Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 14, 2015

Even if the Patriot Act expires, the worst surveillance will carry on;  Verizon trots out analyst to say unlimited data is bad for customers;  4 ways your Android device is tracking you (and how to stop it);  5 great Google Drive tips;  How to Clear Your Cache on Any Browser;  5 Reasons You Should Update Your iPhone Immediately;  Forget spying, now the NSA wants your password list;  The 8 Best Apps to Get Your Yard Greener Than Ever This Spring;  RadioShack presses ahead plan for sale of customer data;  New bill would invalidate FCC’s net neutrality rules;  Get married online with Ikea;  Silence is golden: Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp is 100 today;  10 new apps that will change the way you 3D print;  Sharing revenge porn in the UK now carries a two year jail sentence;  Windows Firewall Console 19 (free).

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Verizon trots out analyst to say unlimited data is bad for customers – Got a data cap on your smartphone? You should be grateful, according to an opinion piece that Verizon Wireless published on Friday. “Let’s face it, if everyone had unlimited data and used it fully, the performance of the networks would suffer because of bandwidth restrictions and the ‘shared resource’ nature of wireless,” industry analyst Jack Gold, founder of J. Gold Associates, wrote in an article titled “The Lure of Unlimited Wireless Data—Is It Necessary?”

New bill would invalidate FCC’s net neutrality rules – A group of Republican lawmakers has introduced a bill that would invalidate the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s recently passed net neutrality rules. The legislation, introduced by Representative Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican, is called a resolution of disapproval, a move that allows Congress to review new federal regulations from government agencies, using an expedited legislative process. The resolution is the quickest way to stop what Collins called heavy-handed regulations that will hamper broadband deployment and could increase taxes and fees, he said in a statement. “We’ll all be paying more for less,” he added.

Pointing up   This is a clear example of how “bought and paid for” politicians work against the public good. Or, you might see this instead as Corporatocracy in action. In either case, the objective is to screw the public. It’s well past time to unmask these corporate stooges, and others, who pose as politicians. No country is immune to these parasites.

After victory for net neutrality in the US, the battle moves to Europe – Following what is widely regarded as a victory for strong net neutrality in the US, the battle to maintain a level playing-field online has now moved to the European Union, with the relaunch today of the campaign site “Save the Internet: Defend Net Neutrality in Europe.” Its aim is to head off an attempt by a majority of the 28 EU Member States in the Council of the European Union to derail earlier proposals to enshrine net neutrality in European law, as Ars reported last month. The EU’s net neutrality bill began as a 2013 proposal from the European Commission. It contained a number of major loopholes. In particular, it would have allowed “specialized services” that had privileged access to the Internet—and thus broke net neutrality. The proposal also explicitly allowed the discriminatory blocking of websites, applications, and content, a clear threat to freedom of expression in Europe.

4 ways your Android device is tracking you (and how to stop it) – So there I was, poking around some of the more arcane settings on my Moto G, when I stumbled across something that took me aback: an archive of every voice command I’d ever spoken to my phone. Turns out that each time you say something to the Google Now search box, Android saves a copy of what you said in your “Voice & Audio” history. Your voice history can go back months or even years, and it includes a transcript of what you said plus a playback button, so you can relive the moment. That’s not all. Your Android device—and, indeed, all your Google accounts, mobile or otherwise—can also save a “history” of your web searches and clicks, as well as what you’ve searched for and watched on YouTube. Android can also save a map of where you and your phone or tablet have been, even when you weren’t actively using your handset.

How to Clear Your Cache on Any Browser – The cache—your browser’s local storehouse of code and images downloaded from the Internet—exists to help your Web experience run smoother. If you visit the same sites again and again, your computer can save time and resources by not downloading the same files over and over again. Unfortunately, sometimes an error can occur with the files in your cache and things start to run funky. If that happens, you’ll need to dump your browser’s little data bank to get things back in order. Bottom line: while the cache is there for a reason—it’s still a very good idea to do some spring cleaning on occasion. Here’s how.

5 Reasons You Should Update Your iPhone Immediately – Averaging more than an update per month, Apple’s iOS 8 is getting to be nearly as annoying as Adobe Flash when it comes to keeping software up-to-date. But at least users are getting something for their power-cycling and downtime. In fact, the newest iOS 8.3 update is loaded with some rather delightful goodies for iPhone and iPad users who keep their systems up to speed. Here are five reasons why you should update your Apple iPhone or iPad’s operating system right now:

4SeTV pitches to sports fans with split-screen broadcasts – A new crowdfunding project called 4SeTV is hoping to make football Sundays more enjoyable with split-screen viewing on phones, tablets, and televisions. 4SeTV is a four-channel TV tuner box for over-the-air broadcasts, but it doesn’t plug directly into the television like most tuners. Instead, it hooks up to a home Wi-Fi router, and streams broadcast channels to an iOS or Android app over the local network. From there, users will be able to beam the video to their television using DLNA or Chromecast. The app lets users see what’s happening on other channels, or view four channels at a time in split-screen mode.

