Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 15, 2015

5 Apps You Just Can’t Miss This Week;  Friends? Family? Nah, Facebook Knows You Best;  The 7 Biggest Lies You’ve Been Told About Hacking;  Google’s Chromecast, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, or Roku’s Streaming Stick?  Pro tip: Respond to calls with text messages in iOS;  Google Classroom app now available for Android, iOS;  How to stop autoplay videos;  Facebook Unveils Facebook At Work;  Google Drive update brings new look, features;  How to find your Wi-Fi password in Windows 8.1;  SnoopSnitch – Surveillance Detection for Android Phones;  Google Translate can now interpret signs and conversations in real time;  How to Save Your Voicemails Forever;  3 Ways Facebook Might Just Save Your Life Someday;  McAfee Raptor – real-time behavior detection technology (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

New report: DHS is a mess of cybersecurity incompetence – A large, embarrassing, and alarming Federal oversight report has found major problems and grave shortcomings with DHS cybersecurity programs and practices across the board.

75% of writers in free countries self-censor due to fears of mass surveillance – There’s a worldwide war on free speech. Despite 1.5 million who marched under the banner of free expression in France, 54 people have been arrested for online comments. The UK wants encryption outlawed and backdoors in apps to be mandatory. CISPA is back in the US. 75% of journalists in democratic countries already self-censor due to fears of mass surveillance.

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

Tested: One Streaming Stick to Rule Them All – What should you buy: Google’s Chromecast, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, or Roku’s Streaming Stick? Here’s how they stack up.


Pro tip: Respond to calls with text messages in iOS – Have you ever been in the middle of a call, only to be interrupted by another call coming in? It can be annoying, especially as the other caller hears the “buzz” of the iPhone silent ringer. Sure, you could enable Do Not Disturb mode before making your first call, but why not do something a little more reactive instead? Let’s take a look at how to set this up so that you can easily send a message with one tap to a caller to let them know if you’re busy or on another call.

Google Classroom app now available for Android, iOS – For a long time, teachers tried to manage smartphone usage in class, trying their best to make sure kids weren’t screwing around instead of learning. Now, educators have a reason to let kids stare at screens, as the Google Classroom app is now available on the Play Store. The app will let students and teachers stay on track, digitally. Homework assignments, future work deadlines, and assignment collection are all part of the app’s feature list. The app is free for anyone with a Google Apps for Education account.

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.

AllCast for iOS streams all your media to your TV – Previously an Android-only app, AllCast can connect to a wide variety of devices and stream from local and cloud-based storage alike.

Google Drive update for Mac, PC brings new look, features – Google Drive might be the best cloud storage solution there is. It’s available anywhere, securely tucks your files away, and is free to use. For mobile, it’s amazing. For the desktop, Drive is fairly utilitarian, but that’s about to change. Today, Google is announcing a few changes to Drive for PC and Mac, which will give users more control and a new menu. The new-look drop-down menu provides updates on uploads, and even gives you access to recently synced items.

Facebook Unveils Facebook At Work, Lets Businesses Create Their Own Social Networks – About six months ago, we reported that Facebook was working on a new product aimed squarely at the enterprise market under the working title, “FB@Work.” Now that product is officially coming to light: today the company is launching new iOS and Android apps called “Facebook At Work,” along with a version of Facebook at Work accessible via its main website, which will let businesses create their own social networks amongst their employees that are built to look and act like Facebook itself.


Google Maps for Android and iOS updated – Google Maps has been updated for both Android and iOS, bringing users both new features and improvements. This takes iOS users up to version 4.2.0 (the version varies for Android users), and while there are a couple similarities between the two updates, both give users different new features on their respective platforms. The most notable new feature for iOS users is the ability to see weather for cities around the globe; Android users, meanwhile, can see their contacts when they’re searching for addresses in Maps.

How to find your Wi-Fi password in Windows 8.1 – A forgotten Wi-Fi password isn’t a problem for me and my omniscient laptop, but it is a problem for, say, my brother, who needs the password if he wants to jump on the network with his Japanese iPhone. My mom is hunting for the Post-it, but prospects are lookin’ bleak. Luckily, there’s an easy way to reverse-lookup your Wi-Fi password on a computer that already technically knows it. Here’s how to find saved network passwords in Windows 8.1:

Google Translate can now interpret signs and conversations in real time – The new feature lets you point your phone’s camera at a sign or any other text and have it translated into another language, which will appear live on the screen in a sort of augmented reality. The update isn’t live yet — so we can’t say how effective Word Lens is inside of Translate — but Google’s GIF of the new feature makes it look seriously impressive and like a tool you’ll want to have when traveling.

