Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 6, 2015

Facebook launches security primer;  How Facebook knows who your friends are;  How to stay safe online: CNET’s security checklist;  This Is How Drones Work;  The six best HDMI operating system sticks;  YouTube tips we bet you didn’t know;  The 100 Best Android Apps of 2015;  10 ways your Android phone is smarter than you;  How You Can Block Calls and Texts on Your Smartphone;  Here’s how Google Play scans your Android phone;  TrueCrypt Audit: No NSA Backdoors;  6 Makeup Apps for a Whole New You;  15 classic PC games you should play again;  App showdown: Roku vs. Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Fire TV vs. Nexus Player;  Dyre Wolf malware transfers victims to live operator; Three lies about Google Glass;  WinParrot (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Facebook launches primer detailing all things security – Anyone with a social networking account should be mindful not only of what they post on it, but also their security settings — misunderstanding a particular setting, for example, could lead to info you believed was private actually being visible to the public. Facebook has rolled out features that aim to improve the users’ awareness of those security features, including reminders that popup with snippets of information every now and again, and that settings review that rolled out not too long ago. Now it is back with more…a lot more.

How Facebook knows who your friends are, even better than you do – How does Facebook know who your friends are? It’s a mystery that has nagged users since at least 2011, when the Irish Data Protection Commissioner conducted a full-scale investigation into the issue. But four years later, there’s still a lot of confusion and misinformation about what Facebook’s doing when it “finds” your friends. Tracking your circle of friends is much easier than you think, once you answer the few basic questions Facebook asks when you sign up for an account.

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The six best HDMI operating system sticks – There’s a new kind of computer in town and it’s resides on an HDMI stick that’s not much bigger than a pack of gum.

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Fewer than 1% of Android devices affected by potentially harmful apps – Based on data collected by Google, less than one percent of Android devices had a potentially harmful application installed last year. This includes devices on which users have installed applications from outside the official Google Play store. The data was collected through a feature called Verify Apps that was first introduced in Android 4.2 back in 2012. The feature, which was also backported to Android 2.3 and higher in 2013, checks locally installed applications for potentially harmful behavior regardless of whether they were downloaded from Google Play or other sources. Verify Apps initially scanned applications only at installation time, but since March 2014 it also performs background scans, so it can later detect malicious applications that weren’t flagged when they were initially installed.

The 100 Best Android Apps of 2015 – Here in the PC Mag’s New York office, we haven’t seen much of the sun and it’s barely above freezing. But even if it’s still pretty miserable outside, that doesn’t mean you can’t spruce up your Android device with some great new apps! And have we got new apps. This list covers everything you need, from comic books, to finance, to secure messaging services.

10 ways your Android phone is smarter than you – You say you miss your dumbphone, but you really don’t, because your smartphone is, well…a hell of a lot smarter. It’s smarter than your dumbphone, and it’s also (sometimes) smarter than you. And it should be! It’s packed with sensors, a lifetime of Google knowledge, access to the whole Internet, and eerily accurate predictions based on your habits. Here are 10 ways your Android phone is too smart for its own good.

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YouTube tips we bet you didn’t know – It’s easy to spend hours watching YouTube videos about, well, pretty much anything. Using your mouse to adjust a setting isn’t exactly slow, but in some cases, the keyboard shortcuts are much faster. Here is a list of the best YouTube keyboard shortcuts you should start using right now. These shortcuts work when you open a new video, without needing to click anything in the player.

BlueDriver: Diagnose car problems with your smartphone or tablet – Got a ‘Check Engine’ light on your dash, staring at you? Wonder what it means? Wonder how much it will cost you to fix? Wondering if you can fix it yourself, if only you knew what it meant?

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6 Makeup Apps for a Whole New You – Spring makeovers are a perennial topic in the pages of magazines and on YouTube playlists. But unless you snag an appearance on Love, Lust or Run or hire a makeup artist, you’re pretty much on your own in Sephora or your local drugstore when it comes to figuring out what will make you look your best. That is unless you use a makeover app. Facial-recognition technology may be known for more serious uses, like spotting criminals and securing data, but a side benefit is that you can now achieve a sharp new eyeliner look with just a click. The results are often so realistic that selfies can essentially be faux-Photoshopped without your Instagram followers noticing a thing.

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How to get your Chromebook online from anywhere without killing your mobile data cap – Chromebooks were made to be online, even if Wi-Fi’s nowhere to be found. Here’s how to get online with a cellular signal without blowing through your data cap.

Carousel ‘Photo School’ may up your mobile photography game – The best camera you have is the one you’ve got with you, right? We bet your smartphone is on you most of the time, too, making it crucial for getting pics when you’re in a moment. While hardware and software are a big part of taking good pics, so is skill. If you don’t know how to take great photos, yours won’t be very good, regardless of what photo editor or smartphone you have. To help with that, Carousel is introducing Photo School, a series of blogs meant to encourage better smartphone photography.

How You Can Block Calls and Texts on Your Smartphone – No one enjoys cell phone spam, especially aggressive telemarketing calls and texts while you’re on the go. Though you can list your cell phone number on the Do Not Call Registry, that doesn’t stop telemarketing text messages or even all phone calls in our experience. If you’re tired of these nuisances, you have options. You can use the following apps and features built into your phone to help cut down on spam.

Microsoft Changing Default ‘Do Not Track’ Setting – Specifically, Redmond will no longer have the “Do Not Track” option enabled in Windows’ Express Settings, which you can click when you’re installing the operating system, in case you would prefer Microsoft make the decisions for you. Do Not Track is a little setting that you can enable in all of the major Web browsers. Presumably, advertisers are supposed to notice when a browser has the flag flipped on. If that’s the case, third-party advertisers should then exclude that browser from any kind of cross-site tracking. Though, the request is just that—a request that third-party services should follow.

Apple shows what its watch can do in new video tutorials – The company touts key features of its smartwatch in four short video clips released a week before presales start for the pricey device.

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Maximize your SSD’s lifespan with the right maintenance – SSDs differ significantly from the hard drives they’re replacing, including care and feeding. Follow these do’s and don’ts to keep your SSD in shipshape.

Security:

Ransomware alert: ‘Pacman’ scheme uses Dropbox link to gobble victims – All malware is bad, but ransomware is particularly insidious—ask any ransomware victim. That’s why a new attack scheme called “Pacman” has raised alarms, because it’s even nastier than usual. Think of the classic Pac-Man game’s voracious yellow ball, chomping up all of your files. It takes only one click to infect a vulnerable PC, and the attack gives victims only 24 hours to pay the ransom in Bitcoins or risk losing all of the compromised data. The current attack is particularly effective because it’s so convincing.

Here’s how Google Play scans your Android phone – Google has a system enacted through Google Play for Android devices called Verify Apps. Google’s latest Android Security State of the Union (for the year 2014) includes clarification on what the company is scanning on your phone – both inside Google Play-downloaded apps and in apps you’ve downloaded elsewhere. Verify Apps scans your phone’s apps for security risks in Google Play apps, and Safety Net provides protection for (and from) apps outside of Google Play. Yes, Google Play is scanning your phone – no, it’s not something to freak out about.

TrueCrypt Audit: No NSA Backdoors – A security audit of TrueCrypt has determined that the disk encryption software does not contain any backdoors that could be used by the NSA or other surveillance agencies. A report prepared by the NCC Group (PDF) for the Open Crypto Audit Project found that the encryption tool is not vulnerable to being compromised. However, the software was found to contain a few other security vulnerabilities, including one relating to the use of the Windows API to generate random numbers for master encryption key material. Despite this, TrueCrypt was given a relatively clean bill of health with none of the detected vulnerabilities considered severe enough to lead “to a complete bypass of confidentiality in common usage scenarios.”

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TrueCrypt running on my system. TrueCrypt is a very old friend. Good to see that it came through this with a “a relatively clean bill of health.”

Dyre Wolf malware transfers victims to live operator – IBM has detailed a new variation of the Dyre malware, which it is calling “The Dyre Wolf”. The malware targets large enterprises, and comes with an unexpected twist: a bit of social engineering involving a live operator posing as a representative. When on the phone with this operator, the hackers on the other side use banking information provided by the victim to initiate a large wire transfer…and in some cases use a DDoS attack to keep the company from discovering the transfer until it is too late.

Bugs in Tor network used in attacks against underground markets – The operator of an underground marketplace hosted within the Tor network has reported a flaw in Tor that he claims is being used for an ongoing denial of service attack on the site. The problem, which is similar to one reported by another hidden site operator in December on the Tor mailing list, allows attackers to conduct a denial of service attack against hidden sites by creating a large number of simultaneous connections, or “circuits,” via Tor, overwhelming the hidden service’s ability to respond. By sending multiple “introduce” requests to the same hidden service, an attacker could make the targeted server create multiple circuits (paths over the Tor network used for the session), eating the server’s available CPU and network resources and making it inaccessible to users.

How to stay safe online: CNET’s security checklist – It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Especially when it comes to your personal information. Keeping your info secure online requires you to take more time and care, but what you lose in moments you’ll surely make up in peace of mind. Follow the steps below to increase your online security.

Company News:

Last round of job cuts hit hundreds of Microsoft employees – In what is said to be the final round of layoffs for Microsoft’s largest jobs cut in company history, hundreds of employees were released by the company all around the world.

LinkedIn buys social knowledge startup Refresh – Launched three years ago, Refresh is designed to be a “digital briefing book” that can call up online information related to people that users are scheduled to meet. The information can be anything from blog posts, news articles or Facebook posts to personal notes or favorite sports teams. The Refresh mobile and desktop app is aimed at helping people relate to one another more quickly, but it can also be used to refresh one’s memory when running into acquaintances unexpectedly.

Antitrust lawsuit dismissed against Google’s app bundling – The latest class action antitrust lawsuit against Google has been tabled. The dismissed lawsuit was just one among many to hit Google such as a class action suit about Google Wallet’s privacy practices, libel accusations for offending autocomplete suggestions, and copyright infringement for book digitization. The lawsuit in question alleges that Google made illegal contracts with device makers which forced Android OS to use Google’s apps as default settings. The suit then further alleges that these backroom deals drove up consumer prices of these smartphones due to restricting competition.

Nissan CEO: We will have an autonomous vehicle next year – Nissan hopes to have a car that can navigate Japan’s highways on its own next year, and the company plans to have a completely self-driving vehicle for urban areas by 2020. “There will be a Nissan product in Japan, which will carry autonomous drive,” Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told reporters at the New York International Auto Show on Thursday. “Obviously when you have this kind of technology, you want also the Japanese market to enjoy it as soon as possible.” Also this week, auto parts supplier Delphi announced its autonomous Audi completed a 3,500-mile, cross-country journey.

Games and Entertainment:

App showdown: Roku vs. Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Fire TV vs. Nexus Player – App selection should be one of the biggest factors in choosing a streaming media player, because all the fancy features in the world don’t mean much if you can’t actually watch what you want. If you’re just looking to watch Netflix or Hulu Plus, pretty much every device on the market will have you covered. Still, each platform does have its hang-ups, which you can see in the chart below. Have a look, then keep reading for some takeaways and caveats:

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Okay, now let’s answer some questions that I assume will be frequently asked:

Sony will issue either $25 cash or a $50 credit if you bought your PS Vita before June 2012 – In November, Sony was found guilty by the FTC of misleading consumers with their early PS Vita commercials. Now, they will be required to refund $25 cash or $50 in merchandise credit to lucky owners.

BBC teams with BitTorrent to release Doctor Who greatest hits download – Doctor Who fans can now download episodes from BitTorrent without feeling guilty! The BBC and the peer-to-peer sharing platform have officially teamed up to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the sci-fi series’ relaunch with two different BitTorrent Bundles. While this collection of episodes won’t tell the whole story or fully show new viewers why this universe continues to be incredibly popular among the sci-fi set, it does present some of the most beloved episodes in an easy-to-view, easy-to-obtain format that has the potential to rope in even more fans.

15 classic PC games you should play again – Between a flood of HD remasters (Grim Fandango, Homeworld, Resident Evil) and all the games styled to look like older games (Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2) released in the past year, I think we can all agree retro games are back in style. But what about actual retro games—the classics you’ve left gathering dust in old CD-ROM cases or are hoarding in your GOG.com library? April’s a relatively slow month as far as new releases, so maybe it’s the perfect time to revisit some old classics. Me? I’m about to go replay Planescape: Torment. Read on for that and fourteen(ish) other classic games you should play again.

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Duke Nukem 3D

Sling TV takes over DishWorld, re-names it ‘Sling International’ – Today, DishWorld — the international arm of Dish Network — is being re-branded under the Sling name, and will now be known as Sling International. As Sling International, DishWorld owners can access roughly 200 channels spanning 18 languages including Spanish, Punjab, Filipino, Arabic, Hindi, Vietnamese, and both Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese. Content includes sports, news, and general entertainment, and new customers are getting a free month to give Sling International a shot. Just like with DishWorld, there is no hardware to hook up.

Off Topic (Sort of):

This Is How Drones Work – When things look easy, they’re typically anything but. From Ted Williams’ swing to Raymond Carver’s prose to Jennifer Lawrence’s acting, this has been demonstrated time and time again. You might think it’s a leap to include drones with these effortless artists, but hold your judgement until after you watch an unmanned aircraft dance gracefully across the sky. Because while these machines may look like little more than propellers and plastic, these aerial acrobats actually pack a lot of tech into their lightweight frames.

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Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Digital Love – What will it be like when Tinder and Grinder get taken over by advertising? Find out in this grim, hilarious assessment of the near future as created by Logan Fitzpatrick.

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Read the letter Bill Gates sent to Microsoft employees for the company’s 40th anniversary – On April 4th, 1975, Bill Gates and Paul Allen started a little company named Microsoft. You probably know the story from there: Gates went on to become the wealthiest man in the world, and then gradually pulled back from his company to focus on broad philanthropic efforts through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But Gates is far from finished at Microsoft; last year after Satya Nadella took over as CEO, Gates said he would be taking a bigger role at the company — using up to a third of his time to advise Microsoft employees on new products. Gates sent the following letter to Microsoft employees today to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary.

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I am not a booth babe. Ask me a question – Commentary: There’s been increasing debate about the role of women in the tech industry, and how they are perceived and portrayed at tech shows. One group has created a new symbol for women who want to stand out — but not as a booth babe.

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Teen rakes in $6,000 on “Uploader for Instagram” app, told to shut down – A developer has pulled his popular “Uploader for Instagram” app from the Mac App Store after Instagram sent him two demand letters. Last month, Caleb Benn, a 17-year-old Los Angeles high school student, released the $5 Mac desktop app that allowed users to upload photos to their Instagram accounts. Instagram had originally sent a letter to Benn on March 28, telling him that his app had violated the company’s Terms of Service. The letter stated that Benn had until March 30 to “fix things.” But after the deadline passed, the app was still available and Instagram had not taken any further action.

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Three lies about Google Glass – In general, the great masses of tech journalists and bloggers are a band of trendy and easily influenced conformists who sometimes care more about staying in tune with the echo chamber than about objective reality. The perfect example for this is how the tech press mob convinced everyone about three Google Glass lies: That Google Glass was an unacceptable invasion of privacy; that it was an overpriced elitist plaything; and that it was a failed and now dead project.

5 Charts That Show Why the iPad’s Fifth Birthday Is Bittersweet – See how crazy people were for the iPad back in 2010 — and how that’s changed

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Cop caught going ballistic on Uber driver apologizes on TV – Technically Incorrect: Detective Patrick Cherry, stripped of his badge for berating an Uber driver (in a YouTube video that went viral), tries to present his side of the story. A wise move?

Something to think about:

“Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back.”

–     Thomas Sowell

Today’s Free Downloads:

WinParrot – WinParrot allows you to record the mouse clicks and keystrokes of your recurring tasks and execute them whenever you choose. Great for saving time on common daily actions.

WinParrot can record and control any application on Windows. It can be used to automate your recurring tasks, load your data into your applications (Internet Explorer, Oracle Applications, SAP …), test the robustness of an application by simulating multiple users, conduct demonstrations or training of an application (by slowing the speed of play and schedule tasks (schedule the execution of macros).

WinParrot requires no installation and no administration right.

Start recording your tasks or your entries, WinParrot will replay them immediately without programming.

With a very simple language (very close to that of Excel) you can insert visual checkpoints, loops, conditions or data from Excel spreadsheets.

You can control the tolerance of an image recognition, shapes or texts, change the speed of typing or moving the mouse….

In order to avoid slowing down your computer WinParrot is optimized to use the least possible of memory and CPU.

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FileVoyager – FileVoyager is a freeware Orthodox file manager (OFM) for Microsoft Windows. OFM’s are file managers using two panels of disks browsers.

This dual pane layout makes very easy the transfer operations of files or folders between sources and destinations.

FileVoyager contains a large collection of tools and functionality.

Features:

Browsing of disks, folders (real or virtual), shares, archives and FTP/FTPS in one unified way

Browsing can be done in various modes (like report or thumbnail modes)

Allowing usual file operations (rename, copy, move, link, delete, recycle) in the containers listed above and even between them

Packing and unpacking of ZIP, 7Zip, GZip, BZip2, XZ, Tar and WIM formats (FileVoyager wraps 7-zip)

Unpacking of ARJ, CAB, XAR, Z, RAR, LZH, LZMA, ISO, WIM and many others (FileVoyager wraps 7-zip)

Playing of virtually any Audio or Video formats (FileVoyager relies at once on installed codecs, on WMP and on VLC)

Offering quick preview capability for any file format with:

Rendering of multimedia files (including M3U, PLS, ASX, WPL, MPCPL and XSPF playlist formats)

Syntax highlighting for virtually any source code language/format (Powered by Scintilla)

Rendering final view for formats supported by Preview Handlers (like Office files, PDF, pictures, …)

Support of many character encodings (SBCS including various ANSI implementations, UTF-8, UTF-16, EBCDIC)

Displaying in flat or hexadecimal for any format

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

After Obama’s cybersecurity order threatens Snowden fund, bitcoin donations spike – A new executive order signed into law this week by the president has one online community up in arms, after its loose wording effectively ruled out donating to Edward Snowden and others.

In a post on Reddit’s Bitcoin subreddit, members pledged to donate to the whistleblower’s relief fund, despite the wording of the new executive order suggesting that doing so was illegal.

In the new executive order, signed into law on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama declared cyber-threats aimed at the US a “national emergency.” The order threatens sanctions against those (including US residents) who engage in cyberattacks and espionage activities that threaten US interests at home and abroad.

The wording of the order specifically addresses any person whose “property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States.”

Redditors were quick to assume (likely correctly) that this includes Edward Snowden, who for more than a year-and-a-half has lived in Russia, evading US justice.

“This is almost as bad as the Patriot Act,” said the user who first posted the thread.

Department of Homeland Security seeking national license plate database – Early last year, it was revealed the Department of Homeland Security was seeking a Federal License Plate Reader Database, something that was later abandoned in light of privacy concerns. Now the DHS has changed its mind and is again pursuing such a national database, soliciting bids from those who could provide it with such a product. The reason for its return is the department’s belief it can now mitigate those aforementioned privacy worries. To prove it, DHS has published a report detailing the info.

In New Video, Congressman Explains Why His Fellow Lawmakers Couldn’t Be Trusted with NSA Oversight – Congressmen who asked about oversight of NSA mass surveillance and domestic spying in 2013 could have “compromise[d] security” and were denied the records they sought because of concerns they lacked formal government security clearance, a former member of the House Intelligence Committee says in a newly-released video.

The footage, from an August 29, 2013 town hall meeting, sheds new light on why lawmakers were denied key rulings and reports from the secret courts overseeing the National Security Agency — even as the Obama administration and intelligence officials claimed that all NSA programs were subject to strict congressional oversight and therefore could be held accountable.

Light the torches! NSA’s BFF Senator Feinstein calls for e-book burning – Feinstein (D-CA) did not say exactly how she plans to scrub The Anarchist Cookbook and Inspire magazine from every server, desktop and notebook on the planet, but none the less she wants both titles pulled from circulation.

The comments come after two women were arrested in New York City on charges of plotting terrorist attacks.

The duo reportedly had ties to the late former editor of the Al-Qaeda backed English-language Inspire, and were accused of seeking out other bomb-making guides in preparation for an attack.

Now Feinstein, a big fan of America’s surveillance apparatus, wants to make both Inspire and the 1969 Anarchist Cookbook illegal to make available online.

“We must remain vigilant against these types of attacks and place a high priority on tracking and interdicting such plots,” the fifth-term Senator said.

Pointing up   When will American politicians, like this stupid woman, start to realize that they do not control the Internet. As a Canadian, I take offense at the suggestion that this technology challenged woman should have any impact on what is available to me, or anyone else for that matter, on the Internet.

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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 – April 6, 2015

  1. Dave B.

    RE: Diagnose car problems with your smartphone or tablet; Many tech geeks overlook their cars as things they can mess with. These things can save some cash if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. Hell there’s tons of other stuff you can do. The factory NAV on my 2011 Dodge requires $150 a year to buy a DVD to keep it “current”, although each DVD you buy is a year old when they’re released. Some research and an outlay of $140 on a Garmin Nuvi with lifetime updates gets me 4 free updates a year that I can then transfer to my cars NAV system via a thumb drive to keep it current.