Regin plugin – a keylogger called QWERTY – used source code known to be the product of a Five Eyes intelligence alliance member nation.

“We’ve obtained a copy of the malicious (QWERTY) files published by Der Spiegel and when we analysed them, they immediately reminded us of Regin,” the duo said.

“Looking at the code closely, we conclude that the “QWERTY” malware is identical in functionality to the Regin 50251 plugin.

“Considering the extreme complexity of the Regin platform and little chance that it can be duplicated by somebody without having access to its source codes, we conclude the QWERTY malware developers and the Regin developers are the same or working together.”

Canada Casts Global Surveillance Dragnet Over File Downloads – Canada’s leading surveillance agency is monitoring millions of Internet users’ file downloads in a dragnet search to identify extremists, according to top-secret documents.

The covert operation, revealed Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, taps into Internet cables and analyzes records of up to 15 million downloads daily from popular websites commonly used to share videos, photographs, music, and other files.

The revelations about the spying initiative, codenamed LEVITATION, are the first from the trove of files provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden to show that the Canadian government has launched its own globe-spanning Internet mass surveillance system.

According to the documents, the LEVITATION program can monitor downloads in several countries across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and North America. It is led by the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, Canada’s equivalent of the NSA. (The Canadian agency was formerly known as “CSEC” until a recent name change.)

The latest disclosure sheds light on Canada’s broad existing surveillance capabilities at a time when the country’s government is pushing for a further expansion of security powers following attacks in Ottawa and Quebec last year.


Australia: Top cop’s claims cast shadow over data-retention plan – A parliamentary submission by NSW Police deputy commissioner Naguib “Nick” Kaldas claims that an internal affairs unit of the state’s police force had inappropriately obtained warrants to electronically bug not only him, but also other police officers and members of the public.

The claim comes as Australian lawmakers debate proposed new legislation enforcing two-year mandatory metadata retention by the nation’s telcos for warrantless access to individuals’ information by law-enforcement agencies.

The submission (PDF) by Kaldas, dated January 19, was published on Thursday by the parliamentary inquiry into the conduct and progress of the Ombudsman’s Operation Prospect.

How to Leak to The Intercept – People often tell reporters things their employers, or their government, want to keep suppressed. But leaking can serve the public interest, fueling revelatory and important journalism.

This publication was created in part as a platform for journalism arising from unauthorized disclosures by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Our founders and editors are strongly committed to publishing stories based on leaked material when that material is newsworthy and serves the public interest. So ever since The Intercept launched, our staff has tried to put the best technology in place to protect our sources.

Our website has been protected with HTTPS encryption from the beginning. All of our journalists publish their PGP keys on their staff profiles so that readers can send them encrypted email. And we’ve been running a SecureDrop server, an open source whistleblower submission system, to make it simpler and more secure for anonymous sources to get in touch with us.


Gag order prevented Google from disclosing WikiLeaks probe for 3 years – A month ago, Google said it does not publicly address individual cases when it comes to government requests for customer data “to help protect all our users.”

But on Wednesday, Google changed course after being ripped for failing to notify WikiLeaks that three years ago, Google handed over data to federal authorities about three staffers of the secret-spilling site as part of the government’s espionage probe of the site and its founder, Julian Assange. The reason for the three-year delay, Google said, was because it had been under a gag order that it was fighting.

“From January 2011 to the present, Google has continued to fight to lift the gag orders on any legal process it has received on WikiLeaks,” Al Gidari, a Google lawyer told The Washington Post. He said the media giant’s policy is to always challenge indefinite gag orders. The gags on these were partly lifted, he said.

Vodafone unwraps anti-snooping app for businesses – Vodafone has launched a secure messaging app for privacy-minded companies.

The app, available to Vodafone’s enterprise customers in Germany, is being touted as a way to prevent industrial espionage and snooping on corporate calls.

Vodafone will provide end-to-end encryption for calls made over the VoIP-based app, called Vodafone Secure Call. The app will work for both wi-fi and mobile calls carried over Edge, UMTS, or LTE networks, and will work both in Germany and abroad.

The app, which uses AES 128-bit encryption, is available for iOS and Android phones for a monthly fee of €14.95 per user. While Vodafone said last year that a Windows Phone app was also under development, for now Secure Call is only available for the two main smartphone platforms.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 28, 2015

6 DNS services protect against malware and other unwanted content;  Maldrone: Malware which hijacks your personal drone;  The 10 best widgets for your Android tablet;  Android essentials: 13 apps I can’t live without;  7 Hidden Roku Tricks for Streaming Success;  Twitter adds group messaging and 30s videos;  Wi-Fi triage: 5 common solutions to your wireless woes;  Apple rolls out iOS 8.1.3;  FCC to hotels on WiFi blocking: it’s illegal, don’t do it;  Xbox One and 360 Xbox Live Gold members ‘Deals of the Week’;  Microsoft pushes new firmware for Xbox One controllers;  YouTube drops Flash for HTML5 video as default; The best Android games of 2014;  CNET’s top tips on getting stunning travel photos;  The DEA has been spying on millions of US drivers for years.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

6 DNS services protect against malware and other unwanted content – While many (but not all) users are familiar with the concept of security software, there are more basic ways to protect unwary surfers from phishing sites, botnets, intrusive advertising and other unwanted visitors Since DNS servers are the middlemen between your browser and website content, there are many third-party DNS services that offer additional functionality for both users and network administrators. These tools can include:

Maldrone: Malware which hijacks your personal drone – AR drones, developed by French firm Parrot, are reportedly vulnerable to hacking due to a backdoor discovered by security researcher Rahul Sasi this week. As reported by Hacker News, the AR quadcopter helicopter drone — controllable via smartphone, tablet, Nvidia Shield console and Epson Moverio display, among others — is vulnerable to a newly-created malware strain, dubbed Maldrone. According to the researcher, Maldrone can be used to remotely hijack drones via entry through the backdoor. Developed for the AR drone’s ARM Linux system, the malicious code is able to kill a drone’s autopilot and take control remotely.


The 10 best widgets for your Android tablet – Widgets have always been one of the key differentiators for Android. They really shine on a tablet, where you have a large screen to fill with news, weather, or useful utilities instead of icons. We’ve rounded up some of the best ways to glam up your screen with both good-looking and useful widgets from the Play Store. Whether you have a modest-sized Nexus 7 or big-screened Galaxy Tab S, they’ll add some zest to your home screen.

Android essentials: 13 apps I can’t live without – As someone who spends an absurd amount of hours staring at Android phones and tablets, I’ve given a lot of thought to what apps matter the most to me. There’s the stuff I keep around and use once in a while, sure, but what are the essential apps I need to feel like a device is mine — and to make it do what I need it to do? If I could install only a dozen apps on a device, which apps would I choose? I had to cheat a little and give myself a baker’s dozen — hey, a geek’s gotta eat — but after much contemplation, these are the Android apps I can’t live without.

YouTube drops Flash for HTML5 video as default – The slow death of Adobe Flash has been hastened — YouTube, which used the platform as the standard way to play its videos, has dumped Flash in favor of HTML5 for its default web player. The site will now use HTML5 video as standard in Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Safari 8, and in beta versions of Firefox. YouTube engineer Richard Leider said the time had come to ditch the aging Flash in favor of HTML5 as the latter, used in smart TVs and other streaming devices, had benefits that “extend beyond web browsers.”

7 Hidden Roku Tricks for Streaming Success – Whether you just got a Roku or you’ve had one for years, there’s more to know beyond the basics of watching Netflix and catching up with “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” on Crackle. We’ve put together seven ways for you to get more out of your Roku.

Wi-Fi triage: 5 common solutions to your wireless woes – Wi-Fi is the most wonderful home convenience—except for when it isn’t. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a mental checklist on hand for common issues that might be causing the problem when your Wi-Fi checks out. Everybody has their own favorite way of handling Wi-Fi problems, but here’s mine.

Prynt turns your smartphone into a Polaroid camera – This is Prynt, a case that fits around a number of smartphones (including the iPhone 6, 5c, and 5s and Galaxy S4 and S5). It doesn’t just make your phone look a bit like a point-and-shoot camera, it also hides a tiny portable printer than can spit out your photos in just a few seconds. It spits out 2 inch by 3 inch photos using the same inkless ZINK paper that portable photo printers like the LG PoPo and HiTi Pringo use.


Apple rolls out iOS 8.1.3, requires less open memory for updates – Apple has just released iOS 8.1.3, their third iteration on the release of iOS 8. After a series of errors surrounding iOS 8 upgrades, this one fixes some minor problems. We’ll now need less space to update an iPhone or iPad device over the air, and iOS 8.1.3 fixes an issue where Spotlight failed to display app results. Thankfully, Apple also fixed their frustrating multitasking gestures bug on iPad (five-finger pinch to close, among others). The update is rolling out now.

Wickr Hides Private Photos With Cat Pics – Move over, Facebook and Instagram. Secure messaging app Wickr, which destroys messages after a set period of time, is getting even more social with the addition of a new photo feed. The new feature, dubbed Wickr Timed Feed (WTF), lets you create private feeds of photos that self-destruct after 24 hours (similar to Snapchat Stories). You can jazz up your photos with filters, graffiti, and stickers, then invite up to 151 friends to view and rate the photos. At this point, Timed Feed is only available on the Wickr iOS app.


Twitter adds group messaging and 30s videos – Twitter may be the social network where you tell the world what you had for breakfast, but new private messaging features now allow you to share it on a need-to-know basis. The support for private conversations – added to Twitter today, along with new video features that streamline the sharing of clips – builds on the social service’s existing Direct Messages support, but expands them to an impromptu group of up to twenty people who needn’t be following each other. It’s the company’s response to wildly popular instant messaging clients like Facebook-owned Whatsapp.


Snapchat Now Shows You Video From Comedy Central, Vice and More – Snapchat is adding a new portal for editorial content from a range of media partners, the company said Tuesday. The new feature, called “Discover,” will offer Snapchat users video content from National Geographic, Vice, Comedy Central and others, including TIME sister publication PEOPLE. The deal makes sense for the publishers involved, many of whom are looking for ways to put their content in front of younger users to build relationships as their income levels — and thus value to advertisers — increases. Most of Snapchat’s 100 million-plus monthly users are between the ages of 13 and 25, with many users checking the app multiple times a day.


FCC to hotels on WiFi blocking: it’s illegal, don’t do it – Marriott may have dropped its WiFi-blocking efforts, but that doesn’t mean the FCC has forgotten about its petition and the WiFi-blocking habits of some other companies. In a warning issued today as an “FCC Enforcement Advisory”, the agency made it clear that it is not acceptable to jam others’ WiFi hotspots regardless of whether you’re an individual or a company, and it specifically pointed toward hotels as an example. In addition, the FCC called hotspot-jamming actions a “disturbing trend” that must stop.

The Bluewire Is A Bluetooth Headset That Can Record Your Calls – While there are plenty of headsets out there that give you a comfortable fit or decent sound quality compared to the earbuds that come with our phones, the Bluewire actually records conversations to a pre-installed MicroSD card – 1,000 hours of conversations, to be more precise. You don’t even have to actually have your conversation over the Bluewire headset. As long as it’s paired to your smartphone, it’ll record both sides of a conversation, even if it takes place over a different headset you find more comfortable or your in-car audio system.


Facebook Continues To Dominate Social Logins, Expands Lead To 61% Market Share – Facebook is pretty much dominant across all business segments. It powers 72 percent of social logins on e-commerce sites, for example, and 76 percent on education and non-profit sites. The one small exception is media sites, where it “only” has a 55 percent market share. That’s not a bright spot for Google either, though, as it only owns about 21 percent of that market, too, while Twitter and Yahoo are relatively popular with 11 percent and 8 percent market share, respectively.


Why Google Cardboard Is the Only VR Headset You Need – Using only your smartphone (either Apple or Android) and a simple headset, Cardboard has more than enough oomph to render a compelling virtual reality experience. And they’re affordable: most kits (like Dodocase, I Am Cardboard, or Knox Labs) cost less than $10. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, though, you can build one yourself from scratch (adding to its DIY, Michel Gondry-esque charm). As someone who has experienced many early VR technologies, I can honestly say that most people will find that Cardboard offers an experience on par with that of Oculus. And I’m not alone in that opinion.

CNET’s top tips on getting stunning travel photos – Your holidays can provide endless opportunities for brilliant photography, regardless of which part of the world you’ve chosen to jet off to. In the first part of my two-part travel photography guide, I took you through the kit you should consider taking with you. Now, I’m going to take you through some of the best tips you should keep in mind on vacation to help you come back with some glorious travel shots, instead of a boring bunch of holiday snaps.

Apple Pay Is Coming to Thousands of Laundry and Vending Machines – Next time you’re standing in front of a vending machine and cursing yourself for not bringing along cash or coins, your smartphone may be all you need. Apple Pay is coming to approximately 200,000 self-serve appliances like vending machines, laundry machines and parking pay stations around the country, USA Technologies announced Tuesday. The company builds cashless payment systems into retail devices; its ePort payment system boasts a Near Field Communication sensor that is now compatible with Apple Pay.


Regin malware and NSA’s QWERTY tool exposed as part of the same platform – For more than 10 years, the Regin malware has been infecting targets around the globe. Now there’s clear evidence that Regin and QWERTY — an NSA keylogger revealed by Edward Snowden — are being developed by the same people. Security experts all around the globe — from Symantec who discovered it to Fox IT who were called in to clean up a particularly nasty infection — said it was by far the most sophisticated piece of malware they’d ever seen. It seems safe to assume, then, that Regin isn’t just being developed and utilized by GCHQ or the NSA, but rather that it’s something that all members of the Five Eyes alliance are collaborating on. Just because the link has been exposed doesn’t mean the threat will go away any time soon. If Regin really has been operating in the wild for a decade, why would anyone believe that the NSA and their cohorts aren’t already using — or preparing to use — a vastly improved version of the malware?


Highly critical “Ghost” allowing code execution affects most Linux systems – An extremely critical vulnerability affecting most Linux distributions gives attackers the ability to execute malicious code on servers used to deliver e-mail, host webpages, and carry out other vital functions. The bug, which is being dubbed “Ghost” by some researchers, has the common vulnerability and exposures designation of CVE-2015-0235. While a patch was issued two years ago, most Linux versions used in production systems remain unprotected at the moment. What’s more, patching systems requires core functions or the entire affected server to be rebooted, a requirement that may cause some systems to remain vulnerable for some time to come.

Marriott mobile app: providing backdoor access since 2011 – Hotel chain Marriott might find itself in more trouble than its 2014 FCC fine. A senior developer at the XDA Developers Forum has revealed that the chain’s mobile app might have allowed unauthorized people to gain access to private information, including names, addresses, contact numbers and credit card information. Though the app has said to have been plugged up now, the security flaw has been in existence for almost four years, exponentially increasing the possible ramifications and victims of this exploit.

Bug in ultra secure BlackPhone let attackers decrypt texts, stalk users – A recently fixed vulnerability in the BlackPhone instant messaging application gave attackers the ability to decrypt messages, steal contacts, and control vital functions of the device, which is marketed as a more secure way to protect communications from government and criminal snoops. Mark Dowd, a principal consultant with Australia-based Azimuth Security, said would-be attackers needed only a user’s Silent Circle ID or phone number to remotely exploit the bug.

Company News:

Apple posts $18 billion profit, the largest in its history – Apple just posted its first quarter results, and as expected, it was a big one. Led once again by record sales of new iPhones and holiday sales of iPads and Macs, Apple posted earnings of $18 billion on $74.6 billion in revenue, far above what it forecasted back in October, and marking the highest quarterly profit in its history. By product, Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones, 21.4 million iPads, and 5.52 million Macs. Those numbers were up big from the number of iPhones and Macs Apple sold during the same time last year, but down big for the iPad.

Microsoft Closes Down 9.25% After Its Earnings Report Fails To Impress The Street – Today, Microsoft shed tens of billions of dollars in value, after its earnings failed to impress the investing classes. Microsoft closed down 9.25 percent in regular trading. The company’s shares slipped after-hours yesterday by several points in the immediate aftermath of the report, which indicated that Microsoft had earned $0.71 per share on revenue of $26.5 billion. The latter figure represents a modest revenue beat.

Yahoo Reports Mixed Q4 With Mobile Revenue Of $254M, Total Top Line Of $1.18B – Today Yahoo reported its fourth-quarter financial performance, including revenue excluding the cost of acquiring traffic of $1.179 billion, and non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.30. The market had expected the company to report $1.19 billion in revenue, and non-GAAP earnings of $0.29 per share. Yahoo also announced that it plans to spin its remaining stake in Alibaba out into a new company. The plan has large tax advantages, and investors like a good savings.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox One and 360 Xbox Live Gold members ‘Deals of the Week’ – This week, Xbox Live Gold members will be able to take advantage of great deals on some excellent titles. Although pricing is not concrete due to varying pricing in different regions, here are some of the more notable games in the bunch: Madden 15, Titanfall, NBA Live 15 and Dragon Age Inquisition. If those don’t interest you, be sure to check out the full list below.


Microsoft pushes new firmware for Xbox One controllers in Preview program – Now that Microsoft is back on track with monthly updates for its Xbox One console, users should also be reminded to update their controllers with the new firmware that’s being released. Right now, only users in the Preview program can take advantage of the new features but, rest assured that after being beta tested the firmware will arrive on all devices.

Fantastic 4 reboot trailer: showing real promise – The same studio that brought you the X-Men movies is giving a bit of a reboot to the Fantastic Four. The first couple of Fantastic Four (or Fantastic 4, if you prefer) films didn’t do so hot – the actor who played Johnny Storm left the project to become Captain America with Marvel, if that’s any indicator – now it’s time to give the title a kick in the pants. Instead of continuing to roll with the same cast and the same plot, 20th Century Fox is bringing heat with a “re-imagining” of the team.


Whatever Happened to the Mascots of Our Beloved 90s Platform Games? – When the industry began trending away from 2-D sprite-based graphics toward realistic 3-D polygonal models around ’96, side-scrolling platformers became essentially irrelevant. The platform mascots’ jump to 3-D, as it turned out, was perilous. Many that flourished in the eight- and 16-bit eras didn’t quite make it. Some faded away, some made sidesteps and found success elsewhere, and others died of humiliation. Now that it’s been nearly 20 years since that fateful transitional period, I thought it’d be a good idea to take a look at the most notable platformer mascots to see how they fared.


Dying Light review impressions: Fresh zombies, coming in hot – Like every other game reviewer, we just got our hands on Dying Light review code yesterday. Seeing as how it’s a massive open-world game I assume lasts somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 hours, we’re understandably not finished with the game yet. Not even close, really. But I’ve put in several hours with the game and I’ve got some initial opinions to share so you’re not buying it completely blind.


The best Android games of 2014 – It was an excellent year to be an Android gamer in 2014. More developers embraced the platform—which means not only more games, but also timelier releases. We’ve pared down our list of favorites to just 15, and these are the essentials. They span an array of genres, styles, and price points, and deliver quick-fix fun and focused play experiences alike. Looking for the year’s biggest and brightest? Load up your phone or tablet with these amazing games, pronto.

Off Topic (Sort of):

GoDaddy’s puppy-mocking Super Bowl ad in the dog house – Technically Incorrect: Laughing at the Budweiser ads that feature cuddly puppies, the traditionally bawdy GoDaddy released a Super Bowl ad this morning. And then: trouble. Big trouble.


Luna’s Smart Mattress Cover Can Help You Sleep Better – Luna co-founder Matteo Franceschetti presents a pretty appealing vision of what it can be like to go to bed: As you lie down, the lights, temperature (of both the bed and the room), and the music all adjust to a setting of your choice. Then as you fall asleep, they adjust again, perhaps turning off completely. Luna makes this possible through a smart mattress cover that’s now available for pre-order through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The planned retail price for Luna’s smart cover is $249, but it’s currently available for $179 through pre-order.


The Fragility Of Our Connected World – A decade ago, one would have never predicted the sheer size and impact the Internet has made on our planet. Now, with everything including government, healthcare, commerce and financial services brokered through connected devices, the stakes are much higher. In light of recent news events, we’re left to wonder: What impact does global connectivity really have on our daily lives and the economy as a whole? What could happen if we’re left in the dark for too long?

White House drone crash was caused by drunk gov worker – Remember that drone discovered on the White House lawn? The Secret Service was looking into the matter and had said it wasn’t a safety risk, but concerns quickly spawned that such an incident could serve to further harm the already damaged reputation small-time drones have received — with all of it coming at the worse time possible as the FAA prepares to rule on drone usage regulations. This particular mystery has already come to an end, and while it was a harmless accident, the cause of it all further tarnishes the personal use of drones in some eyes.

Something to think about:

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

–      Fyodor Dostoevsky

Today’s Free Downloads:

YAC (Yet Another Cleaner) – MajorGeek says: YAC is short for “Yet Another Cleaner” but this is anything but just another cleaner. It is actually an all-in-one suite that can clean junk files, registry items, give you browser protection and scan for viruses and malware. The program itself actually works excellent and digs really deep but you might want to pay a little bit of attention if you want to clean up everything. It found some items in my registry that I had no idea were even there or how they got there like Conduit and a few others. The first run might take you a little longer so you can ignore problems that aren’t really a problem (for you) but after that you won’t need to do it again. This program digs deeper and found more issues and tweaks than anything else I have used in a long time. I was impressed and think you will be as well.

Update: YAC seems to fall under the love it or hate it category, then again most things do. The biggest complaint is how difficult it can be to uninstall by users of uninstallers like Revo or IObit Uninstaller. I was able to remove it under Windows default program removal without any issues but I understand the complaint.

