Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 27, 2015

FCC votes to reclassify ISPs and preserve net neutrality;  AT&T, Verizon lash out at FCC after Net Neutrality ruling;  Woz: Net neutrality decision a victory over ‘bad behavior’;  Facebook stops defining gender for its users;  Revealed: The apps that are draining your smartphone battery;  Building a custom WordPress site? These tools will reduce your pain;  Spotify Update Brings Song Lyrics to Your Desktop;  How to send Gmail attachments to Dropbox automatically;  The GIMP’s bad news could be good news;  D-Link remote access vulnerabilities remain unpatched;  Microsoft finally offers Windows 7 ISO downloads;  Some Bitdefender products break HTTPS certificate revocation;  What is malvertising?  Study: Most People Won’t Stop Online Bullies;  Microsoft takes Fable Legends free-to-play on Xbox One and PC;  Photos: The machines that defined British computing;  The Video Game That Goes in Search of God.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

A huge win for the People:

FCC votes to reclassify ISPs and preserve net neutrality – Several weeks after revealing a plan to enshrine net neutrality in federal regulation, the FCC has voted to reclassify internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. That means the FCC can enforce net neutrality regulations, which it is was prohibited from doing after a court battle with Verizon some years ago. Big internet players like Google and Amazon are happy, but ISPs like Verizon and Comcast are not amused in the slightest.

The expected response from the folks whose “highway robbery” business style led to this slap down:

AT&T, Verizon lash out at FCC after Net Neutrality ruling – The nation’s two largest telco companies get personal — and downright childish — following the FCC’s Net Neutrality decision.

The usual suspects:

House Republicans Threaten To Curb The FCC’s “Ability To Regulate The Internet” – Following a landmark vote to put in place strict net neutrality regulations, a group of 21 Republican House members sent a nastygram to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, upbraiding him from policy to procedure, and threatening more than just words.

A techno-wizard’s view:

Woz: Net neutrality decision a victory over ‘bad behavior’ – Technically Incorrect: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says that the FCC overseeing the Web will be a positive step in controlling illegality. He also describes it as a victory for consumers.

Gates and Co.

Microsoft backs FCC vote, happy about net neutrality rules – Microsoft relies on broadband connectivity for many of its consumer services like Skype, Xbox Live, OneDrive and several others. Because of today’s ruling, ISPs cannot force Microsoft to pay for ‘fast lanes’ to prioritize these services for their customers. We will likely see many other companies react to the announcement as it has a profound impact on the future of broadband in the US.

Revealed: The apps that are draining your smartphone battery – Which apps are hogging space, consuming mobile data, and sucking the life out of your Android smartphone?

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Spotify Update Brings Song Lyrics to Your Desktop – The next time you’re rocking out to your favorite jams on Spotify while working away on your desktop, song lyrics will be just a click away. The music-streaming service on Thursday launched a new desktop update, which brings fully integrated lyrics powered by Musixmatch, the world’s largest lyrics catalogue, along with some other handy features. The updates will be rolling out gradually to all desktop users over the coming weeks — so if you don’t see them right away just sit tight.

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Facebook stops defining gender for its users – Last year Facebook took a socially responsible step forward when it allowed users to choose from preset custom genders like “cisgender” or “transgender.” But while the company worked with GLAAD to generate the custom genders, the move was not completely celebrated because users were still made to choose from pre-defined options. Now, it appears those options are gone as the company has started rolling out a new version of its custom gender field. This version still populates suggestions as you type, but also allows users to type in any word they wish to represent themselves with across Facebook.

Twitter Will Crackdown On Serial Trolls By Tracking Their Phone Number – Twitter has a troll problem. Even its CEO knows it. And now the company is doing more to prevent its users suffering abuse and threats on its service. In a bid to make improvements, Twitter has announced new measures to expand the process for reporting user safety concerns, and a system that uses phone numbers to prevent those who repeatedly harass others from creating new accounts.

Building a custom WordPress site? These tools will reduce your pain – If you manage or build WordPress sites, you know just how time-consuming the chore can be. David Gewirtz shares eight tools that will help you get the job done effectively, reliably — and quickly.

Microsoft Spartan: Edge is about breaking from the past, while not breaking the Web – The IE team revealed more on the story behind Microsoft Spartan – the new browser across all Windows 10 devices, and why they will not be moving forward with Internet Explorer.

