Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 13, 2015

Real talk: Deciphering the wireless marketing hype;  How to use your favorite mobile messaging service on your PC;  Hands on with Office Online and Dropbox;  Hello brings biometric security to Windows 10;  6 smart LED bulbs tested: We name the best and brightest;  How to install multiple SIM cards into an iPhone 6;  Microsoft Office Remote comes to Android;  How to select multiple languages for Google voice search;  Sprint to offer free international data roaming;  Fancy a wire-free laptop? Intel just showed one;  The 15 best Android games to play right now;  Facebook on tracking accusations: report gets it “wrong multiple times”;  9 ways smartphones are making our lives better;  Tech firms threaten exodus over French mass surveillance plans;  Graphic New Veteran-Sponsored Ads Are Asking Drone Pilots Not to Fly.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Real talk: Deciphering the wireless marketing hype – US wireless operators are revving their marketing machines in an effort to persuade wireless customers to switch carriers. How do you separate the hype from the reality? CNET’s Marguerite Reardon offers some advice.

How to use your favorite mobile messaging service on your PC – It’s ridiculous how many different mobile messaging services are out there right now. Looking at my own phone I’ve got Blackberry Messenger, Facebook Messenger, Hangouts, Line, and WhatsApp installed, all to communicate with different people in my life. Most of these services are mobile centric, but many of them have desktop counterparts too—making life easier when you’re stationed in front of your PC. If you need to send and receive messages from your favorite mobile messenger on your PC here’s a list of the more popular services that offer official desktop counterparts.

Hands on with Office Online and Dropbox: A surprisingly smooth combo – Summary:Microsoft and Dropbox announced the latest move in their partnership today, with the availability of direct connections to Dropbox accounts from Office Online. Here’s how it works.

6 smart LED bulbs tested: We name the best and brightest for lighting your connected home – The idea is genius. Put a full array of colored LEDs inside a standard, screw-in light bulb along with a simple wireless radio. Connect the bulb to an app on your phone and, presto, you can change the brightness and the actual color of the lights in the room with a tap or a swipe. All told, color tuning represents the greatest advancement in lighting technology since The Clapper. ere’s a broad overview of how these bulbs stack up. Use the navigation tools at the bottom of the page to move back and forth between our hands-on reviews of each of the six bulbs.


Windows Hello brings biometric security to Windows 10 – Greg Shultz takes a look at Windows Hello, which is Windows 10 biometric security in a native format that will essentially eliminate the need for passwords.

Microsoft Office Remote comes to Android, lets you control presentations from your phone – On Thursday, Microsoft released Office Remote for Android, a free app that lets you quickly access key Office 2013 features from the palm of your hand. The most obvious use for Office Remote is the PowerPoint remote feature: Using it, you can control your presentation, view your slide notes, and “laser-point” at objects onscreen from the app, to name a few highlights.

How to install multiple SIM cards into an iPhone 6 – While most people manage quite well with a single SIM card, if you want better demarcation between your work and home life, or you want to make roaming with multiple SIM cards easier, then having the extra SIM or SIMs already in your smartphone is going to be a real timesaver. But how do you install an extra SIM or two into the iPhone 6? After all, that SIM tray is far too small to accept another SIM. Fear not! Here’s how you do it. And don’t worry, as no jailbreaking is required.

How to select multiple languages for Google voice search – Google has pushed voice search and actions to the forefront over the last few years, introducing features like the Google Now Launcher and the “OK Google” command. Many phones now let you initiate a search from any screen, and a few can even be woken up from slumber with the trigger phrase. However, when you do a voice search, Google only listens for your one default language. If you speak multiple languages, you can change that in a few taps.

Sprint to offer free international data roaming – Sprint hopes to attract new customers with a plan designed to give global travelers free data roaming in 15 countries. But will it be enough of an incentive?

HBO Now explained: Everything we know, and a few things we don’t – It’s called HBO Now, and it brings the network’s library of original series, movies, specials, and documentaries to people who don’t have a traditional cable or satellite TV subscription. The service costs $15 per month—roughly the same price HBO charges for its regular pay-TV network—and you can get started with a free 30-day trial. Now that the service is up and running, we have answers to many of the questions that came up after HBO’s announcement last month. But we’re also still scratching our heads over a few details. Here’s what we know, and what we don’t:

BitTorrent’s experimental, torrent-based browser has been released in beta for Windows – Late last year, BitTorrent announced its latest ambitious project for making the web more open: a browser that can access websites that are hosted through the BitTorrent protocol rather than on centralized servers. The Chromium-based Project Maelstrom browser started life in a closed alpha, but as of today BitTorrent is releasing it as an open beta. The only catch right now is that it’s for Windows users only, though BitTorrent says future versions of the browser will be available for Mac and Linux users, as well.

Twitter Is Pushing Celebrities And Publishers To Stop Using Meerkat –  Multiple sources tell TechCrunch that Twitter has been contacting celebrities who use Meerkat, trying to convince them Meerkat is dying and that they should use Periscope instead. Sources also say Twitter has been in touch with media companies that use Meerkat, going so far as to imply that if they don’t exclusively use Periscope, it could cut off their access to Amplify. Amplify, in short, is Twitter’s answer to commercial TV: it’s a product that pairs media companies with brands to create promoted tweets based around video clips, giving a boost of reach both to the media company and the brand sponsoring it.

Linux 4.0 brings Skynet closer to existence, offers reboot-free kernel patching – With Linux 4.0, we’re one step closer to the version of Linux used by the T-800 Terminator. But it’s full of handy improvements!

Fancy a wire-free laptop? Intel just showed one – Intel’s prototype can be wirelessly charged and connected to peripherals. Others like it could be launched in 2016, or even later this year.


Two-thirds of people filing taxes online do so using unsecured Wi-Fi – Your tax forms contain a lot of confidential data about your life, so security is an important facet if you’re filing online. Unfortunately, the same report indicates that 65% of people who file online are doing so using an open Wi-Fi connection, meaning they’re opening themselves up to potential attacks. Looking at TaxAct as an example, the login page does not automatically redirect to an HTTPS page. This gives a bad guy at the coffee shop or library a chance to hijack your session and provide their own SSL certificate in order to see all of your data. The rogue cert would provide an error, but most users will probably click “accept” anyway.

China Accused Of Decade Of Cyber Attacks On Governments And Corporates In Asia – The Chinese government is accused of being behind a newly discovered set of cyber attacks waged against government agencies, corporate companies and journalists across India and Southeast Asia over the past ten years. Security firm FireEye released a report today revealing a spate of corporate espionage and cyber spying offenses against targets located in India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia and beyond. The group said attacks began in 2005.

China’s ‘Great Cannon’ DDoS tool enforces Internet censorship – China is deploying a tool that can be used to launch huge distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks to enforce censorship. Researchers have dubbed it “the Great Cannon.” The first time the tool was seen in action was during the massive DDoS attacks that hit software development platform GitHub last month. The attack sent large amounts of traffic to the site, targeting Chinese anti-censorship projects hosted there. It was the largest attack the site has endured in its history.

Thousands could launch Sony-style cyber attack, says ex-hacker – Given the current security levels for most companies, 90 percent of them would be vulnerable to such an attack, which destroyed 3,000 computers and released sensitive information and proprietary content, security experts tell “60 Minutes.” And there is no shortage of technically proficient people willing to launch such an attack, said Jon Miller, a former hacker who now serves as vice president of strategy at Cylance, an antivirus software maker.

Company News:

Facebook on tracking accusations: report gets it “wrong multiple times” – Late last month, Facebook was accused of tracking users and non-users alike, and as such was said to be in violation of European law. The information came from a study commissioned by the Belgian Privacy Commission, and earlier this week Facebook fired back at the accusations, saying the report was wrong in more than one way. The social network posted a long statement by the company’s Vice President of Policy in Europe, Richard Allan, who tackled each claim individually.

Apple vs Android: winning in hardware, winning in software – While Apple wins in Hardware in the United States, Android wins in software. So says the most recent report on smart device usage in the United States. This week comScore has released their report mobile device usage in the month of February 2015 for the USA. This study showed the three month average starting in December of 2014, ending in February of 2015, and studied smartphone subscribers ages 13 and older. As you can probably guess already, Apple and their 2nd-place opponent Samsung are still neck-and-neck here in 2015 for hardware market share.


Apple asking for exclusive tunes to amp up Beats Music, report says – Hoping to entice consumers into paid subscriptions, Apple is said to be seeking songs exclusive to its Beats Music service from top artists like Taylor Swift and Florence and the Machine.

Indiegogo removes funding page supporting SC cop accused of murder – Indiegogo joins another site in taking down a fundraising page for Michael Slager, who has been arrested for fatally shooting an unarmed man in the back.

Games and Entertainment:

The 15 best Android games to play right now – Included within are our picks for the 15 most essential, can’t-miss Android games you ought to play right now. It’s a diverse mix of options: memorable adventures, addictive quick-hit affairs, and everything in between, spanning a wide array of genres and price points. Ready to find your next on-the-go gaming obsession?

Xbox 360 is finally getting 2TB external hard drive support – The Xbox 360 faired very well next to the PS3 during the last generation of games console hardware, but in one area it really came up short. Internal storage upgrades were limited to Microsoft’s official, and very expensive drives, and external storage support over USB was limited to just 32GB. You’d think with the Xbox One now being Microsoft’s main focus and having been on the market for 17 months that would be the end of the matter. However, Major Nelson has confirmed that Xbox 360 owners will be getting support for external hard drives up to 2TB in size before the end of 2015.


Stephen King opus The Dark Tower is being turned into a movie series – Stephen King’s magnum opus, a fantasy-horror series known as The Dark Tower, is once again on the path toward being turned into a movie series. Deadline reports that Sony Pictures will finance and distribute the first movie in what is intended to be a larger franchise. There are eight books in the series, which is about a “gunslinger” in a magical, Western world who’s trying to find a weakening tower that’s keeping the world together. The first film will be based on the series’ first book, The Gunslinger, and is being written by Akiva Goldsman, who previously co-wrote I Am Legend, and Jeff Pinkner, who recently co-write The Amazing Spider-Man 2.


PAMELA is a horror game without the cliches – Horror games are always fun, but too often they’re like horror movies — cliched and repetitive, repeating the same dry stories with vaguely similar characters. That’s not always true, though, and sometimes a horror game surfaces that breaks the mold in some way. PAMELA looks to be one of those, presenting a horror game wrapped in a bright-neon and clean science fiction-like package. It’s a survival horror game, and it’ll be available for the PC when it launches. Trailer available after the jump!


Reader picks: 15 more classic PC games you should play again – Try narrowing down the entire 40-year legacy of PC gaming into 15 classic games and it turns out you’re going to miss a few. Last week, loyal PCWorld readers were kind enough to point out some big, gaping holes in our list of the 15 PC gaming classics you should revisit. And you’re right! Why limit the list to an arbitrary 15 games? Why not make it an arbitrary 30 instead?

Off Topic (Sort of):

9 ways smartphones are making our lives better – But while I like to joke about how smartphones are making us stupider…they’re actually not. Smartphones improve our lives in ways we never even think about, and I’m not just talking about sending us a Google Calendar alert so we don’t forget our anniversary. Here are 9 crazy ways smartphones are changing the world for the better:

Rand Paul, class clown, is now selling novelty Hillary Clinton hard drives – Hillary Clinton officially announced she’s running for president today, and Republican rival Rand Paul spared no time adding anti-Hillary merchandise to his campaign store. Alongside products like a “don’t drone me bro” t-shirt and an anti-NSA webcam cover, Paul’s campaign is now offering “Hillary’s hard drive:” a fake $99.95 “email server” meant to remind everyone of the troublesome private email account Clinton ran while serving as secretary of state.


The Definition of a Progressive: Are You a Progressive? – In the propaganda wars that surround elections, political labels often become detached from reality. It would be no surprise, then, if many people were wondering, Just who is a progressive? No one, of course, has the authority to decide who is a progressive and who isn’t. Yet if the label “progressive” has meaning at all, it is only because of some shared criteria we have in mind when we use it. So it might be worthwhile to put these criteria on the table, not to draw boundaries and hand out membership badges, but to spark a conversation about the common ground of ideas and values on which progressives stand, and to underscore the point that the center is not the left. So who is a progressive? You might be one if…

Professor explains whether cat is going up or down stairs – Technically Incorrect: An image of a cat on the stairs has captivated the Web and divided lovers and families. It needs an academic to sort it out.


Pointing up    The answer is pretty simple: cats lift their tails while moving down an incline –rarely while ascending. When was the last time you saw a cat dragging it’s tail while coming down a set of stairs. Never, would be close.  Fingers crossed

150 years after Lincoln assassination, massive online archive in the works – As the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination approaches, a massive digital archive is in the works that will be home to more than 100,000 documents related to the Civil War-era commander-in-chief. The Papers of Abraham Lincoln is a project of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and it is co-sponsored by the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield and the Abraham Lincoln Association. The project is dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating, and publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime. Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’ Theater in Washington, D.C.  on April 14, 1865.


President Lincoln with Gen. George B. McClellan and group of officers at Antietam, Md.

H2O Salamander trike turns into a boat when needed – The Filipino startup H2O has created a new automotive trike called the Salamander, and it comes in two iterations, both of them able to zip around on the road and in bodies of water like a boat. It is designed for those who live in regions prone to floods, lending a transportation option for those times when the roads are underwater. And, you know, for those who want to feel like James Bond. Both an all-electric and a gasoline version will be offered.


Eighth-grader charged with felony for shoulder-surfing teacher’s password – Domanik Green, an eighth-grader at Paul R. Smith Middle School in Holiday, Florida, was charged with an offense against a computer system and felony unauthorized access, according to a report published Thursday by The Tampa Bay Times. In late March, the youth allegedly used the administrative-level password without permission to log in to the school’s network and change the images displayed on a teacher’s computer to one of two men kissing. One of the computers accessed allegedly contained encrypted questions to the FCAT, short for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Something to think about:

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

–      John Kenneth Galbraith

Today’s Free Downloads:

HTTPS Everywhere – HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.

It automatically switches thousands of sites from insecure “http” to secure “https”. It will protect you against many forms of surveillance and account hijacking, and some forms of censorship.

HTTPS Everywhere is produced as a collaboration between The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Many sites on the web offer some limited support for encryption over HTTPS, but make it difficult to use. For instance, they may default to unencrypted HTTP, or fill encrypted pages with links that go back to the unencrypted site. The HTTPS Everywhere extension fixes these problems by using a clever technology to rewrite requests to these sites to HTTPS.

Balabolka – Balabolka is a Text-To-Speech software application. All computer voices installed on your system are available to Balabolka. The on-screen text can be saved as a WAV or MP3 file.

The program can read the clipboard content, view the text from DOC, RTF and HTML files, customize font and background colour, control reading from the system tray or by the global hotkeys.

Balabolka uses various versions of Microsoft Speech API (SAPI); it allows to alter a voice’s parameters, including rate, pitch, and volume.

The user can apply a special substitution list to improve the quality of the voice’s articulation. This feature is useful when you want to change the spelling of words. The rules for the pronunciation correction use the syntax of VBScript.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The NSA wants tech companies to give it ‘front door’ access to encrypted data – The National Security Agency is embroiled in a battle with tech companies over access to encrypted data that would allow it to spy (more easily) on millions of Americans and international citizens. Last month, companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple urged the Obama administration to put an end to the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata. The NSA, on the other hand, continues to parade the idea that the government needs access to encrypted data on smartphones and other devices to track and prevent criminal activity. Now, NSA director Michael S. Rogers says he might have a solution.

During a recent speech at Princeton University, Rogers suggested tech companies could create a master multi-part encryption key capable of unlocking any device, The Washington Post reports. That way, if the key were broken into pieces, no single person would have the ability to use it.

Tech firms threaten exodus over French mass surveillance plans – A number of prominent French tech companies are threatening to pull out of the country in the wake of the introduction of a bill that they argue will put the entire French population “under surveillance.”

Seven companies, including web hosting and technology companies OVH, IDS, and Gandi have said in a letter to the French prime minister Manuel Valls that they will be pushed into de facto “exile” if the French government goes ahead with the “real-time capture of data” by its intelligence agencies.

After three days of terrorist attacks in the French capital, European leaders are pushing for stronger measures to crack down on online “extremist” content.

The companies argued that being required by the law to install “black boxes” on their networks will “destroy a major segment of the economy,” and if passed it will force them to “move our infrastructure, investments, and employees where our customers will want to work with us.”

Citing a figure of 30-40 percent of foreign users, the companies say their customers come to them “because there is no Patriot Act in France,” referencing the US law that allows the bulk collection of phone records.

Canada Is Looking for Help Dealing with Terrorism, Espionage, and, Oh Yeah, Open Rebellion – What do you do when your populace rises up against you, throwing off the shackles of their oppression in an effort to replace your democratic government with a commune of like-minded proletariats, hell-bent on abolishing the class system by any means necessary?

That’s exactly what the Government of Canada is hoping to figure out.

The Department of Public Works posted a tender to a government contracting site at the end of March, for “security consulting services” in order to develop threat assessments for government of Canada assets and infrastructure in Ottawa.

The federal government wants a rundown of all the ways its properties might be vulnerable to terrorists, spies, thieves, natural disasters, and the collective uprising of a disenfranchised people.

Graphic New Veteran-Sponsored Ads Are Asking Drone Pilots Not to Fly – A group of anti-drone US military veterans want to put an end to American’s campaign of drone strikes in foreign countries, and they’re now taking the fight to prime time by directly calling on Air Force pilots to stop the destruction through a series of graphic television spots.

The ads, produced by and sponsored by the Veterans Democratic Club of Sacramento County and the Sacramento chapter of Veterans for Peace, is thought to be the first anti-drone campaign to be shown on US television. The spots advocate against the US drone strikes that have taken place in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and refer to the strikes as an “immoral law.” The spots are currently airing in Sacramento, which is near Beale Air Force Base.

“We reached a point where we understand the president and Congress are not going to stop these attacks, which we consider to be illegal and immoral,” Nick Mottern, coordinator of Know Drones, told VICE News today.



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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 13, 2015

  1. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    It seems clear to me that the cat is descending. The treads of the steps appear to overlap the risers and would only do so if viewed from below. I think the floor/ceiling element is a red herring and I’ve never seen one of them ascend a staircase either.

    Kind regards,

    • Hi John,

      Good catch – missed that. Goes to show that there’s more than one way to approach this. And no – I’m not referring to “thinking outside the box.” Ugh! I so dislike that term. 🙂



  2. Vinit Neogi

    Very well written