Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 5, 2015

Five ways to delete yourself from the Internet;  Are you using the most secure and private web browser?  The 10 Best Apps for Your New Windows Computer;  Call+ app expands free landline calling to 16 countries;  The 10 Best Apps For Your New Mac;  24 Great Free Apps and Tools to Help You Build Strong Habits;  Top 4 tech habits you need to break right now;  New “Strings” app lets you withdraw sent messages, and more;  Your Android device needs these 5 apps;  10 New Year’s resolutions for geeks;  Lizard Squad will help you attack any website, for a fee;  Netflix said to be shutting out international VPN users;  Patch My PC (free).

Plus 35 additional newsworthy items:

24 Great Free Apps and Tools to Help You Build Strong Habits – Habits. Good habits, it seems, are the crucial building blocks of a better, healthier, happier way of life. But where do good habits come from? How do you create them? Fortunately, there are tons of great tools and apps out there that want to lend a hand. Here’s a look at some of the best free tools and apps I could find for building stronger habits.

Five ways to delete yourself from the Internet – Finally ready to get off the grid? It’s not quite as simple as it should be, but here are a few easy-to-follow steps that should at the very least point you in the right direction.

Are you using the most secure and private web browser? – WhiteHat Security originally developed Aviator as the company’s in-house browser, but eventually released Aviator web browser in two flavors, OS X and Windows. It is billed as “the web’s most secure and private browser.” Users simply install the browser and it’s setup to maximize privacy and security safeguards by default. Unlike Chrome or Firefox, you don’t need to get add-ons or extensions to configure privacy and security. Those protections are built into Aviator, but since the browser uses open-source Chromium code, it does support “tens of thousands of extensions.” Do something good for yourself security-and-privacy-wise. If you haven’t tried Aviator yet, then I encourage you to “take flight” and start 2015 right.

The 10 Best Apps for Your New Windows Computer – From kicking back with a crossword to leaning in to an engrossing, international webcam chat — and whether they’re used with the touchscreen or the touchpad — these ten apps help Windows users get the most out of their new PCs.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The 10 Best Apps For Your New Mac – Got a new Mac for the holidays? Then grab these apps. In the pre-iMac era, Apple computers suffered from a lack programs to choose from, but that’s not the case today. So, whether you just got your first Macbook or you’re upgrading to a Mac Pro, these ten apps will help you get the most out of your new Apple desktop or laptop.

One simple (and free) tool to help keep your Windows PC updated – This small – and free – utility can not only monitor over a hundred common applications for updates, but can also install those for you silently while you work. Applications it is compatible with range from commonly used products such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Adobe Flash Player to more obscure stuff such as ImgBurn and SandBoxie. And just in case that makes you worried about getting a ton of bloatware on your system, if Patch My PC detects any bloatware payload with an update, it silently remove that too. The tool is also portable, meaning that you can pop it onto a USB flash drive and run it on multiple systems. And it can also scan for missing Windows updates.

Call+ app expands free landline calling to 16 countries – About a month ago, an app called Call+ made a pretty tantalizing offer: unlimited free calls to a few countries, with fairly easy ways to earn call time for a bunch of others. If you liked the idea but didn’t need to call anyone in Brazil, China or Mexico, here’s good news: Call+ now gives you free calls to 16 countries. With most countries you can only call landlines for free, but some include mobile numbers. Using the free app, which makes it look as though calls are coming from your existing number, you can reach out and touch the following destinations:

These 5 iPhone Apps Will Make You Wildly More Creative – Sure, your iPhone can send texts, make calls and get the weather. But it can also help you realize your artistic ambitions, too. How? Check out these five apps, all recently highlighted by Apple as ways to be more creative using just your iPhone or iPad.