Microsoft finally offers Windows 7 ISO downloads – Obviously this isn’t a free version, as you’ll need your license key to authenticate the copy. And if your device came with an OEM volume license you might be completely out of luck. Still for those of you out there who have access to their license, this is a great way to legally download a Windows 7 ISO. All users need to do is head over to Microsoft’s website, type in their product key and select which product language you need.

The GIMP’s bad news could be good news – The GIMP has lost its User eXperience (UX) maintainer. Jack Wallen thinks this could be good news for one of the most powerful open-source image editing tools.

Google Play app store to test paid placement in search results – Finding apps in mobile stores is getting harder as more programs join the fray. And for developers, getting your app in front of a consumer is harder too. But now Google is planning to offer a new way to surface apps — and maybe even make some money off it. Developers looking to increase awareness of their apps will soon be able to buy space in search results in Google Play’s mobile apps marketplace.

How to send Gmail attachments to Dropbox automatically – One of the pitfalls of Gmail’s generous storage limits is the temptation to use it as a warehouse for all your email attachments. That seems like less of a good idea when you have to wade through your inbox for that report you need for the weekly all-hands in 15 minutes. But processing the daily influx of messages from clients, colleagues, and friends takes long enough without having to stop and manually save each attached file you receive. Fortunately, you can create an automated workflow to do it for you.

Security:

Some Bitdefender products break HTTPS certificate revocation – Carsten Eiram, the chief research officer of vulnerability intelligence firm Risk Based Security, found that the latest versions of several Bitdefender products, namely Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Bitdefender Internet Security and Bitdefender Total Security, do not check the revocation status of SSL certificates before replacing them with new ones that are signed using a root certificate installed locally. The products use this technique in order to scan encrypted HTTPS traffic for potential threats. While the certificate revocation oversight in Bitdefender products is not as serious as the HTTPS interception flaws found recently in other programs, like the Superfish adware preloaded on Lenovo laptops, its impact is not negligible, Eiram said.

D-Link remote access vulnerabilities remain unpatched – D-Link routers have several unpatched vulnerabilities, the worst of which could allow an attacker to gain total control over a device, according to a systems engineer in Canada. Peter Adkins, who does security research in his free time, released details of the flaws on Thursday. Adkins said in a phone interview that he has been in intermittent contact with D-Link since Jan. 11 on the issues, but the company has not indicated when it might patch.

What is malvertising? – We’re on a bit of an educational push here at Malwarebytes with the aim of helping Internet users become a bit more aware of the latest tricks that criminals are using to catch you out. Hopefully, this means you will be a bit safer online. Today’s post takes a closer look at ‘malvertising’. This was covered in a bit of detail in our previous post on Exploit Kits, but as it presents a significant threat to everyday folks, so we wanted to dig into it in a bit more detail.

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Google enlists BlackBerry to help make Android devices ‘more secure’ – As Reuters reports, BlackBerry will be helping Google “to manage devices equipped with Android for Work”, an initiative designed to securely separate business and personal data and apps on Android devices, which is built on some of Samsung’s own KNOX efforts. The tie-up between Google and BlackBerry is intended to extend the ‘highly secure mobility solution’ to other Android manufacturers. While Android remains a firm consumer favorite, Google is keen to expand its presence in business and enterprise, particularly as its iPhone and Windows Phone rivals enjoy growing workplace support.

Company News:

Silent Circle targets enterprise users with ‘world first’ privacy ecosystem – Encrypted communications provider Silent Circle has raised approximately $50 million in a funding round aimed at pushing the company forward in the enterprise market. Announced on Thursday, Silent Circle said “strong demand” from enterprise customers seeking to keep communication private through the Blackphone product range led the firm to launch a private, common equity round in order to grow and cater for new clients.

IBM to pump $4B into cloud, mobile and analytics this year – IBM will dedicate $4 billion in spending this year to the cloud, analytics and mobile technologies, as it struggles with seismic shifts that are changing the computing landscape it once dominated. In return, by 2018 IBM expects to reap a combined $40 billion in annual revenue from the areas in which it’s investing, which also include social and security, the company said at an annual meeting on Thursday.

Uber’s preferred car-loan partner has been illegally repossessing veterans’ cars – Yesterday, auto lender Santander Consumer USA agreed to pay at least $9.35 million to resolve the accusation that it illegally repossessed over 1,100 vehicles from active military personnel. The company is a close partner of the ride-sharing giant Uber, which funnels drivers with low credit to Santander loan officers. It’s not the company’s first brush with the law: the lender holds over $40 billion in car loans and has repeatedly been the subject of criminal investigations into its subprime auto loan arm.

