Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 12, 2015

After 11 hours, the App Store and iTunes are back online;  10 things to consider before buying an LED bulb;  How to use your mobile device to control your home theater;  Twitter’s new policy: no to nonconsensual adult content;  How to unlock your Mac just by walking up to it;  10 LinkedIn Tips for Networking Success;  Hillary Clinton’s email system was insecure for two months;  Going on holiday? Mexico wants your personal data;  FTC charges DirecTV with fraud for misleading customers;  Facebook Is Facing a Massive Lawsuit Over Online Purchases Made by Kids;  Dropbox patches Android security flaw;  Play Cards Against Humanity On the Web, for Free;  Google Launches New Online Store To Showcase Hardware;  Why is killing such a central concept in video games?  Australians! Let us all rise up against data retention.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google’s smart-home plans include ‘neighborhood security networks’ and security ratings for homes – A patent application the search giant published Thursday points to a future in which smart homes have each other’s back, and where a smart home’s ‘security score’ determines the cost of security services and insurance.


Panda antivirus labels itself as malware, then borks EVERYTHING – Panda users had a bad hair day on Wednesday, after the Spanish security software firm released an update that classified components of its own technology as malign. As a result, enterprise PCs running the antivirus software tied themselves in something of a knot, leaving some systems either unstable or unable to access the internet. A Panda spokesman confirmed the problem while advising that the issue was well in hand. An official advisory on the problem says that the issue was limited to Panda Cloud Office Protection, Retail 2015 products and Panda Free AV. Users are strongly advised not to restart their computer until a fix is available.

10 things to consider before buying an LED bulb – The LED Age is officially upon us, and light bulbs are as high-tech as they’ve ever been. That makes it a great time to upgrade, but you’ll want to be sure you understand some light bulb basics first. Here’s what you need to know.

How to use your mobile device to control your home theater – With the right selection of apps you can transform your iOS or Android phone or tablet into an elegant home entertainment command center.


Evernote for Android gets sleek redesign – Evernote has pushed out a new design for its Android app, bringing it in line with Google’s design guidelines for Lollipop by largely refining what it already offered. Not much has changed over the last design update, though Evernote says there’s more to it than just the visual changes, and that “the thoughtful touches to these features” makes the overall Android note-taking experience better than before. Evernote went into details about the design change, talking about the motivation behind it and the best it has to offer users.


Twitter’s new policy: no to nonconsensual adult content – Twitter is making it clear: there is no room for revenge porn or similar content on its network. While it might sound like a no-brainer, given that Twitter already disallows graphic content anyway, it sometimes pays to be perfectly explicit, especially when it comes down to legalities. So as not to give any smart crack room to wiggle, the social networking giant has updated its Twitter Rules to lay out in no ambiguous terms, but without mentioning specifics, that revealing photos or videos are not allowed, especially if the subject doesn’t consent to its distribution.

Facebook Removes ‘Feeling Fat’ Emoticon After Backlash – Facebook has removed a controversial “feeling fat” emoticon after thousands complained that it promoted body-shaming. The emoticon, which featured chubby cheeks and a double chin, was previously listed as an option for status updates. It came under fire recently thanks to a petition from Catherine Weingarten of Endangered Bodies, a group that aims to “challenge the current toxic culture that promotes negative body image.”


Hey Barbie, Are You Invading My Privacy? – Big Sister is listening: A privacy group has issued a petition aimed at stopping Mattel’s “Hello Barbie” doll from hitting shelves this fall. The Wi-Fi-connected figurine can carry on a conversation, remember responses, store data in the cloud, and get to know a user over time (think Siri or Cortana). “Kids using ‘Hello Barbie’ won’t only be talking to a doll,” the privacy advocates said in a petition. “They’ll be talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial. It’s creepy—and creates a host of dangers for children and families.” In an effort to thwart the doll’s upcoming release, the CCFC penned a letter to Mattel CEO Christopher Sinclair, asking to stop Hello Barbie “immediately.”


Apple services including App Store hit by major worldwide outage – Apple services are currently experiencing a major outage around the world, with widespread reports across social media of users from Australia to Vietnam unable to gain access. The issue is affecting key services, including both the iOS and Mac App Stores, which are spitting out error messages indiscriminately when users try to access content. Many app listings are completely inaccessible, while some music and video content can be seen, but not purchased. At time of publication, the issues had been affecting users for several hours. Predictably, and in unmistakably Apple fashion, the company has been ignoring media requests for information, and according to its status page, there are no problems with its services at all.

