Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 27, 2015

10 web-based tools to maximize productivity;  New Chrome extension throttles down webpage data usage;  When your fast PC suddenly slows down;  Pause YouTube videos with the spacebar in Chrome;  Skype for Web beta opens;  3 Ways to Fight Facebook Fatigue;  Crush Your Fantasy Draft With These 9 Baseball Apps;  Clean Reader: The app that censors rude words from ebooks;  Using Periscope or Meerkat? These accessories will help;  US offers rewards for fugitive Russian cybercriminals;  New 3D NAND flash will triple capacity of SSDs;  Microsoft releases second Xbox One April preview update;  Facebook’s 10 year plan: AI, VR, and the flying web;  Tim Cook plans to donate his wealth to charity;  UN to appoint watchdog to focus on privacy in digital age.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

10 web-based tools to maximize productivity – The face of business productivity has drastically changed over the last five years. Gone are most of the client and client/server apps we once depended upon to do our work. Now, the speed of business is defined by the web. Web — that which drives an overwhelming majority of tasks for businesses. To that end, you need to consider web-based productivity tools. But which tools should you be looking at? Here are 10 solid tools that may fit into your business model.

When your fast PC suddenly slows down – Let’s start with the easiest and most obvious fix: Have you rebooted lately? A lot of people leave their PCs on 24/7, or put them into sleep or hibernation mode rather than shutting them down completely. But a simple, full reboot can clean out a lot of Windows’ temporary cobwebs. Did that do the trick? If not, we’ll have to do some detective work.

New Chrome extension throttles down webpage data usage – Sometimes, you just need to throttle down on your data consumption when browsing. Maybe you’re tethering a computer to your smartphone and don’t want to gobble up plan data, or are on a public WiFi network. Maybe the WiFi in your hotel is slow. Whatever the case, it’s sometimes best to use as little data as possible to get the job done. To that, Google has unveiled a beta Chrome extension that will compress webpage data for you. In addition to the desktop experience, the beta feature is also available for Android and iOS Chrome browsers. Under the settings menu, find ‘Data Saver’, and enable it.

Pause YouTube videos with the spacebar in Chrome – With the Chrome extension YouTube Pause, you can turn your spacebar into a play/pause button for YouTube. Simply install the extension and you’ll be off and running; YouTube Pause does not require a restart of Chrome and does not include any settings. A search for a similar add-on for Firefox came up empty, but YouTube Smart Pause automatically pauses YouTube videos when you switch tabs in Firefox or to another application.

3 Ways to Fight Facebook Fatigue – If you’ve been on Facebook for more than a few years, there comes a point where you feel overwhelmed with all the status updates, photos, and videos. And chances are, a lot of that content is stuff you could probably do without, but you’re not sure how to unclutter your feed, short of unfriending a bunch of people. While unfriending someone is still an option, there are a few ways to streamline your information intake without the bruised egos that come with ditching online friends.

How to embed a Facebook video on your website – It goes without saying there’s value in embedding videos from Facebook and keeping users on a site longer. Not to mention, this also helps boost Facebook’s video stats; increasingly competing with YouTube. Embedding a Facebook is done by copying the embed code Facebook provides you with, and pasting it into the appropriate section of your site. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Skype coming to a browser near you, Skype for Web beta opens – If you are a heavy user of Skype, you will know that as of right now, you need an app to fully use the service. But, that is about to change as Skype has opened up a private ‘Skype for Web’ beta that is now rolling out to some users. As you can see from the screenshots in this post, the web version of Skype has many of the same features as the apps that the company offers on nearly every platform. Basic chat and video chat is currently supported, along with regular voice calls.

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Open source LibreOffice coming soon to a browser near you – If you’re anything of an open source (or free and open source) software advocate, chances are you are well familiar with the attempts to produce a productivity suite to rival and replace Microsoft Office. It has been a long and rather uphill journey, though with relative success in some some quarters. But with Microsoft now spreading its wings to other platforms, particularly mobile and the Web, the battleground has also changed drastically. Already four years in the making, an online version of the LibreOffice suite might soon become reality if this new partnership between companies really bear fruit.

Crush Your Fantasy Draft With These 9 Baseball Apps – It might not look like baseball season yet depending on where you live, but Spring Training is about to wrap up, which means the boys of summer will soon be headed north.That means fans are hunkering down in their basements for their fantasy baseball draft. But rather than lugging a laptop and piles of rotisserie guides to the big event, download some of these apps to your tablet or smartphone instead. Designed from the ground up to help you build a powerhouse fantasy franchise, they’re all you need to dominate your league this year.

