Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 3, 2015

Take These 4 Steps Before Making Your House a Smart Home;  7 smartphone rules changed this week;  How to unlock your Android device with your face;  Microsoft to support Raspberry Pi 2 with a free version of Windows 10;  Office Online vs. Office 365: What’s free, what’s not;  Photos: A closer look at the Raspberry Pi 2;  Xprt provides free tech support on your iPhone;  Build your own home media center: Customising Kodi;  Yet ANOTHER Flash 0-day vuln patch looming;  Ransomware attack freezes backups;  Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are paying to get around Adblock Plus;  These Are the 50 Most Anticipated Video Games of 2015;  Macrium Reflect FREE Edition.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Take These 4 Steps Before Making Your House a Smart Home – Companies selling smart home products are quick to say how easy it is to connect their devices to the Internet. And while most of the time they’re correct, they are sidestepping a big, thorny pitfall: namely, your home’s wireless network. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been working on turning my house into smart home, and have learned that nothing is more important — and infuriating — than my house’s Wi-Fi. Here are four lessons I’ve learned so far:

How to unlock your Android device with your face – Android provides a plethora of ways to unlock your phone—a PIN, a password, a pattern gesture, or a typical, insecure swipe. But did you know that you can unlock your Android phone with your face? Here’s how to set it up.

7 smartphone rules changed this week – Federal regulators have been throwing their weight around lately, and mostly to good effect for consumers and users of mobile technology. The net effect of their recent activism adds up to a whole new set of rules and protections for all of us. Here are the ramifications of seven new rules.

Facebook’s new Privacy Policy gives it more reach – Facebook changing its privacy policies is nothing new, but once in a while it manages to hit a nerve that causes privacy advocates and governments agencies to take notice. Especially when Facebook does so rather silently. That might be the case last weekend when the social networking giant made some modifications to its Privacy Policy change that, though still in plain English, is somewhat ambiguously worded in such a way that it can be open to interpretation and abuse. By Facebook, of course.

Office Online vs. Office 365: What’s free, what’s not, and what you really need – Free Office Online is a great deal, but paying for an Office 365 subscription gives you some hard-to-beat perks. We’ll help you decide which way to go.

Microsoft to support Raspberry Pi 2 with a free version of Windows 10: A full Windows PC for just $35? – It’s not clear exactly what version of Windows 10 will be available, but Microsoft is handing it out for free to the Maker community through its Windows Developer Program for IoT later this year. With the pricing of the Raspberry Pi 2 and Microsoft’s free copy of Windows 10, you could have a full PC for just $35 later this year. We’ll have to wait to hear more information from Microsoft on how Windows 10 will function on the Raspberry Pi 2, but the company says it’s planning to reveal more “in the coming months.” It’s likely that this version of Windows 10 will only run modern universal apps, as the Raspberry Pi 2 includes an ARM-based processor.

Photos: A closer look at the Raspberry Pi 2 – The next version of the Raspberry Pi launched today – with a quad-core processor, 1GB of memory and the promise of running six times faster than previous models. Despite the improvements the Pi 2 is compatible with both the hardware and software of earlier models, as well as sharing the $35 price tag of the less-powerful, first-generation model B+. Speaking at the launch of the board, Eben Upton, co-creator of the Pi, said the improvements raised performance to the point where the machine could be used as a general-purpose PC.

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Use Chartcube to analyze spreadsheet data on your iPad – Chartcube promises a new way for seeing and sharing spreadsheet data on an iPad. Democratizing spreadsheet data so middle managers and their managers can use it for actionable business information has been a challenge since the dawn of the PC spreadsheet. Chartcube transforms spreadsheet data into a visual and interactive “cube” with just a few taps. This shows an example of a Chartcube:

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Why do BYOD smartphones and tablets get remotely wiped? – Do you BYOD? If you do then be aware that you could find your smartphone or tablet wiped without warning for one of a number of reasons. Plenty of people – one every three minutes is the claim made by one report – wake up or walk into a meeting or try to contact a friend or family member only to find their device wiped. But why are these devices being wiped? Here are some of the common – and not so common – reasons:

Build your own home media center: Customising Kodi – Want to build one PC to rule all your living room media needs? In part two of our guide, we go hands-on with media software Kodi, taking you through Blu-ray functionality, media management and customisation.