New Year’s Resolutions for Better Security in 2015 – One common theme with the breaches in 2014 was that basic security failed. JPMorgan Chase was compromised because a server did not have two-factor authentication enabled. Target was breached because a user fell for a phishing attack. We shake our heads over these mistakes, but hindsight is 20/20. We need to make sure we are doing whatever we can to protect ourselves, while at the same time demanding businesses and companies providing services step up and do a better job securing our data. Here is to a safe and secure year ahead!

Top 4 tech habits you need to break right now – It’s a brand new year, so why not start it off right by ditching the shackles of old habits and trying some new things to make your tech life easier? We know that old habits die hard and that’s why we’ve also included links to show you how to handle these common practices

Start the year off right with a clean PC – Unsavory detritus lurks in the vents and crevices of your computer hardware: Hair, dust, cigarette smoke, and pet dander can accumulate in your PC and also in your peripherals, even down between the keys of your keyboard. Some of it’s just gross. However, buildup on fans and other key components can increase the heat stress on your machine, potentially making it unstable and shortening the life of individual parts. That’s no way to start a new year. With thanks to Marco Chiappetta’s detailed rundown on how to clean a dirty PC, we’re adding information on how to clean peripherals as well.

Home networking explained, part 9: Access your home computer remotely – If you’ve been following this series, you’ll know that I explained the LAN and WAN ports on a home router in part 1. And now, I need to tell you how you can use this information to remotely access your device at home. For example, if you know how to use Remote Desktop, a built-in feature of Windows, to control a computer in a different room of your home, how about doing that from somewhere away from home, and save yourself from having to pay for similar services such as LogMeIn or GotoMyPC? This post is part of an ongoing series. Check out the related stories for previous installments.

Your Android device needs these 5 apps – Android devices need a kit of essential tools just as much as contractors and tinkerers do. But instead of drills and hammers, they’re apps that are installed and consistently updated so that they’re always ready to use. Five apps in particular are so fundamentally crucial, it’s a surprise they haven’t been rolled into Google’s own suite yet. Best of all, the apps are free to download, so there’s nothing holding you back from these Android enhancers.

How to quickly update Android apps from within the Google Play Store – TechRepublic’s Android specialist Jack Wallen shows you how to quickly update your Android apps from within the Google Play Store.

8 Things You Didn’t Know Your Chromecast Could Do – Google announced a few updates for Chromecast at Google I/O earlier this summer – from Android mirroring to options that will make your Chromecast screen more aesthetically pleasing. And while the ultraportable device is pretty much plug and play, there are a few tips and tricks that can make casting more magical. Check them out in the slideshow.

New “Strings” app lets you withdraw sent messages, and more – A new app has been released that helps you control the messages you send to your friends. It’s also supposed to reduce the instances of you accidentally sending improper messages.

wps375D.tmp

How to create and distribute an instructional screencast video for free – Teaching somebody to do something on the computer is always tough. Words go a long way, and pictures are a big help, but nothing can beat the simple immediacy of a video. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to make and share an instructional video on your PC. Using easy, free software, you can record and publish a high-quality, annotated instructional video in a matter of minutes. In this article, we’ll show you everything you need to get started right away.

Online hunt for love connections said to peak today – According to experts, January 4 is the No. 1 day in the year for people to go online in search of true love. Match.com insists that 5:52 p.m. PT today will see a positive frenzy of unhappy singles and marrieds leaping to their electronics and praying for a buzz. You’re apparently 15 percent more likely to meet someone special if you online date in January than in any other month.

New D-Link powerline kits promise true gigabit connection speed – D-Link unveils two powerline adapter kits at CES 2015, the DHP-701AV and the DHP-601AV, that could deliver connection speeds of 2,000Mbps and 1,000Mbps, respectively.

wps378D.tmp

10 New Year’s resolutions for geeks – Summary:It’s the beginning of the year and that means it’s time to write down a set of promises and plans by which we geeks will govern ourselves over the next 12 months. Can you keep all these through the year?

