Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 20, 2015

How to clean Superfish and other crap off your PC;  Restore a Windows 8 or Windows 7 image backup to an unbootable PC;  iOS 8 is still riddled with show-stopping bugs;  How to transport your files to Google Drive;  YouTube is launching an Android app for children;  Clean up your Windows right-click menu with CCleaner;  I gave away my tablets and don’t at all miss them;  Microsoft OneNote for beginners: Everything you need to know;  Android malware hijacks power button, empties wallet while you sleep;  Hackers still in the State Department’s network, three months after the breach;  No one is too small to hack;  YouTube to unveil paid subscription model in next few months;  Two good apps for desktop publishing and one to avoid.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

THE GREAT SIM HEIST – How spies stole the keys to the encryption castle – American and British spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Leading privacy advocates and security experts say that the theft of encryption keys from major wireless network providers is tantamount to a thief obtaining the master ring of a building superintendent who holds the keys to every apartment. “Once you have the keys, decrypting traffic is trivial,” says Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “The news of this key theft will send a shock wave through the security community.”

Beat it, bloatware: How to clean Superfish and other crap off your PC – Preloaded software bogs down your hard drive, your start menu, and worse. We’re looking at you, Superfish. Clean it out with these handy tools and tricks.

You Can’t Remember Good Passwords, So You Need a Password Manager – Just what makes a good password? Well, it can’t contain any names, numbers, or words that someone else could figure out from what’s generally known about you. Your dog’s name, your school mascot, your firstborn’s birthday—those are all no good. It certainly can’t be a single, simple word or number-run like password or 123456. Best would be a random string of characters like 8TMatPL#HAo/#ZE$, but nobody can remember one password like that, let alone one for every secure website. So what can you do?

Five months on and iOS 8 is still riddled with show-stopping bugs – Five months on from the release of iOS 8, and following six rounds of bugfixes, Apple’s flagship mobile platform that powers almost three out of four iPhone and iPads is still riddled with bugs. I’m just going to come out and say it – this is a mess. If we were talking about cosmetic stuff like a badly laid out user interface or poor selection of wallpapers then I could overlook the issues, but they aren’t. These are bugs relating to core systems such as Wi-Fi, cellular connectivity, Bluetooth, and stability and performance. These are show-stopping bugs.

How to transport your files to Google Drive – Need to get somewhere quickly in the year 2265? Star Trek makes it look easy: step onto a platform, wait for someone to press a few buttons, and a transporter beams you to a location nearby. In 2015, Google Drive moves files to Google’s system almost as fast. Select a file (or folder) on your desktop and drag it into a browser window opened to Google Drive. Wait a bit as Google beams the information from your system to theirs. However, if you want to move all of your files from local storage to Google Drive, you need to plan the journey.

Restore a Windows 8 or Windows 7 image backup to an unbootable PC – An image backup can restore a hopelessly messed up Windows installation. But how do you restore a backup when you can’t boot Windows?

Bevy lets you create a private network for sharing pics, videos – Your family is probably spread out over a city, or state — possibly even a country, or continents. Sharing pics is easy via mediums like Facebook, but those avenues don’t lend themselves to private sharing in a straightforward way. There might even be some who aren’t comfortable uploading pics to a source they don’t own and control, which is where Bevy comes into play. Via an app and dedicated storage container, you and your family (or friends, or colleagues) can share pictures privately.


Clean up your Windows right-click menu with CCleaner – CCleaner released a recent update that added a feature that allows you to clean out random application shortcuts from the right-click menu. This is useful for those apps that either didn’t give you a choice in the matter, or those that used some sneakiness to make the option go unnoticed. Additionally, it’s much better (and likely safer) than manually digging through the registry.

Sony’s latest snake oil: Pricey ‘Premium Sound’ Micro SDXC cards – Need the perfect expandable storage solution for your $1,200 Walkman? Sony might have a bridge to sell you. The company is now selling a 64 GB Micro SDXC card “for Premium Sound” in Japan. At $160, it’s four or five times more expensive than a typical 64 GB card, but as the Wall Street Journal reports, it’s supposed to produce “less electrical noise.”

