Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 30, 2015

New Chrome extension spots unencrypted tracking;  This Is the Future of Humanity in One Disturbing Photo;  Imgur just made GIF creation much easier with free online tool;  Apps let you prove your soul mate is real, even if it’s a lie;  How Can I Save My Phone’s Battery When it’s Cold Out?  LibreOffice 4.4 brings better looks and OpenGL;  Stop LinkedIn from sharing which profiles you view;  Nickelodeon to introduce its own video subscription service;  FREE: Outlook for iOS and Android;  February PlayStation Plus Free Game Lineup Revealed;  Comcast’s “asshole” problem;  Your shopping habits are one in a million, literally;  Windows User Manager (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

New Chrome extension spots unencrypted tracking – The Chrome extension, called TrackerSSL, alerts users when a website is using insecure trackers and gives them an option of tweeting a message to the website letting it know of the issue. TrackerSSL was created by Open Effect, a digital privacy watchdog, and Citizen Lab, a technology-focused think tank at the University of Toronto.

wps44A.tmp

TrackerSSL, a Chrome extension, identifies third-party trackers on websites that are insecurely sending data across the Internet.

How to watch the Super Bowl for free: Cut the cable cord! – Just like other networks that have offered a free live stream of the Super Bowl in previous years, NBC will make the 2015 game available through its NBC Sports website and mobile app. Still, getting the spectacle onto the device of your choosing could be tricky, so read on for the best ways to watch the Super Bowl without a pay-TV subscription.

FREE: Outlook for iOS and Android, plus more mobe Office goodies – Microsoft is proud to unleash more ‘free’ mobile apps for iOS and Android. Along with the new Outlook app — based on Acompli — the Android tablet versions of the other Office apps are now fully supported, being no longer in preview.

Enter Windows 8 Safe Mode when you can’t boot Windows 8 – You can’t directly boot into Windows 8’s Safe Mode; you can only reboot into it. Here’s how to get around that using a key drive.

This Is the Future of Humanity in One Disturbing Photo – I have a dream: That one day, all women, men and children will live in a virtual world devoid of social connection and existential meaning, suckled by a constant stream of saccharine liquids and delectable quasi-nutrients, and preoccupied by an unending wave of sensory distractions and entertainments. Actually, that’s more of a nightmare, and we may be about to live it. Thanks to the increasing ubiquity of virtual reality headsets and the general physical ease of daily life, it’s going to be more and more common to see people living like the guy in this photo posted on Reddit.

wps4A9.tmp

Imgur just made GIF creation much easier with free online tool – Creating a GIF might seem like witchcraft to the uninitiated, but it’s really not that difficult. Apps like GIFBrewery for OS X make quick work of taking your videos from full-length to looping clips in seconds. Thanks to Imgur, you can do the same with any video, now. Via their GIF creation tool, which is now live, videos from a hosting site like YouTube or Vimeo can become GIFs. Keep in mind that whatever GIF you create becomes public domain.

Logitech Unifying app brings Chrome OS peripherals support – Chromebooks might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the inexpensive devices have found a solid footing among consumers and so it isn’t surprising there’s a demand for accessories that are compatible with them. Logitech has just made it easier to use its own peripherals with the new “Logitech Unifying” app specifically made for Chromebooks. Using this, Chrome OS users can plug a USB receiver into their Chromebooks and then connect things like a mouse and keyboard to the unit.

Apps let you prove your soul mate is real, even if it’s a lie – With Invisible Girlfriend and Invisible Boyfriend, you can show off a make-believe mate to get family and friends off your back. Crave’s Bonnie Burton explains why that’s so tempting.

Control music on your Mac from your iPhone’s Notification Center – With the TodayRemote app, you can control iTunes on your Mac with the added benefit of not needing to open an app on your iPhone to do so. TodayRemote lets you add a widget to Notification Center, giving you access to playback and volume controls just by swiping down from the top edge of your iPhone. The app is free, but a $1.99 in-app purchase lets you use TodayRemote with Spotify, Rdio, VLC and Vox, while also adding global volume control and the ability to control multiple Macs from a single iPhone.

wps4E8.tmp

Android shipments in 2014 exceed 1 billion for first time – That gave Google’s mobile operating system 81 percent of the worldwide market in 2014, compared with 15 percent for Apple’s iOS.

