Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 19, 2015

IoT: Silly and scary challenges ahead;  Obama administration sets record for censoring and denying transparency requests;  8 Gmail mobile app tricks for iOS and Android;  PlayStation Vue vs. Sling TV: Streaming live TV compared;  Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for ALL users worldwide (including pirates);  4 tips for speeding up a slow iOS 8 device;  How to deal with misbehaving Android apps;  Hardware requirements for Windows 10 for desktop and phones;  Tutanota, An Open Source Encrypted Gmail Alternative;  Meerkat Now Lets You Easily Follow Users Via The Web;  AeroFS – cloud collaboration free for up to 30 users;  Make Games On Your iPhone With Playr;  System Mechanic Free;  Why an 1891 toilet paper patent is all over Facebook;  Avira Rescue System (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

IoT: Silly and scary challenges ahead – How many software updates does it take to change a light bulb? What happens when a blast furnace gets hacked? Security looms as the elephant in all of our IoT rooms.

8 Gmail mobile app tricks for iOS and Android – There’s more to the recently revamped Gmail app than a pretty Material Design. Read on for 8 new Gmail tricks, starting with…

4 tips for speeding up a slow iOS 8 device – Have an iOS device that is acting a little sluggish lately? Give these four tips a read, and then try them on your own device to see the results.

AeroFS makes cloud collaboration free for up to 30 users – When it comes to sharing data in the cloud, there’s more than one way to deliver security. There’s encryption, for instance, which is used by services such as Dropbox to keep data safe. There’s also technology such as Box’s new Encryption Key Management tool, which aims to give users additional control. AeroFS take another approach. Whereas most purveyors of cloud file, sync and share services ultimately still store users’ data on their own servers in data centers around the world, AeroFS’s private cloud offering keeps data on-premises. Targeting enterprise workgroups, the service is “like Dropbox, but behind your firewall,” in the company’s own words, and on Wednesday it became free for up to 30 users—and pledged to remain that way forever.

PlayStation Vue vs. Sling TV: Streaming live TV compared – PlayStation Vue is the new TV service from Sony that starts at $50 per month. Its competitor Sling TV starts at $20 per month. Both use the Internet to stream numerous live TV channels as well as VOD, and both are free from long-term contracts. So how do they stack up?

Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for ALL users worldwide – Speaking to Reuters from the WinHEC conference in China, Microsoft’s operating system chief Terry Myerson said, “We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10.” This means that everyone running Windows 7 or 8.1, irrespective of whether you pirated the operating system or not, will be allowed to upgrade to a legitimate version of Windows 10.

Here’s how Windows 10 upgrade paths will work – Microsoft is promising a fairly painless upgrade path to Windows 10, provided users have been keeping their existing versions up to date. If you’re running Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1 S14 (that’s the “Windows 8.1 Update” from last April), you’ll be able to get Windows 10 straight from the Control Panel’s Windows Update utility. In other words, you won’t have to mess around with installation disks, and all your files and programs will remain intact. Your data won’t be erased if you’re running an older version of Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1, but you’ll have to download an ISO and create an installation disk. It’s just a little more of a hassle.

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Here are the hardware requirements for Windows 10 for desktop and phones – Microsoft has officially started detailing the hardware requirements and capabilities of Windows 10 for desktop and mobile devices. The OS will scale from low-end to the most powerful hardware.

Pixometer app offers a smarter way to read dumb meters – So you want to track your water, electricity or gas consumption, but you still don’t have a smart meter on your supply? Pixolus has a mobile app that makes it easier to keep track of meter readings, even with dumb meters. Just tell the Pixometer app which meter you’re going to read, point the phone’s camera at it, and let the optical character recognition software do the work. Once the app gets a lock on the numbers, it speaks the reading out loud and stores it, and the date, in that meter’s file.

How to deal with misbehaving Android apps – We’ve all experienced it — that one app that seems to cause never-ending problems. It’ll run for a while and then, out of nowhere, it starts freezing or force crashing. This becomes an even bigger problem when the app in question happens to be in the “must-use” category. What do you do? Do you continue suffering through the data loss and crashes? No, you don’t. This is business, and you can’t deal with apps that don’t behave as needed. To that end, what do you do? You read on and integrate these tips into your standard operating procedure. They may even save you from data loss and app crashes.