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Get married online with Ikea – The Swedish DIY-furniture manufacturer has launched a service that allows users to hold a virtual wedding online.

Sharing revenge porn in the UK now carries a two year jail sentence – Revenge porn has officially become a criminal offense in the UK, with those found guilty facing up to two years in jail. The amendment to the law was proposed last October and came into affect this week. It specifically targets “the distribution of a private sexual image of someone without their consent and with the intention of causing them distress,” and includes both physical and digital images, whether they’re shared in person or over the internet. The law covers “images that show the genitals but also anything that a reasonable person would consider to be sexual, so this could be a picture of someone who is engaged in sexual behavior or posing in a sexually provocative way.”

The 8 Best Apps to Get Your Yard Greener Than Ever This Spring – Get things green with some pruning shears, a spade, and your smartphone. Short of hiring a landscaper, these eight apps may be the best ways to get some expert help for your yardwork this spring. Better yet, free or very low-priced, they’ll save you plenty of green over hiring a pro.

5 great Google Drive tips: Keyboard shortcuts, saving options, templates and more – Our last look under Google Drive’s hood turned up such great hidden tricks, we went back to uncover more. Here are 5 more that will help streamline your workflow.

Vizio knocks 4K TV prices down to $600 – Just seven months after cracking the $1000 barrier, Vizio’s 4K TV sets are getting even cheaper. Vizio’s new M-Series 4K (or Ultra HD) televisions start at $600 for a 43-inch model, and scale up to $4000 for an 80-inch model. Spending $1000—the same price that Vizio charged for a 50-inch 4K TV last fall—will now get you a 55-inch screen instead.

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iOS 8.4 revamps Apple’s Music app, and the changes are “beautiful” – Apple has pushed out the iOS 8.4 beta update, and chief among its features is a revamped Music app, one that Apple touts as being “beautiful” and, of course, easier to use than the previous version without sacrificing functionality. The new Music app design is complemented by several new features that round out the user experience, including “streamlined” use of iTunes Radio, making it easier to go back to favorite stations and to choose from existing curated Featured offerings.

8 things you need to know about 3D scanners – You can 3D print almost anything. But having a scanner helps foster even more creativity. Here are eight things to know about digital scanners for 3D printers.

10 new apps that will change the way you 3D print – 3D printing has gone mobile. Check out these 10 apps to use for designing CAD, printing straight from your smartphone, and ordering prints.

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Four boggling websites we found hidden in the BitTorrent network using the Maelstrom browser – Maelstrom merges the open-source Chromium web browser with a BitTorrent client, so you can fetch and render regular webpages on the internet, and download movies Game of Thrones music Linux ISOs stuff from the BitTorrent file-sharing network, all from the same application.  More interestingly, though, is the ability to view static websites hosted in the BitTorrent network: there are tools available to create and seed simple pages into the network, which people can find using a torrent link. There’s no central server for the pages – they’re pulled from those seeding the site for you.

Amazon to add high dynamic range video content to its Prime Instant Video service – Fierce competition among over-the-top video service providers is driving innovation, while traditional video distribution evolves at a snail’s pace.

7 Kindle Paperwhite Tips Every Reader Needs to Know – To get the most out of your Kindle Paperwhite, there are some quick tricks. Having trouble seeing or want more words on the page? A flick of your fingers can change the font size: just pinch and zoom to adjust. If you want to save some battery life, go to the menu and switch your Kindle to airplane mode when you’re not downloading books. Customize the dictionary by going to Settings > Device Options > Language and Dictionaries, which is especially helpful if you’re reading books in other languages. But these are just the basics. We have a few more advanced tips that will maximize the enjoyment and use you get out of your Kindle.

Security:

Forget spying, now the NSA wants your password list – The NSA isn’t interested in a sneaky back door into your smartphone or computer any more, it just wants you to leave the front door wide open. While arguments continue around just what the National Security Agency can and can’t get access to – dragging more than one big tech name into the controversy – the spy organization’s chief is suggesting a far more blunt approach: in effect, handing over the keys to encryption upfront.

