Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 20, 2015

10 radically tiny computers that fit in the palm of your hand;  Top 10 smart home gadgets and appliances;  Google Wallet funds are now FDIC insured;  The cord-cutter’s guide to watching the NBA playoffs;  Six Clicks for Linux beginners;  Todoed makes creating task lists as easy as a right-click;  Disable banner ads in Skype for Windows;  Explore a new city like a local with these 10 apps;  Everything you need to know about UltraHD PC displays;  Heal Wants To Be The ‘Uber’ For Doctors Making House Calls;  Flash EK Strikes Again via Google’s DoubleClick;  Stream PC games to your Android device with Remotr;  Amazon Shuts Down TestDrive;  MakerBot lays off 20 percent of its staff;  Wink smart home hubs bricked by software update;  Keep Windows 10 preview up to date — or face a dead PC;  Trailer for the Most Anticipated Star Wars Game in Years;  New trailers: Star Wars, Ant-Man, Terminator Genisys, and more;  We Need To Get The Internet Of Things Right.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Mini PC invasion: 10 radically tiny computers that fit in the palm of your hand – As chipmakers focus on creating processors that sip little power without sacrificing performance, thermal concerns have largely been alleviated in modern CPUs. Because of that, today’s pint-sized PCs offer enough performance to play HD video and satisfy Office jockeys, the opposite of the janky, compromised experience of yesteryear’s microcomputers. From PCs-on-a-stick to discreet boxes no larger than a deck of cards, let’s take a look at the wide range of computers available that can fit in the palm of your hand—starting with the one that embedded teeny-tiny PCs in the public eye.

Disable banner ads in Skype for Windows – Before the many updates to Skype post-Microsoft acquisition, simply disabling the promotions options in settings was enough to rid your conversations of unnecessary spam. However, a new banner ad has made its way to the conversation window. This ad wouldn’t be such a bother if it didn’t often cut into the video feed area when going full screen. Thanks to Reddit user N19h7m4r3, you can disable ads through just a few steps. Here’s how:

Google Wallet funds are now FDIC insured, says report – If you happen to keep money in your Google Wallet account, your cash is now protected. According to a statement provided to Yahoo Finance, Google is now storing Wallet funds in banks insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation). That means that should Google (or one of the banks that it keeps your funds in) goes under, the US federal government will have your back. Services like Google Wallet typically are not FDIC insured. The federal system, designed during the Great Depression, is made to protect up to $250,000 of savings and deposits at banks.

Todoed makes creating task lists as easy as a right-click – Can’t be bothered to write down a to-do list? Todoed lets you create tasks by highlighting text followed by a right-click.

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The cord-cutter’s guide to watching the NBA playoffs – Cord cutting brings particularly thorny challenges for sports fans, and they’re never more apparent than when the postseason rolls around. Case in point: the NBA playoffs, which start this Saturday. Based on the TV schedule available at press time, we’ve outlined your options for watching the playoffs without a cable subscription. By following our guide, you’ll be able to watch many—but not all—of the live broadcasts and see which team eventually lifts the Larry O’Brien Trophy this June.

Explore a new city like a local with these 10 apps – With the sharing economy and a more mobilized world, people can have more authentic experiences when traveling to a new place. Here are 10 apps and websites that help you do just that.

Top 10 smart home gadgets and appliances – Summary: You’ve heard about the Internet of Things, but what smart products are on the market?

Stream PC games to your Android device with Remotr – The concept of streaming games to a mobile device is nothing new. Nvidia’s Grid service, for example, allows players to access PC games via the company’s Shield console and tablet, while Limelight Game Streaming opens the door to Android devices — provided you have an Nvidia GameStream-compatible PC. Remotr opens the door even further, letting you play just about any PC game on just about any Android device. It’s free, and it works — but with some caveats.

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You can stream nearly any game from your PC to your Android device — provided you can master the controls.

Keep Windows 10 preview up to date — or face a dead PC – The first three builds of Windows 10 Technical Preview — 9841, 9860 and 9879, all released in 2014 — will refuse to boot at the end of April, according to a message posted by a Microsoft support engineer on the company’s discussion forum. Personal computers running the three 2014 builds have been displaying warnings of the impending expiration for the last two weeks. Starting Wednesday, the PCs have been rebooting every three hours, another hint from Microsoft to update.

Six Clicks for Linux beginners: Ubuntu 15.04, Vivid Vervet – I’ve used almost every desktop on the planet, but Ubuntu 15.04 with the Unity 7 interface may be the easiest. Heck if my now 82-year-old mother-in-law can be an Ubuntu user, you can be one too!