Meet Sirius, the open-source Siri clone that runs on Ubuntu – Sirius is an open platform anyone can use and contribute to, from universities to startups. It’s currently being tested on Ubuntu, and you can download and install it on your own Linux PC today… if you’re particularly adventurous. One big feature Sirius offers is the image recognition integration. For example, you could take a photo of the Eiffel Tower and ask “when was this built?” Sirius would analyze the image, determine it was the Eiffel Tower, and then go find out when the Eiffel Tower was built. The big commercial assistant programs don’t yet offer a similar feature. This University of Michigan video provides a good introduction.

Everything you need to know about DLNA: The de facto home-entertainment network standard – If you’ve ever watched the photos on your digital camera come alive on your TV or played the music files on your computer over your home theater system, you’ve brushed against the magic of DLNA. This widely integrated but little understood technology allows you to stream media files from a hard drive or memory card to other devices on your home network without your needing to know a whole lot about codecs, file formats, or even how your network operates.

Meerkat Now Lets You Easily Follow Users Via The Web – Live video broadcast app Meerkat is edging away from being so reliant on Twitter’s network to power its own: The company announced a new “light follow” feature that works via the web, making it easy for anyone to follow users quickly without following them on Twitter, and to then receive notifications via Meerkat on iOS whenever they go live with a stream.

Autodesk’s insanely fun Tinkerplay app lets you easily design your own 3D-printable action figures – Autodesk, makers of AutoCAD design software and the Spark 3D printing platform, want to make it easier for children of all ages to design their own 3D-printed items. The company recently released a new app called Tinkerplay that makes it easy to design your own army of killer robots. Tinkerplay lets you create your own toy from scratch or use the included character templates to customize a scorpion, ninja, or sea creature. Once the design is done you can create your own STL or .thing file to turn your 3D-printed dreams into reality. Tinkerplay is available for Android, iOS, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone.

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Tutanota, An Open Source Encrypted Gmail Alternative, Heads Out Of Beta – Germany based encrypted email startup, Tutanota, is taking its service out a beta next week — after a year of testing and almost 100,000 users signed up to send and receive secure email. Additional domains will also be offered in the new release, coming on Tuesday, including .com and .io options (in addition to the current .de option). Tutanota was founded at the end of 2011 with the idea of making secure email easier than extant options like PGP.  Its ease of use pitch means it’s doing encrypted email in the web browser and also offering iOS and Android apps.

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Security:

Mandrill warns attack may have exposed some data about email – Mandrill warned customers on Wednesday that some email-related data may have been exposed after attackers tried to lasso some of its servers into a botnet. Data doesn’t appear to have been stolen, but some customers should take some security precautions, wrote Brandon Fouts, general manager of Mandrill, which is a platform for managing transactional email that is owned by The Rocket Science Group.

Double FREAK! A cryptographic bug that was found because of the FREAK bug – Imagine that you just checked into a hotel. You’re in the lift on the way to your room, holding a key. You get to your room; you wave, swipe or turn the key; and the door opens. Assuming the door wouldn’t open until you presented the key, it certainly feels like security of a sort, doesn’t it? But what if your key isn’t unique? What if your key opens every other door in the hotel (or, for that matter, if every other key opens your door)? How would you ever know, just for starters?

Dark web drug market Evolution vanishes off the net, taking millions of dollars with it – Remember Silk Road? The infamous underground marketplace that made millions of dollars while its members bought and sold drugs and firearms was shut down in 2013, and its mastermind Ross “Dread Pirate Roberts” Ulbricht facing prison for the rest of his life. Well, nature abhors a vacuum. So it’s no surprise to see others attempt to take over where the Silk Road left off. As Wired reports, one of the sites – Evolution – that has attempted to take the place of the Silk Road has itself mysteriously vanished, and allegedly run off with members’ bitcoins worth more than $12 million.

Company News:

Target proposes $10 million settlement deal for customers after credit card hack – Target has agreed to pay $10 million to people affected by the breach of its systems in 2013 that saw 40 million credit and debit card numbers stolen. According to court documents, the retailer’s proposed settlement — which has yet to be approved by a federal judge — could pay individuals up to $10,000 in compensation. A court hearing to approve the proposal is scheduled for Thursday.