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Screenshot by Craig Simms/CNET

Recycle that old Android device into a web-based security camera – There are so many reasons why you might need a security camera. There are also a lot of reasons why purchasing an actual security system might not be cost effective. So, if you’re looking for a simple way to get a single camera security system up and running, and you happen to have a spare Android device lying around, there’s an app that you need to look into called IP Webcam. The IP Webcam app uses your device’s built-in camera, adds a lightweight web server, and allows you to connect to the camera through that server. It’s simple and effective. Here are just a few of the things that you do through the web interface:

Kraftwerk wants to put a power plant in your pocket – kraftwerk’s fuel cells are powered by gas, the same gas you can get from lighter refills or camping gas. As such, you won’t have problems finding a way to refill the pack anywhere in the world. No more struggling with different power sockets or even USB ports. It only takes 3 seconds to refill, which will be enough to power iPhones, smartphones, tablets, and even GoPros. When full, it can charge an iPhone 11 times over, though usual USB charging rates apply. Now for the bitter pill. kraftwerk currently only exists as a Kickstarter campaign, having only finished prototyping last November. If all goes well, it will ship to backers in December. All early bird offers are gone, so the lowest you can pledge is $99 for one or $139 with 12 cartridges in the package. It is close to reaching twice its $500,000 funding goal, which goes to show how much appeal this idea has with today’s mobile users.

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Xprt provides free tech support on your iPhone – A new iPhone app called Xprt allows you to chat with tech experts and receive free tech advice directly from your phone. After launching the app and creating a free account, you’re given the option to get technical support from an “Xprt” or request computer shopping advice. The app will request some details about the issue you need help with, then place you in a chat with someone who can walk you through fixing the issue.

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Down go tablet shipments — for the first time ever – Total worldwide shipments of tablets and so-called 2-in-1 devices (hybrids of laptops and tablets) during the fourth quarter of 2014 hit 76.1 million units, declining by 3.2 percent compared to the 78.6 million tablets that headed to store shelves in the fourth quarter of 2013, IDC reported Monday. This was the first time that tablet shipments have declined since a wave of devices, including Apple’s iPad, ignited the market in 2010, IDC said.

Microsoft slashes $100 off Surface Pro 3 tablet price for limited time – The price cut is good through February 7, though the base configuration is the only version that retains its original price during the sale.

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The One Huge Thing Everybody Gets Wrong About Tablets – The news Monday that tablet sales dropped off for the first time last quarter are bound to accelerate the “tablets are dead” punditry we’ve seen around the web over the past few months. But the vast majority of commentators writing about tablets get one big thing wrong: The tablet market isn’t one big market, it’s many small ones.

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Security:

Trouble comes in threes: Yet ANOTHER Flash 0-day vuln patch looming – Adobe plans to patch Flash yet again after yet another zero-day vulnerability in the web video software leaves PCs prone to hijacking. An upcoming update to squash the critical bug makes it three patches in just two weeks for Flash. Adobe expects to release the Flash Player update sometime this week (beginning 1 February). Until then, uninstall Flash or enable click-to-play in your browser. And, we reckon, keep it that way.

How to Enable Click-to-Play Plugins in Every Web Browser – Most web browsers load Flash and other plug-in content as soon as you open a web page. Enable “click-to-play” plug-ins and your browser will load a placeholder image instead — click it to actually download and view the content. Click-to-play allows you to conserve download bandwidth, improve page load times, reduce CPU usage, and extend laptop battery life. This feature gained popularity with Flashblock for Firefox and is now built into modern browsers.

SaveMe Malware Infiltrates Google Play – Despite technological advancements, most of our online experience is built on trust. We trust that app stores like Google Play will weed out the baddies, and we trust security companies to keep us safe. In January, researchers at Lookout discovered a case where both of those assumptions proved false, when malware snuck onto Google Play disguised as a secure backup service called SaveMe.

Ransomware attack freezes backups with crypto key swap – Detailed by security consultancy High-Tech Bridge, the attacks start with an attack on a web site that yeilds acess to a database server. Once in, attackers change the encryption settings used by the database and store the key on an HTTPS server somewhere, an operation that apparently escapes some admins’ attention. To pull off the attack, the crims remove the key from the remote server, at which point the website operator notices their site is down. Not long afterwards an email demanding cash for access to the encryption key.

Hacker hijacks wireless Foscam baby monitor, talks and freaks out nanny – This is the third time news has circulated about some jerk hijacking a wireless Foscam camera/baby monitor and made his virtual intrusion known by talking. Please change the default password!

Over 99 percent of About.com links vulnerable to XSS, XFS iframe attack – A security researcher disclosed Monday over 99 percent of About.com’s topic links and domains are vulnerable to open XSS and Iframe Injection (XFS) attacks.

Sys admins, data scientists, analysts: How attackers’ sights have switched to the tech-savvy – With so many more routes into sensitive data, the pool of potential targets for computer criminals has widened to take in even those with considerable IT expertise, according to Darktrace director of technology Dave Palmer.

