Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 13, 2015

UK’s David Cameron wants to kill Snapchat;  Five ways to lower your smartphone data consumption;  Windows 7 support: What happens on January 13, 2015?  A list of all the Google Now voice commands;  8 handy iOS tips you’ll use;  The best Android apps for skiers and winter sports fans;  Android Malware Looks Safe, Steals Your Photos and Messages;  Instagram fixes flaw that let people see your private photos;  The Windows 10 vs. Chrome OS battle;  App Store now has sub-section just for kids’ games;  Google Translate app updated;  Call of Duty makes first trip to China with launch of public beta;  Paragon Backup & Recovery Free.

UK’s David Cameron wants to kill Snapchat — because TERRORISTS – After an unsuccessful attempt to annul the Law of Gravity, UK prime minister David Cameron is now trying something easy, something he believes he can accomplish: Pass a law banning all apps and messaging services that use end-to-end encryption. That sounds doable, right? Because no one will continue to use Tor, anonymous proxies, PGP, custom encryption algorithms or the dark net after David Cameron passes his new legislation.

Pointing up   In other places, in other times – this man would have been seen as part of the lunatic fringe. What a clueless wanker!

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Cameron: I just don’t get it.

UK declares war on privacy under the facade of “national security” – Great Britain just isn’t that great anymore. An astounding erosion of my home country’s fundamental civil liberties and freedoms has made it difficult to envision one day returning home.

Five ways to lower your smartphone data consumption – Even if your plan is “unlimited,” there’s almost always an asterisk. After you burn through the first couple gigabytes, your high-speed connection throttles back to something closer to dial-up. (Talk about horrors!) And if you’re with a pay-as-you-go service like Ting, unchecked data consumption could leave you in a higher-priced tier when the bill comes due. Here are five of the biggest data hogs you want to avoid (or at least reduce) when there’s no Wi-Fi available:

Windows 7 support: What happens on January 13, 2015? – January 13 is the date when Microsoft’s mainstream support for Windows 7 Service Pack 1 ends. Here’s what this means, and doesn’t.

8 handy iOS tips you’ll use – In a small tribute to the eight years since Apple introduced its “Widescreen iPod with touch controls,” otherwise known as the iPhone, I’ve assembled 8 handy iOS tips for iDevice users.

A list of all the Google Now voice commands – Here’s a list of just about everything you can say to Google Now. Try experimenting with different phrasing, you’ll be surprised how much it understands. The part of the phrase in [brackets] can be replaced with any similar term you choose. If Google Now doesn’t get your spoken commands right, you can correct it by saying “No, I said…” and trying the phrase again.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The best Android apps for skiers and winter sports fans – If you’re headed for a day of skiing or other winter sports it pays to know the details beyond just what a general forecast provides. Android has plenty of good weather apps, but you’ll want more specific winter weather details to make for a more enjoyable day on the slopes. Whether it’s skiing, snowboarding, or just some winter-themed fun in the mountains, grab these apps to make sure your next adventure starts off on the right foot.

Google Translate app update said to make speech-to-text even easier – Google’s translation app will be updated so it can recognize any popular spoken language and automatically translate it into text, according to a report in The New York Times. Available in the Google Play store and Apple’s App Store, the Google Translate app offers spoken and written translation among 90 languages. You can translate using speech, handwriting and even a camera. Sounds impressive already. So what improvements could be in in the works?

The Windows 10 vs. Chrome OS battle means it’s a great year to buy a PC – Consumers will benefit from the competition: Cheaper Windows machines will try to keep people from straying to Chromebooks, and people who skipped Windows 8 will have a new crop of Windows 10 machines waiting for them.

Microsoft Spartan: One browser for all versions of Windows 10 – We have learned a bit more about how Spartan will work and what features the browser will include when it launches with Windows 10, ahead of the announcement later this month.

Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop app now lets you access a home PC from your iPhone – Once the app’s downloaded, you just install an accompanying Remote Desktop app in your Chrome browser and from that point on you can access your home PC or Mac from pretty much anywhere: Android, iOS, the desktop Chrome browser, and Chromebooks can all get you there in a pinch. The Android app is pretty well reviewed with an average of 4.4 stars among users — so hopefully the iOS counterpart meets that reputation. How responsive and lag-free the overall experience is will likely hinge on the strength of your data signal, but it’s free, so Chrome Remote Desktop might be worth a try over costlier options like LogMeIn.