Yahoo Is Closing Its Office In China And Laying Off Hundreds Of Staff – Yahoo is bidding adios to China with the closure of its research center in Beijing — its only location in the country — as SCMP first reported. Hundreds of staff are expected to be laid off. The Beijing office originally ran Yahoo services in China, but with all of its consumers-facing activities in the country now shuttered — including its web portal, music service and email — the office effectively become a research center. Sources at the company told SCMP that, with wages two times higher in China than India and no specific services in China, the presence wasn’t particularly logical.

Appeals court revives Microsoft Xbox 360 console defect litigation – A federal appeals court on Wednesday revived a proposed class-action lawsuit against Microsoft that claims the Xbox 360 damages gaming discs, rendering them unplayable. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower court had misconstrued the court’s own precedent when it ruled that Xbox owners in the US could not collectively sue Microsoft for damages. In the lower courts, Microsoft had successfully argued that individual proof by each person seeking damages was required. The court said Microsoft’s position was “inapt” because the “plaintiffs’ position is that the design defect itself breaches the express warranty.”

Tesla Scores Direct Sales Wins in NJ, Georgia – Tesla Motors passed important hurdles in its mission to sell directly to consumers in New Jersey and Georgia, where state legislators passed bills allowing the electric vehicle (EV) maker to open dealerships. A similar proposal moving through Georgia’s government would make way for five Tesla dealerships in the southern state.

Facebook Sued By Former Staffer Alleging Sex Discrimination, Harassment, Other Charges – The defendants in the suit are Facebook, a Facebook staffer named Anil Wilson, and 50 unnamed Facebook employees referred to anonymously as “defendant Doe.” The suit says that Wilson and Hong’s other coworkers regularly ignored or belittled her opinions at group meetings, asked her “why she did not just stay home and take care of her child instead of having a career,” and ordered her to organize parties and serve drinks to male colleagues, among other alleged actions. The suit also alleges that Hong was told that she was not integrated into her team at work “because she looks different and talks differently than other team members” and was subsequently replaced “by a less qualified, less experienced Indian male.”

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox Music integrates with OneDrive to allow free storage of music – This update for Xbox Music and OneDrive will make it easier to access your content on nearly any device and shows Microsoft’s commitment to the music streaming service. Users can now simply open their OneDrive web folder or app, upload the music file from their hard drive and listen to it through the Xbox Music app whenever they want. An Xbox music pass subscription is not required, the process is completely free. People who already have the pass will get 100 GB free of OneDrive storage.

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Super Dungeon Bros hands-on: Like Gauntlet, but more metal – Super Dungeon Bros is (like Gauntlet) an isometric hack-and-slash game that sees you dungeon crawling alongside three friends in search of treasure. One important distinction is that players can choose any weapon they’d like in Super Dungeon Bros—you’re not constrained to having one warrior, one wizard, et cetera as per Gauntlet. In our demo, in fact, it was impossible not to double up. We had four players, but only three weapons to choose from (crossbow, sword, mace). The main addition in Super Dungeon Bros is an increased focus on co-op play.

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Can an epic strategy game make Zynga relevant again? – Times are hard for Zynga. The company exploded with the sudden rise of Facebook gaming, but has struggled to adapt as the industry has moved to mobile, and once-massive franchises like FarmVille have been left to wither. In early 2014 the company purchased NaturalMotion, the studio behind mobile hits like the charming Clumsy Ninja and CSR Racing, a game that at one point was making an estimated $12 million per month. The developer has been quiet since then, but recently unveiled its first post-Zynga project: Dawn of Titans, a strategy game that aims to turn massive fantasy battles into an experience you can play when you have a minute to kill.

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PlayStation’s Vue Live Streaming Cord-Cutter TV Service Launches In The U.S. – PlayStation is officially debuting its live streaming video service in the U.S. today, launching PlayStation Vue in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia with pricing beginning at $50 per month. The on-demand and live-streaming video service includes content partners like Fox News, AMC and Turner Broadcasting and offers channels like CBS, Discovery, Animal Planet, Syfy, Food Network and many more, depending on the package you select.

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Make Games On Your iPhone With Playr – Aside from the money-making behemoths like Candy Crush Saga, one of the most interesting trends in mobile gaming is the rise of flash-in-the-pan viral hits like Flappy Bird and Timberman. These games takes seconds to learn, days to master, are free or cost a few bucks each, and are basically disposable after the initial rush of hype. I know plenty of people who’ve gone through a number of those games and have said things to the effect of “I bet I could make a game like that.” For nearly two years, 18-year-old Chris Galzerano has been working on Playr, an app that lets anyone do just that.