Company News:

Google’s U.S. Search Ex-Mobiles Drops Below 75% As Yahoo Makes More Firefox Gains – It may look like a drop in the ocean to some — especially given the caveats we detail below — but the numbers, published by StatCounter, show that Yahoo’s deal to take over as the default search option on Firefox is very slowly bearing fruit, with the company nearly tripling its market share on that browser in the U.S. in the last three months. Yahoo is now up to over 28% of all searches, versus just under 10% in November 2014. Google, meanwhile, is now below 64% of searches from the Firefox browser based on desktop, console and tablet (but not mobile handset) searches.

Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are paying to get around Adblock Plus – Some of the web’s biggest companies have been paying to get around Adblock Plus, according to a new report from Financial Times. Microsoft’s Bing search ads and Taboola’s “recommended links” box are among the ads that are currently slipping through Adblock Plus’s filter, and FT confirms that it’s the intentional result of a paid deal between the makers of Adblock and the owners of the ads. According to FT sources, the companies have paid Eyeo (the maker of Adblock Plus) to be added to an official whitelist, which allows them to bypass the plug-in. Google has a similar deal, as has been previously reported.

Pointing up     Memo to self – remember to expand upon the definition of coercion in action.

Intel buys Lantiq for connected home networking – Intel acquired Lantiq, which makes broadband and networking gear, in a move that broadens its connected home efforts. With the move, Intel becomes the latest tech giant to hop on the connected home bandwagon. Samsung has said its appliances will be connected to the Internet and tied together. Google owns Nest and everyone from Apple to Microsoft has some kind of connected home play.

Alibaba And Lending Club Launch Financing Program For U.S. Businesses – Alibaba.com and peer-to-peer financing site Lending Club have inked a strategic partnership designed to get more U.S. businesses to buy inventory from the e-commerce giant’s wholesale marketplace. The two will offer a new financial service called the Alibaba.com e-Credit Line that will let American companies apply for credit lines of $5,000 to $300,000 through the site, which they can then use to make purchases there. The program will eventually expand beyond the U.S.

FCC commissioner calls out Dish for taking $3 billion in small business discounts – Dish is trying to cash in over $3 billion in discounts meant to help “very small businesses” during wireless spectrum auctions, but FCC commissioner Ajit Pai isn’t having it. According to The Wall Street Journal, Pai intends to petition commission chairman Tom Wheeler to investigate Dish’s eligibility for these discounts. Pai, who’s been protective over the FCC’s small business discounts in the past, says that allowing a large company like Dish to receive such a large discount “makes a mockery” of the program.

Sony sells its online gaming subsidiary, which will now also make Xbox One games – Sony Online Entertainment has been sold to a third-party investment firm, and the former Sony subsidiary will now make games for Xbox One, mobile and other platforms.

Google reportedly plans to take on Uber with ride-hailing service – Google plans to take on Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and all the other ride-sharing services by offering its own similar product, according to a report from Bloomberg. The company “most likely” has been working on the service in conjunction with its driverless car project, the publication said, and David Drummond — Google’s chief legal officer and senior vice president of corporate development, who also serves on Uber’s board — recently notified Uber about the possibility it would launch such a product, Bloomberg said.

Games and Entertainment:

Fan remakes Resident Evil 2 in Unreal Engine 3 as a learning project – Typically, if you’re learning how to use a new game engine you’ll go through a few tutorials and create some simple games to help understand the concepts and workflow. Developer Rod Lima took that idea a step further and decided to fully recreate Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 in Unreal Engine 3. Lima saw the game remake as the perfect way to learn UnrealScript, the scripting language that Unreal Engine 3 relies upon. The finished project is of such good quality Capcom could pick this up and release it has a HD version of the game tomorrow.

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These Are the 50 Most Anticipated Video Games of 2015 – These are the biggest games for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS due this year. Highlights include Bloodborne, The Legend of Zelda, Halo 5: Guardians and Batman: Arkham Knight.

Madden’s simulation of the Super Bowl predicted the exact final score – EA Sports has been running Super Bowl simulations using Madden for more than a decade now with a respectable record of nine correct predictions and three false ones. However, this year it didn’t just pick the winning team, it also foresaw that the Patriots would be trailing in the third quarter only for Tom Brady to deliver a game-clinching pass to Julian Edelman for a final score of 28-24. Yahoo Tech notes that the simulator also got some of the finer details right, including the first team to score, Brady’s number of touchdowns — and was also only 27 yards off nailing the quarterback’s total passing yardage.

