Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 10, 2015

Protect yourself from hackers and the NSA;  Don’t count on antivirus software alone to keep your data safe;  Grading The Privacy Of Smartphone Apps;  Microsoft is giving away 100GB of OneDrive storage;  A beginner’s guide to all things automation;  Google Talk reaches end of life next week;  PiPO X7, the $128 Windows 8.1 mini-PC;  Why you should never Google tech-support numbers;  The Best CPU for the Money – AMD vs. Intel Budget Shootout;  Your Samsung SmartTV isn’t spying on you;  New Facebook porn Trojan;  Auslogics Disk Defrag (free);  Auslogics Browser Care (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Protect yourself from hackers and the NSA – Everybody’s talking about hackers and the NSA stealing our data. Here’s how to do something about it.

Don’t count on antivirus software alone to keep your data safe – Don’t be mistaken: antivirus software is a crucial part of any security arsenal and every day malware scanners the world over detect and throttle millions of malicious software strains. This is not a category of software that we should live without. Here’s the dirty little secret of cyber security, though: nothing is 100 per cent secure. The key is to make things so difficult for attackers that they decide to move on to easier targets.

PrivacyGrade: Grading The Privacy Of Smartphone Apps – We’re a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University. We have assigned privacy grades to Android apps based on some techniques we have developed to analyze to their privacy-related behaviors. Learn more here or browse our analyzed apps.


Facebook’s DeepFace AI can recognize you in nearly any photo – The more time goes by the more obvious it becomes that Minority Report was as good at predicting the future as the psychics it featured. Facebook is boasting that its DeepFace AI system is now powerful enough to spot users in the 400 million photos uploaded to the social network every single day. Sci-fi paranoia aside, Facebook claims the program, which has been learning for years, is actually for increasing privacy. Facebook is no stranger to problems regarding privacy, so to get people to believe that DeepFace will truly benefit users instead of profiting off of them, Zuckerberg and company will have to prove it.

Microsoft is giving away 100GB of OneDrive storage for free for 2 years – If you want extra space for your OneDrive account, Microsoft is giving away 100GB for free for two years if you sign up to receive promotional emails from the company. Because of Microsoft’s initiative to have its products on every major platform, you can grab OneDrive apps for iOS/OS X and Android; Windows 8 and above has OneDrive functionality built in. If you want to grab the offer, hit the source link below but be aware as it looks like this offer may only be for those in the US.

A beginner’s guide to all things automation – At the most fundamental level, smart home products are just trying to make your life simpler. Now, not every device succeeds at that, but the particularly well-executed few really will work wonders. We’ll start with just one smart home product here that’s especially well-suited for beginners, but there are a lot of excellent devices out there that can help automate all sorts of functions in and around your home. And, if this captures your interest, we’ll show you how to take your automation savvy to the next level.

PiPO X7, the $128 Windows 8.1 mini-PC: Unboxing and first impressions – A few days ago I received the PiPO X7 and I’ve since had a bit of a chance to play around with it. I’ve found there are a lot of things to like, especially considering the price, but there are some issues I need to investigate further. While you wait on my full review, here’s the unboxing and my first impressions of the device.


Imgur kills its Pro subscription, now lets all users store an unlimited number of images – Image-sharing service Imgur has long offered a “pro” tier that gives users unlimited uploads; community features like commenting, voting, and sharing; access to a wide variety of analytics tools; and more. Now, instead of charging $23 per year (or $2.95 a month) for those features, Imgur has announced that everyone using the service will be upgraded to Pro, for free.

Google Talk reaches end of life next week – Over the last year, Google has been integrating Google Talk, Voice and SMS functionality into the Hangouts app. These apps have been slowly moved to the Hangouts app on Android and iOS already, but the desktop users still had the option to use Google Talk. Now, Google has started notifying Gtalk users that the company will be cutting off access to the service on February 16, and that they will need to install the Hangouts app for Chrome to use the IM service. Although Hangouts provides better features than Google Talk on mobile, the lack of a proper desktop client will leave many users disappointed.

