Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 25, 2015

14 Hidden Firefox Functions for Browsing Like a Boss;  RadioShack selling millions of email/home addresses;  Try these 5 undiscovered Google Drive tricks;  How smartphone reviews really work;  You don’t want a TV box, you want a Laptop;  Facebook launches ‘On This Day’ feature;  Hands-On: Linux UEFI multi-boot;  The National Power Grid Is Under Continuous Attack;  The 10 Best Wireless Routers;  Flash-based vulnerability on many websites three years later;  Half of Android devices open to silent hijack;  With Net Neutrality Lawsuit, Broadband Mafia Still Doesn’t Get It;  Xbox One and 360 Xbox Live Gold Deals of the Week;  Facebook Testing ‘Phone’ App for Android;  SUPERAntiSpyware (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

RadioShack is selling tens of millions of email and home addresses – Among the locations, trademarks, overpriced cables, and other assets that RadioShack is selling off as part of its bankruptcy filing are tens of millions of email addresses, home addresses, and customer names, all of which could end up in the hands of another company. As Bloomberg points out, RadioShack’s sale includes over 13 million email addresses and over 65 million custom names and physical addresses. That’s a lot of personal data! Standard General, RadioShack’s largest shareholder, is reported to have won the bid. But the purchase still has to be approved by a bankruptcy court, and Bloomberg reports that legal challenges may prevent Standard General from taking over the personal data.

Pointing up  RadioShack’s Privacy Policy (from the site) includes: We will not sell or rent your personally identifiable information to anyone at any time.

Try these 5 undiscovered Google Drive tricks – Google Drive and its attendant apps offer a wealth of tools to help you be more productive. Try these five for the biggest boost.

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How smartphone reviews really work – The inside scoop on what happens behind the scenes of a smartphone review, from someone who’s written more than a few of ’em. Since we’re on the brink of a busy few weeks for smartphone reviews, I thought now would be a prime time to pull back the curtains and offer a frank walk-through of how the phone-reviewing process actually works.

Microsoft: Office will be free for devices under 10 inches – Microsoft believes that screens smaller than 10 inches aren’t used by ‘professionals,’ so don’t expect it to charge for editing and viewing Office documents. Oh, and the Surface Pro mini — probably dead.

You don’t want a TV box, you want a Laptop – Now that Apple is rumored to be releasing a new Apple TV box later this year, citizens of the mobile smart device universe have their respective TV-loving ears perked up once again. Do I need a new Apple TV? Maybe an Amazon Fire TV Stick instead? Perhaps I need to get something like a Roku, or maybe a Chromecast! Or – better yet – I could just use the old laptop that’s sitting in, on, or under my desk. The one I replaced years ago, but still works just fine. Before you buy anything, mentally access the contents of your home. Do you have a laptop computer hiding anywhere? An old laptop – a notebook computer you no longer use on a regular basis.

Zendo Is My New Favorite Secure Messaging App – Now you might well ask who needs (yet) another way to ping, poke, prod or otherwise pester their friends? The answer is simple: anyone who cares about privacy. So how does a new secure messaging app stand out in such a crowded space? By making something that’s super easy to use, given that security can still be synonymous with tedious complexity. And also by using a type of encryption that technically cannot be cracked. Something that’s impervious to man-in-the-middle attacks. Yet which has been overlooked by cryptographers for decades.

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Bezel-less Oppo R7 leaks on Chinese social media – Chinese smartphone maker Oppo appears to be doing some magic with the design of its upcoming Oppo R7 phone, if this leaked video appears to be true. The Android-powered handset alleged comes with almost non-existent bezels, with the large screen taking up the entire sides of the device, as you can see from the screen capture. The magic apparently lies in some visual trickery (which Oppo has filed a patent for) where the sides of the screen diffract the light to make it seem that the display extends all the way to the edge.

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14 Hidden Firefox Functions for Browsing Like a Boss – While all browsers share certain functionality and indeed learn from one another, there are certain quirks and functions that are unique to each. And Firefox is no different. You may be familiar with the many third-party extensions and add-ons that can amplify Firefox’s functionality, however there are a lot of little tricks already baked in to the software that you may not be using. Click through our slideshow to see 14 hidden Firefox functions.

