Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 6, 2015

Why a dumb security video will help you work smarter, not harder;  10 of the most useful Google Now cards for professionals;  10 easy ways to ruin your smartphone;  Android tweaks that bring a taste of iOS 8;  How to recover lost photos from your camera or phone;  Dropbox paves a smoother path from Web to desktop;  Raspberry Pi 2 hands-on;  Why Evolve OS could win you over to Linux;  Skype fails: 5 of the worst problems and how to fix them;  Review: Intel’s Broadwell mini PC;  Autoruns for Windows (free);  Netflix, Hulu and more are dominating traditional TV;  Anthem hack: Seven ways to protect yourself right now.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2 Why a dumb security video will help you work smarter, not harder – The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) released a new video on Thursday afternoon, “Recognise. Report.” And it is, to reflect a word that cropped up more than once in people’s responses on Twitter, cringeworthy. Information security professionals should indeed cringe at this crass portrayal of the problems we face. But information security professionals are not the target audience, nor are the clever people who read this column. No, this video is meant to be a conversation starter, and the target audience is the vast number of ordinary citizens in offices, factories, and workshops across this vast brown land. People whose knowledge of anything cyber extends no further than whatever they’ve seen on TV news and in bad movies. You know the ones.


10 easy ways to ruin your smartphone – One minute you have an indispensable high-tech tool… and the next minute, you have a doorstop. Avoid the cost and inconvenience of a damaged smartphone by following a few best practices.

10 of the most useful Google Now cards for professionals – Google recently added support for 40 new apps in its Google Now service. Here are the Google Now cards that professionals should pay attention to.

YouTube TV tips: 6 ways to bring the streaming video site into your living room – If you know where to look, YouTube can be a treasure trove of longform content, from concerts and stand-up specials to full-length movies and documentaries. And with the right tools, you can even string shorter YouTube videos—such as comedy skits, educational videos and late-night TV bits—into marathon viewing sessions. Best of all, none of it costs a dime, so it’s a great way for cord cutters to round out their video options. For this week’s column, I’ve rounded up a handful of tips to make the most out of YouTube:

This quirky new video service streams cult classics, schlocky gems, and more for free – Ever wish you could watch the Weird Al Show again? A new streaming service called ShoutFactoryTV is bringing the cult classic and several others to smartphones, set-top boxes, and the web. ShoutFactory’s library isn’t huge, and much of it’s forgettable, but dig around and you’ll find a few gems, including old Jackie Chan films, episodes of Abbott & Costello, and some classic Twilight Zone. The service also includes plenty of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (and a fair share of B-movies with no parody attached).


How to recover lost photos from your camera or phone – Your precious photos disappeared before you could move them to your PC or cloud storage. Here’s how to get them back.

Android tweaks that bring a taste of iOS 8 – iOS 8 brought a lot of fancy new stuff to the iPhone, some of which seem like a good idea for any mobile platform. But rather than gnash their teeth in envy, Android users can still get some of those benefits on their smartphones as well. No, we won’t be theming Android to make it look like Apple’s smartphone. There are a lot of those already out there. What we will do here is to take a look at some of those nice features and show how Android lovers can them too.

Dropbox paves a smoother path from Web to desktop – On Thursday, Dropbox announced a new “Open” button that will arrive soon and should make things considerably easier. The button will appear when a user previews a file on the web that also exists in a Dropbox folder on their PC. Instead of opening it in their browser, it will open it in the native application on their computer. The WebSocket protocol is among the technologies powering the new capability, which will appear in the next version of the Dropbox desktop app rolling out to users over the next few weeks. The new version is also available now as a download on the Dropbox site.

Raspberry Pi 2 hands-on: Is the souped-up board ready to take on the PC? – The Pi’s co-creator Eben Upton said the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B is the first Pi with the power to be used as a household PC, so we decided to test how it stands up as an everyday computer. We tested the Pi 2’s performance when browsing the web, opening documents, checking email and cloud storage, watching video and other tasks regularly carried out on a PC.