Microsoft will give you 100 GB of OneDrive storage if you have a Dropbox account – Microsoft is going after Dropbox with a new promotion that will add 100GB of storage to your OneDrive account if you currently have a Dropbox account. Verification is required.


I gave away my tablets and don’t at all miss them – Tablets were the new big thing, and the idea of owning one was exciting. Still, I didn’t see a use for them at the time, and so I put off buying one for a while, instead using those extra funds for an extra nice smartphone. Months rolled by and I’d nearly impulse buy a tablet at one point or another, but always held back. What would I do with it? It’d be easier to watch movies while lying around, I reasoned. And I could use it to take notes during class. It’d be lighter than my then-laptop. There was an app for everything! I talked myself into it. Fast-forward a few years. I’ve given away most of my tablets, and I don’t miss them a bit.

YouTube is launching an Android app for children – YouTube will release a new app designed for kids on Monday, the Google-owned video service has confirmed to The Verge. The app — called YouTube Kids — will reportedly offer original episodes of TV shows aimed at youngsters, in addition to videos from child-centric channels on YouTube, and will let parents set timers to stop their spawn from watching too long. YouTube Kids will reportedly be distinct from YouTube’s regular app, and at first, will only be available on Android smartphones and tablets.

Two good apps for desktop publishing and one to avoid – Yes, you can create professional-looking brochures, flyers, and more using a mobile app on a tablet (or a phone, if you’re masochistic and patient). But choose carefully–we found a couple of good ones to try.

Microsoft’s Wireless Display Adapter now available in 25 new markets, more coming soon – The Wireless Display Adapter first went on sale in the US in October for $59.95 (excluding taxes) and today, Microsoft announced that it is now on sale in 25 new markets. The company said that it has “expanded sales of the device to most countries in Europe, as well as South Africa.” Microsoft also says that it will launch the adapter in even more countries next month, including Australia, and various markets across Asia. You can find out more about the Wireless Display Adapter in our detailed hands-on with the device.


Microsoft OneNote for beginners: Everything you need to know – Microsoft’s purple paper eater may just help restore your sanity when you’re fighting digital clutter.


Android malware hijacks power button, empties wallet while you sleep – Security biz AVG has spotted an outbreak of a new kind of Android malware that will come alive even when the phone is supposedly switched off. The software nasty is able to do this by hijacking the mobe’s power-off sequence. “After pressing the power button, you will see the real shutdown animation, and the phone appears off. Although the screen is black, it is still on,” said the firm’s mobile security team in an advisory. “While the phone is in this state, the malware can make outgoing calls, take pictures and perform many other tasks without notifying the user.”

Lenovo PCs ship with man-in-the-middle adware that breaks HTTPS connections – The critical threat is present on Lenovo PCs that have adware from a company called Superfish installed. As unsavory as many people find software that injects ads into Web pages, there’s something much more nefarious about the Superfish package. It installs a self-signed root HTTPS certificate that can intercept encrypted traffic for every website a user visits. When a user visits an HTTPS site, the site certificate is signed and controlled by Superfish and falsely represents itself as the official website certificate. Even worse, the private encryption key accompanying the Superfish-signed Transport Layer Security certificate appears to be the same for every Lenovo machine. Attackers may be able to use the key to certify imposter HTTPS websites that masquerade as Bank of America, Google, or any other secure destination on the Internet. Under such a scenario, PCs that have the Superfish root certificate installed will fail to flag the sites as forgeries—a failure that completely undermines the reason HTTPS protections exist in the first place.


The Superfish certificate has been cracked, exposing Lenovo users to attack – Lenovo’s Superfish bug just went from bad to worse, as researchers have turned up an easy way to take advantage of the security flaws opened up by the pre-installed software. The bug has come under fire for breaking fundamental web security protocols, routing all encryption through a single password-protected certificate authority owned by a third-party adware company that makes Superfish. Anyone with the password that unlocks that certificate authority would be able to completely bypass the computer’s web encryption. The cracked certificate exposes Lenovo users to man-in-the-middle attacks, similar to those opened up by Heartbleed.