Hands-On: Linux UEFI multi-boot, my way – Let’s start by clearly stating what this post is, and what it isn’t. It is a description of how I set up multi-boot for Linux systems, sometimes including Windows, using the GRUB bootloader. It is not intended to be a complete guide to Linux on UEFI firmware. There are certainly other ways to configure UEFI multi-boot – this is simply the way that I have found most useful and reliable to do it. OK? Good, here we go…

Facebook plans to let users read popular news sites without leaving Facebook – Mark Zuckerberg has often described Facebook as a newspaper for its users. A place where the stories that are interesting to them — the births, the birthdays, the parties, the gossip — are laid out every morning. Now, however, this comparison is becoming less metaphorical, with Facebook reportedly in talks with several publications — including Buzzfeed, National Geographic, and The New York Times — to post their content directly within the site. This means that stories wouldn’t just appear as links in the News Feed, but as content that can be share or liked without ever leaving Facebook.

Facebook officially launches nostalgia-inducing ‘On This Day’ feature – Starting today, when users visit Facebook on the web or on their phones, they’ll get an option to view the On This Day page (or you can go to the page directly, but it hasn’t rolled out to everyone just yet). From there, you’ll see the feed of content you posted in years past and have the option to share specific posts with your friends — but by default, only an individual user can see their On This Day feed. You can also then sign up for notifications so you remember to check it every day — that’s exactly what Timehop does to keep users coming back.

VIDEO: Facebook Testing ‘Phone’ App for Android – An accidental Facebook update revealed that the social network is testing a new Android app called Phone. Android Police was kind enough to take a screenshot of the update. It suggests that Facebook Phone could act as a native dialer that shows information about who is calling you, and prevent commonly blocked numbers from getting through.

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The 10 Best Wireless Routers – Fast throughput speeds, good range, easy set up and manageability, a solid feature set, and, of course, fair pricing are what make a top router. The 10 models that follow strike the best balance among all our criteria.

GifGrabber is a dedicated app for creating GIFs on your Mac – Creating an animated image of content on your Mac’s screen is something we should all know how to do. And now we do.

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Save your newly captured GIF, or edit it all within the app. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

UglyEmail reveals when senders secretly track your email activity, personal info – If you’re curious about which messages are monitoring you and which one’s aren’t, a new extension for Chrome called UglyEmail can help. This extension—by developer Sonny Tulyaganov—monitors your inbox to find messages using pixel tracking. This is a common marketing technique where companies insert a transparent (and therefore invisible to you) one-pixel image into a message. As soon as you open a message with a pixel tracker in it, the image pings the marketer’s servers and the information flow begins. Pixel tracking shows up in all kinds of messages, including newsletters you subscribe to. Thanks to UglyEmail you can find out when a message has a tracker and decide not to open that email.

Security:

The National Power Grid Is Under Almost Continuous Attack, Report Says – The U.S. national power grid faces physical or online attacks approximately “once every four days,” according to a new investigation by USA Today, threatening to plunge parts of the country into darkness. For its report, USA Today scrutinized public records, national energy data and records from 50 electric utilities. It found that from 2011 to 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy received 362 reports from electric utilities of physical or cyber attacks that interrupted power services. In 2013, a Department of Homeland Security branch recorded 161 cyber attacks on the energy sector, compared to just 31 in 2011.

Flash-based vulnerability lingers on many websites three years later – A large number of developers have failed to patch their Flash applications against a vulnerability that can be exploited to target Web users.

Half of Android devices open to silent hijack – Hacker Zhi Xu has found that seemingly legitimate apps can unleash a hidden dark side to compromise almost half of all Android devices. The Palo Alto Networks senior engineer says legitimate Google Play apps can establish a kind of beachhead on devices that can be invaded by a second app installed from legitimate third party stores like Amazon. The second app provides the first with the required access to compromise devices and steal all manner of data. Xu says the attack dubbed Android Installer Hijacking allows crims to replace apps without a user’s knowledge.