Periscope, Twitter’s answer to Meerkat-style live streaming, is now available – Periscope arrives today on iPhone, with streams also viewable on the web. (An Android version is forthcoming.) Like Meerkat, it allows you to broadcast whatever you’re doing — whether it’s breaking news or making breakfast — live, through video, with a couple of taps. Unlike Meerkat, Periscope can save streams so that you can replay them later. It turns out to be Periscope’s killer feature — and the main reason that it’s likely to become my live-streaming platform of choice.

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Using Periscope or Meerkat? These accessories will help – Now that we’ve got Periscope and Meerkat, you’re thinking about trying to become the next viral thing, aren’t you? We know you are, and it’s alright. We accept your desire to cash in your 15 minutes of fame. Heck, we encourage it! We want you to be successful so much, we’re going to let you in on some secrets for getting the most out of your smartphone for live video. With a few accessories, you can make your Meerkatting or Periscoping or Meerscoping or Perikatting much better.

Whipclip Launches So You Can Legally Share Your Favorite TV Moments – There’s a lot of talk about how social media has become the new watercooler for discussing TV’s funny, crazy, or otherwise memorable moments. What’s been more hit-or-miss, however, is finding the actual footage that everyone’s talking about. So a startup called Whipclip is launching an iPhone app of the same name today that makes it easy and legal to find and share some of your favorite TV clips. (There are plans for an Android app, too.)

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UltraTuner for Android launches to keep your guitar in tune – The UltraTuner app for Android users is now available to download. The app is designed to make it easy to keep your guitar tuned using an app that runs on your smartphone rather than having to keep a dedicated tuner with you. This app is already available for iOS users.

Clean Reader: The app that censors rude words from ebooks – An ebook reader app allows sensitive readers to censor the naughty words they find offensive, replacing them with less risque alternatives.

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Digi.me gives away free backup software to keep your social media memories intact – One in three people use social media on a regular basis however only one in four people make a back-up of their social data. As 29 percent of disasters are accidental, what would you do if you lost all your precious photos and their comments, likes, shares or tags?

Security:

Noose around Internet’s TLS system tightens with 2 new decryption attacks – The noose around the neck of the Internet’s most widely used encryption scheme got a little tighter this month with the disclosure of two new attacks that can retrieve passwords, credit card numbers and other sensitive data from some transmissions protected by secure sockets layer and transport layer security protocols. Both attacks work against the RC4 stream cipher, which is estimated to encrypt about 30 percent of today’s TLS traffic. Cryptographers have long known that some of the pseudo-random bytes RC4 uses to encode messages were predictable, but it wasn’t until 2013 that researchers devised a practical way to exploit the shortcoming.

18% more security vulnerabilities in 2014, according to Secunia – After culling data from millions of PCs around the world, Secunia has released its 2015 Vulnerability Review. Read about the report’s findings and their significance.

Google boosts Safe Browsing API – Summary:The latest update shores up browser defense against malware, phishing and unwanted software.

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US offers rewards for fugitive Russian cybercriminals – The U.S. government is offering multimillion dollar rewards for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of two alleged Russian hackers. Both were indicted in U.S. courts for their roles in “Carder.ru,” a website and international enterprise that principally operated out of Las Vegas. The site was taken down by law enforcement in March 2012 and 19 people arrested for their role in crimes that are estimated to have cost at least $50 million [m], according to the State Department.

Company News:

As Twitter launches Periscope, Meerkat announces $14 million in funding – This morning saw dueling announcements in the world of live-streaming apps. Twitter finally pushed Periscope to the public, and Meerkat announced it had raised a pile of cash with strong connections to Hollywood. Right now Meerkat has the hype, coming off a strong SXSW and high-profile celebrity users like Jimmy Fallon. At the same time, Meerkat relies heavily on Twitter for its distribution. That puts it in a perilous position, something we saw at work when Twitter cut off Meerkat’s access to its social graph.

New 3D NAND flash will triple capacity of SSDs, Intel and Micron say – Standard consumer SSDs will increase up to an astounding 10TB of storage, thanks to a new type of 3D NAND flash memory that Intel and Micron introduced Thursday morning. The two companies, longtime joint partners in NAND flash development, said the breakthrough isn’t to make larger flash chips, but thicker ones. Much like Manhattan, when you’re out of space, the only way to go is up. The chips are already sampling at both companies, and Intel said it expects to offer products for sale using the 3D chips in the later half of this year. But how long will the chips last before they fail? That information wasn’t disclosed. Intel did say it expects to offer products using the new NAND chips this year.

