Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 6, 2015

7 critical things to do immediately with a new PC;  Three security-boosting steps to perform on every router;  How to set up an HDTV;  Netflix users worry about potential VPN ban;  Microsoft’s Nokia 215 Internet-Ready Phone Is Just $29;  Here’s Everything You Need To Know About 4K TVs;  The $30 Quad-Core MK808B Plus Android TV Stick;  Dish to offer one-month free trial of Sling TV service on Xbox One;  Microsoft goes to Vegas with new ‘Jackpot’ game (free);  Wireless smart bulbs could scare away burglars;  FBI says search warrants not needed to use “stingrays” in public places;  Could Depression Actually Be Nothing More Than an Allergic Reaction? QuickSetDNS (free).

Plus 20 additional newsworthy items:

7 critical things to do immediately with a new PC – So you’ve got a new PC. Awesome! That humble metal box is the key to a wide world of potential. It can help you with everything from juggling your finances to keeping in touch with Grandma to blowing off some steam on, uh, Steam. But a new PC isn’t like a new car; you can’t just turn a key and put the pedal to the metal. Okay, maybe you can—but you shouldn’t. Performing just a few simple activities when you first fire it up can help it be safer, faster, and better poised for the future. Here’s how to set up a new PC the right way, step by step.

Three security-boosting steps to perform on every router – The computer industry has worked hard to make sure that a lot of the gadgets we use are mostly plug-and-play. In other words, you just fire up the device, login and you’re ready to go—no configuration necessary. One device you should never consider “plug-and-play,” however, is your home’s network and wireless router. After the technician leaves your house there are a few important things everyone should do.

How to set up an HDTV – After you follow the instructions for getting the TV on its stand (if it isn’t already), the real setup begins. There are countless settings, options, and potential issues between box and beautiful picture. This how-to guide should help you navigate the waters of TV technology.

How to stop autoplay videos – You open a webpage and start reading. But after a few seconds, you hear someone talking. A video has started automatically without your permission. Here’s how to keep this annoyance from happening.

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How to set up your new Chromebook the right way – Setting up a new Chromebook is much easier than setting up a PC. Chromebooks don’t require major updates or antivirus software. You start simply by signing in with your Google Account (or creating that account, if you don’t already have one). All that said, Chromebooks have some unique quirks—such as limited offline capabilities, and a wonky method for connecting a printer. Here’s everything you need to know to set up your new Chromebook up the right way—starting with the tools that let you replace the Windows software that just won’t work on a Googley laptop.

Lost your digital stylus? Just write on Lenovo’s new Yoga tablet with a pencil–or a fork – If you’ve ever dabbled in pen-based computing, you’ve probably misplaced your pen. While Toshiba snuck a backup digital stylus into its new Portege, Lenovo’s approach on its updated Yoga Tablet 2 is even easier: just whip out a pencil. Or a pen, or even a fork. The Yoga Tablet 2’s innards are otherwise standard fare for a 8-inch, Windows 8.1 tablet. There’s a quad-core Bay Trail M-based Atom CPU, 2GB of DDR3L, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and a 1920×1080 touchscreen IPS panel. The unit weighs about 1 lbs. and will be available this month for $300.

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Netflix users worry about potential VPN ban – Hollywood is not happy that some people use virtual private networks (VPNs) to get around regional restrictions to access the U.S. version of Netflix. Now Netflix is making users and VPN providers nervous that a large scale VPN ban is in the works. Recently, users have noticed difficulties in getting the Netflix for Android app to work over VPNs and Domain Name System (DNS) services. VPN provider TorGuard also recently spoke with TorrentFreak to say it started receiving complaints about Netflix VPN blocking in December. Those TorGuard problems were apparently short-lived, but the VPN service is concerned that the small scale blocking could be a pilot test before a wider rollout.

Samsung Announces The T1, A Tiny Drive That Can Pack Up To A Terabyte – This afternoon in Las Vegas, Samsung announced a new storage product, the SSD T1, which can store up to a terabyte of content in a device the size of a business card and weighs about an ounce. The SSD T1 also comes in smaller, 256 gigabyte and 500 gigabytes versions. The device will retain for between $179 and $599, depending on how much storage capacity you need. The T1 ships this month.

