FTC report: Google caused ‘real harm to consumers’; Web Pegged as Bad for Morals by Surfers in Emerging Countries; Signature antivirus’ dirty little secret; Snowden: IT workers are now target of spies; Amazon gives you 34 paid Android apps and games, all free; Save form data as you type it in Chrome, Firefox with Lazarus; Windows 10 on pirated versions won’t get you a valid license; Apple TV revisited: 4 reasons to buy it, 4 reasons to skip it; Fix Netflix’s User Interface With God Mode; FAA Grants Amazon Permission To Test Drone Deliveries; PlayStation Vue: here’s what you need to know; The iPhone’s best new puzzle game is about NSA surveillance; Will robots take our jobs and overpower us? The CIA Just Declassified the Document That Supposedly Justified the Iraq Invasion; Restore Point Creator (free).
FTC report: Google caused ‘real harm to consumers’ – A 160 page FTC report from a couple years ago has made the light of day through an open-records request, and in it we see Google held in a harsh, often damning light. The report reveals that it was recommended that the FTC sue Google over three of the Internet giant’s practices, something that would have — had it gone through — ended up being one of the biggest antitrust cases since the similar suit against Microsoft in the 90s. Among other things, the report says Google both has and will harm consumers and innovation with some of its actions.
Web Pegged as Bad for Morals by Surfers in Emerging Countries – As the Internet lays down roots across the globe, people in emerging countries are welcoming the Web’s positive impacts, but are just as wary of what they perceive as its negative influence on morals. According to a new Pew Research Center study, a majority of folks across 32 developing nations count the Web as beneficial for education, personal relationships, and the economy. When it comes to politics and morality, however, the online maelstrom is viewed by many as a negative influence.
Amazon gives you 34 paid Android apps and games, all free, in birthday blowout – Amazon is at it again, this time gifting you $105 worth of free Android apps and games. The fire sale is to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the Amazon Appstore, it’s rival to Google Play. While the apps work on Amazon’s Fire tablets, they can also be used on most Android devices, as long as you install the Amazon Appstore on your phone or tablet. The sale is good through March 21. Downloading any of these offerings also enters you into a contest to win a $25,000 shopping spree from Amazon. Here’s the full list of all the apps and games available, including their original price.
Upgrading to Windows 10 on pirated versions won’t get you a valid license -Yesterday Microsoft announced plans to allow pirated versions of Windows to upgrade to Windows 10 once the new operating system launches. Now the company has clarified some of its statements and the picture is a bit less rosy. Unfortunately, the company had scaled back a bit on its plans saying that the free upgrade, though available, won’t actually change the license state of a user’s OS. In plain speak this means that if you were running a pirated copy of Windows, you’ll still be running a pirated copy even after upgrading to Windows 10. This move seems counterproductive though, or rather self-sabotaging.
Save form data as you type it in Chrome, Firefox with Lazarus – If you’re filling out your car insurance quote form, writing a comment on a blog or filling in payment details for food delivery, it’s annoying to lose what you’ve already entered because of a server error or accidental mouse click. For situations like these, there’s an extension for Chrome called Lazarus. This extension will save the data you type into those pesky textboxes, and will allow you to re-add it with just a couple of clicks. It’s not new, but you may wonder how you’ve had the patience to continue filling out online forms without it. Here’s how to get started:
Find out where to flee zombies with awesome online simulator – Choose a spot on the map where the first zombie hits America, adjust your parameters and watch the infection grow.
Almost 223 hours into a zombie outbreak that started in the Southeast. Time to head to Alaska! Screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET
After hitting Raspberry Pi 2, Windows 10 will head to Qualcomm’s board – Raspberry Pi 2 has been the only announced option for enthusiasts looking to make electronics using Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10, but Qualcomm is now offering its DragonBoard 410c as an alternative. The credit card-size DragonBoard 410c is a board computer that Qualcomm has priced at around US$75, which is double that of the $35 Raspberry Pi 2. But with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 64-bit ARM CPUs, the Qualcomm board has a blend of horsepower, graphics and location-tracking capabilities not found on other board computers.
