Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 1, 2015

The Best Free Antivirus for 2015;  WhatsApp brings voice calling for everyone;  How to Recover Deleted Files;  Use Infinit for direct fileshares with no size limits;  Hisense And Haier Launch $149 Chromebooks;  ASUS Chromebit packs Chrome OS into an HDMI dongle;  Essential Dropbox tools for productive people;  How to figure out if a website is down…or if it’s just you;  How to Find Your IP Address;  Facebook’s tracking cookies affect even users who opt out;  Google Maps Easter Egg Sets Pac-Man Loose On City Streets;  Energy companies around the world infected by newly discovered malware;  AAA Video Shows Just How Stupid Technology Makes Teen Drivers;  Indian government mandates use of open source software;  Google Says 5% Of Visitors To Its Sites Have Ad Injectors Installed;  Teens hit with child porn charges after tweeting their group-sex video;  Windows Firewall Control (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Best Free Antivirus for 2015 – “Antivirus? Why should I spend money on something that comes with Windows,” you may ask. Well, two things. First, the antivirus built into Windows is better than nothing, but in testing it doesn’t remotely compare to third-party antivirus solutions. Second, who said you have to spend money? We’ve rounded up a collection of totally free antivirus products that should serve you well. Your antivirus should definitely have the ability to root out existing malware, but its ongoing task is to prevent any nasty programs from getting a foothold. All of the antivirus programs in this collection offer real-time protection against malware attack. Some take the fight upstream, working hard to ensure you never even browse to a malware-hosting site.

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How to Recover Deleted Files – We’ve all accidentally sent a file to the Recycle Bin (or Trash on the Mac). Thankfully, operating systems have known for years that when you drag a file to a garbage can icon, it should not instantly delete that file. You can generally open that trash icon, find your file, and restore it to its proper place on your hard drive. The problem comes after you’ve emptied that recycle bin. Then you’re in trouble. But all is not lost.

WhatsApp update on Android brings voice calling for everyone – The latest update for the Android version of WhatsApp available from the Google Play Store is enabling the voice calling functionality for all users worldwide without an invite.

Use Infinit for direct fileshares with no size limits – When you want to share a file with your mobile device, or even another computer, you may use cloud storage to get the job done. While this is a decent solution, it falls short in requiring you to wait for the file to transfer twice (the uploading and the downloading). Additionally, most cloud storage services have a limit on your total space, or even on individual file size that you can share. Instead, Infinit hopes to become your go-to file transfer service. Their app is available on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. In just a few steps you can share files directly, with no size limit, to yourself or others. Here’s how:

Google Apps and Office 365 compared in one Venn diagram – Summary:Both Microsoft and Google have compelling productivity offerings, along with deep and rich ecosystems. That makes comparing them a challenge for most managers. David Gewirtz compares most of the programs’ key elements in one Venn diagram (and a big table).

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Google vs. Microsoft in a Venn diagram

With Curator, Twitter is taking Tweets mainstream – Sometimes when you’re watching a TV show or web broadcast, you might see Tweets from people pop up, which typically serve to underscore whatever your host may be discussing. To make that easier for broadcasters, Twitter is unearthing Curator, which has been in a kind of beta program until today. With Curator, those who distribute all types of content will be able to populate a Twitter feed alongside their feed, pulling the audience at home into the world of published content.

Survey: A majority of Apple Pay users encounter problems – Issues include terminals that are out of order and transactions that take too long to complete.

Hisense And Haier Launch $149 Chromebooks – A few weeks ago Google made headlines with the launch of the new Chromebook Pixel, the highest-end Chromebook on the market (and with a price to show for it). Today, the Chrome OS laptop ecosystem is launching two products that are the exact opposite: the Haier Chromebook 11 (now available online at Amazon) and the Hisense Chromebook (now available at Walmart). Both of these 11.6-inch Chromebooks will retail for $149, making them the most affordable Chromebooks yet.

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Hands on: The $149 Hisense Chromebook succeeds at being incredibly affordable – It would be easy to ding this device for what it doesn’t have, but this Chromebook isn’t about flashy features. It’s about making a PC pretty much anyone could own.