Researchers figured out how to hack computers using heat – Researchers at Ben-Gurion University have created a new piece of malware called BitWhisper. It’s not the kind of thing that organized cybercriminals would ever use to attack your home computer. BitWhisper is the kind of crazy hacking tool that you read about in a sci-fi novel — only it’s very real. Infected machines can transmit data using heat they produce. Commands, for example, can be passed from one system to another by modulating its temperature. The target machine’s thermal sensors pick up on the fluctuations and execute a predefined action. Small bits of captured data (like passwords) can also be transmitted this way. It’s not the most efficient way to siphon data off a machine, but it’s not meant to be. BitWhisper targets air-gapped systems, computers that are completely isolated from wireless and wired networks in order to keep them as secure as possible.

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Dell support tool put PCs at risk of malware infection – Attackers could have remotely installed malware on systems running a flawed Dell support tool used to detect customers’ products. A security researcher discovered the flaw in November and reported it to the PC manufacturer, which patched it in January. However, it’s not clear if the fix closed all avenues for abuse. Even with the flaw now patched, the fact that it existed in the first place may make some users anxious. Suspicions of hardware and software companies helping governments spy on users have intensified over the past two years, partially fueled by revelations of widespread surveillance disclosed by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Company News:

Microsoft Malaysia is offering a free return flight on Air Asia when you buy a Lumia 535 – Microsoft has teamed up with Air Asia to give 5,000 airline loyalty points to anyone who buys the Lumia 535 in Malaysia – enough to get a return flight to Phuket, Krabi or Singapore.

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Cyanogen’s next step: A BLU phone without Google apps – After amassing $80 million in funding, even without Microsoft’s help, and being valued at close to $1 billion, the tech world is keeping a close eye on Cyanogen, Inc. That, of course, is no reason for outspoken and, dare we say, almost belligerent CEO Kirt McMaster to start treading lightly and mincing words. In fact, he has fighting words: “We’re putting a bullet through Google’s head”, which is no small undertaking. And it’s all going to start with a smartphone that won’t have any of Google’s popular apps installed.

Google reportedly working on Gmail bill payment system – Google is continuing their email experiments, it seems. The latest isn’t a new way to get through your mail, as ‘Inbox’ is, but a method for making you stay put in your email app. A new report suggests Google is readying an in-email bill paying service named ‘Pony Express’ (hopefully just a code name), wherein Gmail users would be able to pay a bill electronically without ever leaving Gmail itself. If Google gives it the green-light, we’ll reportedly see Pony Express in the last quarter of this year.

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HP wants to make your devices sound better; partners with Bang & Olufsen – HP is teaming up with Bang & Olufsen in an effort to make their devices, even mobile ones, sound better. The partnership will see a few new features, including hardware changes, show up on laptops.

Games and Entertainment:

Amazon Fire TV gets a major update with support for hotel Wi-Fi, USB storage, and more – Users will be able to take their media streamer on the road, hook up external storage, and listen to more music through Prime Playlists.

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Xbox One and 360 Xbox Live Gold members “Deals of the Week” – As usual, it looks like Xbox One owners will be getting some great deals on some of the consoles latest titles that include: Forza Horizon 2, Evolve, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and WWE 2K15. Xbox 360 owners aren’t forgotten and although the game selection might not offer the latest titles, this week’s deals will see a up to 75% on titles like: XCOM: Enemy Unknown, XCOM: Enemy Within, Spec Ops: The Line, Duke Nukem Forever, Borderlands, Hitman Blood Money, Deus Ex Human Revolution, and Lara Croft & The Guardian of Light. Xbox 360 owners will also be able to get 50% off on WWE 2K15 and 35% off on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

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Bloodborne review: The joy of relearning what you already know – Make no mistake; Bloodborne is a Souls game in everything but name, sharing a development lineage in From Software and Director Hidetaka Miyazaki. From the controls to the way progress is lost upon death, the sound effects to the goofy ragdoll physics, anyone with a passing familiarity with the series will recognize Bloodborne as part of the same family. But Bloodborne marks a departure from the Souls name, even while keeping the series’ characteristic punishing repeat deaths, massive bosses, and environmental storytelling.