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Monopoly is being sold with real money inside – Toymaker Hasbro is celebrating the 80th anniversary of Monopoly’s introduction in France by replacing the fake money in 80 sets with real cash. The sets will be distributed among 30,000 specially branded editions of the game, with only one of these replacing every note on the board with real money (a total windfall of €20,580 or $23,348). Ten additional sets will contain €300 ($340) in twenties, fifties, and a single €100 bill while 69 other sets will offer €150 ($170) in tens and twenties.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Too much phone, tablet use may gimp kids’ development – Back in the days, our folks would tell us that watching TV would turn us into brainless zombies. Today, that might have some truth as well when it comes to heavy use of mobile devices. Boston University Medical Center researchers are now questioning the effects that these devices have, especially on children below 2 years of age, theorizing that a heavy dose of mobile could, in fact, be detrimental to social, emotional, and even mental skills that can only be learned through human-human interaction.

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School suspends boy for alleged Hobbit Ring invisibility threats – Technically Incorrect: In Texas, they do not take kindly, it seems, to fantasy threats from 9-year-olds. In this case, Aiden Steward allegedly threatened another child that he could make them disappear with his One Ring.

The 10 most common misconceptions about space – Space is a difficult concept to represent on film, and not just because of floating hair and upside-down camera angles. The concept of space, a low- or no-gravity environment with no atmosphere and all sorts of foreign dangers, is difficult to portray accurately and still complete an engaging story. Still, some of cinema’s most beloved “facts” have wormed their way into the popular understanding of space. This must be brought to a swift and merciless end.

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Consumers Vs. Data Science Bad Guys – It’s interesting as hell that, as the world continues to spew vitriol at the creepy collection and abuse of data by governments and big businesses, big data and data science companies are still kicking ass. Fortunately for these businesses, right now governments and Facebook are the bad guys, providing super useful and convenient cover. That will change. The emergence of location-based data gathered by our mobile phone providers, social data, behavioral data, Internet of things-generated data – combined with the use and abuse thereof – represents just the small beginnings of many nasty, uncomfortable problems that will fester over time. A war is coming. The good news? Consumers will win.

RadioShack through the ages: 8 adorable images from the fallen giant’s vault – RadioShack first opened its doors in 1921 to serve radio officers stationed on ships in Boston Harbor. Today, Bloomberg is reporting that RadioShack is on the verge of collapse. Intrigued? Then join me on a tour of vintage RadioShack moments. This first slide was shot in 1931 at a store in Boston. Then as today, customers visited RadioShack to listen to audio equipment before making a purchase.

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This first slide was shot in 1931 at a store in Boston.

‘Freedom Clip’ gets you past Keurig’s K-Cup rules – If you’ve recently purchased a Keurig coffee machine, you know that many third-party pods won’t work in your machine. Protected by DRM, Keurig tamped the cottage industry that popped up around their machines with their latest kit, to the dismay of just about everyone. A new add-on might get you around Keurig’s rules, though. The Freedom Clip snaps into your existing Keurig, and allows for those now-bootleg K-Cups to be used in your new Keurig machine. Next time you’re standing in front of your Keurig, thinking of so many curse words because you’re not enjoying your favorite non-Keurig K-Cup, keep this article in mind. Or, be pro-active and click the link below to get yourself a little freedom.

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Something to think about:

“Computer games don’t affect kids, I mean if Pac Man affected us as kids, we’d all be running around in darkened rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive music.”

–     Marcus Brigstocke

Today’s Free Downloads:

System Explorer – Detailed information about Tasks, Processes, Modules, Startups, IE Addons, Uninstallers, Windows, Services, Drivers, Connections and Opened Files. Portable version also available.

System Explorer is free, awards winning software for exploration and management of System Internals. This small software includes many useful tools which help you Keep Your System Under Control. With System Explorer You get also fast access to File Database which help you to determine unwanted processes or threats. System Explorer is translated into 21 languages and is available for download in installer and portable version.

Features:

Detailed information about Tasks, Processes, Modules,

Startups, IE Addons, Uninstallers, Windows, Services,

Drivers, Connections and Opened Files.

Easy check of suspicious files via VirusTotal, Jotti

service or our File Database.

Easy monitoring of processes activities and System changes.

Usage graphs of important System resources.

Tray Hint with detailed System and Battery status

WMI Browser and System Additional Info

Multilanguage Support

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Macrium Reflect FREE Edition – With Macrium Reflect Free Edition you’ll be able to easily make an accurate and reliable image of your HDD or individual partitions. Using this image you can restore the entire disk, partition or individual files and folders in the event of a partial or complete system loss.

File Backup:

Create a single backup file of one or more folders on your hard disk

Incremental and Differential backups.