ASUS Chromebit packs Chrome OS into an HDMI dongle – The Chromecast has now got a big brother, the ASUS Chromebit, packing a full Chromebook into an HDMI dongle that can turn any display into a Chrome OS computer. Plugging straight into a spare HDMI port, and running exactly the same Chrome OS software as any other Chrome machine, the stick marks a further expansion in form-factors for the platform, which began with straightforward notebooks but has since progressed to desktops, all-in-ones, and convertible tablets. It’s also promising to be one of the most inexpensive ways to play with Google’s web-centric software.

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How to figure out if a website is down…or if it’s just you – Can’t connect to a particular website? Here’s how to troubleshoot it.

Facebook’s new ‘Scrapbook’ helps parents keep baby photos in one place – Facebook is in the process of rolling out a new “Scrapbook” feature that gives parents a simple way of putting photos of their newborns, toddlers, and kids under the age of 13 in one spot. Rather than a proper profile (users can’t sign up for those until they’re 13), Scrapbook serves as a handy tool for amassing all those baby photos and storing them in a dedicated, easy-to-access place on Facebook.

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Essential Dropbox tools for productive people – One of the most attractive things about Dropbox is the number and variety of third-party apps that integrate with it to expand its capabilities. Here are five of our favorites.

Microsoft’s new operating system reinvents MS-DOS for mobile – Microsoft has today launched MS-DOS Mobile, a stunning new DOS-based platform designed especially for mobile phones, which aims to take productivity back to where it all started with a simple OS.

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Amazon wants you to place product buttons around your home – Remember writing grocery lists and sticking them to your fridge? Amazon thinks you should now leave the task of restocking food and household supplies to a button. The company announced a new device on Tuesday called the Dash Button, which connects to your smartphone using a Wi-Fi network. With one touch, the button will automatically reorder a product. There are buttons for a variety of products that Amazon sells, from Bounty paper towels to Glad trash bags to Larabar energy bars. The device is only available to Prime members.

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How to Find Your IP Address – The numbers that identify your computer are easy to find, when you know where and how to look.

Security:

Facebook’s tracking cookies affect even users who opt out, claims EU report – Facebook is continuing to monitor the browsing habits of European users even when they explicitly opt-out of tracking, claims a new report compiled by the Belgian Privacy Commission. The social network tracks users that are logged out of the site and individuals who do not have a Facebook account, say researchers. This, they say, means that Facebook is not only ignoring the data rights of users but is also in breach of European law requiring users to consent to having tracking cookies placed on their computer.

You can finally opt out and remove Verizon’s “supercookie” – Verizon Wireless is finally letting users completely opt out of its tracking program which uses undeletable tracking codes called “supercookies”. Prior to this, customers no longer received targeted advertizing after opting out from Verizon’s data collection program. Still, customers’ browsing history and metadata was being stored by Verizon. Under its data collection program, Verizon tracks personal data by tagging customers with a unique customer identifier code. This “supercookie” code was un-removable under Verizon’s previous opt-out policy wherein users could halt the gathering of their browsing habits, but they would still be tagged with a customer identifier code. Now, users can ask Verizon to remove their customer ID code supercookie.

Google Says 5% Of Visitors To Its Sites Have Ad Injectors Installed – According to a study Google conducted with researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, 5 percent of people visiting Google’s sites and services now have at least one ad injector installed. When it comes to malware, ad injectors may seem relatively benevolent at first. They put an ad on your Google Search page that didn’t belong there, for example. That’s annoying, but doesn’t seem dangerous. But ad injection was pretty much what Lenovo’s Superfish was doing and that created plenty of security issues for users. Indeed, the research, which is based on the analysis of 100 million pageviews across Google’s sites from Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer, classified about a third of these injectors as “outright malware.”