80% Of All Online Adults Now Own A Smartphone, Less Than 10% Use Wearables – If people are looking to Apple and its new smartwatch to kickstart wider consumer interest in wearable computing gadgets, the maker of the iPhone will have a lot of work ahead of it. New research out from the GlobalWebIndex indicates that in a survey of 170,000 adult internet users across 32 markets, only 9% report having a smartwatch, and 7% said they owned smart wristbands. In contrast, among online adults, 80% now own a smartphone. The proportion of smartphone ownership has reached a new high, but it has not yet overtaken legacy ownership and usage of PCs, which is currently at 91% of all online adults.

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PayPal Credit Expansion Now Lets Merchants Set Terms, Including Option For Interest-Free Payments – Last July, PayPal rebranded its Bill Me Later service as “PayPal Credit,” as a part of the company’s efforts to bring its credit products “more to the center of PayPal.” Today, as promised earlier, PayPal Credit is expanding its support for monthly payments with an option for retailers that allows them to decide on the number of months and interest rates that work best for their customers. Retailers will also be able to choose to interest-free credit options for the first time, for their customers shopping online. With the upgraded PayPal Credit feature, customers will be able to divide larger purchases into smaller ones – allowing online shoppers to pay via PayPal when they may have otherwise turned to their credit cards.

Security:

Android Malware Looks Safe, Steals Your Photos and Messages – If you have an Android phone, you probably use it for everything. It’s your phone, your camera, and the best way to keep up with friends and family on the myriad of social networks at your disposal. This week, Malwarebytes tipped us off to a nasty app called PhoneSpy that takes advantage of our trusting relationship with our phones to harvest the most personal of information. This isn’t about leaking data to advertisers or SMS scams, this is about attackers stealing your photos, reading your messages, and tracking your location.

After throwing Microsoft under the bus, Google won’t patch flaw affecting nearly 1bn users – Last month, Google released details of a Windows flaw after being asked by Microsoft to wait two days for Patch Tuesday. A new report says Google won’t patch a flaw affecting nearly 1 billion users.

Hackers Flood Crayola Facebook Page With NSFW Images – Crayola apologized to fans on Sunday after hackers infiltrated the company’s Facebook page and flooded it with racy, lewd and bizarre posts. “Our sincere apologies to our Facebook community for the inappropriate and offensive posts you may have seen here today,” the crayon-maker wrote on its recently scrubbed Facebook page. The images ranged from sexual innuendos to pornographic cartoons, including one image that imagined what Disney cartoons might look like “If Disney Was for Adults.”

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The US Central Command Twitter account has been hacked – Central Command has already confirmed that the attack had no operational impact, describing it as “a case of cybervandalism.” Twitter worked directly with the Pentagon in resolving the hack, according to a statement, and the government is also taking measures to prevent future breaches. The General Services Administration has already ordered more than 800 federal managers to update their security settings.

Surprise! North Korea’s official news site delivers malware, too – A security researcher examining the website of North Korea’s official news service, the Korean Central News Agency, has discovered that the site delivers more than just the latest photo spread of Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea leader Kim Jong Un inspecting mushroom farms. There’s a little extra surprise hidden in the site’s code—malware. The news site appears to double as a way for North Korea to deliver a “watering hole” attack against individuals who want to keep tabs on the “activities” of the DPRK’s dear leader.

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Instagram fixes flaw that let people see your private photos – Instagram’s approach to privacy is nothing like the piecemeal strategy used by parent company Facebook. On the photo-sharing service, your privacy settings are limited to public and private—or at least that’s what we thought. Instagram just fixed a bug that let people see your private photos if they had once been public.

Company News:

AMD’s chip chief departs, as do other key execs – AMD chip chief John Byrne has left the company, accompanying AMD’s chief strategy officer and its chief marketing officer out the door, according to the company. No matter the rationale, it’s difficult not to see this as a cut at the heart of AMD. Success in the game console market aside, AMD has struggled, and most now consider AMD’s chips to be low-cost, value-oriented chips. The company’s strength remains its graphics business. This isn’t a deathblow by any stretch; AMD will live and die by its products. But it also needs as much help as it can to market and sell those products, and its partners will surely wonder what’s going on.