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Uber announces new global ‘code of conduct’, safety guidelines – No stranger to controversy, Uber is as much PR-spin company than it is ride-sharing entity. Following some serious allegations about passenger safety, the latest being the alleged rape of a passenger in India late last year, Uber said they’d pen some guidelines for best practices on how to react to such events. Now, the company has a code of conduct for drivers, as well as incident response teams and a safety advisory board. Perhaps most assuring is Uber’s commitment to working with law enforcement fully.

PayPal agrees to pay $7.7 million for alleged sanctions violations – On Wednesday afternoon, PayPal reached a settlement with the US Treasury Department, agreeing that it would pay $7.7 million for allegedly processing payments to people in countries under sanction as well as to a man the US has listed as involved in the nuclear weapons black market. The company neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, but it voluntarily handed over its transaction data to the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). In its settlement agreement with PayPal, the Treasury accused the company of failing to screen its in-process transactions until 2013.

Google Takes Its Amazon-Style Starred Product Ratings To Europe To Boost Shopping Searches – While Amazon is expanding its logistics and delivery business to complement its e-commerce portal, Google is working on ways to make its search experience online more like Amazon’s to grow the number of people who use Google to look for and buy products. Today Google announced that it is turning on Product Ratings in the UK, France and Germany. Product ratings, first launched in the U.S. last year, are essentially Google’s play at making its search results look less static, and more like Amazon’s, to the average consumer.

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Salesforce abandons all future Indiana plans following passage of SB 101 – On Thursday, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced plans to avoid the state of Indiana for any future company events following the passage of that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination,” Benioff wrote on his personal Twitter account. He then emphasized his “employees’ and customers’ outrage” over the bill and said that he would “dramatically reduce” the company’s investment in Indiana as a result.

Games and Entertainment:

Google’s Nexus Player is now on sale in the UK for £79.99 – Google unveiled its Nexus Player back in October, alongside its new Nexus 6 smartphone and Nexus 9 tablet. The Player is the company’s showcase device for its nascent Android TV platform, offering access to movies, TV shows, music, apps and other content, with a UI designed for the big screen in your living room. Right on cue, Google has now announced that the device is launching in the UK today, promising availability at Argos, Currys PC World, Amazon, John Lewis and eBuyer, as well as its new Google Store, which launched a couple of weeks ago.

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Xbox Live Gold members being appreciated in April with double “Games with Gold” offer – While we shared the ‘Deals of the Week’ with you a couple of days ago, it look like Microsoft is ready to bless its loyal Xbox Live Gold members for the month of April. In appreciation of its customers, the company is doubling its ‘Games with Gold’ offering. That means that Xbox One owners will be able to download two free games and Xbox 360 owners will receive four free games.

Grand Theft Auto V update will fix graphics quality issue – If you’re an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 owner and you’ve recently updated Grand Theft Auto V with Title Update 1.08, you’ve likely noticed a problem that has managed to catch Rockstar Games’ attention: the graphics quality took a nose dive, and the enjoyability of gameplay went with it. Gamers have been complaining about this issue, and today Rockstar announced that it has set its sights on the problem. There’s no fix yet, but one is being looked into, and as you’d expect, gamers will be given an update about when it is available.

How to test your PC’s DirectX 12 performance today – The final release of DirectX 12 and Windows 10 is months away but if you’re itching to test your system’s DX12 theoretical performance today, here’s how you can do it. First, you’ll need to have the 64-bit version of the Windows 10 Technical Preview installed. The 32-bit version is not supported. Earlier preview builds had DirectX 12 components aboard but it will take the latest one (build 10041) to enable the DX12 functionality. If haven’t installed Windows 10 yet, here’s everything you need to get it up and running.

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3DMark’s new API Overheat Feature Test measures the performance difference between DirectX11 and the new Windows 10-only DirectX 12.

