Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 17, 2015

20 free PC apps to ease daily tasks;  How to protect your wireless router from malware;  17 obscure Windows tools and tricks;  These 5 Apps Will Help You Survive a Long Distance Relationship;  6 Tips to Save Your Laptop’s Battery From Dying;  AT&T CEO: ‘There Will Be Litigation’ on Net Neutrality;  10 good iPad apps for productivity;  Gamers Spent How Much on Candy Crush Saga?  The 25 Best Fitness Apps;  Xbox One Upload Studio major update;  6 Tips to Save Your Laptop’s Battery From Dying.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

17 obscure Windows tools and tricks too powerful to overlook – The beauty of Windows lies in its flexibility and depth. In fact, Windows is so deep and flexible that many of us never touch its more powerful tools, whether from unawareness or sheer forgetfulness. But beneath Internet Explorer and the Start button hides a universe of tools and tricks that are positively brimming with potential. With that in mind, let’s brush the cobwebs off some classic Windows power tips that you’re likely to have forgotten about.

20 free PC apps to ease daily tasks – Some of the best things in a PC lover’s life are indeed free, but they’re not always obvious. Beyond the free security tools and other must-have programs to install on a new PC lies a whole universe of lesser known, yet no less stellar software that’s just begging for a spot on your hard drive. Need proof? Check out the following 20 supremely handy-dandy programs. None are household names, but all will rock your world.

Slow Wi-Fi speeds? How to improve your wireless network – Suffering from a slow or sluggish home internet connection? Here are eight ways to help improve your network speeds.

How to protect your wireless router from malware – As I pointed out last year, your router’s IP address is anything but a secret. Every website you visit gets a look at that number. And from that IP address, they can discover your ISP and your general location (your neighborhood, but not your address). But can they infect your router with malware? It’s not likely, but the danger is significant enough to take precautions.

The 25 Best Fitness Apps – Exercise more, build muscle, lose weight, or simply cut back on the cookies. Be the best version of you with these apps guiding the way.

10 good iPad apps for productivity – The iPad is a capable tool for work but requires good apps to provide the needed functionality. These 10 apps will go a long way to meeting the needs of most iPad users. You can’t work all the time so we threw in a hot new game for down time.

CogniToys packs IBM’s Watson into a smart-talking toy – IBM’s Watson supercomputer may not be the first pseudo-teacher you’d think to leave with your child, but startup Elemental Path thinks wrapping the cognitive computer in a cute dinosaur casing might change that. CogniToys – currently a cute green dino, but with other shapes and species expected to follow – pair Watson’s ability to learn, remember, and adapt with a speech recognition engine, so that – so the theory goes – as kids play the dinosaur can quietly broaden their learning while personalizing it to keep them engaged.

Photos: Five OSes you can run on your Raspberry Pi 2 – From the OSMC media centre to the latest version of Fedora these are the OSes that will run on the Pi 2 and how to install them.

These 5 Apps Will Help You Survive a Long Distance Relationship – Distance got you down? Stay connected with your loved one no matter how far apart you are on Valentine’s Day. While you’ll have to wait to send someone your heartbeat via the Apple Watch, these five apps should hold you over until April.

Short for iOS brings articles you can read in under 10 minutes – Throughout your day, you probably find yourself with time to spare. Not a lot of time, but enough to make standing there doing nothing slightly awkward. A new app, Short, might just change that for you. Rather than waste time with a game or social media, Short finds content you might like to read, which can be filtered to suit the time you have available. Though it’s iOS-only, Short is free to download and use, offers no in-app purchases, and has both an iPhone and iPad version available.

6 Tips to Save Your Laptop’s Battery From Dying – We’ve all been there: Typing away furiously on our laptop, only to find our battery is quickly approaching zero and there’s not an outlet in sight. In order to resolve an immediate crisis of rapid battery drainage, there are a few things you can do to buy yourself some time before you need to reach for a charger:

Security:

Beyond Stuxnet and Flame: Equation ‘most advanced’ cybercriminal gang recorded – Kaspersky Labs has discovered the “ancestor” of Stuxnet and Flame, a threat actor which surpasses everything else in complexity and technique sophistication. On Monday at the Kaspersky Labs Security Analyst Summit, the firm unveiled research concerning the existence of a cyberattack team dubbed The Equation Group. The group, which Kaspersky Lab Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) members dub the “ancestor” of Stuxnet and Flame operators, has been in operation dating back to 2001 and possibly as early as 1996.