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Playing Bloodborne on a PS4 using an SSD could save hours of loading – This week the PS4 sees the release of a system seller game in the form of From Software’s Bloodborne. It looks gorgeous, the review scores we’ve seen are very high, and for fans of the Dark Souls games this release couldn’t come soon enough. However, you may want to consider upgrading your PS4 to use an SSD before installing the game, as it could knock hours off your play time. Bloodborne is a graphically intensive game, and that’s by no means a negative. It looks great, and for the most part manages to stick to a 30fps average frame rate. But that high level of detail comes at a price: load times

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X-Files 2015 guide: catching up with Mulder and Scully – This week it’s been confirmed by Fox and the original creator of the X-Files that a new series is about to be made. This new X-Files has tapped the original Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) to return for a 6-episode mini-season. For those of you ashamed at having never watched the original series or similarly ashamed that you’ve forgotten the details, the following miniature guide with gifs is made just for the likes of you.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

With Net Neutrality Lawsuit, Broadband Mafia Still Doesn’t Get It – We knew these lawsuits were coming. USTelecom, the trade group for broadband providers, has filed a rather peculiar pre-emptive lawsuit against the FCC’s new Open Internet rules, arguing that while USTelecom supports net neutrality, it doesn’t support the rules the FCC laid down to protect it. The specific argument is against Title II, utility-style regulation, but the FCC was forced into that when a court struck down its earlier, lighter set of rules in 2014. The real issue here is that the broadband industry, like everyone, would prefer to be self-policing. I’d also prefer to be self-policing. Wouldn’t you? Then you could decide what’s a crime for yourself, and decide whether you’d ever be punished.

How Bodies Were Buried During History’s Worst Epidemics – There’s a common belief that dead bodies pose a major risk of disease, which leads to a lot of hysteria during major epidemics. This is mostly a myth, studies have found. Even so, mass deaths during plagues have changed burial customs as people scrambled to prevent contamination or just find a place to put all the corpses. How do these pandemics alter the funeral practices in the affected areas during the outbreaks? I’ve been thinking a lot about these epidemics lately, and the way they alter the way people perceive death, so I examined three large and well-documented epidemics. One—the West Africa Ebola outbreak—is ongoing; the other two are historical.

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Spanish Flu, United States, 1918-1919

Australia found to have the world’s oldest asteroid impact zone – When we think of mass extinction, we tend to think of the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. That impact and its following mass extinction might not have been singular events. Australian scientist Dr. Andrew Glikson discovered twin asteroid impacts in Australia that may be ten times older than the dinosaur extinction. He has a theory that asteroid impacts throughout the history of the earth actually changed the way our planet and its species evolved, as each impact would have created an extinction and divergent species.

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This is what happens when a judge in New York orders an e-hit on a Chinese software biz – Fengtao is accused of breaking US laws by shipping software that circumvents the AACS encryption that’s supposed to prevent people from copying HD DVDs and Blu-ray discs. The Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator – a consortium that includes Disney, Intel, Microsoft, Panasonic, Warner Brothers, IBM, Toshiba and Sony, and looks after the AACS specification – is suing Fengtao to halt the distribution of DVDFab. The end result of this month’s injunction provides an intriguing insight into how internet companies, even those based outside America, respond to orders from US judges.

Something to think about:

“I have never been hurt by anything I didn’t say.”

–       Calvin Coolidge

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Blender – Blender is a free and open source 3D animation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation. Advanced users employ Blender’s API for Python scripting to customize the application and write specialized tools; often these are included in Blender’s future releases. Blender is well suited to individuals and small studios who benefit from its unified pipeline and responsive development process. Examples from many Blender-based projects are available in the showcase.

Blender is cross-platform and runs equally well on Linux, Windows and Macintosh computers. Its interface uses OpenGL to provide a consistent experience. To confirm specific compatibility, the list of supported platforms indicates those regularly tested by the development team.

As a community-driven project under the GNU General Public License (GPL), the public is empowered to make small and large changes to the code base, which leads to new features, responsive bug fixes, and better usability. Blender has no price tag, but you can invest, participate, and help to advance a powerful collaborative tool: Blender is your own 3D software.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Dutch service providers must delete retained telecom data – Dutch telecom providers have to delete data that had been retained under the now-scrapped data retention law, unless it is needed for business purposes.