Microsoft Squeezes Windows Phone To $81 With Entry Level Lumia 435, $93 With Lumia 532 – Microsoft has announced two new Lumia smartphones running its Windows Phone 8.1 mobile OS, both focused on beefing up the portfolio at the lower end and expanding the platform’s appeal in emerging markets to try to compete with budget Androids. Specs for the 3G Lumia 435 include a 4 inch 800 x 480 LCD display, a 1.2GHz dual-core chip, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage and a 2MP rear camera. So it’s certainly going to be a budget experience. The Lumia 532 has the same display and form factor but its innards are beefed up to a quad-core 1.2 GHz chip. And its rear camera is 5MP. Microsoft touts built in Skype integration, noting its a front-facing camera supports video calls.


Samsung Z1 smartphone: powered by Tizen, destined for India – Samsung has taken the wraps off its new Tizen-powered smartphone, the Z1. This relatively modest smartphone is the first running Tizen that will be offered to users in India, and it will be bringing with it things like regional entertainment apps and a simplified UI. The handset is tailored to certain needs found in emerging markets, including elements that help keep data use to a minimum. The handset is available as of today for INR 5,700 (about $92 USD).


Google Brings The Account Switcher To The Stable Version Of Chrome – Many people are satisfied with just one Google account, but not all – especially in a world where many work and enterprise accounts are handled via Google, people often find the need to switch among two or more. Back in August, Chrome’s Beta releases started to incorporate an Account Switcher that allows users to easily change which account they use to manage their browser’s bookmarks, tabs, history and more. It’s also great for shared computers, and for letting guests browse without risking potential embarrassment on either side, and now it’s rolling out to the stable version of Chrome on the desktop.

TextBlade fits a QWERTY keyboard in 8 smart multitouch keys – TextBlade is composed of four pieces, all of which snap together into a small block for storage and transport. There’s a stand, a spacebar, and two keyboard halves with the buttons. The spacebar and the two parts of the keyboard connect magnetically and tether to your phone or tablet over Bluetooth 4.0. Each of the eight keys has several letters, symbols, and modifiers on it. Each time you press a letter, the entire key depresses, but TextBlade uses multitouch technology to keep track of which letter your finger was on when the button activated. So it knows the difference between W and X, even though they both trigger the same physical switch when pressed.


Why you might still want an optical drive – Optical drives, that can read and write CDs, DVDs, and sometimes Blu-ray discs, have been an important part of the PC universe for a long time. But there’s less and less need for them. PC manufacturers have good reasons not to include the drives. Unlike CPUs and SSDs, optical drives can’t shrink much. They therefore add bulk to laptops, and nobody wants a bulky laptop. But in my opinion, they shouldn’t disappear entirely.

Why 2015 is the year of Linux on the everything-but-desktop – For a moment, I felt like Linux wasn’t very present. Then it hit me: everything was running Linux! Panasonic smart TVs will run Mozilla’s Firefox OS, and that’s based on Linux. All those Android game consoles, like Razer’s Forge TV that can stream games from your PC, use a Linux kernel. Samsung’s shift to Tizen for their smart TVs means those TVs were running Linux. LG’s smartwatch running Open webOS is based on Linux. TVs with Opera TV, Android TV, and practically every other platform were Linux-based. Every little Android device runs on top of Linux.

How to Save Your Voicemails Forever – Most phones don’t make that as easy as it ought to be. Apple’s iPhone will back up voicemails to your computer along with everything else, but they’re stored in a funky file format that’s not easily played by most software. Most Android phones, meanwhile, store your voicemails on off-site servers. So what should you do if you’ve got a voicemail that’s really worth saving? The solution involves some free software and an affordable purchase, but it’s doable. Here’s how:


The 7 Biggest Lies You’ve Been Told About Hacking – As a citizen of the 21st century, it’s increasingly important to arm yourself with some basic facts about hacking, cybersecurity, and the real threats they pose, as well as those they don’t. With that in mind, here are seven common misconceptions you might have about hacking.