After 11 hours, the App Store and iTunes are back online – Apple’s App Store and iTunes have sprung back into life, after technical issues brought the download stores offline in the early hours of this morning. Downloads of apps, music, and video resumed at approximately 1:30pm Pactific today, after what Apple described as a DNS issue left users not only unable to get to the App Store and iTunes on their iPhones and iPads, but temporarily killed the Mac App Store and iBooks Store too. In total, the services were offline for more than ten hours.

Google enters watch face market with Street Art – The first Google-made downloadable set of Android Wear watch faces has been released this week. Aside from the faces that come with every Android Wear device, Google has been mum on creating their own watch faces for the Android Wear line thus far. This piece of software called “Street Art watch face” breaks that silence with a wide variety of super talented artists.


Watch styles include Analog, Digital, and Minimal, and you’re able to flip off/on your display of date. This app is free from the Google Play app store and works with your Android Wear devices connected with your Android smartphone.

How to unlock your Mac just by walking up to it – This free app for your Mac or iOS device makes it too easy to unlock your Mac based simply on how close you are. Tether is a combination of a free OS X and iOS app that leverages Bluetooth 4.0 technology to monitor just how close you are, or should I say iOS device is, to your Mac. When your device is within range (about 30 feet by my count), the app unlocks your Mac. When you walk away, your Mac is locked back up barring any unauthorized access. Getting it all set up is simple; download the Mac app from Tether’s site. Followed by the iOS app from the App Store. Next, follow the instructions to connect your two devices.

10 LinkedIn Tips for Networking Success – Whether or not you’re looking for a job, you should be on LinkedIn to keep on top of what’s going on in your industry, chat with colleagues, promote your achievements, and network far beyond your geographic location. But with over 300 million LinkedIn members looking at 1.45 million jobs per day, the competition is tough. So how do you stand out from the pack? We’ve got a few tricks to help you find a new trade (or just a job within your current one).


Hillary Clinton’s email system was insecure for two months – The private email system used by Hillary Clinton when she was U.S. Secretary of State didn’t encrypt messages during the first two months of use, an Internet security company said Wednesday. That would have left emails sent and received by Clinton in early 2009 vulnerable to eavesdropping — just when British and American intelligence agencies were reportedly spying on world leaders. Around that time, British and American spy agencies were reportedly eavesdropping on world leaders. At the G20 summit in April 2009, they set up fake Internet cafes in the hope that government ministers and their staff would connect to Internet hotspots, allowing the agencies to tap unencrypted or poorly encrypted communications.

Going on holiday? Mexico wants your personal data – European airlines could soon be forced to break citizens’ right to privacy if they want to fly to Mexico. Mexican authorities have decided to implement a “passenger name record” (PNR) scheme from 1 April. PNR data encompasses all the information airlines hold on their passengers – from credit card details, phone numbers and emails to dietary requirements – and from April, Mexico wants all that handed over when someone flies into the country.

Pointing up   Vote with your wallet. Avoid Mexico and any other country which insists on knowing when you shower, shave, and …

Windows PCs remained vulnerable to Stuxnet-like attacks despite 2010 patch – If you patched your Windows computers in 2010 against the LNK exploit used by Stuxnet and thought you were safe, researchers from Hewlett-Packard have some bad news for you: Microsoft’s fix was flawed. This means that over the past four years attackers could have reverse-engineered Microsoft’s fix to create new LNK exploits that could infect Windows computers when USB storage devices got plugged into them. However, there’s no information yet to suggest this has happened.

Dropbox patches Android security flaw – Dropbox has patched a security flaw which allowed cyberattackers to steal new information uploaded to accounts through compromised third-party apps on Android devices. The company announced the fix through the Dropbox Developer Blog on Wednesday. Dropbox, a firm which caters for over 300 million users and offers cloud-based file storage, said a minor security vulnerability in Android Core and Sync/Datastore SDKs was patched a few months ago.

Ars tests ExoNet, the personal VPN that takes you home – Ars received a prototype of x.o.ware’s hardware and beta software to determine whether the technology at the heart of the product, which is expected to start shipping sometime this year, lived up to its promise. While the system is still in development, and there are still some fit and finish issues that need to be addressed before the products ship, I found that ExoNet and ExoKey were (in the most recent iteration of the early release software and firmware) fairly painless to set up and use. And they did a good job of protecting Web browsing sessions without the performance overhead of anonymizing networks. I did find some bugs along the way, which is addressing, and should be resolved in the shipping product.


First medical apps built with Apple’s ResearchKit won’t share data for commercial gain – As concern grows about data collection by mobile apps, Apple and companies involved with its new ResearchKit software development framework for medical studies say users of the first five apps have nothing to worry about. Access to health data collected by the apps will be restricted to approved medical researchers and barred from commercial use, and the apps won’t delve into the personal contents stored on a smartphone, according to the companies.