Spotify Now Has 15M Paying Users, 60M Overall Active Subscribers – Spotify, the music streaming service that is tipped to be soon in line for an IPO, has today announced that it now has 15 million paying users, and 60 million subscribers overall. To put this into some context, two months ago, the company said it had 12.5 million paying users out of 50 million subscribers. Both numbers indicate that Spotify is not moving the needle yet on its proportion of paying users — it’s holding steady at 25%, but nor is it dropping as the service grows. There are other signs that Spotify may be gearing up for a public listing. We’ve heard, anecdotally, that Spotify is quietly recruiting people that could help take the company through an IPO.

Capital One buys Level Money, an excellent spending tracker – Level, an elegant but slow-growing app for tracking your spending, has been acquired by Capital One, the companies said today. The app, which was a favorite of ours when it launched in 2013, monitors your purchases and tells you how much you can spend each day without overdrawing your account. Capital One, which started as a credit-card company but has growing ambitions as a bank, says Level will help it build products geared toward a younger generation. (The deal price was not disclosed.)

Citrix buys Sanbolic to virtualize storage for VDI, app delivery – Citrix Systems acquired storage virtualization vendor Sanbolic in a move that could make it easier for Citrix users to use applications and virtual desktops spread across data centers and clouds. Sanbolic sells software that lets enterprises treat the capacity in most types of storage infrastructure as a single virtual system that understands the needs of each application. Those capabilities play into Citrix’s mission of efficiently delivering virtual desktops to users and making applications fast and always available.

Games and Entertainment:

Call of Duty makes first trip to China with launch of public beta – The first-person-shooter franchise Call of Duty has set every sales record one can image for gaming. But for all its success, Call of Duty has been absent from the world’s most populous country — until now. Call of Duty Online, a free-to-play version of the first-person shooter, has officially launched in China on an open public beta, publisher Activision announced Monday. The game, specifically designed for China, is being released in partnership with Internet conglomerate Tencent Holdings, which is based there.

Amazon and Netflix snag Golden Globe awards as web shows ascend – Kevin Spacey wins actor accolades for House of Cards, while Jeffrey Tambor helps Amazon’s Transparent take a pair of awards.

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Faving Fantasy: Choose your own adventure on Twitter – Developer Terence Eden has written a text-based adventure game and launched it on social networking platform Twitter. Eden’s game is set up a little differently: rather than taking place in a single Twitter account, each option you can choose has its very own Twitter account, taking you through a thrilling chase as you flee from terrifying, undefined monsters.

Ultraflix wants to become the Netflix of the 4K generation – Ultraflix is busy licensing as much 4K content as it can for streaming rental, and even will convert old films in return for the 4K rights.

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App Store now has sub-section just for kids’ games – To better serve both parents and kids who want to find games in the App Store, Apple in now talking up their sub-category under the ‘Kids’ section. ‘Games for Kids’ features content for youngsters under 11, which is broken out further into age groups under that threshold. There are games for kids 5 and under, 6-8, and older kids aged 9-11. The sub-section for gaming also includes a free book aimed at familiarizing parents with content for kids, and outlines best practices for using those apps together.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Vibrating bike grips deliver ‘handy’ directions – Simply put the grips on your handlebars, launch the accompanying app to set up the notifications you want and enter your destination in your favorite mapping app. Then, put your phone away and the grips will guide you to the selected address. The right one vibrates when you need to turn right, the left one when you need to go left. The vibrations build in intensity as you near your turn. You can also set the grips to deliver customized notifications regarding road construction and other hazards you might encounter. Right now, there are still plenty of early-bird SmrtGrips left, so you can snag a pair for $59 (about £39, AU$72). After they’re gone, the price climbs to $64 and then $69 — both bargains off the expected retail price of $119 (about £78, AU$146). Shipping costs $10 for the US, $20 for Canada and $25 (about £17, AU$30) for other destinations. The campaign is seeking to raise $50,000 and ends March 12. Devices are expected to begin shipping in August.

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SmrtGrips are easy to install and easy to use. Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET

Fox News expert’s mistake leads to hilarious Twitter rebuttal – Technically Incorrect: Appearing on Fox News, terror expert Steve Emerson claims that the UK’s second-biggest city, Birmingham, is a place non-Muslims dare not enter. This is severely untrue, as Twitter wittily explains.