Surveillance Detection for Android Phones – SnoopSnitch is an app for Android devices that analyses your mobile radio traffic to tell if someone is listening in on your phone conversations or tracking your location. Unlike standard antivirus apps, which are designed to combat software intrusions or steal personal info, SnoopSnitch picks up on things like fake mobile base stations or SS7 exploits. As such, it’s probably ideally suited to evading surveillance from local government agencies. The app was written by German outfit Security Research Labs, and is available for free on the Play Store. Unfortunately, you’ll need a rooted Android device running a Qualcomm chipset to take advantage.

Adobe patches remote code execution and keylogging flaws in Flash Player – Adobe Systems fixed nine vulnerabilities in Flash Player that could allow attackers to record users’ keystrokes or take complete control of their computers. The updates, Flash Player for Windows and Mac and Flash Player for Linux, address seven remote code execution vulnerabilities, an information disclosure flaw that can be exploited to capture keystrokes and a lower-risk file validation issue.

Ham-fisted phishing attack seeks LinkedIn logins – The emails warn potential victims of “irregular activities” on their account and say a compulsory security update is required. The emails include an HTML attachment that purports to be a form for performing the update. The HTML file is actually a copy of LinkedIn’s website and login page, wrote Satnam Narang, senior security response manager with Symantec, in a blog post. But the website code in the file has been modified, so if a user logs in, their account credentials are sent to the attackers.

U.S. government lurked on Silk Road for over a year – In a New York federal court, the prosecution begins its case against the alledged mastermind of the Silk Road underground marketplace.


Company News:

Snapchat charging top dollar for ad space – Snapchat has already given way to advertising, with the service letting loose their vanishing ads to unwitting users late last year. The ads show up under the ‘recents’ tab for both iOS and Android, with the obvious goal being clicks from users and returned revenue for Snapchat. Ads don’t just show up, though; they’re carefully seeded, with proprietary content often cajoled from an advertising partner. A new report suggests Snapchat is taking a hard-line stance on ad space, demanding — not asking — for $750,000 per run.

GoPro Taps Vislink To Offer Live HD Broadcasting – The companies have been working together to build a small live transmitter that can be attached to GoPro Hero4 cameras, taking the professional use of the GoPro camera line to a whole new level. Thus far, professional athletes and television networks alike use GoPro to cover a wide swath of sporting events. But to capture in HD, GoPro has always limited users to onboard recording, meaning that the footage could only be used in post-production. With this partnership, GoPro is putting its cameras in the ring with highly expensive professional equipment.


Scroogled no more: Microsoft’s anti-Google campaign slinks away for good – Microsoft’s sleazy ad campaign against Google is no more, as the “Scroogled” website has quietly vanished. As Winbeta points out, now redirects to a new site called Why Microsoft. Instead of just bashing Google, the site tries to point out advantages of Microsoft enterprise services over competitors, including Google, Amazon and Cisco.

Games and Entertainment:

This huge, beautiful sci-fi RPG is coming to the Wii U – The sci-fi role playing game is the follow-up to Xenoblade Chronicles, a cult classic for the Wii (which itself is getting a remake for the New Nintendo 3DS XL). It takes place in a massive open-world unlike anything on Nintendo’s home console; it’s filled with startling landscapes and epic-sized monsters. You can also ride around in crazy mechs. Unfortunately, it’s unclear just when you’ll be able to venture into that world and explore — Xenoblade Chronicles X has no specific release date, but is expected to launch in 2015.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

The 10 Best Gaming Keyboards – If you’re a gamer, you take your choice of keyboard seriously. We’ve rounded up the 10 best keyboards you can buy, along with a brief guide to help you find the keyboard that’s right for you. When your keyboard doubles as your game controller, it’s more than just a tool for typing. It is to the gamer what the katana is to a samurai (or cyborg ninja). It becomes more than a typing tool—the keyboard becomes a weapon, an extension of yourself, your interface with the digital world. For anyone that cares about PC gaming, it pays to know what makes a keyboard great, what differentiates one from another, and what’s on the market today.