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Here’s Everything You Need To Know About 4K TVs – Since 3D TV has been declared dead, manufacturers are now pivoting to 4K TV, a new super-high-definition resolution that’s supposed to put your current 1080p set to shame. But 4K (also known as “Ultra HD”) is still a new technology that’s yet to see wide mainstream adoption. Here, we offer a primer on the ins and outs on 4K and how to know whether it’s worth splurging on a new higher-def TV.

The $30 Quad-Core MK808B Plus Android TV Stick: First impressions & Unboxing – The MK808B Plus doesn’t have the most amazing specs, but the price is rock bottom and it makes for a great Chromecast competitor. Check out our first impressions and unboxing of this Android TV stick!

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Microsoft’s Nokia 215 Internet-Ready Phone Is Just $29 – Microsoft will offer a standard Nokia 215 and a dual-SIM version, which the company said is “perfectly suited for first-time mobile phone buyers or as a secondary phone for just about anyone.” The Nokia 215 will come with Facebook and Facebook Messenger pre-installed, and both apps will provide notifications. Microsoft said Twitter is also “easily accessible” but did not elaborate. To surf the Web, Opera Mini Browser and Bing Search are also there, as is MSN Weather and a built-in MP3 player and FM radio. It also sports a flashlight, which Microsoft said will be handy for those in developing regions with limited access to electricity. The phone will also pair with a Bluetooth headset or speaker.

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This is the reversible USB plug of your future – Type C USB 3.1 is spec’d to have speeds up to 10Gbps and can scale down to slower speeds easily if being hooked into older devices. The specifications were finally set in stone back in August, and cables should be entering production soon. The older USB plug that you’ve come to love and hate over the past few decades will surely endure for a long, long time, but at least we have hope for a reversible future.

HP Thinks It Can Take on Google With These Tiny Computers – The HP Pavilion Mini Desktop is the better equipped of the two, packing a 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM for $319. It stands 2 inches high, weighs roughly 1.5 pounds and is perfectly proportioned to go head-to-head against other desktop devices in the featherweight class, including the ASUS Chromebox and Mac Mini. The smaller unit, the HP Stream Mini Desktop, will sell for $179 and includes a 32GB hard drive with 2GB of RAM. The Stream Mini Desktop also comes with two years of free access to 200GB of cloud-based storage on Microsoft’ OneDrive to complement that internal storage.

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The Unexpected App Kids Are Using to Share Photos – “They laughed in my face when I asked what they thought about Facebook,” writes Business Insider’s Maya Kosoff in her report Friday on what she learned during the holidays from her younger cousins. “It’s for moms,” they explained. Then a 13-year-old cousin asked Kosoff if she knew about AirDrop. There followed an unsolicited endorsement for a little-known iPhone feature from a key Apple cohort: Schoolchildren with smartphones. Among the kids in her cousins’ New Jersey middle school, Kosoff reports, the most-used app for exchanging images during school hours isn’t Snapchat or Instagram, but AirDrop.

Security:

Take precautions when using public Wi-Fi networks – When you take your laptop to a library or café, you take a risk. But if you know what you’re doing, you can minimize that risk.

Moonpig makes a pig’s ear of security, exposes details of 3.6 million customers – The developer spotting the security vulnerability claims to have warned the greetings card company more than a year ago.

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HTTPS can be set as your super-cookie – A UK consultant has demonstrated how a feature of the secure Web protocol HTTPS can be turned into a tracking feature that is, in the case of some browsers, ineradicable. HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), described in RFC 6797 (here), is a mechanism that helps sites redirect users from the insecure HTTP version to the encrypted HTTPS version. If a user puts http://www.google.com into their browser, it’s HSTS that sends them to https://www.google.com. The problem is, someone thought it might be troublesome if the User Agent – that is, your browser – had to go through a redirect every time a user visited the https: site. So the authors of HSTS created a mechanism for browsers to remember the HSTS policy of sites they’ve visited. That’s what Sam Greenhalgh has identified as a kind of super-cookie, here.