Botnet that enslaved 770,000 PCs worldwide comes crashing down – Simda, as the botnet was known, infected an additional 128,000 new computers each month over the past half year, a testament to the stealth of the underlying backdoor trojan and the organization of its creators. The backdoor morphed into a new, undetectable form every few hours, allowing it to stay one step ahead of many antivirus programs. Botnet operators used a variety of methods to infect targets, including exploiting known vulnerabilities in software such as Oracle Java, Adobe Flash, and Microsoft Silverlight. The exploits were stitched into websites by exploiting SQL injection vulnerabilities and exploit kits such as Blackhole and Styx. Other methods included sending spam and other forms of social engineering. Countries most affected by Simda included the US, with 22 percent of the infections, followed by the UK, Turkey with five percent, and Canada and Russia with four percent.

SSL/TLS/HTTPS: keeping the public uninformed – Perhaps the most important thing to understand about the SSL/TLS/HTTPS system that secures websites is that you are not supposed to understand it. I say this as a follow-up to my last blog, which argued that web browsers share much of the blame for Man-In-The-Middle attacks such as Superfish, because they hide the name of the Certificate Authority (CA) vouching for the identity of secure websites. Yes, the CA name is available with a couple clicks, but if it wasn’t hidden in the weeds, Lenovo customers might have questioned why Superfish was the only Certificate Authority on their PCs.

Microsoft downplays new report of Windows flaw – Researchers say new variation on an old flaw could allow hackers to steal login credentials from users of every version of Windows. Microsoft doesn’t seem too worried.

RadioShack presses ahead plan for sale of customer data – RadioShack will press on with its plan to sell its customer data, despite opposition from a number of U.S. States. The company has asked a bankruptcy court for approval for a second auction of its assets, which includes the consumer data. The state of Texas, which is leading the action by the states, has opposed the sale of personally identifiable information (PII), citing the online and in-store privacy policies of the bankrupt consumer electronics retailer.

Prosecutors suspect man hacked lottery computers to score winning ticket – Prosecutors say they have evidence indicating the former head of computer security for a state lottery association tampered with lottery computers prior to him buying a ticket that won a $14.3 million jackpot, according to a media report. Eddie Raymond Tipton, 51, may have inserted a thumbdrive into a highly locked-down computer that’s supposed to generate the random numbers used to determine lottery winners, The Des Moines Register reported, citing court documents filed by prosecutors. At the time, Tipton was the information security director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, and he was later videotaped purchasing a Hot Lotto ticket that went on to fetch the winning $14.3 million payout.

Files encrypted by CoinVault ransomware? New free tool may decrypt them – Victims of the CoinVault ransomware might be able to decrypt their files with a free tool released by Kaspersky Lab together with the Dutch police. The tool can be found at https://noransom.kaspersky.com. The application uses decryption keys found by the Dutch police as part of an investigation.

Company News:

Cost of a data breach: 58 cents per record, says Verizon – The financial hit due to cyberattacks appears to be wildly overstated. Instead of $201 per record, actual insurance claims show a cost more like 58 cents per record, according to Verizon’s latest Data Breach Investigations Report.

Report: Apple sold more than a million Apple Watches in the U.S. on Friday – All models of Apple Watch quickly sold out when preorders began overnight last Friday, but now we have a better idea of which Watches were most popular. According to e-retail research firm Slice Intelligence, 957,000 people in the U.S. bought an Apple Watch on Friday—and many of those people bought two. The space gray Apple Watch Sport with a black Sport band was the bestselling Watch, which reflects anecdotal data we’ve heard from readers and colleagues.

Qualcomm feels investor pressure to spin off chip business – Activist investor Jana Partners has asked the chipmaker to divide its chip and patent licensing businesses in hopes of boosting Qualcomm’s sagging share prices.

LinkedIn Elevate aims to turn employees into content sharing machines – Leave it to LinkedIn to find a way to add even more spam to your life. The professional social network has a new app called Elevate that aims to turn the world’s corporate drones into content sharing machines. With this new app, companies can offer employees a steady stream of content such as articles and bland quotes they can share online.

IBM’s Watson Health division will incorporate patient data from Apple – The health information your Apple Watch collects could eventually end up in IBM’s Watson cloud computing platform, where medical researchers and doctors can tap it in the course of their work. On Monday, IBM launched the Watson Health business unit, which will focus on providing the health care community with the analysis tools required to make sense of the many forms of data used in clinical care.