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Energy companies around the world infected by newly discovered malware – Researchers have uncovered an ongoing espionage campaign that uses custom-developed malware to siphon confidential data out of energy companies around the world. Trojan.Laziok, as the malware has been dubbed, acts as a reconnaissance tool that scours infected computers for data including machine name, installed software, RAM size, hard disk size, GPU details, CPU details, and installed antivirus software, according to a blog post published Monday by researchers from security firm Symantec. The attackers then use the data to decide how to infect the computer with additional malware, including versions of Backdoor.Cyberat and Trojan.Zbot that are tailored for the a specific compromised computer.

Company News:

Charter to buy cable operator Bright House for $10.4 billion – If the deal is approved, Charter Communications will become the No. 2 cable company in the US, at a time when more people are cutting the cord in favor of services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Judge: Mississippi investigation of Google likely violates 1st Amendment – US District Judge Henry Wingate has published an opinion laying out his reasoning for siding with Google. In a 25-page order (PDF), Wingate found “significant evidence of bad faith” on Hood’s part. In his order, Wingate sided with Google on every significant point, finding that the company is likely to prevail on claims that Hood’s wide-ranging investigation violated Google’s 1st and 4th Amendment rights. Hood’s concerns about piracy on Google are likely to fail, since enforcing copyright is the domain of the federal government. Similarly, Hood’s concerns that Google searches lead to illegal sales of prescription drugs are preempted by the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

GoDaddy IPO shares expected to top estimates with $4.5 billion valuation – The domain hosting service has been humming along with a highly-anticipated initial public offering plan, and now it looks like shares are poised to get off to a good start very soon.

Apple tipped to be poaching Tidal talent for new streaming service – Streaming is getting serious, and finally beneficial for artists. With Tidal, Jay-Z created a service that gave much of the power back to artists. The catch was exclusivity on the platform, at least for a while, but the real goal is to change the tide of streaming. If a report on what Beats paid artists is accurate, or Taylor Swift’s battle with Spotify is an indicator, Jay-Z is hitting the right notes with Tidal. Apple, believed to be readying a new streaming service, is now said to be toying with Tidal, and trying to poach artists away from the service.

Apple remains among Samsung’s top revenue sources – Samsung’s annual year-end financial report has revealed that rival Apple was one of the South Korean tech giant’s top sources of revenue for 2014. According to Samsung’s annual end-of-year filings for 2014 to South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service, Apple, Deutsche Telekom, Ingram Micro, Sprint, and Verizon were the top five sources of income for the Korean tech giant, with the companies’ business amounting to a collective 13 percent of its revenue. The amount each contributed was not disclosed in the report, but Samsung posted a total revenue of 206 trillion won ($185 billion) last year.

Games and Entertainment:

The new Mad Max: Fury Road trailer is the absolute craziest yet – Deserts are incredible settings for anything on film, but that is apparently so much truer when it comes to insane action sequences and strange post-apocalyptic cults. Mad Max’s gorgeous wasteland of a world has been shown off in every trailer for Fury Road so far, but this latest somehow takes it all three steps further, showing creepy interiors, terrifying landscapes, and the wild chase sequences taking place on them. Forget Furious 7, it’s hard to remember a recent driving sequence that looked anywhere near this cool. It’ll be in theaters May 15th.

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Google Maps Easter Egg Sets Pac-Man Loose On City Streets – Google has created a new Easter Egg for Google Maps (pretty much just in time for actual Easter) which lets you play Pac-Man in real-world locales on the company’s Maps apps for desktop and mobie devices. It’s easy to play, by either navigating to the Google Maps website or opening the app on your Android or iOS device, and then just searching for a location where Pac-Man might show up. Google is offering hints to help you find the iconic 1980s video game protagonist, but if you’re in a hurry just search for “times square” and you should see a pixelated map flag icon like the one pictured here. Click on that and you’ll launch into a game with simple controls, letting you control Pac-Man as he evades his ghostly enemies with either the arrow keys on a computer or by swiping up, down, left and right to change direction on mobile.