Here’s the hardware that will power Windows-based robots and connected homes – Microsoft has big plans for spreading Windows beyond phones, tablets, and PCs, and it’s just started talking about the hardware options. In a blog post, Microsoft revealed a few different chipsets that will support Windows 10 IoT, an initiative to bring Windows to new product categories such as connected homes, wearables, robots, and DIY computing kits. As Microsoft has already promised , the “Internet of Things” version of Windows will be free for “Makers” and device builders.
Fix Netflix’s User Interface With God Mode – Ever spend more time looking for something to watch on Netflix than actually watching something on Netflix? That’s because of the site’s addiction to brevity. Titles are hidden by sliding bars that requires clicking to reveal more titles. This bookmarklet fixes the issue. It’s called God Mode and I love it. Just pop the bookmarklet into your bookmark bar and load Netflix. Once logged in, click the bookmark button to expand all the sliding bars into grids of movies. It’s not as pretty, but damn is easier to use.
Apple is ignoring a major problem with MacBook screen stains – You may remember back in late 2012, MacBook owners were reporting ghosting problems on their Retina Displays. However, Apple didn’t class that type of ghosting as worthy of repair much to the frustration of users who’d spent thousands purchasing the laptops. Well it’s happening again, but this time instead of ghosting, the display on some MacBooks can develop severe staining. And guess what? Apple is claiming this counts as cosmetic damage and therefore not covered under warranty. The problem for Apple is the fact this isn’t a problem only a handful of MacBook owners are experiencing. As of today, 443 people have complained, and a website has been created called Staingate to highlight the issue.
Don’t Follow The Leader: These Phones and Carriers Could Make You Happier – If you’re on a great, big wireless carrier, with the same phone that millions of other people have, you need to look at switching. Tiny companies you’ve never heard of may be able to satisfy you in a way the big guys just can’t. That’s the message of our Reader’s Choice survey this year, and it’s empowering. It’s empowering because the little guys are competition, and when they compete, they drag everyone forward. They improve options and lower prices for everyone. Check them out. Even if you don’t switch, call up your carrier and threaten; it should be on notice.
Flickr Tab for Chrome brings beautiful pictures to your new tab – If you don’t already use Yahoo’s Weather app, I’d humbly suggest you start right now. In addition to being accurate, it feeds you info in a really neat format. The app also uses Flickr images as its background, which are just phenomenal and contextual pieces of art that will have you opening the app over and over. If you’re using google’s Chrome browser, Yahoo just unleashed an extension that lets you display brilliant Flickr images in new tabs as a background image.
Pixelmator for iPad sees massive update; new tools, tons of fixes – When Apple launched the iPad Air 2, they ushered the team at Pixelmator onto the stage to showcase their new iPad-only photo editing app. If you’ve not yet used Pixelmator on the iPad — it’s about as good as it gets for mobile photo editing (and image creation!). Forgoing the list of filters many others want to feed you, Pixelmator is a bit more ‘pro’ than most other iPad photo editing tools. Today, an update brings in much more functionality, and some new tools for users to check out.
Windows Live Mail stores your messages, but where? Here’s how to find them – Dig into Live Mail’s settings to manage email storage and other handy features.
Slack for Windows exits beta – Popular business-communication tool Slack has finally got on board with Windows. The well-funded start-up just released a desktop app for Windows 7 and up (including the Windows 10 technical preview). Slack is part of a new generation of business-focused communication tools that function as all-in-one messaging platforms. Instead of spreading your team across instant messaging apps and email, Slack wants to replace both with capabilities for quick or long-form messaging, and the ability to easily attach files for others to access.
Apple TV revisited: 4 reasons to buy it, 4 reasons to skip it – Apple TV sometimes feels like the black sheep of Cupertino, but it got some love last week when Apple dropped the price to $69. That’s $30 cheaper than the original price, making Apple TV just a little more competitive with media streamers from Roku, Amazon, and Google. If you need a streaming set-top box and have Apple TV back on your radar, allow me to help break it down.