Daimler Launches Electric Vehicle Driving Courses – Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler AG is co-launching electric vehicle (EV) driving courses at ACADEMY driving schools in Stuttgart, Germany, the company said. The initiative, sponsored by Daimler and ACADEMY Holding AG, was designed to “prepares novice drivers for a future of electric mobility,” the auto maker said. Beginning this month, the five driving schools in the greater Stuttgart area “will be offering learner drivers a simple and timely introduction to today’s world of locally emission-free mobility,” Daimler said in a statement .

India’s Airtel faces the wrath of consumers, politicians with Zero – How much Airtel’s Zero violates net neutrality principles is being hotly debated, but what is clear is that this latest marketing ploy by India’s largest telco is quickly turning into a public relations fiasco.

Games and Entertainment:

The death knell for optical media: There will be no more Simpsons DVDs – Once, at the turn of the century, we clamored for the ability to own entire seasons of The Simpsons. Then in 2001 with the release of the first season on three DVDs, we had it. Now, 14 years later, we’ve lost it. Fox Home Entertainment, who up until this week had been making DVD sets for seasons of The Simpsons, decided to shift future episodes’ distribution to streaming digital services only.

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Grand Theft Auto V will let you direct your own in-game movies on PC – Grand Theft Auto V finally hits the PC this week, and the new version comes with a great new feature: a video feature that lets you easily share your exploits in Los Santos. Called the Rockstar Editor, the tool lets you record gameplay with a simple button click, and then customize it with multiple camera angles, filters, and even your own audio. It also includes a feature called “Director Mode,” which Rockstar says “allows you to stage creative moviemaking sequences from a cast of characters ranging from familiar faces from story mode, to pedestrians and even animals.”

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Destiny “House of Wolves” trailer unveiled, expansion coming May 19th – After leaving Microsoft, fans knew to expect something big from former Halo creator Bungie. In 2014, Destiny made its debut and was embraced by gamers to much fanfare. Although much time hasn’t passed since its initial release, Bungie is readying a second expansion, “House of Wolves,” due on May 19th. While details about the expansion are scarce, the Destiny website does have some details regarding what we can expect from the second expansion.

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Premiere is free on Xbox consoles – In case you’re looking for a way to enjoy the opening episode of the new season in the Game of Thrones saga, legally(!), Microsoft has you covered as starting today, until the 16th, you’ll be able to watch the episode for free on the Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The Moral Bucket List – About once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all. I came to the conclusion that wonderful people are made, not born — that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments. If we wanted to be gimmicky, we could say these accomplishments amounted to a moral bucket list, the experiences one should have on the way toward the richest possible inner life. Here, quickly, are some of them:

Why 15% of US consumers can’t use Netflix, Dropbox, and other cloud services – A Pew report indicates that 15% of US consumers have limited internet options other than a cell phone. With restrictive data caps, some of these consumers are unable to effectively utilize cloud services.

Silence is golden: Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp is 100 today – Although only just over 32 minutes in duration, Chaplin’s The Tramp was a fairly long film for the time. More importantly, it saw the first real appearance of his famous tramp persona; a hobo who – while often causing mayhem as he generated slapstick and laughs – was ultimately a caring chap, someone who would ultimately be rejected by a cruel(ish) world. A homeless man who could, and did, inject a note of pathos into 20th Century comedy. It was a poignant move that Chaplin had been considering for years – a semi-serious touch that would reflect his own, partly tragic background. He was born in a poverty-stricken part of London in 1889 and his childhood involved the trauma of dealing with a mentally ill mother.

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Having burnt his backside on a camp fire while protecting the farmer’s daughter, the tramp is unable to sit down and has to eat standing up.

How To Survive the UK General Election 2015: A Guide for First-Time Voters – From spotting a bad bastard you shouldn’t vote for to disagreeing with your friends without falling out.

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Illustration by Dan Evans.

I Was Using Google Maps When All Of A Sudden…What?! That Is Seriously Crazy – The street view on Google Maps is a great feature, especially for checking out places you’ve never been before. Sometimes though, Google inadvertently captures some candid, hilarious, and/or beautiful pictures of the spots they’re mapping. Just imagine checking out a new place on street view and seeing one of these 31 pictures. Wait until you get to #11. That would freak me out.

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Never drink a boring beer again, thanks to these beer tea bags – It’s more than just a tea bag, it’s a specially crafted infusing sachet filled with magical beer-bettering goodness, and it’ll make sure that you never have to drink a boring old beer ever again. The company behind the sachets is Hop Theory, and they’ve taken to Kickstarter to raise funds to mass-produce their flavor-enhancing beer bombs. It’s not instant beer in a teabag, but it’s still pretty cool stuff.

