Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 22, 2015

The 9 biggest announcements from Microsoft’s Windows 10 event;  Obama’s cybersecurity plan: Share a password, click a link, go to prison as a hacker;  Microsoft To Provide Free Upgrades To Windows 10;  VPNs made easy: 3 services with one-click desktop apps;  FreedomPop Turns On Unlimited Wi-Fi Across The US For $5/Month;  Watch Microsoft’s HoloLens in action;  Facebook’s WhatsApp comes to desktop computers;  4 time-saving tips and tricks for iOS 8;  Flash zero day under attack;  Should you cut the cord? A guide to decide for 2015;  The 10 Most-Pirated Movies;  Netflix says piracy service Popcorn Time is a real competitor;  10 Huge Hoaxes That Fooled Facebook;  Free game alert: Origin’s giving away Theme Hospital;  EnhanceMySe7en Free.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Obama’s cybersecurity plan: Share a password, click a link, go to prison as a hacker – Security experts say that, thanks to President Obama’s proposed cybersecurity plans and CFAA amendments, you could be considered a hacker for innocent behavior like sharing your Netflix password with family members or clicking a link that contains unauthorized content. EFF attorney Nate Cardozo tweeted a boiled down version of Obama’s speech: “To protect our children, I want to make it a 10-year felony to share Netflix passwords.”

The 9 biggest announcements from Microsoft’s Windows 10 event – We got our first look at a bunch of features in Windows 10, which comes out next week for people who signed up for the pre-release. As expected, Microsoft made a strong push toward connecting its devices more seamlessly, part of its universal apps program. Office, Outlook, and other apps all work quite similarly across devices, and Cortana is everywhere, working as a natural-language interface and personal assistant. The big surprise, however, was Microsoft’s foray into virtual reality, with its HoloLens glasses, an ambitious bid to create a system for overlaying holographic images over the real world.

Microsoft To Provide Free Upgrades To Windows 10 – Microsoft promised a new build of Windows 10 next week, and also confirmed previous rumors that the first build of the operating system for smartphones will be released in February. If you are on Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1, you will be eligible for a free upgrade inside the first year of Windows 10. Microsoft made the announcement this morning at an event on its corporate campus outside of Seattle.

Windows 10 for phones will act like an extension of your PC – Microsoft gives the first glimpse of its next mobile operating system, including synced notifications, Skype integration and full-featured Office.

VPNs made easy: 3 services with one-click desktop apps – We’ve talked before about the importance of virtual private networks (VPNs) to keep you safe and protected when using open Wi-Fi networks. The downside of VPN’s, however, is that some need manual set-up, requiring you to muck around with the built-in VPN client in Windows or a third-party client like OpenVPN. That’s all well and good if you like getting your hands dirty, but the whole point of what we do here is to find solutions that are—dare I say it—hassle-free. Many VPNs these days offer their own no muss, no fuss downloadable client. You just download the program, turn it on, and boom! You’re connected. Here are three examples of VPNs that do just that, and all three have Android and iOS clients in addition to desktop clients.

FreedomPop Turns On Unlimited Wi-Fi Across The US For $5/Month – FreedomPop, the startup that is trying to steal users away from mobile carriers by offering free, basic cellular voice and data plans, is adding another string to its bow today: the company is launching a low-cost WiFi service, where a user gets unlimited use of, and automatic sign-on to, 10 million hotspots across the U.S. for $5.

Instagram launches beta Android app, offering sneak peek at new features – If you’re willing to serve as a guinea pig, you can try out the newest updates to Instagram before they hit the main app.

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Watch Microsoft’s HoloLens in action – Microsoft’s event this afternoon may have focused on Windows 10, but the biggest news out of it was HoloLens — a headset that lets its wearer augment their world with apps, games, and other information. Since that’s a difficult experience to convey on stage, Microsoft first presented its vision for what’ll be possible with HoloLens in a pair of videos, both of which it’s now published onto YouTube. You can watch the glasses’ introduction above and an additional video speculating about their potential below. In case you haven’t caught on, Microsoft has huge ambitions here: “This is the next generation of computing,” one person says. “This is the next PC.”

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No more free singles from Apple? Five free-music alternatives – We’re now three weeks into 2015, and the iTunes Store hasn’t shared any new free tracks. Fortunately, as any card-carrying cheapskate knows, there are plenty of other sources for free tunes. Here are five:

Twitter Officially Launches Its “While You Were Away” Recap Feature – Twitter’s “While You Were Away” feature, which helps you catch up on tweets that you missed, is officially launching on iOS today (with Android and web coming soon). The company previewed the feature at its analyst day last fall and started rolling it out at the end of December.

