Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 31, 2015

World Backup Day – is your data safe enough?  The essential guide to HomePlug Ethernet adapters;  19 Ways the Internet of Things Changes Everything;  Free up space on your SSD or hard drive;  Top 7 second-screen apps for Baseball;  Interactive chart helps you compare 150 3D printers;  The 10 Best Free Apps for Travel Junkies;  IBM Launches Major Internet Of Things Offensive;  $60 DIY car hacking device;  Fear the Walking Dead: watch the first trailer;  The 5 Best iPhone Games of the Month;  California biohackers create night vision eye drops;  7 PowerPoint text effects that add sizzle;  Power your devices with the sun: 11 great solar chargers;  CrystalDiskInfo (free);  Windows 10’s new browser, is now available for testing;  NSA considered ending phone surveillance program.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

World Backup Day – is your data safe enough? – 31 March is World Backup Day, a chance for us all to avoid being April Fools by making sure we have secure backups of all our most important data. On last year’s Backup Day, we provided a rundown of the most basic and important steps you can take to ensure your files can be retrieved in the event of a disaster.

19 Ways the Internet of Things Changes Everything – By 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) will be everywhere, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a device that’s not connected to the Web in some way. The possibilities are endless with the IoT: from health trackers and cars to home audio systems and smoke alarms. Combine that with an IFTTT (If This Then That) command and you have the recipe for a truly Web-connected life. While privacy advocates have concerns about the IoT, about 83 percent of the 1,606 experts surveyed by Pew said that the trend will be beneficial in the long run.

10 kits to get you started on the Internet of Things and hardware hacking – Kits designed to help you get started on making your own gadgets without getting bogged down in technical detail.

The essential guide to HomePlug Ethernet adapters (including 7 hands-on reviews) – HomePlug Ethernet adapters that use your home’s electrical wiring are great supplements to Wi-Fi networks. We sort through all the iterations and review the top seven models.

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Free up space on your SSD or hard drive – Your hard drive or (more likely) SSD is running out of space. Here are a few tricks for clearing out the garbage.

The top 7 second-screen apps for supplementing your Major League Baseball experience – These days, apps running on a second screen—a smartphone or tablet—are becoming as integral to watching the game as cold beer and peanuts. We’ve rounded up seven of the best second-screen apps that belong on your smartphone or tablet this baseball season. Download and install one or more before Opening Day on Sunday to make sure you’re game ready when the ump yells “play ball!”

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If you don’t use anything else this season, be sure to install at least the free Lite version of MLB at Bat.

Google Drive now backs up photos, videos automatically – Many of us have photos and video spread all over the web and across devices. Depending on how you’ve got your cloud storage set up, it’s not likely you’ve got all your media in one centralized location. Today, Google is taking steps to solve that for us. In Drive, you’ll soon see a new “Google Photos” menu option, which brings all your photo and video storage to a more convenient location. This move was rumored earlier this month, though it’s not exactly what sources claimed Google may end up doing.

7 PowerPoint text effects that add sizzle to slides – Here’s one more secret to help your PowerPoint slides sell. You always need good, well-written content, engaging graphics, and chic animations. Now, add some flashy text to that mix—judiciously—to give your ideas more sizzle. Although not really classified as effects, the Text and Outline Fill provide several options such as Solid colors, Gradients, Pictures or Textures, and Patterns to get you started.

Gmail for Android gets a unified inbox view – The Official Gmail Blog just announced that, starting today, an “All Inboxes” option will show up in the Gmail for Android navigation drawer (presumably, this requires an app update). The new option will display all your incoming mail from all your accounts in a single list.

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Interactive chart helps you compare 150 3D printers before buying – 3D printers have been available to consumers for a number of years, but your options were severely limited. As the price of the technology comes down and more applications are devised, the selection of printers has exploded. There are plenty of factors that go into making a 3D printer right for your needs, and this super-neat 3D printer comparison chart can help you find the perfect one.