$533 million not enough? Smartflash files new patent lawsuit against Apple – Patent licensing firm Smartflash may still be celebrating a $533 million victory against Apple, but the companies aren’t finished in the courtroom.

Ericsson joins the queue to sue Apple for patent infringement – No doubt Apple is still smarting over a $533 million court case win by Smartflash this week, but Ericsson is now also suing the company in a patent dispute.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft takes Fable Legends free-to-play on Xbox One and PC – Microsoft and Lionhead Studios are getting behind free-to-play gaming in a big way this morning, announcing that Fable Legends will use the somewhat infamous business model when the game launches on Xbox One and PC later this year (though Xbox One players will still need an Xbox Live Gold account for the multiplayer-only title). This isn’t a case of a limited free portion as a teaser for more extensive paid DLC, either. Lionhead says all of the game’s stories and quests will be included in the free version, and players will be able to “play through it beginning-to-end without having to spend any money… you’ll be able to earn everything that affects gameplay.”

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NVIDIA HairWorks shown off in Far Cry 4 – This week the folks behind development for Far Cry 4 have made a point to show off the wilder aspects of their environment Kyrat. To make their universe one that looks especially realistic, they worked with NVIDIA and one of the more radical elements in NVIDIA’s collection of graphics-intensive programs: NVIDIA HairWorks. We’ve spoken about this before – here we’re getting the opportunity to see HairWorks work in a real deal working game that’s out in the wild right this minute.

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The state of Linux gaming in the SteamOS era – For decades after Linux’s early ’90s debut, even the hardest of hardcore boosters for the open source operating system had to admit that it couldn’t really compete in one important area of software: gaming. “Back in around 2010 you only had two choices for gaming on Linux,” Che Dean, editor of Linux gaming news site Rootgamer recalls. “Play the few open source titles, Super Tux Kart and so on, or use WINE to play your Windows titles.”

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The Video Game That Goes in Search of God – As a sort of implicit, controlled test for the freak-out potential of a technologically governed environment, Breath of Life is rather fascinating. If it isn’t a game that endorses a particular religion, though, Pneuma might be styled as a game of religious striving. Its protagonist’s farcical delusions are an incentive for the player to seek out a more reliable authority about the nature of existence—a deity, in other words, who can guarantee the objective reality of what is perceived.

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Sony Launching 8-Week Spring Fever PSN Sale Next Week – March is almost here, and PlayStation Plus members should know what that means — it’s time for the annual Spring Fever promotion. Sony on Thursday announced details of this year’s sale, which starts March 3 and will last for eight weeks — twice as long as last year. During the sale, PS Plus members will get 10 percent off “hot new digital-only games” like Helldrivers, a hardcore twin stick shooter from Arrowhead Game Studios, during the week they launch.

Microsoft trims price of Xbox Live Gold membership to $40 – Instead of paying the usual fee of $60 a year, you can become an Xbox Live Gold member for $40. The fine print doesn’t indicate whether this is a temporary promotion and, if so, when the sale might end. Want do you get for the $40 annually? An Xbox Live Gold subscription –good for both the Xbox One and Xbox 360 game consoles — allows you to play with and compete against other Xbox owners. You can also tap into a lineup of free games and save anywhere from 50 percent to 75 percent on other games sold in the Xbox Store.

Rayman, Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider are the next Free Games with Gold – Every month Xbox Gold subscribers get the chance to download a few games from Microsoft’s catalogue for free. And this time, the offer really features some great titles.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Microsoft’s 2015 Future Vision video released, connected display everywhere – Microsoft has released a new video showcasing their ideas for the future. Demonstrating how emerging technologies could transform the future, Microsoft creates a very unique compilation. It’s sleek and precisely orchestrated to create an introspective look at what Microsoft hopes it can achieve for the world in the not-too-distant future. The video is futuristic but strangely grounded in reality. Each of the tasks carried out in the video don’t seem that far off from today’s technological capabilities. Microsoft’s Future Vision is set just five to ten years in the future.

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Study: Most People Won’t Stop Online Bullies – In 1964 a woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed and left for dead in Kew Gardens, Queens. She screamed for help over a half hour while bystanders and apartment-dwellers above apparently ignored her pleas. Her assailant had time to disguise himself during the attack. She died of her injuries, and experts at the time called the failure of bystanders to act “Genovese Syndrome.” While the online world isn’t nearly as dire as Genovese’s tragedy, its clear from a recent OSU study that bystander syndrome that bears her name is still alive and well. The study watched 221 students as they interacted in a chat room. A bully would appear and berate other members of the group. According to the study, “only 10 percent of the students who noticed the abuse directly intervened, either by confronting the bully online or helping the victim.”

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This is how rain and snow travel across the globe – Today NASA released a visualization of storm swirls that took place in 2014, and the results are pretty spectacular. The data were gathered thanks to NASA’s “Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory” (GMP), a satellite network that provides near real-time precipitation data covering the entire planet. But the patterns shown in the video aren’t just meant to look pretty — they’re going to help save lives.

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Photos: BBC Micro, Spectrum, Amstrad CPC 464 and more – the machines that defined British computing – As the Raspberry Pi takes the title for the best-selling British computer of all time we look back at the classic machines to come out of the UK. You can find more details on each of these machines in this accompanying article.

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Amstrad Colour Personal Computer – Launched: 1984 – Price: From £700

The proof is in the testing: The Swiss breakthrough that will make software more reliable – The size and complexity of today’s software programs can make it difficult to check their likely reliability. Testing only goes so far: often after applications are released, it’s a wait-and-see strategy, with developers sending out patches for products if and when major problems become evident. Two computer scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne or EPFL) hope to change that – using automated reasoning tools to replace validating software through testing with more accurate formal mathematical proofs.

Something to think about:

“To be one’s self, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity.”

–      Irving Wallace

Today’s Free Downloads:

Make it a gaming weekend!   Smile

FlightGear – FlightGear is an open-source flight simulator.  It supports a variety of popular platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.) and is developed by skilled volunteers from around the world.  Source code for the entire project is available and licensed under the GNU General Public License.

The goal of the FlightGear project is to create a sophisticated and open flight simulator framework for use in research or academic environments, pilot training, as an industry engineering tool, for DIY-ers to pursue their favorite interesting flight simulation idea, and last but certainly not least as a fun, realistic, and challenging desktop flight simulator. We are developing a sophisticated, open simulation framework that can be expanded and improved upon by anyone interested in contributing.

There are many exciting possibilities for an open, free flight sim. We hope that this project will be interesting and useful to many people in many areas.

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Söldner Secret Wars Community Edition – Söldner is a semi realistic Military Tactical Multiplayer Shooter using modern weapons and units.

Söldner uses realistic physics and elements to create a believable environment. Still Söldner is fun and easy to play.

Features:

ADS – Advanced Destruction System

– In Söldner – Secret Wars you can destroy everything! With ADS you can deploy an endless variation of true to life tactics.

SWS – Söldner Weapons System

– With SWS you can choose from more than a 100 weapons, all faithfully reproduced with the help from expert military advisor’s. No other game will offer you the same versatile amount of weapons!

AFV – Advanced Fighting Vehicles

– Wage war by land, sea or air. Become a stealthy scuba diver slipping from the waters behind enemy lines. Jump out of an aircraft under cover of darkness and skydive to your target or declare war on a massive scale and invade the enemy base with tanks, helicopters, jets and assault ships.

CMM – Customizable Multiplayer Mode

– Feel the gameworld come alive with the Virtual Online Battlefield. With 22.000.000 km2 (roughly the size of Europe) Söldner- Marine Corps offers you the largest online battlefield today.

OCM – Online Commander Mode

– Become your team’s eyes and ears, directing your troops to victory.

AGS – Advanced Gesture System

– Order your troops into action, call for covering fire, or taunt the enemy into giving away their positions. Make your choice from more than 200 gestures and commands.

UCS – Unit Customization System

– From your flak jacket to your sunglasses each character is completely customizable to give your Söldner a unique look.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Net Neutrality Is Here — Thanks To an Unprecedented Guerrilla Activism Campaign – This morning, the Federal Communications Commission voted to guarantee the open Internet through so-called net neutrality rules, and with it, forged ahead with one of the biggest policy accomplishments of the Obama administration.

“This is probably the most important ruling in the history of the FCC,” says Tim Karr, campaign director for Free Press.