Facebook’s WhatsApp comes to desktop computers – The chat application, which Facebook bought for more than $19 billion in October, will now extend its service so that it can be used on desktop and laptop computers. The app now lets people send and receive messages using a website, in addition to existing mobile apps. The move expands WhatsApp’s reach to even more devices, and underscores Facebook’s desire to fuel the world’s communications.

Microsoft shows off Spartan, their Chrome/Safari challenger – Spartan was shown off at Microsoft’s event today, and we now know how Microsoft envisions the browser. After acknowledging that there was indeed something called Project Spartan, we were told all the fun things Spartan will bring us. We will get the ability to mark-up those marked-down webpages, and and migrate efficiently between touch and keyboard interactions. There is also a new reading list, and Cortana is at your side, as always. Rather than re-build the browser, Microsoft is taking the better parts on others and combining them into one.

This app will decipher your iPhone screenshots – Screenshots are a quick way to capture and store information you’ll need access to. Say, for example, a friend sends you a recipe in iMessage and you don’t want to spend hours scrolling through your chat history to recall it. Snap a screenshot, then launch your Camera Roll when you need the recipe. But what do you do when you want to transfer the recipe over to another app, or send it to someone else without actually sending the screenshot? You either wrote it down by hand, or jumped between apps copying it line by line. A new app, Screenshots, wants to make screenshots even more useful than they are now.

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

4 time-saving tips and tricks for iOS 8 you probably missed – In iOS 8, Apple made things easier and more efficient. Tasks that used to take many steps now only take a few or are completely automated. Here are four of the best time-saving tips and tricks in iOS 8 — you’ll wonder how you ever used iOS without it.

Security:

Flash zero day under attack – A zero day Flash vulnerability is being actively exploited by criminals using the popular Angler exploit kit. Adobe is investigating the report by respected French malware researcher Kafeine, who found the exploit kit circulating on cybercrime forums. The vulnerabilities affected Flash Player versions up to 15.0.0.223 and the latest 16.0.0.257, he said. Punters on Windows 8.1 are safe, along with those using Google Chrome thanks to use of sandboxing.

Critical Java updates fix 19 vulnerabilities, disable SSL 3.0 – Oracle released new security updates for Java to fix 19 vulnerabilities and disable default support for SSL 3.0, an outdated version of the secure communications protocol that is vulnerable to attacks. The updates were part of Oracle’s quarterly Critical Patch Update, released Tuesday, which fixes 169 security issues across hundreds of products.

What if Facebook Is Hacked Next? – The Sony hack was just a bit of fun compared to what could happen if Facebook gets taken out. Nobody ever thinks of a behemoth like Facebook shutting down. When a company like LiveJournal is still operating just fine, the likelihood of Facebook collapsing is remote. But what would you do if it did? Do you have important data on Facebook—status updates, video, photos, etc.—that are only stored on the social network? Is it your primary method of communication with friends and family? Are you dependent on Facebook?

Over 90 percent of data breaches in first half 2014 were preventable – The Online Trust Alliance says that a high percentage of data breaches were the result of staff mistakes — rather than external hacking.

Company News:

Google wants to become a mobile carrier – Google has laid the groundwork for its own cellular service by buying capacity on the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile USA, according to news reports. Google is heavily involved in mobile through its Android operating system, the world’s most widely used mobile OS, as well as through selling mobile advertising, and is pushing to make more radio spectrum available for wireless services. But the partnerships with Sprint and T-Mobile would bring the company into the cellular business itself, offering Google phone plans directly to consumers.

Google Spent Even More on Lobbying Than Comcast in 2014 – Google’s influence is increasingly being felt in Washington, according to a corporate spending watchdog. The search giant spent $16.83 million on federal lobbying in 2014, according to public records analyzed by public interest nonprofit Consumer Watchdog — just a little bit more than the $16.8 million spend racked up by noted big spender Comcast last year, as it sought to win approval for a planned $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable.

Netflix says piracy service Popcorn Time is a real competitor – Netflix isn’t just worried about HBO — it’s worried about pirates, too. In a letter to shareholders yesterday, Netflix says that piracy is one of its “biggest competitors,” and notably, it specifically points to one piracy service that’s caught its attention: Popcorn Time. Popcorn Time’s app is meant to make pirating a movie as easy as streaming one on Netflix. The app allows you to browse through an iTunes-like catalog of movies and TV shows by their posters, select one for more information, and then start streaming it after a short buffering period. It’s so streamlined that anyone should be able to just pick it up and start watching.