Microsoft releases second Xbox One April preview update, brings voice messages and more – Following the update that was released for the Xbox One in the preview last week, featuring game hub links and more detailed achievement notifications, Microsoft has now released the second preview update for the month of April. The new update focuses mainly on enhancing the social features of the console, making it easier to keep in touch with friends on Xbox One or Xbox 360, and include the following:

Off Topic (Sort of):

Renault Twizy 45 is legal to drive in France at 14 years old – One thing teens have in common the world over is that most of them look forward to getting a license to drive on their own. In France, teens can now get a license to drive early for a little EV called the Renault Twizy 45. The little car can be driven on the roads by drivers as young as 14 years old. The Twizy 45 is considered by Renault a safer and more comfortable alternative to a scooter. It comes with an airbag, double seatbelts, disc brakes, and a protective cell. The car is very small measuring 2.34-meters long x 1.24-metres wide and driver and passenger sit in a tandem arrangement. The Twizy 45 has 5hp and a top speed of 28mph. The battery pack needs 3.5 hours to charge fully via a standard 3-pin plug. With a full charge, the vehicle can drive about 60 miles per charge.

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Two students turn a subwoofer into a fire extinguisher, fight fire with sound – In the future, the range hood in your kitchen may be able to automatically put out fires. It won’t do it with a dry chemical or a foam, either. It’ll use sound. Two engineering students at George Mason University, Seth Robertson and Viet Tran, have been working on a portable device that can do just that, and they now have a working prototype. Their contraption makes use of an ATX power supply and a Pyle subwoofer to produce fire-fighting low-frequency sound waves. You can see how it all goes down in the duo’s amazing demo video: it takes just seconds for their invention to extinguish a simulated kitchen fire:

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Facebook’s Aquila Drone Will Beam Down Internet Access With Lasers – Codenamed Aquila, the drone has a wingspan comparable to a Boeing 767 yet uses lightweight materials that allow it to weigh less than a car. Aquila has to be incredibly light, because it’s going to be kept aloft for as long as three months at a time using solar power. Just staying in the air for that long is a challenge, but Facebook’s also going to be pushing Internet access down to people 60,000-90,000 feet below using lasers, as well as maintaining communications between drones to maintain coverage across wider regions.

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Facebook’s 10 year plan: AI, VR, and the flying web – Facebook may be best known for providing a route for former schoolfriends to annoy you with their baby photos, but the social site is also looking to bring the next generation of internet users online and give developers the tools to lure them. A combination of virtual reality, vast data centers, newly open-sourced coding tools, and innovative and less expensive web-delivery systems like drones were all on the agenda for Facebook’s second day F8 2015 keynote, along with how to teach an artificial intelligence about Lord of the Rings.

Beer wear: Dress made from bacterial-fermented brew – You see the dress. It’s fun, flouncy and bouncy with a fitted top and an exuberant puff of fabric at the bottom. It looks like it came from some young, hip fashion designer. But this dress has a secret. The fabric didn’t come from some high-end store catering to Parisian clothing makers. It came from beer.

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This dress started with a cold one. Nanollose

Apple’s Tim Cook plans to donate his wealth to charity – Cook is part of a group of millionaire and billionaire tech executives who believe in sharing their wealth. Gates is the most well-known philanthropist in the group; with his wife, Melinda, he’s donated $30.2 billion, or 37 percent of his net worth, according to Forbes. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given away $1.5 billion, or 4 percent of his net worth over his lifetime. Other company chiefs, like Google co-founder Sergey Brin, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, are known for giving to charity.

Something to think about:

“When you appeal to force, there’s one thing you must never do – lose.”

–    Dwight D. Eisenhower

Today’s Free Downloads:

Product Key Decryptor – Product Key Decryptor is the FREE Tool to Recover License CD Keys of over 200 popular software including Windows, Adobe, Winamp etc.

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SSD-Z 15.03.15 Beta – SSD-Z is an information tool for Solid State Drives and other disk devices.

Using a database, it will show information about your SSD, such as the controller, processing tech, NAND type etc.

Other useful information related to disk devices are also shown, such as S.M.A.R.T. status and partition layout.

Features:

Details of the controller and processing tech of NAND chips (for known devices).

Verify that TRIM is enabled for your system and SSDs.

S.M.A.R.T. status and full list of all the device’s available attributes.

List of all partitions. Including hidden, unmapped and boot partitions.

Benchmark IOPS, transfer speed and random access time (work in progress)

View the raw device identify data words.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Is it legal for US military to scan the public’s computers for kid porn? – A federal appeals court is having second thoughts about its decision frowning on the US Navy for scanning every computer in the state of Washington accessing Gnutella, a large peer-to-peer network.