YAC has one other thing that bothers me. It seems to hide itself really well and I really didn’t want it running in startup. Problem there is that you won’t find it in your startup and the service is actually called iSafeService and disabling that as a service is not an option. Again, the program needs to be a little more transparent and some of these ‘tricks’ feel a little sleazy to me but boy it works really well.

Pointing up     Oh baloney! It’s as common as fleas on a dog for an application to add services – especially an application that’s tasked with a security function. One always has the option of  setting a manual startup for a specific service.


PureSync – The PureSync application was designed to be a file synchronizer and backup tool. PureSync lets you compare, synchronize and backup file, easy to use, but still many features, such as conflict detection and resolving, multiple backups.


Synchronize: Synchronize files and folders, FTP

Backup: Backup of files and complete folders

Compare view: Control what will be synced in which direction

Easy to use, clear user interface: E.g. there are wizard and tool tips, support for Drag & Drop of folders

Automatic synchronization and backups: Scheduler when a file has been modified

Special Foto-Sync for digital cameras: Copy e.g. only the new fotos from the camera-. Though fotos that have been sorted out but still at the camera are not copy again.

Limitations: Requires Microsoft .Net Framework installed.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The DEA has been spying on millions of US drivers for years – The United States Justice Department is tracking millions of vehicles nationwide as part of a secret intelligence-gathering program, The Wall Street Journal reports. The surveillance program is part of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s plan to build a database plotting the movements of vehicles around the country.

The program, which scans and records license plates, has been in place for years. A spokesperson for the Justice Department told the Journal that the license plate-reader program is “not new,” but where it was previously used to combat drug cartels and seize valuables, it is now being used to solve criminal cases like homicide and kidnapping. DEA documents obtained by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act show the license plate-reader program dating back to 2008.

This isn’t the first time the US government has spied on its citizens, but now it seems the only prerequisite for being spied on is driving a car.

France wants to make Google and Facebook accountable for hate speech – The French government announced today a plan to hold web companies accountable for any extremist messages they may host, Bloomberg reports. French president Francois Hollande wants to introduce a law that would make companies like Google and Facebook “accomplices” in crimes of hate speech if users post content the government deems extremist.

In an announcement today, Hollande said, “We must act at the European and international level to define a legal framework so that internet platforms which manage social media be considered responsible, and that sanctions can be taken.”

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve plans to travel to the US to discuss this proposal with the heads of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter. The president will present a draft law next month.

No, Mass Surveillance Won’t Stop Terrorist Attacks – Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said that while “Congress having oversight certainly is important … what is more important relative to these types of events is ensuring we don’t overly hamstring the NSA’s ability to collect this kind of information in advance and keep these kinds of activities from occurring.” Similarly, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) spoke of his “fear” that “our intelligence capabilities, those designed to prevent such an attack from taking place on our shores, are quickly eroding,” adding that the government surveillance “designed to prevent these types of attacks from occurring is under siege.”

A recent poll demonstrates that their sentiments are widely shared in the wake of the attack.

But would more mass surveillance have prevented the assault on the Charlie Hebdo office? Events from 9/11 to the present help provide the answer:

Australian spookhaus ASIO could retain private data FOREVER – The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) has told the government it’s forgotten to set down how long ASIO is allowed to keep metadata handed over by telecommunications companies.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 requires that carriers hold data for two years. However, once that gets hoovered into ASIO, it could be retained forever.

Inspector-general Dr Vivienne Thom’s submission to the inquiry says there is no current law, nor any requirement in the bill, that limits ASIO’s capacity to hold telecommunications data.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 27, 2015

Mass Surveillance Threatens Digital Security And Human Rights Says European Report;  What PC software offers that mobile apps can’t;  How to handle a Facebook bully or stalker;  Facebook And Instagram Went Down, And Everyone Freaked The Hell Out;  Apple Adds Free Section to iTunes Store;  Can Wi-Fi Replace Your Cell Phone Plan?  Dropcam offers free replacement for legacy devices;  NFL brings the gridiron to YouTube;  Oops, you downloaded malware on your Android phone;  The one thing you’ll need to get your lost or stolen phone back;  Facebook testing a spare ‘Lite’ service for Android;  Snowmageddon NYC 2015: 10 things in tech you mustn’t forget;  Witcher 3: Wild Hunt hands-on;  Google silent on WikiLeaks email warrant for nearly three years;  FileMenu Tools (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Mass Surveillance Threatens Digital Security And Human Rights, Says European Report – A 32-page report into mass surveillance by a top European rights body has warned that digital dragnets set up by U.S. government intelligence agencies, and some of the U.S.’ allies in Europe and elsewhere, are endangering fundamental human rights — such as the right to privacy, to freedom of information and expression, to freedom of religion, and to the right to a fair trial. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) report also expresses deep concern about threats to Internet security by what it describes as “the practice of certain intelligence agencies”, as disclosed in the Snowden files, of “seeking out systematically, using and even creating ‘back doors’ and other weaknesses in security standards and implementation, which could easily be exploited also by terrorists and cyber-terrorists or other criminals”.

What PC software offers that mobile apps can’t – As we look at how software will be evolving, traditional PC applications and mobile apps have some substantial differences, key among them the depth and flexibility traditional applications offer that are often an anathema to mobile users.

How to handle a Facebook bully or stalker – An anonymous reader has been getting a lot of unwanted, and potentially frightening, attention on Facebook. I offer some advice. If someone on Facebook continually insults you, upsets you, threatens you, or makes unwanted sexual advances, ask them to stop. If they do, fine. If not, you’ve got a stalker.

Facebook And Instagram Went Down, And Everyone Freaked The Hell Out – Facebook and Instagram both crashed around 6am GMT. Facebook was offline, on the web and via the app, for just over an hour. The hacker group Lizard Squad has said it is responsible for the outage. Over Christmas, the group claimed to be behind the Microsoft and Sony gaming network hacks. However, ITV News reported that both Facebook and Instagram denied being hacked, blaming the outage on “a change that affected our configuration systems”.


Apple Adds Free Section to iTunes Store – Heads up, iOS users. Apple today added a new section to the iTunes Store with some free goodies you might want. The new “Free on iTunes” section includes a selection of on-the-house songs and full-length TV episodes. The new promotion comes after Apple recently discontinued its free “Single of the Week” program.


Facebook testing a spare ‘Lite’ service for Android – Facebook is testing a stripped down version of its mobile app that requires far less data, which could help increase usage of the social networking service among people with weaker Internet service or older phones. Facebook “Lite” is available for devices running Android 2.2 and up. The size of the free app is 252 kilobytes, and it’s meant for 2G networks in areas with limited connectivity. Users can perform a bunch of basic functions like post status updates with photos, comment on people’s posts, message friends, have group conversations, and receive notifications. Posts from the news feed are meant to load quickly. Early reviews on the Google Play store for the app have been positive, with many praising its low data and battery usage.

How to install the Windows 10 Preview: Everything you need to know – This isn’t like Windows 8’s Consumer Preview, which was released as a simple ISO image. The Windows 10 Technical Preview is being released via a new “Windows Insider” program that asks for user feedback and even provides private forums for discussing trouble spots with Microsoft engineers. Lots of things have already changed and many more are sure to change going forward, from features to basic elements of the operating system. All that said, are you still curious? Can’t resist the lure of the bleeding edge? Just want to run away from Windows 8? Here’s how to install the Windows 10 Technical Preview right now.

How to run the Windows 10 Technical Preview on a Mac, for free – Here’s how you can run the new Windows 10 Technical Preview on your Mac, without having to spend a dollar on software.

Dropcam offers free replacement for legacy devices – Hardware reaching their end of life is a natural occurrence, especially in mobile and smart devices that seem to have at the very least only 2 years to live. More often than not, owners are left with no choice but to upgrade, which usually entails cashing out on a new device. That is why Dropcam’s new offer is like a breath of fresh air. It will be giving a free hardware replacement to owners of the original Dropcam and Dropcam Echo, even going as far as allowing owners to keep their old units, just as a remembrance.


Cablevision’s WiFi calling service: another reason you don’t need an iPhone – This week the folks at Cablevision released a WiFi calling service called Freewheel without the iPhone and without the Samsung Galaxy S5. What does this say to the two biggest names in smartphone manufacturing inside the United States? What does it say to those consumers that seek out Samsung or Apple because they’ve seen their friends using said brands on phones? It says – clearly – that you don’t need a top-end phone to go about your normal, everyday smartphone business. And you don’t need a Galaxy phone or an iPhone to launch a nation’s-first service like all-WiFi calling.

Can Wi-Fi Replace Your Cell Phone Plan? – The wireless industry has seen its fair share of changes over the last two years, many sparked by T-Mobile’s disruptive “uncarrier” policies that have been since co-opted by its rivals. But there could be even bigger shakeups coming in the year ahead. A switch from cellular to Wi-Fi networks could have a huge impact on both the cost and quality of wireless service in the future. Here’s a quick look at what Wi-Fi-based carriers could mean for your cell phone plan:

How to enable Cortana if you’re using Windows 10 outside the U.S. – Microsoft has offered Cortana integration in the January Technical Preview, but officially it is only available in the United States, but we have a workaround for everyone else who wants to test it.

Adobe Lightroom 6 to drop 32-bit support – Adobe has been busy with its photography-centric Lightroom offering, having recently pushed out a mobile version for Android users to join its previously launched iOS version. The desktop is still king when it comes to photo editing, however, and so it is no surprise Adobe has also been hard at work on getting its next Mac and Windows versions out to consumers. That’s the good news. For those running older hardware, there’s also some bad news.

NFL brings the gridiron to YouTube – The National Football League has officially come to YouTube. The league announced Monday that it’s finally created its own channel on the world’s biggest online video network, as part of a broader partnership with YouTube’s parent Google, which includes NFL videos, news and other information available directly in Google searches.


Google silent on WikiLeaks email warrant for nearly three years – The whistleblower organisation is demanding answers from Google over why it took so long to disclose that it had handed over details of three WikiLeaks’ staffers’ emails to the US government.

Oops, you downloaded malware on your Android phone – While there’s technically no such thing as an Android “virus”, there’s plenty of harmful malware can be just as frustrating—it spams you with notifications, uses up data and battery life, and slows down your phone, all while trying not to get caught. Of course, the best way to get malware on your phone is to download a malware-laden app, so you’re not completely innocent in this scenario. But every Android owner has come across malware at least once or twice, and so you all know that this is exactly how it starts…

The one thing you’ll need to get your lost or stolen phone back – Your carrier may require a police report to prove that the device is actually missing. In addition to the make, model and visual appearance, the police and your carrier may request the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) to help identify the device. This is number is unique to your hardware, and may allow the carrier to discontinue service to it, or blacklist it from their network if it was stolen. As a recent post on the Digital Inspiration blog points out, you can still find your IMEI without the phone in your hand. Here’s how:

Hackers steal 20 million accounts from Russian dating site – Topface, a Russian dating site, has apparently had its servers hacked and the perpetrators are now auctioning off over twenty million usernames and e-mail addresses which can be used for future scams.

Apple preparing fix for Thunderstrike malware in upcoming OS X 10.10.2 release – It’s long been said, both by Apple and independent security experts, that Apple’s computers are more secure than those running Windows. That does not mean, however, that Macs are invulnerable to malware threats. One particularly terrifying example is called Thunderstrike. It allows a malicious actor to replace the firmware in Macs with something much more nefarious. The firmware controls extremely low-level functions of the computer, everything that happens from the moment the power button is pressed.

Company News:

IBM dismisses massive layoff report as workforce remixing continues – IBM’s workforce rebalancing is as predictable as the seasons, but it’s a stretch to think Big Blue is cutting more than 100,000 employees.

Former Opera CEO Launches Vivaldi, A New Browser For Power Users – Opera’s former CEO Jon von Tetzchner is launching the first preview of Vivaldi today, a new Chromium-based browser that is squarely aimed at power users. Vivaldi features tools like Quick Commands for using written commands instead of the mouse, an Opera-like Speed Dial for quickly accessing bookmarks, a note-taking feature and the ability to organize tabs into stacks.

Hardware surprisingly strong, Windows weak, as Microsoft posts solid Q2 – Microsoft revealed its quarterly earnings today for the second quarter of the 2015 financial year. Overall revenue was up, and sales of the Surface Pro 3 computer were strong according to the company. But the Windows market declined and operating income was down, as the Nokia integration and reorganization continues to cost money. Revenue for the quarter was $26.47 billion, up eight percent on the same quarter a year ago. Gross margin was also up, climbing by one percent to $16.33 billion. Operating income, however, fell two percent to $7.78 billion, and earnings per share dropped nine percent to $0.71.

Stripe Partners With Intuit To Help On-Demand Workers Keep Track Of Their Finances – Through the partnership, people who work for on-demand platforms that make their payments through Stripe will be able to easily connect with Intuit’s new QuickBooks Online Self-Employed software. Once that’s done, the QuickBooks product will be able to immediately recognize payments as income, and as a result will be able to help workers track their finances, and especially their tax obligations.

Huawei pivots focus to high-end smartphones – The Chinese smartphone maker plans to turn its attention towards the high-end smartphone segment in the wake of increased local competition.

Games and Entertainment:

Witcher 3: Wild Hunt hands-on: Four hours with the most anticipated RPG of the year – It finally happened. After two years of hands-off demos, multiple delays, and et cetera, I finally got my grunny hands on The Witcher 3 —not just for a piddling few minutes or a tightly controlled demo, but for four hours. CD Projekt basically sat me down at a computer, booted the game, and said “Go.” And I went. I finished off the tutorial, completed a half-dozen side quests, and got through the story basically to the end of what I’ll call “Chapter One.” In other words, right when things started to get interesting? That’s when I ran out of time. Here’s what I noticed, nevertheless.


Grim Fandango Remastered might be the perfect video game remake – Grim Fandango Remastered is exactly the same game that you remember from 1998. The story and gameplay remain unchanged, so it’s still a game primarily about chatting with other characters and using items in increasingly obscure ways to solve puzzles. As in the original, Manny starts out as a lowly salesman, but over the course of the game he’ll uncover dark secrets, open up a casino, and chase the girl of his dreams. It can seem a bit quaint by modern standards, but the witty writing and wonderful art direction feel timeless, and there are some important changes that make this version more palatable in 2015.


‘Minecraft’ is already printing money for Microsoft – Microsoft purchased “Minecraft” developer Mojang for $2.5 billion last year, an amount that many considered strange for what’s essentially a one-game company. According to Microsoft’s recent financial results, however, the transaction is already proving beneficial. As part of its financial results from the second quarter of its 2015 fiscal year, Microsoft announced that first-party video game revenue increased by 79 percent to $171 million over the same period last year. In its statement on the increase, Microsoft attributed the boost as “mainly due to sales of Minecraft following the acquisition of Mojang” as well as the launches of “Halo: The Master Chief Collection” and “Forza Horizon 2.”


DirectX 12 won’t need new hardware, but it’s better to have some anyway – As we previously found out, DirectX 12 will be exclusive to Windows 10, so older Windows operating systems won’t have the new capabilities. However, considering that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for most Windows users, that shouldn’t pose any problems. But what about hardware? Well, this is where it gets a bit more complicated. The short answer is that having a new DirectX 12 graphics card is your best option, so you should go for that. But the long answer is that you might not need it to take advantage of most of the system’s new features.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Snowmageddon NYC 2015: 10 things in tech you mustn’t forget – It’s a real-deal state of emergency right now in New York and surrounding areas – a blizzard is dropping this week – so much so that you may need a guide to get you through it. Accumulation of snow will reach 20 to 30 inches in Long Island and Connecticut, while visibility will be one quarter mile or less at times throughout the week. This isn’t a snowfall to act tough about and/or scoff at. You’re going to have to believe me on that one – I was born in Saint Cloud, Minnesota and I live in Bismarck, North Dakota now. You have no idea how badly I want to scoff at panic over snow.


Hawaii-Bound Pilot Forced To Deploy Airplane’s Parachute After Running Out Of Gas – A pilot’s quest to fly from California to Hawaii failed in spectacular fashion when he was forced to deploy the aircraft’s parachute and plop down on the water 253 miles from land. The series of unfortunate events started to unfold at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday, when the pilot contacted the Hawaii National Guard to report that his Cirrus SR-22 aircraft had roughly three hours of fuel remaining.


U.S. Coast Guard

Latest round of science education bills hits the state legislatures – See if your state is partaking in the silliness – Each year, January brings a new legislative calendar and, with it, a new round of bills that attempt to interfere with science education. Typically, these bills target evolution and/or climate change and are based on boilerplate text, but each year brings some intriguing variations on the theme. This year’s haul is impressive with several states already active.

People can be induced to remember crimes they never committed – The creation of false memories has obvious implications for the legal system, as it gives us reasons to distrust both eyewitness accounts and confessions. It’s therefore important to know exactly what kinds of false memories can be created, what influences the creation of a false memory, and whether false recollections can be distinguished from real ones. A recent paper in Psychological Science found that 71 percent of participants exposed to certain interview techniques developed false memories of having committed a crime as a teenager. In reality, none of these people had experienced contact with the police during the age bracket in question.

U.S. Breaks Record For Highest Number Of Exonerations In A Single Year – The U.S. saw a record number of exonerations in 2014, according to a report by the National Registry of Exonerations that was released Tuesday. The project at the University of Michigan Law School detailed 125 known exonerations of innocent criminal defendants in the U.S. last year, the first time the registry recorded more than 100 in a single year.

Ridiculous Tech Jargon That Needs to Go – Undeniably, many amazing things have come out of Silicon Valley. But the words? Let’s just say that someone needs to disrupt them. The region’s best and brightest can write lines of complicated code that allow your front door to talk to your thermostat and your car, but when asked to describe the phenomenon, the best they can do is “Um, Internet of…things?” Tech jargon is the worst combination of bro-talk and technology word salad. Many of them are here to stay, but these are the 12 terms we’d like to see pivot on out of here.

Something to think about:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.

The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

–      C.S. Lewis

Today’s Free Downloads:

FileMenu Tools – FileMenu Tools allows you to customize the context menu of Windows Explorer.


Add some built-in utilities that perform operations on files and folders.

Add custom commands which run external applications, copy/move to a specific folder or delete specific file types.

Configure the “Send to…” submenu.

Enable/disable commands which are added by other applications to the context menu.

FileMenu Tools is freeware. However, if you enjoy using FileMenu Tools and would like to help support its development, please consider making a donation.


GuardAxon – GuardAxon is a free program that is used to encrypt and decrypt files e.g. for safe transmission or transportation on removable media. The program uses the following encryption algorithms: BlowFish, Twofish, DES, 3DES, AES-128, AES-192, AES-256. Selecting files to protection is very simple because GuardAxon uses the classic file manager. The program can generate reports in PDF format at the end of the encryption / decryption.

GuardAxon also allows you to calculate and verify the checksum of files (MD-5, SHA-1, SHA-224, SHA-256, SHA-384, SHA-512, SHA-512/224, SHA-512/256).


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Germany’s privacy leaders gather to discuss suspending US Safe Harbor – On Wednesday, German data privacy commissioners will meet in Berlin for their annual conference. On the agenda will be discussions on one thing: whether the Safe Harbor agreement between the EU and the US should be scrapped.

The meeting will allow the German regulators to voice their ongoing frustration over the lack of reform that followed the recent revelations that the US’ surveillance agency, the NSA, was collecting German citizens’ data.

Safe Harbor is a critical agreement for US-based businesses – and particularly tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter – as it allows them to legally transfer commercial data from the European Union to the US if they agree to uphold EU citizens’ rights over how the data is collected and handled. Even a short suspension of the agreement could mean serious disruption to those US companies’ business.

For many German officials and politicians, the NSA’s ongoing ability to access the data of European citizens held by US companies violates the privacy principles of the agreement – principles that companies can self-certify they uphold.

Facebook Censors Blasphemous Pages To Comply With Turkey’s Demand, But Won’t Publish It – When Google and Twitter receive legal threats from countries to censor controversial content or have their services shut down locally, they often publish them on for transparency. But today when Facebook followed Turkey’s legal order to block Pages that defamed the Prophet Muhammad from Turkish users, it kept the demand private.

Rather than get banned, Mark Zuckerberg has said it’s Facebook’s duty to comply with censorship so it can keep operating and at least give some citizens a voice.

Spies track mobile users with BADASS tracker (yes, that’s what they call it) – As Ars has previously reported, documents passed to journalists by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have shown that the NSA and its British counterpart agency, the GCHQ, have exploited privacy “leaks” in mobile applications (including Rovio’s Angry Birds) to track individuals of interest. A new document recently published by Der Spiegel provides further details on just how much the GCHQ was able to extract from mobile data to keep tabs on those it targeted for surveillance. The British agency used a program referred to as BADASS to suck up data emitted from Angry Birds and other apps, and the information was so granular, analysts could even track how well (or poorly) a person was doing playing.

BADASS is an acronym for “BEGAL Automated Deployment And Survey System,” and the system pulled in data from GCHQ and NSA network taps identified as mobile analytics and advertising traffic. Among other things, this data included Google “pref” cookies (such as those used by Ars to identify users in our own passive network surveillance testing with NPR) and Flurry application analytic data used by developers to track usage and performance of their mobile apps.


Cops decry Waze traffic app as a “police stalker” – Google-owned app, they say, is endangering law enforcement officials – Police officials have lobbied for the right to conduct a variety of unfettered electronic surveillance tactics on the public, everything from being able to affix GPS trackers on vehicles to acquiring mobile phone cell-site location records and deploying “stingrays” in public places—all without warrants.

