Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 7, 2015

The top 10 Windows and Mac downloads for 2014;  Start here: the best apps for all your new devices;  Pono Player hands-on: believe the hype;  These 6 Apps Will Help You Tell Amazing Stories With Just Your iPhone;  Man tweets ‘joke’ that he hit cyclist, gets fired;  The first things you should do with that new Android phone;  Protecting yourself on social networks;  Microsoft makes its Office for Android tablet preview apps available to all;  How to save a webpage as a PDF or MHT file;  Razer Unveils Its $100 Android-Powered Gaming Console;  AOL halts malicious ads;  Travel safely with your tech;  Over 2,300 MS-DOS games now completely free to play at Internet Archive.

Plus 26 additional newsworthy items:

The top 10 Windows and Mac downloads for 2014 – You, Download.com nation, got more than 630 million apps from our site in 2014. So, what had you downloading in droves? In a word, security — and no surprise, since this year brought Heartbleed and Shellshock; credit card and personal info stolen from Home Depot, Target, and JPMorgan; celebrity iCloud photo hacks; and much more. If you haven’t updated your protection yet, read our take on the best security options for your needs. Many of you found utilities on our site to clean up your computers — another way to sweep for unwanted programs, as well as to free up hard drive space and improve system performance. Read on to see the year’s most-downloaded apps for Windows and Mac, as well as 2014’s most popular newcomers.

Microsoft makes its Office for Android tablet preview apps available to all – The Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint previews for your Android tablet are now available to download from the Google Play store, even if you don’t have an invite.

How much free storage space does your smartphone really have? – The box might say that your smartphone comes with 16 gigabytes, 32 gigabytes or whatever of storage space, but how much actual free storage space will you have on your shiny new smartphone?

Start here: the best apps for all your new devices – This year we’ve picked out some of the very best apps, games, books, and downloads for your new devices. Dig into below for the very best Android apps, Android games, iPhone apps, iPad apps, iOS games, Kindle books, console games, and for your Mac and PC. They’re not the only ones you’ll ever need, but they’re enough to get you started.

Travel safely with your tech: How to prevent theft, loss and snooping on the road – When you travel, a whole fleet of electronics come with you. Smartphone and laptop are a given, but there’s a good chance you’re also toting a tablet, and maybe a cellular hotspot or dedicated GPS. All of them are juicy targets for bad guys. Here’s how to make sure your devices’ travels are just as safe as your own.

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Windows 10: ISOs of new ‘consumer preview’ January build to be available at launch – Perhaps learning from previous feedback on the update process, Microsoft has listened and will be offering full ISOs alongside the next build update for Windows Insiders. It’s unclear when the next Windows 10 build will be pushed to the fast ring, or if it will in fact be called the ‘consumer preview’ but it’s likely to happen on or around January 21, which is when Microsoft will talk about the consumer features in Windows 10.

These 6 Apps Will Help You Tell Amazing Stories With Just Your iPhone – You’ve just come back from holiday vacation, and you’re looking for an easy way to share your incredible trip with all your friends. Sure, there’s Facebook and Instagram — but these six iPhone apps, recently highlighted by Apple, are purpose-built for the task and create beautiful-looking photo and video stories to boot.

How to save a webpage as a PDF or MHT file – You don’t need to be online to read a webpage. You can save one, with formatting and images, to local storage and read it later offline.

ZTE attacks US prepaid phone market with massive $200 phablet – ZTE sees big promise in the U.S. prepaid handset market, and is releasing a 6-inch smartphone with high-end specs, all for $200 when bought without a contract. The phone has a 6-inch high-definition display, 4G LTE connectivity, a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and a 3200 mAh battery that will last an entire day, according to the company.