Microsoft makes biometrics focal point for Windows 10 security – With Windows 10, you’ll have more options for password protection. In a recent blog post, Microsoft announced they’ll support new Fast Identity Online Alliance (FIDO) standards, which they also helped contribute to. With FIDO 2.0, you’ll have wider availability to use biometrics, which means your next-generation PC might have some biometric scanners built right in. In fact, it could make that Synaptics touchpad, which also supports new FIDO guidelines, a must-have accompaniment for Windows 10, if you’re of the mind that fingerprints are better than passwords.

How to lock down an insecure wireless network router – Your home router is vulnerable to attacks as soon as you take it out of the box. Here are a number of ways you can secure your home wireless network.

Exploitation By Consent – Many startups and consumers don’t take even the most basic steps to stop their digital assets, and even themselves, from being exploited. They should. Exploits can wreak havoc on consumers and startups, such as stealing bank account passwords and credit-card numbers, encrypting all the files on a computer and demanding a hefty ransom to get them back, and even accessing documents that have recently been copied on your copy machine, such as passports and tax forms. But there are things every startup and user can do to stop exploits.

Company News:

AT&T CEO: ‘There Will Be Litigation’ on Net Neutrality – AT&T chief Randall Stephenson is pushing back on the FCC’s net neutrality plan, telling CNBC that lawsuits are likely in the cards. If the FCC is committed to its current path, “there will be litigation,” Stephenson said during a Friday CNBC interview. He stopped short of saying that AT&T will file that suit; it “may take the form of industry movement,” he speculated. But however it happens, “it’s quite certain” that a lawsuit is on the horizon. Stephenson didn’t elaborate on the grounds for such a lawsuit, though he did say that the industry will likely ask for a delay in the implementation of whatever rules the FCC votes on later this month.

LG president indicted for allegedly damaging Samsung washing machines – On Sunday, LG confirmed that it had been indicted in South Korea after its Home Appliance Division President Jo Seong-jin allegedly damaged the doors of several Samsung washing machines in the days leading up to a trade show in Germany. On Monday, LG took the news to the general public, releasing edited CCTV footage that it says shows that Jo did not intentionally damage the doors. The indictment comes with charges of vandalizing Samsung’s new “Crystal Blue” front-loading washing machines, as well as charges of defamation and obstruction of business. LG has called the claims “excessive” and has filed a countersuit.

AT&T finally gives BlackBerry’s Passport and Classic some shelf-space – The BlackBerry Passport and Classic are wildly popular, the Canadian company has continually insisted, and would be more so if carriers would only get onboard; now, they’ll have a chance to prove it, courtesy of AT&T. After no small delay, both the Passport and its more regularly-shaped Classic sibling are headed to AT&T stores on February 20th, the operator has confirmed, not only offering a subsidized way of buying both phones in the US, but more importantly giving BlackBerry the opportunity to put its sales where its hype has been.

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Indian phone makers grow wings, swoop into foreign territories – Summary:It was only a matter of time before the new kings of the domestic smartphone scene in India ventured onto other shores to pad their coffers. Yet, it may have been more than just global ambition that got them there.

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Spice’s Android One version for Indonesia

IBM to invest $1 billion in software defined storage chase – IBM on Tuesday said it will invest $1 billion in its storage software portfolio over the next five years. The company launched Spectrum Storage, a set of applications designed to manage storage and make an enterprise’s data assets more efficient. The move highlights a reality for traditional enterprise storage giants—data centers are becoming software defined. That move to software defined storage, which trails servers and networking, is going to mean more licenses and less hardware sold. In a big data era, storage is becoming a huge line item and companies need to squeeze efficiencies out of how they manage information.

Games and Entertainment:

Gamers Spent How Much on Candy Crush Saga? – According to The Guardian, Candy Crush Saga players spent approximately $1.33 billion on in-app purchases over the entirety of 2014. Just let that sink in for a minute: $1.33 billion on little additions to a mobile game. While King hasn’t supplied a figure for the game’s lifetime spending, The Guardian estimates that players have likely spent more than $3 billion on purchases at this point. In the last 18 months, the game’s players have spent about $2.37 billion.

‘The Order: 1886’ Stands to Dramatically Divide the PlayStation Audience – One of the PlayStation 4’s two big exclusives in the first quarter of 2015, beside the upcoming Dark Souls successor Bloodborne, The Order: 1886 needs to comprise a cornerstone release for the system, bringing newcomers to Sony’s core console and rewarding earlier adopters who’ve hardly been treated to platform-specific essentials so far. Exactly how it fares with reviewers remains to be seen: an embargo restricts that kind of coverage from running until the 19th of February, the day before the game’s release. Adopting cinematic convention, where movies with no press screenings are usually best left unseen, this could imply that The Order: 1886 is going to blow – and holding reviews back until the last minute prevents a rush of pre-order cancellations. Its chances aren’t helped, either, by lukewarm preview coverage in the gaming press.