Web browsing: Raspberry Pi 2 – Model B – The most widely-used piece of software on PCs is typically the browser, so it’s reassuring the Pi 2 can navigate the web with relative ease. Raspbian’s Epiphany web browser took just over five seconds to load initially but afterwards started in a relatively nippy 2.3 seconds.

How to Take a Screenshot – If you need to take a screenshot or (or 10), this is the tutorial you need. We run down everything you need to know about capturing screenshots, no matter the platform—Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and other mobile operating systems. Most of the tips require nothing more than the operating system itself—they’ve all got built-in methods of capturing a screen. But there’s a wealth of third-party software tools that will take your screen-grab game up a notch. We’ll even show you some of the tools that make it simple to take an image within the Web browser, arguably the most used software on any desktop or laptop PC anyway.

JustWatch Debuts A New Search Engine For Cord Cutters – The idea, explains co-founder and CEO David Croyé, is to help people figure out where to watch a movie or show without having to log into every service provider you’re using and perform a search. With JustWatch, the search engine shows you whether a piece of content is available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or elsewhere. And if it’s available for rent, it lets you know where you can get it for the best price. In addition, JustWatch includes a feature that heavy streaming media consumers will appreciate: it updates every day to let you know if your favorite provider has added new content. (For now, this feature is limited to movies, but will expand in time.)


Skype fails: 5 of the worst problems and how to fix them – Skype is an essential business and communications tool, but it can also be a pesky one. Here’s how to get its more annoying features under control.

Why Evolve OS could win you over to Linux and me away from Ubuntu – In 2014, a new distribution appeared out of nowhere, one that cut straight to the heart of the matter and promised to deliver a Linux distribution like no other. That distribution is Evolve OS. For the longest time, the distribution was in a state of limbo, and the best you could do was download an alpha and hoped it would run. All of that changed last week when the beta of Evolve OS was finally released, and the distribution could finally be tested against what’s considered the gold standard of user-friendly Linux distributions. It not only fared well, it crushed the competition. What’s underneath the hood will not concern the new user — but what will is the complete lack of a learning curve. Any user could hop onto Evolve OS and feel right at home.


The Budgie desktop in action.

Download your YouTube videos in their original resolution – YouTube is a great medium for sharing your videos with friends, family or the world in general. However, if you want to post your videos elsewhere, you’ll need to keep copies on your hard drive. If you don’t have backups, you could download them from YouTube, but you’ll get lower-resolution copies of your videos. As a solution, the Digital Inspiration Blog recommends skipping YouTube’s video downloads and using Google Takeout instead. Here’s how:

Microsoft Research Brings Image Autocomplete, Video Support To Its ICE Photo Stitcher – A few years ago, Microsoft Research’s Computation Photography Group launched its free Image Composite Editor (ICE), a tool for stitching together panorama photos and creating gigapixel images. With the launch of ICE 2.0 today, the group is taking a major step forward, and if you’re into this kind of photography, it’s definitely worth checking out. The highlight of the updated Windows-only application is Image Autocomplete. Chances are that your images don’t line up perfectly when you stitch them together, so you end up with some rather ugly empty areas around the edges. With autocomplete, the software identifies patterns in the image and then uses that knowledge to fill in the gaps.


Potheads Finally Have Their Dating App – Attention love-seeking stoners. A Denver company has come up with a dating app that you need in your life. It’s called High There! and designed like Tinder: users create profiles and swipe through the photos of potential dates, except this version is clearly aimed at fans of ganja.

Review: Intel’s Broadwell mini PC is a next-generation Ultrabook in a box – This review will serve three purposes then. We’ll evaluate the Broadwell NUC as a standalone piece of technology. We’ll look at Broadwell U and the kind of performance improvements and power usage reductions it delivers relative to equivalent Haswell U processors. And we’ll take a broader look at the kinds of technology you can expect in your next laptop.


FiftyThree Makes Popular Creativity App ‘Paper’ Free Of Charge – Originally, FiftyThree let you get a taste of Paper’s smooth interface for free but charged money if you wanted access to more tools for doodling, making presentations, or early drafts of design work. You could pay for these tools individually, or all at once for $7.99. The price for this bundle of “essentials” eventually fell to $3.99, and with today’s update, every toll will be available as soon as you open the app.


Talk to your modem – A local IP address may let you communicate with a modem through a router – Those of use with separate modems and routers (some Internet connections have the two functions combined into a single device) are likely to focus on the router and ignore the modem. But, like a router, a broadband modem is a computer with a web based user interface. And, like any device with a web interface, the modem has an IP address.

Twitter’s plan to boost growth: Videos, messaging, and timelines for people who don’t use Twitter – Twitter is creating an experience for you, even if you don’t have a Twitter account.


Still using Adobe Flash? Oh well, get updating: 15 hijack flaws patched – People still using Adobe Flash should update the plugin after the Photoshop giant patched 15 remote-code execution holes in its screen-door software. If hackers aren’t already exploiting all these holes in the wild, they soon will be. The remote-code exec bugs allow miscreants to hijack vulnerable Windows, OS X and Linux computers, simply by luring victims to websites booby-trapped with malicious Flash files. Adobe said the February 5 patch batch addresses 18 CVE-listed vulnerabilities in its sadly ubiquitous plugin.

Anthem hack: Seven ways to protect yourself right now – Anthem’s hack and issues around organization accountability with PII is cause to protect ourselves from identity theft and more, including security freeze, fraud alert, and account recovery.

Thousands of WordPress sites affected by zero-day exploit – Thousands of websites are at risk of being exploited by a previously undisclosed vulnerability in a WordPress plugin, which researchers say could be used to inject malicious code into websites. The flaw exists in Fancybox, a popular image displaying tool, through which Sucuri researchers say malware or any other script can be added to a vulnerable site. WordPress, which comes in two main flavors — a hosted version and a downloadable self-hosting version — has already removed the plugin from its repository. But researchers warn that with more than half-a-million users of the plugin at risk, users should remove the plugin from their own sites.

Internet lobs $$$s at dev of crucial GPG tool after he runs short of cash – Werner Koch is looking at a big payday after pulling in over $150,000 to fund the continuing development of his crucial open-source GNU Privacy Guard encryption tools. Koch, 53, is a leading light in the free software movement: in 1999, he released GPG, which uses the OpenPGP standard to safeguard the communications of millions of people around the world from eavesdroppers and other miscreants. It also provides protection for much of the multibillion-dollar technology industry. Last year, Koch launched a funding drive to raise $137,000, enough to pay his salary and that of a co-developer working on GPG, but as of November had raised less than $8,000 towards this. But when he told ProPublica that he may have to give up on the project, the news went viral and funds have been pouring in.

Company News:

Verizon sells three states’ worth of FIOS to Frontier – In a $10.5 billion deal, Verizon just sold three states’ worth of wireline subscribers to Frontier. Customers in California, Texas, and Florida will soon be Frontier customers, rather than Verizon FIOS users. Via their announcement, Verizon says “at the end of fourth-quarter 2014, these operations served approximately 3.7 million voice connections; approximately 2.2 million high-speed data customers, including approximately 1.6 million FiOS Internet customers; and approximately 1.2 million FiOS Video customers.” Verizon’s reason for selling? To focus on the East Coast.

RadioShack has filed for bankruptcy, will now share its stores with Sprint – RadioShack has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, signaling the darkest chapter yet for one of America’s most storied specialty electronics chains. As part of the filing, RadioShack says it will sell off up to 2,400 of its US stores. Most other underperforming locations will close for good, but RadioShack’s brand will live on through a store-in-a-store agreement with Sprint and Standard General, who will be purchasing many of the retailer’s current shops.