The Interview is coming to Blu-ray and DVD on February 17th – It was only a matter of weeks ago when Sony Pictures Entertainment sheepishly admitted it had no plans to release The Interview after suffering a massive data breach — reportedly at the hands of North Korea. It’s pretty incredible how much has changed since then. We’ve seen the Seth Rogen / James Franco comedy make its way through a limited theatrical run, pushed out to every video-on-demand service known to man, and now we’ll be getting a physical media release to close it all out. Today, Sony Pictures announced that The Interview will come to Blu-ray and DVD on February 17th.


Nintendo does the unthinkable, makes Pokemon Shuffle free-to-play – Nintendo has announced Pokemon Shuffle, which is basically a match-3 puzzle game using the ever-popular Pokemon name and characters. You won’t be paying anything to play this game even though Nintendo could get away with selling it on a cart. Instead, it’s a free download from the 3DS eShop. Check out the trailer:


VH1 Classic to run the ‘longest-ever’ TV marathon with 19 days of Saturday Night Live – FXX set the record for longest TV marathon ever last year with a week and a half straight of The Simpsons, but VH1 Classic is about to top it. The network is preparing to run episodes of Saturday Night Live for 19 days straight, starting with the most recent seasons and running back toward its first episodes. That means the network won’t make it through SNL’s complete history — for better or for worse — and is instead going to be selectively showing its best moments. Even so, VH1 says that this will still make for the longest-ever TV marathon dedicated to a single series.

Off Topic (Sort of):

MemoryMirror: trying on clothes using a smart mirror – Our future will involve “trying on” clothing at stores without removing a single garment, something achieved through the use of smart mirrors. MemoMi’s MemoryMirror has given us a glimpse (pun intended) of this future, allowing customers to stand in front of it and see their digital visage in the reflection adorned with outfits other than the one they’re wearing. It’s simple, fast, and is (soon) coming to a store near you, assuming you live near a certain Neiman Marcus department store in California.


Retailers use new tech to track you in stores — and in dressing rooms – Smart shelves know what products you touch, shopping carts come loaded with tablets, and dressing room mirrors track what you try on and ask for your phone number. The National Retail Federation’s annual trade show reveals how tech changes the way we shop.


What’s the biggest factor determining the sound of your music: Recording, mixing or mastering? – The Audiophiliac interviews mastering engineer Dave McNair about who should get most of the credit for great sounding recordings, and his answer may surprise you.

Obama Calls On The FCC To Clear The Way For Community Broadband – Municipal broadband is a rapidly heating battleground among the president, his administration, and Congressional and FCC Republicans. Should all cities and communities be free to build municipal broadband networks to serve their citizens? The issue is perhaps surprisingly contentious. In a speech this morning, President Obama called for a full-court press against rules that bar communities from constructing their own Internet networks:

Rapere: The drone that hunts other drones – A team of commercial drone developers are creating a drone whose sole purpose is to seek, intercept and destroy other drones. When activated, the drone will seek out other drones using an array of 12 low-res 90 fps cameras, hover above them and drop a piece of rope, which will tangle in the target drone’s rotors, felling it from the sky. It is able to tell the difference between a bird and a drone, the team said.


Friends? Family? Nah, Facebook Knows You Best – Be careful what you “like” on Facebook: Innocuous clicks on Minecraft, the Bible, and Harley Davidson could say more about your personality than you think. Researchers at the University of Cambridge and Stanford University found that computers can more accurately assess someone’s personality than family or lifelong friends.

3 Ways Facebook Might Just Save Your Life Someday – Facebook is still in its early days of experimenting with ways to leverage its scale to serve as a safety platform. But if the motivation behind putting Amber Alerts on Facebook is that information spread via the site has helped bring missing children back home before, then we should expect Facebook to launch even more ways to help the public — some of which might just save your life someday. Here are some possibilities:

Something to think about:

“If you weren’t “Je suis Charlie” before the events of last week in Paris, it doesn’t count now.”

–   Rex MurphyCanadian commentator and author

Today’s Free Downloads:

McAfee Raptor – McAfee Raptor is a real-time behavior detection technology that monitors suspicious activity on an endpoint. Raptor leverages machine learning and automated, behavioral-based classification in the cloud to detect zero-day malware in real time.

The Raptor icon is displayed in your system tray. wps5518.tmp

Once installed, Raptor monitors and detects files exhibiting malicious behaviors on the endpoint.

Click Clean to remove malicious executables and its traces from your system.

Note: If you wish to remove the malicious files a later point of time, click Dismiss.