Project Spartan, Windows 10’s new browser, is now available for testing – We got our first look at Project Spartan at Microsoft’s Windows 10 event in January. The browser runs on a brand new rendering engine aimed at speeding up performance, while offering new, sharing-centric functionality. The most dramatic of these changes is support for inking: you’ll be able to write or type directly on a web page, and share your annotations via email, through social networks, or by clipping them directly to OneNote.

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The 10 Best Free Apps for Travel Junkies – Odds are you use no more than two travel apps to get from point A to point B, and that’s fine — surveys show you’re not alone. But consider for a moment these 10 travel apps, which can shave time and money off your next journey and help you sniff out a few hidden gems to boot. They’re all free and just one download away from making your next trip smooth sailing.

Power your devices with the sun: 11 great solar chargers – It’s spring and the sun is finally shining, so use its rays to power your smartphone or tablet. Here are 11 affordable solar chargers.

New ARM-powered chip aims for battery life measured in decades – Atmel, the San Jose-based microcontroller maker, today released samples of a new type of ultra-low power, ARM based microcontroller that could radically extend the battery life of small low-power intelligent devices. The new SAM L21 32-bit ARM family of microcontroller (MCUs) consume less than 35 microamps of power per megahertz of processing speed while active, and less than 200 nanoamps of power overall when in deep sleep mode—with varying states in between. The chip is so low power that it can be powered off energy capture from the body, as Andreas Eieland, Atmel’s Director of Product Marketing for low-power products, demonstrated at CES earlier this year.

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Apple Stores now accept non-Apple device trade-ins – Trading in an Android phone for credit towards an iPhone is now a reality. If you walk into an Apple Store and hand them an Android, Windows, or BlackBerry phone, there’s a good chance they’ll offer you some sort of trade-in credit towards an iPhone. In conjunction with Brightstar, who runs their iOS trade-in program already, Apple stores now take non-Apple smartphones for Apple Store credit. The new program starts today in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, and France.

Security:

$60 DIY car hacking device is an inexpensive and easy way to hack cars – At the Black Hat Asia security conference, former Tesla intern and embedded systems developer Eric Evenchick released open source Python-based CANard software and CANtact hardware designs that will allow anyone to hack their connected cars.

Macro-based malware strikes again: How to keep your networks safe – Bad guys have regained interest in macro-based malware, reports Microsoft and Trend Micro. Learn why vigilance is key to combatting it.

Malwarebytes: Adult site Xtube compromised, serving exploits – Our systems have detected infections coming from popular adult site Xtube. This attack does not use malicious ads (malvertising) to compromise users. Instead, it injects a malicious snippet of code directly into Xtube itself.

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Pointing up   Tip – if you’re not yet running Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Free, check it out here.

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Here’s a shot of it running in my system tray.

GitHub Continues To Face Evolving DDoS Attack – Online code repository GitHub continues to face a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Monday, which the company reported is the largest attack in GitHub.com’s history. The attack began on Thursday and still continues, according to GitHub’s status page and Twitter accounts, though the company says now that all its systems are reporting at 100%. However, the attackers continue to evolve their methodology as the barrage continues, requiring GitHub to remain on “high alert,” it says.

Company News:

Google likely to prevail against Mississippi Attorney General’s enormous subpoena, court says – A federal court in Mississippi is convinced so far that Google will prevail against the state’s attorney general in a lawsuit over an allegedly burdensome and over-broad subpoena. Google filed the suit a week after The Verge published a report tying Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to a secret Hollywood campaign to fight Google, pinning blame on it for piracy. Hood had handed Google a 79-page-long subpoena requesting a wealth of information and interviews, which Google is now fighting back against on grounds that it violates its First and Fourth Amendment rights.

IBM Launches Major Internet Of Things Offensive – The intent of the new initiative is to put IBM at the forefront of the Internet of Things and provide a common platform on top of which customers can build useful applications to take advantage of all that data. IBM suggests that partnerships like the one with The Weather Company and the one announced last year with Twitter are the cornerstones of a strategy to put them on the cutting edge of a burgeoning technology. They are not alone in this endeavor, however. GE has its own Internet of Things platform aimed at the industrial internet, called Predix. The two giants are battling it out for the hearts and minds of developers.