Snooker WPA secrets with this Wi-Fi tool – Crypto geek George Chatzisofroniou has published a WiFi social engineering tool used to steal credentials and credit cards from users of secure wireless networks. The administrator at the University of Greece developed the WiFiPhisher tool which sought out and then replicated WPA-protected networks, sans password. The tool, yours for the taking on GitHub, spits deauthorisation packets at a legitimate access point jamming it and prompting users to inspect available networks. Users will see the malicious network masquerading as their trusted access point.

Apple Patches iCloud Hole That Let Hackers Break Into Anyone’s Account – Apple has patched an iCloud vulnerability that let hackers repeatedly attempt different passwords without the account locking down, making it possible to access any account with enough tries. iCloud has been under scrutiny after several celebrities’ accounts were breached last year. Apple said that hack was a targeted attack, and not the result of a vulnerability in its cloud storage service.

Company News:

Facebook Acquires Wit.ai To Help Its Developers With Speech Recognition And Voice Interfaces – Facebook today acquired Wit.ai, a Y Combinator startup founded 18 months ago to create an API for building voice-activated interfaces. Wit.ai already has 6,000 developers on its platform who have built hundreds of apps. As part of Facebook, Wit.ai could help the company offer voice control development tools alongside its Parse development platform, aid with voice-to-text input for Messenger, improve Facebook’s understanding of the semantic meaning of voice, and create a Facebook app you can navigate through speech.

Intel Shuts Down Russian Developer Forums To Comply With Russia’s ‘Blogger Law’ – Add Intel to the growing list of U.S. tech companies that are changing up some of their policies and business in Russia as a result of the government’s tightening reign on Internet use. Citing Russia’s new “Blogger Law” that was first introduced last year, Intel has shut down all of its popular Russian-language developer forums.

Games and Entertainment:

PS Now subscriptions to offer all-you-can-play access starting at $15/month – Starting January 13, PS4 owners in North America will be able to sign up for a PS Now subscription at $19.99 for one month or $44.99 for three months (A seven-day trial is available for new subscribers as well). A subscription will give players unlimited streaming access to more than 100 PS3 games, including high-profile AAA titles like Batman: Arkham City, Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, and XCom: Enemy Within. A full list of titles currently available on PlayStation Now is available here, but that list doesn’t include many games featured on promotional images and trailers accompanying the subscription announcement.

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Dish to offer one-month free trial of Sling TV service on Xbox One – According to a post on Microsoft’s Xbox Wire website, Sling TV will offer an “exclusive extended free trial for one month at launch.” The Internet-based service comes with 12 channels – ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family and CNN – and costs $20 per month with no long-term contract required. Xbox Live users won’t be automatically entered in the trial, however, and will instead have to sign up for the offer. An official release date for the Sling TV service and Xbox One app haven’t been revealed yet, though Dish and Microsoft say they will launch “in the coming weeks.”

The Assassin’s Creed movie is coming December 2016 – The good news: 20th Century Fox’s Assassin’s Creed film is back on track for a theatrical release. The bad news: you’re going to have to wait until the end of next year to see it. Fox said today that the film, based on Ubisoft’s popular video games and starring Michael Fassbender, will arrive in theaters December 21st, 2016. The film was originally scheduled for August 7th this year, but was pushed back late last year.

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Microsoft goes to Vegas with new ‘Jackpot’ game – Microsoft has released a new game to the Windows Store and for those of you who like slot machines and Vegas, this free game will likely make you a happy camper.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Quell is a wearable pain manager that stimulates your brain’s natural opiates – More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and now there’s finally a consumer-grade wearable that’s designed to provide some relief. Announced at CES 2015, and available this spring for about $250, Quell is a wearable that takes time-tested TENS technology to the consumer market. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, a technology that applies a small electrical current to the surface of your skin—in the case of Quell, the electrical leads make contact with your calf, which Quell describes as a “veritable USB port” for plugging into your body’s nervous system.