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Pono Player hands-on: believe the hype – It’s a true testament to the high-quality audio delivery of the Pono Player that we’re able to suggest that it’s all that it’s cut out to be at a tech convention. We’re at Showstoppers during CES 2015 and it’s loud – not deafeningly loud, but loud enough that it’s not an optimal environment for listening to tunes. This device delivers sound that’s next-level. With a pair of Sennheiser Momentum headphones plugged in, this music player brings a depth to music we simply did not expect. This device isn’t cheap. It’s going on sale on the 12th of January (that’s this next Monday) for $399. It’s also going to require that you purchase albums and individual music tracks direct from Pono. That’s also going to cost you around $25 per album – sometimes a few dollars more.

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Sony’s new Walkman: Impressive sound at an insane price – Sony’s new Walkman the ZX2 is designed to play high quality audio, but at $1,120 it’s not for the casual listener.

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How to install Microsoft fonts in Linux office suites – If you open a Microsoft Office document in LibreOffice or OpenOffice, you’ll need Microsoft’s fonts installed on your Linux system to see the documents as they were intended to look.

Facebook’s WhatsApp tallies 700M monthly active users – One of the world’s most popular mobile messaging services continues growth three months after Facebook acquisition.

Man tweets ‘joke’ that he hit cyclist, gets fired – Technically Incorrect: A UK stockbroker says that his tweet about hitting a cyclist with his car was merely a joke. Twitter users and his employers don’t find it funny.

You don’t need to back up Windows to the cloud – I love cloud-based data backup. It’s easy, automatic, and it stores your data far from your home or office. A single fire or flood can’t destroy both the PC and the backup. But to my mind, backing up Windows itself to the cloud doesn’t make sense. The advantages of online backup disappear when you have to restore Windows as well as your library data.

10 apps to swap – Not happy with your apps? Here are 10 you might want to exchange for another.

The first things you should do with that new Android phone – Tap in to Google’s services and some of the best Play Store options for getting the most out of that new device.

Security:

AOL halts malicious ads served by its advertising platform – AOL.com said Tuesday it has stopped malicious advertisements being served by its advertising platforms after being alerted by a security company. Cyphort, which specializes in detecting malware, found on Dec. 31 malicious ads being served on the U.S. and Canadian versions of the news site Huffington Post. The malicious advertisements redirected users to other websites that attacked their computers and tried to install malware, according to a blog post from Cyphort. Nick Bilogorskiy, [cq] Cyphort’s director of security research, said AOL.com was notified on Saturday and the attacks stopped on Monday. Cyphort’s logs showed the attacks started in late October.

Protecting yourself on social networks – We all love to spend time (some would say waste time) fooling around on Facebook, Twitter, and other services. We also use these sites for serious, professional reasons. But like almost everything else on the Internet, they’re inherently dangerous. Hackers can use social media to discover your private information and to deliver spam or malware. You can be stalked and bullied through social media. It can ruin your reputation, your career, and your life. So you need to protect yourself. Follow these rules and your online social life won’t become anti-social.

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.

Company News:

FTC Closes Its Yelp Investigation Without Taking Action – One of the biggest and most influential review platforms in the world, Yelp has constantly been hit with claims that it manipulates reviews so its advertisers get higher rankings. This led to an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission in early 2014 after 2,045 complaints were filed against the company. Now Yelp says the FTC has closed its investigation into Yelp’s business practices and decided not to take action. This is the second time that the FTC has investigated Yelp’s business practices, with the first one also being closed without any further action.

Motorola will re-enter the Chinese market with a new smartphone, the Moto X Pro – Motorola is going back to the Chinese market in style with the Moto X Pro, a 6-inch smartphone with a Quad HD display, 2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805, front-facing stereo speakers, a 13-megapixel front-facing camera, and a 3,220 mAh battery pack. It’s basically the Nexus 6, though it will run pure Android without Google’s location services given that Google many of Google’s services are banned in China.

Report: Verizon may be planning to buy AOL – Verizon may be in the process of acquiring digital media company AOL, the Bloomberg news service has reported. Verizon is interested in AOL’s digital advertising unit, which it could incorporate into the mobile video service offered by its Verizon Wireless subsidiary, anonymous sources familiar with the talks told Bloomberg. As an alternative to an outright acquisition, the two companies may also be considering starting a joint venture that would bring the digital advertising capabilities to Verizon’s cellular network customers, according to the report.

Games and Entertainment:

Razer Unveils Its $100 Android-Powered Gaming Console, Razer Forge TV – The Razer Forge TV is a micro-console, 4×4 inches and selling for $100, and Razer hopes it will give the company three new routes into your living room: as a platform for hardcore PC gaming, for Android gaming, and for Android-based entertainment services via Google Play. The Razer Forge TV is due out in Q1. The Razer Forge TV has all the features you would expect from a gaming console aimed at serious gamers: designed for up to four simultaneous players, it has quad-core processing (Qualcomm Snapdragon 805; Quad-Core Krait 450 CPU – 2.5 GHz per core); a high-end graphics engine (Adreno 420 GPU — which had also made its debut around the last Google I/O); wireless and network connectivity; 16 GB of internal storage and 2 GB of RAM.

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Over 2,300 MS-DOS games now completely free to play at Internet Archive – In 2013, the Internet Archive kicked off a major effort to store and host hundreds of classic video games for free play via your Web browser, and after a late 2014 addition of classic arcade games, the site’s Software Library exploded over the final week of 2014 with its biggest update yet: 2,334 MS-DOS games, all playable through a standard browser. “Some of [the games] will still fall over and die,” longtime IA curator Jason Scott wrote on his personal blog when announcing the new game selection on Monday, but our cursory tests have shown off remarkably functional MS-DOS games in our web browser; they all run via the Em-DOSBOX emulator, an offshoot of the same emulator that powers many antiques sold at archival games sites like GOG.com.

Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition out on PS3 and PS Vita today – The PlayStation Blog has announced that the critically acclaimed first person shooter, Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition will be available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita today.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

The Internet of Things now has a gun – TrackingPoint is on hand at CES showing its new 338TP precision-guided firearm (pictured), which “allows even novice shooters to make mile-long shots with greater precision than the most skilled marksmen in the world — even on targets moving 30mph.” Look, I’m not trying to get into a discussion on gun rights or ethics or any of that. That isn’t my point. Right now, the Internet of Things is a technology story, but like all technological advancements it very quickly and necessarily becomes a culture story, a social story, and / or human story. This is just a reminder of the future ahead.

Pointing up   Nice! Putting automated killing – “allows even novice shooters to make mile-long shots with greater precision than the most skilled marksmen in the world — even on targets moving 30mph.” – into the hands of civilians. What could go wrong?

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Pointing up   But hey, American ingenuity has you covered.

Bulletproof baseball hat shields your noggin with casual style – The basic black BulletSafe hat is going for a $99 pledge. The project’s modest $3,500 funding goal has been exceeded to the tune of more than $8,300 with 20 days left to run. While the obvious market for the hat is with police and security professionals, some backers appear to be regular people who are concerned about safety in an increasingly unpredictable world. Another backer plans to wear the hat on the shooting range as an extra measure of protection.

Ford Has Big Plans For Autonomous Cars And The Future Of Driving – At its CES keynote today, Ford announced its Smart Mobility initiative, a set of 25 experiments ranging from big data analytics to a car swap service that let you swap your Mustang in for a minivan for the weekend. The company also talked about its plans for autonomous cars. Ford CEO Mark Fields noted four trends for the auto industry’s future: Increasing urbanization, and its constituent clogging of roads; a growing global middle class; air quality, or what you could call a lack thereof in many parts of the world; and finally, changing consumer sentiment, with shifts in the global economy seeing youths, for example, have different buying patterns than their parents.

FishBit Monitors Your Aquarium Health To Cut Down On Floaters – FishBit allows you to monitor your tank ecosystem, with the user providing info about tank capacity, fish makeup and more. Real-time notifications alert tank owners to problems, and the app allows them to actually take action via the connected power strip to turn on lights and activate other devices to respond to and address those issues.

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Google handled 345 million copyright takedowns in 2014 – Piracy news site TorrentFreak reports that Google removed 75 percent more URLs in 2014 than it did the previous year. Google doesn’t tally up annual totals, but it does release weekly reports on DMCA notices, and TorrentFreak took it upon itself to add up the weekly reports. Most of the takedown requests are honored. Google has a longstanding tradition of supplying DMCA takedown notices to Chilling Effects, a website that archives such requests.

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Google’s transparency report.

Watch Bill Gates drink water from human waste – Apparently it tastes delicious and could revolutionize sanitation in the poorest areas of the world. Gates isn’t one to shy away from good ideas, and his attention has also turned to the Janicki Bioenergy Omniprocessor. This machine takes in large quantities of untreated human waste and turns it into electricity, drinking water, and ash. You can see Bill Gates drinking the water it produces in the video below. A few minutes earlier that water was human waste.

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Something to think about:

“Follow the grain in your own wood.”

–      Howard Thurman

Today’s Free Downloads:

F-Secure Rescue CD – If your computer no longer starts due to malware corrupting the operating system, or you suspect the security software has been compromised, you can use the F-Secure Rescue CD to securely boot up the computer and check the programs installed.The Rescue CD can also be used for more advanced repair and data recovery operations.

The Rescue CD contains Knoppix (a derivative of Linux), an operating system that runs completely from the CD and allows access to your computer’s Windows operating system and hard disks.

Note: the Rescue CD cannot scan encrypted disks.

You can also download the Rescue CD updates to a USB drive (minimum 256 MB of free space) using a healthy computer with Internet access. You can use this USB drive to fix a computer that cannot connect to the Internet. Instructions on how to do this are included in the Rescue CD User’s Guide.

Prospector Lite – Automate your searching on eBay, Half and RSS feeds – one click to replay all your searches, another click to see the items listed since your last update. With Prospector, you can do this and more.

If you’re a power buyer, reseller or collector, Prospector will save you time and help you find the best items.

For long term searching, Prospector lets you:

Organize your searches and customize your results.

Encode your strategies, set up filters, and save everything for easy replay.

Search comprehensively and consistently, every time.

For short term searching, Prospector provides unique tools to help you uncover more items of interest.

Drastically reduce your search time. Find better faster. Prospector makes it easy!

Features:

Save and organize an unlimited number of searches.

Powerful filter options let you cut the noise.

See the search results as you like.

Customizable toolbar for short-term shopping and research.

Comparison shop across your favorite sites.

Automatic searches with email notification.

Add notes and highlighting, archive listings.

Hide items from future views.

Latest Listings feature lets you see the items listed between your search updates.

Extra search tools for casual browsing and discovery.

High productivity Watch lists.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Going postal: Reporter sues government for spying from USPS network – Sharyl Attkisson, the former CBS investigative reporter who published her claims of government intimidation, electronic surveillance, and cyber-attacks in a book last fall, has begun the process of taking the government to court over the hacking of her personal and work computers, as well as her home network.

In the process, Attkisson’s attorneys have begun to reveal the details of forensic investigations by computer security experts. In legal filings against the government, the attorneys disclosed which government agency’s network was the source of at least some of the hacks: the US Postal Service.

In an administrative claim filed on January 5­ under the provisions of the Federal Tort Claims Act and a complaint filed with the District of Columbia Superior Court, Attkisson’s attorneys gave an initial summary of their accusations against the US Justice Department, which they claim directed the surveillance of Attkisson as part of an ongoing Obama administration campaign against journalists and government employees acting as their confidential sources. Attkisson and her family have named outgoing US Attorney General Eric Holder, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, and “unknown named agents” of the Department of Justice and US Postal Service as defendants in the suit, seeking damages that could total approximately $35 million.

Ex-Microsoft Bug Bounty dev forced to decrypt laptop for Paris airport official – Paris airport security went one step further than simply asking a security expert to power up her laptop – they requested she type in her password to decrypt her hard drive and log into the machine.

Katie Moussouris, chief policy officer at HackerOne, and best known as the woman behind Microsoft’s Bug Bounty Program, was en route back to the US from the CCC hacking conference. She complied with the request in order not to miss her flight.

The computer never left her possession and the security agent never fully explained the request, according to Moussouris, and there’s no question that HackerOne customers’ vulnerability reports were exposed – no exploits were stored on the device.

Nonetheless, the incident at Charles de Gaulle airport has sparked a lively debate among privacy and security advocates. Moussouris has put together a blog post explaining her experience:

With Power of Social Media Growing, Police Now Monitoring and Criminalizing Online Speech – On March 6, 2012, six British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan by a roadside explosive device, and a national ritual of mourning and rage ensued. Prime Minister David Cameron called it a “desperately sad day for our country.” A British teenager, Azhar Ahmed, observed the reaction for two days and then went to Facebook to angrily object that the innocent Afghans killed by British soldiers receive almost no attention from British media. He opined that the UK’s soldiers in Afghanistan are guilty, their deaths deserved, and are therefore going to hell:

The following day, Ahmed was arrested and “charged with a racially aggravated public order offense.” The police spokesman explained that “he didn’t make his point very well and that is why he has landed himself in bother.” The state proceeded to prosecute him, and in October of that year, he was convicted “of sending a grossly offensive communication,” fined and sentenced to 240 hours of community service.

As demonstrators demanded he be imprisoned, the judge who sentenced Ahmed pronounced his opinions “beyond the pale of what’s tolerable in our society,” ruling: “I’m satisfied that the message was grossly offensive.” The Independent‘s Jerome Taylor noted that he “escaped jail partially because he quickly took down his unpleasant posting and tried to apologize to those he offended.” Apparently, heretics may be partially redeemed if they publicly renounce their heresies.

Criminal cases for online political speech are now commonplace in the UK, notorious for its hostility to basic free speech and press rights. As The Independent‘s James Bloodworth reported last week, “around 20,000 people in Britain have been investigated in the past three years for comments made online.”

‘We see no evidence that the drones contribute to a more secure border,’ says Homeland Security – For eight years, the US Border Patrol has been using military Predator drones to keep an eye on the US-Mexico border — but a new report from the Department of Homeland security suggests it may not have been worth the trouble. The report, first dug up by Cyrus Farivar at Ars Technica, takes a skeptical look at the cost of flying the drone missions, and finds no plausible metric to justify the expense.

The Border Patrol had been hoping for an additional $443 million to expand the program, but the report puts that request in serious jeopardy. “We see no evidence that the drones contribute to a more secure border,” said DHS Inspector General John Roth in a statement, “and there is no reason to invest additional taxpayer funds at this time.”

FTC chair worries about IoT privacy in CES speech – US Federal Trade Commission chair Edith Ramirez has used CES 2015 to explore the downside of the Internet of Things (IoT).

“The IoT could improve global health, modernize city infrastructures, and spur global economic growth,” Ramirez said in a speech (PDF) at the gadget-fest, before adding “Connected devices that provide increased convenience and improve health services are also collecting, transmitting, storing, and often sharing vast amounts of consumer data, some of it highly personal, thereby creating a number of privacy risks.”

Ramirez worries that “The introduction of sensors and devices into currently intimate spaces … allows those with access to the data to perform analyses that would not be possible with less rich data sets, providing the ability to make additional sensitive inferences and compile even more detailed profiles of consumer behavior.”

She’s also concerned that data from IoT devices could “be used in ways that are inconsistent with consumers’ expectations or relationship with a company”, such as offering different grades of service and different products to punters based on profiling. Garden-variety p0wnage is also on her mind, especially because of the sensitivity of personal data.

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