‘Works with Nest’ program gains traction with 15 new smart device integrations – Nest Labs kicked off its ‘Works with Nest’ program just six months ago, announcing partnerships with Mercedes Benz, Whirlpool appliances, and several newer companies, including LED bulb-maker LIFX and fitness tracker Jawbone. Now the company says one in 10 Nest customers are accessing ‘Works with Nest’ connections of one form or another, and that more than 5,000 developers are in different stages of working with Nest to connect their products.

Security:

Gogo Inflight Internet is intentionally issuing fake SSL certificates – For whatever reason, however, Gogo Inflight Internet seems to believe that they are justified in performing a man-in-the-middle attack on their users. Earlier this year, it was revealed through the FCC that Gogo partnered with government officials to produce “capabilities to accommodate law enforcement interests” that go beyond those outlined under federal law. It mentioned how it worked closely with law enforcement and directly baked spyware into their service. If that wasn’t bad enough, based on this revelation, Gogo is now intentionally attacking its user’s browsing sessions to remove any line of defense that a user may have, and based on their history, it cannot be trusted that it is being done for any legitimate reason. If you have used Gogo in the past, it is worth considering that all of your communications, including those over SSL/TLS, have been compromised and that you should consider resetting your passwords– at least on Google. If you intend to use Gogo in the future, do so through the use of Tor or through a secure VPN.

Pointing up   If I were to illustrate a few elementary hacking procedures on your computer, without your permission, that would make me a criminal. On the other hand,  Gogo Inflight Internet does it and hell, it’s just business – right? Arrest these bastards immediately!!! Really – arrest these bastards!!!

Lizard Squad will help you attack any website, for a fee – Lizard Squad has been in the headlines a lot lately, whether it’s been taking down Playstation Network, Xbox Live service, or allegedly aiding the Guardians of Peace’s hack of Sony. With all of the buzz surrounding the rebels without a cause, the group is now looking to cash in on its fame by selling its DDoS Attack Tool. Starting at $6 per month, buyers will be able to enlist Lizard Squad’s services for a singular targeted attack on a website/space. For instance, a $6 fee can be paid to take down a website for 100 seconds. If you want to make a bigger statement, a $130 fee can be paid to take a website down for eight hours. If you wanted to cripple a web entity, a lifetime option exists, ranging from $30 to $500 (likely dependent on complexity and the intended target).

The Real Cybercrime Geography – When Sony Pictures was the target of a recent cyber attack, computer experts were quick to speculate that North Korea was behind the digital infiltration. Things happen quickly in the digital world, and now many experts are doubting the original idea that North Korea walked around inside Sony servers in reprisal for “The Interview.”

US sanctions North Korea over Sony hack and classifies attack evidence: Security researchers doubting Pyongyang’s guilt not privy to FBI data, feds say – The US is lobbing fresh sanctions against North Korea as a response to the cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment even as President Barack Obama’s administration refuses to provide evidence of Pyongyang’s involvement. Pyongyang has denied involvement. On Sunday, it lashed out at the White House.

Study claims that most ‘dark net’ traffic is to child abuse sites – Research, conducted at the University of Portsmouth, reveals that more than 80% of “dark net” internet traffic is generated by visits to websites offering child-abuse material.

Newly published NSA documents show agency could grab all Skype traffic – A National Security Agency document published this week by the German news magazine Der Spiegel from the trove provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden shows that the agency had full access to voice, video, text messaging, and file sharing from targeted individuals over Microsoft’s Skype service. The access, mandated by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant, was part of the NSA’s PRISM program and allowed “sustained Skype collection” in real time from specific users identified by their Skype user names.

Kim Dotcom’s Mega to launch anti-spying call and chat service – “Mega will soon release a fully encrypted and browser-based video call and chat service including high-speed file transfers,” the entrepreneur known as Kim Dotcom said in a tweet. Kim Dotcom is positioning the service as a more secure way to chat and collaborate online free of government surveillance or spying, partly by virtue of Mega being based in New Zealand. Kim Dotcom has been teasing the app for some time, though now it appears nearly ready for prime time.