Some law enforcement officials, however, are frightened when it’s the public doing the monitoring—especially when there’s an app for that. Google-owned Waze, although offering a host of traffic data, doubles as a Digital Age version of the police band radio.

Authorities said the app amounts to a “police stalker” in the aftermath of last month’s point-blank range murder of two New York Police Department officers. That’s according to the message some officials gave over the weekend during the National Sheriffs Association meeting in Washington.


Basaaly Moalin: The One “Terrorist” Caught by Section 215 Surveillance – Remember back in 2013 when the then-director of the NSA Keith Alexander claimed that Section 215 bulk telephone metadata surveillance stopped “fifty-four different terrorist-related activities”? Remember when that number was backtracked several times, until all that was left was a single Somali taxi driver who was convicted of sending some money back home? This is the story of Basaaly Moalin.

Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 27, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 26, 2015

Three ways to approach online storage;  Here’s What to Do When Your Computer Runs Out of Space;  Twitter rolls out tweet translation feature;  How to find songs by sound with Google Now’s sound search;  12 Ways Tech Could Land You in Jail (Or Worse);  I Took the Internet Addiction Quiz and I Won;  Walmart goes after Chromecast with $25 Vudu Spark;  Pinterest revamps search to attract more male users;  Sling TV Review: Taking TV back;  Microsoft’s HoloLens explained: How it works and why it’s different;  How To Boost Your Wi-Fi With a Range Extender;  Five antivirus scanners for Mac;  Exploit Kits: A Fast Growing Threat;  A Form of Permanent Wage Theft: When the Soaring Price of College Isn’t Worth It;  Apple Paid its New Retail Chief More Than $70 Million Last Year.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Which cloud personality are you? Three ways to approach online storage – Cloud storage is incredibly convenient, but it can also be confusing. Sometimes you’re just not sure what files to put up there or if you should store anything online at all. One way to approach the issue is to ask yourself what you want to get out of storing files online. Is your overarching concern convenience, security, or a mix of the two? Here’s a look at what you might call three different “cloud personalities” that can help you decide what you want to get out of a service like Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox. I’ve also included some suggestions about services or strategies that might work best for each type.

Here’s What to Do When Your Computer Runs Out of Space – You’re cruising along the Internet, mouse in one hand, coffee in the other, and then — wham — like Wile E. Coyote hitting a brick wall, your computer has stopped you in your tracks. “Low Disk Space” reads the flag on your PC’s system tray. Or, if you’re on a Mac, you get the alarming alert window that says, “Your startup disk is almost full.”

I Took the Internet Addiction Quiz and I Won – Internet addiction is not an official condition yet recognized in the DSM-V. But a recent search for “internet addiction help” revealed various rehab centers for internet addiction, therapists who specialize in the condition, as well as Internet & Tech Addiction Anonymous. Lately I feel like the internet is cobbling me together. I feel like there is no longer any barrier where I end and the internet begins. I’m kind of scared. But is my obsession with the internet actually an addiction? I’ve decided to answer that question by taking a quiz from Psych Central called Are You Addicted to the Internet? While the quiz is multiple choice, my relationship with the internet is complex, and so I have chosen to write my responses in essay form. I’ve also decided to take this quiz publicly—not so much as to be held accountable, but because what better place to confront one’s internet demons than on the internet with all of you addicts (especially you dicks in the comments section).


Illustrations by Joel Benjamin

Parents in Taiwan are now legally obliged to limit their kids’ computer time – A law has been expanded in Taiwan that obliges parents to regulate their children’s time on the usage of electronic devices. The law now also equates excessive gadget use with smoking and drinking.

Pinterest revamps search to attract more male users – Data from comScore says that out of Pinterest’s 72.5 million US visitors, 71% are women. However, Pinterest wants to tip the scales in the direction of an increased male demographic, and as part of their efforts, the social network has just announced new changes to its search filters that better customize results for users. Now searches will take into account the gender selected by users when they created an account. For example, Pinterest says if a male user searches for watches, results will skew towards what has been pinned by other men.


Twitter rolls out tweet translation feature – Twitter has tapped Microsoft’s language translation tool to make reading tweets in languages you don’t speak a bit easier. The company announced the new translation feature in a tweet yesterday, saying that the service is being provided using Bing Translator. Those who do not want to see the translations have nothing to fear, with Twitter also tossing in the ability to disable translations if desired. We have got all the details on enabling the feature and more after the jump.

12 Ways Tech Could Land You in Jail (Or Worse) – The government and technology companies often tangle in court, but tech users have also faced off with in civil and criminal trials. On their side, if not always at the defense table with them, are digital rights organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends, informs, and advocates on their behalf in matters that range from consumer rights to free speech. There are even times when a situation is so dire it gets human rights advocates from Amnesty International involved. Here are a few examples of how tweeting, jailbreaking, and even getting spam can put people on a precarious legal ledge that in some cases may cost them their lives.

Walmart goes after Chromecast with $25 Vudu Spark – But you do get what you pay for. Unlike the $35 Chromecast or its other, more expensive competitors, there’s no Netflix or Hulu. There’s no HBO Go. In fact, there are no apps whatsoever. All the Vudu Spark can do is play streaming videos from Vudu, the Walmart-owned site that rents TV shows and movies. It also comes with a traditional remote. Nevertheless, with Walmart’s considerable muscle behind it, the Vudu Spark could end up finding its way into a number of homes across the country. And since the device only serves as a portal for customers to spend money renting videos from Vudu, Walmart likely doesn’t care if it loses money selling the sticks.


Sling TV Review: Taking TV back – As I write this review, SportsCenter is on in the background. I’ve not watched ESPN in years — actual years — so this review is like revisiting a memory. I’m a bit of a cord cutter (I still get Internet via the cable company), and there are several reasons for that. Sling TV brings cable back into my life, but in the best way possible. I don’t have to re-up some cable contract, and it works with streaming devices I have on every TV. It’s must-have TV. Here’s why.

The best Internet TV Services – TV over the Internet isn’t perfect yet for even the most hardcore cordcutter. Sports, for example, except for Major League Baseball with MLB.TV and the National Basketball Association (NBA) with League Pass, are still often not available or only can be watched if you master a variety of different techniques. Now, that is changing. The Dish Network will be bringing ESPN and ESPN2 to the net with its Sling TV service. In the meantime, however, we have more than enough entertainment riches to keep ourselves happy couch potatoes. Here are my particular favorites that offer either free or subscription access to many movies and TV shows.

How to find songs by sound with Google Now’s sound search – It’s a cool but lesser-known feature of Android: Google search can identify songs just like Songza or Soundhound. Simply tap the search field or say “OK Google” (if you’re using the Google Now Launcher), just as you would to give a Google Now voice command. If music is playing around you, a music icon will pop up. Touch that and after a few moments Google will deliver up the song, album, and artist information, along with a link to the Play Store.


Google will find the song, artist, album, and link you to its page in the Play Store.

New Windows 10 Build With Cortana And Xbox App Now Available For Insiders – The newest pre-launch build of Windows 10 is now available for Windows Insider program members to download and install, and this edition brings a lot of features Microsoft showed off at its special Windows 10 preview event earlier this week. The most notable addition may be Cortana coming to the desktop, giving Windows PCs some of the virtual assistant smarts that Microsoft originally debuted on its smartphone OS.

Windows 10 has a hidden new calendar and clock, here is how to enable it – In the latest version of Windows 10, there is a new clock and calendar that has an updated user interface and if you want to enable this feature, we have the instructions after the jump.

Microsoft’s HoloLens explained: How it works and why it’s different – Has Microsoft suddenly pushed us into the age of “Star Trek” and “Minority Report”? For those confused about what’s actually going on with the company’s new head-mounted gadget, here’s the rundown.


Microsoft’s HoloLens prototype has all the innards of a computer built directly into the headset. That means no cords or even a smartphone required.

Microsoft touts $7-per-user monthly pricing for Windows subscription packages – Ask any IT administrator about Microsoft’s licensing setup and they’ll hurl up a string of four-letter words that would incur an FCC fine if delivered on television. In a world where everyone wants to use everything — especially Microsoft Office — on tablets, phones, and oh yeah, computers, Microsoft’s customary one-license-per-device model means death by a thousand cuts for most enterprises. That’s why it was a big deal in December when Microsoft rolled out the Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS), an optional add-on to the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement that gives access to Microsoft Office 365; the Enterprise Mobility Suite for mobile management; and, for the first time ever, a per-user (not per-device) licensing model for Windows.

Remind music app helps Alzheimer’s patients bring back memories – Emily Keller is a designer who created Remind, which allows families to curate playlists that help people with Alzheimer’s remember parts of their lives through music.

How To Boost Your Wi-Fi With a Range Extender – The Wi-Fi gear is installed towards the back of my place. The further I go towards the front of the house, the worse the signal. If I try to do much more than check email in my front room, it takes forever. Streaming YouTube or Netflix is out of the question. Fortunately, this is why they make wireless Wi-Fi range extenders. These are small boxes that can extend the range of your Wi-Fi signal by boosting it and retransmitting it.


Adobe gets second Flash zero-day patch ready 2 days early! – Good news from Adobe about CVE-2015-0311, the unpatched zero-day in Flash. The patch is now ready via auto-update – 2 days early!

Exploit Kits: A Fast Growing Threat – These clusters of criminal code are secretly dotted around the Internet, hiding on invisible landing pages. When you encounter one, your computer is automatically catalogued. The Exploit Kit builds up a picture of what everyday software you have running, such as browsers, PDF readers, Flash Player, Java, and most importantly whether any of these have flaws, called vulnerabilities. It is basically looking at your computer for known holes to exploit. After figuring out which of these weaknesses are present, it uses pre-built ‘exploit’ code to force this hole wide open. This essentially leaves your computer at the mercy of the attacker, allowing them to install whatever malicious software they want, bypassing many security software programs.

Five antivirus scanners for Mac – Think you don’t need an antivirus scanner for your Mac? Get your head out of the sand and get protected! While malware is much rarer on OS X than it is on Windows, the increased popularity of the platform means that hackers have turned their attention to this new ecosystem. And protecting your Mac won’t cost the earth either, with four out of the five antivirus scanners listed here being totally free.

Google leaves most Android users exposed to hackers – An executive confirms Google has no plans to fix a security hole in the default browser for older versions of Android, which are relied on by around 60 percent of all Android users.

China is cracking down on VPN services with ‘upgrade’ – China has been cracking down on Internet freedoms lately, having blocked Gmail last month and been pegged for a man-in-the-middle attack against Microsoft’s Outlook recently. A new report shows that isn’t the end, however, with word surfacing that the Chinese government has now set its sights on VPN services. Some VPN users inside the nation have reported being unable to use their VPN service, and the reason is said to be due to a Great Firewall “upgrade”.

Malaysia Airlines website attacked, big data dump threatened – The airline said in a statement on its Facebook page that its domain name system (DNS) was compromised and as a result users trying to access the URL were being redirected to a hacker website. At this stage, Malaysia Airlines’ Web servers are intact, it added. The airlines assured customers that it had not been hacked and “this temporary glitch does not affect their bookings and that user data remains secured.” The Lizard Squad countered the claim of the airlines and released what appeared to be a travel itinerary receipt as proof that it had hacked into user data.

Company News:

Apple Paid its New Retail Chief More Than $70 Million Last Year – How much does Apple care about its retail stores? Enough to pay more than $70 million to the woman heading them up, making her the highest-paid exec at the company. Apple revealed in an SEC filing Thursday that new hire Angela Ahrendts earned $73.4 million in 2014, almost all of it in stock awards. Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry, joined Apple in May as the senior vice president for retail and online stores.

Pointing up   When the shit hits the fan over income inequality – and, don’t doubt that it’s coming  – an enema on an unprecedented scale – people like this will have good reason to duck. It’s been said – if you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain. Maybe so, but I’ll tell you this – in present circumstances – if you’re not once again a liberal at 50, then you have no soul.

Box Skyrockets 50% To More Than $21 Per Share In First Minutes As A Public Company – Today Box opened at around $20.50, far above its $14 IPO price, giving the company a valuation of around $2.5 billion. The company was valued at just under $1.7 billion at $14 per share. Box picked up $175 million in the transaction. Box’s IPO has been hotly anticipated, due in part to the fact that some view the company as a bellwether for other quickly growing, but still unprofitable firms. Had Box stumbled out of the gate, despite its modest pricing, valuations across the board for private companies in similar financial shape would have taken a nasty implicit knock.

Dish Network liable for millions of telemarketing violations, rules court – In a recent court ruling, Dish Network was found to be liable for millions of telemarketing violations, including failure to honor Do Not Call requests. The ruling was made by the Central District of Illinois’ district court, which says that Dish has “tens of millions” of calls under its belt that weren’t made in line with the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule. This is a partial summary judgement victory for the FTC, which had a case filed on its behalf by the Justice Department back in early 2009.

Sony delays earnings report in wake of hack attack – Sony has requested approval to delay its third-quarter earnings report, citing damage to network systems in its Sony Pictures Entertainment division caused by the cyberattack it sustained late last year. Sony Pictures shut down its entire network in response to the attack. While restoration work is under way, its financial and accounting applications won’t be fully functional until early February 2015, it said. As a result, it requested an extension of its regular Feb. 16 deadline for filing the report until March 31.

Expedia Buys Travelocity for $280 Million – The companies have already been working together for some time, so this acquisition will just be an extension of their existing relationship, and shouldn’t cause any major changes for users. Since 2013, Expedia has been powering the technology platforms for Travelocity’s U.S. and Canadian websites and providing Travelocity access to its hotel supply and customer service program.

Microsoft Acquires Revolution Analytics To Bolster Its Analytics Services – Microsoft today announced that it has acquired Revolution Analytics, an open-source analytics company with a strong focus on the highly popular R programming language for statistical computing. Microsoft says that it made this acquisition “to help more companies use the power of R and data science to unlock big data insights with advanced analytics.” The two companies did not disclose the financial details of the transaction.

Uber suspended a dozen drivers for getting proper registration – Uber has again pulled a business move that has garnered controversy, this time by suspending drivers who elected to follow state law rather than company demands. In California, individuals who drive for hire are required to register their cars as commercial vehicles rather than personal ones. Some drivers complied with that requirement, but were give the boot by Uber, which told the drivers they must switch over to personal registration to get their driving privileges back. At least 12 drivers were suspended.

Games and Entertainment:

Millennials’ Favorite Trivia Game Dominates App Store Charts – Trivia Crack, a game show style quiz app that launched in Argentina, is swiftly taking over schools and college campuses around the world. For months Trivia Crack has been one of the most popular apps in the American app store, currently topping both the free and paid app charts. Now boasting 85 million users and 800,000 daily downloads, the app yesterday expanded with a UK version.


Blitzkrieg 3 hands-on preview: An asynchronous war of your own making – Old franchises never die. They just sort of wait around in the shadows until someone says, “Hey, maybe we should make another of those.” Case in point: Nival is making Blitzkrieg 3, a follow-up to the studio’s 2005 real-time strategy game Blitzkrieg 2.


Gearbox Launching Homeworld Remastered Collection Feb. 25 – Homeworld, one of the more beloved space-strategy franchises of the late 1990s/early 2000s, is flying back into relevancy. Just announced today at the PAX South convention, a brand-new HD remake of both Homeworld and Homeworld 2 will arrive this year—February 25, to be specific, which is more than a decade since either game was first released.


DayZ has sold 3 million copies even though it’s still in development – Open-world zombie survival game DayZ has sold over three million copies since launch in December 2013, according to developer Bohemia Interactive. It sold one million copies during its first month on sale, and passed the two million mark during its first four months. Those are impressive numbers for any game, let alone one that spawned from a user-generated mod and is still in the alpha stage of development.


10 of the meanest video games ever – Not every game is some escapist power fantasy designed to make players feel big and tough. Some are just downright cruel and enjoy screwing players over with brutal difficulty or even nasty tricks. While still plenty of fun, those are the games you have to watch out for. So, in no particular order, here are ten of the meanest video games to ever be unleashed…

Off Topic (Sort of):

A Form of Permanent Wage Theft: When the Soaring Price of College Isn’t Worth It – Supporters claim for-profit schools provide access to higher education for a demographic neglected by traditional colleges, but their graduates are among the most indebted in the country.

37 Stunning Photos That First Appeared In Sports Illustrated – Over the years, photographers for the magazine have captured the greatest moments in sports.


Derek Jeter in 1996.   Chuck Solomon/Sports Illustrated / Getty Images

Do Smarter People Drink More? – It’s the booziest time of the year, and also the most hung over: According to one study, 96 percent of Americans have been hung over at work after a holiday party, or know someone who has. Creative hangover cures like dried sour plums and poached duck embryos may ease (or exacerbate) physical symptoms, but here’s something that might help the self-reproach: You can blame your hangover on your high IQ, because studies show there might be a positive correlation between intelligence and alcohol consumption.

33 Ways You Know You’re Australian – What Aussies think makes them Aussies. As tweeted via Twitter’s globally trending #youknowyoureaustralianwhen hashtag.


2. You call McDonald’s Maccas.

Mars rover reaches highest point in 7 years, snaps this panorama – The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity reaches another height as it celebrates its 11-year anniversary with a video and patriotic panoramic photo just released by NASA.


AT&T ushers in the cross-country call, 100 years ago – On January 25, 1915, AT&T completed the first transcontinental telephone call in the US, after completing the challenging stretch from Denver to San Francisco.


The four original phones used for the first transcontinental telephone call were unveiled this week and will be on display at the California Historical Society.

James Martin/CNET

FAA tells airlines to remind flyers that checking e-cigs is a bad idea – Pointing to recent incidents — one plane had to be evacuated last summer when a checked e-cigarette overheated and caused a fire — the FAA notes that it’s much easier to spot potential hazards if e-cigs are in the cabin and visible to flight crew and passengers alike. And if you’re one for modding the components inside, you might be raising the odds of a problem in the skies. “The danger may be increased when users modify and rebuild their reusable e-cigarette devices and interchange original and aftermarket batteries, heating elements, and vaporizing components,” the FAA said.

Something to think about:

“We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.”

–        Walt Kelly (1913 – 1973), “Pogo” (comic strip)

Today’s Free Downloads:

Free Editor –  MajorGeek says: How about a tool that can open, view and edit just about any file on your computer? I bumped into this utility while tinkering in VMWare. It promised to open all sorts of files and they weren’t kidding around about that. It can be a real pain in the backside to have all the tools you need to open many types of files and this comes in handy if you occasionally need to look at a Microsoft Excel file, but don’t have nor want Microsoft Office. It does go beyond viewing and features an image editor, spell checker, file converter and more depending on what you are opening.

The number of file types it can open borders on massive. Some of the more known types include pdf, xls, eml, reg, pdf, xml, jpg, gif, png, java and more. I would guess it can open about 100 different types of files. The one minor drawback is your file association settings (File, File Associations) and select the files you want it to detect and open. It’s not perfect in this area; the perfect settings would be to select all, then remove the ones you know you have a program to open with. If you don’t have a program installed to open a certain file, Free Editor does not come up as a list of programs. If you don’t need it a lot that means you will need to save the file on your computer, open Free Editor then and go to “File, Open”. Still, this one stays on my computer for when I need it.


Windows 10 Build 9926 Technical Preview – Here is the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview for those who want to essentially beta test the next Windows. If not, we did take a look at the previous build at 7 Plus 8 Equals 10 – Hands On With The Windows 10 Technical Preview.

Remember, trying out an early build like this can be risky. That’s why we recommend that you don’t install the preview on your primary home or business PC. Unexpected PC crashes could damage or even delete your files, so you should back up everything.

If you want to stop using Windows 10 Technical Preview and return to your previous version of Windows, you’ll need to reinstall your previous version from the recovery or installation media that came with your PC—typically a DVD. If you don’t have recovery media, you might be able to create recovery media from a recovery partition on your PC using software provided by your PC manufacturer. You’ll need to do this before you upgrade. Check the support section of your PC manufacturer’s website for more info.

After you install Windows 10 Technical Preview, you won’t be able to use the recovery partition on your PC to go back to your previous version of Windows.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Wikileaks staffers are SHOCKED that FBI read their Gmail – Wikileaks really needs your donation — to purchase an email server. Three Wikileaks staffers, working for an organization hated by the US government, led by a man highly critical of both the US and Google, decided to use Google’s Gmail — because its so good.

So, the FBI — armed with secret warrants — forced Google to hand over contents of the staffers’ Gmail accounts. Wikileakers are now shocked, nay outraged, it took Google three years to reveal the disclosure. Surprise.

US spy program has financial, security impacts, says Snowden – The U.S. National Security Agency needs to consider the repercussions of its spying on electronic communications and data, especially how that impacts U.S. economic interests, former NSA analyst Edward Snowden said today.

“There’s a big question on if the potential intelligence we gain is worth the effort. They’re reducing the trust of the security in American products. This is critical in American industry. It has a real cost, not just moral but financially,” said Snowden, speaking Friday via video at a Harvard University conference on privacy in a networked society. He also said the NSA must understand that the methods it employs to secretly collect data can also be used against the U.S.

Snowden made international headlines in 2013 after releasing classified U.S. government documents that detailed the NSA’s extensive spying programs. Some of those documents, which are still being released, showed that the NSA placed or attempted to insert back doors in hardware, software and Web services from U.S. tech companies. This discourages potential customers and has cost the U.S. at least US$35 billion, said Snowden, citing studies.