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New Microsoft Store promotion offers 3 free months of Sling TV – If you purchase an Xbox One from Microsoft Store, whether it be online or from a physical location, you will also receive a three month subscription to Sling TV for free. Sling TV allows users to watch live television using your existing internet connection and a built-in app for Xbox One. The service currently starts at $20 a month and features networks like AMC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network and more.

Off Topic (Sort of):

20 Extreme Selfies That Will Make Your Stomach Churn – Voluntarily putting your life and limb in jeopardy is always interesting. At least, that’s the conclusion a growing number of people have come to as they do their part to expand the art of the selfie to unforeseen heights. Click through our slideshow and check out 20 selfies captured in unnecessarily precarious situations.

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Here you can see Mr. Wanted standing at the very tippy top of a spire.

Memory in the flesh – A radical 1950s scientist suggested memories could survive outside the brain — and he may have been right.

Pointing up  Fascinating!

Why an 1891 toilet paper patent is all over Facebook – I knew something was up by the time I saw a fourth toilet paper-related post on Facebook, all from different, unconnected friends. Just to be sure this was a real phenomenon, I went over to Twitter. Sure enough, a search for #toiletpaper delivered a considerable number of results. It seems the great over-or-under debate is alive on social media, but this time some new evidence has entered the fray.

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New genetic map of the UK shows which invasions created Britain’s DNA – Britain has a long history of invasions: over the past two millennia, various armies from the Romans to the Anglo-Saxons conquered the bulk of the British Isles. A new genetic analysis of the country has revealed which invading force had the greatest impact on its DNA. Britons share the most DNA with people from France and Germany — countries which were home to the Angles and Saxon that moved into the British Isles after Roman rule collapsed in the 4th century. And despite broad similarities, the UK can be split into 17 distinct genetic groups that correspond to modern regions, according to a paper published in Nature that analyzed genetic data from more than 2,000 individuals in the UK and more than 6,000 across Europe.

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Bioprinter 3D-prints living cartilage nose in 16 minutes – While traditional 3D-printers build objects using layers of plastic, we’ve seem some great strides in 3D-printing like lattices emerging from amorphous, resinous goo. Now bioprinters are entering the ring with their ability to create 3D models from biological materials. There’s no need to wait for an ear to grow on the back of a mouse; this bioprinter from the ETH Zurich Cartilage Engineering and Regeneration Group can print a nose from biopolymers and living cartilage cells in only 16 minutes. Best of all, no mice are harmed in the process!

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10 career risks you should be willing to take – Career in a rut? Sometimes you need to take a chance or two to get things moving in the right direction.

Something to think about:

“I was headed down a bad road after I had been kicked out of Yale. I had been arrested twice for DUI when I was 22-years-old. I was in jail in Rock Springs, Wyoming, overnight, on a DUI charge—second one in a year. And that was a wake-up call, in effect.”

–      Dick Cheney

Today’s Free Downloads:

System Mechanic Free – System Mechanic Free is a complete suite of powerful system repair and maintenance tools. The 7 core tools included in System Mechanic Free are designed to boost speed, fix problems, and instantly improve PC performance.

Using the same award-winning technology and user-friendly design that makes the full version of System Mechanic the expert’s choice and the #1-bestselling software in its class, System Mechanic Free empowers people of all skill levels to keep their computer running at peak performance.

The 7 core tools in System Mechanic Free are:

Registry Tuner: The most effective tool of its kind, Registry Tuner uses regularly updated research to safely repair registry errors and stabilize Windows computers

Startup Optimizer: Eliminates the top 25 most common startup bottlenecks in order to noticeably speed up Windows start time

Memory Mechanic: Reclaims more RAM memory for an instant performance boost

PC Cleanup: Cleans up system-clogging junk files and clutter

Drive Accelerator: Defragments hard drives to improve drive speed and performance

Shortcut Repair: Reconnects broken icons and shortcuts

Internet Connection Repair: Heals broken internet connections to get PCs back online

iolo technologies believes no one should unnecessarily experience the stress, lost time, and financial burden that can be caused by a poorly-performing PC—and System Mechanic Free provides the basic tools necessary to ensure Windows computers remain stable and optimized for the entire lifespan of the investment. Now, you can use the same research-driven tune-up tools and features that are trusted and recommended by millions of computer users worldwide to fix and speed up your home PC.