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NASA made an autonomous car too, and it makes Google’s look dull – Auto makers the world over are scrambling to create cars that can drive themselves, but they’re not the only ones interested in such technology. NASA has set its sights on the technology, something we’ve heard bits and pieces about in the past. Today the space agency decided to show the fruits of its labor, however, posting a video on its YouTube account of the finished product. It is called the Modular Robotic Vehicle, MRV for short, and it can — among other things — drive itself when needed.

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Something to think about:

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Today’s Free Downloads:

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Get it here.

Windows Firewall Console 19 – Windows Firewall Console is a lightweight and straight-forward piece of software aimed to serve as an interface for your Firewall, enabling you to decide which are the utilities that can run safely on your system.

Clean and intuitive appearance following the download process, you can just use the installer and run the executable, as it is necessary to go through an installation process in order for the application to function, yet quite easy to handle. The red shield functions as a ‘Cancel’ button while the green shield lets you approve certain actions.

Patch your Firewall, then begin making configuring it to your liking every time you launch Windows Firewall Console, you need to click on the white shield in the ‘Patch Firewall’ window, in order for the tool to be able to operate modifications on your system, which you will need to ‘Patch’ in the main window. By clicking on the Windows Firewall Console’s green shield, you can browse through your Computers running processes and select the safe applications; clicking on the red button will revert the changes to the default state.

Moreover, the utility enables you to run the ‘Webcam Monitor’ etc. The ‘Firewall Box’ lists the currently running TCP Connections on your PC. Despite its simple appearance, keep in mind that the modifications you operate can have unwanted effects and you should not perform them unless you understand how to configure your Firewall. Useful interface for your Firewall In conclusion, Windows Firewall Console is an efficient and easy to handle program created to function as a new skin for your Windows Firewall, allowing you to modify settings or add rules in just a few moves.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Hologram protesters march in Spain against controversial ‘security’ law – This has been a banner month for the future of protests. First, a Snowden statue was replaced with a hologram after being torn down in a Brooklyn park, and on Sunday, a group of hologram protesters marched in front of the Spanish building where the country’s Congress of Deputies meets.

As Fusion reports, the march, aside from being an impressive technical feat, was deeply ironic. The group behind the protest, No Somos Delito, was acting against the extremely controversial new “citizen security” law in the country, which places limits on freedom of expression, and specifically freedom of protest. Spaniards in violation of the law, which comes into effect this July unless beaten by a legal challenge, will face fines of several thousand euros for unauthorized protests.

Organizers have set up an appropriately futuristic website for the project, called Holograms por la Libertad, or Holograms for Freedom. “With the passing of the ‘gag’ law, you won’t be allowed to demonstrate in front of Congress,” a woman tells the viewer before becoming a hologram.

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Everything We Know About the Stingray, the Cops’ Favorite Cell Phone Tracking Tool – On Friday, the Guardian published the results of the paper’s own Stingray investigation. Thanks to some unredacted documents from the Hillsborough County, Florida, Sheriff’s Department, the paper concluded that the FBI is directly involved in preventing police departments from sharing any information about their Stingray use and orders them to tell the Feds when requests for information on them are made so that they have time to “prevent disclosure.” Worse still, Stingrays are not to be discussed by Florida law enforcement in warrants, testimony, or anywhere in court ever—even at the cost of dropping a case against a defendant.

These revelations are just the latest pieces of concrete proof that spying is being conducted by police departments around the country—and that the federal government has a firm hand in keeping evidence of it far away from the public eye.

Even if the Patriot Act expires, the worst surveillance will carry on – Mark your calendars. The minute the clock strikes midnight on June 1 is when a key part of the controversial Patriot Act expires, leaving the National Security Agency down but not out of the phone records collection game.

Section 215 has come to a particular infamy in recent weeks, thanks in part to comedian John Oliver, who on his recent late-night weekly talk show described how it is being used to vacuum up the phone records of millions of Americans. The concern was that the program was effectively spying on whom Americans were calling, contrary to Fourth Amendment principles against unreasonable searches and seizures.

But the law is coming to an end. The theory goes that once Section 215 sunsets, the NSA won’t be able to collect those records, which it calls a “crucial national security tool.”

Except, there’s a catch. Almost nothing will change.

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6 Comments

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

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 14, 2015

  1. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Re: Beer teabags. Only a lager drinker would need these :).

    Kind regards,
    John