BlackBerry wins a cool $860,000 from makers of Ryan Seacrest’s Typo keyboard – Back in January of 2014, BlackBerry sued the makers of the Typo, a hardware keyboard case for the iPhone. BlackBerry argued that the Typo violated its keyboard patents, and it’s not hard to see why the court eventually came down on BlackBerry’s side—the Typo is a clear imitation of the keyboard BlackBerry has been selling with its phones for years. The US District Court of Northern California ordered Typo to halt sales, and the injunction went into effect on April 15, 2014. However, Typo didn’t comply, and BlackBerry decided to pursue a contempt of court charge that the court has now upheld. Typo will pay BlackBerry an $860,000 fine plus other legal fees and costs.


Uber Will Add Panic Button And Location/Journey Sharing In India On February 11 – Late last year, Uber announced plans for tighter safety measures in India following the rape of a passenger using its service in December. Now it has confirmed that two major features — an in-app panic button and journey/location sharing — will roll out to users in India on February 11. The company went public with the launch date after Times Of India reported that the Mumbai transportation department was considering a ban on its service over its apparent approach to safety. Authorities are reportedly “not happy with Uber representatives’ responses during various meetings held to consider measures for passengers’ safety.”

Twitter Reports Better Than Expected Q4 Profit, Weak User Growth – Following the bell today, Twitter released its fourth-quarter earnings report, revealing that it earned $0.12 per share on an adjusted basis on revenue of $479 million during the period. The company’s per-share profit is based on adjusted net income of $79 million. The company also reported that its tally of monthly active users rose to 288 million, up from a sequentially preceding count of 284 million. The figure is up 20 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Alibaba’s Financial Affiliate Takes 25% Stake In India’s One97, Owner Of Paytm – Ant Financial Services Group, an Alibaba Group affiliate, announced today that it will take a 25 percent stake in India’s One97 Communications as part of a strategic agreement. Ant Financial runs Alipay, China’s largest online payment service, while One97 oversees Paytm, India’s leading mobile payment platform. Alipay Wallet, Ant Financial’s mobile payment app, currently claims 190 million users, while Paytm says it has more than 23 million users.

Games and Entertainment:

Warning! Bogus Razer Comms game chat app comes loaded with malware – Gamers looking for voice chat software should be careful what they click on. Security firm Malwarebytes recently came across a new bit of malware that is pretending to be the installer for Razer Comms, the voice chat system from Razer. Malwarebytes didn’t say how it came across the fake chat app, but security-conscious gamers shouldn’t have a hard time protecting themselves from this scam. The Razer Comms malware is basically an imitation site with a malicious download. Here’s how it works.

February update for Xbox One brings game hubs, updates to controller, party chat and TV – The February update for Xbox One has started rolling out, and Major Nielsen has detailed what users can expect from the new features being added to the console, it’s a bumper package.


Soon you’ll be able to control Assassin’s Creed with your eyes – The next Assassin’s Creed game will feature a new twist: you’ll be able to control it using your eyes. The game will utilize the Steel Series Sentry eye-tracking device — which is made with video games in mind — and it sounds like the feature will be used primarily to control the game’s camera. Tobii calls it a control input that’s “complimentary” to the mouse and keyboard. When you look somewhere on the screen, the game’s character will do the same. And if you look away from the game, it will pause automatically.


I got addicted to ‘First Person Lover,’ and you could too – This free 3D online advergame is hard to stop playing, and yes, a bit corny. Crave’s Michael Franco finds out what it’s like to blast people with “love pushes” and a “kiss gun.” The concept? The world has been taken over by hate and a series of “hate harvesters” have been planted around the city. Your job is to “liberate” the haters by shooting them with things like your kiss gun and love-bubble blaster. Liberating them involves shooting them until their clothes come off, and then zapping them with your “love glove” until they get “filled with love” and dressed in an outfit from the Bjorn Borg collection. You also need to destroy the hate harvesters. Corny? Certainly. But is it fun? You bet.