Snowden now resides in Russia after the country granted him a three-year residency permit in 2014, as he expects to be prosecuted for his disclosures by the U.S.

Facebook’s European Privacy Class Action Hearing Set For April 9 – The class action covers a number of areas ranging from data use policy under EU law to PRISM surveillance support and the unlawful introduction of “Graph Search.” (The full list is below.) According to Europe vs. Facebook, the social network refutes the claims, arguing that the lawsuit is inadmissable because it cannot be sued by its users.

The purpose of the April 9 hearing is for the court to decide whether Facebook has valid objections about the admissibility of the lawsuit. Contacted for a response, Facebook says it has nothing more to add right now.

So far, the class action has been limited to 25,000 who can claim up to €500 each in damages, resulting in a case that could cost Facebook $14 million. The claimants are also demanding a “suspension of data usage” by the social network. Perhaps most importantly, if won — or even if simply prolonged in the public arena — the case could do a lot in PR damage. And if Facebook actually loses the case, it could result in orders for Facebook to change its practices in the region.

Turkey orders Facebook to block pages that insult the Prophet Mohammed – Turkey has moved to block several Facebook pages considered insulting to the Prophet Mohammed. A Turkish court ordered Facebook to close the offending pages in a ruling handed down Sunday, Reuters reports, threatening to block access to the social network if it doesn’t comply.

The ruling comes amid heightened tensions in the Middle East over this month’s attacks on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which appears to have been motivated, in part, by the publication’s depictions of the Prophet Mohammed. One week after the attacks, Charlie Hebdo once again featured the prophet on its cover, sparking protests across the Muslim world. In response, a Turkish court ordered all news sites publishing the cover to be blocked, while authorities launched an inquiry into a newspaper that published four pages of the issue as a show of solidarity.

Turkey has taken a hard stance on social media and freedom of speech under right-leaning Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Last year, the government blocked access to Twitter after users posted tweets linking the prime minister to a corruption scandal, and implemented a two-month ban against YouTube on similar grounds. In December, police arrested more than two dozen journalists and media executives in a move that the European Union condemned as an attack on the free press.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 23, 2015

Which Antivirus Offers the Best Protection? AV-Test Reports;  Privacy is dead, Harvard professors tell Davos forum;  5 tips for finding anything, about anyone, online;  Yes, 123456 is the most common password, but here’s why that’s misleading;  How to Quit Social Media (and Why You Should);  How to watch the Super Bowl on your Android phone or tablet;  Latest Firefox beta gives users more control over data;  Spotify Touch Preview reveals new way to discover music;  Microsoft’s Spartan browser: What’s under the hood;  Attacks using stolen credentials are on the rise;  Internet attack could shut down US gas stations;  Google to Firefox users: Dump Yahoo for us;  How Technology Is Making All of Us Less Trusting;  The best movies streaming on Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, and Vudu this weekend;  Cheerful tweets may mean a healthier heart.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Which Antivirus Offers the Best Protection? AV-Test Reports – If you count both major players and smaller companies, you’ll find dozens of antivirus products available. Which one should you choose to protect your own PCs? If you were choosing between different cars, you could take test drives, see how each suits your needs. But you wouldn’t want to test drive an antivirus using live malware! Fortunately, independent labs like AV-Test Institute do the necessary research for you. The latest report from this lab helps identify the best antivirus products.


Privacy is dead, Harvard professors tell Davos forum – Imagine a world where mosquito-sized robots fly around stealing samples of your DNA. Or where a department store knows from your buying habits that you’re pregnant even before your family does. That is the terrifying dystopian world portrayed by a group of Harvard professors at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, where the assembled elite heard that the notion of individual privacy is effectively dead. “Welcome to today. We’re already in that world,” said Margo Seltzer, a professor in computer science at Harvard University. “Privacy as we knew it in the past is no longer feasible… How we conventionally think of privacy is dead,” she added.

5 tips for finding anything, about anyone, online – I think everyone should have decent online stalking skills. Not because I condone stalking, but because knowledge is power — if you don’t know how to find people online, how do you know what people can find about you online? Googling yourself is like checking your credit report for inaccuracies: it’s only effective as a preventative measure if you do it thoroughly and routinely. Whether you’re looking for yourself or a friend (no judgment), here are five tips for finding out anything, about anyone, online:

Kim Dotcom’s Mega launches Skype competitor MegaChat – Despite ongoing controversy surrounding his tech inventions, Dotcom releases a beta-stage Web tool that provides users with end-to-end encrypted video and audio communication.

Yes, 123456 is the most common password, but here’s why that’s misleading – I recently worked with SplashData to compile its 2014 Worst Passwords List, and yes, 123456 tops the list. In the data set of 3.3 million passwords I used for SplashData, almost 20,000 of those were in fact 123456. But how often do you genuinely see people using that, or the second most common password, password, in real life? Are people still really that careless with their passwords? While 123456 is absolutely the most common password, that statistic is a bit misleading.

Twitter prompts top users to stop tweeting Instagram links – Twitter and Instagram are battling over mobile photo-sharing, and it is a story that has been long running. Back in December of 2012, Instagram changed the way its photos showed up on Twitter so that the latter’s users are forced to click a link and view the images on Instagram’s own site/app. For its part, Twitter has made filters available to users for sprucing up photos and making it more appealing to post images directly in tweets rather than through a different service. Now Twitter is upping its game.

Spotify Touch Preview reveals new way to discover music – The newest version of Spotify makes full use of the high-powered nature of your touchscreen device. With this feature in play, you’re able to drag your thumb around the screen, moving through songs as you do so. Previewing each song, album, or artist as you like, all on a grid of images that make discovering music a visual experience, as well. This newest feature is only available – at first – on iOS devices. That means iPad and iPhone, and just the latest couple of generations.


How to Quit Social Media (and Why You Should) – If social media has you down, here’s a guide to slowly but surely walk away, temporarily or for good.

Windows 10 on small tablets looks like a miniature PC – While many had hoped the Windows Phone interface would simply scale up, it seems Microsoft is taking the approach of scaling the Windows 10 desktop down to small tablets. There’s a taskbar, a desktop mode, and all the regular Windows apps you’d expect to see. While we’re only getting a look at small Intel-powered tablets, it’s clear the direction here is to make it identical to the desktop version, but optimized for touch.


CNET’s ultimate travel photography kit guide – Planning a holiday this year? Check out our guide to see what photography gear to take with you to help capture some stunning shots.

Microsoft’s Spartan browser: What’s under the hood – Microsoft has revealed a few new tidbits about Spartan, its new ‘modern’ browser for Windows 10, and its relationship with IE.


Picattoo Turns Instagram Photos Into Temporary Tattoos – Say hello to wearable photo-sharing. Picattoo is a newly launched service that will turn your Instagram photos into temporary tattoos — so you can slap your very own branding on your wrist. Or forehead. But probably your wrist.


How to watch the Super Bowl on your Android phone or tablet – NBC will live stream the game, and you shouldn’t even have to log in or provide any sort of pay TV credentials. The network will even stream the halftime show this year. It will stream ads too, though they won’t necessarily be the same ads that air on broadcast TV. Here’s how you can ready now, so you’re not fussing with installing apps during the big game.

The most obvious user for Linux isn’t who you think – The idea that Linux is perfect for the average user should be a no brainer for anyone who has anything to do with IT. And yes, I understand that legacy software still exists, and there are situations where Linux simply doesn’t fit. But more often, that is becoming outside the norm — and the browser will soon become the only platform of importance. So, why not start the migration of the clients that best fit this need now? Take a brief moment to educate them on Linux and send them on their way. “Teach a man to fish” aptly applies here.


Latest Firefox beta gives users more control over data – Mozilla is adding new capabilities in the beta version of Firefox 36 to give users and website owners more control over what data, if any, is sent to other websites during browsing.

Fujitsu psychology tool profiles users at risk of cyberattacks – Fujitsu wants to make computer security more personalized with profiling software based on psychology. The manufacturer’s Fujitsu Laboratories is developing an enterprise tool that can identify and advise people who are more vulnerable to cyberattacks, based on how they use email and Web browsers as well as their keyboard and mouse actions. Rather than being like an antivirus program, the software is more like “an action log analysis than looks into the potential risks of a user,” a spokesman for the lab said via email. “It judges risk based on human behavior and then assigns a security countermeasure for a given user.”

Australians to get one login for government services – Australians will be offered a single digital identity to access services across federal, state, and local branches of government.

Security For Startups – Until your startup can afford a CISO, how do you protect your mission, IP, brand, assets, employees, and capital from cyber threats? For startups with limited resources and intense focus, what’s the right measured response to these threats? To help our portfolio companies answer these questions, I surveyed Silicon Valley startups to understand their regrets and successes in mitigating cyber losses. I interviewed technical founders, Engineering VPs, CTOs and CISOs to hear what measures they wish they’d taken sooner, or in some cases, later. I also tapped security gurus like Dan Farmer (author, inventor of SATAN), Barrett Lyon (anti-DDoS warrior, hero of Fatal System Error), and Richard Clarke (author, top cyber intelligence officer in the White House and State Department).


Attacks using stolen credentials are on the rise – Organizations are seeing a sharp increase in attacks using stolen account credentials, with crooks using new techniques to beat fraud detection systems, according to Gartner. Gartner clients have reported a “significant rise” over the last two months in the use of stolen credentials to access accounts, wrote fraud expert Avivah Litan in a blog post Thursday. The account credentials used in the attacks are likely being obtained from data breaches at major services. Litan cited the discovery of a gang likely based in Russia called CyberVor that amassed 1.2 billion login credentials and 500 million email addresses from a variety of services.

Internet attack could shut down US gas stations – A device used to monitor the gasoline levels at refueling stations across the United States—known as an automated tank gauge or ATG—could be remotely accessed by online attackers, manipulated to cause alerts, and even set to shut down the flow of fuel, according to research to be published on Thursday. The vulnerability of the gauges used to monitor gasoline tanks is the latest security issue plaguing consumer and industrial devices that are increasingly being connected to the Internet. Often called the Internet of Things, connecting such technology to the wider Internet poses security risks because many of the devices were created without much thought to security.

Adobe fixes just one of two zero-day flaw in Flash Player – Adobe Systems released Flash Player for Windows and Mac, Flash Player for Linux and Flash Player Extended Support Release These updates address a vulnerability identified in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures database as CVE-2015-0310. Adobe is aware of an exploit for this vulnerability “in the wild” being used to attack older versions of Flash Player, the company said in a security advisory.

Adobe to release patch next week for ‘critical’ Flash zero-day under attack – Adobe says it will deliver a fix for a newly discovered flaw that is being used in drive-by download attacks, but the patch won’t be ready until at least next Monday.

Google’s Project Zero reveals three Apple OS X zero-day vulnerabilities – Google’s security team has disclosed three separate zero-day vulnerabilities on Apple’s OS X platform. It seems annoying Microsoft wasn’t enough.

Company News:

Google to Firefox users: Dump Yahoo for us – After striking a deal late last year, Yahoo has been the default search engine for Firefox users in the US for the past few months. But Google wants them back.

BlackBerry CEO Wants Legislators To Make Developing BlackBerry Apps Mandatory – At this point, BlackBerry and Windows Phone fans are probably used to having a much smaller selection of apps than their counterparts on iOS and Android smartphones. After all, diehard devotees of BlackBerry and Windows Phone, which both lag dramatically behind Android and iOS in terms of market share, still bought their smartphones in spite of their limited app ecosystems.

Britain’s second-largest carrier O2 to be bought out in $15 billion deal – Hong Kong-based telecommunications giant Hutchison Whampoa is poised to purchase Britain’s second-biggest wireless carrier, O2, in a deal reportedly worth upwards of £10 billion ($15 billion). Hutchison Whampoa — owned by Chinese billionaire Li Ka-shing — already owns Three, another major cell phone provider in the United Kingdom. Should Hutchison Whampoa successfully purchase O2 from its current owner, Spanish firm Telefónica, then Ka-shing’s company would create the UK’s largest mobile group.

Verizon says it isn’t two-faced: Allegation is “frivolous… histrionics” – Verizon is urging the Federal Communications Commission to reject a call for an investigation into statements it has made on utility rules, net neutrality, and its fiber network. Verizon was accused of “deceiv[ing] the FCC” by telecom analyst Bruce Kushnick of New Networks Institute and audit director Tom Allibone of telecom customer advocacy group Teletruth. Verizon has used its status as a telephone utility to gain favorable government treatment of its fiber network even while telling the FCC that applying similar rules to Internet service would deter private investment. Kushnick and Allibone called Verizon “the ‘Janus’ of telecom,” referring to a two-faced god of Roman mythology.

Games and Entertainment:

Amazon opens “Transparent” series to everyone for one day – Netflix has dominated public attention when it comes to original series, but competitor Amazon has scored its first big series’ win with Transparent, a cleverly named series that touches on some heavy issues through a series of characters including Maura. The series has been available for a little while now on Amazon’s own video service, and it has found favor with viewers — so much so that it scored a couple of Golden Globe awards this month. In celebration of that, Amazon is removing that paywall for a single day, allowing anyone to watch the show.


The best movies streaming on Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, and Vudu this weekend – Don’t waste your precious downtime looking for great movies to watch this weekend. Choose from these picks from our expert critic.


Lucy – Scarlett Johansson

I Played a Truck Simulator Video Game for 30 Hours and Have Never Felt More at Peace – I don’t play many sims, but I was intrigued by Euro Truck Simulator 2. Not because I had some burning desire to drive heavy goods vehicles around Germany, but because I heard from a few people that, honestly, seriously, it’s really good. So I had a go, as a joke, and ended up playing it for over 30 hours. That’s an entire day and some change I’ve spent driving along imaginary highways, obeying the speed limit, delivering wood shavings to Stuttgart and hauling powdered milk to Aberdeen. The game recreates a huge chunk of Britain and continental Europe. It’s not to scale, because that would be insane, but it still takes ages to drive across it.


Euro Truck Simulator 2 gameplay

DreamWorks Animation will make fewer movies because not enough people are seeing them – DreamWorks Animation plans to cut around 500 jobs and reduce its film output from three per year to two per year as part of a major restructuring meant to improve its profitability. The studio, known for Shrek and the Madagascar series, has struggled at the box office in recent years despite finally finding some critical success with How to Train Your Dragon. Continued box-office misses have put DreamWorks Animation in a tough place. Twice this year, other companies have considered buying it, though neither purchase — from SoftBank or Hasbro — panned out.


Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 graphics card review: Maxwell meets PC gaming’s sweet spot – With the GeForce GTX 980 and 970 firmly in command of the premium graphics card market, Nvidia’s setting its sights on the crucial 1080p enthusiast segment with the GTX 960, the first truly mainstream iteration of its powerful, yet stunningly power-efficient “Maxwell” processor architecture. The GTX 960 delivers outstanding 1080p gaming capabilities, rocking a silky-smooth 60 frames per seconds in even demanding titles with most of the bells and whistles turned on. And priced at just $200, the GTX 960 is poised to make some waves.


Don’t panic! DirectX12 won’t require a new graphics card after all – You won’t actually need a new graphics card to run Microsoft’s new DirectX 12 API, which will be baked into Windows 10 later this year. Microsoft has formally confirmed that modern GPUs will indeed work with DX12 afterall. The PC gaming site Rock Paper Shotgun threw people into panic mode when it reported that current GPUs—including cards purchased within the past few months—would not work with DX12. Microsoft told PCWorld that the initial reports were incorrect.

Off Topic (Sort of):

How Technology Is Making All of Us Less Trusting – That’s the takeaway from the 2015 Trust Barometer survey, released by public relations firm Edelman every year at the World Economic Forum in Davos. What’s interesting is how much people blame technology and the speed of technological change for the feeling of unease in the world today. Two to one, consumers in all of the countries surveyed felt that technology was moving too quickly for them to cope with, and that governments and business weren’t doing enough to assess the long term impact of shifts like GMO foods, fracking, disruptors like Uber or Apple Pay, or any of the the myriad other digital services that effect privacy and security of people and companies. That belies the conventional wisdom amongst tech gurus like, say, Jeff Bezos, who once said that, “New inventions and things that customers like are usually good for society.” Maybe, but increasingly people aren’t feeling that way.

Cheerful tweets may mean a healthier heart – A large-scale analysis of language used on Twitter adds to the evidence that negative emotions are directly linked to heart disease. For the study, Kern and her team looked at public tweets published between 2009 and 2010. They analyzed the use of words that reflected emotions and behavior that may be triggered by strong feelings. The data involved 1,300 U.S. counties containing 88 percent of the country’s population. Counties where tweets included a lot of four-letter expletives, words like “hate” and other negative language were found to have higher rates of coronary heart disease than those where positive language — words such as “wonderful” or “friends” — was more common. The authors say using Twitter may be an accurate litmus test for public health, because researchers are not restricted to only collecting data through a limited number of questions created for a study. Using social media is also a cost-effective means for collecting data.


Psychological Science

Cars: Ford Model T – How to drive the car that got the world moving.


Meth-carrying drone crashes near US-Mexico border – The Tijuana Municipal Police Department has revealed that a drone carrying crystal meth crashed into a superstore’s parking lot near the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this week. The remote-controlled aircraft was loaded with packages containing 3 kilogram (6.6 pounds) of methamphetamine divided into six packets. The police believe the aircraft was most likely being used for cross-neighborhood ferrying of drugs rather than across the border, which is heavily guarded. Furthermore, they believe that the plane drone might have crashed because of the excessive load being attached to its underside.


Here’s why rain smells, presented in slow-mo – There’s a word for the scent that comes with the rain after a long, warm period of dry weather – it’s called Petrichor. This week, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have published a study – and a rather fascinating video – that shows how rain gives off this scent. Rain releases a smell much in the same way champagne releases its scent through bubbles – with tiny bursts of aerosols. Like miniature spray bottles aiming for your nose, raindrops are able to smell just like rain.


Something to think about:

“Abnormal is so common, it’s practically normal.”

–    Cory Doctorow

Today’s Free Downloads:

YoWindow – Watch weather like never before on Windows and Mac. See the weather picture, not just numbers. This is a new way of weather watching. Enjoy the weather!


Weather picture, not just numbers

Real cloud coverage, rain/snow, fog, grass swings to the wind, Sun, Moon, mist, thunderstorms…

Full featured weather station

Time-scroll – weather forecast at any moment

Turn any picture into landscape or browse our collection

Temperature near Windows clock

Surprises 🙂


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

EU should oblige Internet firms to hand over encryption keys, says antiterrorist advisor – Internet and telecommunications companies should be obliged to share encryption keys with police and intelligence agencies to help them fight terrorism, the European Union’s Counter-Terrorism Coordinator has advised.

It’s a remarkable suggestion, because companies such as Google and Facebook have only just begun encrypting their Internet traffic to shield it from intelligence agencies, after documents leaked by Edward Snowden detailed the depth of government surveillance programs.

EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove suggested that the European Commission “should be invited to explore rules obliging Internet and telecommunications companies operating in the EU to provide … access of the relevant national authorities to communications (i.e. share encryption keys),” according to a leaked document published by civil rights group Statewatch.

In that document, De Kerchove sets out his views on anti-terrorism measures to be taken in the EU in preparation for a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in Riga next week.

California cops hope to expand facial recognition, “eCrime” head says – California’s top digital cop told an assembled crowd of law enforcement, civil libertarians, and concerned citizens that the “possibilities are limitless” when it comes to using facial recognition to solve crimes.

“It doesn’t require a front face shot,” Robert Morgester, the senior assistant attorney general and the head of the state’s eCrime Unit, said on Wednesday. “The software has become so robust that you can do a side shot. If mugshots are in use—each region has their own database of mugshots—and agents can query pictures of a known suspect.”

That was just one of a handful of surveillance technologies that Morgester ran through—he explored the law enforcement benefits of not only facial recognition, but also mobile DNA testing, license plate readers, and drones. He faced off with an attorney from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Jennifer Lynch, who eloquently articulated counter-arguments and raised privacy concerns.

The two of them spoke during a forum on Wednesday called “Protecting Our Communities, Respecting Our Liberties,” which was organized by the California Attorney General’s Office.


Robert Morgester (right), the California Senior Assistant Attorney General, debated with Jennifer Lynch (center), an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 22, 2015

The 9 biggest announcements from Microsoft’s Windows 10 event;  Obama’s cybersecurity plan: Share a password, click a link, go to prison as a hacker;  Microsoft To Provide Free Upgrades To Windows 10;  VPNs made easy: 3 services with one-click desktop apps;  FreedomPop Turns On Unlimited Wi-Fi Across The US For $5/Month;  Watch Microsoft’s HoloLens in action;  Facebook’s WhatsApp comes to desktop computers;  4 time-saving tips and tricks for iOS 8;  Flash zero day under attack;  Should you cut the cord? A guide to decide for 2015;  The 10 Most-Pirated Movies;  Netflix says piracy service Popcorn Time is a real competitor;  10 Huge Hoaxes That Fooled Facebook;  Free game alert: Origin’s giving away Theme Hospital;  EnhanceMySe7en Free.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Obama’s cybersecurity plan: Share a password, click a link, go to prison as a hacker – Security experts say that, thanks to President Obama’s proposed cybersecurity plans and CFAA amendments, you could be considered a hacker for innocent behavior like sharing your Netflix password with family members or clicking a link that contains unauthorized content. EFF attorney Nate Cardozo tweeted a boiled down version of Obama’s speech: “To protect our children, I want to make it a 10-year felony to share Netflix passwords.”