Net neutrality, a principle that all Internet traffic must be treated equally, was a founding concept for the web. But many Internet service providers have attempted to change that. Cell phone companies have attempted to block apps that could compete with their services and cable companies have pressed for paid prioritization, seeking extra income by forcing users to pay for faster connections to select websites.

For Internet start-ups and political activists alike, the efforts by the ISP industry to move away from net neutrality represented a transformation of the Internet, from a place in which all voices were equal to a world of big incumbent websites and corporate media-dominated information sources. “The question came down to, who ultimately controls this Internet? Is it going to be these powerful corporations?” says Karr.

FinFisher spyware violated human rights guidelines, says UK watchdog – Today, a British human rights watchdog condemned private surveillance vendor Gamma International for violating human rights guldelines through its sale of the FinFisher spyware program. Based in London and Frankfurt, Gamma had been criticized for selling to repressive governments in Bahrain and Ethiopia, who used the software to target activists in exile. Today’s decision was issued by the British government’s contact point to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international forum to promote global well-being. Because many of the targeted activists had taken refuge in Britain, the government took particular exception to the spyware, calling today’s ruling “one of the most critical decisions ever issued by the OECD.”

Similar to spyware implants developed by the NSA and GCHQ, FinFisher was sold on the open market, leading many to call for stronger export restrictions against surveillance software.

Why Does the FBI Have to Manufacture its Own Plots if Terrorism and ISIS Are Such Grave Threats? – The FBI and major media outlets yesterday trumpeted the agency’s latest counterterrorism triumph: the arrest of three Brooklyn men, ages 19 to 30, on charges of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS. As my colleague Murtaza Hussain ably documents, “it appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant.” One of the frightening terrorist villains told the FBI informant that, beyond having no money, he had encountered a significant problem in following through on the FBI’s plot: his mom had taken away his passport. Noting the bizarre and unhinged ranting of one of the suspects, Hussain noted on Twitter that this case “sounds like another victory for the FBI over the mentally ill.”

In this regard, this latest arrest appears to be quite similar to the overwhelming majority of terrorism arrests the FBI has proudly touted over the last decade. As my colleague Andrew Fishman and I wrote last month — after the FBI manipulated a 20-year-old loner who lived with his parents into allegedly agreeing to join an FBI-created plot to attack the Capitol — these cases follow a very clear pattern:

The Head of the NSA Is on a Charm Offensive – Admiral Michael Rogers is grinning at a room of military men and women. He just took a question from one Canadian navy officer sporting facial hair. (“You, sir, with the beard.”) Now, he’s pointing at another scruffy defence type. The crowd, a collection of private defence contractors, bureaucrats, and enlisted people, laugh and exchange looks. This guy is the head of the NSA?

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6 Comments

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

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 27, 2015

  1. Reblogged this on justooh blog and commented:
    Reclassifying ISPs

  2. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    “To be one’s self, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity.”

    That’s a good one Bill, I think it is usually nice people who don’t have that self-confidence that quote suggests, at least it seems so to me, because the people who are self-confident seem to be, well like politicians LOL

    Bill, from time to time you’ve posted about the deplorable state of police in the USA, well what is amazing to me is all of the police shootings, make that MURDERS, that go UNPUBLICIZED in this country. Even Canada, which I always expect to be a bit more responsible, has had such cases. Something is TERRIBLY wrong. Thanks to the CBC for letting me know about this case, I tell you I was OUTRAGED by this:
    In Fairfax, VA, a Different, No-Less-Scary Police Shooting
    18 months ago John Geer was shot by police while standing at his front door with his hands raised
    By Neil Macdonald, CBC News Posted: February 18, 2015
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/in-fairfax-va-a-different-no-less-scary-police-shooting-1.2960995

    Have a pleasant weekend Bill, you deserve it!
    With best wishes always,
    Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      I like Neil and I’m not in the least surprised by this occurrence. You’re right – we have our fair share of this type of sociopath police officer here in Canada. As we all know, these knuckle draggers are frequently supported by the Blue Wall. In this case, what is particularly shocking, is the lack of prosecution even though witness officers are prepared to testify against this murderer.

      I’ll repeat – until such time as politicians (everywhere!), address the personal fear that enables this brutality to continue unchecked, we will begin to see personal violent retribution directed at these sanctioned killers. History suggests that this is inevitable. The troubles in Northern Ireland come to mind.

      Best,

      Bill