Company News:

Netflix said to be shutting out international VPN users – Due to international laws and different contracts with copyright holders based on country, Netflix’s digital content available for streaming can vary widely depending on your location in the world. It has long been a tactic of international Netflix users to rely on VPNs (virtual private networks) in order to get around the site’s regional locks and access content available in the U.S. Unfortunately for those subscribers, it appears that Netflix is cracking down on some VPN services and keeping their users out of its walled garden.

Twitter is building its own video service; wants to compete with YouTube – Twitter is rolling out new features left and right and it looks like the company has big plans for its video service even going as far as building a direct competitor to Google’s YouTube.

Apple’s 16GB iPhones are a big fat lie, claims iOS 8 storage hog lawsuit – The sueball was lobbed at Cupertino on behalf of owners of 8GB and 16GB iThings. It claims Apple does not do enough to warn people that their new iThing may not hold as much music, apps and video as expected.

wps37BD.tmp

Snapchat’s privacy practices to be monitored for the next 20 years: FTC: No more saying that your secret sexy snaps can’t be saved – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved its final order with Snapchat, compelling the California startup to submit to an independent privacy monitor for 20 years and to not “misrepresent in any manner…the extent to which respondent or its products or services maintain and protect the privacy, security, or confidentiality of any covered information.”

Games and Entertainment:

Music streaming up by 54% in 2014 as digital sales continue decline – New evidence in the form of a report from Nielsen SoundScan has confirmed that 2014 saw a significant shift in the digital music market among U.S. consumers. While the last decade has seen a clear dominance of downloading digital music purchases, last year marked a notable decline in that trend as steaming services maintained their explosive growth. Nielsen’s report notes that digital sales dropped by 9%, to 117.6 million, while online streaming was up by 54% over 2013.

The 20 best games of 2014, as chosen by the Ars brain trust – So after much debate and discussion among the Ars editor brain trust, we’ve come up with this list of 20 games that we feel represent the best and most interesting titles of the year. It’s a bit of a mish-mash of titles with only a top few that really stand out above the rest as true classics. Still, these are the games we think people will look back on and remember when they think about the muddled past 12 months in gaming.

Sony offers discounts and subscription extensions after PSN outage during Christmas – PlayStation Plus members affected by the Christmas outage will receive a five-day extension and a once-off 10% discount in the PlayStation Store as a “thank you” for their patience.

10 Video Games That Were Ahead of Their Time – In this feature, we’ll spotlight 10 games that pushed the world of gaming forward ahead of schedule. Some were commercial successes, some were cult hits, and some were all-out flops. But they all helped predict where gaming would take us in the coming decades, and for that we salute them.

Off Topic (Sort of):

12 Hidden Messages Inside 1990s Tech Commercials – Comparing advertisements across the years is a uniquely poignant window into how society evolves. Think about it. Companies need to evolve their messaging in order to reflect changes in the wants and needs of consumers. Therefore, ads are as useful a milepost of how culture and society evolve over time as movies, music, or literature. Check out some of these retro commercials from the 1990s and see what lessons we learned about the technology of today.

11 Ways Old Journalism Was The Worst – In October of last year, Brookings published an essay by Robert Kaiser entitled “The Bad News About The News,” which was probably well-intentioned, but was also — I’m sorry to say — hilariously bloviated, self-important, and wrongheaded. It did, however, accidentally raise a few quite interesting points.

Mark Zuckerberg Picks Reading for his Personal Challenge, First Book Sells Out – Conspiracy theories aside, Zuckerberg’s personal challenge for 2015 will be—drumroll—reading an entire book every other week. That’s 26 books in all; not too shabby a deal for someone who likely doesn’t have all that much free time. And, no, Zuckerberg won’t likely be picking up the Game of Thrones series to plow through. He plans to place a particular emphasis on books that help him learn about “different cultures, beliefs, histories, and technologies.”

