Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 18, 2015

Password security tips: share them safely with loved ones;  Five secure chat apps that don’t cost a dime;  7 gotta-know iOS and Android text-messaging tricks;  Microsoft replaces patch that killed PowerPoint;  Autodesk Pixlr for PC and Windows tablets free;  11 Antivirus Apps for the Mac;  The four best lock screens for your Android phone;  Facebook Blocks Native American Names;  Raspberry Pi Sales Pass 5 Million;  Ten Raspberry Pi 2 alternatives;  Ultimate Game Sale on Xbox;  The Best iPhone Games You Should Play This Week;  KeyScrambler (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Password security tips: When and how to share them safely with loved ones – We’re conditioned almost constantly to protect our passwords. Don’t write them down. Don’t store them in a Word doc on your desktop. Don’t share your password over the phone or by email. Don’t ever give your password to anyone under any circumstances. The gray area comes with whether to share your password with significant others. Any time you share a password or anything else online, you increase the risk that it might be exposed or compromised. Michelle Dennedy of Intel Security offered some tips to help you protect your device and personal information:

Five secure chat apps that don’t cost a dime – Sometimes you need to chat about a subject and you can’t chance the information getting into the wrong hands. Maybe you’re sending personal data or discussing sensitive company details. Regardless of why you need to ensure a secure conversation, the bigger question is “How do you go about it?” Let’s dive in and look at some of the best free apps for securely chatting with your friends, family, staff, and clients.

7 gotta-know iOS and Android text-messaging tricks – The standard Android and iOS messaging apps—you know, the app you use for trading all those text messages, photos and videos—can do much more than you might think. Not only can you forward any text messages you receive, you can also (depending on whether you’re using an iPhone or Android phone) find out when a given message was sent or received, shush an annoying group thread, or “lock” a message that’s particularly important. You can even swap in a whole new messaging app if you’re not satisfied with the “stock” one. Read on for seven texting tricks you need to know, starting with…

Five free OS X data encryption utilities – Here are five ways to secure the data on your Mac using both built-in tools and third-party utilities. All of these are robust tools that can thwart both casual snoopers and hardcore hackers. And on top of that, they won’t cost you a dime.

11 Antivirus Apps for the Mac – While the list of viruses and other malware targeted at OS X is short, Windows and even Linux malware pose a threat to your Mac, too. These nefarious programs may not always be able to run on your Mac, but they aren’t doing you any good by taking up space, either. Also, advanced malware can sometimes use your Mac as an infection vector for Windows or Linux computers, hitching a ride in an email or on a USB drive. To combat these sneaky malicious programs, some Mac antivirus apps scan for Windows and Linux malware to keep your computer tidy, and your friends safe.

A five-pack of beer apps to find great new brews – Calling all hop heads, lager hounds and ale wives: put down that pint (just for a moment) and pick up your phone to discover new beers and keep track of your favorites. If you are a beer lover always on the hunt for new and interesting ales and lagers, I have a five-pack of beer apps to share with you.

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Pintley

Autodesk Pixlr now available as free app for PC and Windows tablets – No longer will you be forced to muck around online or in Microsoft Paint to transform those images you took that need a little bit of touching up, as now Microsoft has worked with Autodesk to produce a Windows Store app version of Pixlr and made it available for PC and tablets via the Windows Store. The original AutoDesk Pixlr app is a free photo editing web app that was previously only available online and for mobile devices. The PC, laptop and tablet version offers a wide range of effects that you can use to create customized collages, as well as tools to adjust contrast, lighting, focus and blur.

The four best lock screens for your Android phone – If you’re getting bored with your phone’s lock screen, maybe it’s time to try another. This is Android after all, so you’re not locked in to what came with your device—there are a ton of options to put impressive images, better notification controls, and a steady stream of news and updates right in front of you. One word of advice: be sure you turn off system lock in your phone’s settings menu. Otherwise you may have to unlock your phone twice, as it will still show the default lock screen after you unlock your custom lockscreen.

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Get a calm and peaceful feeling when you glance at the CM Locker screen.

Microsoft replaces patch that killed PowerPoint – Microsoft has replaced a patch for PowerPoint 2013 after finding it caused problems with the presentation app on Surface RT and Surface 2 tablets. The affected patch, KB2920732 for PowerPoint 2013 for the Surface RT and Surface 2, was released as part of the February Patch Tuesday update for Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT.