The safest way to escape from Superfish is to wipe your PC yourself. Here’s how – If you have an affected Lenovo PC, we’ve outlined the multi-step process for removing the software and the root certificate here. If you want to be sure that everything is completely removed (and if you’re willing to do the work), the more comprehensive solution is to completely reinstall Windows yourself. It’s not for everyone, but there are benefits to doing it this way—you get a totally clean PC that you’re in full control over. Most OEMs don’t include vanilla Windows install media with their systems anymore. They usually opt to include a restore partition, and that restore image usually has all the same crapware in it that shipped with the PC in the first place. We’ll walk you through the basics of getting install media, installing Windows, and creating a new clean recovery image.

Hackers still in the State Department’s network, three months after the breach – The US State Department, the NSA, and the FBI have had no luck in removing or blocking hackers from the State Department’s network in the three months since the breach was first reported.

No one is too small to hack – Smaller companies shouldn’t be complacent in the thought that cyberattackers have bigger game in their sights.

Australia: Three-strike piracy code draft targets residential internet users – Film studios and ISPs have released a new draft code that is aimed at curbing the number of Australians who illicitly download TV shows, films, and music online.

Company News:

YouTube to unveil paid subscription model in next few months – Google has been striving to wean YouTube from its dependence on ad revenues for some time now. The world’s largest streaming site, which has been offering paid channel subscriptions since 2013 and an ad-free, paid music experience called Music Key (currently in invitation-only beta) since November, looks set to take things a step further.

Apple Is Aiming to Produce Its Own Electric Car by 2020 – Apple wants to start producing its own cars, Bloomberg reports, citing unnamed sources privy to the company’s plans, who say the tech giant is pressuring its teams to work towards the production of an electric vehicle within the next five years. Meanwhile, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, whose company is attempting to release its own affordable electric car by 2017 and serves as Apple’s main competitor in the automotive sphere, told Bloomberg this month that Apple is offering his workers $250,000 signing bonuses and a 60 percent salary increase to jump ship.

Apple sued for poaching auto engineers and battery experts – Apple is being sued by A123 for poaching some of its most important engineers, which seemingly violates their non-compete clause. The engineers are helping Apple build a large battery division.

Ryanair, Vodafone partner for paperless cockpits, in-flight POS – Ryanair has a no-frills approach to air travel. Founded in 1985, Ryanair’s concept is getting you from point A to point B, quickly and efficiently. Part of their strategy involves a digital footprint that they rely heavily on, with travelers often needing to check-in online before heading to the airport. In a deal with Vodafone, their digital identity is growing, with in-flight digital point-of-sale terminals and a paperless cockpit. It’ll be iPads galore in the air for Ryanair.

Games and Entertainment:

Jolly Jam: Angry Birds maker makes its own Candy Crush – Rovio is about to try its luck with a Candy Crush-LIKE game, I suppose we should say. Not like it’s the same game – and not like there isn’t a precedent for creating games like this, like Bejeweled turning into a game about candy, or anything like that. And forbid it that there ever be a game like Bejeweled that takes what Dr. Mario was – or what Tetris was – and evolves it into something entirely new, with a smidgen of the old game in its bones.


Finally! Xbox One, meet Screenshots – It is almost mind boggling that such a basic need, like taking a screenshot to boast about your latest in-game triumph, would take so long to implement. But they say that good things come to those who wait, and those who wait need to wait just a little bit longer. Screenshot capability is finally coming to the Xbox One console when the latest system update rolls to everyone in March. Fortunately, that’s not the only reason to be excited about this update.


Hulu captures exclusive streaming rights to every season of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – Hulu has scored a point in the ongoing battle between TV and movie streaming services — the company has secured the exclusive rights to stream CSI: Crime Scene Investigation through its Hulu Plus subscription service. This is the first time the long-running CBS show has made its way to streaming video-on-demand services, and subscribers will be able to stream every episode of the show from April.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Fantastic Adobe video spotlights 25 years of Photoshop artistry – To celebrate Photoshop’s 25th anniversary, Adobe releases a video featuring tons of creations by artists worldwide. The video, of course, was made entirely in Photoshop.