Bloodborne completed in 44 minutes – Ever since Bloodborne released last week my Twitter feed has been full of links to video playthroughs and comments on just how hard it is. However, one gamer has managed to complete the game in just 44 minutes. The gamer in question goes by the name of Oginam_tv on YouTube and the 44 minute playthrough is the fastest he can do it without aiming for any kind of high percentage finish. But he also makes it clear he is taking advantage of an item duplication bug that makes the game much easier than it would otherwise be. So while it’s fast, it’s not “legal” shall we say. You can watch the playthrough below, but be warned it does contain some spoilers if you intend on playing the game yourself.

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Fan-made Mario 64 remake disappears following Nintendo copyright complaint – Nintendo has issued a takedown request for the browser-based Super Mario 64 remake that delighted the internet last week. If you attempt to play the game, created by student Erik Roystan Ross as an experiment with the Unity game engine, you’ll instead see a series of emails, including a copyright complaint from Nintendo of America.

Sling TV users revolt after content restrictions hit select channels – Sling TV is an exciting option for television viewers, giving the best of television while offering the convenience and piecemeal freedom that comes with watch-it-anywhere Internet streaming. The service, which is from Dish Network, offers a core package that includes many channels streaming in real-time, counted among them being such popular offerings as ESPN, AMC, Disney, ABC Family, CNN, and more. Some users have discovered that not all is quite as it seems, however, and they have started to revolt.

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Ubisoft’s triple-threat release – This week Ubisoft announced Assassin’s Creed Chronicles, the next in a line of titles headed to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and gaming PCs. This title will follow three “famous Assassins” to China, India, and Russia, and will be released in three parts. The first part will be Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China, followed by Chronicles: India, and Chronicles: Russia. The first of three titles will be released on April 21st in North and South America, while EMEA will get the game on the 22nd of April.

Off Topic (Sort of):

I’ve been at this blogging thing for a good number of years now – and before that, as a writer for a “top 20” web site. Through those years, I’ve met hundreds of readers, many of whom have favoured me with their friendship. And that, has been the most significant personal benefit in my blogging journey.

Time to shine the spotlight on some of these good people who have managed to put up with my occasional furious rants over the years.

So, to John Bent – my good and true friend – fellow April baby, and fellow “old guy” – Happy Birthday, John.    Birthday cake

Thousands call on Congress to overturn net neutrality rules – A petition from conservative group American Commitment calls the rules the ‘most radical act imaginable’.

Indian government mandates use of open source software – Country’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology releases new policy that makes it mandatory for all e-government systems to be deployed on open source software.

AAA Video Shows Just How Stupid Technology Makes Teen Drivers – A startling new video released by the Automobile Association of America shows that teen drivers tend to be very bad drivers because they’re distracted. In this montage, the teens are too focused on their phones, talking with friends or flipping the radio station that they veer right off the road. Perhaps one of the most alarming moments of the two-minute clip is the teenage boy who has his eyes transfixed on his phone that he doesn’t pay attention to the road and drifts into a sign. AAA says that distrac​tion, whether from its friends or phones, is a factor in 58 percent of moderate and severe teenage accidents—four times higher than what the United States government estimates.

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World’s largest group of pharmacists tells members not to help with executions – In 2011, Europe began halting shipments of lethal injection drugs to the US, and states — which have now seen a series of botched executions — have turned to domestic pharmacists to make up the difference. But there may be a hitch in that plan, as a leading pharmacists association is now discouraging its members from providing drugs used in executions. The pharmacists’ decision places the association on the side of the American Medical Association, which, like other medical groups, discourages physicians from participating in executions. The International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists took on a similar policy last week.

Acid, Passion, and Dried Blood: Photos from Murder Scenes in Turn-of-the-Century Paris – Even though it was invented in 1839 by Louis Daguerre, modern photography was only made available to French police investigators in the 1870s, and it wasn’t until 1887 that criminologist Alphonse Bertillon introduced the method to criminal identification practices. Thanks to his foresight,the photographic archive of the Paris Police Prefecture is now one of the richest in the world—a collection of millions of images that date back to the beginning of the 19th century.

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This scene shows the methodology used to photograph a cadaver before an autopsy. Photos courtesy of the Prefecture of Police of Paris.