Stop your flash drive from yelling about fake problems every time you plug it in – Windows is full of cryptic error messages, but few are more annoying than seeing a warning every time you plug in a USB drive. You know the one I’m talking about: “There’s a problem with this drive. Scan the drive now and fix it.” So you go through the motions, scan the stupid drive, fix it, and everything’s fine. Then the next time you connect it to your PC, there’s that darn message again. So how do you fix this problem for good? Here are a few tips.

Sony SmartEyeglass Developer Edition On Sale Now – Where Google failed, Sony hopes to succeed. Its SmartEyeglass Developer Edition eyewear is available now for pre-order in the U.K. and Germany. The SED-E1 transparent-lens headset will go on sale in eight more countries—Japan, the U.S., France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden—next month. Developers can access the official version of the SmartEyeglass SDK today.

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Chromecast coming to VLC, according to latest changelog – If a changelog on Github can be believed (and they typically can), VLC is about to get Chromecast support. That means the app will soon be able to stream your locally stored content to your HDMI port on your TV via Chromecast. While you can already fling locally stored content to Chromecast via apps like Plex, VLC takes it a step further by offering up nearly unlimited support for file types. The streaming app may also be returning to iOS, where the Chromecast functionality should also pop up.

PCPartPicker website overhauled to make building a PC easier than ever before – Good news if you’re looking to build a PC anytime soon: PCPartPicker just launched a fairly extensive site redesign that adds (among other things) price filtering and custom build guides. If you’ve never heard of it before, PCPartPicker lets you start plugging in components for your build (CPU, GPU, motherboard, etc.) and makes sure everything is compatible before you drop big bucks on hardware. It also has killer filtering options if you’re still in the planning stages of your build. Have a specific number of CPU cores in mind? You can sort by that. Want to buy the cheapest CPU possible? You can do that too (though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it). Want to know whether that GTX 980 will fit into the case you’re buying? PCPartPicker has you covered.

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Facebook Blocks Native American Names – Facebook is under fire again for denying users access based on their account names. Five months after the social network sparred with the drag queen community over its “real name” policy, Native Americans are fighting Facebook for the right to log in with their native names. The ongoing battle picked up steam in October, when users like Shane Creepingbear were suspended based on the assumption that they were using fake names.

Web standard promising faster page loads wins approval – HTTP 2.0 is the standard’s first new version in 16 years. In practice, the new standard will bring more privacy-protection encryption to the Web, too. HTTP, short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is one of the seminal standards of the Web. It governs how a Web browser communicates with a Web server to load a Web page. HTTP 2.0, the protocol’s first major revision since HTTP 1.1 in 1999, is designed to load Web pages faster, allowing consumers to read more pages, buy more things and perform more and faster Internet searches. In practice, HTTP 2.0 also brings another big change: encryption.

Windows 10 lets you schedule Windows Update restarts – In the Windows 10 Technical Preview, Windows Update still downloads and installs updates automatically. And if you have Windows Update set to “automatic,” it will work like it does in previous versions of Windows: it will wait until your computer is idling (this usually happens when you’re in the middle of a major, unsaved project and you’ve just stepped away from your desk for an impromptu meeting with your boss), and it will restart automatically. But if you’d rather not have this happen, you can now set up your PC to prompt you to schedule a specific restart time. Gone are the days of losing hours of work to a poorly-timed Windows Update! Here’s how to do it.

Security:

Did the NSA plant surveillance software on hard drives? – Security vendor Kaspersky outs a group capable of inserting spying software onto hard drives around the world, while Reuters fingers the NSA as the culprit.

WhatsApp spy tool lets anyone track when you’re online – WhatsSpy Public illustrates that fiddling with your privacy settings doesn’t stop people from tracking your status and any changes you’ve made to profile photos, status messages and settings.

Beware of fake Windows 10 “activators” – The considerable interest users have shown for testing Microsoft’s Windows 10 Technical Preview version has not passed unnoticed by cyber scammers and malware peddlers. Malwarebytes’ Chris Boyd warns about several different tactics used by these crooks in order to make users complete surveys or download potentially unwanted applications.
Several YouTube video pages have been spotted offering “activating” tools for “unlocking” the Technical Preview version in order to activate the “full” Windows 10 version. The same offer can be found on a number of dedicated websites such as this one (which is still active as I write this):

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Samsung’s spying smart TVs don’t encrypt voice recordings sent over the internet – new claim – Not only is your Samsung smart TV snooping on what you say, it sends recordings of your voice over the internet unencrypted – leaving it open to eavesdropping and mischief – security researchers say. Samsung insisted last week that its TV voice-control technology isn’t half as creepy as its terms and conditions suggested. Now findings by security consultancy Pen Test Partners will renew fears of smart gizmos riding roughshod over your privacy.

Microsoft targets Asia as global hub of cybercrime and malware – The software giant’s cybercrime fighting unit has opened its third Asian satellite center in Singapore, to keep an eye on malware that will target Southeast Asia’s emerging status as a financial hub.

Firefox to get a “walled garden” for browser extensions, Mozilla to be sole arbiter – Mozilla has announced that its Firefox browser is heading towards signed browser extensions only. Even if you publish your extensions “off market,” you’ll have to get Mozilla to sign them first.

Company News:

Snapchat reportedly could be valued as high as $19B – Snapchat is reportedly seeking a new round of funding that could value the company as high as $19 billion. “A person with knowledge of the matter” said that the company would be hoping to raise as much as $500 million, with executives “in advanced discussions” with fund managers over the new round of funding, according to Bloomberg, The funding could reportedly land Snapchat a valuation of between $16 billion and $19 billion, making it the one of the top three venture capitalist-backed startups, behind car service Uber and smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi.

Sony Eyes Healthy Profits By 2018 With New Focus On PlayStation And Entertainment – Sony announced its latest corporate reshuffle which will see it focus on its PlayStation and its entertainment businesses, as well as its CMOS image sensor unit, as it bids to return to healthy profit levels by 2018. The company has reported six net loses over the last seven years, but it said that this new three-year strategy is aimed at delivering a 500 billion yen ($4.2 billion) consolidated operating profit for its fiscal 2017. Sony recorded a $1.2 billion loss for its last full year of business (fiscal 2013) last March, and it is expected to post another loss — albeit a slimmer one — for FY2014.

Google launches Android One in the Philippines – Google will start selling its Android One handsets in the Philippines next month, marking the sixth nation it’s brought the low-priced devices to.

BlackBerry is suing Ryan Seacrest’s keyboard startup Typo again – Ryan Seacrest’s keyboard startup, Typo, changed the design of its heavily BlackBerry-inspired case after being sued last year, but it turns out that BlackBerry doesn’t think those changes make it any less of a rip off. BlackBerry is now suing Typo over the Typo 2, claiming that the case maker has once again copied its designs and patents. “The Typo2 Keyboard still blatantly copies BlackBerry’s iconic keyboard trade dress designs that have been embodied in numerous BlackBerry smartphones from the 2007 BlackBerry 8800 to the current Q10 and Classic models,” the complaint reads. It’s requesting that a preliminary injunction is issued to stop Typo from selling the new case.

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Raspberry Pi Sales Pass 5 Million – A round of applause for the U.K.-made Raspberry Pi microcomputer — which has just passed the 5 million sales mark, some three years after it was first launched with the over-modest goal of selling “a few thousand” Pi over its entire lifetime, as creator Eben Upton has said. How wrong can you be, and how good must that feel? Having a tasty price-point — of $35 for the Model B Pi, and just $25 for Model A — has kindled remarkable interest in Pi-powered homebrew computing. Everything from DIY computers to robotics projects are being built with Pi at their core. Whole startup businesses have also found a use for a low cost credit card-sized microcomputer.

Ten Raspberry Pi 2 alternatives – Summary: The Raspberry Pi 2 is the single-board computer of the moment, but there are plenty of others out there. We’ve rounded up some of the most eye-catching offerings.

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Games and Entertainment:

Cities: Skylines hands-on preview: We built this city on rocks (and roll) – EA’s 2013 SimCity reboot was a disaster. Cities XXL has received a similarly-disastrous backlash this month, albeit for different reasons. In the aftermath, all eyes turn towards Cities: Skylines, the upcoming city-builder from Cities in Motion developer Colossal Order. It’s somewhat unfair to Cities: Skylines. After all, the difference in size between SimCity developer Maxis and Colossal Order is…significant, to say the least. It’s like putting Call of Duty in the same category as [Insert small, indie shooter]. But fair or not, people have pinned a lot of hopes on Cities: Skylines. I recently got a chance to go hands-on with the game. Here’s a bit of what I learned ahead of the game’s official March 10 release date.