Looking Glass Founders unveil Ultima Underworld: Ascendant – Most old school PC Gamers will fondly remember the Ultima Underworld series of Fantasy RPG games, and many have been asking for an updated version. Whether you want to call it a reboot, a modernisation, or a comeback, one thing is for sure – gamers want to see this series transported to the modern era. Looks like the original creators of these games have the same desire, and have started a Kickstarter Campaign to bring their latest concept into modern reality. It’s called Underworld Ascendant.


Netflix, Hulu and more are dominating traditional TV – It’s no secret that many are gravitating towards Netflix, Hulu and similar services to get their entertainment fix, and traditional cable viewership has suffered as a result. The introduction of Sling TV, a streaming television service from Dish Network, is likely to further entice consumers away from traditional pay-TV subscriptions, but so far video on demand and similar services have done a well enough job on their own. According to a new report that looks at Nielsen data, traditional television viewership in the US has dived.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Comcast insults another customer, changes woman’s name to Super Bitch – Comcast’s customer service employees are making a habit of giving cable subscribers bad names. Not long after one man received a bill addressed to “Asshole Brown,” another Comcast customer has been insulted by way of the monthly bill. This time, Mary Bauer picked up the title “Super Bitch” after repeatedly calling the company to try and resolve problems with her cable reception. Bauer turned to Comcast for months in hopes of fixing the service disruptions and degraded picture she was experiencing. Thirty-nine technicians visited her home over a six-month period to get things working, and ultimately Bauer said they made things right.

The Psychology Of Notifications – In his famed experiments, Ivan Pavlov trained his dogs to associate mealtime with the ring of a bell. Pavlov found he could elicit an involuntary physical response in his dogs with a simple jingle. Every time his bell rang, the dogs began to salivate. Today, the beeps, buzzes, rings, flags, pushes and pings blasting from our phones prompt a similar response. They are the Pavlovian bell of the 21st century, and they get us to check our tech incessantly. What makes an effective trigger? How can you be sure that the notifications you’re sending are welcome and lead to higher engagement instead of driving users away? Below are a few tenets of notifications that engage users, instead of alienating them.


Your Guide to the Koch Brothers, America’s Favorite Dark Money Billionaires – With their recent pledge to spend $889 million on the 2016 presidential election, it’s time to recognize a weird truth about American politics: The Koch brothers, namely Charles and David, with an assist from David’s twin William, have a financial influence on par with the two major political parties. Who are the Koch brothers? What is a Kochtopus? And should we all start preparing to live on boats by 2025? If you live in the United States, and you aren’t planning to move to Mars before 2016, pay attention.

This train absolutely decimating untouched snow is our simile of the day – All aboard the pain train.


Police officer checks dashcam the professional way: dancing – What’s the best way to see if your dashcam is working? For one Missouri police officer, the answer is jazz hands. Or something.


Windows 8 failed at nearly everything it set out to accomplish – Windows 8 was nearly a complete failure on every front; it cost two high-ranking executives their jobs, failed to secure Microsoft’s mobile future and failed to build a truly successful app store.

8 predictions Arthur C. Clarke got right decades ago (pictures) – “2001” author Arthur C. Clarke brought us some frightening visions of the future that have yet to come to pass. But he also nailed an awful lot about 21st-century life.

Something to think about:

“I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

–        Jacob Marley’s ghost to Scrooge in Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

Today’s Free Downloads:

Autoruns for Windows v13.0 – This utility, which has the most comprehensive knowledge of auto-starting locations of any startup monitor, shows you what programs are configured to run during system bootup or login, and when you start various built-in Windows applications like Internet Explorer, Explorer and media players. These programs and drivers include ones in your startup folder, Run, RunOnce, and other Registry keys. Autoruns reports Explorer shell extensions, toolbars, browser helper objects, Winlogon notifications, auto-start services, and much more. Autoruns goes way beyond other autostart utilities.


