Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 16, 2015

6 DNS services protect against malware and other unwanted content;  How to disable the annoying sounds in the Facebook app;  Microsoft is selling the Lumia 520 for just $29;  Microsoft unlocks restricted features for free OneNote 2013 users;  Apple makes iWork available to Windows users for free;  Google Talk is dead, third-party support lives on;  Cheap, functional, upgradeable: HP’s Stream and Pavilion Mini desktops reviewed;  How Good Is a $199 Laptop?  Microsoft’s patchwork falls apart … AGAIN!  The Best Tax Software for 2015;  Mozilla puts another nail on Flash’s coffin;  Google’s View-Master: here’s how it works;  Tested: Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards for every budget;  Obama Wants Tech Firms to Alert Feds to Cyber Threats;  Why tricking someone into loving you may actually work.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

How to disable the annoying sounds in the Facebook app – Facebook recently rolled out an update for iOS and Android users, adding some downright annoying sounds. Here’s how you can disable them.

Microsoft is selling the Lumia 520 for just $29 – When it first went on sale, the device was also the most affordable Windows Phone ever, and its price has continued to fall since then. Indeed, despite newer entry-level handsets such as the Lumia 435, 532 and 535 coming along, the 520 remains on sale in many parts of the world, including the US, where Microsoft is now selling the device for just $29 off-contract via its eBay outlet store.  Make sure you can get the handset unlocked before you buy.

Microsoft unlocks restricted features for free OneNote 2013 users – If you use the freebie edition of OneNote, you can now password-protect portions of your notebooks, record audio and video, and more.

Google Talk is dead, third-party support lives on – The Google Talk service itself won’t be shutting down. Users who don’t want to migrate over to Hangouts for one reason or another can still keep on using Google Talk via third-party apps, many of which are available on many other platforms besides Windows. Of course, Google warns users that these apps are not under its control, so security and privacy cannot be guaranteed. Then again, if you’ve been using a third party app already, and most Google Talk users probably do, you already have your own trusted source anyway.

8 Apple TV secrets every iOS user should know – Apple doesn’t seem to pour much love on the Apple TV, but frequent speculation claims the company has big plans for it, potentially including a Netflix-style movie service. Meanwhile, if you are one of the millions who owns an Apple TV and also uses an iOS device, you may need these tips.

Apple makes iWork available to Windows users for free – Apple has already previously offered a web version of the iWork app suite to its customers. However, to be granted access, an iCloud account is required, which has meant that a user also needed to own Apple hardware, whether a Mac or an iOS-powered device. Now that Apple has made the service available to a wider audience, anyone can now create an Apple ID straight from the browser on the iCloud website, which then gives the user access to the productivity apps iWork offers, namely Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. You can sign up for the service and try it out for yourself here.

Cheap, functional, upgradeable: HP’s Stream and Pavilion Mini desktops reviewed – The Stream and Pavilion Mini are inexpensive fully-equipped systems that are ready to work out of the box. They use lower-end processors and have lower specs all around, but they include a Windows license and even a keyboard and a mouse. If you or someone you know has a years-old mini-tower on or under their desk, these systems are attractive, inexpensive drop-in replacements.


How Good Is a $199 Laptop? – Sure, it isn’t as good as the higher-end laptops, but at this price, you don’t expect it will be. Compared with an old netbook or even a new Chromebook, you get a lot more power and flexibility. (Chromebooks are simple, but designed for only Web applications. You can do all of that plus Windows applications on these low-end Windows devices.) I usually look at notebooks and phones that cost a lot more than this — what impressed me the most was just how good a $199 device can be these days.


Google’s View-Master: here’s how it works – Believe it or not, you won’t actually need a View-Master to view the content Google is presenting this week. The View-Master device is just a box with a magnetic switch – just like Google Cardboard. To “view” a View-Master reel – like the “reels” you remember from the original View-Master, you’ll need only your smartphone. To view these reels correctly, you’ll need a Google Cardboard headset – and that doesn’t need to be manufactured by Mattel. The View-Master headset just makes everything easier to understand visually. Below you’ll see the first video presented by Mattel for the View-Master headset and reels. There you’ll see a fellow popping a smartphone in to the View-Master headset.


