Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 10, 2015

Securing the web once and for all: The Let’s Encrypt Project;  New medical app provides Star Trek tricorder-like service;  Five desktop PCs that fit in your pocket;  Twitter for iOS now supports slow motion video uploads;  Smart Tech for Your Hotel Stay;  Should you Google an ex? Two ways to get Facebook Messenger on your desktop;  Dropbox vs. Carbonite: The difference between cloud-based storage and backup;  HBO available on Sling TV starting today;  Firefox helps you cover your assets with latest Tracking Protection feature;  Orange is the New Black: Season 3 trailer launches;  Here’s how IBM uses sensors and lasers to track the Masters;  9 fantastic movies now available for streaming;  Edward Snowden explains good passwords to John Oliver;  Dashlane (free);  European Facebook Privacy Lawsuit Heads To Court;  Microsoft still committed to fighting US Government.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Securing the web once and for all: The Let’s Encrypt Project – The Internet Security Research Group and its Let’s Encrypt project — a free, automated and open security certificate authority — wants to make the Internet securer than it is today.


Let’s Encrypt will make securing the web with basic SSL/TLS free and easy.

Don’t worry Facebook, you’re still down with the kids – Facebook may be regularly plagued with ominous predictions that teens with short attention spans have moved on to brighter social networks, but according to new research there’s still life in Zuckerberg’s site yet. The Pew Research Center prized teenagers away from their smartphones to ask them which social sites and apps they frequent, and while Facebook may have been branded passé by some, it’s still the most-used among the 13-17 demographic. That’s no small audience, either, with 24-percent of teenagers telling the research firm that they are “almost constantly” online.

Five desktop PCs that fit in your pocket: Intel Compute Stick, Google’s Chromebit and more – Stick PCs take the desktop computers of old and shrink them into pocket-sized gadgets. The market is hotting up, with upcoming offerings from Intel and Google. Here’s what’s around and in the wings.

New medical app provides Star Trek tricorder-like service – Learn about a new service called teleMED Assist which can connect you directly with medical staff for advice and assistance. It’s almost like a real-life version of Star Trek’s tricorder.


Should you google an ex? Depends on your motivation – Before you fall down the rabbit hole of tracking your ex’s life online, consult this flowchart to determine whether finding out everything about your former flame is the best idea.

Twitter for iOS now supports slow motion video uploads – Slow-motion videos are awesome. On iOS, it’s a native feature of the stock camera, and you can shoot in either 120fps or 240fps. Sharing those videos was a bit annoying, though. Slo-mo videos typically played back at regular speed, so your dog eating peanut butter was a lot less funny (but still hilarious). Via Twitter, you can now share those slow motion videos and they’ll be seen as intended. Unfortunately for Android, this is another Twitter feature that is iOS-only, at least for now.

Two ways to get Facebook Messenger on your desktop – Desktop and laptops users can access their Facebook messages without the rest of Facebook at, and Mac users can opt for a standalone app.

Boost iPhone 6 Battery, Storage With Mophie Space Pack – Choose a Space Pack with 32, 64, or 128GB of built-in storage; you use the accompanying Space application to transfer files back and forth between the supplemental storage and your actual device. The iPhone 6 (black or gold) and 6 Plus (black) Space Packs cost $149.95 (32GB), $199.95 (64GB), or $299.95 (128GB). The iPad mini version (black) will set you back $199.95, $299.95, or $399.95 for the same storage sizes. The Space Pack for iPhone 5 and 5s, released last year, is also still available for $149.95 (16GB), $179.95 (32GB), or $249.95 (64GB), and comes in black, white, blue, red, or gold.


Smart Tech for Your Hotel Stay – Traveling can disrupt your daily routine, but smart technology and some clever tips can help minimize those disruptions. In this video – brought to you by Fairfield Inn & Suites – business traveler and social media expert Amber Mac shares some of her favorite “hacks” for making hotel stays as productive as possible.

Dropbox vs. Carbonite: The difference between cloud-based storage and backup – You can use a cloud storage and syncing service like Dropbox or Google Drive for backup, but you have to understand the limitations.

Bing Image Search updated, more features added – Microsoft’s Bing engine may not be the most popular search engine but the company’s efforts and commitment make it a worthy alternative to Google. Recently, Bing’s image search feature has received some subtle layout improvements, but also some very useful features that further enhance the quality of search results.


Dropbox Teams With Microsoft To Allow Anyone To Edit Documents Online – Microsoft and Dropbox are expanding their already close partnership today with the reveal of a new integration that will now allow consumers to edit their Microsoft Office files, including Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents, in Dropbox using Office Online via the web. Previously, many of these edits would have taken place using Microsoft Office’s desktop applications – which also meant that you would have to be at a computer where the software was installed. The online option makes the service more flexible, as you can edit your files from any computer, including a borrowed machine or a shared computer, like a business center’s kiosk PC, for example.

Here’s how IBM uses sensors and lasers to track the Masters – Summary:Using internet-connected devices to capture where golf balls are headed, users can now visualize exactly how a golf player tracked the course from their smartphones and tablets.


A look at IBM’s new golf-ball tracking technology (Image: IBM/

PC shipments hit a six-year low as XP upgrades slow down – A slowdown in Windows XP upgrades and the wait for Windows 10 sent worldwide PC shipments tumbling to a six-year low in the first quarter this year, according to IDC. Worldwide PC shipments totaled 68.5 million units during the first quarter, declining by 6.7 percent compared with the same quarter the previous year, IDC said Thursday. That is the lowest volume of first-quarter PC shipments since 2009, IDC said.


Facebook says it tracked people who didn’t use Facebook because of ‘a bug’ – Facebook today published a blog post responding to an independent report criticizing the company’s privacy policies, but the responses aren’t likely to mollify privacy hawks. The report, from the independent Belgian Privacy Commission, made several accusations about Facebook, suggesting the company had made it impossible for some users to truly opt out of tracking, or tracked users who had never even used Facebook — essentially, the report argues, keeping consumers from making their own decisions about their data. The problems identified could have implications for how the company operates in the EU, but Facebook’s responses seem mostly to be a matter of semantics.

Firefox helps you cover your assets with latest Tracking Protection feature – Did you know that not all websites honor Do Not Track? If privacy while browsing is at the top of your priority list, Jack Wallen offers up a Firefox tip that just might allow you to sigh a breath of private air. Did you know that even when browsing in Incognito Mode (regardless of browser), some websites can still collect data from you? Cookies, metadata… if a website really wants your information, they’ll go to all means to get it. Thankfully, browsers like Firefox are doing everything they can to ensure users can experience as much privacy as possible while browsing. In the latest release of Firefox, there’s a new feature called Tracking Protection.

Dashlane’s “Inbox Scan” Tool Uncovers The Passwords You’ve Saved In Your Email – Even if you create and use secure passwords with your various online sites, there are still a number of ways they can leak out. One area that’s often overlooked, according to password manager and digital wallet provider Dashlane, is email. That is, people often share their login credentials and plain-text passwords along with other sensitive data via email messages. That means if hackers get into your inbox, they can quickly gain the keys to a wide range of your accounts. And if you tend to re-use passwords, the damage could be even worse. That’s why Dashlane this week rolled out a new tool called Inbox Scan which will automatically search your email inbox for vulnerable information, including passwords you’ve shared. The program worked well for me on Gmail, but crashed on my Hotmail, so your mileage may vary, as they say. Still, given that Inbox Scan is an entirely free tool and is offering some fairly critical information you can and should take action upon, it’s hard not to recommend at least trying it out. The scan itself only takes a few minutes, depending on the size of your inbox, so it’s something you could do at any time.


French TV network blames “an Islamist group” for 11-station blackout – On Wednesday night, TV5Monde, a multi-station television network headquartered in Paris, France, saw 11 of its TV stations taken off the air for hours around the same time that it suffered an internal IT outage alongside a social media and website takeover. As of press time, the attack has left its broadcast capabilities hobbled.


Police operation disrupts Beebone botnet used for malware distribution – Europol, in collaboration with Dutch authorities, the U.S. FBI and private security companies, have seized the domain names used to control a botnet called Beebone. The police action Wednesday included a so-called botnet sinkholing operation that involved redirecting domains used by the botnet’s command-and-control servers to a server controlled by security companies. Such an action prevents attackers from controlling the botnet and also gives authorities a chance to identify victims whose computers are now connecting to the sinkhole server.

Company News:

US blocks Intel from selling Xeon chips to Chinese supercomputer projects – In February, four supercomputing institutions in China were placed on a U.S. government list that effectively bans them from receiving certain U.S. Exports. The four institutions, which include China’s National University of Defense Technology, have been involved in building Tianhe-2, the world’s fastest supercomputer, and Tianhe-1A. The two supercomputers have been allegedly used for ”nuclear explosive activities,” according to a notice posted by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Amazon suing sites that submit fake product reviews – If you’re like many people (myself included), you look to Amazon for product reviews, whether you buy there or not. If you’re like many people (I’m guilty, too), you just buy via Amazon and have the product shipped right to your door. Sometimes, reviews on Amazon are bogus. Sometimes, those reviews are even the result of review factories that pay people to flop out fake reviews to build a product up. Now, Amazon is taking umbrage with those entities, and is filing a lawsuit against one known purveyor of fake reviews.

Maven Launches The First Telemedicine Platform Made For Women With $2.2 Million In Seed – Maven, a telemedicine app that caters to the healthcare needs of women, launched out of beta today with $2.2 million in seed funding. Investors include Great Oaks Venture Capital, BoxGroup, F Cubed, and several angels including WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, former Gilt Groupe and AOL exec Susan Lyne, and Gerson founder Thomas Lehrman. Like other telemedicine platforms such as Doctor On Demand and HealthTap, Maven allows those on the app to ask questions, browse health discussions, or book a video appointment with a health practitioner. The key difference is that they don’t specifically focus on women’s health.


Reddit CEO supports gender equality by eliminating salary negotiations – In order to support gender equality, Reddit CEO Ellen Pao recently stated that the company will no longer allow potential employees to negotiate their salary or benefits with the organization.

Uber adds auto rickshaws in India, accepts cash for first time – New Delhi has received a lot of Uber attention in recent months, and not only over the rape allegations that surfaced in December. The ridesharing service has introduced some new safety measures in light of that incident in the region, and now it has announced another service for the region: auto rickshaws. The launch of this service will bring a new first for the platform, as well, in the form of cash payments, eschewing its app-based mobile payment system used with its other services.


LinkedIn buys training site, enters professional development market – LinkedIn is acquiring online learning company for US$1.5 billion in cash and stock, the social networking site announced Thursday. offers professional development courses on design, creative and business topics. Some of the courses, for example, teach how to write HTML, negotiate better, or use design software like Photoshop. The site was launched by Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin in 1995 as a way to teach Web publishing and design.

Games and Entertainment:

HBO available on Sling TV starting today – HBO can be yours on Sling TV starting today if you’re willing to pay the extra $15 fee each month. Add that on top of Sling’s $20 subscription price and you’ll get both the linear, live HBO channel plus a video-on-demand section that’s the same sort of thing cable providers offer. Sling says that HBO is available across all devices that support the internet TV service today; those include Roku, Xbox One, Fire TV, iOS, Android, PC, and Mac.

Transformers: Battle Tactics mobile game update brings first event – Transformers: Battle Tactics is a mobile game allowing those on Android and iOS to play as Decepticons and Autobots, and earlier this week both apps received an update. Most notable with the update came support for Live Events, and so it makes sense that this would be the time for its maker, DeNA, to launch its first in-game event for the title. The in-game event kicked off today and will run to next week, bringing an assortment of goodies with it.