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Amazon takes its delivery drone testing to Canada – Amazon is dreaming of a world where its drones deliver products, and the FAA is publicly cringing at the prospect. The FAA did get around to granting Amazon an element of permission for testing its drones, but it was a matter of too little too late. Amazon isn’t waiting for the FAA to speed things up, and has instead simply crossed the border into Canada, where it is testing its delivery drones without the harsh restrictions imposed by the US government. The Guardian reports that Amazon is now working in British Columbia on its Prime Delivery Drones, where a variety of software engineers, roboticists, aeronautics experts, and more compose the team. The exact location of the testing site is being kept a close secret, and it follows the snail-slow approach to drone technology that US government is taking.

The Senate wants to know if the White House protected Google from the FTC – The fallout from a leaked trove of FTC documents on Google continues. A Senate panel says it has some questions for the FTC and White House after the documents revealed how Google used its power to strong-arm other companies, yet still made its way out of an anti-trust investigation relatively unscathed. Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee — chairman of the Senate Judiciary’s Antitrust Subcommittee — says his office will examine both how the documents were released and whether the White House had an inappropriate role in the investigation, the National Journal reports.

Games and Entertainment:

The 5 Best iPhone Games of the Month – Every week, TIME rounds up our favorite iPhone games of the past few days. Here are the best of the best for March, from mind-straining puzzle games to mad-dash runners.

Spotify-Backed PlayStation Music Launches on PS3, PS4 – Sony’s PlayStation Music platform—the Music Unlimited replacement unveiled in January—launched today on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. With exclusive partner Spotify, PlayStation Music offers more than 30 million songs and 1.5 billion playlists, making it easy for console owners to soundtrack their gaming sessions. Using the Spotify Connect feature on the official Android and iOS music app, users can select a playlist (including special gaming catalogues), skip songs, adjust the volume, and more via a smartphone or tablet, without interrupting the immersive game experience.

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Fear the Walking Dead: watch the first trailer – If you watched The Walking Dead’s season 5 finale last night (fret not, there are no spoilers here), you were among the first round of people to see the series sequel’s very first trailer. It aired halfway through the episode, and during its brief time lent a glimpse into the zombie virus’s origins…and in doing so, it suggested that we might finally learn more about how the outbreak took place. The sequel, as we’ve previously noted, is called Fear the Walking Dead, and it’ll be making its debut this summer, bringing us closer to having year-round Walking Dead entertainment.

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Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming service relaunching with ‘new direction’ – After a dust-up that saw minority shareholders attempt to block Jay-Z’s acquisition of Aspiro, things are moving forward. In the bid, Jay-Z acquired hi-definition streaming service Tidal, which seems to be the real goal in acquiring Aspiro. Today, Tidal is being relaunched, and is allegedly going to start challenging others like Spotify or iTunes for new releases from big-name artists. If successful, expect the new Beyonce album to hit Tidal unannounced instead of iTunes.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Doctors kill golden staph using a 1,000-year-old remedy – The key to killing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — also known as MRSA or golden staph — may not be new-fangled treatments after all, but a treatment for an infected eyelash follicle found in a 1,000-year-old book. The MRSA “superbug” is notoriously difficult to treat. Over the years, it developed resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics, which include common treatments like penicillin and its derivatives, cephalosporins, monobactams and carbapenems. It’s also a particular problem in hospitals and nursing homes, where a high percentage of the population of which have open wounds and weakened immune systems.

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Two federal agents have been charged with stealing money from the Silk Road – Two Federal agents are facing charges of stealing money from the Silk Road, an online drug marketplace that was taken down by federal warrant more than a year ago. According to a newly unsealed affidavit, DEA Agent Carl Mark Force was actively selling Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht information about the government’s investigaton, at one point receiving $100,000 in bitcoin in exchange for a name that Mt Gox founder Mark Karpeles had given investigators as DPR’s true identity. (Karpeles maintains that he never knew DPR’s identity.) Force also used the DEA’s legal powers to freeze a bitcoin account on a service called CoinMKT and direct nearly $300,000 into his own account.