Geek Answers: Why are there 365.25 days in the year? – The easy and unsatisfying reply, but also the most accurate, is a simple non-answer: Why are there 365 days in a year? Because that’s just the way it is. Put differently, there’s no particular logical reason for there to be 365 days as opposed to 340 or 395; Jupiter has more than ten thousand days in its year, while Venus actually has less than one day per year. The “why” of this has to do with the planetary histories of each body, the hows and whys of its formation. The dynamics of a planet’s year and day are dictated eons before life could ever get a chance to arise and observe them.

Ancient Indian aircraft on agenda of major science conference – Indian Vedic myths tell of ancient pilots flying craft around the world and out of this world. But some think the myths were true, and that modern science has it all wrong.

Something to think about:

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to believe.”

–   Laurence J. Peter (1919 – 1988), misquoting Sir Walter Scott

Today’s Free Downloads:

Patch My PC – Patch My PC is a portable and reliable utility designed to check your system against the current version of Adobe Reader, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Flash, Mozilla Firefox, Oracle Java, Apple Quicktime, and more!

When started PatchMyPC will scan for outdated software automatically. If software is outdated it will show as Red, if it’s updated it will show as Green, and if it’s not installed it will show as black.

There are also many optional updates that can be installed with PatchMyPC. You can install optional updates by checking the checkbox in the optional software. Optional software should only be installed if you want the software and it’s not currently installed.

wps381C.tmp

GhostBuster Portable – GhostBuster scans your registry for ghosted devices (hardware no longer connected to the PC) and then removes them with a single mouse click.

This application enumerates all devices, detects ghosted devices and removes them if they match selectable device types and/or device classes.

Ghostbuster does exactly the same when you right click a device in the Windows Device Manager and choose uninstall. The only difference is that GhostBuster does it in bulk for all filtered devices that are ghosted and thus saves a lot of time.

Ghostbuster removes devices by name, class or wildcard so it cannot be used to remove only one of two ghosted devices that share the same name, it will always try to remove all matching ghosted devices.

Limitations: GhostBuster will NOT uninstall active devices and certain device types that are considered to be services, even if they’re ghosted. Requires Microsoft .NET Framework.

wps384C.tmp

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Canadian ISPs required by law to notify users of illegal downloads – January 1st saw a new law, part of the Copyright Modernization Act, go into effect in Canada that requires internet service providers and website hosts to notify their users when copyright holders have detected illegal downloading. When an ISP now receives a letter of complaint from a copyright holder, they must forward it to the customer tied to the IP address associated with the download, or face fines of up to $10,000. The same applies to VPN (virtual private network) services, who must also record customer logs for a least 6 months.

The law also protects ISPs and website hosts in that they are not required to give over users’ personal information unless a lawsuit begins. But they must keep a 6 month record of who letters were sent to, again in the case of a lawsuit. This is bad for VPN services, as the aspect of anonymity is a key feature, and in order for them to comply, they must keep 6 months’ of access data, something that could be very expensive or difficult for small businesses.

Saudi Arabia’s Morality Police and ‘Ethical Hackers’ Are Targeting Online Pornography – Saudi Arabian authorities recently announced that they have hacked and disabled about 9,000 Twitter accounts associated with the publication of pornographic materials and arrested many of the handles’ owners. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (a.k.a. Haia, the Saudi religious police) organized the sting, sweeping up many Saudis and expats accused of organizing alcohol- and gambling-fueled parties. But in an apparent first for the Kingdom, Haia acknowledged that it did not act alone, instead relying upon a group of “ethical hackers” to access users’ accounts and personal information, leading to physical arrests.

Offshoring Data Won’t Protect It From The NSA – The natural reaction of many citizens, companies and governments is to try to get their data out of the United States and out of the hands of American companies.  The idea is a seductive one, even for Americans.  Offshoring money has been a popular strategy for tax avoidance.  Why not offshore data to a foreign company?