Video game simulates the frustration of building IKEA furniture – A new video game called Höme Improvisåtion does just that, placing an endless supply of flat boxes in front of you with the goal of putting together pieces of furniture for your virtual home. The game, free on both Mac and Windows PCs, was developed by a team of four people in 48 hours — Aj Kolenc, Jessica Jackson, Colton Spross, and Josh Faubel — as part of the 2015 Global Game Jam in Atlanta earlier this month. You can download the game from the team’s website, The Stork Burnt Down. I played the Höme Improvisåtion game for just a few minutes and got so frustrated that I closed it and vowed never to build virtual IKEA furniture ever again. Yep, just like in real life.

wps528.tmp

LibreOffice 4.4 brings better looks and OpenGL to your presentations – Free and open source office suite LibreOffice was updated today, with its developers calling it “the most beautiful LibreOffice ever.” The highlight of the new release is a far-reaching visual refresh, with menus, toolbars, status bars, and more being updated to look and work better. While LibreOffice retains the traditional menus-and-toolbars approach that Microsoft abandoned in Office 2007, the new version is meant to make those menus and toolbars easier to navigate. The new appearance is most significant on OS X, where a new theme has been made the default.

You Asked: How Can I Save My Phone’s Battery When it’s Cold Out? – If you’ve ever had a hunch your phone’s charge doesn’t last as long in the wintertime, you’re not crazy: Cold temperatures have a nasty effect on batteries. Just like wintertime makes it harder to get your car to start, your phone won’t last as long in cold weather. However, all is not lost — there are some ways to keep your phone as warm and happy as a skier sipping hot cocoa after a day on the slopes.

Security:

Malvertising hits xHamster thanks to recent Adobe 0-day – A massive malvertising campaign leveraging the recent Adobe Flash zero day vulnerability has surfaced on popular* adult site xHamster, analysts say. The attack served the Bedep Trojan to the site’s 500 million viewers a month through a surreptitious exploit on the landing page. It did not take advantage of the Angler exploit kit, where one of the latest Flash zero day flaws was found last week. MalwareBytes researchers said the attack was simple yet effective. “Contrary to the majority of drive-by download attacks which use an exploit kit, this one is very simple and yet effective by embedding landing page and exploit within a rogue ad network,” they wrote in a post. “While malvertising on xHamster is nothing new, this particular campaign is extremely active. “Given that this adult site generates a lot of traffic, the number of infections is going to be huge.”

Pointing up    If you’re going to porn surf, you should only do so using a sandbox environment such as that offered by Sandboxie. You can download the free application here.

wps577.tmp

Stop LinkedIn from sharing which profiles you view – There are a number of reasons that you may be perusing the profiles of others on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, LinkedIn is also good at sharing your profile browsing habits. Each time you visit a profile, the owner may receive an email or an alert on the website about your visit, depending on the type of LinkedIn account they have. If you want to stop this from happening, you’ll have to make an adjustment to your account settings. Here’s how:

Email scammers stole $215M from businesses in 14 months – The Business E-mail Compromise scam is alive and well, and expected to rise both when it comes to the number of victims and the total money loss sustained by them. According to a public service announcement released by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), in the period between October 1, 2013, and December 1, 2014 – 14 months in all – there have been nearly 1200 US and a little over 900 non-US victims of BEC scams, and the total money loss reached nearly $215 million.

Police ransomware scam drives UK teen to suicide – For most people, a ransomware infection is not a huge tragedy: they pay the bogus fine (or not), and ultimately get their computer back either because the criminals unlock it or because they clean up the machine themselves. But for 17-year-old UK schoolboy Joseph Edwards it was the end of the world. The autistic youngster had his computer blocked by the malware downloaded from an email containing a bogus Cheshire Police notice, which said that he visited illegal websites and downloaded images and that he has to pay a £100 fine or risk being prosecuted. The Telegraph reports that his developmental disorder apparently made him believe this poor attempt at blackmail and panic, and in his distressed state he chose to end his life by hanging himself in the family home.

Company News:

Google pulls in $4.76 billion in net income in the last quarter of 2014 – Google just announced its earnings for Q4 of last year, and it’s looking like one of the stronger financial quarters the company has had in some time. Overall revenue for the quarter was $18.1 billion, up from $16.86 billion one year ago, and net income of $4.76 billion was up 40 percent over a year ago, when the company pulled in $3.38 billion in profits. Despite the fact that both those revenue and profit numbers were up a healthy margin over a year ago, it wasn’t quite enough to be Wall Street expectations. Analysts had predicted $18.46 in revenue and earnings per share (EPS) of $7.11, and Google missed on both those fronts —  the actual EPS for the quarter ended up at $6.88.