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This racing simulator puts you in the car, no virtual reality necessary – With the availability of Oculus Rift (hopefully this year) a number of simulation games are going to be greatly enhanced. One of those is racing simulation, but it turns out you really don’t need virtual reality to get that “in the car” feel. As you can see in the image above, his racing rig looks high end, but also pretty standard. It’s a frame, a big TV, racing seat, wheel, pedals, and gear stick. However, once you’re sat in it and the cockpit view is selected in your game of choice, the experience becomes very real from the perspective of the driver. This video captures perfectly just how good this setup looks when racing:

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Xbox One Upload Studio major update adds effects, templates – Gone are the days when gaming consoles were just that, dedicated computers made for consuming games. Now they have become content creation devices as well that have even turned some gamers into Internet superstars. In the Xbox One world, this is made possible with the Upload Studio app. Today, Microsoft is pushing out a major update to the software that gives users a lot more control and even more options to let their creative juices flow and put together their next big Internet show.

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Sling TV takes a swing at HBO with Epix video-on-demand – Today Dish announced that its live TV streaming service will soon include access to four new channels—Epix, Epix2, Epix3, and Epix Drive-In—as well as 2,000 movies and TV shows from the Epix network’s subscription video-on-demand service. Sling TV launched earlier this year in an attempt to capture the growing market of cord cutters—people who’ve stopped paying for cable or never paid for cable in the first place because they consider it too costly and don’t want to pay for lots of channels they don’t watch.

Off Topic (Sort of):

These Are the Songs People Have Sex To, According to Spotify – According to streaming music service Spotify, indie rockers The XX rule the bedroom. The band’s song “Intro,” the first on their debut album, is the most likely track to appear on user-made “sex” playlists on the service. The Guardian reports there are some 2.5 million such playlists on Spotify. On average, men are more likely to have created sex playlists than women—56% to 44%. Top artists include Chet Faker, Zella Day and LP. The full collection of top songs are available here:

IO Hawk, the Segway-like mover you might actually want, is now available – Tired of walking around everywhere? The team behind the Segway thought you might be, but their design was awkward at best. the big handlebar rising up from the pedestal made you wonder if you were on some sort of odd scooter, which is counterintuitive when you’re essentially standing still. The IO Hawk, fist unveiled at CES this year, is like a Segway, but ditches the weird handlebar, leaving you free to move about and balance a bit more naturally. For $1,800, it can be yours, too.

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Toyota is using Oculus Rift to educate drivers about distracted driving – In an effort to make drivers more aware of the dangers of not paying attention while driving, Toyota has launched a virtual reality distracted driving simulator as part of its TeenDrive365 campaign.

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Five things you need to know about the FAA’s new rules for flying drones – The Federal Aviation Agency just introduced its long awaited proposal for new drone regulations. Nothing will become official until after a period of public comment, but the industry is hailing the FAA’s approach as a sensible update that would allow the industry to finally move forward with everyday use of drones. Here are the five big takeaways from yesterday’s news.

Facebook posts land inmate 35 years in the hole – Being punished for accessing Facebook is nothing new — it’s just typically grounded pre-teens who face the wrath of their parents, not an inmate at a state correctional facility. In South Carolina, one inmate just received 37 years — years — in solitary confinement for posting how much he missed his family. In addition to the alone time, the inmate in question, Tyheem Henry, also lost double that time (74 years) of canteen (inside marketplace for snacks and such), phone, and visitation privileges.

Pointing up    I was under the impression that the U.S. Constitution forbid “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Well, I suppose that only applies to the regular cruel and unusual punishments – drawing and quartering, burning at the stake, waterboarding – you know, that sort of thing. Regular, day in and day out stuff. But not, it seems, 37 freaking years in solitary confinement!

But hey, not to worry – America’s politicized judicial system (elected judges and the like), will be bound to treat you (or a member of your family) fairly, when you appear before the bench. Right? Right?

That time may be sooner than you think.

Wall Street Journal – Over the past 20 years, authorities have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates. As a result, the FBI currently has 77.7 million individuals on file in its master criminal database—or nearly one out of every three American adults.

Penguins can’t taste ice cream, so says science – All penguins – of all types – have been discovered to have no taste for sweet, bitter, and umami flavors of edible matter. Of course they can’t taste anything sweet, even if it happens to be a sweet-tasting rock – but this finding is linked inextricably to eating. As it turns out, its likely penguins lost their taste for several types of food over the course of their migration to cold climates and evolution to the creatures they are today – friendly, tasteless waddlers though they are.