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Taplet Lets You Pull HD Photos From Any Video With A Single Tap – Users can upload content from Dropbox and save it to their phones before digging into the app, or pull from videos taken directly on the phone by tapping into the Camera Roll. From there, simply tap to turn a moving image into a single photo, and then share those photos to various social networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Wink smart home hubs bricked by software update – Saturday was not a good day for owners of the Wink Hub, a smart home device that allows users to control a range of home appliances with their smartphone. Of course, Wink owners are probably already aware of this, what with not being able to turn off the lights, open the garage door, adjust the thermostat, etc. See, Wink issued a new software update that, as the company puts it, made their box “so secure that it is unable to connect to the Wink servers.” All of the hubs that received the update were then offline for a majority of the day.

GasWatch propane tank scale alerts your mobile phone when you run low on fuel – This clever gadget safely lets you know how much propane is left, so you don’t get caught with a half-cooked meal.

Google’s mobile search now recommends apps to install to find your answers – With its app indexing efforts, Google can pop up apps related to your suggested search term and take you right to the Play Store for installation.

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Heal Wants To Be The ‘Uber’ For Doctors Making House Calls – These days you can take yourself to the doctor or teleport the doctor to you from a mobile device Now Heal, a startup out of Los Angeles, wants to take us back to an era of old-fashioned house calls by ‘ubering’ a doctor to your door. Heal is an on-demand service that promises to deliver a doctor to you in under an hour. It launched in the Los Angeles area late last year and is now open for business in San Francisco starting today.

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Everything you need to know about UltraHD PC displays – It’s finally time to get serious about 4K displays. Let’s be honest, the first wave left much to be desired. Some had painfully low refresh rates while others were difficult to configure and get working properly. Prices were all over the map. The situation is much better today, thankfully, but moving up to a 4K display still involves some planning. Everything from the cable type to which applications you use most often can ultimately have a huge impact on your experience. Here’s all you need to know before you splurge on a 4K monitor.

Browse the web on your Android device more efficiently with Flynx – When using your mobile device, a key element is efficiency. You’re constantly on the go and under the thumb of pressure–the last thing you need to deal with is slow-loading, ad-heavy web pages. That’s where apps like Flynx come in. Similar to Link Bubble, Flynx loads pages in the background (represented by a small chat-head-like bubble on the screen) so you can view them at a later time. The two biggest differences between Link Bubble and Flynx is that Flynx is free and its browser strips away ads from pages for more efficient loading and viewing. Here are some of the features you’ll find with Flynx:

How to disable Chrome’s PDF viewer – Google Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer can make opening PDFs super-quick. Unfortunately, you don’t have access to all of the same tools you can use in apps like Adobe Reader. So how can you choose to download or open PDFs in standalone apps rather than the browser window? It’s a quick fix if you follow these steps:

Security:

Why the entire premise of Tor-enabled routers is ridiculous – Ars recently reviewed two “Tor routers,” devices that are supposed to improve your privacy by routing all traffic through the Tor anonymity network. Although the initial release of Anonabox proved woefully insecure, the basic premise itself is flawed. Using these instead of the Tor Browser Bundle is bad: less secure and less private than simply not using these “Tor Routers” in the first place. They are, in a word, EPICFAIL.

Faked Flash-based ads on HuffPo, other sites downloaded extortionware – Google’s DoubleClick advertising network is the lifeblood of many websites driven by ad revenue—and it’s also a potential path of attack for criminals trying to spread extortionware and other malware. Some Huffington Post readers fell victim to malicious advertisements spread through Google’s DoubleClick network early this week, but another simultaneous attack may have reached an even bigger audience.

Flash EK Strikes Again via Google’s DoubleClick – A few days ago, we blogged about a malvertising attack on the HuffingtonPost website via a major ad network which took advantage of a vulnerability in the Flash Player. This campaign was stealth and did not last long thankfully, but another major attack was also being carried on around the same time, most likely by the same gang. Working with ClarityAd, we quickly confirmed the malicious activity around 04/11 which showed a well-known ad network (merchenta) with direct ties to Google’s DoubleClick being caught in a large malvertising incident. The latest malvertising attack was carried through merchenta, a company that provides a platform for ad exchange and direct integrations with top publishers. They boast a 28 billion monthly impressions for the US alone and work directly with top tier ad networks such as Google’s DoubleClick.