Amazon’s Mixed Q4 2014 With $29.33B Revenue, And $0.45 EPS – Amazon just released its fiscal Q4 2014 earnings, reporting $29.33 billion in revenue, $214 million in net profit representing $0.45 per share. According to CNBC/Thomson Reuters, analysts expected the company to report earnings of $0.17 per share on $29.67 billion in revenue. While the company largely beat the expectations on earnings, it fell a bit short on revenue. For the past two quarters, Amazon unexpectedly posted losses. Three months ago, the stock market was very harsh with the company, pushing the stock down 10 percent.

Microsoft to invest in Android software maker Cyanogen Inc. – A report in the Wall Street Journal claims Microsoft is planning to plow some money into Cyanogen Inc. as part of a $70 million investment round. While it might seem odd for Microsoft to get in bed with a company that makes Android software, but it’s actually a perfect match. The stated goal of Cyanogen Inc, according to its CEO, is to take Android away from Google. That’s something Microsoft would like to see happen.

Report: Alibaba pumps $10 million into Ouya microconsole to launch in China – On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Ouya microconsole, the underpowered gaming system that has had a notable lack of major launches and announcements in recent months, might have some life in it yet—and that’s all thanks to Alibaba. The Chinese online merchant, fresh off its record-breaking American IPO in September, reportedly threw a relative pittance of $10 million at the Android-powered game console company “last month.” The report claimed that the cash offer was made in exchange for using Ouya’s marketplace and software library as a primary feature in Alibaba’s eventual set-top box for Chinese living rooms.

Games and Entertainment:

Everyday life can make an awesome video game – I’ve spent a lot of time saving the world from monsters and engaging in intergalactic warfare, but there are few games that let me experience the drama and excitement of everyday life. Life is Strange does just that. It stars a high school girl in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, and many of the key moments of the first episode deal with typical teenage dilemmas: drugs, relationships, figuring out who you are as a person. It’s incredibly refreshing to play a game that’s so fixated on everyday, modern life. And it’s even more amazing considering it’s also a game about time travel.

Life is Strange

Life is Strange

Nickelodeon to introduce its own video subscription service – As consumers continue to drop traditional cable in favor of various video streaming services, some companies and networks are (finally) accepting reality and getting on board with their own offerings. HBO announced its own video subscription service plans in the recent past, and consumers recently scored another option with the introduction of Sling TV. Viacom, which has notoriously been picky about where and when its shows are available online, is about to do its own dabbling in the world of video subscription services, and it’ll be doing so through Nickelodeon.

Dish will offer a Reverse AutoHop for the Super Bowl, showing only the commercials – For many viewers, the commercials run during the Super Bowl are more fun to watch than the game. So the day after this Sunday’s game, Dish Network customers using the company’s Hopper DVRs will be able to activate a special Reverse AutoHop feature. You guessed right: It will skip through the entire game to play just the commercials. “This day is about two things: football and commercials,” said Dish senior VP Vivek Khemka in a press release, “and for good reason—both are entertaining and our customers love them.”

February PlayStation Plus Free Game Lineup Revealed – Heads up, PlayStation gamers. Sony on Thursday announced the February PlayStation Plus lineup of free games, which will be available on Tuesday. On PlayStation 4$399.99 at Dell, you’ll receive “one of the coolest games from last year” — the sci-fi-themed strategy/action RPG Transistor, Sony said. PS4 owners will also get the Greek mythology action platformer Apotheon the day it hits the PlayStation Store. PS3 gamers, meanwhile, will get Yakuza 4, an open world adventure game set in the Tokyo underground, as well as the action game Thief, which promises “the most challenging heists, the most inaccessible loot, [and] the best kept secrets.”

wps5D6.tmp

Steam users have earned more than $50 million selling in-game hats and maps – Since Valve launched its community content marketplace Steam Workshop in 2011, creators have earned more than $57 million. According to the company, that money was made by more than 1,500 creators spread out across 75 countries. Steam Workshop is essentially a market where you can buy user-made items for games like Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. These items can include things like maps or new character skins, which help extend the life of popular games. “When we launched the Workshop late in 2011, we expected that it would grow, but not that it would grow this much, this quickly,” Valve says.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Comcast’s “asshole” problem – After Ricardo Brown called Comcast to cancel his TV service, a Comcast employee updated Brown’s account so that his next bill was addressed to “Asshole Brown.” The story has, predictably, spread quickly across the internet. People are, predictably, outraged. Comcast is, predictably, very very sorry. On the one hand, it would be unfair to read too much into this single incident. Comcast is a big company with many employees. Sometimes an employee does something dumb. That doesn’t mean that management approved of — or even knew about — the employee’s actions. On the other hand, I think the incident does say something about the culture Comcast management has fostered. Comcast prices its products in a way that puts its representatives in an adversarial relationship with customers. That makes this kind of bitterness more likely.