The 9 biggest announcements from Microsoft’s Windows 10 event – We got our first look at a bunch of features in Windows 10, which comes out next week for people who signed up for the pre-release. As expected, Microsoft made a strong push toward connecting its devices more seamlessly, part of its universal apps program. Office, Outlook, and other apps all work quite similarly across devices, and Cortana is everywhere, working as a natural-language interface and personal assistant. The big surprise, however, was Microsoft’s foray into virtual reality, with its HoloLens glasses, an ambitious bid to create a system for overlaying holographic images over the real world.

Microsoft To Provide Free Upgrades To Windows 10 – Microsoft promised a new build of Windows 10 next week, and also confirmed previous rumors that the first build of the operating system for smartphones will be released in February. If you are on Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1, you will be eligible for a free upgrade inside the first year of Windows 10. Microsoft made the announcement this morning at an event on its corporate campus outside of Seattle.

Windows 10 for phones will act like an extension of your PC – Microsoft gives the first glimpse of its next mobile operating system, including synced notifications, Skype integration and full-featured Office.

VPNs made easy: 3 services with one-click desktop apps – We’ve talked before about the importance of virtual private networks (VPNs) to keep you safe and protected when using open Wi-Fi networks. The downside of VPN’s, however, is that some need manual set-up, requiring you to muck around with the built-in VPN client in Windows or a third-party client like OpenVPN. That’s all well and good if you like getting your hands dirty, but the whole point of what we do here is to find solutions that are—dare I say it—hassle-free. Many VPNs these days offer their own no muss, no fuss downloadable client. You just download the program, turn it on, and boom! You’re connected. Here are three examples of VPNs that do just that, and all three have Android and iOS clients in addition to desktop clients.

FreedomPop Turns On Unlimited Wi-Fi Across The US For $5/Month – FreedomPop, the startup that is trying to steal users away from mobile carriers by offering free, basic cellular voice and data plans, is adding another string to its bow today: the company is launching a low-cost WiFi service, where a user gets unlimited use of, and automatic sign-on to, 10 million hotspots across the U.S. for $5.

Instagram launches beta Android app, offering sneak peek at new features – If you’re willing to serve as a guinea pig, you can try out the newest updates to Instagram before they hit the main app.


Watch Microsoft’s HoloLens in action – Microsoft’s event this afternoon may have focused on Windows 10, but the biggest news out of it was HoloLens — a headset that lets its wearer augment their world with apps, games, and other information. Since that’s a difficult experience to convey on stage, Microsoft first presented its vision for what’ll be possible with HoloLens in a pair of videos, both of which it’s now published onto YouTube. You can watch the glasses’ introduction above and an additional video speculating about their potential below. In case you haven’t caught on, Microsoft has huge ambitions here: “This is the next generation of computing,” one person says. “This is the next PC.”


No more free singles from Apple? Five free-music alternatives – We’re now three weeks into 2015, and the iTunes Store hasn’t shared any new free tracks. Fortunately, as any card-carrying cheapskate knows, there are plenty of other sources for free tunes. Here are five:

Twitter Officially Launches Its “While You Were Away” Recap Feature – Twitter’s “While You Were Away” feature, which helps you catch up on tweets that you missed, is officially launching on iOS today (with Android and web coming soon). The company previewed the feature at its analyst day last fall and started rolling it out at the end of December.

Facebook’s WhatsApp comes to desktop computers – The chat application, which Facebook bought for more than $19 billion in October, will now extend its service so that it can be used on desktop and laptop computers. The app now lets people send and receive messages using a website, in addition to existing mobile apps. The move expands WhatsApp’s reach to even more devices, and underscores Facebook’s desire to fuel the world’s communications.

Microsoft shows off Spartan, their Chrome/Safari challenger – Spartan was shown off at Microsoft’s event today, and we now know how Microsoft envisions the browser. After acknowledging that there was indeed something called Project Spartan, we were told all the fun things Spartan will bring us. We will get the ability to mark-up those marked-down webpages, and and migrate efficiently between touch and keyboard interactions. There is also a new reading list, and Cortana is at your side, as always. Rather than re-build the browser, Microsoft is taking the better parts on others and combining them into one.

This app will decipher your iPhone screenshots – Screenshots are a quick way to capture and store information you’ll need access to. Say, for example, a friend sends you a recipe in iMessage and you don’t want to spend hours scrolling through your chat history to recall it. Snap a screenshot, then launch your Camera Roll when you need the recipe. But what do you do when you want to transfer the recipe over to another app, or send it to someone else without actually sending the screenshot? You either wrote it down by hand, or jumped between apps copying it line by line. A new app, Screenshots, wants to make screenshots even more useful than they are now.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

4 time-saving tips and tricks for iOS 8 you probably missed – In iOS 8, Apple made things easier and more efficient. Tasks that used to take many steps now only take a few or are completely automated. Here are four of the best time-saving tips and tricks in iOS 8 — you’ll wonder how you ever used iOS without it.


Flash zero day under attack – A zero day Flash vulnerability is being actively exploited by criminals using the popular Angler exploit kit. Adobe is investigating the report by respected French malware researcher Kafeine, who found the exploit kit circulating on cybercrime forums. The vulnerabilities affected Flash Player versions up to and the latest, he said. Punters on Windows 8.1 are safe, along with those using Google Chrome thanks to use of sandboxing.

Critical Java updates fix 19 vulnerabilities, disable SSL 3.0 – Oracle released new security updates for Java to fix 19 vulnerabilities and disable default support for SSL 3.0, an outdated version of the secure communications protocol that is vulnerable to attacks. The updates were part of Oracle’s quarterly Critical Patch Update, released Tuesday, which fixes 169 security issues across hundreds of products.

What if Facebook Is Hacked Next? – The Sony hack was just a bit of fun compared to what could happen if Facebook gets taken out. Nobody ever thinks of a behemoth like Facebook shutting down. When a company like LiveJournal is still operating just fine, the likelihood of Facebook collapsing is remote. But what would you do if it did? Do you have important data on Facebook—status updates, video, photos, etc.—that are only stored on the social network? Is it your primary method of communication with friends and family? Are you dependent on Facebook?

Over 90 percent of data breaches in first half 2014 were preventable – The Online Trust Alliance says that a high percentage of data breaches were the result of staff mistakes — rather than external hacking.

Company News:

Google wants to become a mobile carrier – Google has laid the groundwork for its own cellular service by buying capacity on the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile USA, according to news reports. Google is heavily involved in mobile through its Android operating system, the world’s most widely used mobile OS, as well as through selling mobile advertising, and is pushing to make more radio spectrum available for wireless services. But the partnerships with Sprint and T-Mobile would bring the company into the cellular business itself, offering Google phone plans directly to consumers.

Google Spent Even More on Lobbying Than Comcast in 2014 – Google’s influence is increasingly being felt in Washington, according to a corporate spending watchdog. The search giant spent $16.83 million on federal lobbying in 2014, according to public records analyzed by public interest nonprofit Consumer Watchdog — just a little bit more than the $16.8 million spend racked up by noted big spender Comcast last year, as it sought to win approval for a planned $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable.

Netflix says piracy service Popcorn Time is a real competitor – Netflix isn’t just worried about HBO — it’s worried about pirates, too. In a letter to shareholders yesterday, Netflix says that piracy is one of its “biggest competitors,” and notably, it specifically points to one piracy service that’s caught its attention: Popcorn Time. Popcorn Time’s app is meant to make pirating a movie as easy as streaming one on Netflix. The app allows you to browse through an iTunes-like catalog of movies and TV shows by their posters, select one for more information, and then start streaming it after a short buffering period. It’s so streamlined that anyone should be able to just pick it up and start watching.


Dropbox acquires CloudOn in talent grab – CloudOn has been acquired by Dropbox, the company has announced. It appears this was a talent grab, and under the acquisition — the terms of which having not been revealed — the cloud storage service will bring in 30+ new employees, as well as CloudOn’s Israeli office. That latter office will be used by Dropbox as part of its hiring in the nation, the company’s product, business, and mobile lead said in an interview recently. This is the latest of many acquisitions on Dropbox’s part.

EBay to cut 7% of workforce, looks to spin-off Enterprise unit – EBay will cut roughly 7 percent of its total workforce, or 2,400 workers, and is considering a sale or IPO of its Enterprise unit, it said Wednesday. The cuts are part of a plan to save more than $300 million across the company this year as it battles sluggish traffic, low-selling items, and increased competition in e-commerce. EBay is also planning to spin off its PayPal unit into a separate company this year.

Facebook Is in a Hiring Frenzy – Facebook is seeking to grow its workforce by nearly 15 percent in the first several months of 2015, according to Reuters. The news service recently reviewing the social network’s job listings and found that the company is actively seeking to “add nearly 1,200 new employees, the outgrowth of aggressive investments that executives have said will define the coming year.” Facebook currently has just under 8,500 full-time employees on the books.

Apple buys piracy-measuring, buzz-tracking service Musicmetric – With Beats Music set to play along with iTunes, Apple has struck a new chord by buying Musicmetric, a service that measures which tunes and artists are being listened to, pirated and talked about. Launched in 2008, Musicmetric is a music-analytics service run by British company Semetric. Musicmetric delves beyond the sales and streaming charts, looking at activity on peer-to-peer networks as well as reviews and comments on blogs, social networks and YouTube.

Games and Entertainment:

Should you cut the cord? A guide to decide for 2015 – Given the tagline at the top of this column, you might think I’m a diehard cord-cutting advocate. But while I personally abandoned cable TV years ago, and hope the trend of others doing the same will bring lower prices and more choice to everyone, I don’t think it’s the best solution for everyone. In reality, cutting the cord will work better for some folks than others, but the good news is that it’s getting easier to take the plunge as new services and hardware options emerge. If you’re thinking about giving up your pay-TV subscription for an Internet-only plan, here are some questions to ask yourself first:

Microsoft To Bring Xbox One Game Streaming to Windows 10 Devices Later This Year – Xbox lead Phil Spencer showed off the new feature on stage today in Seattle at Microsoft’s special event, playing Forza on Xbox One and streaming it to a Surface 3 where he controlled and viewed it remotely. This is actually a huge win for Xbox One owners who also operate Windows 10 devices (which should theoretically include any Windows 7 or 8 device, thanks to the free year-long update period). Sony offers Remote Play for PS4, but it requires either Xperia Android-based hardware, or a PlayStation Vita or TV to work – Microsoft has a huge install base of PC hardware that it should be able to already serve.


Elder Scrolls Online ditches mandatory subscription – As hotly-anticipated games go, Elder Scrolls Online is probably one of the most anticipated, and so news that Bethesda Softworks has not only confirmed its console release but dropped one of the more controversial subscription details is most welcome. Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited will land on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on June 9th, following its March 17th arrival on PC and Mac. Even better, Bethesda is ditching the monthly subscription the promise of which so annoyed gamers last year, though there’ll still be in-game purchases for extra content, and an optional “ESO Plus” subscription.


The 10 Most-Pirated Movies – PCMag doesn’t support piracy in any way, shape, or form. Seriously. Our mission with this most-pirated movies article is a very simple one: to inform you about what’s happening in the online digital media world. Besides, tracking stolen movies is a decent, alternate way to gauge a flick’s popularity. Take Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for example. The Michael Bay-produced movie made just a few appearances on TorrentFreak’s most-pirated movie list, but American Sniper continues to appear on the list week after week. Pirates, it seems, have taste, too.


Free game alert: Origin’s giving away Theme Hospital – Yes, EA’s giving away Bullfrog’s 1997 title Theme Hospital this month, which is a “business simulation” game in the same way Anchorman is about the day-to-day proceedings of a local news station. Like previous “On the House” promotions, you’ll need an Origin account to take advantage. Then again, if you’ve played any EA games on PC recently you probably already have one of those. And hey, free games right? No telling how long the deal will last, though a month is a safe bet.

Off Topic (Sort of):

10 Huge Hoaxes That Fooled Facebook – Surely you’ve seen these hoaxes in your Facebook News Feed: posts about celebrities, politicians, or Facebook itself that seem too good (or too awful) to be true. Or, at the very least, they are too whatever to not share with the rest of your Facebook friends. To battle this phenomenon, Facebooks this week introduced an initiative to allow users to highlight these false posts, which will help the company spot them and thus stop the spread of these outright lies. What type of things are we talking about? Check out some of the hoaxes that have made the rounds on Facebook throughout the years:

Here’s how the new Republican Congress plans to undercut net neutrality – The widespread national popularity of net neutrality principles have pushed the new Republican Congress, however tentatively, to embrace some of its core concepts. With two congressional net neutrality hearings scheduled for today, Republican lawmakers have released draft legislation that would ban broadband providers from discriminating against certain kinds of web traffic. But even as the draft bill appears to enforce fundamental tenets of net neutrality, it explicitly undermines the legal authority of the FCC. And advocates say that if passed, the bill could create new obstacles to an open internet.

Even Google makes mistakes: 4 Android features that failed – The Android of today is worlds better than what we had even a few years ago, but Google is certainly not infallible. Android has been evolving at a breakneck pace since it hit the market in 2008, and sometimes that has led to errors in judgement. Mistakes were made. There are plenty of examples where Google had to backpedal (or pull a feature entirely) after it failed to catch on, and here are four of the most prominent.


They had potential, but it just wasn’t enough.

Become an alien hunter with free online course from Harvard – The course is called “Super-Earths And Life” and it’s being offered on the edX platform, a website created by Harvard and MIT that provides free online courses from the world’s top universities. The course will combine the latest findings in evolutionary biology with with advances that have helped us discover more and more planets outside our own solar system. It starts on February 10, lasts for six weeks and requires a commitment of about five hours per week.


Something to think about:

“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.”

–      Booker T. Washington

Today’s Free Downloads:

EnhanceMySe7en Free – EnhanceMySe7en helps users to control many aspects of the system with maximum convenience.

You will get everything needed for maintaining Windows 7 in a perfect condition. The program offers tools that take care of the registry, disk space and its defragmentation, installed software, HDD temperature and all sorts of things related to system’s health. Also there are lots of other options helping to boost your system’s performance.

With a clean and simple interface it brings you an All-in-One set of powerful and neatly classified tools, settings and tweaks.


Process Identification – Identify unrecognized software

Start-Up Management – Disable unnecessary software increasing performance

Registry Cleaner – Can easily checks your registry and repair incorrectly linked registry entries, automatically remove invalid entries

Disk Cleaner – Find out which files or folders engross your disk space and shown with chart

Registry Defragmenter – Rebuilds and re-indexs your registry to reduce application response time and registry access time

Disk Defragmenter – Reduces the amount of fragmentation in file systems

Hard Drive Monitor – Gives the current values of various hard disk parameters such as Temperature, Head Flying Height, Spin-Up Time etc.

System Tools, File, Network and Security Tools

Security – EnhanceMySe7en has easy to configure security settings for managing the new security features of Windows Vista

Optimization – Optimize settings for maximum speed and stability

Customization – customize system desktop, menus, toolbar and notifications settings

Network – Optimize your Internet connection speed


AppRemover – AppRemover fully supports the thorough uninstallation of hundreds of antivirus and antispyware applications. The following support chart is updated with each new release. The chart lists two different types of supported applications. One set has been verified by OPSWAT Labs testing. The other set lists applications that have been reported as supported by the hundreds of thousands of users that have previously downloaded AppRemover. After using AppRemover, please take a moment to answer a few brief questions about the product. Your feedback will greatly improve AppRemover’s effectiveness.

In addition, AppRemover may be able to successfully remove other security applications on your system. However, these are not guaranteed.

Use AppRemover:

When replacing one security application with another

When competing security applications tie up your computer

When the application’s built-in uninstall process fails

When you have forgotten the application password


ParkControl – ParkControl is a small freeware utility that facilitates tweaking of core parking and CPU frequency scaling settings of Windows power plans. It has no installer. It is a live EXE.

Bitsum developed ParkControl because core parking settings are hidden in Windows, but can make such a large difference on performance, particularly when there are bursting CPU bound loads (the most common type).

Core Parking is a sleep state (C6) supported by most newer x86 processors, and newer editions of Windows. Core Parking dynamically disables CPU cores in an effort to conserve power when idle. Disabled cores are re-enabled as the CPU load increases once again. This technology is very similar to frequency scaling, in that it seeks to throttle the CPU when idle.

The problem is that Window’s default power profiles are configured far too aggressively when it comes to core parking, especially on workstations. Their interest was in conserving energy, even if this meant marginally decreasing performance. A number of complex parameters control when a core should be parked, and Microsoft tuned heavily towards power savings.

The core parking settings in Windows are implemented as parameters of power plans (aka power profiles). That means you can, for example, disable core parking for the High Performance power plan, but leave it enabled for other plans. And that is exactly the desired tweak for most users: disable parking only for high performance power plans.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Will Obama finally change cybersecurity in America? – During his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, the president barely tipped his hat to major cybersecurity reform proposals he introduced in speeches last week. They included streamlining the current patchwork approach to data breach disclosure, information sharing between private companies and the government, and increased penalties for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

“If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable,” Obama said during his speech, which was light on details. “If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.”

These proposals come at a time when the American people are arguably more concerned about cybersecurity than ever before. A Gallup poll in October found hacking was the top crime Americans worry about, above murder, assault and terrorism. And there’s good reason. This past year was one of the most active on record for hackers who breached computer systems at major retailers, financial institutions and even Hollywood.

The Obama administration responded by proposing new legislation to force cybersecurity changes which have stalled in Congress for years. Yet even after the devastating attacks on Sony Pictures in November, experts are skeptical Obama can convince Congress to support his proposals.

Calls for ISPs to filter content could be illegal, EU council documents suggest – Last week justice ministers from across the European Union called on ISPs to conduct voluntary censorship of online content—but documents in preparation for a meeting of telecoms ministers suggest such a move could be illegal.

The documents, prepared by the Latvian presidency of the Council of the EU, note that calls to allow Internet service providers to block or filter content in the “public interest” as part of a proposed net neutrality law could violate privacy laws that protect the confidentiality of communication.

The Council, along with the Commission and the Parliament, is one of the EU’s three lawmaking bodies. The member states take turns as president of the council: Latvia took over from Italy for its six-month stint on Jan. 1.

Different ministers participate in each meeting of the Council: net neutrality is on the agenda for a forthcoming meeting of telecommunications ministers, and on Tuesday the presidency released a document outlining issues that need to be addressed.

Australian government blames Snowden for data retention – The Australian Attorney-General’s Department has pushed back at industry and privacy advocate concerns over mandatory data-retention legislation, stating that the leaks on the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance operations by whistleblower Edward Snowden have hastened the need for the regime.

Under legislation currently before the parliament, Australian telecommunications companies would be required to retain an as-yet-undefined set of customer data for two years, not limited to but including call records, address information, email addresses, and assigned IP addresses.

The legislation is being backed up by Australian law-enforcement agencies, which claim that access to the data without a warrant is vital to almost every criminal investigation. Telecommunications companies and privacy advocates, however, warn that the scheme would be a major intrusion on the lives of every Australian, and that the costs of running the scheme will lead to higher prices for internet and phone services.

The Attorney-General’s Department, however, claims in its submission to the parliamentary committee investigating the legislation that there are “no practical alternatives” to a legislated mandatory data-retention regime.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 21, 2015

6 Tech Issues Obama’s State of the Union Pledged to Tackle;  5 Surefire Signs That Craigslist Ad is Fake;  NFL Super Bowl XLIX will be live streamed for free;  5 iPhone Apps You Just Can’t Miss This Week;  Doctors Rate the 100 Best Health Apps;  Sharebox3D Lets You Share 3D Printers With Friends, Family;  A Mac tech support handbook;  Field Trip: the Google map app you never knew you wanted;  10 Android Apps Actually Worth Paying For;  The 15 best Chromebook keyboard shortcuts;  How to restore File Explorer to your taskbar; sends personal data to Twitter, Yahoo and Google;  RogueKiller (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

6 Tech Issues Obama’s State of the Union Pledged to Tackle – President Obama’s Tuesday State of the Union address was not as tech-heavy as in years past, but the tech community was not completely left out. Obama spent much of last week discussing tech-related issues, from municipal broadband to international coordination on cyber threats. Here’s what the president said tonight about the open Internet, surveillance, combating hackers, and more.

 Surefire Signs That Craigslist Ad is Fake – If the Internet is like the Wild West, Craigslist is one of its most lawless saloons. How do you know what is fake, and what is real anymore online? Fortunately, when it comes to Craigslist, there are several helpful signs to help you figure it out.

Obama privacy plan has two audiences, and could fail both – If history and initial reaction are any gauge, privacy advancements will have to come from somewhere besides the Oval Office or Congress. Obama’s proposals just don’t present much new from his previous plans. Mark Jaycox, legislative analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote in his blog with regards to a new federal data breach law that “many of these proposals are old ideas from the administration’s May 2011 Cybersecurity legislative proposal and should be viewed skeptically.”

DEA settles fake Facebook profile lawsuit without admitting wrongdoing – The woman, who at the time went under the name Sondra Prince, eventually was sentenced to probation and six months of home confinement. The DEA created a phony Facebook profile in her name and maintained it for at least three months in 2010 in a bid to nab other suspects connected to an alleged drug ring. At one point in the litigation, the government said the counterfeit account was for “legitimate law enforcement purposes.”

Doctors Rate the 100 Best Health Apps – What health apps do doctors actually recommend? That’s what a new report from telehealth platform HealthTap sought to uncover, in categories from weight loss and women’s health to heart health and aerobics. The report used doctors’ recommendations from HealthTap to rank the top 100 health apps, separately for Android and iOS, as well as find the top apps in 30 specific health categories. According to the company, it is the first and only comprehensive ranking of health apps based on the professional recommendations by independent, leading U.S. doctors.