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Disney Beachbot draws in the sand – This cute little robot looks like a turtle with a big orange shell and it is designed to do something fun at the beach. The Beachbot is designed to draw large scale art in the sand as it rolls around under its own power. The robot was designed by a team from ETH Zurich and the Zurich division of Disney Research.

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The 8080 chip at 40: What’s next for the mighty microprocessor? – It came out in 1974 and was the basis of the MITS Altair 8800, for which two guys named Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote BASIC, and millions of people began to realize that they, too, could have their very own, personal, computer. Now, some 40 years after the debut of the Intel 8080 microprocessor, the industry can point to direct descendants of the chip that are astronomically more powerful (see sidebar, below). So what’s in store for the next four decades?

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Something to think about:

A worldwide survey of writers affiliated with PEN shows a significant level of self-censoring. From the press release:

The report’s revelations, based on a survey of nearly 800 writers worldwide, are alarming. Concern about surveillance is now nearly as high among writers living in democracies (75%) as among those living in non-democracies (80%). The levels of self-censorship reported by writers living in democratic countries are approaching the levels reported by writers living in authoritarian or semi-democratic countries. And writers around the world think that mass surveillance has significantly damaged U.S. credibility as a global champion of free expression for the long term..

Today’s Free Downloads:

AlomWare Reset – Is your PC running sluggish but you hate rebooting because of the time it takes? Perhaps you hate closing all applications after a long work session, or before playing a game to ensure a smoother experience? Or maybe you just want to quickly close all windows and clear some tracks for privacy (like the clipboard and recent document history) before letting someone else use your computer.

Why wait for your PC to reboot? Quickly reset in 10 seconds instead! Often your PC doesn’t need a reboot to get that “fresh” feeling, but just needs all running apps closed and some key settings reset and/or cleared.

Rebooting helps, but the question then is: how can I reboot faster? Well, what if you could “reboot” and clear some privacy with just one click in around 10 seconds? AlomWare Reset works by quickly closing all applications and windows, clearing the clipboard and recent document lists, killing non-system processes, freeing memory, and defaulting other settings to their clean booted-like state.

The following will be performed upon reset:

All visible applications closed

All other open windows closed

All non-system processes ended

Memory of all running processes is freed

Clipboard data cleared

Recent document lists are cleared for privacy

PC remains running (woohoo!)

NumLock key is turned on (if currently off)

Startup apps are relaunched if not running

All sleeping drives are woken

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Paragon Backup & Recovery Free – Paragon Backup & Recovery 14 Free (64-bit) creates full or partial backups of data or entire discs, on schedule or demand. More importantly, it addresses one of the two biggest obstacles keeping many Windows users from backing up their systems: cost. We tried the 64-bit version; a 32-bit download is also available.

Pros

It’s free: Paragon’s free recovery tool has the essential capabilities of its premium backup solutions, but with fewer options.

It’s easy: The other obstacle to effective backups is usage: You can’t rescue your system from a backup that doesn’t exist. Too many users find backups confusing, but Paragon’s Virtual Disc Wizard walks you through each step.

Recovery drive: The Recovery Media Builder creates bootable USB drives or ISO files that can help you boot a sick PC and run a backup.

Cons

User Manual: Clicking User Manual tells you to go the product’s home page (no link) and download it yourself. A text Help file is included with the program files.

Go pro: Now that you’re considering backup software, take time to be sure you don’t need more than Paragon Backup & Recovery Free has to offer. Premium backup tools (like Paragon Backup & Recovery Home) cost much less than pro service or, worse, a new computer.

Bottom Line

No more excuses: Paragon Backup & Recovery 14 Free can back up and restore your Windows PC when things go drastically wrong — but only if you run it before you need it! That’s the other obstacle, and only you can address it.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

European Ministers Call For Increased Digital Surveillance After Paris Terror Attacks – And so it begins again; the customary fingerpointing at the Internet as a platform for fueling extremist hatred in the wake of the latest terrorist outrages in Europe — accompanied, in certain corners of the political arena, by calls for greater powers of digital surveillance to preemptively thwart acts of terror.