Destroy your tablet with a Selfie Stick attachment – If the normal Selfie Stick wasn’t enough to get you pumped up about taking a picture of yourself near a crash site, the Tablet Attachment must be. This device attaches to a standard selfie stick monopod pole and gives you room to grip your tablet. You can hook on to an iPad and hold it aloft, taking a front-facing selfie photo from all sorts of different angles. Have we reached Peak Selfie Stick? Between this and that New York Post cover – yes, yes we have.

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Watch this drone shepherd round up its flock on an Irish farm – Although CNET predicts that farming will be the No. 1 industry transformed by drones in the coming years, I think that’s talking about evaluating crop health and the like, not finding border collie replacements. But a new video shows that “drone shepherding” is certainly possible.

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Video Shows Border Patrol Agent Firing Taser Into Car Before It Explodes, Burning Driver Alive – Video of the incident, which occurred in March 2012 in Pine Valley, California, was just made public as part of a lawsuit filed against the federal government by the family of the 25-year-old victim, Alex Martin, who was killed in the incident. The footage, caught by a dashboard camera in the officers’ car and presented as evidence in the lawsuit, shows the plain clothes officers running up to Martin’s car after pulling it over, flashing a light into the vehicle, and trying to force open the door, before breaking through the window and firing the Taser — which immediately sets off an explosion. The video then shows the officers moving away from the fire without attempting to help Martin, as he burns to death. In the video, the officers don’t appear to identify themselves to Martin when they approach the car — nor do they attempt to extinguish the fire. “All three of those cars had large fire extinguishers in them and standard equipment,” Iredale said. “Not one of these agents ever even tried to spray any of the fire extinguisher solution on that car.”

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California biohackers create night vision eye drops – You can read the full report, but basically the experiment was a fascinating success. After applying the drops, scientists were able to clearly and instantly recognize people over 160 feet away in pitch blackness standing in the woods. Their eyes absorbed so much more light they even had to wear sunglasses indoors despite the risk of looking like incognito celebrities. The effects weren’t permanent, though. 50 microliters of the solution wore off after a few hours, and the scientists plan to do plenty more research on the long-term effects of Ce6 before considering the future of night vision in a bottle.

Something to think about:

We’re keeping a list. 

We’re checking it twice. 

We’re gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. 

1984 is comin’ to town…

A Christmas Card fromBarak Obama (U.S.), David Cameron (U.K.), Stephen Harper (Canada), Tony Abbott (Australia), John Key (New Zealand).

Today’s Free Downloads:

CrystalDiskInfo – CrystalDiskInfo is a HDD health monitoring utility. It displays basic HDD information, monitors S.M.A.R.T. values and disk temperature.

Features:

Show S.M.A.R.T Information

Show HDD Information

Change dialog design

Internationalization (i18n)

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Unreal Commander – Unreal Commander is a freeware file manager for Windows.

Features:

Two-panel interface

UNICODE support

Extended search of files

Multi-rename tool

Synchronization of directories

Support of archives ZIP, RAR, ACE, CAB, JAR, TAR, LHA, GZ, TGZ, ARJ

Built-in FTP client

Thumbnail mode

Folder tabs

Support of WLX/WCX/WDX plugins

Build-in viewer and quick view function

Network support

Drag and Drop Support

History and Hotlist functions

Copy/move/delete files background mode support

Deleting files with WIPE

Background pictures support

Visual styles: color categories of files, fonts for all interface elements

and more.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Data and Goliath, book review: A handbook for the information age – Modern lives leave a digital trail, and most people are unaware of just who is auditing it. Security expert Bruce Schneier examines how governments, corporations, individuals and society as a whole can deliver a better balance between security and privacy.

Governor ups license plate data retention to 60 days from seven: “Major step forward for personal freedom and liberty” thwarted by governor – Despite near-unanimous support in both houses of the Virginia state legislature, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) recently amended a significant license plate reader data retention bill, sending it back to state lawmakers. Had the bill passed, it would have imposed a limit of just seven days on keeping such data absent an ongoing criminal investigation.

As put forward by the governor last Friday, the new amendments crucially change that retention period from seven days to 60 days, and modify language that was designed to be a hedge against future surveillance technologies to be restricted to license plate readers specifically.

