Why You Should Never Sign a Cell Phone Contract Again; How to keep your connected home safe; The top security apps of the year; The Best Smartphones and Tablets of MWC; Is Chrome OS right for you? A 3-question quiz to find out; 3 cool things about Gmail 4.0 for iOS; How to run more than web apps from a Chromebook; 8 On-Demand Weed Delivery Apps; Vivaldi Is Quickly Becoming The Alternative Browser To Beat; 5 apps for managing your wine cellar; Six factors for finding a new web hosting provider; UK Readies 25% ‘Google Tax’ On Tech Giants’ Diverted Profits; U.K. Police Arrest 57 in Cybercrime Crackdown; Blizzard Launches ‘Heroes of the Dorm’ Tourney; 21 Crazy GoPro Stunt Videos You Must Watch; Can We Guess Your Age By How You Use The Internet? 1600 Windows Icons – Metro Style (free).
Inside the panopticon economy: The next internet revolution, privacy and you – Summary:The next evolution of the internet will embed sensors into nearly everything around us. Dealing with the privacy and security implications of that will be one of the biggest challenges of the next century.
I’ve been feeling sort of sliced, diced, sold and digested, this last while. Now I know why.
Why You Should Never Sign a Cell Phone Contract Again – Like rocket science and high school relationships, cell phone plans are complicated for a reason. Two-year contract or early-upgrade plan? Month-to-month or pay-as-you-go? Individual or shared data? Big carriers like AT&T and Verizon love it this way — they know most consumers won’t know a good plan from a bad one. When every choice is filled with exceptions, limitations and fine print, how can you even begin to compare your options? You’d be a fool to even try. Well, call us fools, because we sat down and did just that. In order to keep things straightforward, we made a few assumptions up front:
How to keep your connected home safe: 7 steps you can take to boost home security – The proliferation of smart devices, however, also opens the door to new dangers and threats. Even with something as simple as a smart light socket that you can control remotely with your phone, what makes that possible is the little computer in the switch that can talk to the Internet—which means that Internet users can talk back. What’s a homeowner to do? While it’s practically impossible to stop a determined professional hacker, there are steps you can take to at least make their task more difficult, and to discourage the simpler attacks. Think of these seven steps as the connected home equivalent of putting locks on your windows or stopping your newspaper delivery while you’re on vacation.
Independent labs have announced their awards for the top security apps of the year – What’s the best antivirus software, and how can you tell? When we review security software at Download.com, we do hands-on testing, looking at everything from user-friendliness to virus eradication, but we also look at test results from independent institutes like AV-Test and AV-Comparatives. These labs do not produce their own antivirus software and perform rigorous, objective tests on security suites from all major manufacturers. Here are the consumer security apps that recently won the labs’ seal of approval:
The Best Smartphones and Tablets of MWC – Barcelona is the mobile tech capital of the world, and Mobile World Congress has far surpassed CES as the preeminent venue for all the greatest mobile device releases. If there’s a new smartphone or tablet out there, it’s here on the show floor. We’ve been scouring the halls of the Fira Gran Via convention center, sifting through endless booths filled with studs and duds of the mobile world to bring you the cream of the crop.
Driver was on Facebook before crash that killed three, say cops – A Wisconsin woman’s phone is recovered months after a crash in which her daughter and two nieces, whom she was driving, were killed. She is being charged with homicide.
3 cool things about Gmail 4.0 for iOS – For any Gmail user who owns an iPhone or iPad, there’s a decision to be made: Use Apple’s stock Mail app, or switch to Google’s Gmail app? If you’ve been on the fence, this may swing the pendulum toward the latter: Gmail 4.0 for iOS brings three welcome new features to iPhones and iPads, most of them designed to help you work faster.
Is Chrome OS right for you? A 3-question quiz to find out – Google’s Chrome OS is one of the world’s most misunderstood computing platforms. Chromebooks are foundationally different from traditional PCs, after all — and consequently, there are a lot of misconceptions about how they work and what they can and cannot do. Whether it’s you or someone you know who’s curious, the following three questions should help shed some light on what the platform’s all about and for whom it makes sense.
How to run more than web apps from a Chromebook – If you use a Chromebook, you may still want to use software built for another operating system, such as Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux. Good news: you can, but you may need additional hardware — or a subscription to a service — to do so. Here are a few options.
Apple Watch apps designed to be used for a few seconds at a time, report says – App-makers are hard at work building apps for the Apple Watch in top-secret conditions that would make Maxwell Smart jealous, according to a new report. Behind those closed doors, Apple is offering guidelines on how Watch apps should work and suggesting that wearers will use the app for less than ten seconds at a time. According to sources speaking to Bloomberg, sample Watches are made available to developers in locked rooms with no Internet access at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California. Code created by the developers isn’t allowed to leave Apple.
Pinterest Releases First Year-Long Transparency Report – As you might expect, the U.S. government doesn’t care all that much about your pinned content. Or, to frame it another way, there just doesn’t seem to be all that much on Pinterest that necessitates investigation by U.S. law enforcement agencies. Pinterest has officially released its first-ever (full-year) transparency report, and the service just didn’t receive that that many legal requests throughout 2014. In total, it receive 39 requests from agencies within the United States, and a whopping two requests from international agencies (one Canadian and one Australian).
GNOME 2 is back: Ubuntu MATE is now an official flavor – Ubuntu MATE is now an official flavor of Ubuntu. Yes, that means Ubuntu is giving a stamp of endorsement to GNOME 2 once again. You don’t need to switch to Linux Mint—just install the Ubuntu MATE disc and get a desktop that works like it did before Ubuntu’s Unity and the GNOME Shell came along.
Pandora reveals ad-free day pass coming soon – When it comes to online music streaming service Pandora, there are two ways to listen: the typical ad-supported option which is free, and a paid subscription plan called Pandora One, which costs users $4.99 per month. But what about those times when you want to play some music for an extended period without the annoying ads, yet paying for a full month is just too much? At a recent investor day, the company revealed a new day pass option, said to be coming later this year, that aims to serve just such a user scenario.
The Evolution Of The Browser – The browser wars have always been cyclical, moving from periods of monoculture dominated by one or two browsers to periods of comparative competition characterized by multiple, strong, second-tier browsers and a growing list of niche browsers. While Spartan and Vivaldi are the most widely written about new browsers, many additional, niche browsers have recently launched or are under development, including Torch (BitTorrent) Epic (privacy), Nitro (speed) and Slim (fast startup) and Lightspeed (minimalist, search-oriented). Then, there are the many browsers with large followings in China — 360 Safe for PC, Baidu, Sougou, UC Web and Cheetah.
Vivaldi Is Quickly Becoming The Alternative Browser To Beat – Opera’s former CEO Jón von Tetzchner launched the first preview of its new Chromium-based Vivaldi browser in January. Now in its second technical preview, which adds a boatload of new features, the browser is quickly shaping up to be a worthwhile alternative to Chrome, Firefox, Safari and IE — and especially for former Opera users.
An incredibly shrinking Firefox faces endangered species status – Just two weeks after Mozilla’s top Firefox executive said that rumors of its demise were “dead wrong,” the iconic browser dropped another three-tenths of a percentage point in analytics firm Net Applications’ tracking, ending February with 11.6%. That was Firefox’s lowest share since July 2006, when the browser had been in the market for less than two years.
Pocket vino: We review 5 apps for managing your wine cellar – Numerous wine cellar management apps are now available, but this is a market that’s still emerging and in flux. Growing pains abound, and many of these apps are still finding their feet. In fact, some of the veterans in this space have yet to build a reliable, worthwhile app for what ought to be a pretty simple task. Which app should you trust with managing some of your most prized possessions? We put five of the most noteworthy wine cellar management apps to the test to separate the gems from the plonk.
8 On-Demand Weed Delivery Apps – The fast-growing pot industry not only raked in $2.7 billion in sales this last year, it’s also produced quite a few ganja-based startups. It’s legal to light up a bowl for recreation or medical reasons in 23 of these 50 United States now and soon as there’s a growing industry, there are technological innovations to support it. We’ve counted at least 8 on-demand delivery apps out there that will bring medicinal grade weed varietals right to your door.
Photos: 10 must-have accessories for your 3D printer – If you have a desktop 3D printer, you need some accessories to keep it updated and working properly. Here are 10 things to keep in your toolkit.
Six factors for finding a new web hosting provider – Small business owners are often completely in the dark when it comes to choosing a hosting provider. This is a major decision for your business, so make sure to consider every option before making the call. Start by taking a hard look at these six key areas:
Xiaomi Mi 4 malware accusation prompts security controversy – Earlier this week, Bluebox, a data security company, released a findings report on their tests of the Xiaomi Mi 4 smartphone. Unfortunately for Xiaomi, their results were far from stellar. Not only did the security firm find malicious malware installed on the device, but some of it was even disguised to appear as Google apps. Even worse, they believe an unknown third party tampered with the Android-powered smartphone. Read on for more details about what they found, as well as Xiaomi’s official response to the report. Xiaomi has contacted SlashGear with an official statement, confirming an investigation is underway and suggesting that Bluebox was sold a counterfeit phone. In addition to publishing Xiaomi’s comment in full, below, we have updated our title to reflect the ongoing development of this story.
Ask.com Crapware Added to Mac OS X Java Installations – Spoiler: Don’t just blindly click through prompts when installing Java. While the integration of Ask.com software into the Java installation program might not rise to the level of, say, a Lenovo Superfish incident, it’s still unfortunate to see Oracle doubling down on adware. For more, see How to Remove the Ask.com Toolbar From Your Browser.
Silent Circle: We haven’t been served a single demand for data – The maker of encrypted phone and messaging products was caught in a mini-storm Saturday when reports suggested its warrant canary, a tool designed to alert the receipt of a warrant that comes with a gag order, was missing an explicit declaration that it had not been compromised by a government data demand.
Three foreigners charged with massive email breach in US – There is that saying about the long arm of the law and the places that it reaches. Considering how this latest cyber crime case practically covers three countries both near and far from the US, that might very well be applicable here. Several agencies of the US government made a joint announcement revealing some of the details that concerns two Vietnamese nationals and one Canadian who have been involved in one of the most massive case of email hacking and spam in the history of the US.
U.K. Police Arrest 57 in Cybercrime Crackdown – The U.K’s National Crime Agency on Friday announced it has arrested 57 suspected hackers as part of a cybercrime crackdown dubbed “strike week.” Working with partners in law enforcement, industry, and government, the agency carried out 25 separate operations across England, Scotland, and Wales. The suspects are charged with crimes such as breaking into the networks of multinational corporations and government agencies to steal data, launching distributed denial of service attacks, and developing and distributing computer viruses and other malicious software.
UK Readies 25% ‘Google Tax’ On Tech Giants’ Diverted Profits – In the lead up to the UK’s national election in May, big tech companies are finding themselves in the crossfire. An article in the Sunday Times (paywalled) lays out more details around UK Chancellor George Osborne’s proposal for a “Google Tax” — a 25% tax on big tech companies’ profits from UK operations that, through creative accounting, have been diverted offshore, saving these businesses millions in tax bills. The tax will be included in the UK Budget, due to be published later this month. The “Google Tax” of 25% will be higher than the usual 20% corporate tax levied in the UK, and it is expected to be applied only to companies whose annual revenues are more than £250 million ($376 million).
Samsung has received more than 20 million pre-orders for its latest flagship devices – A top executive at a leading mobile carrier in Europe says that Samsung has received 20 million pre-orders for its Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge which is far better than the previous Galaxy models.
VMware alleged to have violated Linux’s open source license for years – Linux kernel developer Christoph Hellwig filed the suit in the district court of Hamburg, Germany with funding from the nonprofit Software Freedom Conservancy, which works to “promote, improve, develop, and defend” free and open source software. The case centers on “a combined work that VMware allegedly created by combining their own code (‘vmkernel’) with portions of Linux’s code, which was licensed only under GPLv2,” the group said in an FAQ describing the lawsuit.
Google is developing a virtual reality version of Android, report says – A team of engineers at Google is building a version of Android for virtual reality applications, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing two people familiar with the project. “Tens of engineers” and other staff are said to be working on the project. The OS would be freely distributed, the report said, mirroring the strategy that made Android the most popular OS for smartphones. The report didn’t provide any launch plans, and Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Photobucket Raises $3.6 Million, Plans To Acquire A Mobile Photo-Sharing App – Denver-based Photobucket, one of the web’s older brands which offers a photo and video-sharing service online and on mobile, has closed on $3.6 million in new funding, an SEC filing reveals and the company confirms. The additional capital is part of a larger, still-in-progress round, which sees the photo sharing service seeking around $8.1 million in new funding.
Games and Entertainment:
Blizzard Launches ‘Heroes of the Dorm’ Tourney – Want to win free college tuition? Get out your game controller. Blizzard on Friday announced a new Heroes of the Storm tournament for college students with more than $450,000 in tuition and prizes up for grabs. The so-called “Heroes of the Dorm” tourney is open to active college students in the U.S. and Canada and will have three rounds of competition. Open qualifiers begin March 28, followed by a single-elimination bracket featuring 64 teams that starts on April 11. The event concludes with a final “Heroic Four” live event in late April. The final rounds of the tourney will be televised live on ESPN.
5 Interesting Indie Games at PAX East – Titles like Banner Saga, Gone Home, and Rogue Legacy represent relatively small games that provide big entertainment for a fraction of the price of mainstream, juggernaut titles—you can purchase an acclaimed indie for roughly $15. That’s a wonderful thing in this era of the troubled AAA game, a time when $60 titles ship to stores littered with bugs that require massive Day 1 patches. Indie games, free from large publishers’ vice-like grip, often dare to be different. While AAA titles typically feature shooting, shooting, and more shooting, indie games come in a variety of flavors. And PAX East is full of them.
An example: Gathering Sky (Android, iOS, PC) – Gathering Sky has the potential to be 2015’s Journey. You guide a single bird through the sky as you explore the game world and find other birds to join you. The goal? Fly through beautiful environments and create an expressive story without words. You can expect to see Gathering Sky in digital marketplaces in mid-April.
PS4 software version 2.50 to include button remapping, rest mode enhancements – It’s a been a while since Sony has released an update to the PlayStation 4’s software that really added any new features to the console. But it appears that will change soon, as version 2.50 seems to be in the works, with members of the PlayStation MVP program getting invites to beta test the software update. Invites are said to come via message from the PlayStation Network through March 9th, while the following info about new features comes from those who’ve already downloaded the beta.
Feelreal Brings Real Scents, Heat, and Water to Virtual Reality – The Feelreal headset isn’t its own virtual reality device. Rather, it straps on to an existing headset like the Oculus Rift, the Samsung Gear VR, or Sony’s Morpheus headset (to name a few). The sensation is unique, to put it mildly. To its credit, Feelreal’s headset does a decent job of recreating sensations using a variety of techniques: Odors blasted toward your nose, hot air sent across your face, and a gentle water misting dripped onto your cheeks. Nevertheless, the experience didn’t quite thrill Robertson, who summed up his trip through a virtual reality rainforest, waterfall, and fire as “pure, unfettered fear.”
Mantle is a Vulkan: AMD’s dead graphics API rises from the ashes in OpenGL’s successor – Obi Wan said it best: ‘If you strike me down, I’ll become far more powerful than you’ll ever imagine.’ That’s happened with AMD’s API Mantle which died at 1.0 but has risen as the new Vulkan API.
Off Topic (Sort of):
21 Crazy GoPro Stunt Videos You Must Watch – Illegal shenanigans aside, it turns out that there’s a bountiful library of GoPro-enabled videos that will allow those of us with a healthy amount of respect for our physical well-beings to live vicariously through those who don’t. We don’t recommend that you try any of these activities yourself, but we do recommend that you watch as others narrowly avoid catastrophe!
The test tells me that I’m 29 years old – off by 30 years. Looks like tech is keeping me young (younger, youngish?)
The Ambassador who worked from Nairobi bathroom to avoid State Dept. IT – The current scandal roiling over the use of a private e-mail server by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is just the latest in a series of scandals surrounding government e-mails. And it’s not the first public airing of problems with the State Department’s IT operations—and executives’ efforts to bypass or work around them. At least she didn’t set up an office in a restroom just to bypass State Department network restrictions and do everything over Gmail. However, another Obama administration appointee—the former ambassador to Kenya—did do that, essentially refusing to use any of the Nairobi embassy’s internal IT. He worked out of a bathroom because it was the only place in the embassy where he could use an unsecured network and his personal computer, using Gmail to conduct official business. And he did all this during a time when Chinese hackers were penetrating the personal Gmail inboxes of a number of US diplomats.
Goodyear’s new concept tires can help power your electric car – The tire is called the BH03, and it looks like the craziest tire you’ve ever seen. Goodyear plans to collect heat into the tire in a number of ways. The first is perhaps the simplest: black patches on the tire’s surface will absorb heat from the Sun — especially when you leave your car in a hot parking lot. The tire will also heat up from the effects of friction as you drive down the road. The heat generated from the tire as it flexes will also be collected..
‘Climate change’ and ‘global warming’ reportedly banned under Florida governor – Officials working in Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection were banned from using the words “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sea-level rise” under Republican state governor Rick Scott, according to a new report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. Kristina Trotta, a former DEP employee, said that her regional administrator told her and her colleagues that they were no longer allowed to use the terms in 2011. Officials were reportedly told that sea-level rise was to be euphemistically referred to as “nuisance flooding.” Spokespeople for the DEP and the governor’s office said that there was no policy on the use of the terms, but four former officials told the FCIR that the unwritten order was well known and distributed verbally statewide.
Superhydrophobic paint resists scratches from sandpaper, knives – Superhydrophobic surfaces are common and very hard-wearing in nature, but man-made versions, while available, don’t last very long and easily break down when exposed to oils. That is, until now. A team of scientists at the University College London and Dalian University of Technology (China) have collaborated to create a very tough new superhydrophobic paint, capable of withstanding scratching with sandpaper or a knife blade. As this coating is able to withstand the elements, scuffs, and scrapes, it has applications in a very wide range of industries. Imagine having a car that no longer gets wet, or windows that never need to be cleaned and remain perfectly clear after a downpour. There’s even a use for it on the smartphones and tablets we all rub our fingers over every day. The research team also has high hopes for making antimicrobial surfaces for use in hospitals.
You have the right to bear arms, not “electrical” arms, court declares – Massachusetts’ ban on the private possession of stun guns—an “electrical weapon” under the statute—does not violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms, the state’s top court has ruled. The decision says (PDF) that the US Constitution’s framers never envisioned the modern stun-gun device, first patented in 1972. The top court said stun guns are not suitable for military use, and that it did not matter whether state lawmakers have approved the possession of handguns outside the home.
The boundless enthusiasm for high-hurdling logic in this decision is (now, I’m carefully choosing my words here) – CRAZY!
Drinking Poison Control Medicine Is the Newest Bougie Health Fad – Juice companies and wellness blogs are suddenly lauding activated charcoal as a cure-all “detoxifier,” but you may want to think twice before forking over $10 for “activated lemonade.”
Something to think about:
“A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return.”
– Salman Rushdie
Today’s Free Downloads:
1600 Windows Icons (Metro Style) – 1600 Windows Icons (Metro Style) is a free collection of icons in Windows 8’s Metro style that you can use to update older versions of Windows or add variety to Windows 8. The icons are in PNG format and must be unzipped and converted to ICO files for Windows.
Metro style: Windows 8’s cool Metro design language takes its name and stylistic cues from the iconic typography of Swiss public signs that many people appreciate.
Lots and lots: Any way you count them, 1,600 is a lot of icons, especially for free.
Wide variety: While system icons predominate, we saw a lot of unique and much-needed themes, such as Christmas, Halloween, and Phones — even “Star Trek” and “Dr. Who.”
Conversion required: You must convert 1600 Windows Icons’ PNG files to icon (ICO) files for most Windows uses. Freeware and online converters are easy to use, but you might find the extra step more taxing than a few icons are worth.
One by one: It’s not difficult to change Windows icons, but it might take you a while to change them one by one, especially with so many to choose from in 1600 Windows Icons’ collection.
The clean, well-rendered Metro style is particularly suitable for computer interfaces. Despite the steps involved, we think 1600 Windows Icons’ stylish replacements are worth the time and effort it takes to unpack and install them.
In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:
UK Supreme Court waves through indiscriminate police surveillance – A Supreme Court decision handed down on Wednesday has given carte blanche to police forces to retain personal data they have collected for virtually any purpose and hold it as long as they like – even when the people targeted are not violent and have committed no crime.
New Zealand PM refuses to rule out mass surveillance – New Zealand’s prime minister has refused to rule out the possibility that the country’s electronic spy agency conducts mass surveillance, while suggesting that New Zealanders are not legally entitled to be told when their communications data is collected.
Who’s who in Australia’s mandatory data-retention debate – Summary: There are a lot of players in the mandatory data-retention debate. We look at who is for the legislation, and who is opposing it.
Schneier on Security: Data and Goliath’s Big Idea – Data and Goliath is a book about surveillance, both government and corporate. It’s an exploration in three parts: what’s happening, why it matters, and what to do about it. This is a big and important issue, and one that I’ve been working on for decades now. We’ve been on a headlong path of more and more surveillance, fueled by fear–of terrorism mostly–on the government side, and convenience on the corporate side. My goal was to step back and say “wait a minute; does any of this make sense?” I’m proud of the book, and hope it will contribute to the debate. But there’s a big idea here too, and that’s the balance between group interest and self-interest.
The CIA will reorganize to increase its focus on cybersecurity – The CIA is planning one of the largest reorganizations in the agency’s history, The Washington Post reports. CIA director John Brennan unveiled the plans in a press briefing today, saying the agency will focus more on cybersecurity issues and digital espionage. In addition to undergoing a massive structural overhaul, the CIA will create a new “Directorate of Digital Innovation” to track advances and threats in cyberspace.
Australia to prosecute Heartbleed pentest in desperation to pin charges on Anonymous radio host – Arrested 10 months ago by Australian Federal Police, Anonymous radio host LoraxLive (Adam Bennett) faces a prosecution struggling to pin charges on him.