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Save big on games with the Ultimate Game Sale on Xbox – Microsoft has been offering discount after discount when it comes to the company’s Xbox One console and games. Starting today, Xbox One owners that sign into Xbox Live will notice a tile on the home screen that reads “Ultimate Game Sale”. Selecting the tile will reveal the entire selection of games on sale to both Xbox Live “Silver” and “Gold” members, meaning you don’t have to have an active Xbox Live Gold subscription to get in on the savings. However, Gold members will see a bigger discount on almost every available game. Here’s a list of Xbox One games currently on sale with the Gold/Silver discount percentages:

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Hulu Replaces Its Queue With “Watchlist,” A Smarter, More Personalized View Of Your Favorite Shows – Hulu today is introducing a new feature called Watchlist, designed to offer users a smarter and more personalized area featuring the shows you’re interested in viewing. The addition actually replaces three others features on Hulu: your Queue, your Favorites and the Shows You Watch tray.

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Halo: Nightfall hits video-on-demand services March 17 – Produced by Ridley Scott and Xbox Entertainment Studios, Halo: Nightfall is an origin story for Spartan Agent Jameson Locke and follows his investigation of a biological attack. A key character in Halo 5, Locke is played by Mike Colter, who’s also set to play Luke Cage in the Marvel Netflix shows. The series originally ran as episodes on Windows platforms last November and December, but this new release combines all five segments into a single film. You can purchase it digitally as well as on DVD and Blu-ray.

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The Best iPhone Games You Should Play This Week – Had enough Candy Crush and looking for some fun new games to play on your iPhone? Here are five favorites TIME rounded up this week.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Listen To All The Stuff MP3 Compression Leaves Out – MP3s have become so ubiquitous that we often forget it’s a compression format. When music gets trimmed to one-tenth of its original size, lots of information deemed “unimportant” gets tossed out. Here’s what we’re missing.

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Obama accuses EU of attacking American tech companies because it ‘can’t compete’ – Barack Obama has angered officials in Europe after suggesting that investigations by the European Union into companies like Google and Facebook were “commercially driven.” In an interview with Recode, the president claimed that European “service providers who … can’t compete with ours, are essentially trying to set up some roadblocks for our companies to operate effectively there.” The truth, however, is more nuanced than this.

Photos: Drones for good – from disaster rescue to replanting the world’s forests – Drones increasingly play a role in modern warfare, with the US military planning to spend about $2bn on the unmanned aircraft this year. To highlight that drones have uses beyond killing, the world’s first Drones for Good competition was held in Dubai this month. Thirty nine entrants worldwide were whittled down to five finalists, who competed for a $1m grant to develop prototype drones for purposes ranging from organ transportation to disaster rescue.

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U.S. Will Allow Export of Armed Drones – The State Department announced new policies Tuesday stipulating that U.S. drones can only be exported through government programs and that the receiving country needs to agree to certain conditions about what the drone will be used for. Under the new rules, exports of armed military drones must be made through government entities and the nations receiving the devices must agree to “end-use assurances,” according to the State Department.

Something to think about:

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient allover the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

–      Howard Zinn

Today’s Free Downloads:

IceCream Media Converter – Meet IceCream Media Converter, one of the most powerful and user-friendly media conversion tools that supports major and popular audio and video formats. The program also allows you to download YouTube videos and convert them to AVI, MP4, MP3 and other formats. Its intuitive interface makes conversion of AVI, MKV, MP4, WMV, MP3, WAV, MPEG, WMA and other files to any audio and video format easy for everyone.

Audio and video formats supported:

flv, mkv, mp4, avi, swf, 3gp, flac, wmv, vob, rmvb, mov, m4v, midi, mp4, mpg, mpeg, m2ts, mts, mp3, wma, wav, m4a, m4p, cda, aac, aiff, ogg

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KeyScrambler – KeyScrambler encrypts your keystrokes deep in the kernel, foiling keylogging attacks with scrambled, undecipherable data.

This advanced method of keystroke protection defeats both known and unknown keyloggers.

The friendly interface displays realtime encrypted stream of keystrokes so you see when and how KeyScrambler is working.

Strengthens where defenses are the weakest in your traditional anti-virus, anti-malware programs and PC security.