In a joint statement put out yesterday, the justice and interior ministers of 12 European countries — including the U.K., France and Germany — express concern at “the increasingly frequent use of the Internet to fuel hatred and violence and signal our determination to ensure that the Internet is not abused to this end”.

They also call for major ISPs to partner with governments to enable “swift reporting of material that aims to incite hatred and terror and the condition of its removing, where appropriate/possible”.

UK government could ban encrypted communications with new surveillance powers – Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, is calling for new surveillance powers in the wake of the recent shootings in Paris. Speaking at a public event in the UK this morning, Cameron outlined the government’s stance on secure communications that can’t be read by police or government agencies. “In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which […] we cannot read?” he asked, comparing letters and phone conversations to encrypted communications used online, adding that “we must not” allow a means of communication where individuals can communicate in secret over the internet.

Cameron’s comments call into question whether the UK government would seek to limit popular services like WhatsApp or Apple’s iMessage, both of which encrypt communications to prevent snooping. The Independent notes that such services could be banned or limited under future surveillance powers. While David Cameron’s government has controversially attempted to block all online porn by default, and even reportedly ordered the destruction of hard drives at The Guardian newspaper following leaked details of government snooping, Cameron defended the call for additional intrusive powers. “We have a better system for safe guarding this very intrusive power than probably any other country I can think of,” he said, noting that the monitoring doesn’t take place unless the Home Secretary “personally signs a warrant.”

Obama calls for new consumer, student, and energy data privacy laws – President Barack Obama is set to announce new legislation that aims to protect consumer privacy and student privacy and offer enhanced protection of home energy usage data, among other things. (Some of the new suggested policies were first put forth in 2012.)

According to a White House Fact Sheet published Monday, the president will re-introduce the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act, which would establish a federal standard. At present, nearly all US states and territories have some similar form of notification but the conditions under which that law is triggered and how long businesses have varies. Under the new proposed federal standard, companies would have 30 days to notify their customers after they discover a breach.

The president is also putting forth a new “Student Privacy Act,” which would require that data collected on students “is used only for educational purposes.” This proposed federal legislation, the White House notes, is modeled on California’s legislation, which was enacted in September 2014.

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2 Comments

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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 13, 2015

  1. delenn13

    Hi Bill,
    Had the flu. Still not 100% but alive here.

    Jan. 1st 2015 is not one of Canada’s shining moments.
    Why illegal downloading just became riskier for Canadians | Financial Post
    “Previously ISPs were able to decide if they wanted to inform their customers a copyright holder is aware of their illegal downloading. Internet service providers like Bell and Rogers have been periodically sending out these notifications for the last few years, but as of Jan. 1, doing so is now a legal requirement in Canada.
    However, the new law introduces limitations on the amount of money a copyright holder can sue an individual for — $5,000 for downloading copyrighted material for personal use and $20,000 for downloading copyrighted content leading to commercial gain. According to the new law, customers receiving these notifications are also not told to remove the content from the Internet or their computer. ”
    Cutting through the confusion about Canada’s Internet piracy rules
    Byte me! UnblockUS is a company with smarts…. “Unblock-Us and its parent company Netprotect Inc. were originally founded in Toronto but the company recently moved its operations to Barbados a few years ago due to pending legislation that requires all VPN services to keep a record of their customers for six months.”
    Unblock-Us says Netflix isn’t testing methods to stop geoblocking services | Financial Post
    People are fools if they don’t use a proxy or VPN nowadays!
    I am ready to drop cable in a heart beat but just can’t convince the other half yet. Between Netflix and PlayOn | Watch Free Online Movies, Shows, Live Sports on Your TV and More and PlayLater – the world’s first DVR for online videos , I am a happy camper. Maybe I can convince him once we get our Matchstick
    and we can start Flinging….

    • Hey Delenn13,

      Yep, had a chance to go over these – and, a few more. Totally agree on the need for a VPN – as much to screw with Google as to build a barrier against Obama, Cameron and the rest of their moronic followers.

      I’ve been out of the cable TV thing for just over a year and I’m roughly $1400 to the good. Don’t miss it in the least. The available options continue to grow. Yea!! 🙂

      A little late – but, Best Wishes for for the year ahead.

      BTW, sick as a dog this morning – but, I managed to push on. Thinking about this mornings -27C was not helpful, however. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill

      Best,

      Bill