Microsoft allows anyone to test Office 2016 desktop apps – Microsoft is planning to release Office 2016 later this year, but it’s letting anyone test a preview copy a little early. Over at Microsoft’s Connect site you can simply sign-up and acknowledge a non-disclosure agreement to get access to the Office 2016 bits. There’s not a huge amount of new changes from Office 2013, but the next version does include a darker theme and Clippy-like helper.

Know the odds of your plane crashing with ‘Am I Going Down?’ – ‘Am I Going Down?’ is an iOS app that tell you the chances of your plane crashing after you enter your flight details. The premise might sound a little stupid, or even like some kind of joke in poor taste, but it is in fact a serious attempt to ease the very real fears that some people have of flying. After being given the various parameters, the app uses math based on real data to show you the figures of how unlikely it is that your flight is going to crash.


Unlock Windows 10’s hidden, powerful GodMode tool – GodMode. The mere mention of the omnipotence-granting tweak should bring a smile to the face of veteran Windows tinkerers, and yes, the legendary hidden feature still works in the Windows 10 Preview. GodMode essentially unlocks a centralized table of contents for all of Windows’ far-flung features and customization options, drawing all your options together into a single interface and sorting them by tweak types. Once you’ve basked in its glory, you’ll be hooked for life.

TechSpot: The Best CPU for the Money – AMD vs. Intel Budget Shootout – Given how little has changed in the world of CPUs, you might expect buying a new processor to be fairly straightforward. For us, the choice seems clear: Intel has proven to offer superior core performance with considerably greater efficiency. However, many enthusiasts argue that AMD offers better overclocking on its more affordable processors and therefore delivers a better bang for your buck. We’re putting the AMD FX-8320E against Intel’s Core i3-4360 and the slightly more expensive Core i5-4430 to see which processor offers the best value for budget builders.


Why you should never Google tech-support numbers – Need help from HP? Or Dell? Or just about any other computer or device maker? Don’t fall into this trap.


Can you spot the real HP support number? Surprise: Every single one is a third-party company itching to charge you money.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

How to Create an Anonymous Email Account – The Internet doesn’t make it easy to go completely anonymous. Here’s how you can stay hidden even when emailing.

Your Samsung SmartTV isn’t spying on you – Over the weekend a scary article was written about Samsung SmartTV sets that suggested they were listening to your every word. That these TV sets were collecting information about you – that was the news – that they were taking down everything you said in your living room, sharing that information with 3rd-party systems. This information comes from Samsung’s privacy policy, and one single sentence that seems to be a “smoking gun” that lets everyone know how evil Samsung is. Be sure you read the rest of the paragraph before you have a heart attack.

Scammers Now Targeting Anthem Data Breach Victims Via Email And Phone – A one-two punch for the victims of the Anthem data breach: individuals who were impacted by the massive cyber attack on the health insurance provider which affected up to 80 million Americans, are now being warned that they’re being targeted by scammers who are trying trick the victims into revealing additional personal information. Scammers are running email phishing campaigns, and even placing phone calls to affected customers, Anthem says. The phishing emails have been crafted so they appear to be from Anthem, and include a “click here” link that purportedly takes customers to a credit monitoring website.


New Facebook porn Trojan doesn’t come with a happy ending – What’s this? A random post dangling genuinely free porn in your Facebook feed? Think twice before clicking on it, because there’s no happy ending in sight if you do.


9 ways to lock down your iPhone or Android device before it goes missing – You know that icy stab of panic when you suddenly realize your Android phone or iPhone isn’t where it should be? Don’t have that feeling. Read this instead.

Company News:

Qualcomm fined $975 million by Chinese anti-monopoly regulators – Chip maker Qualcomm has been fined 6.088 billion yuan ($975 million) by the Chinese government after it was decided the company had violated anti-monopoly laws. Regulators from the country’s National Development and Reform Commission reached the decision to fine the American chip maker after more than a year of investigation. Qualcomm says it will not dispute the huge fine.

Netflix is coming to Cuba – Now that their country is dissolving years of sideways feelings with the United States, Cubans are poised to see a flood of new technology and media. There might be no better way to get caught up with movies and TV than on-demand programming, which is exactly how Netflix sees Cubans spending their evening. Starting today, Netflix is available in Cuba, but it won’t be the same Netflix you or I might see. In a statement, Netflix says what’s available in Cuba is ‘curated’.

Microsoft announces $10.75 billion debt offering – Microsoft has announced that they will be offering $10.75 billion of senior unsecured notes with the offering expected to close on February 12th, 2015. Microsoft says that they will be using the proceeds from the offering for general corporate purposes.

Facebook Takes And Its Free Mobile Data Services To India – The app isn’t available to the full Indian population yet, since Facebook partnered with operator Reliance to offer free access to sites in an initial six states: Tamil Nadu, Mahararashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Telangana. That’s the first step on a path to “provide internet access to more than a billion people in India who aren’t yet connected,” Facebook said in a statement.

Google buys offline photo-sharing app Odysee – Detractors of Google’s social layer, Google+, can agree that its one redeeming quality is photo storage and sharing, where Google has done an incredibly good job of making sure your media looks good, and is easily accessible. To that point, Google has acquired Odysee, an iOS and Android app that has some interesting features for private photo sharing. The team at Odysee, in announcing the acquisition, also say they’re joining the Google+ team.

Games and Entertainment:

Better Call Saul smashes record with highest cable debut ratings – As we noted recently, the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul premiered on Sunday night following the return of The Walking Dead, and in doing so it smashed through previous records to become the highest-rated cable series debut ever. The series hit a 3.4 adults 18-49 rating among its 6.9 million viewers, blasting through the previous record while confirming those raving early reviews that kept rolling in. For those curious, The Walking Dead’s return did pretty well, too.

Xbox One accessory adds hard drive case, USB ports by attaching to console – Collective Minds’ “Xbox One USB Hub and Hard Drive Enclosure” adds three USB 3.0 ports as well as a bay for a 2.5-inch hard drive in an add-on that attaches directly to the left side of the console. An owner of the accessory simply has to buy an appropriate 2.5-inch SATA hard drive, install rails to its sides, slide it into the accessory’s bay (hidden by a removable cover) and attach it to the console for more storage space.


Sling TV now open to all – Dish Network kicked off its steaming TV service called Sling TV a while back with an invitation only launch. The invitation only soft launch has now ended leaving the streaming offering open to anyone who wants to sign up. Sling TV gives subscribers access to fifteen different channels for streaming entertainment including ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, CNN, HGTV, and Cartoon Network among others. The subscription fee for the channels is $20 per month.


Evolve pre-release impressions: Finding balance in asymmetry – The developers at Turtle Rock have the unenviable task of pumping up one character so he’s precisely competitive with four others, with the knowledge that a miss to either side could easily ruin the entire game. So far, those developers seem to have done a pretty good job. In my early play-testing with pre-release versions of the game, both the monsters and the hunters have their strengths and exploitable weak points. More importantly, both sides are thrown into play situations that make the four-on-one skirmishes fresh and exciting.


Off Topic (Sort of):

ISIS is a virus that Anonymous plans to cure: Hacktivists hammer ISIS with #OpISIS – The hacktivist group Anonymous is putting the hurt to the online ISIS terrorist presence with Operation ISIS, knocking out more than 1,000 social media accounts spreading jihadist propaganda and militant recruitment websites. There are people who don’t like Anonymous one bit and haters are gonna hate, but surely it’s hard for anyone to think that bringing the hammer down on ISIS militant recruiting websites or banning jihadist propaganda-spewing social media accounts is a bad thing.

This Drone Can Save Lives And Fly Indoors Without Crashing Constantly – A building is on fire. There might still be people inside. Traditionally, we’d send in a firefighter to scout — but that puts more lives at risk. There has to be a better way, right? We could send in a robot, but the vast majority of modern robots will fail miserably the second they go up such a dastardly foe as, say, a flight of stairs. We could send in a drone to fly about, but drones are notoriously hard to handle indoors. If any of its propellers clip a wall, it’ll go spiraling to the ground in no time flat. Worse yet: if it clips a human, many drone propellers are plenty capable of breaking skin. Now you’re stuck in a burning building and being attacked by the thing meant to help save you. Meet the GimBall, a damned brilliant (and I don’t use that word too often) spin on the standard drone.


NoFlyZone Lets You Establish A No-Fly Zone Over Your Property – If your first reaction to a drone flying over your house is getting out your M16 for some target practice, you can now opt for a less violent option. lets you establish a no-fly zone over your property and a number of drone hardware and software firms have already promised to honor your request. Among the partners in this effort are EHANG (the company behind the Ghost drone), Horizon Hobby, DroneDeploy, YUNEEC, HEXO+, PixiePath and RCFlyMaps. As you have probably noticed, most of those are relatively unknown brands (or, as in the case of HEXO+, haven’t launched yet).

Watch Google’s New Small Dog Robot Take A Kicking And Keep On Ticking – Google purchased Boston Dynamics last year, which means it now owns the company’s ongoing robotics projects, including BigDog. Today, the Google subsidiary posted videos of a smaller dog-like robot, aptly named Spot, which weighs around 160 lbs, has an electric powerhouse and can operate both indoors and outside. The robot, as you can see from the clip, can walk, trot and climb across all types of terrain, and can even survive attempts to destabilize it by unfeeling humans eager with their kicks.


Drones waiters to serve patrons in Singapore restaurants – A Singapore restaurant will soon deploy a fleet of drones they’ve been testing in-house to improve service to its customers. Each drone is capable of carrying about five pounds, which means they can easily deliver pub fare for two — say, a couple of pints and a whole pizza. Deploying drones will allow the restaurant to make better use of its staff, who will still do the actual order taking and handing off — the drones will simply cart orders from the kitchen out to the dining area.


Cooler Master demonstrates how to use Nutella as thermal paste – Over the years, you’ve probably tried a number of different thermal compounds on your CPUs, from pre-applied pads to all kinds of goop in syringes. But have you ever tried Nutella? Cooler Master has, and they’ve even posted a video of it being put to use. Even under a full load, the Nutella kept Cooler Master’s test processor running at a reasonable 50° Celsius. Obviously you wouldn’t want to use Nutella as a permanent solution. Eventually, it’s going to dry out and you risk damaging your processor. There are plenty of other odd thermal compounds you could use, too, and Daniel Rutter’s had fun testing them over the years.


NASA shows off moon phases from the far side – NASA was able to create the far side of the moon phases videos using data gathered from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to create the detailed an accurate maps. Check out the NASA video below to see for yourself.


Something to think about:

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

–    Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970), Unpopular Essays (1950), “Outline of Intellectual Rubbish”

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

In Historic Ruling, UK Surveillance Secrecy Declared Unlawful – The United Kingdom’s top surveillance agency has acted unlawfully by keeping details about the scope of its Internet spying operations secret, a British court ruled in an unprecedented judgment issued on Friday.

Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, was found to have breached human rights laws by concealing information about how it accesses surveillance data collected by its American counterpart, the National Security Agency.

The ruling was handed down by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a special court that handles complaints related to covert surveillance operations conducted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. In its 15-year history, the tribunal has never before upheld a complaint against any intelligence agencies.

The legal challenge was brought by human rights groups, including Privacy International and Liberty, following disclosures from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The groups alleged that GCHQ was unlawfully obtaining data through the NSA’s online spying program PRISM, which collects data stored by Internet giants such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo. The groups also focused on GCHQ’s role in obtaining private communications swept up by the NSA directly from internet cables, known as so-called “upstream” collection.

Obama asks Germany to ‘give us the benefit of the doubt’ on NSA surveillance – President Barack Obama has had to justify some truly terrible things during his tenure. He took office five years into a war based on shaky and ultimately false information, running a country that had begun running secret surveillance programs and condoned interrogation that amounted to torture. Various parts of his administration proceeded to aggressively prosecute whistleblowers and continue surveillance, stonewalling Congressional investigations into past misconduct.

Obama has harshly criticized many of these missteps, but he’s also started referring to them in a strangely understated, slightly paternal manner, like someone’s uncle wearily explaining a political bumper sticker he’s been trying to scrape off for years. On the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” tactics, for example:

“We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks.”

Back in 2013, leaked documents showed that US surveillance agencies had been tapping German chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone since 2002, a revelation that was less than well-received in Germany. A year and a half later, the issue is still on the table, but Merkel seemed to have softened in a meeting today. “If we look at the sheer dimension of the terrorist threats, we are more than aware of the fact that we need to work together very closely,” she said. “The institutions of the United States of American have provided us and still continue to provide us with a lot of very important, very significant information that are also important to our security.”

EU Parliament blocks Microsoft’s new Outlook apps over privacy concerns – Access to Microsoft’s new Outlook apps has been blocked for members of the European Parliament because of “serious security issues.”

Microsoft launched new Outlook apps for iOS and Android just over a week ago. The new apps are basically a rebranded version of a mail app made by Acompli, a company Microsoft bought in December for a reported US$200 million.

Access to the apps though was blocked on Friday by the Parliament’s IT department, DG ITEC, in order to protect the confidentiality and privacy of its users, according to an email seen by the IDG News Service.

“Please do not install this application, and in case you have already done so for your EP corporate mail, please uninstall it immediately and change your password,” it said.

The apps will send password information to Microsoft without permission and will store emails in a third-party cloud service over which the Parliament has no control, DG ITEC added in a message on the Parliament’s intranet.

Microsoft’s new Outlook app basically acts as an email inbox for Exchange, Outlook, iCloud, Google and Yahoo mail accounts.

Twitter calls out US, Russia, Turkey in latest transparency report – Social network Twitter has published its latest transparency report, and singled out the US, Turkey and Russia, for dramatically increasing the number of requests on user information over the last six months of 2014.

The number of government requests on Twitter user information rose 40 percent overall during that period, to 2,871 individual requests, the company reported Monday.

The US was again the most active country in seeking information, logging 1,622 requests on nearly 3,300 accounts. US requests were up 29 percent compared to the first six months of 2014, but Twitter’s compliance with those requests rose only 8 percent. Interestingly, Russia, which had never requested Twitter user information before, logged 108 information requests during the last six months of 2014. Turkey’s requests were up over 150 percent to 356. The company said it didn’t provide information to any of Russia’s requests, nor Turkey’s.



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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 10, 2015

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    re: Am I Going Down?

    I used to love flying. My father was in the air force and we moved around a lot, involving a lot of flying (even overseas to Malaysia for a couple of years back in the 70’s, a fantastic experience living there).

    Not now though. The way the world is, with scumbags trying to blow up everything that moves, you wouldn’t get me on a plane in a million years. My car looks much safer, even if it takes longer.


    • Hey Mal,

      Here’s the rule I run by – if it’s 4 hours or less by car, I’ll drive. Although, I’ve done more than my fair share of 10/12 hour runs – Toronto – NYC, Toronto – Philadelphia, Toronto – Chicago, etc.

      Back in the emerging days of terror (the PLO and the other crazies), I made an unavoidable business trip to the Mid-East (1976 – Saudi, Kuwait, Dubai), and in each of these places, the type of heavy weaponry carried by security was bloody frightening. It certainly hasn’t gotten any better.

      I must admit, I’m particularly cautious as to my travel destinations these days. Not too far back, I had an invite from Panda Security to participate in a forum in Barcelona (airfare, hotel, daily expenses included) – but, Spain has had more than enough rough and tumble with terrorists, so I passed.

      On top of it all though is this – flying is an absolute reminder that one is a hostage to their own government. And that sucks.