FoxyProxy Standard – FoxyProxy is a Firefox extension which automatically switches an internet connection across one or more proxy servers based on URL patterns. Put simply, FoxyProxy automates the manual process of editing Firefox’s Connection Settings dialog. Proxy server switching occurs based on the loading URL and the switching rules you define.

Animated icons show you when a proxy is in use. Advanced logging shows you which proxies were used and when. QuickAdd makes it a snap to create new URL patterns on-the-fly. FoxyProxy is fully compatible with Portable Firefox, has better support for PAC files than Firefox itself, and is translated into more than 34 languages.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

David Cameron: I’m off to the US to get my bro Barack to ban crypto – report – UK Prime Minister David Cameron is hoping to gain the support of US President Barack Obama in his campaign-year crusade to outlaw encrypted communications his spies can’t break, sources claim.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Conservative Cameron would like to see left-leaning Obama publicly criticize major US internet companies like Facebook and Google, many of which have made strong encryption the default on their online services.

The President hasn’t taken a public position on the issue so far, but several prominent federal law enforcement officials have given internet firms lashings over their use of encryption tech, which they claim undermines national security interests.

Last September, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey went as far as to describe encrypted communications as “something expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law.”

According to the WSJ’s sources, Cameron plans to try to nudge Obama “in the direction of what the FBI has said about this.”

Don’t use Charlie Hebdo to justify Big Brother data-slurp – Data protection MEP – The European Parliament’s data protection supremo says calls from national leaders to monitor all airline passengers are “playing into terrorists’ hands”.

German MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who heads the Parliament’s overhaul of EU data protection laws, described the plans for mass storage of PNR (passenger name record) data as Orwellian.

“EU home affairs ministers are demanding Big Brother measures entailing blanket data retention without justification,” he said. “This approach is a distraction from the actual measures needed to deal with security and terrorist threats and provides a false sense of security for citizens, at the expense of their civil liberties.”

According to Albrecht, the scheme is actually illegal, as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled last April that the mass storage of private data, without specific grounds or time limit, is contrary to the EU charter of fundamental rights.



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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 15, 2015

  1. delenn13

    Hi Bill,

    Re: 75% of writers in free countries self-censor due to fears of mass surveillance The scariest part of this article is the author. “Darlene Storm (not her real name) is a freelance writer with a background in information technology and information security.” Is that the ultimate self-censorship? An article about self-censorship that self-censors itself?

    Re: Roku and the others? Roku wins hands down and I have the XS 2. I can even get the UK Netflix with Playon…with hardly any trouble. Since I am on the ground floor with MatchStick because I helped on KickStarter, I will let you know how that pans out once I get mine in Feb.

    So Cameron wants Obama to join him in his game of Whack-A-Mole? Should be interesting.

    • Hey Delenn13,

      I like Darlene (AKA ?) – she’s generally pretty straightforward. So, I suspect that anonymity in her case may well be for commercial reasons. Then again,…

      Great to get your input on the “sticks”. I’ve been kicking that around – so, I’ll be guided by your experience when I lay down the cash. 🙂

      That Cameron guy has gotta be working for “somebody” – his proposals are often indecently stupid. Oh, did I mention that they’re frequently illegal, immoral, legal but reprehensible, …

      Have a super weekend.



  2. delenn13

    Hey Bill,

    Or maybe “she” is a “he”? (J/K. Nothing like starting rumours, eh?)

    I think you get more bang for the buck if you get the Roku Box. We don’t even have a “smart TV” or the Roku3 but with PlayOn and Roku 2 XS I can access folders etc on our PC’s. NTM all the private(basically open source) channels you can find. Most are free too. They add channels daily. Now, most of it is not “live streaming” but I am sure it’s in the works.

    I Love Roku TV: Roku Private Channels
    Roku Private Channel Codes
    Roku Channels | Public and Private Channel Guide

    One of my fav channels:
    Roku Codes: Nowhere TV

    This why I was so interested in that Kickstarter project, MatchStick TV. Being created by Mozilla(open source), it will have the same type of channels. Apple Tv and Chrome TV etc only allow you to access “their” stuff.

    Hope you had a great weekend.


    • Hey Delenn13,

      Yeah, maybe. lol

      I think you’re right on the Roku Box – read some good stuff on this a couple of weeks back.

      Thanks for the links – I’ll be checking these out.