Microsoft’s patchwork falls apart … AGAIN! – One of the patches Microsoft released this month, KB2920732, has been withdrawn because it breaks PowerPoint. By The Register’s count, this is the sixth time in eight months that Microsoft has had to withdraw a patch. Last August a patch was pulled after causing Blue Screens of Death, then in October a new hashing feature also warranted a recall. In December Redmond fluffed three patches, for root certificates, Exchange 2010 and Excel.

Free Wi-Fi is coming to train services across England and Wales by 2017 – The UK government is spending £47.8m to bring fast, reliable and free Wi-Fi to trains in five rail franchise areas across England and Wales – including the new TSGN super-franchise – from 2017.


The Best Tax Software for 2015 – Online and mobile versions of tax-prep software make the annual ritual of ponying up to Uncle Sam less painful than ever. We test the most popular apps to help you pick the right one.


Quick! File your taxes before a hacker does it for you – There is a rise in fraudulent tax returns being filed by hackers armed with personal information from data breaches. There are only a few things someone needs to file a tax return as you. Armed with your name, address, and Social Security number it’s relatively easy to file a tax return in your name. The details beyond that don’t matter too much, and the hacker can receive the refund dollars and have them spent before you even realize the fraudulent return was filed. Here are four things you should do to guard against a fraudulent tax return being filed in your name, and to protect your credit and identity in general:

Note: Reader Dave R. just passed this on – I just got a phishing email. from irs supposedly/:Unfortunately, an issue with your federal return has caused it to be rejected by the IRS. Until you review your return and make the necessary corrections, any refund headed your way (or money you owe) will remain unprocessed. Follow the instructions to make the necessary changes, then resubmit your return:

The Anonymity Network At Risk – You don’t have to watch NCIS to know that almost everything we do leaves some kind of trail or trace. Every click of the Internet and every post we make, email we send and file we download are all being tracked by someone somewhere. Unless, of course, it isn’t. There are many reasons a person would want to go incognito on the Internet, and those reasons run the gamut from reasonable to evil. Therefore, there are many reasons a program that allows people to be anonymous on the Internet would be targeted for attack. Here’s why the anonymity network TOR is said to be at risk in 2015, and what the origin of the risk truly is.

Hackers steal $1 billion from banks around the world: report – Up to $1 billion has been stolen from 100 banks around the world by a group of international cyber criminals over a two year period, according to the Russian computer security company, Kaspersky Lab. The group, known as Carbanak, took the unusual approach of stealing directly from banks, instead of going through customers. Carefully crafted emails were used to trick employees into opening malicious software, which allowed access to the banks’ internal networks and video surveillance. Kaspersky said the video surveillance was used to learn how the bank’s processes worked, so the group could pass off their actions as legitimate processes and transactions. The group also remotely ordered ATMs to dispense cash at a time when a member would be waiting to collect the money.

Mozilla puts another nail on Flash’s coffin – Once the darling of the Web, Flash has become a liability and an embarrassment. But as much as the powers that be want and work to make Flash go the way of the dinosaur, there are still a few holdovers on the Internet that refuse, or at the very least can’t, switch away from it just yet. To help ease that transition, at least from the end user side of things, Mozilla is equipping the latest nightly version of Firefox with a tool that will little by little make Flash unnecessary.

Google’s Project Zero Now Gives Vendors Grace Period – If vendors indicate that they’ll have a patch for an exploit ready to go within 14 days of Project Zero’s previous 90-day deadline, Google won’t publish the exploit publicly.

Company News:

Apple Has Hundreds Working On An Electric Car Design, Says WSJ – Apple is working on a car, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Mac maker kicked off a top-secret project to develop an electric car with a minivan aesthetic, per the WSJ’s sources, after CEO Tim Cook approved the project nearly a year ago. It includes “hundreds” of staffers and is led by Ford Motor vet and Apple VP Steve Zadesky. The project involves research into battery tech, robotics and metal production, according to the paper. The report comes hot on the heels of a Financial Times story confirming Apple R&D efforts around car tech, and goes further than either that report or an earlier one from Business Insider wherein an Apple employee reportedly confirmed some kind of car-focused project.