NFL Super Bowl XLIX will be live streamed for free – Cord-cutters will be able to watch this year’s entire Super Bowl via a live stream hosted by NBC. Those in the United States will be able to watch the Super Bowl via web browser on their PC, tablet or mobile phone. Web and tablet streaming will be free to all as a special promotional push to promote NBC’s TV Everywhere service, but in order to enjoy it on a smartphone, devices must be subscribed to Verizon Wireless, which has an exclusive agreement for live streaming NFL games on mobile devices.


5 iPhone Apps You Just Can’t Miss This Week – It seems like hundreds of new iPhone apps pop up every week, but which ones should you bother trying? We explored the App Store and found five apps actually worth downloading.

Every Khan Academy course is now available on the iPad for the first time – Two technology trends are inescapable: people want to do everything online, and they want to do those things on a mobile device. Education and learning are no exception — online universities and other teaching aids have proliferated in the last decade, and tablets like the iPad have often been lauded as highly useful (albeit expensive) teaching tools. Not-for-profit organization Khan Academy has the first part of that equation down — it was started in 2008 to provide learning tools, videos, and exercises to anyone who wanted them, for free.


10 Android Apps Actually Worth Paying For – It’s not like apps are that expensive—very rarely do they go north of the $5 mark. And consider that these apps are, in many cases, so much more useful than the software of the PC era that would regularly cost $40 and $50. Really, when you think about it, apps—truly worthwhile apps—are some of the best bargains available. The alternative is barf-inducing mobile ads or sly freemium models that prey on the ignorant. Everybody wins when you are willing to shell out a little for the apps you use every day. Here we present 10 apps available for download in Google Play that are completely worth the tiny cost of entry.

The 15 best Chromebook keyboard shortcuts for faster productivity – Chrome has a few of Windows’s old reliable tricks, and then it has even more. Learn its tricks and fly through your apps and browser tabs like a pro.

How to restore File Explorer to your taskbar – Much as I’m not a fan of Windows 8, I do appreciate the by-default availability of File Explorer right where I can get at it. Ah, but what happens if Explorer goes missing? That happened to me not long ago, for reasons I can’t explain. (My snide explanation: because Windows!) A bit of Web research revealed I’m not alone in experiencing this mysterious disappearance.

A Mac tech support handbook – I’ve put together an essential foundation document for Mac users who may sometimes try to help support friends and family. In this report you’ll learn: The three ‘R’s’; Essential startup keys; Using Disk Utility; 6+ utilities you should install; How to create a bootable USB drive; Recommended kit; Further reading.

Facebook News Feed changes could prevent you from looking foolish – Facebook is more than just a social network. For many, it’s their primary source of news content, making their news feed much more than updates from family and friends. Sometimes, you come across content that appears real, but it’s quickly recognized as a ‘hoax’ story. In their ongoing attempt to end the clickbait, Facebook is now allowing us to report hoax posts. Facebook’s algorithm also takes into account how many delete the post, which will drive the ‘hoax’ down in the distribution rankings.

Field Trip: the Google map app you never knew you wanted – Field Trip has been around now for a while – have you heard of it? It’s a Niantic Labs project at Google, one that aims to bring you automatic suggestions for places to visit near where you’re physically standing at any given moment. While it may be included with the basic build of Android at some time in the future, for now you’re still going to have to download it. Field Trip has gotten a large bump in aesthetic beauty and in ease in use. It’s simple now, and ready to roll on your Android smartphone immediately.


Mouse Box hides a wireless PC inside a mouse – This is Mouse Box, and as you can tell from the pair of USB 3.0 ports on the front of the render it’s not just another input device. There’s an entire PC hidden beneath that inconspicuous-looking shell. The Mouse Box team has opted for a quad-core ARM processor clocked at 1.4GHz to power the system. 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity will come as standard, as will 128GB of internal storage.


Sharebox3D Lets You Share 3D Printers With Friends, Family, Enemies – The folks behind Sharebot, a simple 3D printer, have taken to Indiegogo to introduce Sharebox3D, a system for sharing 3D printers with remote users. The app, which works on smartphones and tablets, allows you to choose a model and print it just as you would print a document on a 2D printer. The app lets you store model files (STLs) and slice them on the fly, turning them into models that a 3D printer can then print. When connected to a compatible printer you can also activate prints and monitor them as they happen via webcam and notifications.

Seek XR thermal smartphone camera brings optical zoom – This past September, Seek Thermal introduced its Seek camera for smartphones, which gives the handsets the ability to look at the world around them based on its heat levels. Keeping in step with its biggest competitor, FLIR ONE, Seek has now introduced a new updated thermal camera called the Seek XR, and with it comes a boost in functionality via the inclusion of optical zoom. This increases the camera’s usefulness for those who, for example, use the camera for spotting wildlife at night rather than just scanning a wall for water pipes.



Pointing up   I can’t image how this tool could be used to invade privacy. I just don’t have the imagination for it, I guess.   Smile

Here’s how much those ‘free’ Windows licenses actually cost – It’s no secret that Microsoft is practically giving Windows 8.1 licenses away to tablet vendors, but now we know exactly how much the company makes.

After death threats, Gamergate target starts group to fight online harassment – Zoe Quinn, a game developer harassed by the Gamergate movement, has co-founded an organization aimed at combatting online abuse and helping victims. The organization offers counseling to victims and proactively warns potential targets of abuse. Crash Override Network, which launched on Friday, also helps victims rebuild their online presence and works with law enforcement and media outlets to reduce attackers’ effectiveness. The group didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Six tips for fitting Word content on a single page – You’ve probably spent a lot of time perfecting the formats you use in your Word documents, so changing those to force content to fit on a single page is often counter-productive. Instead, try these simple tips to force overflowing content onto a single page. Start by applying the tips in order — proceed down the list, only if needed. You’ll seldom use more than one or two of these tips in the same document. Being familiar with the possibilities is the key to getting the right results every time.

Security: sends personal data to Twitter, Yahoo and Google – Information entered into the U.S. government’s health insurance website is being passed to companies such as Twitter, Yahoo and Google, according to a report from the Associated Press. The data includes zip codes, income levels and information about whether people smoke or are pregnant, which users share on to get an estimate on the cost of an insurance plan. The AP’s findings were confirmed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which conducted its own tests on Tuesday, said Cooper Quintin, an EFF staff technologist, in a phone interview.

This List Of 2014’s Worst Passwords, Including ‘123456,’ Is Embarrassing – The year 2014, in many respects, was all about digital security. It wasn’t just tech pundits or early adopters who were victimized – Snapchat, Target, and Sony Entertainment all showed us that no one is immune. And don’t get me started on the NSA. It’s our responsibility as internet explorers to protect ourselves. But according to SplashData’s yearly list of the worst passwords on the internet (as compiled by more than 3 million leaked passwords from 2014), we are kind of lazy about the whole “digital security” thing. At least when it comes to properly locking the gates with a strong password. Seriously. Just take a look at the full list:

Pointing up   Give me a break – analyzing password frequency in this manner means zilch. An analysis in which passwords are correlated to the type of account they represent, would have more value. This article is meaningless without this data.

Does it really matter if my password to post on my friendly lunatic fringe newspaper is 12345? What does matter, is the strength and complexity of those passwords used to protect financial and personal data accounts.

Google and more join pledge to protect student data – Both Khan Academy and Google, as well as thirteen others, have joined the growing list of companies pledging to protect students’ privacy. President Obama spoke about the pledge last week, and before doing so several companies including Apple and Microsoft had signed. A total of 75 companies had signed last week, and Google and Amazon were both criticized for not doing so. On Monday, 15 new companies — including Khan Academy and Google — jumped aboard. This follows the administration’s increased push for data security.

This tool makes it easier for thieves to empty bank accounts – Called FraudFox VM, the software is a special version of Windows with a heavily modified version of the Firefox browser that runs on VMware’s Workstation for Windows or VMware Fusion on OSX. It’s for sale on Evolution, the successor to the Silk Road online contraband market, for 1.8 bitcoins, which is about $390. What FraudFox aims to do is make it faster and easier to change a browser’s fingerprint to one that matches that of the victim whose account they’re going to exploit, or simply mix up their own digital crumbs when browsing. It’s not a new tool per se, and more advanced cybercriminals may already know the techniques, but FraudFox consolidates the functions.


Wireless device in two million cars wide open to hacking – An electronic dongle used to connect to the onboard diagnostic systems of more than two million cars and trucks contains few defenses against hacking, an omission that makes them vulnerable to wireless attacks that take control of a vehicle, according to published reports. US-based Progressive Insurance said it has used the SnapShot device in more than two million vehicles since 2008. The dongle tracks users’ driving to help determine if they qualify for lower rates. According to security researcher Corey Thuen, it performs no validation or signing of firmware updates, has no secure boot mechanism, no cellular communications authentication, and uses no secure communications protocols.

Company News:

Viacom and ESPN fined for using emergency alert tones to advertise movie – Viacom and ESPN must pay $1.4 million to the government as punishment for airing a movie commercial that misused Emergency Alert System (EAS) warning tones. The commercial for the 2013 film Olympus Has Fallen (see video below) used actual emergency alert tones along with messages such as “This is not a test” and “This is not a drill.” The Federal Communications Commission prohibits transmission of actual or simulated EAS tones except during real emergencies or authorized tests.

Dish found not to infringe Fox’s copyright by letting users stream programs – A federal court in California has ruled that Dish Network did not infringe the copyright of Fox Broadcasting by offering users services for skipping ads and streaming live or recorded programming over the Internet to their computers and mobile devices. Referring to a Supreme Court ruling on Aereo, a now defunct service which streamed broadcast television programming to subscribers, Judge Dolly M. Gee of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that Aereo neither owned the copyright to the broadcast works nor held a license from the copyright owners to perform those works publicly.

Microsoft has acquired Equivio – Microsoft has announced its acquisition of Equivio, a known text analysis company. Equivio is widely used by U.S. federal agencies and hundreds of law firms, corporations and other organizations. Furthermore, it is also generally accepted as an important eDiscovery tool which allows Equivio customers to find relevant data from a large database, sort and compile this data, isolate it and help them to efficiently identify the documents they need.

Petition: Time Warner Cable mistreats customers, shouldn’t merge with Comcast – Time Warner Cable (TWC) has mistreated its customers for decades and should face a wide-ranging investigation as part of its proposed merger with Comcast, a new complaint to the Federal Communications Commission says. Telecom analyst Bruce Kushnick of New Networks Institute, who recently petitioned the FCC to investigate Verizon for perjury, is now taking aim at TWC’s billing practices and customer service.

Netflix Beats The Street In Q4 By Adding 4.3M New Streaming Subscribers Worldwide – The company reported fourth-quarter earnings of $1.35 per share on revenues of $1.48 billion during the final three months of the year. That compares to Wall Street’s earnings forecast of 45 cents a share on revenue of $1.48 billion. Revenues were up from $1.18 billion a year ago, while earnings were up from 79 cents per share. For the full year, Netflix reported earnings of $4.32 per share on revenues of $5.5 billion. That compares to $1.85 per share in earnings and revenues of $4.4 billion in fiscal 2013.

Games and Entertainment:

Watch the best of The Hobbit trilogy in this 4-hour recut – A group of merry men bring along a naive hobbit and travel for long spans of time in a quest for treasure. Whether we’re speaking broadly about The Hobbit or cynically about Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film trilogy is intentionally open for interpretation. In either case, one superfan did the time-crunched world a favor by condensing the three films (An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of Five Armies) into one four-and-a-half-hour supercut. I have a soft spot for fan recuts. But anyway, back to The Hobbit recut. This “good parts” (re)creation has been uploaded the world wide web via torrents (which we’re not linking). Dear anonymous Tolkien editor: kudos and thank you.


Borderlands is finally coming to PS4 and Xbox One – Today 2K Games announced the new Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, which will bundle Borderlands 2 and the recently launched Pre-Sequel, along with all of their DLC add-ons, into one package for PS4 and Xbox One. The whole thing will cost you $59.99, a pretty nice discount compared to buying everything individually.


Microsoft dates three exclusive Xbox downloadable games – Microsoft has revealed release dates for three upcoming exclusive downloadable games for its Xbox consoles, with each title slated for release within three months. Following these original games, Microsoft plans to bring a remake of “State of Decay,” a popular open-world zombie action game for the Xbox 360, to Xbox One on April 28. The re-release, officially called the “Year-One Survival Edition,” will come with all the original game’s content as well as both of its expansions. As Microsoft revealed in August, the remake will also improve the game’s visuals, with new animations and a 1080p resolution.


Plex Arrives On PS4 And PS3 In The U.S And Canada Today – Plex on PlayStation gives you access to all the TVs and movies you have stored on your primary Plex server, and allows you to pick up where you left off on other platforms, as well as see your On Deck queue and of course have a look at ratings, summaries, cast information and more for all your stored media. The one limitation is that at launch, Plex on PlayStation consoles is available only to Plex Pass subscribers, with a rollout to non-paying Plex users planned for later (with a one-time purchase price for the app itself).


Two Xbox designers are blowing up Kickstarter with Exploding Kittens – A new card game designed by two Xbox folks and Matthew Inman from the Oatmeal is taking Kickstarter by storm. Called Exploding Kittens it raised its funding goal in less that 20 minutes.


Steam broadcasting is here for everyone; Twitch beware – The latest version of Steam, available to everyone, is bringing the new broadcasting feature to all players. Those wanting to try it out can hit the “check for update” button right now. While the previous version of broadcasting was available in the beta client, the latest update to Steam which was released last night brings broadcasting to everyone. To try it out all you have to do is update Steam, find a friend that’s online and playing something, right click and select “Watch Game”. If your friend accepts you’ll start seeing his or her gameplay.


Netflix adds The Interview on Jan 24; Pushes original content – Netflix will add controversial Sony Pictures movie The Interview to its virtual shelves on January 24th, it’s confirmed, while the streaming media firm’s first original feature film will debut on August 26th. The Seth Rogen and James Franco movie made a sudden appearance on pay-per-view at Christmas, but will be bundled in with an active Netflix subscription for US and Canadian users from this Saturday, the company announced today.

Off Topic (Sort of):

10 simple gadgets that empower women around the world – An overwhelming amount of data shows empowering women leads to stronger, healthier, smarter communities. Technology is spreading faster than ever and empowering people around the world, but women have much less access to it than men. And simple technology that allows women safer circumstances, more power, and healthier food and water can make all the difference. Here are 10 simple gadgets that transform the way women live and work around the globe.

This striking short video will rekindle your love affair with the moon – It might be only eight minutes long, but a new European Space Agency video takes you all the way from the moon’s “cataclysm” to its future.


UK’s best-selling newspaper ends 40-year practice of topless Page 3 models – British tabloid The Sun has quietly discontinued one of the most controversial so-called traditions of UK journalism: the Page 3 feature, which has published photos of topless models on the inside page of the “family newspaper” since 1970. Although the newspaper has not acknowledged the change, The Times reported that it understood that last Friday’s edition of The Sun was “the last that will carry an image of a glamour model with bare breasts on that page.” A spokesman for the paper, which has a circulation of just under 2 million and is the UK’s best-selling daily, tweeted that page three would be “in the same place it’s always been — between page 2 and 4.”

Facebook supports 4.5 million jobs worldwide, social network says – A Facebook-commissioned study says the world’s largest social network is making a tsunami-sized splash on the global economy. According to the study, conducted by Deloitte, Facebook added $227 billion to the global economy and helped to support 4.5 million jobs around the world in 2014. Released on Tuesday, the study says that $100 billion of the economic impact affects the US, where Facebook also helped to support more than 1 million jobs. It lists the UK as the second-biggest benefactor of Facebook in 2014, receiving $11 billion in economic impact and 154,000 Facebook-supported jobs.

Something to think about:

“A runners creed: I will win; if I cannot win, I shall be second; if I cannot be second, I shall be third; if I cannot place at all, I shall still do my best.”

–     Ken Doherty

Today’s Free Downloads:

RogueKiller – RogueKiller is an anti-malware program written in C++ and able to detect and remove generic malwares and some advanced threats such as rootkits, rogues, worms…

Based on generic ways to find malwares by their behaviour (heuristics), on classic anti-malware analysis (signature finding) and on undocumented hacks, RogueKiller can find/remove most of the basic malwares (rogues, trojans, …) and some advanced threats like ZeroAccess or TDSS that behave more like rootkits.

Here’s a little summary of what RogueKiller is able to do:

Kill malicious processes

Stop malicious services

Unload malicious DLLs from processes

Find/Kill malicious hidden processes

Find and remove malicious autostart entries, including :

1: Registry keys (RUN/RUNONCE, …)

2: Tasks Scheduler (1.0/2.0)

3: Startup folders

Find and remove registry hijacks, including :

1: Shell / Load entries

2: Extension association hijacks

3: DLL hijacks

4: Many, many others …

Read / Fix DNS Hijacks (DNS Fix button)

Read / Fix Proxy Hijacks (Proxy Fix button)

Read / Fix Hosts Hijacks (Hosts Fix button)

Restore shortcuts / files hidden by rogues of type “Fake HDD“

Read / Fix malicious Master Boot Record (MBR), even hidden behind rootkit

List / Fix SSDT – Shadow SSDT – IRP Hooks (Even with inline hooks)

Find and restore system files patched / faked by a rootkit

MajorGeek says: We don’t really need a review here. If you’re a tech, you know what this tool does and it’s already in your toolbox. For the rest of you, Roguekiller is a popular, effective tool to remove some stubborn malware but be warned; you better know what you’re doing. While a lot of more well-known tools will simply scan and delete for you, this tool will show you everything it finds that is a possible problem. You need to know what to remove and what not to remove.


Screen shot from a personal system.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Obama’s cyber proposals sound good, but erode information security – The State of the Union address President Obama delivers tonight will include a slate of cyber proposals crafted to sound like timely government protections in an era beset by villainous hackers.

They would in theory help the government and private sector share hack data more effectively; increase penalties for the most troubling forms of hacking; and require better notification of people when their personal data has been stolen.

But if you cut through the spin, it turns out that the steps Obama is proposing would likely erode, rather than strengthen, information security for citizens and computer experts trying to protect them. Consider:

There’s plenty of sharing of data on cyber threats already and no reason to think that the Sony Pictures hack or any of the other major recent cyber attacks could have been averted with more. What Obama is proposing would, by contrast, give companies that have terrible security practices a pass in the form of liability protection from regulatory or civil action based on the information they disclose, while potentially allowing widespread distribution of personal data that should be private.

The increased penalties for hacking Obama is proposing could punish people who have only briefly rubbed shoulders with hackers as full-fledged members of a criminal enterprise, and criminalize “white-hat” hacking.

And Obama’s federal standards for when companies have to report that customers’ data has been stolen would actually overturn tougher standards in many states.

“There’s nothing that he would propose that would do anything to actually improve cybersecurity,” says Chris Soghoian, the principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. “That’s a problem.”

Increased gov spy powers are NOT the way to stay safe against terrorism – As various unsavoury characters scrabble to grab the limelight after the Charlie Hebdo mass murders in Paris, the British government is using the atrocities to justify yet more intrusive snooping powers to use against ordinary people.

The Home Secretary told Parliament that because the French authorities might have used communications data, Brits should roll over and accept her Snoopers’ Charter.

May said:

It is too soon to say for certain, but it is highly probable that communications data were used in the Paris attacks to locate the suspects and establish the links between the two attacks. Quite simply, if we want the police and the security services to protect the public and save lives, they need this capability.

But the Home Sec fails to make a clear case for legalising the domestic spying activities of GCHQ – which, lest we forget, is actively aided and abetted by the ex-Cable & Wireless division of Vodafone.

She doesn’t stop at raising a theoretical question as if it was proven fact. May wants the entire country to believe that it’s impossible to investigate and prosecute crime without the ability to snoop on each and every one of us, without prior suspicion, and to retrospectively rifle through our digital communication history in the hope of finding something to pin on you. Everyone’s guilty of something, after all.

Obama talks cybersecurity, but Federal IT system breaches increasing – President Barack Obama urged Congress and the American public to embrace cyber security legislation during his State of the Union address Tuesday evening. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known as CISPA, was unveiled by Obama a week ago and is controversial because it allows companies to share cyber threat information with the Department of Homeland Security—data that might include their customers’ private information.

New research out earlier Tuesday from George Mason University, however, calls into question how effective Obama’s proposal would be. That’s because the federal government’s IT professionals as a whole have “a poor track record in maintaining good cybersecurity and information-sharing practices.” What’s more, the federal bureaucracy “systematically” fails to meet its own federal cybersecurity standards despite billions of dollars in funding.

The RCMP Spent $1.6 Million to Run an Unconstitutional Spying Program – Canada’s federal police continued to snoop on Canadians’ cellphones and computers for at least a month after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, new documents prove.

Financial records obtained by VICE through the Access to Information Act show the extent to which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) used federal legislation to obtain information on Canadians from all major phone companies without warrants. Instead, police paid small fees for each of these requests.

The Supreme Court ruled that practise illegal in its June 13, 2014, decision on R. v. Spencer, writing that police need judicial authorization before making those sorts of requests.

However, the records show Telus and Bell both continued to fork over Canadians’ information even after that decision was handed down.

Illinois law allows schools to demand students’ Facebook passwords – Illinois can’t seem ever to decide whether it’s the home of midwestern niceness or of the most draconian humans this side of Moscow.

One of the state’s newest laws, for example, may have goodness at its heart. However, it may have something else in various of its extremities.