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Avira Rescue System – The Avira AntiVir Rescue System is a linux-based application that allows accessing computers that cannot be booted anymore. Thus it is possible to repair a damaged system, to rescue data or to scan the system for virus infections.

Just double-click on the rescue system package to burn it to a CD/DVD. You can then use this CD/DVD to boot your computer. The Avira AntiVir Rescue System is updated several times a day so that the most recent security updates are always available.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Obama administration sets record for censoring and denying transparency requests – The US censored and refused to provide more documents than ever last year while responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, according to an analysis of federal data performed by the Associated Press. The government responded to just over 647,000 FOIA requests last year, a 4 percent drop from the year prior. In just over 250,000 of those cases, it censored documents or refused to provide access to them outright — nearly two out of every five requests. Censoring, however, may range from a single phone number’s removal to the redaction of nearly an entire page.

The Freedom of Information Act is a nearly 50-year-old law that allows any person to request records from the US government, which must turn them over in a timely fashion unless they are subject to a limited set of exceptions. The law plays a critical role in government transparency; unfortunately, this waning responsiveness hurts that, especially as broad conversations about government transparency continue due to a steady stream of leaked documents. The government, for its part, thinks that it isn’t doing quite so poorly. The AP reports that the US says it released all or parts of documents in 91 percent of cases, but this discounts some requests and is still a record low under Obama.

New York county sheriff must give up stingray records, judge orders – According to a judicial ruling issued Tuesday, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) in Northwestern New York state must turn over a number of documents concerning its purchase and use of stingrays. The 24-page order comes as the result of a lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and marks a rare victory in favor of transparency of “cell-site simulators,” which are often shrouded in secrecy.

The devices can not only be used to determine a phone’s location, but they can also intercept calls and text messages. During the act of locating a phone, stingrays also sweep up information about nearby phones—not just the target phone. Earlier this year, Ars reported on how the FBI is actively trying to “prevent disclosure” of how these devices are used in local jurisdictions across America.

“The court today has confirmed that law enforcement cannot hide behind a shroud of secrecy while it is invading the privacy of those it has sworn to protect and serve,” Mariko Hirose, a NYCLU Staff Attorney, said in a statement. “The public has a right to know how, when and why this technology is being deployed, and they deserve to know what safeguards and privacy protections, if any, are in place to govern its use.”

Cisco posts kit to empty houses to dodge NSA chop shops – Cisco will ship boxes to vacant addresses in a bid to foil the NSA, security chief John Stewart says.

The dead drop shipments help to foil a Snowden-revealed operation whereby the NSA would intercept networking kit and install backdoors before boxen reached customers.

The interception campaign was revealed last May.

Speaking at a Cisco Live press panel in Melbourne today, Stewart says the Borg will ship to fake identities for its most sensitive customers, in the hope that the NSA’s interceptions are targeted.

“We ship [boxes] to an address that’s has nothing to do with the customer, and then you have no idea who ultimately it is going to,” Stewart says.

“When customers are truly worried … it causes other issues to make [interception] more difficult in that [agencies] don’t quite know where that router is going so its very hard to target – you’d have to target all of them.

There is always going to be inherent risk.”

Stewart says some customers drive up to a distributor and pick up hardware at the door.

The Mall of America reportedly used Facebook to track activists – The security team at the Mall of America may have created a fictitious Facebook account to surreptitiously compile information about Black Lives Matter supporters and track their plans. Citing documents it obtained, The Intercept says that the mall — which has its own counter terrorism unit — created a fictitious person named “Nikki Larson,” who they used to befriend and monitor protesters on social network.

That fishy account has since been quietly removed from Facebook, though dates back to 2009 and appears to be the work of a former Mall of America intelligence analyst. Before the account was yanked, “Nikki” had 817 friends, many of whom The Intercept says had ties to local Minnesota political activism groups. While active, the account also liked the Black Live Matter Facebook group in Minneapolis and changed the top header with a Martin Luther King Jr. quote, presumably to keep up appearances.

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