Infosys to acquire startup Panaya to automate customer tasks – Indian outsourcer Infosys is to acquire Panaya, a U.S. vendor of automation technology for testing enterprise software deployments and upgrades. The cash deal values Panaya at an enterprise value of US$200 million, and is in line with the company’s strategy under new CEO Vishal Sikka to automate processes, including by using artificial intelligence, to cut down on repetitive tasks and accelerate services delivery.

Games and Entertainment:

The Best Webcomics 2015 – Of course this is the Web, so the comics that call it home tend to be a bit more ribald than what you’d see in the paper—but that’s part of the point. Rather than being mired in 90 years of homogenized humor or watered-down adventure, the best webcomics know today’s audience is edgier. (That’s our way of saying many of these are NSFW, so be careful what you click.) These are the comics for the Facebook generation, and here are the 29 we like the best, in alphabetical order.


Assassin’s Creed movie officially in production – The long-awaited Assassin’s Creed movie is finally moving ahead, with Ubisoft revealing the film has officially entered production. The video game adaptation will be released on December 21, 2016. Michael Fassbender has long been attached as both lead actor and producer, with Justin Kurzel set to direct, and Adam Cooper and Bill Collage having written the most recent screenplay. Actual plot details are still unconfirmed, other than being a loose adaptation of the first game in the franchise. With the series’ lore centred on people in the present reliving their ancestor’s genetic memories, Fassbender is set to play a dual role in the film as both a member of the Assassin Brotherhood in the past and his own descendent.

New Doom Mod Celebrates the Art of the Selfie Stick – A brand-new mod for Doom—yes, that Doom, the very 1993 first-person-shooter that many point to as one of the genre’s most defining titles—has made its way over to Doomworld, and it makes us scratch our heads as much as we kind of want to go hunt down some Doom floppy disks and give it a whirl. Said mod, called Instadoom, allows a player to apply a total of 37 different filters to the game, all themed around the very same filters you can otherwise find on Instagram.


Tested: Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards for every budget – What graphics card within my budget gives me the best bang for my buck? Answering the question can be a bit trickier than it seems. Raw performance is a big part of it, but factors like noise, the driver experience, and supplemental software all play a role in determining which graphics card to buy, too. Let us be your guiding light. We’ve tested graphics cards of all shapes, sizes, and price points to nail down exactly what you can expect for your money—from itty-bitty $90 cards to gargantuan, $700 behemoths with not one, but two graphics processors and custom watercooling loops.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Why tricking someone into loving you may actually work – Whether it’s a cologne laced with alleged sex pheromones, or cynical attempts to Game the opposite sex, there’s very little trendier than the ongoing (quasi)scientific quest to find and exploit bugs in human romantic psychology. An essay on one such novel idea about love recently went super-viral, recounting an attempt to force love into existence with nothing more than the right sequence of actions and biochemical signals. The idea is simple: with fine enough control over the brain, anybody can be made to fall in love with anybody.

Google Gets Patent for Body Odor-Sensing Device – Now, of course, a patent doesn’t mean that a device will ever see the light of day—and in this case, we strongly believe that Google’s patent for a fan-driven device that blows a lovely fragrance into your body when you smell likely isn’t the kind of thing that all of us will be wearing a few years from now. Still, Google has been awarded a patent for the unnamed product that does exactly that, in addition to letting you know when your friends are around so your smelly self can steer clear of them. No, we’re not making this up.

Pot Discovery App Returns to App Store – It’s been a good week for mobile potheads: After the debut of High There!, an Android dating app for pot lovers, cannabis discovery service MassRoots has returned to the Apple iTunes Store. MassRoots is only available in the 23 states with laws permitting the medical use of marijuana. It comes with a mandatory geolocation check to block users from unauthorized territories. Cupertino’s change of heart came after the developers of MassRoots and other advocacy groups petitioned the tech giant to move into the 21st century and stop barring drug-themed apps.


The FAA just took a huge step towards legalizing commercial drone flights – The FAA’s long awaited rules for flying small drones have arrived. For the most part the agency chose to avoid adding any new restrictions, preferring to incorporate drones into the existing framework in an attempt to minimize complexity and costs. Most importantly, the agency said it believes that drones can save lives, boost the economy, and be integrated safely into the national airspace. This is a big departure from what many drone experts had predicted.

Amsterdam to get the world’s first drone air show – Air shows are typically made up of all sorts of military or civilian aircraft flying around doing their thing. In Amsterdam an air show is coming that has not one normal aircraft. This entire air show is made up of drones and the drones are festooned with lights. The show is called Air and will be held at the Amsterdam Arena.


Quick! Print Out Your Instagram Photos! – Email, Instagram, and Twitter won’t be around forever. And the sooner we recognize that, the better off we’ll be, according to Vint Cerf. Cerf, known as the “Father of the Internet” and now a vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, recently tipped a future in which blogs, status updates, photos, videos, and official documents may perish alongside the programs needed to view them.

Something to think about:

“The public conversation about surveillance in the digital age would be a good deal more intelligent if we all read Bruce Schneier first.”

–   Malcolm Gladwell – author of David and Goliath

Today’s Free Downloads:

Audio Switcher – Easily switch between ANY sound device on your Windows PC with this incredibly small and lightweight application. Using this application allows you to switch output OR input sound devices at the click of a button, or the press of a key.


Change Windows Default Audio devices without opening Control Panel

Full Global Hot Key support which allows you to change the default audio device with the press of a key

Favorite Devices – Only your “favorite” devices will show up in the Tray Icon Menu.

Quick switch: Click on the notification icon once and it will cycle through your favorited devices! Great if you have two devices you switch between often.

Settings support for closing to tray, starting minimized to tray and running at start up (using a registry key)

Optional: Periodically check for updates


QuickTextPaste – Small portable program that allows you to insert (paste) pre-defined text in any Windows applications via keyboard shortcut.

This program also allows you to run commands and programs via keyboard shortcut. Save time and spelling errors with this small Desktop Tool for Windows.


Very small program

Selection of text fields by single hotkey

Multiple commands as a selection (program starts) by single hotkey

Arbitrary Windows shortcut

Inserting text with multiple lines.

Launching programs from the command line (keyboard shortcut)

Paste anything you type often

Low CPU usage




In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Obama Wants Tech Firms to Alert Feds to Cyber Threats – Ahead of a trip to Silicon Valley, President Obama today signed an executive order that’s intended to facilitate information sharing about cyber threats between the federal government and private companies.

“Rapid information sharing is an essential element of effective cyber security because it ensures that U.S. companies work together to respond to threats, rather than operating alone,” the White House said in a statement.

The move calls on companies to share data with the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), which will disperse it to relevant federal agencies and other organizations on a need-to-know basis.

The administration outlined a few steps that tech companies will be taking, including a cyber-threat sharing partnership from the Cyber Threat Alliance, a group founded last year by Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks, which now includes McAfee, Symantec, Barracuda Networks, ReversingLabs, Telefónica, and Zscaler among its ranks.

The Entertainment Software Association, Box, and FireEye have made similar commitments, the White House said.

Tim Cook speaks cybersecurity at Stanford – Apple CEO Tim Cook has warned of “dire consequences” if tech companies can’t protect the privacy of those who use their products. Giving up our privacy to digital technologies exposes us to greater risks than just identity theft and financial losses — serious though those things are, Cook said in a brief speech at a cybersecurity summit in Silicon Valley on Friday.



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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 16, 2015

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    “Microsoft’s patchwork falls apart … AGAIN!”
    As I’ve mentioned previously amongst the many sage pieces of advice you’ve given me over the years the one about not immediately installing Microsoft updates has to be the one proven so correct time after time after time. And as I always remark:
    How can such a MULTI-BILLION-DOLLAR outfit produce such SHODDY, INFERIOR, and WORTHLESS, and indeed HARMFUL software repeatedly?!!!
    The 2 new fellows who replace Ballmer et al are no better and based on the frequency of these update failures perhaps even worse.
    With best wishes always,