The September decision (PDF) thwarted a child pornography prosecution that began when a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent in Georgia discovered the illicit images on a civilian’s computer in Washington state. The agent was using a law-enforcement computer program called RoundUp to search for hashed images of child pornography.

Following the court’s 3-0 decision, the Department of Justice petitioned for a rehearing. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday to revisit the dispute with a larger, 11-judge panel.

In September, a three-judge panel ruled that the military unlawfully intruded into civilian affairs. Allowing the prosecution to go forward, the court ruled, would render “meaningless” the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA). The PCA largely prohibits the military from enforcing civilian law, the court ruled. The PCA was first passed in 1878.

Why Canada’s democracy rates a sad ‘C’ grade – Canadians have so little trust in our elected MPs and are so turned off by politics that the legitimacy of our entire democratic system is at risk.

Indeed, politics is now so despised that it repels more people than it attracts, especially among young Canadians.

Those jarring statements aren’t the rants of an out-of-touch political scientist, but the feelings of the vast majority of Canadians who took part in a massive national survey on the state of our democracy.

The survey, released Wednesday by Samara Canada, a respected non-profit think tank devoted to promoting democracy, found that most Canadians don’t trust MPs, don’t believe politics affects our daily lives and don’t participate at all in political activities.

At the same time, it revealed that most of us think politicians don’t care at all what we say or what we want, rather they’re just after our votes.

The situation is so bad that Samara gave our democracy a sad “C” grade in its first-ever report, Democracy 360, on the state of our democratic system.

Why is it that bad? More important, why should we care?

UN to appoint watchdog to focus on privacy in digital age – The Human Rights Council of the United Nations has voted in favor of a resolution backed by Germany and Brazil to appoint an independent watchdog or ‘special rapporteur’ to monitor privacy rights in the digital age.

The council said Thursday that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy.

The proposed appointment of the rapporteur is likely to be mainly symbolic as the official’s functions will be mainly advisory. But it reflects continuing concerns around the world about privacy in the wake of disclosures of U.S. surveillance by former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden.

The resolution refers to the deep concern of the Human Rights Council at the negative impact on the exercise of human rights of surveillance or interception of communications both within countries and abroad, and of the collection of personal data, in particular when carried out on a mass scale.

Inquiry Launched into New Zealand Mass Surveillance – New Zealand’s spy agency watchdog is launching an investigation into the scope of the country’s secret surveillance operations following a series of reports from The Intercept and its partners.

On Thursday, Cheryl Gwyn, New Zealand’s inspector-general of intelligence and security, announced that she would be opening an inquiry after receiving complaints about spying being conducted in the South Pacific by eavesdropping agency Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB.

In a press release, Gwyn’s office said: “The complaints follow recent public allegations about GCSB activities. The complaints, and these public allegations, raise wider questions regarding the collection, retention and sharing of communications data.”

This month, The Intercept has shined a light on the GCSB’s surveillance with investigative reports produced in partnership with the New Zealand Herald, Herald on Sunday, and Sunday-Star-Times.

The reports, based on information from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and other sources, have revealed how the GCSB has been intercepting communications in bulk across a variety of neighboring South Pacific islands, raising concerns that New Zealand citizens’ emails and phone calls are being swept up in the dragnet.

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4 Comments

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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 27, 2015

  1. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Re: “Why Canada’s democracy rates a sad ‘C’ grade”

    The situation is little, if any, better in the UK. Disillusion is at an all-time low, particularly among the younger generation who are our future. The solution appears to be TV debates (if they can be organised) and interviewing the leaders of the 2 main parties in their kitchens with families in tow.

    All seems a little superficial to me, but then I’m old. I am, however, certain to vote, unlike around 60 percent of the populace.

    Kind regards,
    John

    • Hi John,

      Those of us of an age (old, as you say 🙂 ), particularly those of us who are engaged in LIFE – both personal and civil, are acutely aware of the disasters which lay ahead of us should we continue to dismiss the signs of totalitarianism and its accompanying social and economic upheaval.

      Recently, I heard mention of a plan that focused on engaged voters taking a less committed voter along with them to the polling station on voting day. That’s a plan I can get behind at a personal level and I intend to do so with vigour. We’ve got to do something. If dragging the less committed to a voting station is all we can do – then, I’m all for it.

      BTW, I’ve not forgotten our article – finding the time has been a task. It’s coming. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill