Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 28, 2015

6 DNS services protect against malware and other unwanted content;  Maldrone: Malware which hijacks your personal drone;  The 10 best widgets for your Android tablet;  Android essentials: 13 apps I can’t live without;  7 Hidden Roku Tricks for Streaming Success;  Twitter adds group messaging and 30s videos;  Wi-Fi triage: 5 common solutions to your wireless woes;  Apple rolls out iOS 8.1.3;  FCC to hotels on WiFi blocking: it’s illegal, don’t do it;  Xbox One and 360 Xbox Live Gold members ‘Deals of the Week’;  Microsoft pushes new firmware for Xbox One controllers;  YouTube drops Flash for HTML5 video as default; The best Android games of 2014;  CNET’s top tips on getting stunning travel photos;  The DEA has been spying on millions of US drivers for years.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

6 DNS services protect against malware and other unwanted content – While many (but not all) users are familiar with the concept of security software, there are more basic ways to protect unwary surfers from phishing sites, botnets, intrusive advertising and other unwanted visitors Since DNS servers are the middlemen between your browser and website content, there are many third-party DNS services that offer additional functionality for both users and network administrators. These tools can include:

Maldrone: Malware which hijacks your personal drone – AR drones, developed by French firm Parrot, are reportedly vulnerable to hacking due to a backdoor discovered by security researcher Rahul Sasi this week. As reported by Hacker News, the AR quadcopter helicopter drone — controllable via smartphone, tablet, Nvidia Shield console and Epson Moverio display, among others — is vulnerable to a newly-created malware strain, dubbed Maldrone. According to the researcher, Maldrone can be used to remotely hijack drones via entry through the backdoor. Developed for the AR drone’s ARM Linux system, the malicious code is able to kill a drone’s autopilot and take control remotely.


The 10 best widgets for your Android tablet – Widgets have always been one of the key differentiators for Android. They really shine on a tablet, where you have a large screen to fill with news, weather, or useful utilities instead of icons. We’ve rounded up some of the best ways to glam up your screen with both good-looking and useful widgets from the Play Store. Whether you have a modest-sized Nexus 7 or big-screened Galaxy Tab S, they’ll add some zest to your home screen.

Android essentials: 13 apps I can’t live without – As someone who spends an absurd amount of hours staring at Android phones and tablets, I’ve given a lot of thought to what apps matter the most to me. There’s the stuff I keep around and use once in a while, sure, but what are the essential apps I need to feel like a device is mine — and to make it do what I need it to do? If I could install only a dozen apps on a device, which apps would I choose? I had to cheat a little and give myself a baker’s dozen — hey, a geek’s gotta eat — but after much contemplation, these are the Android apps I can’t live without.

YouTube drops Flash for HTML5 video as default – The slow death of Adobe Flash has been hastened — YouTube, which used the platform as the standard way to play its videos, has dumped Flash in favor of HTML5 for its default web player. The site will now use HTML5 video as standard in Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Safari 8, and in beta versions of Firefox. YouTube engineer Richard Leider said the time had come to ditch the aging Flash in favor of HTML5 as the latter, used in smart TVs and other streaming devices, had benefits that “extend beyond web browsers.”

7 Hidden Roku Tricks for Streaming Success – Whether you just got a Roku or you’ve had one for years, there’s more to know beyond the basics of watching Netflix and catching up with “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” on Crackle. We’ve put together seven ways for you to get more out of your Roku.

Wi-Fi triage: 5 common solutions to your wireless woes – Wi-Fi is the most wonderful home convenience—except for when it isn’t. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a mental checklist on hand for common issues that might be causing the problem when your Wi-Fi checks out. Everybody has their own favorite way of handling Wi-Fi problems, but here’s mine.

Prynt turns your smartphone into a Polaroid camera – This is Prynt, a case that fits around a number of smartphones (including the iPhone 6, 5c, and 5s and Galaxy S4 and S5). It doesn’t just make your phone look a bit like a point-and-shoot camera, it also hides a tiny portable printer than can spit out your photos in just a few seconds. It spits out 2 inch by 3 inch photos using the same inkless ZINK paper that portable photo printers like the LG PoPo and HiTi Pringo use.


Apple rolls out iOS 8.1.3, requires less open memory for updates – Apple has just released iOS 8.1.3, their third iteration on the release of iOS 8. After a series of errors surrounding iOS 8 upgrades, this one fixes some minor problems. We’ll now need less space to update an iPhone or iPad device over the air, and iOS 8.1.3 fixes an issue where Spotlight failed to display app results. Thankfully, Apple also fixed their frustrating multitasking gestures bug on iPad (five-finger pinch to close, among others). The update is rolling out now.

Wickr Hides Private Photos With Cat Pics – Move over, Facebook and Instagram. Secure messaging app Wickr, which destroys messages after a set period of time, is getting even more social with the addition of a new photo feed. The new feature, dubbed Wickr Timed Feed (WTF), lets you create private feeds of photos that self-destruct after 24 hours (similar to Snapchat Stories). You can jazz up your photos with filters, graffiti, and stickers, then invite up to 151 friends to view and rate the photos. At this point, Timed Feed is only available on the Wickr iOS app.


Twitter adds group messaging and 30s videos – Twitter may be the social network where you tell the world what you had for breakfast, but new private messaging features now allow you to share it on a need-to-know basis. The support for private conversations – added to Twitter today, along with new video features that streamline the sharing of clips – builds on the social service’s existing Direct Messages support, but expands them to an impromptu group of up to twenty people who needn’t be following each other. It’s the company’s response to wildly popular instant messaging clients like Facebook-owned Whatsapp.


Snapchat Now Shows You Video From Comedy Central, Vice and More – Snapchat is adding a new portal for editorial content from a range of media partners, the company said Tuesday. The new feature, called “Discover,” will offer Snapchat users video content from National Geographic, Vice, Comedy Central and others, including TIME sister publication PEOPLE. The deal makes sense for the publishers involved, many of whom are looking for ways to put their content in front of younger users to build relationships as their income levels — and thus value to advertisers — increases. Most of Snapchat’s 100 million-plus monthly users are between the ages of 13 and 25, with many users checking the app multiple times a day.


FCC to hotels on WiFi blocking: it’s illegal, don’t do it – Marriott may have dropped its WiFi-blocking efforts, but that doesn’t mean the FCC has forgotten about its petition and the WiFi-blocking habits of some other companies. In a warning issued today as an “FCC Enforcement Advisory”, the agency made it clear that it is not acceptable to jam others’ WiFi hotspots regardless of whether you’re an individual or a company, and it specifically pointed toward hotels as an example. In addition, the FCC called hotspot-jamming actions a “disturbing trend” that must stop.

The Bluewire Is A Bluetooth Headset That Can Record Your Calls – While there are plenty of headsets out there that give you a comfortable fit or decent sound quality compared to the earbuds that come with our phones, the Bluewire actually records conversations to a pre-installed MicroSD card – 1,000 hours of conversations, to be more precise. You don’t even have to actually have your conversation over the Bluewire headset. As long as it’s paired to your smartphone, it’ll record both sides of a conversation, even if it takes place over a different headset you find more comfortable or your in-car audio system.


Facebook Continues To Dominate Social Logins, Expands Lead To 61% Market Share – Facebook is pretty much dominant across all business segments. It powers 72 percent of social logins on e-commerce sites, for example, and 76 percent on education and non-profit sites. The one small exception is media sites, where it “only” has a 55 percent market share. That’s not a bright spot for Google either, though, as it only owns about 21 percent of that market, too, while Twitter and Yahoo are relatively popular with 11 percent and 8 percent market share, respectively.


Why Google Cardboard Is the Only VR Headset You Need – Using only your smartphone (either Apple or Android) and a simple headset, Cardboard has more than enough oomph to render a compelling virtual reality experience. And they’re affordable: most kits (like Dodocase, I Am Cardboard, or Knox Labs) cost less than $10. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, though, you can build one yourself from scratch (adding to its DIY, Michel Gondry-esque charm). As someone who has experienced many early VR technologies, I can honestly say that most people will find that Cardboard offers an experience on par with that of Oculus. And I’m not alone in that opinion.

CNET’s top tips on getting stunning travel photos – Your holidays can provide endless opportunities for brilliant photography, regardless of which part of the world you’ve chosen to jet off to. In the first part of my two-part travel photography guide, I took you through the kit you should consider taking with you. Now, I’m going to take you through some of the best tips you should keep in mind on vacation to help you come back with some glorious travel shots, instead of a boring bunch of holiday snaps.