Teens hit with child porn charges after tweeting their group-sex video – Four suburban Illinois teenagers were being held Tuesday on child pornography charges for allegedly producing a group-sex video of themselves and posting it to Twitter. The youths, whose names were not released because of their age, include a 15-year-old girl and boys 14, 15, and 16. They were arrested Friday and charged with distributing child pornography online. “The child pornography offense that was charged is in place for a reason, because we don’t want to accept that type of behavior as a society. So I think it’s making a strong statement, and I think it’s important to do so to send the message to others: that kids shouldn’t be involved in this type of behavior, and hopefully this will serve as a deterrent,” Joliet Police Chief Brian Benton said.

GoPro camera patent a dead ringer for the Polaroid Cube – Wait a second, those of you familiar with the Polaroid Cube might be saying, isn’t that the miniature shooter we know so well? Not really, says GoPro, this is a new camera with new abilities – it just… maybe looks… similar. Not similar enough to warrant a mass breakdown, of course – and probably not similar enough to sue. But similar enough that we’re going to give a long hard look and play with this device if and when it’s released to the mass market.

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Silicon Valley’s Attack on Anti-Gay Laws Is a Watershed Moment for Tech Activism – Indiana’s new “religious freedom” law has ignited a national firestorm of protest—and the tech industry is leading the fight. The new law, which critics say opens the door to discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people, has prompted many leading tech companies to engage in corporate activism on social issues with a newly emboldened intensity, according to LGBT advocates. “The tech industry’s opposition to this bill is unprecedented,” said Fred Sainz, vice president at Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBT advocacy group. “Never before have so many tech firms spoken out so loudly against such discriminatory actions.”

Something to think about:

“Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.”

–     Thomas Henry Huxley

Today’s Free Downloads:

Windows Firewall Control – Windows Firewall Control is a nifty little application which extends the functionality of the Windows Firewall and provides quick access to the most frequent options of Windows Firewall. It runs in the system tray and allows user to control the native firewall easily without having to waste time by navigating to the specific part of the firewall. This is the best tool to manage the native firewall from Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

Features:

Intuitive and easy accessible interface in the system tray.

Full support with standard user accounts. Elevated privileges are required only at installation.

Create temporary rules which are automatically deleted when they expire or on program restart.

Disable the ability of other programs to add Windows Firewall rules.

Multiple and easier ways of creating new rules in Windows Firewall.

Full support of creating, modifying and deleting Window Firewall rules.

Lock feature which can disable the access to the settings of the program and Windows Firewall.

Shell integration into the right click context menu of the executable files.

Search for invalid rules with the possibility to delete them.

Search for executable files through folders and create new rules in seconds.

View recently blocked connections and create new rules from the logs: inbound and outbound.

Choose if you want the program to start at user logon.

Import and export the settings of the program.

Protection to unauthorized uninstallation.

Possibility to restore previous settings at uninstallation.

And many more. Just try it out.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The Massive Police Database of Information on Black Torontonians Should Be Destroyed – The police say the disproportionate cataloguing of blacks was unintentional, yet they’d like to keep all the detailed information they’ve collected throughout the process on our whereabouts, our addresses, our movements, our relationships—just in case.

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8 Comments

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

8 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 1, 2015

  1. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    You are way too kind! I didn’t realise you are a fellow Arian, although I should have guessed from your incisive, elegant, intelligent prose coupled with your good looks (only saying it ’cause it’s true).

    Like thousands of others I appreciate all you do to help us keep out of trouble and abreast of the latest developments in security and all its implications.

    May you continue for as long as you want to my friend.

    Kind regards,
    John

    • Hi John,

      You flatter me – hey, that’s not so bad – I kinda like it. 🙂

      Yep, come the 10th of the month the grim reaper and I will be renegotiating our previous agreement, signed when I was 16. I had no idea I’d be around this long, or I’d have asked for more favorable initial terms. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill

  2. The article on The Best Free Antivirus for 2015
    This reads like an April Fools review. The product picked as the best, has a pretty poor score for blocking a Virus and Malware.
    I always thought that was the most important reason for picking your protection ???