Company News:

Facebook Is Facing a Massive Lawsuit Over Online Purchases Made by Kids – Facebook was hit with a nationwide class-action lawsuit in the U.S. on Tuesday, over its refusal to provide refunds to parents whose children spent money on the website. A federal judge in San Jose, California ruled that hundreds of thousands of people across the country could now take legal action against the social network over its policy on online purchases by minors, Reuters reported.

Google Launches New Online Store To Showcase Hardware “Made With Google” – Google is launching a new online store today to showcase “all the latest products made with Google.” The new Google Store, instead of the Play Store, will now become the central spot for buying Google-centric hardware like Google’s own Nexus phones, Android Wear and Nest devices, Chromebooks from Google and its partners, as well as accessories, cases, keyboards and chargers. For the time being, Google will offer free shipping for all purchases, too (but only if you choose the slowest shipping option). If you made any hardware purchases in the Play Store, all of that information will be automatically transferred to the Google Store.


FTC charges DirecTV with fraud for misleading customers – DirecTV has been charged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for misleading customers. The advertising in question was DirecTV’s 12-month discount package. The plan was advertised as costing only $19.95, but obscured from customers was the fact that a 2-year contract was needed to get deal. Even more astounding is that the FTC alleges that DirecTV charged customers for premium channels after a 3-month trial period, and DirecTV never told customers that they needed to cancel these channels in order to avoid being charged automatically.

Samsung launches Animal Edition battery packs to create social awareness – At the recently concluded Mobile World Congress, Samsung made sure that the attendees did not exhaust their smartphone’s juice by giving away a cute battery pack featuring images of animals; we did give one such battery pack away today. Now, it seems that the company has bigger plans for the device, as it has announced the availability of the battery pack for the masses. The device will be available in two sizes, one with 8400 mAh capacity and the other with 11300 mAh. Samsung has revealed that it wants to create awareness among people about these endangered animals through this innovative way.


Google unveils Nearline, their hot new solution to cold storage – Some info stored in the cloud is important, and should be kept ready for quick access. Other stuff isn’t as necessary at the drop of a hat, and companies have the option to tuck it away. That ‘cold storage’ option could take hours to query, which isn’t ideal for businesses or their customers. Today, google rolled out a new option named ‘Nearline’. It’s more like lukewarm storage, where you won’t get the info instantly, but the three-second average return is much better than three hours.

IBM workforce declined 12% in 2014; losses tied to corporate divestitures – IBM is reporting its global headcount at 379,592, a decrease of 51,600 employees from the prior year. The data is included in the company’s recently filed annual report for 2014. In 2013, IBM employed 431,212 globally. Of this overall reduction, divestitures accounted for 35,000 employees.

Snapchat nabs investment from Alibaba for $15B valuation – Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has made an investment in Snapchat that could value the ephemeral message service at $15 billion, sources confirmed Wednesday. Alibaba has invested $200 million in the startup, which specializes in messages that vanish after they are read, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Games and Entertainment:

Sony to power off PlayStation Mobile on July 15 – PlayStation Mobile will soon be no more, ending Sony’s foray into expanding its gaming empire to smartphones and tablets. The PlayStation Mobile store shuts down on July 15. You can still download any games you’ve previously purchased through September 10 and continue to play them afterwards as long as you activate your device. To do this, you’ll need to grab the PlayStation Mobile app on a supported device.

Watch the first episode of PlayStation’s sci-fi original series Powers – Curious to see what PlayStation’s first original series is like? The first episode of Powers is now available on YouTube in its entirety. This is the first scripted original series for PlayStation, and it follows in the footsteps of rival Microsoft, who late last year debuted its own Xbox original series based, Halo: Nightfall.


Dragon Age Inquisition is currently free for Xbox Live Gold subscribers – The promotion for Dragon Age Inquisition started last night, and if you own an Xbox One and are a Live Gold Subscriber you can play the game for free for almost a whole week. The last day of availability is the 16th but everything you do in game will get saved, including achievements, in case you decide to continue and purchase the full title.


Game of Thrones to air in over 170 countries at the same time – Season five of Game of Thrones will premiere on April 12 and it will air at the same time in over 170 countries around the world. HBO will broadcast all ten episodes of the new season via HBO networks in other counties and with assorted partner networks airing the show as well. The show will air in these other countries at the same time the show airs in the US. I would assume that to mean it will be on the air at odd times in many of those other countries. In Australia Foxtel will be airing the series.


Play Cards Against Humanity On the Web, for Free – You can now play the hilariously inappropriate game on your smartphone. A new site called Cards Against Originality lets you play the game with your friends on any smartphone, tablet, or computer — for free, right through your Web browser. The browser-basedapp is the brainchild of designer Dawson Whitfield, who acknowledged that the site is “a shameless copy of the real Cards Against Humanity.”

Off Topic (Sort of):

Intel Honors Trio of Top Teen Scientists – Intel this week handed out $150,000 prizes to three “teen geniuses” who placed first in this year’s edition of the Intel Science Talent Search competition sponsored by the chip giant and run by the non-profit Society for Science & the Public. Winners Noah Golowich, 17, of Lexington, Mass., Andrew Jin, 17, of San Jose, Calif., and Michael Hofmann Winer, 18, of North Bethesda, Md. were feted at a ceremony held Tuesday in Washington, D.C.


Living Aerial Bot drone uses your smartphone as its brain – The Living Aerial Bot (LAB) is a drone with a twist, in that it uses your smartphone as its brain and face. The handset connects to the drone using Bluetooth or a wired connection, likely depending on the phone, delivering commands to the UAV’s on-board hardware. In addition, the related mobile app can also be used to display a “face” for the drone, such as an owl’s face or, depending on the situation, a live video feed used to give remote directions, such as in medical emergency situations.


Watch NASA Fire Up the Biggest Rocket Ever Built – NASA on Wednesday fired up its Space Launch System (SLS) for the very first time and thankfully, we can watch the “largest, most powerful rocket booster ever built” produce 3.6 million pounds of thrust in two minutes of awesome. The SLS will be responsible for lifting NASA’s deep-space Orion crew vehicle into space, carrying astronauts to destinations like Mars and near-Earth asteroids.


Why is killing such a central concept in video games? – On the PBS series “Game/Show,” host Jamin Warren discusses why the act of killing is such a fundamental game mechanic in video games from Mario Bros. to Grand Theft Auto.


Porn and the patrol car—one cop’s 2 hour-a-day habit – Pornography, though prevalent in the modern world, still isn’t the sort of thing one expects to see while waiting in traffic behind a cop car. But pornography is exactly what an irate Wheaton resident named Robin said he witnessed. On the morning of September 18, 2013, while sitting in his conversion van and waiting for a stoplight to change, Robin found himself directly behind Wheaton Police squad car 359. The height of his seat gave him a perfect view through the rear windshield of the squad car, and he could see the car’s mobile data computer displaying “scrolling pictures of completely naked women.”


When you watch enough porn that investigators have to compile spreadsheets, you know you’re in trouble.

Colorado Collects $2.3 Million In Marijuana Taxes For Schools In One Month – Colorado collected $2.3 million in excise taxes on the sale of recreational marijuana during the first month of 2015, 10 times the tax revenue generated in January last year. The 15% retail marijuana excise tax, which goes toward public schools and construction fees, earned exactly $2,332,843 in January 2015, according to a monthly report released by the state’s Department of Revenue. Last year, during the first month of sales, the school fund totaled $195,318. Residents voted in November 2013 for an aggressive 10% sales tax and a 15% excise tax on recreational marijuana sales. Medical and recreational cannabis-related revenue also comes from a standard sales tax, as well as license fees. Marijuana-related revenue not allocated to the school fund goes towards such things as substance abuse programs, medical research, and police training.

3D Systems gets 10,000 injured dogs running again with 3D printed knee implants – 3D Systems partnered with Rita Leibinger Medical to 3D print metal knee implants for thousands of dogs, which has sped up surgery and recovery for pets around the world.


3D Systems built prosthetic legs for Derby the dog last year. Image: 3D Systems

Jet lag treatment discovered in a dish of living fruit fly brains – Todd C. Holmes, professor of physiology & biophysics in the UCI School of Medicine, is heading up this study using fruit flies in an attempt to better understand and hopefully solve the jet lag problem. What his team did was to extract the brains of fruit flies, placed them in a dish, and kept them alive for 6 days. During that time a single-cell resolution camera monitored the brains and what happened when a light pulse was used on them. The results are surprising and positive for regular long-distance travelers.

Something to think about:

“This new era of state surveillance can only breed a new generation of tools that make systems like TOR look like toys. No one wants to be watched, and as soon as someone, somewhere comes up with an effective means to render users invisible, it will be adopted by everyone, everywhere, almost instantaneously. That’s the way it ever was, only now we’re better at it than ever before, because we share everything we’re learning as fast as we learn it.”

–      Mark Pesce

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Dutch court suspends mandatory data-retention legislation – A district court in The Hague has struck down a Dutch law requiring telecommunications companies to retain customer data for law enforcement for between six and 12 months.

The law was first enacted in 2009 in response to the EU directive on data retention, which was subsequently struck down by the European Court of Justice in April 2014.

The court said at the time that the directive infringed on the rights to privacy and protection of personal data.

Since then, the laws in Europe around mandatory data retention have either been struck down or amended to accommodate the ruling.

Australians! Let us all rise up against data retention – There is still time to step away from a poisonous framing that presents only two options: the state and its nominated ‘enemies’. There’s an opportunity to build connections, to share with one another, learn from one another, and come to trust one another. That’s what civilised people do. Civilised people certainly don’t spy on their neighbors. That sort of behaviour should be called out for what it is – paranoid.

Some have argued that our security and the safety of our children demand these steps be taken. But if we think about our actions consequentially – something adults must do – then we need to acknowledge that mass surveillance will inevitably land us in a more chaotic and largely invisible online culture. That’s the way the world works. All those paranoia-fueled good intentions can’t change that.

Stuxnet leak probe stalls for fear of confirming US-Israel involvement – A criminal leak investigation into a top military official has stalled out of concern it could force US officials to confirm joint US-Israeli involvement behind the Stuxnet worm that targeted Iran’s nuclear program, according to a media report published Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors have been investigating whether retired Marine Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright leaked highly sensitive information to New York Times reporter David Sanger. A 2012 book and article authored by Sanger said Stuxnet was among the crowning achievements of “Olympic Games,” a covert program jointly pursued by the US and Israel to curb Iran’s attempts to obtain nuclear weapons. As reported in author and Wired reporter Kim Zetter’s book Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon, Stuxnet was first seeded to a handful of carefully selected targets before taking hold inside Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility. From there, the malware caused computer-controlled centrifuges to spin erratically, an act of sabotage that forced engineers to scrap the damaged materials.

According to an article published Wednesday by The Washington Post, the probe into Cartwright’s suspected leak to Sanger is generating tension between national security concerns and the Obama administration’s desire to hold high-ranking officials accountable to disclosing classified information.

AP sues State Department to speed up release of Hillary Clinton’s emails – A day after Hillary Clinton defended her decision to use a private email account for official government correspondence, the Associated Press is ratcheting up the pressure to release her messages. The AP said today that it’s filing a lawsuit against the State Department, requesting access to emails that could shed light on her tenure as Secretary of State. Among other things, it’s looking specifically for Clinton’s full schedule and calendar, conversations with advisers who will be instrumental in her presidential campaign, and any messages regarding NSA surveillance and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

The AP says it’s resorted to a lawsuit after the State Department failed to respond to five Freedom of Information Act requests over five years, and only partially fulfilled a sixth.

ACLU files new lawsuits in hunt for police ‘Stingray’ mobe-trackers – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California has filed another two lawsuits on Tuesday as the organisation’s campaign to bring information about StingRay cellphone surveillance devices into the public domain continues.

The lawsuits against the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the Anaheim Police Department allege that both police agencies have violated state law by not providing documents requested regarding the use of the controversial equipment.

Most of the information publicly known about the StingRay device has come from such ACLU cases.

UK Parliament says it’s “technologically infeasible” to block Tor – The UK Parliament has published a report on the future of the darknet and online anonymity, and it came to the heartwarming conclusion that it would be “not seen as acceptable” to ban online anonymity systems. Furthermore, speaking specifically about Tor, the parliamentary report says it would be “technologically infeasible” to block people from using the service in the UK.

This report comes a couple of months after UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that encryption should be outlawed unless backdoor access is given to the government. “Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read?” Cameron said. At the time his comments were in response to the January attacks in Paris; strong encryption, so the argument goes, prevents intelligence and security agencies from foiling the plots of terrorists and other bad actors.

New smoking gun further ties NSA to omnipotent “Equation Group” hackers – Researchers from Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab have uncovered more evidence tying the US National Security Agency to a nearly omnipotent group of hackers who operated undetected for at least 14 years.

The Kaspersky researchers once again stopped short of saying the hacking collective they dubbed Equation Group was the handiwork of the NSA, saying only that the operation had to have been sponsored by a nation-state with nearly unlimited resources to dedicate to the project. Still, they heaped new findings on top of a mountain of existing evidence that already strongly implicated the spy agency.

The strongest new tie to the NSA was the string “BACKSNARF_AB25” discovered only a few days ago embedded in a newly found sample of the Equation Group espionage platform dubbed “EquationDrug.” “BACKSNARF,” according to page 19 of this undated NSA presentation, was the name of a project tied to the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations.


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