Include and exclude filter ensures that you only backup relevant files.

Browse the backup file as a virtual FAT32 hard drive in Windows Explorer.

Files in use by Windows (such as Outlook .pst files) are backed up even when locked!

Multiple compression levels.

Backup files can be saved to local or network drives or optical storage (CD, DVD)

Optionally exclude system and hidden files.

Supports Incremental and Differential backups.

Password protect backups to prevent unauthorized access.

Restore specific files or the entire backup.

Restore to any location.

Disk Imaging:

Create a single backup file of a complete hard disk

Create a single backup file of one or many partitions

Incremental and differential images

Restore a partition to a different type. e.g. a logical partition can be restored as a bootable primary partition

Resize the restored partition. A hard disk upgrade can easily be performed by increasing the partition to fill the new disk.

Track 0 (The Master Boot Record) is saved with all backups.

Backup files can be saved to local or network drives or optical storage (CD, DVD).

Disk image can be created whilst Windows is in use. A special driver ensures that the disk image represents an exact point in time and will not be affected by disk access that may occur during the backup process.

Verify images. Images (Backup files) can be separately verified or automatically verified before restore.

System files such as ‘pagefile.sys’ and ‘hiberfil.sys’ are not included in the image. This reduces the final backup file size.

Three compression levels can be selected to optimize between file size and speed.

Password protect images to prevent unauthorized access.

AES 256 bit encryption for ultimate security.

Set image filenames automatically.

Linux based rescue CD

Bart PE rescue CD plug-in

Windows PE 2.1 rescue CD with Windows boot menu.

Save your backup definitions as XML files and execute them with a single click from your desktop.

Includes VBScript integration and a VBScript generator for unparalleled control of the backup process.

Scheduling Features:

Schedule daily, weekly or monthly.

Unattended completion.

Automatic incremental / differential images.

Automatic disk space management for local / remote hard drives.

Full logging of all backup operations. HTML log reports are generated and can be viewed using Reflect’s built in browser.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA still collecting Americans’ phone records data, despite not knowing the program’s worth – The US government continues to collect the phone records of millions of Americans, one year after a White House privacy board recommended the controversial program should shut down.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), whose recent efforts were to provide reform recommendations in the wake of the NSA surveillance leaks, said the Obama administration had made “substantial progress” in implementing its recommendations.

But the report said the government had fallen short of acting on one of the more controversial domestic spying programs, the bulk phone records collection program, which it said could be discontinued “at any time without congressional involvement.”

Instead the government has moved in the opposite direction by seeking legislation for new government access to phone records, the assessment report wrote.

The board said the program “raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties” and has “shown only limited value.”

Court tosses warrant where FBI cut Internet, posed as hotel repairmen – A federal magistrate is tossing a Las Vegas search warrant that led to the arrest of as many as eight people accused of running an illegal, online bookmaking operation last year from posh villas at Caesar’s Palace. The court found that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s warrant application was “fatally flawed” and was “supplemented with material omissions.”

To obtain a search warrant, the authorities cut DSL access and posed as the cable guy, gathering evidence along the way that made up the basis for the bulk of a search warrant that resulted in the arrest of high-stakes gambler Paul Phua, his son Darren, and others.

Alleged online gambling ring broken up after agents posed as the cable guy.

Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen ruled that the failure to mention that the original case was born from the “ruse” meant the judge who signed a search warrant this summer didn’t have all of the facts. Nowhere in the search warrant request, however, did the authorities mention that they allegedly saw illegal wagering on computers after posing as technicians who in reality briefly disconnected the DSL.

“The investigators’ suspicions that Phua was engaged in illegal sports betting at Caesars Palace may be borne out by the evidence recovered in the execution of the warrant,” Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen ruled “However, a search warrant is never validated by what its execution recovers.”

Governments must realize limits of control on cloud data, encryption – Governments need to realize there are limits to how much they should exert control on issues that have global impact, such as cloud data and encryption.

The U.K. government, for instance, proposed a ban on data encryption that prevented digital communication from being monitored and read by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Prime Minister David Cameron said he would propose new legislation, if he won the next general election, in a a move deemed to potentially impact messaging platforms that encrypt their data, including apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat, as well as Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime.

There are, however, already legislations that allow the government to monitor electronic communications for national security, said Rob Bratby, managing partner of Olswang Asia, where the Singapore-based lawyer advises on issues related telecom, media, and technology in the region.

He noted that the U.K.’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 was designed to enable the government to conduct surveillance, including accessing an individual’s electronic communications, if they followed the correct processes and procedures. It sets the boundaries within which the government can listen to conversations and requires proper approval before it is allowed to do so.

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