wps616.tmp

Your shopping habits are one in a million, literally – If what we watch is a touchy subject, what we buy is even more intimate and revealing. Programs like Facebook Beacon, designed to advertise users’ recent purchases to their friends, have been widely reviled. But the study, published today in Science, isn’t about personal sharing. It’s based on testing what the researchers call unicity: the odds that if you know fragments of a person’s shopping history, you can match them against a much larger amount of data, uncovering everything else they’ve bought. As it turns out, those odds are very high.

Data caps can’t be used to snuff out competition, Canada ruling says – Two wireless carriers in Canada have been ordered to stop exempting their mobile TV services from data caps in a ruling that targets discrimination against competing online video services. In the US, AT&T has been charging online content providers for the right to exempt their services from data caps. (AT&T also argued in 2012 that it could limit the use of Apple’s FaceTime to certain types of data plans.) T-Mobile exempts music services it offers with partners from data caps, but it also exempts music services from competitors. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has fought wireless carriers over their throttling of unlimited data plans, but the status of net neutrality rules for wireless is unsettled.

FCC chairman mocks industry claims that customers don’t need faster Internet – The Federal Communications Commission today voted 3-2 along party lines to change the definition of broadband to at least 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream. The vote was no surprise given Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Democratic majority. But Wheeler put on a show just before the vote by contrasting Internet service providers’ marketing claims with their statements to the government. “Let’s parse out what they say in their lobbying with us and what they say when they’re talking to consumers,” said Wheeler, a former cable and wireless industry lobbyist himself. While Verizon told the FCC that consumers are satisfied with 4Mbps/1Mbps and that “a higher benchmark would serve no purpose,” they push customers to buy much faster speeds, which cost more, Wheeler pointed out

Intel helps fund 13-year-old’s Lego braille printer – Last year we told you about Bragio, an inexpensive braille printer that a 12-year-old entered in a science fair. Now Shubham Banerjee’s creation is getting ready to go into production, thanks in part to Intel. The chip maker — more specifically its venture capital arm — has decided to help Shubham turn his incredible Lego Mindstorms creation into a sellable product. Intel is providing additional help beyond an injection of funds. They’ve also hooked Shubham up with their low-power Edison board to develop a new model based on his original Lego design.

wps665.tmp

Something to think about:

“The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory.”

–      Paul Fix

Today’s Free Downloads:

Windows User Manager – Windows User Manager is the free desktop tool to easily and quickly manage all the User accounts on your Windows system.

On starting, it lists all user accounts along with following details for each user:

User Name

Account Type (Administrator/Normal User/Guest)

Account Status (Active/Disabled)

Password Status (Pwd Set/Not Set/Expired)

Last Logon Time

You can select a user from the list then Enable/Disable or Delete that account with just a click of button. This will be useful in recent systems (Win7, Win8 etc.) where built-in Administrator account is disabled by default and using this tool you can quickly enable it.

wps6A4.tmp

LibreOffice Productivity Suite – LibreOffice was developed to be a productivity suite that is compatible with other major office suites, and available on a variety of platforms. It is free software and therefore free to download, use and distribute.

LibreOffice Writer – LibreOffice Writer lets you design and produce text documents that can include graphics, tables, or charts. You can then save the documents in a variety of formats, including the standardized OpenDocument format (ODF), Microsoft Word .doc format, or HTML. And you can easily export your document to the Portable Document Format (PDF).

Writing – LibreOffice Writer lets you create both basic documents, such as memos, faxes, letters , resumes and merge documents, as well as long and complex or multi-part documents, complete with bibliographies, reference tables and indexes.

LibreOffice Writer also includes such useful features as a spellchecker, a thesaurus, AutoCorrect, and hyphenation as well as a variety of templates for almost every purpose. You can also create your own templates using the wizards.

wps6D4.tmp

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

What do China, FBI and UK have in common? All three want backdoors in Western technology – The Chinese government wants backdoors added to all technology imported into the Middle Kingdom as well as all its source code handed over.

Suppliers of hardware and software must also submit to invasive audits, the New York Times reports.

The new requirements, detailed in a 22-page document approved late last year, are ostensibly intended to strengthen the cybersecurity of critical Chinese industries. Ironically, backdoors are slammed by computer security experts because the access points are ideal for hackers to exploit as well as g-men.

Foreign companies are concerned that the fresh regulations will effectively push them out of one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing markets. Western businesses criticized the policies as protectionist, and see it as the latest salvo in an ongoing standoff between China and the US over the control of technology. The US Chamber of Commerce has called for talks on the matter.

China wanting backdoors in US-built hardware and software will appall privacy and security activists – but it’s in line with the backdoors requested by senior FBI figures and UK Prime Minister David Cameron: the Feds and Brit spies would love to be able to pull information out of phones and other devices as they please.

“The FBI seems to have the same plan as the Chinese except they don’t even pretend to audit the software,” noted Tor developer and privacy activist Jacob Appelbaum.

The infosec expert known as The Grugq added: “China and FBI unite to demand reduced security for iPhones. Who knew they had so much common ground?”

A Year After Reform Push, NSA Still Collects Bulk Domestic Data, Still Lacks Way to Assess Value – The presidential advisory board on privacy that recommended a slew of domestic surveillance reforms in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations reported today that many of its suggestions have been agreed to “in principle” by the Obama administration, but in practice, very little has changed.

Most notably, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board called attention to the obvious fact that one full year after it concluded that the government’s bulk collection of metadata on domestic telephone calls is illegal and unproductive, the program continues apace.

“The Administration accepted our recommendation in principle. However, it has not ended the bulk telephone records program on its own, opting instead to seek legislation to create an alternative to the existing program,” the report notes.

And while Congress has variously debated, proposed, neutered, and failed to agree on any action, the report’s authors point the finger of blame squarely at President Obama. “It should be noted that the Administration can end the bulk telephone records program at any time, without congressional involvement,” the report says.

Obama said a year ago that he favored an end to the government collection of those records if an alternative — such as keeping the records at the telephone companies, or with a third party — still allowed them to be searchable by the government. The White House was recently said to be “still considering” the matter.

DOJ inspector general: reporter’s hacking claims can’t be substantiated – According to a US Department of Justice Inspector General report released today, an investigation “was not able to substantiate the allegations that [Sharyl] Attkisson’s computers were subject to remote intrusion by the FBI, other government personnel, or otherwise.” The report was introduced into the Senate record at the confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.

Attkisson, who has written a book about her experiences trying to cover the Obama White House which includes the allegation of hacking, has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, and the Postmaster General for the alleged hacking of her home and work computers. Today, Attkisson testified at Lynch’s confirmation hearing.

The report from the DoJ’s Office of the Inspector General casts a different light on Attkisson’s allegations:

The OIG found after inspecting Attkisson’s personal computer that the episode she recorded video of—in which the contents of a Word document were being deleted off her screen—was caused by a stuck backspace key. And examination of Attkisson’s iMac found that file metadata for the computer’s logs had been altered by whoever inspected it. “The OIG’s forensic examination further found what appeared to be searches and queries performed by an examiner with knowledge of computer logs,” the report noted.

“However, it appeared that the searches and queries were conducted while the computer was in operation and without write protecting the drive, which altered file information. This method of forensic examination is not forensically sound nor is it in accordance with best practices.” And when the OIG asked for a copy of the report from the technician who did the examination, Attkisson said, “My attorney says our material isn’t yet in a form that’s ready to share.”

Google, others could be ‘accomplices’ to hate speech under French law – France is preparing to draft a new law, and under it Google, Twitter, and other tech companies like them would be considered accomplices to hate speech if extremist messages are hosted on their services. The announcement was made on Tuesday by France’s President Francois Hollande, and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve will be traveling to the United States soon in an effort to build favor among tech companies. This follows the nation’s tragic terror attack earlier in January, and the subsequent efforts to squash extremist communications.

Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, France has turned its attention towards the Internet and the hate speech it harbors — as well as the recruitment methods terrorists use online to draw others into their dark web. President Hollande wants to see companies push back against such hate speech online.

Advertisements

2 Comments

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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 30, 2015

  1. On the un-encrypted tracking tool for Chrome, thought you might find it interesting about your own WordPress blog:
    “Thanks wordpress.com for supporting HTTPS, but since some of your site’s trackers don’t, it breaks your security! Fix that. #trackerSSL”