The law, which came into effect on January 1, is designed to curb cyberbullying, but it also could encourage schools to pry into students’ personal lives.

KTVI-TV reported that the law was already making some parents deeply uncomfortable. That’s because one of its stipulations is troubling.

Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 21, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 20, 2015

iPhone users: How your government spies on you;  The essential guide to buying a HomePlug Ethernet adapter;  You Asked: What Is Bluetooth?  How to set Windows desktop items as public or private;  Five handy apps for booking a ride;  9 moviemaking apps;  Evernote apps: Hands-on with its handiest homegrown tools;  Fedora 21 review: Linux’s sprawliest distro finds a new focus;  Has The Antivirus Industry Gone Mad?!  Here’s How To Go Completely Paperless This Year;  Adventure Time Game Wizard: DIY game building;  Obama backs Cameron’s fight against encryption;  Security problems need to be made public: Linus Torvalds.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

People are increasingly worried about privacy and lax legal protections – In 11 of the 12 countries surveyed as part of a report published by Microsoft on Monday, respondents said that technology’s effect on privacy was mostly negative. Most concerned were people in Japan and France, where 68 percent of the respondents thought technology has had a mostly negative impact on privacy. A majority want better legal protections and say the rights of Internet users should be governed by local laws irrespective of where companies are based.

iPhone users: How your government spies on you – The iPhone is by far the most secure device around. But please don’t be complacent, as criminals, governments and criminal governments work really hard to subvert device security, no back door required. Now Der Spiegel has revealed additional techniques in its latest leak from Edward Snowden, a GCHQ document called “iPhone target analysis and exploitation with unique device identifiers.” This shows agencies have been using device UDID numbers to help them keep track of individuals who may have hit their surveillance lists. These surveillance lists seem rather extensive: In 2012, activist hackers from AntiSec published 1,000,001 UDIDs, saying these were extracted from a list of 12 million UDID numbers they had stolen from the FBI.

You Asked: What Is Bluetooth? – Bluetooth is a radio signal engineered to jump around between 42 different channels, hundreds of times per second, making it less likely it would interfere with Wi-Fi networks or cordless phones. In addition, that frequency-hopping also helps to make Bluetooth connections very secure. On top of that, the technology has government-grade encryption baked into it, making it nearly impossible to hack.

The essential guide to buying a HomePlug Ethernet adapter (including 6 hands-on reviews) – Wi-Fi may be the most popular networking technology, but sometimes even the fastest wireless connection just doesn’t hack it. Perhaps the signal can’t get to the farthest reaches of your home or office, or maybe there are so many wireless networks competing for limited bandwidth that the Netflix movie you’re streaming keeps freezing or stuttering. Ethernet is still the gold standard for wired networks, but few people have the cabling built into their walls, and even fewer are willing to tear up their walls to install it. Fortunately, you probably already have all the infrastructure you need to set up a wired network: The electrical circuitry in most homes and small offices can do the job. All you need to set up a power-line network are small adapters that plug into any wall outlet and connect via a cable to the Ethernet port of a network device.


Five handy apps for booking a ride – You don’t have to unleash an earsplitting whistle to hail a cab. These smartphone apps offer a simple (and quieter) way to arrange a ride. Before we get started, I want to pass along one bit of advice: It’s a good idea to check the geographic service area prior to downloading an app. Many of the apps that are available work only in specific countries or specific cities.

How to set Windows desktop items as public or private – Desktop sharing and privacy is actually pretty simple, but it’s not well known. Unless you know the trick, you can’t control which items will appear only on your desktop, and which will appear on everyone’s desktop. The shortcuts and other files that show up on the desktop do so because they’re in a Desktop folder. (And yes, shortcuts are files—small files that point to other files.) But your PC has more than one Desktop folder, and therein lies the trick of creating public and private desktop shortcuts.

How dating app Grindr makes it easy to stalk 5 million gay men – Mobile dating apps have revolutionized the pursuit of love and sex by allowing people not only to find like-minded mates but to identify those who are literally right next door, or even in the same bar, at any given time. That convenience is a double-edge sword, warn researchers. To prove their point, they exploited weaknesses in Grindr, a dating app with more than five million monthly users, to identify users and construct detailed histories of their movements. As a result, geographic locations of Grindr users in the US and most other places can be tracked down to the very park bench where they happen to be having lunch or bar where they’re drinking and monitored almost continuously, according to research scheduled to be presented Saturday at the Shmoocon security conference in Washington, DC. Grindr officials declined to comment for this post beyond what they said in posts here and here published more than four months ago.

Evernote apps: Hands-on with its handiest homegrown tools – Evernote is a note taker, a Web clipper, and most recently, a collaboration tool. Evernote also offers a handful of apps that tack extra talents onto the cloud service. We’ll delve into the raft of third-party Evernote apps in future columns, but for now, let’s look at the home-grown offerings, starting with one that’s just for photos.

The pplkpr App Wants To Tell You Which Friends Are Better To Hang With – Don’t know how you feel about someone in your life? By pairing a heart rate monitor with the pplkpr iOS app, you could soon find out. The app pairs up with any Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor to track your physical response around certain people in your life. Biofeedback from those devices log reactions such as joy, anger, sadness, and then uploads what it determines to be those emotional reactions to the app. pplkpr then decides if certain people stress you out or help calm you down and suggests un-friending, avoiding or blocking negative people. It can also delete contacts it determines to be bad for you.


9 moviemaking apps – Do you picture yourself as an iPhone filmmaker, an Android auteur? In awards season, we sit back and critique other people’s films, and if those Golden Globes and Oscar nominees have inspired or irritated you — or if you simply want to level up from shooting home videos — take a shot at making your own movie. We’ve scouted nine affordable, time-saving, feature-rich apps to help you script, storyboard, shoot, and edit.

Fedora 21 review: Linux’s sprawliest distro finds a new focus – Like most Linux distros, Fedora is a massive, sprawling project. Frankly, it’s sprawl-y to the point that it has felt unfocused and a bit lost at times. Just what is Fedora? The distro has served as a kind of showcase for GNOME 3 ever since GNOME 3 hit the beta stage. So Fedora in theory is meant to target everyday users, but at the same time the project pours tremendous energy into building developer tools like DevAssistant. Does that make Fedora a developer distro? A newbie-friendly GNOME showcase? A server distro? An obscure robotics distro? Today, the answer to all the above questions is “yes.” And the way to make sense of it all is what Fedora calls Fedora.Next.


GNOME’s Software app in Fedora 21.

How to teach contact names and relationships to Siri and Google Now – Help Google Now and Siri sift through your contacts faster by by assigning special names and relationships to your most important or frequent contacts.


Facebook to add voice transcription to Messenger – Facebook has announced that it is trying out its voice to text product in Messenger with selected users before rolling it out across the platform.

Here’s How To Go Completely Paperless This Year – The first month of 2015 is quickly coming to a close, but if you’ve already tossed aside your New Year’s resolution of cutting back on paper, it’s not to late to grab it before it flies away. In fact, the time has never been better: your first bills of the year are starting to trickle in, and tax time is just about to begin. These five tech-fueled tips can help you to organize your statements, wrangle your receipts, and electronically file your personal documents, so you can cut paper out of your daily routine, now and forever.


Oracle E-Business suite wide open to database attack – Clear some time in you diary and drink an extra coffee, sysadmins: a top hacker has warned that Oracle will tomorrow patch a horror bug that needs urgent attention. Datacom TSS hacker David Litchfield told The Reg he has reported to Oracle that versions of its E-Business suite contain a “major” misconfiguration flaw that allowed anyone to fully compromise the database server. Litchfield told The Reg that the hole is a “real doozy” that could not be explained by Oracle. “The technical details are that the PUBLIC role has been granted the INDEX privilege on the DUAL table owned by SYS,” Litchfield told Vulture South.

Has The Antivirus Industry Gone Mad?! – We have seen a concerning trend that is about to spiral out of control: Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) are further on the rise. What’s even more concerning is how they are spreading. After big vendors as Oracle (Java) and Microsoft (Bing and Skype) started bundling, now antivirus vendors have joined the game. We did research on some of the most popular PUP practices among the freeware antivirus vendors, and the results are quite disturbing. PUPs want to get on your computer to make money off of you First, lets quickly recap what PUPs are and why they’re spreading like wildfire.


Two big bugs in VLC media player’s core library – A Turkish hacker has revealed two zero-day vulnerabilities in library code used by the popular VLC media player and others. The data execution prevention (CVE-2014-9597) and write access (CVE-2014-9598) violation vulnerabilities could lead to arbitrary code execution, researcher Veysel Hatas said in a post. “VLC Media Player contains a flaw that is triggered as user-supplied input is not properly sanitised when handling a specially crafted FLV” or M2V file, Hatas said. “This may allow a context-dependent attacker to corrupt memory and potentially execute arbitrary code.” He said both were high severity holes. Version 2.2.0-rc2, available to testers, is not vulnerable, according to the VLC project’s bug tracker.

Microsoft Outlook Hacked In China, New Report Finds – Only a few weeks after Google’s Gmail service was blocked in China, a new report from online censorship monitoring organization released this morning states that Microsoft’s email system Outlook was recently subjected to a “man-in-the-middle” attack in China. This is a form of eavesdropping where the attacker inserts himself in between the victims’ connections, relaying messages between them while the victims’ continue believe they have a secure, private connection. Meanwhile, the attacker is able to read all the content they’re sharing. The attack continued for a about a day, and has since stopped, the report states.

U.S. Hacked North Korea Before North Korea Hacked U.S. – Ever wonder why President Obama so quickly and sure-footedly accused North Korea of hacking into Sony servers? Turns out, the United States had actually hacked into North Korean computer networks back in 2010, giving the government more confidence in their determination of the situation. This begs the question: why wasn’t the NSA able to prevent the Sony hack altogether?

NSA: We’re in YOUR BOTNET – The NSA quietly commandeered a botnet targeting US Defence agencies to attack other victims including Chinese and Vietnamese dissidents, Snowden documents reveal. The “Boxingrumble” botnet was detected targeting the Defence Department’s Nonsecure Internet Protocol Router Network prompting NSA bods to redirect the attack to a server operated by the Tailored Access Operations unit. A DNS spoofing attack tricked the botnet into treating the spies as trusted command and control agents. The NSA then used the bot’s hooks into other victims to foist its own custom malware.

Company News:

How much does Microsoft make from PC makers with Windows 8.1? – Microsoft is making Windows 8.1 available to its PC partners for anywhere from ‘zero dollars’ to $15 per copy, according to recently disclosed OEM licensing information.


Amazon is going to produce its own movies and release them in theaters – On Monday Amazon said it would begin to produce and acquire feature films for theatrical release that it would then stream on Amazon Prime four to eight weeks after the theatrical debut. Amazon said its goal was to cut down the 39 to 52 weeks it usually takes for theatrical releases to make it to streaming services. Amazon, for its own part, said it planned to produce 12 movies a year. The new model will challenge not only the entertainment industry, whose customers have grown to expect long windows between a movie’s release and its availability on other mediums, but also its own competitors in the content streaming space. Netflix is the most well-known streaming service that also produces its own original content.

Google said close to $1bn SpaceX investment – Google is reportedly near to splashing a considerable amount of cash on SpaceX, Elon Musk’s ambitious space exploration company, as part of a funding round that would value the company at more than $10bn. SpaceX has already begun running unmanned resupply missions to the International Space Station, and is currently testing reusable rocket technology that could potentially slash the cost of putting people, satellites, and other cargo into orbit, or even further beyond, such as a manned mission to Mars that Musk continues to promise. According to insiders, with Google’s own space plans stumbling, the next best thing is a slice of SpaceX.

Twitter Confirms Acquisition Of India’s Missed Call Marketing Platform ZipDial – Last week TechCrunch reported Twitter was in final talks to acquire ZipDial for between $30 million and $40 million, and today the company announced the deal has closed. ZipDial allows people to call a special phone number for a business, hang up before they incur a charge, and then receive a phone call or SMS with information about the business. This “missed call” marketing platform allows people to access content for free, which is especially useful in the developing world where many can’t afford data plans.

Uber woos European cities with the promise of 50,000 new jobs in 2015 – Uber Technologies has promised 50,000 new jobs in Europe from its service in 2015 alone, in an overture to get more cities on the continent to approve its ride-hailing service. “We want to make 2015 the year where we establish a new partnership with EU cities,” Uber CEO and cofounder Travis Kalanick said at the DLD (Digital-Life-Design) conference in Munich on Sunday. Kalanick said his company could take 400,000 cars off the road this year, and reduce congestion and emissions in Europe, by expanding its ride-sharing service, UberPool, and by efficient routing of cars.

Chinese LTE boosts ZTE to nearly double yearly profit – Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE has increased its total profit by 98 percent while only bumping up its revenue by 8 percent.

Games and Entertainment:

Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell gameplay first impressions – Review time is nearly upon us, but we got the game a bit later than expected. Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell is a game we’re going to give a little bit more time to than the less-than-a-day we’ve had with it thus far – but for now, here’s some gameplay to skewer your eyeballs with. This game takes what we knew about the game it jumps off from: Saints Row IV, and drops it all into a pit of despair. You had super powers in Saints Row IV, now you’ve got what amounts to magic. This game is decidedly more metal.


Hatred gets Adults Only rating, making console, Steam release unlikely – The rating was disclosed by one of the game’s developers on its official forum, which expressed surprise that the title did not get the more lenient Mature (M) rating, writing “Well, I’m not quite convinced why Hatred got AO rating while it lacks any sexual content, but it’s still some kind of achievement to have the second game in history getting AO rating for violence and harsh language only.” Hatred is in fact the third game to receive an AO rating for violence alone, with both Thrill Kill and Manhunt 2 also receiving that evaluation. Thrill Kill, however, had its release cancelled after Electronic Arts bought its publisher and objected to its content. The rating is similarly problematic for games that see boxed retail sales; major retailers like Walmart, Gamestop, and Target refuse to stock AO games.

Face-Stabbing and Cop-Killing: Inside 2015’s Most Controversial Video Game – Destructive Creations’ Hatred has drawn plenty of criticism for the fact that its main character, a big hairy man, seems intent on killing innocent civilians for no particular reason.


PS4 Remote Play Shines On The Xperia Z3 With The DualShock 4 Game Control Mount – The PlayStation 4 is a platform that keeps giving, thanks to frequent software updates from Sony. Remote Play for Xperia mobile devices is one such gift, and it works very well on the Xperia Z3, Sony’s latest flagship smartphone. The Remote Play app is available now via the Google Play Store for compatible Xperia devices, and anyone who as both one of those and a PS4 at home should grab it.


Adventure Time Game Wizard: DIY game building made super simple – This week the folks at Cartoon Network are bringing some heat to the mobile gaming worlds of both iOS and Android. They’re bringing a game by the name of Adventure Time Game Wizard – working with the Adventure Time cartoon series as a theme and the old-school side-scrolling skeleton of the original Mario Bros as innards. Here we’re finding just about the easiest-to-work-with platform for creating game levels we’ve ever seen. With the added bonus of Adventure Time, of course – that only makes things more slap-happy!


AI Mario listens and learns from voice commands – A team of German researchers built a brain for Mario, allowing him to feel happiness, fear, curiosity, and hunger.


Rockstar offers free game with GTA V pre-order on PC – For GTA V, we were expecting it to arrive for PC on January 27, but last week Rockstar pushed the release date back to March 24. With the wait to play now extended by several weeks, Rockstar is keen to grab as many pre-orders as possible, so it is offering a deal if you order the game direct this month. If you visit the Rockstar Warehouse online store and pre-order the game (at full RRP I should add) by February 1st, Rockstar will throw in $1.3 million of in-game credit split between GTA V ($500,000) and GTA Online ($800,000). On top of that you’ll get to select a free digital download game from a selection of 11 titles.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Security problems need to be made public: Linus Torvalds – Summary:The creator of the Linux kernel and Git has said that security issues should be publicly disclosed, not swept under the rug where vendors can leave them unsolved for years.

Courts Ill-Equipped To Police Cyber Threats And Cyberbullying In The Anonymous Age – Hardly a week goes by without another story of cyber threats against our public institutions or cyberbullying against our youth, often with significant costs to businesses, public service providers or innocent young victims. The surprising fact is that the majority of cyber threats are perpetrated by adolescent boys, while cyberbullying is perpetrated by groups of two or more adolescent or pre-adolescent girls. While the more extreme cyber threats and cyberbully stories make the headlines, the costs to businesses, public facilities and youth often go unaccounted for. These stories demonstrate the need for more informed and remedial measures by our legislatures and judicial system.

The Chinese have 3-D printed an entire mansion, and it looks awesome – While 3-D printing buildings is not exactly new, the Chinese at Winsun have taken it to a whole new level by making two large constructions that are almost entirely 3-D printed.


Psychiatric illnesses have more in common than we thought — which could be good news for treatment – Schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder have more in common than previously thought. Not only are they linked through shared genes, the genetic mutations associated with them also work together to govern immunity, brain signaling, and genome function later in life, according to a Nature Neuroscience study. The new finding may mean that only one drug will be required to treat all these disorders in the future. This is the first study to show the genetic overlap between psychiatric disorders leads to meaningful paths for treatment, says Peter Holmans, a biostatistician at King’s College London and a co-author the study. Essentially, it translates the genetic information into a roadmap for drug discovery.

Selfie photobomb causes international incident at Miss Universe – Technically Incorrect: The contestants are gathered in Miami for Miss Universe. Israel and Lebanon are still at war. This is not the time for modern diplomacy. Can a selfie cause an international incident? Yes, it can.


The offending image, as posted to Instagram by Miss Israel. Doron Matalon/Instagram screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

10 good reasons why working remotely makes sense – Remote work, flextime, career sabbaticals, and zero-hours contracts are all types of flexible work. But it’s remote work that’s disrupting the traditional tech industry 9-to-5 grind. Here’s why.

Something to think about:

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.”

–    Martin Luther King Jr.

Today’s Free Downloads:

ChrisPC Win Experience Index – ChrisPC Win Experience Index is the free tool that lets you rate your computer and check again the Windows Experience Index on your Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 installation, giving you the possibility to view the CPU, RAM, HDD scores or re-run the Windows benchmark tests.

You wonder what gaming or graphical processing power unleashes your PC/Laptop hardware? Just get the Windows indexing scores calculated by Windows using ChrisPC Win Experience Index.

Get back Windows Experience Index on your Windows 8.1 installation!

You want to have the latest Windows version 8.1 and also to be able to check your Windows Experience Index ?

From now on is quite simple, just install ChrisPC Win Experience Index software and you will get back the Windows interface that you are already familiar from Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Totally convenient, ChrisPC Win Experience Index runs on any Windows version on 32 or 64 bits, but aims to be used mainly for Windows 8.1.

ChrisPC Win Experience Index has many key features like:

– Brings back the Windows Experience Index to Windows 8.1.

– Rate your computer on Windows 8.1 with 1 click.

– Fast access to Windows Experience Index scores on Windows 7, 8, 8.1.

– See your computer ratings for CPU, Memory, Storage Disk, Graphics, Gaming.

– Re-run assessments with a single click on Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.

– Simple and intuitive interface.

The Windows Experience Index measures the capability of your computer’s hardware and software configuration and expresses this measurement as a number called a base score. A higher base score generally means that your computer will perform better and faster than a computer with a lower base score, especially when performing more advanced and resource-intensive tasks.

When you’re shopping for a new PC, the Windows Experience Index can help you find the model that suits your needs. Scoring a PC you already own can help pinpoint slower components worth upgrading.


Firefox Environment Backup Extension (FEBE) – FEBE allows you to quickly and easily backup your Firefox extensions. In fact, it goes beyond just backing up — It will actually rebuild your extensions individually into installable .xpi files. Now you can easily synchronize your office and home browsers.

FEBE backs up and restores your extensions, themes, and (optionally) your bookmarks, preferences, cookies. and much more.

Backup as little or as much of your Firefox environment as you wish. Perform backups on demand or schedule daily, weekly, or monthly unattended runs. Sequential backups can be stored in timestamped directories so you can restore back as far as you like.

You may specify “User-defined” items to have FEBE backup Thunderbird, Greasemonkey scripts, or virtually any data on your computer – Firefox related or not.


NirLauncher – NirLauncher is a package of more than 100 portable freeware utilities for Windows, all of them developed for NirSoft Web site during the last few years.


NirLauncher can be used from USB flash drive without need of any installation.

NirLauncher and all the utilities in the package are completely freeware, without any Spyware/Adware/Malware.

NirLauncher package includes variety of tools that you may need for your daily computer use, including utilities to recover lost passwords, to monitor your network, to view and extract cookies, cache, and other information stored by your Web browser, to search files in your system, and more…

For every utility in the package, you can easily run it, view the help file, or jump to the Web page of the utility.

When using it from USB flash drive, the configuration of every utility is saved into .cfg file on the flash drive.

On x64 systems, NirLauncher automatically run the x64 version of the utility, when there is a separated x64 version.

NirLauncher also allows to add more software packages in additional to the main NirSoft package.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

New radar lets law enforcement peek into homes – Privacy is a growing concern for many as technology — and the snooping it enables — continues to grow. It’s no surprise, then, that concerns have been raised about a new radar technology that provides law enforcement agencies with the ability to “see” through the walls of one’s home from the outside — something sensitive enough to pick up breathing and motion, and to identify the approximate location of anyone inside. Police have been silently acquiring and utilizing the technology for more than two years, spurring complaints. The use of the technology entered public awareness last month when a legal case in Denver included the revelation that law enforcement had employed the technology sans a search warrant.

Obama backs Cameron’s fight against encryption – Flip-flopping somewhat on his earlier stance against putting backdoors in software, US President Barack Obama took UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s side in telling tech companies to give government agencies access to encrypted devices and communication. Of course, all in the aid of the fight against terrorism and in the interests of national security. The calls from the world’s top government leaders came after two recent incidents that are directly related or being linked to encryption: the hacking of Sony computers last year and the shooting at newspaper Charlie Hebdo this month.

Pointing up    Are you one of the countless shepple who are satisfied with the  2+2=5 political dogma, pushed out by these two perpetual war advocates – a political dogma that has replaced common sense in their shadow world?

The two most dangerous men in the world collaborate, yet again, on their ever expanding schemes to deprive the masses of their few remaining privacy rights, and you sit there –right there – on your arse!

Satisfied, are you, in handing over what little is left of your democracy to your children and grandchildren?

You should be ashamed that you don’t take a forceful and active role in protecting the rights, freedoms and obligations, your forebearers sacrificed to establish, expand, and preserve.

Get off your arse and advocate for change!! What the hell is wrong with you?

Ex-CIA Officer John Kiriakou Speaks – John Kiriakou is the only CIA employee to go to prison in connection with the agency’s torture program. Not because he tortured anyone, but because he revealed information on torture to a reporter.

Kiriakou is the Central Intelligence Agency officer who told ABC News in 2007 that the CIA waterboarded suspected al-Qaeda prisoners after the September 11 attacks, namely Abu Zubaydah, thought to be a key al Qaeda official. Although he felt at the time that waterboarding probably saved lives, Kiriakou nevertheless came to view the practice as torture and later claimed he unwittingly understated how many times Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding.

In January 2012, Kiriakou was charged by the Justice Department for allegedly and repeatedly disclosing classified information to journalists. The Justice Department accused Kiriakou of disclosing the identity of a CIA officer involved in Zubaydah’s capture to a freelance reporter. The reporter did not publicly reveal the official’s name, but his name did appear on a website in October 2012. Kiriakou also allegedly provided New York Times reporter Scott Shane information on CIA employee Deuce Martinez, who was involved in Zubaydah’s capture and interrogation.

After agreeing to a plea deal in October 2012, Kiriakou was sentenced in January 2013 to 30 months in prison. That sentence made him the second CIA employee ever to be locked up under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which bars the release of the name of a covert agent; the first was Sharon Scranage, who in 1985 pled guilty to disclosing the identities of intelligence agents in Ghana after giving classified information to a Ghanaian, reportedly her lover.

Kiriakou is is scheduled for early transfer out of federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania on February 3. In a wide-ranging phone interview with The Intercept, Kiriakou, 50, shared his thoughts on the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation techniques, on his incarceration, and on his future after prison.

Feds operated yet another secret metadata database until 2013 – In a new court filing, the Department of Justice revealed that it kept a secret database of telephone metadata—with one party in the United States and another abroad—that ended in 2013.

The three-page partially-redacted affidavit from a top Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) official, which was filed Thursday, explained that the database was authorized under a particular federal drug trafficking statute. The law allows the government to use “administrative subpoenas” to obtain business records and other “tangible things.” The affidavit does not specify which countries records were included, but specifically does mention Iran.

This database program appears to be wholly separate from the National Security Agency’s metadata program revealed by Edward Snowden, but it targets similar materials and is collected by a different agency. The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, reported Friday that this newly-revealed program began in the 1990s and was shut down in August 2013.

How the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Apparatus Is Being Turned on Protesters – Activists organizing protests against police brutality in New York are marking Martin Luther King Day with a march beginning in Harlem. Some attendees might be surprised along the way to encounter officers in blue jackets with the words “NYPD Counter Terrorism” emblazoned on the back. But Linda Sarsour, a prominent Muslim-American activist and member of the anti-police brutality group Justice League NYC, one of the sponsors of the march, is almost used to it by now.

As head of the Arab American Association of New York, Sarsour has been a leader in the fight against police misconduct. Much of her energy has gone into speaking out against the NYPD’s expansive spying program that since 9/11 has targeted Muslims and activists. She’s part of a broad coalition trying to change policies ranging from surveillance to ” broken windows” policing, the philosophy that going after minor offenses will deter serious crime.

“When I see counterterrorism folks amongst protesters, it sends me a message that I’m the enemy, and that they are trying to keep other New Yorkers safe from those protesting for their civil rights,” said Sarsour. “It vilifies the people who are being peaceful and asking for something they should already have, asking for things like ending of police brutality.”


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 19, 2015

The Best Free Google Chrome Extensions;  Your PC needs these 22 free, excellent programs;  Easily enlarge images on the Web without clicking;  12 Hidden Facebook Features Only Power Users Know;  Survey says security products waste our time;  No excuses: Apps to get you in shape in no time;  Online hacking services are becoming more popular;  These Will Be the Hottest Xbox One Games of 2015;  These are the top-selling games of 2014;  US, UK agree to closer collaboration on cyberwarfare;  Glary Utilities 5.17 (free);  The Justice Department kept a secret record of all calls in and out of US;  Turkey threatens Twitter.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Best Free Google Chrome Extensions – Chrome—now in version 39!—remains a four-star tour de force for Web surfing, with full HTML5 support and speedy JavaScript performance. And, like Firefox before it, it’s got support for extensions that just make it even better. Its library of extras, found at the Chrome Web Store, more than rival what Firefox has had for years. In addition, the store has add-ons to provide quick access to just about every Web app imaginable. Rather than having you stumble blindly through the store to find the best add-ons, we’ve compiled a list of 90 you should consider.

Your new PC needs these 22 free, excellent programs – More than a mere blank slate, a new PC is a fresh opportunity—a collection of components that, with the right software installed, could accomplish anything from balancing your household budget to helping to cure cancer. Yes, stocking your PC is an intensely personal task. Even still, some programs are so helpful, so handy, so useful across the board that we heartily recommend them to everybody. These are the programs you want to install on a new PC first.

Easily enlarge images on the Web without clicking – On social media, the larger version of an image is usually just a click away. However, if you’re shopping on a site like Amazon, once you click it’s easy to get distracted by other recommended products. It’s similar to what happens if you read Wikipedia and get wrapped up in vaguely connected topics. As an alternative to clicking each image, check out the Imagus for your Chrome or Firefox Web browser. You can easily see the enlarged version of each image without a single click.

You can encrypt your hard drive, but the protection may not be worth the hassle – A single encrypted folder is good enough for most people, but a completely encrypted drive provides the strongest protection. Windows can leave bits of encrypted files in places like the swap file. A thief or fence wouldn’t take the time to find them, but a sufficiently skilled, motivated, and well-funded hacker might. But that level of security comes at a cost.

12 Hidden Facebook Features Only Power Users Know – Facebook is a magnet for some of the top engineering talent in the world, so it stands to reason that the company would boast one of the world’s most complex and multi-faceted websites. It rivals many standalone software apps with the sheer amount of personalization, tweaks, and tinkering available to visitors. In fact, there are so many things you can do on that you probably don’t know about them all. So, take a look at our slideshow and awaken your inner power user social super star who is just waiting to break out!

Microsoft releases Skype 4.0 along with free group video calling for Samsung Smart TVs – Microsoft has announced a new version of Skype for TVs, so if you happen to be the owner of a Samsung Smart TV, things just got better. The two companies have been working together to bring a better experience to the app for Samsung’s HU9000 line of Ultra HD curved Smart TVs (2014), which have a built-in video camera. The new version brings improvements to video compression and support for full HD (1080p) video calls, as long as you have an internet connection of at least 1Mbps symmetrical bandwidth. For group video calling, the team recommends at least 2Mbps download and 512Kbps upload.


Hands-on with Neil Young’s Pono music player – Detecting the supposed higher quality of sound in the new music player and companion music store can be a mind-twisting experience.

No excuses: Apps to get you in shape in no time – The hot new fitness trend is getting in a workout in a short amount of time, from as little as seven minutes. These apps can help you fit in a workout anytime, anywhere with a bit of guidance, coaching and motivation. Often, you’ll only need your body and a bit of space for the exercises. So drop the excuses, pick up your phone, and take a few minutes to get your heart pumping.


7 Minute Workout – Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Does Microsoft offer the best Android Office suite? (Android Office app showdown) – Microsoft recently expanded the availability of its Office preview for Android tablets so it is appropriate to take another look at how you can perform word processing, work with spreadsheets, and create slideshows on Android tablets.

IRS opens Free File portal for e-filing of tax returns, but only for those of modest means – E-filing federal tax returns is free for people whose needs are simple. Get all the details here–and easy access to a variety of free tax software from top providers.


Survey says security products waste our time – For anyone who has freaked out when an antivirus alert popped up on their screen and spent time researching it only to find out it was a false alarm, a recent survey will hit home. A survey of information-technology professionals published on Friday found that the average large organization has to sift through nearly 17,000 malware alerts each week to find the 19 percent that are considered reliable. The efforts at triage waste employees’ time—to the tune of a total estimated annual productivity loss of $1.3 million per organization. In the end, security professionals only have time to investigate four percent of the warnings, according to the survey conducted by the market researcher Ponemon Institute.

UK teen arrested for PlayStation, Xbox hackings over Christmas – Friday saw the arrest of an 18-year-old man in the UK for his involvement in the hackings that took down both the PlayStation and Xbox online gaming networks for several days last month starting on Christmas. The incident saw a number of headlines after the holiday, as gamers were unable to get online for an increasingly frustrating period of time, and hacking group Lizard Squad claimed responsibility. The unnamed teen was arrested by police near the city of Liverpool on suspicion of not only hacking, but also “swatting.”

US, UK agree to closer collaboration on cyberwarfare – The countries’ intelligence agencies will work together and conduct cyberwar games later this year to test the security of financial institutions.

Online hacking services are becoming more popular – A couple weeks after news was reported that the hacking group “Lizard Squad” had released an online stress testing service or DDoS tool, another hacking website has appeared in the news. Enter, “Hacker’s List”. Hacker’s List appears to match hackers with people looking to retrieve forgotten passwords, take down unwanted personal photos online, and gain access to company databases – among other things. In less than three months of operation, over 500 hacking listings had been put out for bids on the site with hackers competing for the individual jobs All of this is done anonymously, with the site’s operator collecting a fee on each completed assignment. The site offers to hold a customer’s payment in escrow until the job is done.

NY Post, UPI Twitter hacks see Pope announcing WWIII – Friday afternoon saw the Twitter accounts of both the New York Post and United Press International (UPI) hacked and announcing that China had fired a missile on a U.S. ship, along with the Pope declaring the incident the start of World War III. The compromised accounts of the two news agencies posted tweets about a Federal Reserve emergency meeting and other banking matters. Fortunately the agencies quickly realized their social network accounts had gone awry, and took back control.

Flawed Verizon My FiOS mobile app exposed email accounts – Verizon fixed a serious vulnerability in its My FiOS mobile application that allowed unfettered access to email accounts, according to a developer who found the problem. Randy Westergren, a senior software developer with XDA Developers, looked at the Android version of My FiOS, which is used for account management, email and scheduling video recordings.

Company News:

Apple opening five new China stores over five weeks – The company, which started its retail-store foray in China in 2008, plans to build up the number of locations there over the next two years.

Virgin, Qualcomm Want to Deploy 648 Internet Satellites – The Virgin Group and Qualcomm will invest in OneWeb, Ltd., a venture from former Googler Greg Wyler that plans to build, launch, and operate low-Earth-orbit satellites that will provide Web access to areas of the globe that are currently without service. Eventually, OneWeb wants to deploy 648 micro satellites that will provide a “constellation” of Internet access surrounding the Earth.

Elon Musk is building 700 satellites for worldwide internet connectivity – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg are superstars in the conversations that touch on today’s entrepreneurs in the world of computing and internet advancements. Now we can safely add Elon Musk, the founder of Paypal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, to that list with his newest endeavor to connect the entire world to the internet. A $10 billion project to launch 700 satellites into space is currently underway. Confirmed at a SpaceX convention in Seattle yesterday, Musk told Bloomberg Business that his agenda to connect the world is true, and even sees stretching his space internet system all the way to Mars. The space-driven internet service could bring service to even the most isolated parts of the world.

Amazon got likely illegal tax deal in just two weeks, EU Commission says – Luxembourg needed just 11 working days to approve a probably illegal tax deal allowing to allocate a large part of its European Union profits to one of its companies that does not have to pay tax, the European Commission said. The Commission’s preliminary investigation showed that Amazon received illegal state aid, gaining an unfair economic advantage over other companies by paying less tax. In the document, the Commission explains how Amazon set up a structure of several companies to avoid paying corporate taxes in the EU.

This Is How Xiaomi Keeps The Cost Of Its Smartphones So Low – Xiaomi’s combination of well-spec’ed phones and low price tags drove the company to over 60 million sales last year. That progress saw it replace Samsung as China’s top-selling smartphone company and become the world’s third top selling phone maker in the process.

Google reportedly in talks to buy mobile-payments company Softcard – The Internet giant could be hoping to take another stab at going head-to-head with Apple, Amazon, PayPal, Square and a slew of other tech giants looking to grab a slice of the payments pie.

Games and Entertainment:

These are the top-selling games of 2014 – With 2015 brings another exciting year in gaming. Although there are sure to be some surprises introduced this year, there are already a couple games that are garnering quite a bit of attention for 2015. But before we move on, let’s not forget to revisit the top ten games of the year for 2014. Without further ado, here are your top 10 games for 2014:

Dota 2 now has over 10 million players – Valve surprised the gaming world last year by hosting the most lucrative e-sports tournament in history, with a prize pool of more than $10 million, and now it has the player base to match it. More than 10 million people now play Dota 2 (at the time of this writing, exactly 10,313,855 players), making it one of the most popular online games in the world. Within its genre, Dota 2 is only surpassed by the insanely successful League of Legends, which at this time last year had around 67 million people logging in each month.


These Will Be the Hottest Xbox One Games of 2015 – Here’s a look at the year’s 10 most anticipated games for Microsoft’s Xbox One console, excluding rumored 2015 projects with as yet indeterminate timeframes (hello Crackdown, Gears of War, Scalebound and Phantom Dust!)


Off Topic (Sort of):

Neil deGrasse Tyson shares meaning of life with 6-year-old, nails it – It’s an impossible question to answer — unless you’re Neil deGrasse Tyson. Watch the famed astrophysicist take on a young boy’s loaded query, and knock it out of the park.


China opens door for full foreign ownership of e-commerce companies – New Chinese reforms allow foreign investors 100 percent ownership of their e-commerce companies in Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone.

Dolfi “washing device” uses ultrasonic tech to clean clothes – The Dolfi is being bid as a next generation washing device, and with it users are able to clean their clothes in the sink or just about any area that can hold water and clothing. Detergent is mixed in with the water and dirty clothes, then the Dolfi is plugged in and placed in the water. Once turned on, Dolfi will glow blue and use ultrasound to create microscopic jets of water, essentially, which clean dirt and stains out of the fabric. The idea itself isn’t new, with similar methods being used to clean things like jewelry, but it hasn’t commonly been available for clothes washing purposes.


Ice fishing with fireworks gets explosive results – Before you decide to take up the sport of extreme ice fishing for yourself, know this is probably very illegal (and just plain stupid) where you live anyway. Plus, we haven’t seen too many restaurants serving exploded fish, and we can’t imagine that’d be a delight to eat.


This real-life mech suit only costs one million dollars – Giant robots are like the bald eagles of Japan, a big source of national pride, but for too long they’ve been confined to fiction like manga and anime. Realizing that the future is now, Japanese robotics company Suidobashi Heavy Industry has finally made our Gundam dreams a reality with Kuratas, a functioning mech suit you can buy on Amazon right now for just one million dollars.


Fight between science and creationism continues at ESPN – Technically Incorrect: After an ESPN baseball writer tweets his creationist views, he is suspended. This week, basketball color commentator Bill Walton tries to persuade play-by-plan man Dave Pasch about science. Pasch is unimpressed.

Something to think about:

“There are three types of people: sheep, wolves and guard dogs. Only the last category has honor.”

–      American Sniper

Today’s Free Downloads:

Glary Utilities 5.17 – Glary Utilities is a smart and reliable application that offers numerous powerful and easy-to-use system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain and protect your PC.

It allows you to clean common system junk files, as well as invalid registry entries and Internet traces. You can manage and delete browser add-ons, analyze disk space usage and find duplicate files.

You can also view and manage installed shell extensions, encrypt your files from unauthorized access and use, split large files into smaller manageable files and then rejoin them.

Furthermore, Glary Utilities includes the options to optimize memory, find, fix, or remove broken Windows shortcuts, manage the programs that start at Windows startup and uninstall software. Other features include secure file deletion, an Empty Folder finder and more.

All Glary Utilities tools can be accessed through an eye-pleasing and totally simplistic interface.


Disk Cleaner – Removes junk data from your disks and recovers disk space

Registry Cleaner – Scans and cleans up your registry to improve your system’s performance.

Shortcuts Fixer – Corrects the errors in your startmenu & desktop shortcuts

Uninstall Manager – Uninstalls programs completely that you don’t need any more

Startup Manager – Manages programs which run automatically on startup

Memory Optimizer – Monitors and optimizes free memory in the background

Context Menu Manager – Manages the context-menu entries for files, folders…

Tracks Eraser – Erases all the traces,evidences,cookies,internet history and more

File Shredder – Erases files permanently so that no one can recover them

Internet Explorer Assistant – Manages Internet Explorer Add-ons and restores hijacked settings

File Encrypter and Decrypter – Protects your files from unauthorized access and use.

Disk Analysis – Shows you the disk space usage of your files and folders

Duplicate Files Finder – Searches for space-wasting and error producing duplicate files

Empty Folders Finder – Finds and removes empty folders in your windows

File Splitter and Joiner – Splits large files into smaller manageable files, and then rejoin them.

Process Manager – Monitors programs that run on your PC and stop spyware and Trojans.

Windows Standard Tools – Provides direct access to the useful windows default functions.

Right Click Enhancer – A control panel for your right click menu on windows. Add most used applications and folder shortcuts in your right click menu. Manage these right click shortcuts by creating right click sub menus and putting them into these sub menus. Easily remove or disable right click menu entries added by other applications. Save valuable time by using right click tweaks that provides easy to use quick operations directly in your right click. Save time in copy paste operations by adding new folder shortcuts in send to menu. Add new file types into New menu to ease the operation of creating new files. Add templates files to new menu so you can get preformatted files upon creating new files and start working on it in less time.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The Justice Department kept a secret record of all calls in and out of US – The Department of Justice was keeping a detailed record of American calls long before more recent NSA programs, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal. The database is referred to in a court filing obtained by the Journal as part of a larger Iranian exporting case, incidentally revealing a decades-long program that captured phone records for every call in and out of the United States. The program began in the 90s, continuing until it was shut down in August of 2013 amid reports of DEA phone record collection. While the program was hinted at in earlier reports, this is the first time it has been publicly acknowledged by the government.

The Hypocrisy of U.S. Cyber Policy – The breakneck growth in internet usage over the past two decades has forced policymakers to confront a host of challenges, from how to regulate the sharing economy to who owns the infrastructure behind the “tubes” themselves. While tempers have flared on a number of these issues, I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to policymakers. The transformation of our society has been so complete and rapid, we simply can’t expect the rebuilding of our laws to be a simple proposition.

Yet, when it comes to national security and cyber policy, the United States is risking not just a few years of confusing policies that make life difficult albeit manageable, but possible destruction of the very essence of what makes the internet such a vital resource in the first place.

At the core of this dilemma is our vision for the internet. Is the internet an open space, a site for commerce and creativity that is lightly regulated, non-militarized, and universal around the world? Or does it become a tool of power, a weapon that can be wielded against other nations and groups with impunity?

The Government Retreats — a Bit — in Its Assault on Press Freedom – On Monday, federal prosecutors announced they would not call reporter James Risen to testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling. On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced (but did not publish) revisions to the policy governing when the Department of Justice can seek to question journalists or obtain information from media organizations about their sources. Maybe the Obama Administration has finally realized how important a role a free press plays in our democracy.

The Justice Department is finally making it harder for police to seize property – Today, Attorney General Eric Holder took a major step towards dismantling the drug war. As reported by The Washington Post, Holder is making major changes to the federal asset seizure program, barring federal sanction of local seizures of a suspect’s property unless it poses an immediate risk to public safety. Police can still seize guns and explosives, but the widespread seizure of cash and vehicles is no longer licensed by federal law, cutting off a legal avenue that has flooded billion of dollars into state and local police departments since 2008. Some local seizures will still be allowed under state and local laws, but the federal Equitable Sharing program, by far the most generous and simplest forfeiture path, will now be officially closed.

Asset forfeiture has been a controversial aspect of the drug war, allowing property be seized without a search warrant and forcing suspects to prove their innocence in order to retrieve it. The system led to perverse incentives for many police departments, including a Florida town of less than 3,000 people that pulled in millions of dollars a year by luring in out-of-state drug buyers for phony deals. A Washington Post investigation in September found police had made cash seizures of more than $2 billion since 2001.

Turkey threatens Twitter to censor nation’s newspaper account – It seems like it wasn’t that long ago when the Turkish government was trying to make the social network services Twitter and YouTube illegal in the country for not playing along with their censorship requirements. Oh, wait, that’s because it was less than a year ago. Well, Turkey is as at it again, this time threatening Twitter that it outright ban the site (again) if it doesn’t censor the account belonging to a left-wing, opposition newspaper.

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