The Washington Post quoted Brian Moran, the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, as saying on Friday that he had “been informed by numerous law enforcement agencies that license plate readers result in salient and compelling information. The governor’s amendment…represents a significant compromise by law enforcement. The governor believes 60 days is a more appropriate period of time and reaches a compromise with the legislature that’s reasonable.”

Intercept Reporter Files Suit Against Ferguson Police – An Intercept reporter is suing the St. Louis County Police Department after he was shot with rubber bullets and arrested while reporting on protests in the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown last August.

The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux is joined in the civil rights suit, filed today in federal court in the Eastern District of Missouri, by three German journalists who were also arrested. They allege that the police department, St. Louis County, and 20 unidentified officers violated their First Amendment rights of freedom of press and freedom of speech, used excessive force against them, and arrested them without probable cause. (The complaint is embedded below.)

NSA considered ending phone surveillance program — report – The National Security Agency reportedly contemplated curtailing its program to collect the phone records of America citizens even before whistleblower Edward Snowden spilled the beans.

The NSA, which has been intensely criticized for its program of vacuuming up the phone call records of US citizens, has publicly defended the practice as a necessary measure to combat terrorism. But months before the surveillance came to light in 2013 with the release of documents leaked by Snowden, a proposal to end the program was being discussed among top managers of the agency, current and former intelligence officials told the Associated Press.

NSA insiders who called for the program to be killed cited several factors, according to the AP’s sources. The cost of capturing and storing records from every domestic landline was growing higher. The system wasn’t grabbing the records of mobile phone calls. The program was not integral to discovering terrorist plots. And critics inside the agency were concerned about the reaction should the program ever become public knowledge.

The effort to halt the program never got beyond the discussion stage.

EFF questions US government’s software flaw disclosure policy – It’s not clear if the U.S. government is living up to its promise to disclose serious software flaws to technology companies, a policy it put in place five years ago, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The digital watchdog said on Monday it received a handful of heavily redacted documents from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which it sued last July after it and the National Security Agency moved too slowly on a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Last year, the EFF sought documents related to the U.S. government’s efforts to beef up its Vulnerability Equities Process (VEP), a framework for notifying companies about zero-day vulnerabilities.

Those type of software flaws are considered the most dangerous since attackers are actively using the flaws to compromise computers, and there are no patches ready.

But there has been concern that the U.S. government may hold onto that kind of information for too long, putting at risk organizations that it is supposed to protect from foreign adversaries who may discover the vulnerabilities on their own.

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6 Comments

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

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 31, 2015

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    “Tip – if you’re not yet running Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Free, check it out here.”
    Bill when you first recommended it to me I got it and valued it, however when they updated to a new version there was a change that disturbed me, now I know that MBAM is a good company, however the original one I had when you would check on what was protected would show a shield it was white and red IIRC, with the newer version it had that shield and then 2 others which were black and white and while I could not read the full description the language seemed odd, the wording, so perhaps being silly I uninstalled it and last time I downloaded it was the same. What exactly are the doing? I’m sure it is safe but it just struck me as odd so now I am asking the Expert.
    best wishes,
    Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      Developers frequently change color schemes while an app is under development (says the guy whose tested thousands of them 🙂 – and often following stable releases. For example, IObit readily comes to mind.

      You’ve done the right thing here – it’s a good thing to question changes. As it turns out, you’re safe with Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Free – so, you might consider a reinstall.

      Best,

      Bill

  2. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    I’ve been using Homeplugs adaptors for a few years now and they are just as good as it says in the article. Just plug in and connect with an ethernet cable. Ideal for streaming movies in the den!

    At first I thought the tablet selfie-stick must be an April fool’s trick but sadly I expect there are those that would want one 👎

    I’m sure the night vision eye drops are a spoof though.

    Happy Fools Day Bill (also my birthday BTW. Who’d have thought it!)

    Kind regards
    John

    • Hi John,

      lol! Yeah, thumbs down on the tablet stick. As for the adapters – totally agree.

      Checkout today’s “Off Topic” – there’s something about birthdays there. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill