Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 8, 2015

Many connected-home devices lack robust security features;  Turn old movies and video games into cash;  The 13 Best Free Smartphones You Can Buy;  Streamline keyboard shortcuts with Sticky Keys;  How to scan and archive your old printed photos;  How tough is your tech?  Five photo editors that won’t break your budget;  How to Make Typing On Your iPhone Way Easier;  The rise of sextortion;  Google ad reseller Engage Lab spreads large malvertising campaign;  Netflix starts recommending specific smart TV sets;  Verizon invests $100 million in struggling Detroit;  A new Deus Ex is coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC;  The 10 Most-Pirated Movies Last Week;  Hands-On With The New Roku 3;  You’re using your fridge wrong (pictures);  Edward Snowden just helped launch a major US presidential campaign.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Many connected-home devices lack robust security features, security firm claims – According to a report released this morning by security provider Veracode, many of the Internet of Things devices that consumers are buying for their increasingly connected homes are vulnerable to hacker exploits. While Veracode looked at different devices and vulnerabilities, its overall findings mirror those by Synack, which we reported on last month. According to the Veracode report, for example, a vulnerability in the Ubi voice-controlled Internet appliance could enable criminals to monitor the ambient noise or light in a room to determine whether someone is home or away. Similarly, a weakness in the Chamberlain MyQ Garage garage door opener could alert thieves to a door’s opening and closing, again giving a clue to good times to break in.

Spring cleaning: Turn old movies and video games into cash – Over the years it’s easy to accumulate a stack of video games and movies. Eventually, games you used to love are thrown to the side after you beat the big boss for the millionth time. And movies lose their luster once you’ve memorized the entire flick, line-by-line. While DVDs make for fun drink coasters and game cases make for good door stops, there’s a better use for all involved. Take your movies and games and turn them into money.

The 13 Best Free Smartphones You Can Buy – Walk into any AT&T or Verizon store, and you’ll see a shelf full of $0 phones, complete with cheap knock-offs, devices that can’t connect to the Internet, and old handsets from 2012. Make no mistake: when it comes to free phones, you usually get what you pay for. Here and there, however, you can find a great phone for $0 down.

How to scan and archive your old printed photos – Whether you’re looking to reduce clutter or share fond memories online, here are four methods for digitizing your print photo collection.

Streamline keyboard shortcuts even more with Sticky Keys – I love keyboard shortcuts. They are incredibly useful, but sometimes they can be a little impractical. Especially when a key combo is particularly far apart on the keyboard (Alt + PrtScr I’m looking at you). That’s why it’s handy to know about a Windows feature called Sticky Keys that lets you activate important keys including Alt, Ctrl, Shift, and the Windows logo key with a single press. It’s like Caps Lock for cut and paste. We’ve talked about Sticky Keys before, but here’s a little more detailed look at this handy feature.

How tough is your tech? – Water-resistant doesn’t mean waterproof. Here’s how to find out just how rugged your smartphones, tablets, activity trackers and smartwatches really are.

‘Ride’ new carpooling app hits iTunes today – Carpools aren’t just for soccer moms anymore. The latest ridesharing service, Ride allows those with a long commute, more than 30 minutes, to participate in efficiently arranged van pools. It has an app and mobile interface, like Uber, but its similarities end there. Ride drivers are all volunteers instead of paid contractors. The service hope to save you time and money. Instead of paying for tolls, parking, and wear and tear on your vehicle, Ride supplies a regularly maintained van to transport people who live or work in the same area.

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The versatile Flir FX home security camera delivers a slick forensic feature – One of the most common problems with security cameras is sorting through all the video they capture in order to find the information that’s most important. Flir’s solution, dubbed RapidRecap, enables you to watch an entire day’s worth of video in just a few minutes. It combines dozens of time-stamped motion events into a single clip. A box overlaid on each person displays the exact time their movement was captured. This is much easier to watch than to explain; fortunately, Flir has embedded a host of sample videos on this page of its website.

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Instagram adds ‘Fade’ and ‘Color’ tools – There’s no shortage of options when it comes to editing photos on your phone these days. There are apps with curated styles (like VSCO Cam), slick and simple ones (Darkroom), and feature-rich options (Enlight). Even tried-and-true desktop photo editing applications like Photoshop and Lightroom have mobile apps. Instagram, which accelerated the popularity of mobile photography a few years ago, has found itself playing a bit of catch-up, and in December it offered its first new filters in two years. Today, the app adds two new editing tools: “Fade” and “Color.”

Five versatile photo editors that won’t break your budget – When you need to post images, you’ll probably want to edit them — and you may not want to shell out the coin for the likes of Photoshop. But what photo editing software can you add to your toolbox without have to spend much (or any) of your budget? Luckily, there are plenty of options. Here are my five favorite affordable photo editors.

Everything You Need to Know About Snapchat’s New Emoji Feature – The new feature replaces the public ‘Best Friends’ list, which was ditched last year after privacy concerns. Previously, anyone in a user’s contact list could see who they sent the most snaps to. But Friends Emojis are totally private and only the user can see them. To break it down, there are six possible emojis that will appear next to the six people you snap with the most, including a gold heart next to your absolute BF. You’ll see a smirk if you are their BF but they are not yours. Here are others explained:

Twitter ‘Quote Tweet’ Update Gives You More to Work With – Good news, Twitter users. The micro-blogging service is revamping its quote tweet function. Instead of quoting tweets with straight text or a direct link, Twitter will now embed the actual tweet inside yours and let you add an extra comment. On the Web, all you have to do is click the retweet button as you normally would, and you’ll see an option to “Add a comment” where you can include your thoughts before posting. On iOS, click the retweet button, select “Quote Tweet, add your comment, and press the Retweet button.

How to Make Typing On Your iPhone Way Easier – While iOS 8 packs a pretty good predictive text function that allows you to select from oft-used words via a bar over the keyboard, there are some great third party apps that can help facilitate texting and typing away on your iPhone.

Microsoft’s ‘Redstone’: An update to Windows 10 due in 2016 – There’s a new Windows codename on the roadmap: “Redstone.” Brad Sams at Neowin unearthed the existence of the Redstone codename on April 7, calling it the “next Windows update coming in 2016.” According to my sources, he’s right. Here’s how to think about Redstone, based on what I’m hearing.

Security:

Google ad reseller Engage Lab spreads large malvertising campaign: Report – Cybersecurity firm Fox IT has observed a virulent malvertising campaign stemming from Google ad reseller Engagelab.com and all advertisement services resold through its site. The compromised website is redirecting all traffic to an outside domain that ultimately redirects to a Nuclear Exploit Kit targeting vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash, Oracle Java and Microsoft Silverlight software. The security firm observed the first redirect on Tuesday and subsequently detected a significant amount of infections and infection attempts from the exploit kit.

The rise of sextortion: Nude selfies are fun until someone gets blackmailed – You don’t have to be a celebrity to get nailed by a nude photo. According to a report by Trend Micro, sextortion—the use of compromising photos or videos to extract money from victims—is on the rise. According to the Trend Micro report, crime rings are setting up fake Facebook accounts and posing as flirtatious, available women. They invite victims to join a Skype video-chat for cybersex and record the session without the victim’s knowledge. The video is then used to blackmail the victim into paying a ransom—typically about $1,000—or risk having the explicit content made public on YouTube.

Can’t patch this: Mozilla pulls Firefox encryption feature after just a week – Mozilla has pulled Firefox 37’s opportunistic encryption feature after less than a week when it learned that tech designed to enhance security actually broke SSL certificate validation. A simple patch wouldn’t do the trick, so Mozilla opted to release an update, Firefox 37.0.1, that removed opportunistic encryption. Going into reverse ferret mode and stripping out technology that evidently wasn’t ready for prime time is a little embarrassing for Mozilla even though this is the responsible action to take in the circumstances. Mozilla correctly labels Firefox 37.0.1 as a critical update.

HP tells cybersecurity customers to focus on people and processes – To protect themselves against cyberattacks, organizations should focus more on training their employees and improving their internal processes instead of buying new technology, according to one tech vendor. Yet, businesses and government agencies often focus on the next “silver bullet” product, unaware that most cybersecurity problems stem from flawed procedures and human error, said Art Gilliland, senior vice president and general manager for Hewlett-Packard’s software enterprise security products. “This is hard for a product guy to say out loud to an audience, but invest in your people and process,” Gilliland said at HP’s Software Government Summit in Washington, D.C. “The first thing that always gets negotiated out of every [security software] contract is the training and the services.”

Company News:

Netflix starts recommending specific smart TV sets – If you’re in the market for a new smart TV, Netflix would like to give you some buying advice. The company has just launched a “Netflix Recommended TV” program, throwing its weight behind a handful of televisions that work well with Netflix’s streaming video service. The first TVs in the program areLG’s 4K UHD TVs with webOS 2.0, Sony’s Android TVs, and Roku TVs from HiSense, TCL, and Insignia.

Microsoft reveals plan to hire autistic employees – Microsoft has revealed a pilot program for hiring people with autism, with information about it having been released late last week in honor of World Autism Awareness Day. The program is still in its early days at this point, but is being done in conjunction with Specialisterne, and will result in autistic individuals being offered full-time employment in various positions at the company’s Redmond, Washington campus.

Bitcoin Foundation hit hard by big bitcoin losses – The Bitcoin Foundation, formed in 2012 to promote the virtual currency, has rejected claims by a board member that it’s bankrupt but has acknowledged significant financial problems—ironically as a result of a big drop in the value of its bitcoin holdings. On Tuesday its board of directors rejected claims made a day earlier by board member Olivier Janssens that it was “effectively bankrupt,” but said the bitcoin roller coaster has forced it to drastically cut back its operations.

Verizon invests $100 million in struggling Detroit – Detroit is in bad shape. After the most recent economic issues our country experienced, the bottom fell out of the Motor City; businesses left, and citizens followed. The city we knew is now a shell of itself, trying to rebuild, but at least one company is unafraid of the challenge. Today, Verizon is announcing they’re investing $100 million in Detroit, which will serve to enhance the city’s wireless experience throughout the Metro area. With the placement of 150 ‘small cells’ in Detroit, Verizon is future-proofing a potentially booming area.

Uber asks US court to toss out alleged rape case from India – The car-hailing service says a US-based company cannot be sued in a “dispute involving an alleged wrong committed by one Indian citizen against another Indian citizen, in India.”

Global semiconductor market hit $340 billion in 2014: Gartner – Worldwide semiconductor market revenue hit $340.3 billion in 2014, increasing by 7.9 percent over the previous year’s tally of $315.4 billion, according to Gartner. The information technology research firm’s latest report shows that the world’s top 25 semiconductor vendors’ combined revenue increase outstripped the global total, seeing an 11.7 percent boost in revenue growth during the year. The top 25 vendors in the industry, including Intel, Samsung, and Qualcomm, made up 72.4 percent of the total market revenue — an increase on the 69.9 percent of the market for which they accounted in 2013.

Games and Entertainment:

This Character’s Costume Was Too Sexy for ‘Final Fantasy’ – Usually, it’s female role-playing game characters who wear the impractical armor. They’ll prance around in metal bikinis, baring midriff and cleavage as they swing a battle axe. Male heroes, meanwhile, wear full plate armor, perhaps showing a little skin around the eyes through the slit in their helmets. If you want an idea of how widespread the practice is, just check out the before and after images on the Repair Her Armor Tumblr, which is dedicated to fixing sexy outfits for video game and comic book characters (Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain’s character The Quiet is a great example).

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Image: Square Enix

A new Deus Ex is coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC – Square Enix has just revealed Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the first major release in the cyberpunk action series since 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The news comes via a cover reveal for the latest issue of Game Informer. The game is set two years after Human Revolution, and will once again star Adam Jensen as the leading character. According to Game Informer, Mankind Divided will feature not only new gameplay twists including new augmentations to play around with, but also a more open-ended structure to give you more freedom to solve challenges. Aside from that, little has been announced so far. The game is coming to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, though no release date has been announced.

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‘Dead or Alive 5’ Warned Players Not to Make Nude Mods, So They Made Nude Mods – Clearly, modders were not dissuaded by Koei Tecmo producer Yosuke Hayashi, who told MCV in an interview: “We would like to ask PC users to play our game in good moral and manner. Otherwise, we won’t be able to release a title for PC again.” Are we now to assume that Koei Tecmo will not release another game on PC ever again? I doubt it, or at least it won’t be because of the nude mods. Also, let this GIF serve as a reminder that the difference between nudity and no nudity seems like splitting hairs considering the fact that what you see here is Koei Tecmo-approved content that is already in the game:

Credit: Steam user [KOR] Hong-Gil-Dong

Hands-On With The New Roku 3 – Today we got our first chance to sit down with the new Roku 3 to put it through its paces. As you can see in the video, the new hardware driving the box has gotten a noticeable bump in performance. It’s a vastly superior experience if you’re moving up from an older Roku or a competitor whose hardware hasn’t gotten an upgrade in a few years (looking at you, Apple TV).

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The Witcher 3 has 2 DLC packs that add 30 hours of gameplay – The quality of the DLC packs that appear for games varies wildly, from the genuinely worthwhile right down to “this should have shipped with the original game” features. The DLC packs just announced for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt definitely fall into the former category, in fact, they are promising to add a whole new game’s worth of content. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is set for release on May 19 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, and developer CD Projekt Red is now finishing up work on the main game and turning its attention to expansion packs. Two such packs are planned: Hearts of Stone arriving October 2015, and Blood and Wine scheduled to appear at some point in the first quarter of 2016. These are on top of the 16 free DLC extras every player will receive after the game launches.

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The 10 Most-Pirated Movies Last Week – Before I discuss the week’s most-pirated movies, however, allow me to state that PCMag doesn’t condone piracy in any way, shape, or form. Our mission is a simple and pure one—to inform you about what’s happening in the online digital media world. Besides, tracking stolen movies is a way to gauge a movie’s popularity beyond ticket sales. Now that the disclaimer’s out of the way, let’s discuss pirated movies!

Off Topic (Sort of):

NASA, IBM Team For Worldwide Space App Hackathon – What happens when NASA gets together with IBM’s Bluemix cloud services and sponsors a worldwide hackathon? They hope to challenge participants to build apps that help solve issues around space exploration and earthly problems too. The ambitious event, called The Space App Challenge, is taking place this weekend simultaneously in 162 countries involving 136 cities and 10,000 participants, who will be attacking a range of problems in categories such as ‘Print Your Own Space Food’, ‘Robots, Robots, Robots’ and ‘Clean Water Mapping.’ Main themes include Outer Space, Earth, Humans and Robotics and participants could include developers, scientists, students, entrepreneurs and educators.

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This is how you would sound if email interactions were acted out in real life – Ever wonder what it would be like if you experienced “Email in Real Life”? A comedy duo has done just this in their latest video, reenacting common email faux pas in real life.

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Whistleblowers claim Russia has a propaganda “troll house” – What’s more frightening and more destructive than an Internet troll? Why, a house full of them! That is exactly what Russia alleged has and it is a literal one. Two former employees of this “troll house” have come out to reveal some rather worrying details about this secret business that might actually be booming in the dark. Their testimonies add to the growing body of testimonies and speculation regarding Russia’s more than active yet completely under the radar activities to spread its ideology and world views, especially against its enemies and the West.

Pointing up  What a bullshit article – the entire World – individuals, companies, governments – employ trolls to influence public opinion. From Obama on down, all politicians use trolls to undercut negative opinion/fact. I have to wonder if this “journalist” has every bothered to follow a comment thread in a newspaper.

In this piece, mainstream media (lying bastards that they are), seem intent on shifting the focus away from the criminal behaviour of Obama and friends, and painting any target of opportunity as a data threat. Why,the Russians might even break into your private steamy video stream – just for a few laughs, you understand. Yeah, Russian trolls should be on your radar as a threat to your human dignity. Not!

You’re using your fridge wrong (pictures) – How much thought do you put into your refrigerator? If your food isn’t keeping as long as you’d like, perhaps not enough. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to start using your fridge more intelligently, and the reward for doing so is fresher, better-tasting food. Click through for some handy tips to get you started.

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Australia: Don’t panic: A hitchhiker’s guide to iiNet-Dallas Buyers Club ruling – It will likely be a while yet before Australians who allegedly downloaded Dallas Buyers Club over peer-to-peer services will get a letter in the mail, and even longer before any potential damages will be paid.

Why Do We Need Intel’s Compute Stick? – What do you do with a PC on a stick? I don’t know, but I think we’re about to find out really soon. Intel’s Compute Stick goes on pre-order today, delivering a full Windows 8.1-compatible PC on an HDMI stick for $150. It has an Intel processor, 32GB of storage, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and a USB port, and it can just plug into any screen and turn it into a PC. Cool, right? It’s part of a new revolution in computing, which is turning every screen into a computer. We’re just not sure why.

Something to think about:

“The wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it’s just sort of a tired feeling.”

–     Paula Poundstone

Today’s Free Downloads:

Chromium 44.0.2360.0 – Chromium is the open source web browser project from which Google Chrome draws its source code. It was designed in order to provide for all users a safer, faster, and more stable way to experience the web.

Chromium is really a tabbed window manager or shell for the web rather than a browser application. The project has avoided putting unnecessary things into the User Interface in an attempt to make a more intuitive, friendly user experience.

The tab is the equivalent of a desktop application’s title bar; the frame containing the tabs is a convenient mechanism for managing groups of those applications. In future, there may be other tab types that do not host the normal browser toolbar.

Chromium is a very fast and effective browser that uses search as it’s primary form of navigation. This simplifies the way you access personal content and the web.It also offers enhanced functionality through HTML 5, offline modes, background processing, notifications, and more.

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PrivaZer – When you use your PC (at home or working at your office), go on the Internet, watch a video, download, copy/remove files on your PC, install/uninstall or use software, etc., you always leave sensitive traces which:

make your PC slower and cluttered

reduces free space available 

puts you at risk for a bad consequence: what you have done could be easily recovered by analyzing your PC with an expert recovery software or with more advanced techniques.

We decided to develop a new type of cleaning tool to give you the peace of mind that once your data is gone, it is gone for good.

PrivaZer allows you to:

See exactly what can still be recovered of your past activities on your PC at home or at work

Clean in-depth unwanted traces of what you’ve done watched, downloaded, deleted, etc. and prevent recovery

Master your security & freedom. Free up disk space. Keep your PC fit and secure!!!

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Phone Surveillance Revelation Should Prompt Reassessment Of NSA Spying – Does evidence of a decades-old surveillance program throw out the case many public officials have made for the modern surveillance state?

Since Edward Snowden first leaked documents about secret National Security Agency (NSA) programs, government officials have defended them in the name of September 11 and national security. Again and again, we heard that these programs were built in the wake of that tragic day to “connect the dots” so no event like that would ever occur again. They addressed issues of  national security, not day-to-day policing.

But a new report from USA TODAY suggests that the precursor of this program was implemented almost a decade earlier — fighting drug cartels, not terrorism.

The report says the United States began keeping secret records of billions of Americans’ calls to international numbers in 1992. The program, which the Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration led, spanned more than two decades and affected calls to as many as 116 countries, even if the callers were not suspects in crimes.

Edward Snowden just helped launch a major US presidential campaign – Rand Paul announced his candidacy for president today, and with him — at least in spirit — was a man many people in Paul’s party consider a traitor: Edward Snowden. Paul and others in Congress with similar libertarian sympathies have been railing against the NSA for a while, but it’s pretty remarkable to see a presidential campaign from a major candidate begin with a nod to the information that Snowden provided to the public about the US government’s massive surveillance programs.

Echoing comments he made at CPAC 2015, Paul said today during his announcement that “phone records of law abiding citizens are none of [the government’s] damn business.” He also pledged that “as president, on day one, I will immediately end this unconstitutional surveillance.”

France accused of tabling ‘Patriot Act’ style surveillance law – A bill (“Projet de Loi Relatif au Renseignement”) – which was drawn up before the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Casher supermarket attacks – is due to go before the National Assembly next week under an accelerated legislative procedure that dispenses with the need for a second reading.

However, international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) argues that the measures are packed full of problematic clauses.

Most notably, there is a lack of meaningful judicial oversight; requirements for private service providers to monitor and analyze user data (and report suspicious patterns); prolonged retention periods for some captured data; and little public transparency.

The charity lambastes the bill as a French version of the much criticised US Patriot Act.

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