Compare Editions – A free browser add-on, KeyScrambler Personal protects all your inputs in IE, Firefox, and Flock. KeyScrambler Pro and Premium are paid programs that protect a wide array of apps.

How It Works – KeyScrambler encrypts your keystrokes at the keyboard driver level and decrypts them at the destination application, giving keyloggers “scrambled,” useless keys to record.

For Online Games – Both KeyScrambler Pro and Premium protect your player’s IDs, passwords and digital assets in over two dozen online games.

For Business – Read how and why KeyScrambler is important for your business. KeyScrambler Premium protects critical systems and reduces risks of information theft at the workplace.

Features – KeyScrambler defeats known and unknown keyloggers; also protects Chinese, Japanese, and Korean inputs; is compatible with other security programs, tokens and smart cards; and requires no user effort.

How To – The user-friendly interface allows you to do things on KeyScrambler for a more comfortable, personalized fit.

Supports – Advanced Browser, AM Browser, AOL Explorer, AOL 9, Avant, Comodo Dragon, Comodo IceDragon, CometBird, Crazy Browser, Firefox, Flock, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, K-meleon, Maxthon, MSN Explorer, Netscape, Orca Browser, Opera, Safari, Seamonkey, SlimBrowser, SR Iron Browser, TheWorld Browser, Palemoon, Lunascape, RockMelt, WaterFox, and Yahoo Browser.

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My WiFi Router – My WiFi Router 3.0 helps turn your laptop into your own public or private Wi-Fi hotspot. You can allow or blacklist users under Connection Management, share videos, and shut down the computer providing Wi-Fi access automatically by timer. (free)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Congress unites to back law that would curb warrantless email searches – More than half of the US House of Representatives have backed a proposed law that aims to end warrantless searches of email inboxes.

The proposed law, titled the Email Privacy Act 2015, aims to close a loophole introduced in law three decades ago, which allows the government to access and read emails that were opened more than six months earlier without a court’s approval.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI, 5th), who authored the controversial Patriot Act, and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY, 4th), whose election was won on supporting privacy matters, are among the 240 members of the House who co-sponsored the bill.

A corresponding bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), was introduced in the Senate last week.

The Department of Homeland Security is a total disaster. It’s time to abolish it – DHS was a mistake to begin with. Instead of solving the coordination problems it was supposed to solve, it simply duplicated efforts already happening in other federal departments. And attempts to control and distinguish the department have politicized it to the point where it can’t function smoothly — and might be threatening national security.

This isn’t to say that DHS should be fully liquidated. The argument is there’s no reason for it to exist as its own department when it can be reabsorbed into the various departments (from Justice to Treasury) from which it was assembled.

Obama hedges position on encryption. It’s good. It’s bad – President Barack Obama is making his position on encryption known: he is a supporter and “believer in strong encryption” but also “sympathetic” to law enforcement’s needs to prevent terror attacks.

“I think the only concern is… our law enforcement is expected to stop every plot. Every attack. Any bomb on a plane. The first time that attack takes place, where it turns out we had a lead and couldn’t follow up on it, the public’s going to demand answers. This is a public conversation that we should be having,” Obama said in a Friday interview with Re/Code. “I lean probably further in the direction of strong encryption than some do inside law enforcement. But I am sympathetic to law enforcement, because I know the kind of pressure they’re under to keep us safe. And it’s not as black and white as it’s sometimes portrayed. Now, in fairness, I think those in favor of air tight encryption also want to be protected from terrorists.”

Australia: AU$400m for data retention the cost of freedom: Abbott – The introduction of a two-year mandatory metadata-retention scheme costing AU$400 million of taxpayers’ money is a small price to pay, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday.

“The cost of data retention is less than 1 percent of the total sector,” Abbott said. “It seems like a small price to pay to give ourselves the kind of safety and the kind of freedom that people in a country like Australia deserve.”

Abbott warned that if parliament blocks the proposed data-retention scheme, it would be a form of “unilateral disarmament in the face of criminals”.

The highest cost estimate for retaining the data is only 1 percent of the AU$40 billion telecommunications sector, he said.

“The cost of losing this data is an explosion in unsolved crime,” Abbott told reporters on the Gold Coast while visiting the child protection organisation Bravehearts.

Abbott insisted that the changes will help authorities track terrorists, corporate fraudsters, and pedophiles, and said that privacy concerns have been overblown.

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