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The SCiO Handheld Scanner Makes Sure You’re Taking The Right (Prescription) Drugs – Hate it when you accidentally do Pepsi instead of Coke? Not sure if that pill you’re taking is Aspirin or Ibuprofen? Worried that your local pharmacy is slipping you some sort of generic drug instead of the real thing? Well, a new handheld molecular scanning device called SCiO could ensure that the stuff you’re putting in your body is actually stuff you want to ingest.

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Could Depression Actually Be Nothing More Than an Allergic Reaction? – Our understanding and awareness of depression has, thankfully, evolved some way beyond the old-fashioned, “Pull yourself together” response. Most now know that it’s a multi-faceted, shape-shifting, and frequently debilitating condition that transcends race, sex, and creed. But we still don’t know exactly why some become depressed and some don’t. However, new research suggests that, for some people, depression may be caused by something as simple as an allergic reaction. A reaction to inflammation—a product of the body, not the mind.

Wireless smart bulbs could scare away burglars – The technology is based on a framework developed by the AllSeen Alliance, a group formed around IoT technology originally created by Qualcomm, and is a step ahead in building smart homes and enabling home automation. Some vendors have already signed up. For example, security company ADT plans to link up the smart lights to home security systems. When an alarm goes off, the security system will instruct lights to flash red and blue, which could draw attention to the home and scare away the burglar.

Something to think about:

“Count not him among your friends who will retail your privacies to the world.”

–       Publilius Syrus  (~100 BC)

Today’s Free Downloads:

QuickSetDNS – QuickSetDNS is a simple tool that allows you to easily change the DNS servers that are used for your Internet connection. You can set the desired DNS servers from the user interface, by choosing from a list of DNS servers that you defined, or from command-line, without displaying any user interface.

QuickSetDNS doesn’t require any installation process or additional dll files. In order to start using it, simply run the executable file – QuickSetDNS.exe

After running QuickSetDNS, the main window allows you to easily choose the desired DNS servers to use on your Internet connection, by using the ‘Set Active DNS’ option (F2). By default, QuickSetDNS provides only one alternative: the public DNS servers of Google – 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4

You can easily add more DNS servers to the list by using the ‘New DNS Server’ option (Ctrl+N).

If the ‘Automatic DNS’ option is selected, then the DNS server information is received from your router automatically, using DHCP.

If you have multiple network adapters, you may need to choose the correct network adapter from the combo-box located just below the toolbar of QuickSetDNS.

7 Sticky Notes – 7 Sticky Notes is designed to mimic the experience of using actual sticky notes to keep notes and track information. If you’re the type of person who typically has yellow post-its all over your desk, then you might enjoy this app.

Pros

Synchronization options: 7 Sticky Notes can sync with a number of popular services that you might want to transfer your information to, such as Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive.

Customization options: This software does a good job of giving you options. You can configure the color, font, and style of all your notes, so that you can create a productive and pleasing desktop environment. The ability to personalize note-taking software is always welcome, as it helps your workspace feel familiar and intuitive.

Excellent online help: At the 7 Sticky Notes website, there is a very comprehensive help page that walks you through every aspect of the software. If you have any questions about the software’s operations or how to use it, you should be able to find the answer there.

Cons

Skeumorphic design: For many years, skeumorphic design, or trying to make electronic versions of real-world items look like their real world equivalents, was very popular. Now, however, modern designers have embraced a flatter, more streamlined look, as seen in the modern Windows 8 interface. The attempts to make the notes look as much like real notes as possible looks outdated in today’s desktop environment.

Bottom Line

If you’re disorganized or constantly jotting down notes in a variety of different places on your computer, 7 Sticky Notes could be the solution you’re looking for. This software provides a perfect electronic corollary to the real-life experience of using sticky notes to stay organized.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Lavabit founder wants to make “dark” e-mail secure by default – Ladar Levison is probably most well-known to Ars readers as the founder of the secure e-mail service Lavabit, which he shut down in mid-2013 in an effort to avoid being forced to comply with a US government demand to turn over users’ e-mails. But his latest project is a lot grander in scope than a single hosted e-mail service: Levison is attempting, with the aid of some fellow crypto-minded developers, to change e-mail at large and build encryption into its fundamental nature.