Orange is the New Black: Season 3 trailer launches – Netflix has released a trailer giving us a glimpse of Orange is the New Black’s upcoming third season. The next season will be arriving on June 12, providing some summer entertainment during a season when fresh television content is hard to come by, and doing so in the same way the past two seasons have arrived: in a single big batch, facilitating those binge watching weekends. We’ve the rest of the details, as well as the trailer, after the jump!


Reissue of Intellivision and Colecovision consoles aim for retro gamers – Back in the 80s, there were a few video game systems on the market that kids around the country wanted to have in their homes. The most popular of those was the Atari and the Nintendo. There were some lesser-known game consoles that were popular and has announced that it is bringing a couple of those old school game consoles back to the masses.


Microsoft readying new “Age of Empires II: HD Edition” expansion in 2015 – It’s been a little over two years since Microsoft released “Age Of Empires II” in HD. While the title has previously received an expansion, Microsoft will be releasing an all-new original expansion for the game sometime in 2015. For those that are too young to remember, “Age of Empires” was initially released in 1997 by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft Studios. While the first game received fairly good reviews, the title that is undoubtedly considered the gem of the series is “Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings”.


Variations on violence: 9 fantastic movies now available for streaming – This week’s selection of movies available for streaming features violence of one kind or another, ranging from epic battles to the struggle of one man’s obsession. The movies run from fast-paced and light-hearted to brutal and realistic, slow-paced and thoughtful, to downright frightening. In one case, there is real-life violence as man ventures a little too far into the wild. But to kick it all off, we have none other than Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski, who believes that “this aggression will not stand.” Enjoy!

Off Topic (Sort of):

DARPA’s latest program will create evolving Skynet-like software – DARPA has some new plans up its sleeve, and they sound uncomfortably similar to SKYNET. Building Resource Adaptive Software Systems (BRASS) is the program, and it involves building software systems able to both survive for more than a century and adapt as needed to facilitate that — essentially, DARPA wants to create software able to recognize changes in a related ecosystem and “safely and dynamically incorporate optimized, tailored algorithms and implementations” in response.

Edward Snowden explains good passwords to John Oliver (with help of Margaret Thatcher) –  In a new outtake of their now famous meeting in Moscow, Edward Snowden uses a password example that features Margaret Thatcher’s legendary sexiness to show what a good password looks like.


The FTC is worried about algorithmic transparency, and you should be too – It’s no secret that algorithms power much of the technology we interact with every day, whether it’s to search for information on Google or to browse through a Facebook news feed. What’s less widely known is that algorithms also play a role when we apply for a loan, for example, or receive a special marketing offer. Algorithms are practically everywhere we are today, shaping what we see, what we believe and, to an increasing extent, what our futures hold. Is that a good thing? The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, like many others, isn’t so sure.

Index ranks Canada as sixth most socially advanced country – Canada sits in 6th place of 133 countries – the highest of any G7 nation – in an annual “social progress index” to be released Thursday. The index, whose methodology was developed by Harvard economics professor Michael Porter, is meant to complement the traditional measure of gross domestic product in assessing progress. It tracks 52 indicators – from crime levels to literacy rates and gender equality – that reflect whether a country is providing essential needs to its citizens and opportunities for people to improve their lot in society.


The first woman CEO to appear in a Google Images search is … CEO Barbie – The Google Images results reflect a male-dominated corporate culture. Doing a search at the site for “CEO” reveals just one female face in the top results: CEO Barbie. The doll (which may not even be a real Barbie product) appears way down in the results, under a sea of male, mostly white faces. It’s not really the fault of Google, whose algorithms in many ways reflect the pervasive culture: Most of the top images labeled CEO at popular sites apparently are men. But it’s an indication of how under-represented woman are at the top of the corporate ladder.

Pepper-spraying drones will be used on Indian protesters – Indian police will start using pepper-spraying drones to control unruly crowds of protesters. Officials described the drones as a “non-lethal but very effective” method of “mob control.” The city’s police force has bought five of the paper-spraying drones at a cost of around 600,000 rupees ($9,650), with plans for them to go airborne by the end of April. The unmanned aircraft can be flown within a one-kilometer radius of their operator and carry two kilograms of pepper onboard. They are also equipped with high-resolution cameras to surveil their targets.

Something to think about:

“Summer afternoon – Summer afternoon… the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

–     Henry James

Today’s Free Downloads:

Dashlane – Keeping track of passwords and making them secure is startlingly simple with Dashlane’s free password manager. Automatically import your passwords from Chrome or any other browser into your secure password vault. Save any missing passwords as you browse. Make a new password right within your browser. Get automatic alerts when websites get breached.

And with our auto-login, you will never have to type any password on any of your devices again. It’s that simple.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

UK government’s spying practices challenged at European human rights court – The U.K. government’s mass surveillance practices will be challenged at the European Court of Human Rights.

Human rights and civil liberties organizations Amnesty International, Liberty and Privacy International have filed a joint application with the court, they announced on Friday.

The groups assert that U.K domestic law governing the U.K. intelligence agencies’ interception of communications and its intelligence sharing with the U.S., are in breach of fundamental human rights to privacy, freedom of expression and non-discrimination guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights. The challenge is based on documents disclosed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden revealing mass surveillance practices by intelligence agencies.

The suit filed with the ECHR is a response to a December ruling of the U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal which found that mass surveillance of Internet traffic by tapping fiber optic cables going in and out of the U.K. and intelligence sharing between the U.S. and the U.K. was lawful in principle and did not violate human rights.

The schemes were found to be legal because the government disclosed parts of secret policies used to govern these surveillance programs. As they were made public, the court found that the surveillance was compliant with human rights. In a follow-up ruling in February this year though, the tribunal ruled that the sharing of mass surveillance data between U.S. and U.K. intelligence services was unlawful before December 2014, as the policies governing these processes were secret.

European Facebook Privacy Lawsuit Heads To Court In Vienna – The class action was initiated by Europe vs Facebook privacy campaigner and lawyer, Max Schrems, who has been pricking Facebook’s data protection conscious for years — including forcing the social network to offer a global user vote on proposed policy changes back in 2012.

Europe vs Facebook’s latest legal initiative started last year, in August, with an invitation for participants to join in the civil action. The suit quickly attracted 25,000 sign ups, with a further 50,000 registered to assign their claims if the suit ended up being able to accommodate greater numbers.

The lawsuit targets the following “unlawful acts” on the part of Facebook, as the group sees it:

Data use policy which is invalid under EU law

The absence of effective consent to many types of data use

Support of the NSA’s ‘PRISM’ surveillance programme

Tracking of Internet users on external websites (e.g. through ‘Like buttons’)

Monitoring and analysis of users through ‘big data’ systems

Unlawful introduction of ‘Graph Search’

Unauthorised passing on of user data to external applications

Microsoft still commited to fighting US Government attempt to access overseas data – For the last year Microsoft has been fighting a legal battle over the right of the United States government to issue warrants for data stored in its overseas datacenters, specifically the company’s datacenter in Dublin, Ireland. As of right now Microsoft has lost every major case in this contest, so the decision to keep fighting on behalf of their users is admirable.

The US Government claims that because Microsoft is a corporation based in the US, the Department of Justice has jurisdiction to issue subpoenas and warrants for data hosted by Microsoft, regardless of where the bits themselves physically reside. Microsoft argues otherwise, that as an international company with holdings all over the world the data it stores in Ireland, or other countries, should be subject to those nations laws instead of US law.

This is important, as the eventual outcome of this case will determine how easy it is for the US government to gain access to data stored by American corporations, currently a hot topic around the world. In this case, Microsoft is fighting on behalf of all its international customers who rightly believe they are outside the legal jurisdiction of the US.

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