Something to think about:

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

–       Voltaire

Today’s Free Downloads:

WinToUSB 2.1 Beta / 1.6 – WinToUSB is a free software that allows you to install and run Windows operating system on a USB hard drive or USB flash drive, using an ISO image or CD/DVD drive as the source of installation.

If you have a Windows installation source (a DVD disc, an image file) and a valid Windows product key, you can use WinToUSB to install Windows on your USB drive.

WinToUSB’s key features include:

Easy-to-use wizard interface that provides step-by-step instructions for installing Windows on a USB hard drive or USB flash drive.

Install Windows from an ISO image or CD/DVD drive.

Use any edition of Windows 8(.1) to create Windows To Go USB drive.

Support for MBR and GPT disk layouts.

Don’t need install WAIK (Windows Automated Installation Kit) or WADK (Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit).

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BrowsingHistoryView – BrowsingHistoryView is a handy and reliable application designed to view your browsing history from multiple browsers at once.

The software includes in the report details such as: visit time, visit count, user profile and the web browser that was used to access that webpage. BrowsingHistoryView features support for the following web browsers: IE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Find Out If U.K. Spied On You Illegally Via NSA’s Prism, Upstream – Following a landmark legal ruling earlier this month that, prior to December 2014, the U.K.’s spy agency GCHQ acted illegally by receiving data from the NSA’s surveillance dragnets, privacy advocacy organization Privacy International has set up an online form where people can submit a request to be informed whether they were spied on in the past.

This only applies to retrospective snooping by the British — which is what the court in question, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), deemed GCHQ to have improperly engaged in. So no, you can’t use this campaign to ask whether the U.K. intelligence agencies are spying on you now.

And it also only applies specifically to the NSA’s Prism surveillance program, where it collects data direct from U.S. Internet companies, and to Upstream, where it taps directly into Internet cables to gather data — and where the data from those programs was passed on to the British. So any GCHQ-initiated snooping also isn’t covered here.

But you don’t have to be British or live in the U.K. to file a request. Anyone can ask whether their data was improperly accessed.

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NSA compromised hard disk firmware to spread spookware: Kaspersky – America’s National Security Agency (NSA) has infected hard disk firmware with spyware in a campaign valued as highly as Stuxnet and dating back at least 14 years, and possibly up to two decades, according to an analysis by Kaspersky labs and subsequent reports.

The campaign infected possibly tens of thousands of computers in telecommunications providers, governments, militaries, utilities, and mass media organisations among others in more than 30 countries.

The agency is said to have compromised hard drive firmware for more than a dozen top brands, including Seagate, Western Digital, IBM, Toshiba, Samsung and Maxtor, Kaspersky researchers revealed.

Reuters reports sources formerly working with the NSA confirmed the agency was responsible for the attacks, which Kaspersky doesn’t lay at the feet of the agency.

Kaspersky’s analysis says the NSA made a breakthrough by infecting hard disk firmware with malware known only as nls_933w.dll capable of persisting across machine wipes to re-infect targeted systems.

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Dutch DPA says government’s data retention plans still illegal – The Netherlands’ Data Protection Authority has criticised that government’s proposed data retention legislation.

The government put forward amendments to its data retention regime in response to the April 2014 European Court of Justice decision that invalidated the EU’s Data Retention Directive (along the way causing trouble for countries that had based their laws on the DRD).

A court case was launched in November 2014 in The Netherlands to overturn the legislation.

In this statement, the DPA says the current legislation should not be presented to parliament, because “the need to retain all telephony and internet data in the Netherlands is insufficiently substantiated”.

Obama Acknowledges U.S. ‘Plays Offense’ on Foreign Hacking – President Obama acknowledged that the United States “plays offense” against other countries online, arguing that the lines between defensive and aggressive actions are blurred in the world of cybersecurity.

In an interview with the tech news website Re/Code during a visit to Silicon Valley, Obama compared online security to basketball, describing a fluid situation where America routinely switches between offensive and defensive actions.

“This is more like basketball than football in the sense that there’s no clear line between offense and defense,” he said. “Things are going back and forth all the time.”

Obama called for a set of international protocols that would set “clear limits and guidelines” on cyberwarfare.

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4 Comments

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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 17, 2015

  1. I enjoy you work and it is interesting reading for me, and I sometimes share your work with others.

  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Facebook posts land inmate 35 years in the hole

    That is just frigging insane. It seems to me US officials enjoy torturing people. No way would that happen here in Oz. Maybe someone might get a week in solitary, but this story is off the charts.

    This bloke will be a vegetable in 35 years.

    Cheers

    • Hi Mal,

      The worst of it is – Americans have no idea that the rest of the civilized world has strict limits on the use of solitary confinement. America’s sentencing guidelines appear to have been formulated during the middle ages.

      Best,

      Bill