As one of the members of the Darkmail Technical Alliance, Levison—along with Jon Callas, Mike Janke, and PGP designer Phil Zimmermann—is working on a project collectively referred to as DIME, the Dark Internet Mail Environment. DIME will eventually take the form of a drop-in replacement for existing e-mail servers that will be able to use DMTP (the Dark Mail Transfer Protocol) and DMAP (Dark Mail Access Protocol) to encrypt e-mails by default.

Conceptually, DIME applies multiple layers of encryption to an e-mail to make sure that the actors at each stage of the e-mail’s journey from sender to receiver can only see the information about the e-mail that they need to see. The e-mail’s author and recipient both know who sent the message and where it was bound, but the author’s e-mail server doesn’t—it can only decrypt the part of the message containing the recipient’s e-mail server. The recipient e-mail server knows the destination server and the recipient, but it doesn’t know the sender. So if you arrange the four steps in a line from left to right—author, origin server, destination server, and recipient—each step in the line is only aware of the identity of the entity directly to its left or right.

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Snowden leaks lack context says security studies professor – With the wash-up from December’s Snowden leaks still sloshing around the ‘net, The Register decided to discuss how to interpret the leaked documents with Thomas Rid of King’s College London.

In November, Rid (Professor of Security Studies) and colleague Robert Lee (currently undertaking his PhD at King’s) published a piece looking at the hype surrounding the ongoing Snowden leaks, called OMG Cyber (in the RUSI Journal), a detailed examination of how hype creates bad policy.

Rid has previously told the world that cyber war won’t be a war, and that cyber weapons aren’t that dangerous.

In conversation with Vulture South, Rid said one reason hype takes over is that journalists are prone to ignoring the complex context in which each document leaked by Snowden exists.

It’s more than just the fact that what hits the Internet is often a handful of slides from a 100-page presentation. There’s also the organisational context to consider: documents written by individuals trying to put their work in the best light to their superiors (hoping, perhaps, for a promotion or to protect their project’s budget), there’s an inevitable mismatch between the technical knowledge between the author and the target, and there’s the limitation of PowerPoint as a communications medium.

Pointing up  Total bullshit! The only thing that needs to be understood here is – the American government (along with it’s 5 Eyes partners), operates in an underhanded, unethical, illegal, morally reprehensible, and self-defeating manner.

Supreme Court justice second-guesses decisive vote in gaming free speech case – Back in 2011, the Supreme Court handed down a momentous decision enshrining video games as speech with full First Amendment protections, invalidating a number of attempts by states to ban sales and rentals of violent games to unaccompanied minors. But if one Justice had voted with her personal feelings rather than with her understanding of the law, things might have gone very differently.

Speaking at a forum hosted by Princeton University back in November, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan called Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association the toughest case she’d ever been part of. Kagan responded to an audience question by saying that she is “not usually an agonizer,” but in deciding this case she was “all over the map… Every day I woke up and I thought I would do a different thing or I was in the wrong place.”

FBI says search warrants not needed to use “stingrays” in public places – The Federal Bureau of Investigation is taking the position that court warrants are not required when deploying cell-site simulators in public places. Nicknamed “stingrays,” the devices are decoy cell towers that capture locations and identities of mobile phone users and can intercept calls and texts.

The FBI made its position known during private briefings with staff members of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). In response, the two lawmakers wrote Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson, maintaining they were “concerned about whether the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have adequately considered the privacy interests” of Americans.

According to the letter, which was released last week:

For example, we understand that the FBI’s new policy requires FBI agents to obtain a search warrant whenever a cell-site simulator is used as part of a FBI investigation or operation, unless one of several exceptions apply, including (among others): (1) cases that pose an imminent danger to public safety, (2) cases that involve a fugitive, or (3) cases in which the technology is used in public places or other locations at which the FBI deems there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The letter was prompted in part by a Wall Street Journal report in November that said the Justice Department was deploying small airplanes equipped with cell-site simulators that enabled “investigators to scoop data from tens of thousands of cellphones in a single flight, collecting their identifying information and general location.”

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