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Dropbox acquires CloudOn in talent grab – CloudOn has been acquired by Dropbox, the company has announced. It appears this was a talent grab, and under the acquisition — the terms of which having not been revealed — the cloud storage service will bring in 30+ new employees, as well as CloudOn’s Israeli office. That latter office will be used by Dropbox as part of its hiring in the nation, the company’s product, business, and mobile lead said in an interview recently. This is the latest of many acquisitions on Dropbox’s part.

EBay to cut 7% of workforce, looks to spin-off Enterprise unit – EBay will cut roughly 7 percent of its total workforce, or 2,400 workers, and is considering a sale or IPO of its Enterprise unit, it said Wednesday. The cuts are part of a plan to save more than $300 million across the company this year as it battles sluggish traffic, low-selling items, and increased competition in e-commerce. EBay is also planning to spin off its PayPal unit into a separate company this year.

Facebook Is in a Hiring Frenzy – Facebook is seeking to grow its workforce by nearly 15 percent in the first several months of 2015, according to Reuters. The news service recently reviewing the social network’s job listings and found that the company is actively seeking to “add nearly 1,200 new employees, the outgrowth of aggressive investments that executives have said will define the coming year.” Facebook currently has just under 8,500 full-time employees on the books.

Apple buys piracy-measuring, buzz-tracking service Musicmetric – With Beats Music set to play along with iTunes, Apple has struck a new chord by buying Musicmetric, a service that measures which tunes and artists are being listened to, pirated and talked about. Launched in 2008, Musicmetric is a music-analytics service run by British company Semetric. Musicmetric delves beyond the sales and streaming charts, looking at activity on peer-to-peer networks as well as reviews and comments on blogs, social networks and YouTube.

Games and Entertainment:

Should you cut the cord? A guide to decide for 2015 – Given the tagline at the top of this column, you might think I’m a diehard cord-cutting advocate. But while I personally abandoned cable TV years ago, and hope the trend of others doing the same will bring lower prices and more choice to everyone, I don’t think it’s the best solution for everyone. In reality, cutting the cord will work better for some folks than others, but the good news is that it’s getting easier to take the plunge as new services and hardware options emerge. If you’re thinking about giving up your pay-TV subscription for an Internet-only plan, here are some questions to ask yourself first:

Microsoft To Bring Xbox One Game Streaming to Windows 10 Devices Later This Year – Xbox lead Phil Spencer showed off the new feature on stage today in Seattle at Microsoft’s special event, playing Forza on Xbox One and streaming it to a Surface 3 where he controlled and viewed it remotely. This is actually a huge win for Xbox One owners who also operate Windows 10 devices (which should theoretically include any Windows 7 or 8 device, thanks to the free year-long update period). Sony offers Remote Play for PS4, but it requires either Xperia Android-based hardware, or a PlayStation Vita or TV to work – Microsoft has a huge install base of PC hardware that it should be able to already serve.

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Elder Scrolls Online ditches mandatory subscription – As hotly-anticipated games go, Elder Scrolls Online is probably one of the most anticipated, and so news that Bethesda Softworks has not only confirmed its console release but dropped one of the more controversial subscription details is most welcome. Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited will land on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on June 9th, following its March 17th arrival on PC and Mac. Even better, Bethesda is ditching the monthly subscription the promise of which so annoyed gamers last year, though there’ll still be in-game purchases for extra content, and an optional “ESO Plus” subscription.

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The 10 Most-Pirated Movies – PCMag doesn’t support piracy in any way, shape, or form. Seriously. Our mission with this most-pirated movies article is a very simple one: to inform you about what’s happening in the online digital media world. Besides, tracking stolen movies is a decent, alternate way to gauge a flick’s popularity. Take Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for example. The Michael Bay-produced movie made just a few appearances on TorrentFreak’s most-pirated movie list, but American Sniper continues to appear on the list week after week. Pirates, it seems, have taste, too.

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Free game alert: Origin’s giving away Theme Hospital – Yes, EA’s giving away Bullfrog’s 1997 title Theme Hospital this month, which is a “business simulation” game in the same way Anchorman is about the day-to-day proceedings of a local news station. Like previous “On the House” promotions, you’ll need an Origin account to take advantage. Then again, if you’ve played any EA games on PC recently you probably already have one of those. And hey, free games right? No telling how long the deal will last, though a month is a safe bet.