Apple Pay Is Coming to Thousands of Laundry and Vending Machines – Next time you’re standing in front of a vending machine and cursing yourself for not bringing along cash or coins, your smartphone may be all you need. Apple Pay is coming to approximately 200,000 self-serve appliances like vending machines, laundry machines and parking pay stations around the country, USA Technologies announced Tuesday. The company builds cashless payment systems into retail devices; its ePort payment system boasts a Near Field Communication sensor that is now compatible with Apple Pay.


Regin malware and NSA’s QWERTY tool exposed as part of the same platform – For more than 10 years, the Regin malware has been infecting targets around the globe. Now there’s clear evidence that Regin and QWERTY — an NSA keylogger revealed by Edward Snowden — are being developed by the same people. Security experts all around the globe — from Symantec who discovered it to Fox IT who were called in to clean up a particularly nasty infection — said it was by far the most sophisticated piece of malware they’d ever seen. It seems safe to assume, then, that Regin isn’t just being developed and utilized by GCHQ or the NSA, but rather that it’s something that all members of the Five Eyes alliance are collaborating on. Just because the link has been exposed doesn’t mean the threat will go away any time soon. If Regin really has been operating in the wild for a decade, why would anyone believe that the NSA and their cohorts aren’t already using — or preparing to use — a vastly improved version of the malware?


Highly critical “Ghost” allowing code execution affects most Linux systems – An extremely critical vulnerability affecting most Linux distributions gives attackers the ability to execute malicious code on servers used to deliver e-mail, host webpages, and carry out other vital functions. The bug, which is being dubbed “Ghost” by some researchers, has the common vulnerability and exposures designation of CVE-2015-0235. While a patch was issued two years ago, most Linux versions used in production systems remain unprotected at the moment. What’s more, patching systems requires core functions or the entire affected server to be rebooted, a requirement that may cause some systems to remain vulnerable for some time to come.

Marriott mobile app: providing backdoor access since 2011 – Hotel chain Marriott might find itself in more trouble than its 2014 FCC fine. A senior developer at the XDA Developers Forum has revealed that the chain’s mobile app might have allowed unauthorized people to gain access to private information, including names, addresses, contact numbers and credit card information. Though the app has said to have been plugged up now, the security flaw has been in existence for almost four years, exponentially increasing the possible ramifications and victims of this exploit.

Bug in ultra secure BlackPhone let attackers decrypt texts, stalk users – A recently fixed vulnerability in the BlackPhone instant messaging application gave attackers the ability to decrypt messages, steal contacts, and control vital functions of the device, which is marketed as a more secure way to protect communications from government and criminal snoops. Mark Dowd, a principal consultant with Australia-based Azimuth Security, said would-be attackers needed only a user’s Silent Circle ID or phone number to remotely exploit the bug.

Company News:

Apple posts $18 billion profit, the largest in its history – Apple just posted its first quarter results, and as expected, it was a big one. Led once again by record sales of new iPhones and holiday sales of iPads and Macs, Apple posted earnings of $18 billion on $74.6 billion in revenue, far above what it forecasted back in October, and marking the highest quarterly profit in its history. By product, Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones, 21.4 million iPads, and 5.52 million Macs. Those numbers were up big from the number of iPhones and Macs Apple sold during the same time last year, but down big for the iPad.

Microsoft Closes Down 9.25% After Its Earnings Report Fails To Impress The Street – Today, Microsoft shed tens of billions of dollars in value, after its earnings failed to impress the investing classes. Microsoft closed down 9.25 percent in regular trading. The company’s shares slipped after-hours yesterday by several points in the immediate aftermath of the report, which indicated that Microsoft had earned $0.71 per share on revenue of $26.5 billion. The latter figure represents a modest revenue beat.

Yahoo Reports Mixed Q4 With Mobile Revenue Of $254M, Total Top Line Of $1.18B – Today Yahoo reported its fourth-quarter financial performance, including revenue excluding the cost of acquiring traffic of $1.179 billion, and non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.30. The market had expected the company to report $1.19 billion in revenue, and non-GAAP earnings of $0.29 per share. Yahoo also announced that it plans to spin its remaining stake in Alibaba out into a new company. The plan has large tax advantages, and investors like a good savings.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox One and 360 Xbox Live Gold members ‘Deals of the Week’ – This week, Xbox Live Gold members will be able to take advantage of great deals on some excellent titles. Although pricing is not concrete due to varying pricing in different regions, here are some of the more notable games in the bunch: Madden 15, Titanfall, NBA Live 15 and Dragon Age Inquisition. If those don’t interest you, be sure to check out the full list below.


Microsoft pushes new firmware for Xbox One controllers in Preview program – Now that Microsoft is back on track with monthly updates for its Xbox One console, users should also be reminded to update their controllers with the new firmware that’s being released. Right now, only users in the Preview program can take advantage of the new features but, rest assured that after being beta tested the firmware will arrive on all devices.

Fantastic 4 reboot trailer: showing real promise – The same studio that brought you the X-Men movies is giving a bit of a reboot to the Fantastic Four. The first couple of Fantastic Four (or Fantastic 4, if you prefer) films didn’t do so hot – the actor who played Johnny Storm left the project to become Captain America with Marvel, if that’s any indicator – now it’s time to give the title a kick in the pants. Instead of continuing to roll with the same cast and the same plot, 20th Century Fox is bringing heat with a “re-imagining” of the team.


Whatever Happened to the Mascots of Our Beloved 90s Platform Games? – When the industry began trending away from 2-D sprite-based graphics toward realistic 3-D polygonal models around ’96, side-scrolling platformers became essentially irrelevant. The platform mascots’ jump to 3-D, as it turned out, was perilous. Many that flourished in the eight- and 16-bit eras didn’t quite make it. Some faded away, some made sidesteps and found success elsewhere, and others died of humiliation. Now that it’s been nearly 20 years since that fateful transitional period, I thought it’d be a good idea to take a look at the most notable platformer mascots to see how they fared.


Dying Light review impressions: Fresh zombies, coming in hot – Like every other game reviewer, we just got our hands on Dying Light review code yesterday. Seeing as how it’s a massive open-world game I assume lasts somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 hours, we’re understandably not finished with the game yet. Not even close, really. But I’ve put in several hours with the game and I’ve got some initial opinions to share so you’re not buying it completely blind.


The best Android games of 2014 – It was an excellent year to be an Android gamer in 2014. More developers embraced the platform—which means not only more games, but also timelier releases. We’ve pared down our list of favorites to just 15, and these are the essentials. They span an array of genres, styles, and price points, and deliver quick-fix fun and focused play experiences alike. Looking for the year’s biggest and brightest? Load up your phone or tablet with these amazing games, pronto.

Off Topic (Sort of):

GoDaddy’s puppy-mocking Super Bowl ad in the dog house – Technically Incorrect: Laughing at the Budweiser ads that feature cuddly puppies, the traditionally bawdy GoDaddy released a Super Bowl ad this morning. And then: trouble. Big trouble.


Luna’s Smart Mattress Cover Can Help You Sleep Better – Luna co-founder Matteo Franceschetti presents a pretty appealing vision of what it can be like to go to bed: As you lie down, the lights, temperature (of both the bed and the room), and the music all adjust to a setting of your choice. Then as you fall asleep, they adjust again, perhaps turning off completely. Luna makes this possible through a smart mattress cover that’s now available for pre-order through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The planned retail price for Luna’s smart cover is $249, but it’s currently available for $179 through pre-order.


The Fragility Of Our Connected World – A decade ago, one would have never predicted the sheer size and impact the Internet has made on our planet. Now, with everything including government, healthcare, commerce and financial services brokered through connected devices, the stakes are much higher. In light of recent news events, we’re left to wonder: What impact does global connectivity really have on our daily lives and the economy as a whole? What could happen if we’re left in the dark for too long?

White House drone crash was caused by drunk gov worker – Remember that drone discovered on the White House lawn? The Secret Service was looking into the matter and had said it wasn’t a safety risk, but concerns quickly spawned that such an incident could serve to further harm the already damaged reputation small-time drones have received — with all of it coming at the worse time possible as the FAA prepares to rule on drone usage regulations. This particular mystery has already come to an end, and while it was a harmless accident, the cause of it all further tarnishes the personal use of drones in some eyes.

Something to think about:

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

–      Fyodor Dostoevsky

Today’s Free Downloads:

YAC (Yet Another Cleaner) – MajorGeek says: YAC is short for “Yet Another Cleaner” but this is anything but just another cleaner. It is actually an all-in-one suite that can clean junk files, registry items, give you browser protection and scan for viruses and malware. The program itself actually works excellent and digs really deep but you might want to pay a little bit of attention if you want to clean up everything. It found some items in my registry that I had no idea were even there or how they got there like Conduit and a few others. The first run might take you a little longer so you can ignore problems that aren’t really a problem (for you) but after that you won’t need to do it again. This program digs deeper and found more issues and tweaks than anything else I have used in a long time. I was impressed and think you will be as well.

Update: YAC seems to fall under the love it or hate it category, then again most things do. The biggest complaint is how difficult it can be to uninstall by users of uninstallers like Revo or IObit Uninstaller. I was able to remove it under Windows default program removal without any issues but I understand the complaint.

YAC has one other thing that bothers me. It seems to hide itself really well and I really didn’t want it running in startup. Problem there is that you won’t find it in your startup and the service is actually called iSafeService and disabling that as a service is not an option. Again, the program needs to be a little more transparent and some of these ‘tricks’ feel a little sleazy to me but boy it works really well.

Pointing up     Oh baloney! It’s as common as fleas on a dog for an application to add services – especially an application that’s tasked with a security function. One always has the option of  setting a manual startup for a specific service.


PureSync – The PureSync application was designed to be a file synchronizer and backup tool. PureSync lets you compare, synchronize and backup file, easy to use, but still many features, such as conflict detection and resolving, multiple backups.


Synchronize: Synchronize files and folders, FTP

Backup: Backup of files and complete folders

Compare view: Control what will be synced in which direction

Easy to use, clear user interface: E.g. there are wizard and tool tips, support for Drag & Drop of folders

Automatic synchronization and backups: Scheduler when a file has been modified

Special Foto-Sync for digital cameras: Copy e.g. only the new fotos from the camera-. Though fotos that have been sorted out but still at the camera are not copy again.

Limitations: Requires Microsoft .Net Framework installed.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The DEA has been spying on millions of US drivers for years – The United States Justice Department is tracking millions of vehicles nationwide as part of a secret intelligence-gathering program, The Wall Street Journal reports. The surveillance program is part of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s plan to build a database plotting the movements of vehicles around the country.

The program, which scans and records license plates, has been in place for years. A spokesperson for the Justice Department told the Journal that the license plate-reader program is “not new,” but where it was previously used to combat drug cartels and seize valuables, it is now being used to solve criminal cases like homicide and kidnapping. DEA documents obtained by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act show the license plate-reader program dating back to 2008.

This isn’t the first time the US government has spied on its citizens, but now it seems the only prerequisite for being spied on is driving a car.

France wants to make Google and Facebook accountable for hate speech – The French government announced today a plan to hold web companies accountable for any extremist messages they may host, Bloomberg reports. French president Francois Hollande wants to introduce a law that would make companies like Google and Facebook “accomplices” in crimes of hate speech if users post content the government deems extremist.

In an announcement today, Hollande said, “We must act at the European and international level to define a legal framework so that internet platforms which manage social media be considered responsible, and that sanctions can be taken.”

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve plans to travel to the US to discuss this proposal with the heads of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter. The president will present a draft law next month.

No, Mass Surveillance Won’t Stop Terrorist Attacks – Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said that while “Congress having oversight certainly is important … what is more important relative to these types of events is ensuring we don’t overly hamstring the NSA’s ability to collect this kind of information in advance and keep these kinds of activities from occurring.” Similarly, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) spoke of his “fear” that “our intelligence capabilities, those designed to prevent such an attack from taking place on our shores, are quickly eroding,” adding that the government surveillance “designed to prevent these types of attacks from occurring is under siege.”

A recent poll demonstrates that their sentiments are widely shared in the wake of the attack.

But would more mass surveillance have prevented the assault on the Charlie Hebdo office? Events from 9/11 to the present help provide the answer:

Australian spookhaus ASIO could retain private data FOREVER – The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) has told the government it’s forgotten to set down how long ASIO is allowed to keep metadata handed over by telecommunications companies.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 requires that carriers hold data for two years. However, once that gets hoovered into ASIO, it could be retained forever.

Inspector-general Dr Vivienne Thom’s submission to the inquiry says there is no current law, nor any requirement in the bill, that limits ASIO’s capacity to hold telecommunications data.


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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 28, 2015

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Australian spookhaus ASIO could retain private data FOREVER

    Oh, they forgot did they? How convenient. Probably hoping nobody would notice and then the bill is through. Easy solution: unforget and put the f***ing thing in the bill. That will probably be too hard though, governments aren’t known for being too bright.