Signature antivirus’ dirty little secret – If you rely only on traditional, signature-based antivirus, you are going to get infected—and probably a lot! Antivirus was, and still is, a valuable addition to your layered security strategy, but only if you understand its limitations, which have become more and more prominent over time.
Poorly managed password security poured fuel on hacker fire in 2014 – While enterprises are overlooking these building blocks, hackers surely are not, according to the IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly released this week. The report said users with predictable or weak passwords, and passwords reused across the Internet and the enterprise continue to be fertile ground for launching data breaches. It’s the weakest link in the chain; end-users (and often IT admins) opting for ease-of-use over security. It’s a reality that continues to lengthen the poor track record of the password, and on the bright side could help hasten new authentication methods. The report says the millions of email address and plain-text passwords collected by hackers over the years are the starting points for compromising new sites, making password reuse a fatal flaw of end-users who are putting themselves at risk for brute-force attacks against their accounts.
You need to apply the OpenSSL patches today, not tomorrow – At first glance, you might not think that the latest set of OpenSSL security patches are that important. Sure, there’s a dozen of them and two are serious, but are they really that bad? Yes, actually they’re not just bad, they’re awful. True, some operating systems, such as Red Hat Linux Enterprise (RHEL), aren’t greatly impacted by these latest problems. But if you’re using any operating system that uses OpenSSL 1.0.2 or OpenSSL versions: 1.0.1, 1.0.0 and 0.9.8, it’s another story.
Amazon doesn’t want you to know how many data demands it gets – Google, Microsoft and Apple have reported on data demands received from the US government. So why has Amazon kept quiet all this time?
T-Mobile violated US labor laws, agency judge rules – T-Mobile, known for bashing its competitors in the wireless business, is in hot water for the treatment of its own employees. One of the nation’s largest wireless carriers violated federal labor laws by illegally restricting employees from discussing basic workplace issues like wages and suppressing their attempts to organize, according to Christine Dibble, an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency created to enforce labor laws.
HBO, Showtime, and Sony want an Internet fast lane for TV streaming – In the wake of the FCC’s Net Neutrality vote, all web content is created equal. However, nothing is every black and white, and there is a new gray area when it comes to managed services. HBO, Showtime, and Sony Corp. are pushing for their streaming content to be treated separately and have talked to Comcast Corp. about being included in their separate data lane for “managed services.”
Opera Buys SurfEasy To Add Secure VPN Services To Its Browser Software – Opera, makers of a suite of software for browsing the web on mobile and desktop devices used by some 350 million consumers, has made another acquisition to build out the services it offers to users. It has acquired SurfEasy, makers of a virtual private network (VPN) app that lets users browse the web more securely. This is Opera’s first security-focused acquisition, and it is made in the context of a growing demand among consumers not just for easy and cheap ways to browse the internet — a market that Opera has squarely played into up to now — but also more private ways of doing so.
Google reportedly blackmailed websites into giving it content for free – In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission investigated Google to determine whether the company’s monopoly on the search market violated anti-trust laws. The Commission ultimately accepted a settlement with the search giant, but a confidential FTC report obtained by The Wall Street Journal reveals how deeply divided the Commission was over whether to sue. As part of the settlement, Google agreed to make minor changes to its business practices and argued that the report did not show wrongdoing. But key FTC officials, after collecting nine million documents in the course of the investigation, wanted to take direct legal action against the company. The report reveals why.
FAA Grants Amazon Permission To Test Drone Deliveries – The FAA just released a statement indicating that Amazon now has limited permission to test and develop drones in the United States. It’s not a blank check, though. The FAA gave Amazon strict rules and regulations. Amazon announced its drone ambitions in October 2013 and has since been grounded by the FAA. The federal agency was not as enthusiastic about Amazon’s plans, forcing the company to test its projects overseas. Since then, Amazon has been building and developing its drone project at Cambridge. Today’s news could bring the operation back to the states.
Games and Entertainment:
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s DLC ‘Ascendance’ hits Xbox on March 31 – The second Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare DLC — titled “Ascendance” — will be arriving on March 31 for the Xbox One and the Xbox 360, it has been announced. PlayStation gamers will be forced to wait an extra month before it drops, but it looks to be worth the wait. Activision and Sledgehammer Games have detailed what the latest expansion will bring with it, and that includes the second chapter for the Exo Zombies mode and new weapons, among other things.
Dead Trigger 2 is coming soon to Windows devices – Dead Trigger 2, the sequel to Dead Trigger, is an extremely popular game that has been available on Facebook, Android and iOS for quite some time. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s a mission based zombie-themed first person shooter with cutting edge graphics and superb controls. Although it’s not an open-world game, it does allow players to move and aim their guns at the walking dead. The great news is that after spending nearly two years on other platforms, the game is coming very soon to Windows devices as well.
Watch This EVE: Valkyrie Trailer To Get A Taste Of What Space Combat Is Like In VR – It is very hard to convey how cool virtual reality experiences are if you haven’t had a chance to try it out for yourself using devices like the Oculus Rift, but this new EVE: Valkyrie trailer does a pretty good job. For added immersive effect, take your phone, put it at the bottom of a sock, and stretch the sock over your face while watching the above in full-screen mode. Or, you can take us at our word that experiencing this type of action in VR would, in fact, be mind-blowing.
The iPhone’s best new puzzle game is about NSA surveillance – The most popular mobile games don’t demand much from you. You can zone out to Candy Crush Saga, and games like Threes only require your attention for short bursts. Out of sight, out of mind is a fine summation of my mobile gaming habit. TouchTone goes in a different direction. At its core it’s a series of logic puzzles, much like every other game on your smartphone; the difference is how they’re framed. In the game, you’re not solving puzzles in search of a high score to best your friends, but instead hacking into the personal emails and texts of ordinary citizens. The surveillance theme makes it feel completely different than anything else on the App Store.
Watch Magic Leap’s Video Of Seamless Augmented Reality Office Game Play – The brief video shows examples of interacting with YouTube and Gmail apps, along with browsing a menu system for OS-level interaction. The person in the video from whose perspective it’s apparently shot then selects a shooter game, tests out a weapon after choosing from a variety of options, does some tower-defence style stuff by placing a current and fights some visually impressive but fairly generic baddies.
PlayStation Vue: here’s what you need to know – Sony’s newest TV-based venture is PlayStation Vue, a system that works specifically on their PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 gaming devices. Now that we’re well and away from the launch of the PS4, a device that Sony assured the public was a “gamer-centric” system back in 2013, it’s time to get serious about bringing on television services. For the time being, PlayStation Vue – a TV channel service – will be available to Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia only, though more cities are on the way in the near future.
Off Topic (Sort of):
What is TV contrast ratio? – Contrast ratio is one of the most important aspects of picture quality, yet it’s poorly understood and often not even mentioned on TV specification sheets anymore. Here’s what you need to know.
There may be more Earth-like planets than grains of sand on all our beaches – The fascinating question of whether we are alone in the universe basically comes down to some intricate mathematical calculations. A new study combines exoplanet data from the Kepler Space Telescope with a new version of a 250-year-old method for determining orbital periods and positions of planets. The research calculates that in our galaxy alone, there could be billions of planets hosting liquid water, habitable conditions and perhaps even life.
The CIA Just Declassified the Document That Supposedly Justified the Iraq Invasion – The National Intelligence Assessment was the classified document used to justify the invasion of Iraq. Newly declassified, it tells a much different story than the Bush administration told 12 years ago.
Arizona shooting victim stops to snap selfies of his wounds – After being shot in the shoulder in Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday, a student decides it would be a good idea to stop and snap a few selfies.
Will robots take our jobs and overpower us? Bill Gates has some concerns – When anyone speaks of a twin threat, I tend to hear portentous music just behind my head. When that person is Bill Gates, a thumping begins inside my head. The Microsoft co-founder is another, you see, who worries about Robotworld. He is concerned that too many things might go wrong. For humanity, that is. Speaking to Re/Code after a TED talk Wednesday, Gates offered two threat scenarios, both of which are deeply uncomfortable.
The Surprising New Tech in March Madness Refs’ Whistles – This March Madness, a ref’s whistle blast will instantly stop the game clock, thanks to a a new technology that detects the shrill cry above the din of the crowd. The technology relies on a breakthrough in whistle design, the New York Times reports.
Something to think about:
“One of the risks inherent in the steady flow of leaks from Mr. Snowden and others is that the new reality they portray eventually becomes accepted, if not outright banal. Of course we are being surveilled all the time; of course our location is being tracked thanks to the GPS chips in our phones; of course the NSA is installing “back door” software on our Internet devices before we even buy them. At this point, it’s hard to imagine a surveillance revelation that would actually surprise anyone, no matter how Orwellian.”
– Mathew Ingram – The Globe and Mail
Today’s Free Downloads:
Restore Point Creator – Create and manage System Restore Points quickly and easily, all from a free simple program. No more drilling through multiple menus in Windows just to create a System Restore Point, now all you have to do is run this program and that’s it. Follow the simple program layout and you have your System Restore Point created in no time at all.
Plus, for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8, creating System Restore Points is even quicker and easier with this program. Just pin this program to the Taskbar and you have the ability to quickly create System Restore Points using one of the two pinned Tasks (“Create System Checkpoint” and “Create Custom Named”) that the program creates. It’s that simple.
Create System Checkpoint – Creates a System Restore Point with the name of “System Checkpoint made by System Restore Point Creator”
Create Custom Named – Asks you what you want your System Restore Point to be named and then creates one based upon what you inputted.
ImDisk Toolkit – This all-in-one package includes the ImDisk Virtual Disk Driver, the DiscUtils library and an easier to use graphical user interface (GUI).
This tool will let you mount image files of hard drive, cd-rom or floppy, and create one or several RamDisks with various parameters.
The full package supports the following image file formats (non exhaustive list):
vhd, vdi and vmdk (static, dynamic and vmdk multipart)
iso, nrg, bin (read-only)
raw formats (img, ima, raw, vfd…)
sdi (some versions only)
Some other formats may work but require tests, and the non Windows file systems may need additional drivers.
In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:
Snowden: IT workers are now target of spies – Spies are increasingly targeting IT staff to gain access to key elements of internet infrastructure and sensitive databases, NSA contractor-turned whistleblower Edward Snowden has warned.
“It’s not that they are looking for terrorists, it’s not that they are looking for bad guys, it’s that they are looking for people with access to infrastructure. They are looking for service providers, they are looking for systems administrators, they’re looking for engineers,” he said, speaking at the CeBIT technology show in Germany via a video link from Russia.
He added: “They are looking for the people who are in this room right now: you will be the target. Not because you are a terrorist, not because you are suspected of any criminal wrongdoing, but because you have access to systems, you have access to infrastructure, you have access to the private records, people’s private lives. These are the things that they want. It is important for us to come together and prevent that from happening.”
Snowden isn’t the only one to warn that IT staff are being targeted by spies, although mostly the finger is being pointed at foreign intelligence agencies.
Political Pressure To Pass CISA Quickly Could Pose ‘Big Problem’ For Civil Liberties – For years lawmakers and civil liberties advocates have sparred over cybersecurity legislation that would allow companies to share information with government agencies and each other.
Now the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, better known as CISA, is back. Despite recent amendments intended to bolster protection of consumers’ personal information, privacy advocates worry that political pressure arising from a recent string of high-profile cyberattacks on companies such as Sony could result in Congress pushing through a bill, as ACLU legislative counsel/policy advisor Gabe Rottman said, “recklessly.”
“This is a surveillance bill by another name,” said Rottman, who said the bill would create exceptions to privacy law and too broadly defines what the government can do with information it collects under CISA.
Last year CISA failed to reach the floor after civil liberties advocates denounced the bill, and the White House promised to veto it. But after a closed mark-up session this week, the bill sailed through the Intelligence Committee with a 14-1 vote of support.
Intelligence Committee chairman Senator Richard Burr yesterday praised the adjusted bill, which could see a vote as early as April.
US Threatened Germany Over Snowden, Vice Chancellor Says – German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said this week in Homburg that the U.S. government threatened to cease sharing intelligence with Germany if Berlin offered asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden or otherwise arranged for him to travel to that country. “They told us they would stop notifying us of plots and other intelligence matters,” Gabriel said.
The vice chancellor delivered a speech in which he praised the journalists who worked on the Snowden archive, and then lamented the fact that Snowden was forced to seek refuge in “Vladimir Putin’s autocratic Russia” because no other nation was willing and able to protect him from threats of imprisonment by the U.S. government (I was present at the event to receive an award). That prompted an audience member to interrupt his speech and yell out: “Why don’t you bring him to Germany, then?”
There has been a sustained debate in Germany over whether to grant asylum to Snowden, and a major controversy arose last year when a Parliamentary Committee investigating NSA spying divided as to whether to bring Snowden to testify in person, and then narrowly refused at the behest of the Merkel government. In response to the audience interruption, Gabriel claimed that Germany would be legally obligated to extradite Snowden to the U.S. if he were on German soil.
Team Australia, your surveillance is ready – The vote that assured the citizens of Australia will live under the impost of a two-year mandatory data-retention regime is recorded in Hansard with the following line:
“The House divided and only Mr Bandt, Ms McGowan, and Mr Wilkie voting ‘No’.”
And so it was that Australia’s intelligence and law-enforcement services became one Senate vote away from being successful in their lobbying to create a sliding two-year window that could track the communications metadata of all Australians, and the movements of any person in the nation who carries a mobile phone.
Ever since the Coalition government decided that Australia needed to have its communications tracked and noted, ministers have bandied about the misinformation that what was contained in the data-retention legislation was nothing above and beyond the information telcos collect when going about their normal business.
Filming cops from within a 25-foot radius could be illegal in Texas – A bill outlawing the filming of police within a 25-foot radius landed in a Texas legislative committee late Wednesday, a measure that carries a maximum 180-day jail term and $2,000 fine.
The proposed buffer would increase to 100 feet for individuals carrying firearms, according to the legislation proposed by Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas Republican whose measure was referred to the House Committee on Emerging Issues In Texas Law Enforcement. Maximum penalties for violating the gun restriction are a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
“They have the ability to say, ‘Step back, please don’t interfere,’ but a lot of times these situations are in the heat of a law enforcement officer doing their jobs,” Villalba said. “We’re just trying to create enough separation, enough space so that officer feels comfortable.”
Villalba also told the Dallas Observer that he’s “not trying to limit the ability to film.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas blasted the proposal, saying the public has a First Amendment right to record officers. “HB 2918 would deprive us of an important check against abuse of power by the police,” the group said.
China’s biggest anti-censorship service is under attack – Someone is trying to wipe China’s biggest anti-censorship service off the internet. For the past two days, the mirror websites run by GreatFire.org have been under an unprecedented denial-of-service attack, receiving more than 2 billion requests per hour. “We are not equipped to handle a DDoS attack of this magnitude and we need help,” the site said in a statement this morning. “This kind of attack is aggressive and is an exhibition of censorship by brute force.”
GreatFire’s mirroring service serves as a kind of secondary home for sites like Google or The Tibet Post that would otherwise be blocked by China’s web censorship systems. That makes it harder to block through conventional means, but it’s still vulnerable to brute force attacks at the hosting level. Denial-of-service attacks are notoriously easy to launch, allowing relatively unsophisticated attackers to bring down comparatively large targets.
The attack seems to have come in response to a Wall Street Journal article published on Monday, which described FreeWeibo’s mirroring system in extensive detail, and may have inadvertently tipped off Chinese censors to potential attack points in FreeWeibo’s system. The attacks began Tuesday, the day after the article went live, and have continued for more than 48 hours as of press time. The attack affects all of FreeWeibo’s mirror sites, and while there’s no evidence of who is responsible, it coincides with stronger enforcement efforts from China’s Cyberspace Administration, which has publicly decried FreeWeibo’s efforts. FreeWeibo says there have also been efforts to intercept internal emails through impersonation.