This offshoring of data to avoid surveillance is not just an idle notion.  As a privacy lawyer with experience in the intelligence community and the Obama White House, technology companies have asked me how they might pursue such a strategy.  It turns out that shifting user data abroad or into the hands of foreign companies is a very poor way to combat American surveillance.

If the Supreme Court tackles the NSA in 2015, it’ll be one of these five cases – Roughly a year and a half since the first Snowden disclosures, there’s already been a judicial order to shut down the National Security Agency’s bulk metadata collection program.

The lawsuit filed by Larry Klayman, a veteran conservative activist, would essentially put a stop to unchecked NSA surveillance. And at the start of 2015, he remains the only plaintiff whose case has won when fighting for privacy against the newly understood government monitoring. However, it’s currently a victory in name only—the judicial order in Klayman was stayed pending the government’s appeal.

Klayman v. Obama is only one of a number of notable national security and surveillance-related civil and criminal cases stemming fully or partially from the Snowden documents. In 2014, a handful of these advanced far enough through the legal system that 2015 is likely to be a big year for privacy policy. One or more could even end up before the Supreme Court.

NSA has VPNs in Vulcan death grip—no, really, that’s what they call it – The National Security Agency’s Office of Target Pursuit (OTP) maintains a team of engineers dedicated to cracking the encrypted traffic of virtual private networks (VPNs) and has developed tools that could potentially uncloak the traffic in the majority of VPNs used to secure traffic passing over the Internet today, according to documents published this week by the German news magazine Der Speigel. A slide deck from a presentation by a member of OTP’s VPN Exploitation Team, dated September 13, 2010, details the process the NSA used at that time to attack VPNs—including tools with names drawn from Star Trek and other bits of popular culture.

OTP’s VPN exploit team had members assigned to branches focused on specific regional teams, as well as a “Cross-Target Support Branch” and a custom development team for building specialized VPN exploits. At the regional level, the VPN team representatives acted as liaisons to analysts, providing information on new VPN attacks and gathering requirements for specific targets to be used in developing new ones.

Advertisements

12 Comments

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

12 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 5, 2015

  1. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Happy New Year to you and yours.

    Hope you had a restful festive season and that your loins are girt (is that even a word?) for whatever 2015 has in store.

    Keep well and “nil carborundum”.

    Kind regards,
    John

    • Hi John,

      Yeah, the loins are girt (girted?), which is one hell of a condition – I have to tell ya! 🙂 And yes, Christmas was wonderful.

      Since we’re into Latin (a lovely precise language) – here’s one my old Latin Master would throw at us each day as we left his room. “Semper ube sub-ube.” 🙂

      Best,

      Bill

  2. Anonymous

    Patch My PC (“One simple & free tool”) is flagged by Norton as unsafe.

    • Another false positive from Norton.

      In future, should you encounter this type of condition, checkout VirusTotal. VirusTotal is a free service that analyzes suspicious files and URLs and facilitates the quick detection of viruses, worms, trojans, and all kinds of malware.

      In addition, you should be aware that applications which dig deeply into the operating system, will generally trigger a virus warning. But, that’s a good thing. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill

      Best,

      Bill

  3. ken lunkins

    hi bill i hope you got my holiday greets.
    i was wondering are there any free software for laptops other then google chat and skype?
    ken lunkins

  4. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Whitehat Aviator

    Hope you had a good Christmas and New Year.

    I downloaded Aviator to give it a whirl. On installation, Spyshelter informed me that Aviator was trying to access my webcam! Why would that be? I don’t know but I didn’t feel comfortable with that, so took it off my system. It’s got a good writeup though, so maybe it’s just “one of those things”.

    Cheers
    Mal

    • Hey Mal,

      Yep, this year the holidays were better than most. Hope yours was the same.

      On the Whitehat Aviator thingy, I don’t have any experience with it – but, if the app offers in-browser communication ((ala Skype, etc.) then, I’d be comfortable with that. Otherwise, toss it mate.

      Best,

      Bill