The Dutch data retention law that required ISPs and telecommunications operators to store customer metadata for police investigations was scrapped by the District Court of the Hague earlier this month for violating fundamental privacy rights.

While most providers were quick to stop collecting the data, uncertainty remained about what should happen with the data that was already collected and stored when the law was in force.

However, all data retained because of the now defunct law should be deleted, Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur wrote in a letter to Parliament. That includes data that was retained before the law was annulled, a ministry spokesman said.

We know where you’ve been: Ars acquires 4.6M license plate scans from the cops – If you have driven in Oakland any time in the last few years, chances are good that the cops know where you’ve been, thanks to their 33 automated license plate readers (LPRs). Now Ars knows too. In response to a public records request, we obtained the entire LPR dataset of the Oakland Police Department (OPD), including more than 4.6 million reads of over 1.1 million unique plates between December 23, 2010 and May 31, 2014. The dataset is likely one of the largest ever publicly released in the United States—perhaps in the world.

Police Advocacy Group Leaves Few Fingerprints – The Law Enforcement Alliance of America once had offices in a nearby office park, but it abandoned them more than a year ago. It hasn’t filed required IRS reports in two years, and its leaders, once visible on television and in congressional hearings, have all but vanished.

But the nonprofit that calls itself “the nation’s largest coalition of law enforcement professionals, crime victims and concerned citizens” still has teeth. It has succeeded in helping knock out 12 state-level candidates in 14 years, including an Arkansas judicial candidate last year. In doing so, the group helped launch the current governors of Texas and Nevada to their stepping-stone positions as state attorneys general.

The LEAA uses brute tactics — parachuting into otherwise small-dollar races close to the end and buying up TV ads that accuse candidates of siding with “baby killers” and sexual predators.

“They can put out some sort of horrible attack ad on any judges that they want and really influence an election with a fairly small amount of money,” former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz said. “They’re buying seats on supreme courts in states all around the country.”

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10 Comments

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

10 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 25, 2015

  1. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Re: Radioshack’s privacy policy. Reminds me of the old joke about a politician: “If he rubs his nose, he’s telling the truth; if he scratches his ear, he’s telling the truth; if he opens his mouth, he’s lying”.

    Kind regards,
    John

  2. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Re: Half of Android devices open to silent hijack.

    As this apparently affects only those devices running Android 4.1, or older apart from a few exceptions and rooted ones, I’m glad I have Google Nexus devices that get updated promptly. Those that rely on OEMs to provide prompt updates are likely to be open to exploitation. This is an unwelcome side-effect of open-source software, but I still wouldn’t swap it.

    Kind regards,
    John

    • Hi John,

      It’s a serious problem that needs a serious solution – which is – nowhere in sight.

      Best,

      Bill

      • John Bent

        Hi Bill,

        I am sure folk will be queuing up to say the solution is simple – change to Apple. I am sure they would also say my adherence to Google Nexus is akin to being locked in to Apple. All I can say is – ain’t gonna happen. One of the biggest of many reasons? iTunes.

        Kind regards,
        John

        • Hi John,

          I run an original iPod and despite that, I have never used iTunes – for all the obvious reasons. Instead, I use a small free app – CopyTrans Control Center – which includes CopyTrans Manager – to “manage” all and sundry on the iPod.

          From the site – Use CopyTrans Manager to add songs, videos, apps and more to your iPhone. Add and manage playlists, lyrics and artwork, or change ID3 Tags such as artist, album, ratings etc. The best of all? CopyTrans Manager is portable, a 100% free and supports all iPhones, iPads and iPods.

          So yeah, I’m totally into, not being into, Apple. 🙂

          Best,

          Bill

          • John Bent

            Hi Bill,

            That iTunes alternative is interesting academically, but that’s all. My wife is an Apple user but I’m not going to rock any boats as it works for her. Thanks for the info, though.

            Kind regards,
            John

          • delenn13

            Hi Bill,
            THANK YOU for that and the hubby thanks you too. He had just formatted from scratch…don’t ask…and he was procrastinating installing iTunes because he hates it. Now he doesn’t have too.