Internet to be classified as a public utility if UK Parliament has its way – Many people around the world feel like internet is as important as water or electricity making it feel like a utility to many. Lawmakers in the US want to classify internet as a utility with backlash from many groups who fear that putting the government in more control of internet access would ruin net neutrality. In the UK, the upper house of parliament known as the House of Lords is also clamoring for internet access to be reclassified as a public utility.

Worldwide flights visualization shows how busy our skies really are – Anyone who’s been on a flight in the past few years knows that, despite rising fuel costs and ongoing economic turmoil, people are traveling a lot and our airports keep on getting busier. But better than just looking at the data is visualizing it, and that’s exactly what software engineer Callum Prentice has done using WebGL in a web browser. You can see the results by visiting his Flight Stream page, but be warned if you have a slower computer it may take a while to load, or fail to. You also need a browser that support WebGL, which most modern browsers do.

Apple boss Tim Cook wants you to read this book – Congressman John Lewis shared the stage with Martin Luther King when he uttered his ever reverberating “Have a dream” speech; yesterday, he shared a stage with Apple CEO, Tim Cook. Congressman Lewis was visiting Apple as he publicizes his book(s), March and March 2. March was the first graphic novel ever to receive a Robert F Kennedy Book Award. He was also at Apple to mark Black History Month. “It is a very unique way to present what is probably the most important story of my entire lifetime,” Tim Cook said when introducing Congressman Lewis at Apple HQ. “My hope is that everyone reads this and I would love to see the day that it is required reading in every school.” The books depict a sequence of events that began fifty years ago with Bloody Sunday and the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, which seems particularly poignant in light of the “Hands up, don’t shoot” protests.


Time Warner Cable calls customer “C**t” after she reports cable box problem – Time Warner Cable (TWC) isn’t yet a part of Comcast, but it’s taking after its potential parent company in one very unfortunate way. Comcast customers have complained about their billing account names being changed to insults like “asshole,” “whore,” “dummy,” and “super bitch.” Now, the same thing has happened to a Time Warner Cable customer named Esperanza Martinez. Martinez, of Orange County, California, provided Ars a copy of this letter she just got from Time Warner Cable:


After being contacted by Ars, Time Warner Cable admitted that one of its representatives changed Martinez’s first name to “Cunt” in the cable company’s computer system.

Something to think about:

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

–     H.L. Mencken


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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 20, 2015

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    ‘Beat it, bloatware: How to clean Superfish and other crap off your PC’
    From the article:
    “We originally published this article about a year ago, but in light of Lenovo’s Superfish fiasco, cleaning crapware off your PC is now more relevant than ever.”
    Bill I had always wondered about Lenovo and now it seems my fears were well founded. Apparently ALL of the computers are made in China. I have thought, based upon the Chinese governments proven record of spying on American businesses, consumers and government that it might be unwise, however the US government has its missile parts made in China do I guess all is well.
    You know Bill when I first got a computer I thought it would be all fun and educational, now it seems it is a front in a war!
    I truly am so appreciative of your efforts here, before coming here I was a lamb amongst the wolves.
    With best wishes always,

    • Hi Fred,

      Sorry for the late response – life got in the way yesterday. 🙂

      Underhanded behavior seems to be an acceptable norm with tech companies. There’s really nothing new here – just news of the latest “we’ll lie like a rug until you catch us” sort of thing. Just look at the number of class action lawsuits that have been launched in the last month alone. Hell, in the last few days! 🙂

      I share your feeling that “it seems it is a front in a war!” We are, in one sense, combatants/victims (depending on one’s capacity to understand reality) in a U.S. led war against freedom, toleration, privacy… all of it wrapped in the flag of patriotism and counter terrorism (wonderfully supported by Hollywood). American exceptionalism running amok, which affects virtually every human being on earth.

      I pointed out early in this NSA fiasco, that the only instrument worth wielding against a government intent on world domination (and, make no mistake, that is the underlying objective), is a refusal on the part of world citizenry to support U.S. companies at any level – starting with Microsoft, Apple, Google.. Until that happens, the U.S. will continue to attempt to run roughshod over the rest of the world.

      Twenty years of backdooring hard drives is a perfect illustration of how far off the board the U.S. plays the game. Who in their right mind would authorize such a thing.