Off Topic (Sort of):

10 Huge Hoaxes That Fooled Facebook – Surely you’ve seen these hoaxes in your Facebook News Feed: posts about celebrities, politicians, or Facebook itself that seem too good (or too awful) to be true. Or, at the very least, they are too whatever to not share with the rest of your Facebook friends. To battle this phenomenon, Facebooks this week introduced an initiative to allow users to highlight these false posts, which will help the company spot them and thus stop the spread of these outright lies. What type of things are we talking about? Check out some of the hoaxes that have made the rounds on Facebook throughout the years:

Here’s how the new Republican Congress plans to undercut net neutrality – The widespread national popularity of net neutrality principles have pushed the new Republican Congress, however tentatively, to embrace some of its core concepts. With two congressional net neutrality hearings scheduled for today, Republican lawmakers have released draft legislation that would ban broadband providers from discriminating against certain kinds of web traffic. But even as the draft bill appears to enforce fundamental tenets of net neutrality, it explicitly undermines the legal authority of the FCC. And advocates say that if passed, the bill could create new obstacles to an open internet.

Even Google makes mistakes: 4 Android features that failed – The Android of today is worlds better than what we had even a few years ago, but Google is certainly not infallible. Android has been evolving at a breakneck pace since it hit the market in 2008, and sometimes that has led to errors in judgement. Mistakes were made. There are plenty of examples where Google had to backpedal (or pull a feature entirely) after it failed to catch on, and here are four of the most prominent.

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They had potential, but it just wasn’t enough.

Become an alien hunter with free online course from Harvard – The course is called “Super-Earths And Life” and it’s being offered on the edX platform, a website created by Harvard and MIT that provides free online courses from the world’s top universities. The course will combine the latest findings in evolutionary biology with with advances that have helped us discover more and more planets outside our own solar system. It starts on February 10, lasts for six weeks and requires a commitment of about five hours per week.

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Something to think about:

“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.”

–      Booker T. Washington

Today’s Free Downloads:

EnhanceMySe7en Free – EnhanceMySe7en helps users to control many aspects of the system with maximum convenience.

You will get everything needed for maintaining Windows 7 in a perfect condition. The program offers tools that take care of the registry, disk space and its defragmentation, installed software, HDD temperature and all sorts of things related to system’s health. Also there are lots of other options helping to boost your system’s performance.

With a clean and simple interface it brings you an All-in-One set of powerful and neatly classified tools, settings and tweaks.

Features:

Process Identification – Identify unrecognized software

Start-Up Management – Disable unnecessary software increasing performance

Registry Cleaner – Can easily checks your registry and repair incorrectly linked registry entries, automatically remove invalid entries

Disk Cleaner – Find out which files or folders engross your disk space and shown with chart

Registry Defragmenter – Rebuilds and re-indexs your registry to reduce application response time and registry access time

Disk Defragmenter – Reduces the amount of fragmentation in file systems

Hard Drive Monitor – Gives the current values of various hard disk parameters such as Temperature, Head Flying Height, Spin-Up Time etc.

System Tools, File, Network and Security Tools

Security – EnhanceMySe7en has easy to configure security settings for managing the new security features of Windows Vista

Optimization – Optimize settings for maximum speed and stability

Customization – customize system desktop, menus, toolbar and notifications settings

Network – Optimize your Internet connection speed

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AppRemover – AppRemover fully supports the thorough uninstallation of hundreds of antivirus and antispyware applications. The following support chart is updated with each new release. The chart lists two different types of supported applications. One set has been verified by OPSWAT Labs testing. The other set lists applications that have been reported as supported by the hundreds of thousands of users that have previously downloaded AppRemover. After using AppRemover, please take a moment to answer a few brief questions about the product. Your feedback will greatly improve AppRemover’s effectiveness.

In addition, AppRemover may be able to successfully remove other security applications on your system. However, these are not guaranteed.

Use AppRemover:

When replacing one security application with another

When competing security applications tie up your computer

When the application’s built-in uninstall process fails

When you have forgotten the application password

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ParkControl – ParkControl is a small freeware utility that facilitates tweaking of core parking and CPU frequency scaling settings of Windows power plans. It has no installer. It is a live EXE.

Bitsum developed ParkControl because core parking settings are hidden in Windows, but can make such a large difference on performance, particularly when there are bursting CPU bound loads (the most common type).

Core Parking is a sleep state (C6) supported by most newer x86 processors, and newer editions of Windows. Core Parking dynamically disables CPU cores in an effort to conserve power when idle. Disabled cores are re-enabled as the CPU load increases once again. This technology is very similar to frequency scaling, in that it seeks to throttle the CPU when idle.

The problem is that Window’s default power profiles are configured far too aggressively when it comes to core parking, especially on workstations. Their interest was in conserving energy, even if this meant marginally decreasing performance. A number of complex parameters control when a core should be parked, and Microsoft tuned heavily towards power savings.

The core parking settings in Windows are implemented as parameters of power plans (aka power profiles). That means you can, for example, disable core parking for the High Performance power plan, but leave it enabled for other plans. And that is exactly the desired tweak for most users: disable parking only for high performance power plans.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Will Obama finally change cybersecurity in America? – During his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, the president barely tipped his hat to major cybersecurity reform proposals he introduced in speeches last week. They included streamlining the current patchwork approach to data breach disclosure, information sharing between private companies and the government, and increased penalties for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

“If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable,” Obama said during his speech, which was light on details. “If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.”

These proposals come at a time when the American people are arguably more concerned about cybersecurity than ever before. A Gallup poll in October found hacking was the top crime Americans worry about, above murder, assault and terrorism. And there’s good reason. This past year was one of the most active on record for hackers who breached computer systems at major retailers, financial institutions and even Hollywood.

The Obama administration responded by proposing new legislation to force cybersecurity changes which have stalled in Congress for years. Yet even after the devastating attacks on Sony Pictures in November, experts are skeptical Obama can convince Congress to support his proposals.

Calls for ISPs to filter content could be illegal, EU council documents suggest – Last week justice ministers from across the European Union called on ISPs to conduct voluntary censorship of online content—but documents in preparation for a meeting of telecoms ministers suggest such a move could be illegal.

The documents, prepared by the Latvian presidency of the Council of the EU, note that calls to allow Internet service providers to block or filter content in the “public interest” as part of a proposed net neutrality law could violate privacy laws that protect the confidentiality of communication.

The Council, along with the Commission and the Parliament, is one of the EU’s three lawmaking bodies. The member states take turns as president of the council: Latvia took over from Italy for its six-month stint on Jan. 1.

Different ministers participate in each meeting of the Council: net neutrality is on the agenda for a forthcoming meeting of telecommunications ministers, and on Tuesday the presidency released a document outlining issues that need to be addressed.

Australian government blames Snowden for data retention – The Australian Attorney-General’s Department has pushed back at industry and privacy advocate concerns over mandatory data-retention legislation, stating that the leaks on the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance operations by whistleblower Edward Snowden have hastened the need for the regime.

Under legislation currently before the parliament, Australian telecommunications companies would be required to retain an as-yet-undefined set of customer data for two years, not limited to but including call records, address information, email addresses, and assigned IP addresses.

The legislation is being backed up by Australian law-enforcement agencies, which claim that access to the data without a warrant is vital to almost every criminal investigation. Telecommunications companies and privacy advocates, however, warn that the scheme would be a major intrusion on the lives of every Australian, and that the costs of running the scheme will lead to higher prices for internet and phone services.

The Attorney-General’s Department, however, claims in its submission to the parliamentary committee investigating the legislation that there are “no practical alternatives” to a legislated mandatory data-retention regime.

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4 Comments

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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 22, 2015

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: VPNs made easy

    A good article and a reminder of the importance of encryption, following on from our discussions in the last few days. As you know, my favourite is Cyberghost, due to the sheer volume of countries you can connect through. I can even have an Australian IP address, which makes it just about as fast as my normal ISP (I might add I do subscribe for 7 bucks a month, less than the price of two beers at the pub). But the other clients mentioned are really good too. When it comes to VPN’s, we are spoilt for choice really.

    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      I’ve been using the Tor bundle almost exclusively this past year and for what I use it for it suits quite well. Still, I agree, Cyberghost is top drawer. Just got a “come on back” email from them not 10 minutes ago. And, you’re right again – “we are spoilt for choice” – which can make it less than straightforward for the uninitiated to select appropriately.

      I hear that it’s a holiday weekend in Oz, so take it to the MAX, Mal. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill

  2. Mal

    Lol Bill,

    I started “taking it to the max” two days ago, and probably won’t finish til tomorrow. I think next week is looking good for a very quiet time.

    Cheers