WildFire CD Ripper – WildFire CD Ripper is pulling out the data (music) directly in digital format from an Audio CD; this kind of software is in general known as a CD Ripper or a CDDA utility. The resultant audio file can be a pure WAV file (useful for making compilation audio CDs) or the ripped audio data can be compressed using an audio encoder.

Here are few supported encoders:

Lame MP3 encoder

Internal MP2 encoder

APE lossles audio format

Ogg Vorbis encoder

The Windows MP3 encoder (Fraunhofer MP3 encoder)

NTT VQF encoder

FAAC encoder

Windows WMA8 encoder

Additionally, WAV files on the hard drive can be converted to a Compressed Audio File (and vice versa). WildFire CD Ripper also supports numerous audio file tag formats like the ID3V1 and ID3V2 tags, which can be automatically inserted as part of the ripping procedure.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

White House Report Sees Potential, Pitfalls Of Big Data – A new report released by the White House today outlines the potential and pitfalls of big data in our lives. While there is tremendous economic and social promise from big data, there is also equal prospect for abuse, especially when it comes to privacy and personal data protection.

President Obama plans to file several pieces of legislation in the coming months around consumer privacy and protection, data breach reporting and protection of school children’s data.

Last January, the president asked John Podesta, counselor to the president, to lead a working group to look into the implications of Big Data. At the same time, the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology was also looking into the matter on a more technical level. Both teams have filed initial reports, Podesta explained at a White House briefing this morning.

Canada’s new backward-looking terror law: Stephen Harper’s tough new anti-terror bill is almost certainly unnecessary – Bill C-51 would allow a judge to impose up to a year of house arrest on someone who has neither been convicted nor charged with any crime. The judge could also require that the target wear an electronic bracelet.

The only requirement in the bill, introduced Friday in the Commons, is that police produce satisfactory evidence this person “may” commit a terrorist offence.

That’s tough. Not as tough as the anti-terror laws of, say, Britain or North Korea.

But in Canadian terms, tough.

The bill would also authorize the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to engage in illegal acts and so-called dirty tricks.

Canada: Tories’ anti-terror bill undermines values it’s meant to protect – When a prime minister announces one of the most draconian anti-terrorism bills in his nation’s history — and does this not in the national legislature, but at an election-type campaign stop in a riding his party hopes to hold in a looming election — Canadians should be worried about the democratic stability of the country.

In introducing this new legislation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper again said that “we are at war with the Islamic State” — language U.S. President Barack Obama has explicitly warned against on the grounds that it will likely lead to overreaction. But overreaction, it seems, is exactly what Harper is hoping for. He appears to be trying to raise the level of fear in order to railroad through measures that will violate the very democratic values they are purportedly meant to protect.

There are many troubling aspects of the Tories’ anti-terror bill, but perhaps none more so than the undoing of the essential separation between intelligence gathering and police investigation.

The law would effectively turn CSIS into a police force that can engage in acts that would otherwise be a violation of the Charter and the Canadian Constitution. All CSIS need do to use these new powers is secure a “disrupt threat” warrant from a judge, which would allow the agency to take a broad variety of actions to reduce any real or perceived threat to the security of Canada. And that doesn’t just include traditional ideas of terrorism. It also means perceived threats to economic or fiscal stability, critical infrastructure or the security of other states. These broad new powers evoke the latitude one finds in a war measures law.



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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 6, 2015

  1. delenn13

    Hi Bill,

    Re: The Canadian bills/laws…Moudakis: Taken away by CSIS | Toronto Star Looks about right!

    I added ShoutFactoryTV to my Roku Box yesterday just for..MST3K. Great for a couch potato snow day. Plus it has some really cool old shows. I am also watching Black Mirror (TV Series 2011– ) – IMDb on Netflix. It is, basically, a UK Twilight Zone version of what can happen when tech goes wrong or to the darkside.

    Have a great weekend!