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Google Says “Vast Majority” Of Ads On Its Platforms Will Be Encrypted By June 30 – Google has been gradually moving all of its online services to HTTPS encryption — you may even remember the excitement wayyyy back in 2008, when Gmail switched to HTTPS. In a blog post published this morning, the company says that it’s now working to switch its advertising over as well. The post doesn’t go into a lot of detail about why encryption matters in this context — I suppose it makes sense since these ads can use potentially sensitive data for targeting and personalization. Google does say that this is part of a broader “HTTPS Everywhere” initiative — it already announced that encryption will play a factor in its search rankings.

Company News:

Apple Pay’s international rollout may begin this fall, starting with Canada – Apple has plans to bring Apple Pay to Canada this fall, according to The Wall Street Journal. Apple is reportedly in talks with six of the largest Canadian banks — National Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, and the Bank of Montreal — which account for over 90 percent of Canadian bank accounts. A debut that large for Apple Pay in its first foreign country would be a boon, but the banks aren’t too happy about Apple’s fees — which may be higher than what US banks pay — and potential security issues like the ones US banks dealt with earlier this year.

Amazon Shuts Down TestDrive, The Appstore Feature That Let You Try Apps Before – Amazon is shutting down TestDrive, one of the differentiating features of the Amazon Appstore which allowed consumers to test out new applications ahead of purchase. The feature was introduced back in March 2011 alongside the launch of the Appstore itself, where it then utilized a browser-based emulated instance of Android running in the cloud. Amazon says that the decision to close the service was based on “a significant decline” in usage, and cited the popularity of “free to play” business models as a factor.

MakerBot lays off 20 percent of its staff – On Friday, Motherboard reported that 3D printing company MakerBot laid off 20 percent of its staff today, estimating that approximately 100 people from the 500-person company had their positions cut. In 2013, MakerBot was purchased by a seasoned rapid prototyping and 3D printing company called Stratasys, which has been in business since 1989. Stratasys paid $403 million in stock for MakerBot at the time, plus $201 million “in performance-based earn-outs,” the company said at the time.

Report: Comcast, Time Warner Cable Deal on Thin Ice – It’s not looking good for the merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast. According to a Friday report from Bloomberg, the Justice Department’s antitrust department might recommend rejecting the deal “out of concerns that consumers would be harmed.” Those attorneys could submit their recommendation by next week, but the final decision is made by senior officials, Bloomberg said.

Samsung, Apple top smartphone makers in Q1 – Samsung and Apple remained the top sellers of smartphones for the first quarter of the year, while LG stepped up to take fourth place behind Huawei.

Games and Entertainment:

Google makes the most of touch with “Games You Can Feel” – This afternoon Google has revealed a new category for special haptic feedback-friendly games on Google Play. Inside the app store you’ll find a small set of games with touch feedback, this creating the first-ever collection of this sort of games in the history of games. This section is called “Games you can feel,” and it’s live now. It’s a tiny launch, as it were, but it’s here – and it has Google working in direct collaboration with the folks at haptic technology group Immersion.

New trailers: Star Wars, Ant-Man, Terminator Genisys, and more – This was a huge week for movies, with some of the biggest names around putting out new trailers — and other big names having trailers leak online, too. We’ve rounded up eight of this week’s best trailers for you to check out below (so long as you don’t get caught up by putting Star Wars on repeat).

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Is Hollywood Making Too Many Trailers? – We spoke to an economics professor along with one of the best movie-trailer makers in the business to learn more about the thinking behind this deluge of movie trailers hitting the internet.

Watch the Trailer for the Most Anticipated Star Wars Game in Years – Star Wars: Battlefront, an upcoming large-scale multiplayer battle game set in the Star Wars universe, is due out for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on Nov. 17. Savvy Star Wars fans will notice that’s just about a month before Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the next installment in the saga’s film franchise.

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Star Wars behind the scenes: The Live Motion Capture Future – Today we’re taking a peek at how Star Wars is being made. The creation process, you’ll find, isn’t all that different from how video games are made. Video games like Star Wars 1313. Even though J.J. Abrams has assured the public time and time again that practical effects are king in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we’ve got reason to believe that this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is as it seems –here we’ll also be explaining why that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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Overseas Netflix prices determined by piracy levels – While Netflix has long been a staple in the streaming market in the US, it’s easy to forget that with over 60 million subscribers globally, the service exists in a number of other countries. One interesting tidbit about the how the company works overseas was revealed by CFO David Wells on a recent earnings interview. When it comes time to determine Netflix’s subscription price in a country, one key factor they look at are the levels of piracy in that region. Higher levels of piracy mean a cheaper price to access Netflix’s content.

HBO warns torrent users over recent Game of Thrones leak – Following last week’s news that the first four episodes of Game of Thrones season five were leaked onto torrent sites on the night before the season premiere, they were subsequently downloaded millions of times. Understandable, with HBO’s drama being the most pirated show around the globe. Also unsurprising is that HBO is displeased with the leak. So displeased, in fact, that the company sent warnings to thousands of torrent users attempting to deter them from downloading the show any further.

Off Topic (Sort of):

We Need To Get The Internet Of Things Right – It seems everything is connected to the Internet: socks, shoes, shirts, hats, glasses, appliances, beds, homes, drones, cars and even diapers. Yet, for the Internet of Things (IoT) to play a role in shaping our future, we need to get a few things right. The statement “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” has never been more applicable. At the events and conferences I’ve attended this year, it’s clear that while everything is getting connected, few things are actually connected. With IoT, we are not taking full advantage of the Metcalfe effect where value increases exponentially as more things are connected. Instead, we are creating islands of technology.

‘Thought Crimes’ Explores the Story of the ‘Cannibal Cop’ and Our Right to Have Demented Desires – Former NYPD officer Gilberto ‘Gil’ Valle’s was almost locked up just for having fantasies of kidnapping and slowly roasting women on a spit. Erin Lee Carr’s new documentary takes a deeper look at his story and the implications it has for our society.

Police officers used a lost phone to take selfies, then posted them on Facebook – A lost phone has recently been taken in to a police station in Albury, Australia. With the police realizing the device didn’t have any security code on it, the officers decided to teach the owner, Bella Crooke, a lesson. The men in blue started taking selfies, which were then posted onto the owner’s Facebook page. One selfie, shown below, was uploaded to Facebook and included the caption, “You should probably put a password on your phone. When you are ready to pick it up it will be at Albury police station.” The post quickly garnered a lot of likes, and is still growing, as of this writing.

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Researchers find oldest stone tools predate modern humans – The record for oldest stone tools discovered has been broken, with researchers working in Kenya finding a set of tools that are about 3.3 million years old. This eclipses stone tools that had been discovered in Ethiopia in the past, which had up until now been the oldest stone tools discovered. That’s not the most interesting part of the discovery, however — these newest old tools are older than the earliest genus Homo human fossils. The tools, then, are older than modern humans, dashing some previously held beliefs.

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Watch John Oliver’s happier version of the CNN Doomsday video – Oliver’s new video comes a few months after it was revealed CNN had a clip lined up to be played in the eventuality that the human race was to be wiped out. The video’s existence was rumored for years, but only publicly revealed in January this year by Jalopnik writer Michael Ballaban, who unearthed it while interning for the 24-hour news channel in 2009. The video, marked “hold for release until end of the world confirmed,”  shows a military band playing “Nearer My God To Thee” — the same song the Titanic’s band played as the ship sank. Oliver, disappointed with the “dirge” in the grainy video, enlisted Martin Sheen to make “humanity’s final moments happier.”

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Mega fatcat Kim Dotcom in deportation drama over SPEEDING ticket. When a government wants you gone… – Mega.co.nz kingpin Kim Dotcom may soon be booted out of New Zealand – because of a speeding ticket. The resilient and colorful entrepreneur is living on the Pacific island having gained residency rights in 2010. But he is also wanted by the US authorities for running the Megaupload file-sharing website, a service Dotcom describes as a cloud storage system but others claim is a massive copyright-infringement operation. Megaupload eventually shutdown, and was resurrected in 2012 as Mega. The penniless rotund supremo has repeatedly thumbed his nose at the authorities, something that typically lends a certain scrutiny to people’s past. And so it is in this case.

These High-Tech High Heels Change Color With the Click of an App – Created by a seven-person Lithuanian startup called iShüu Tech, and originally the brainchild of display technology research scientist Wallen Mphepö, these high-tech pumps are digital chameleons for your fancy feet. They’re made of leather and rubber and outfitted with hidden circuitboard, Bluetooth and battery components. And, here’s the kicker, they’re pimped out with electronic (e-ink) “paper” that you control with a companion app, altering the look of the flexible digital panel that spans from the top of the toes on up the sides of the pumps.

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How much should we allow Google, Facebook and others to tell us what to think? – Questions raised about the algorithms used by search engines and social media to highlight products, news, and interests deserve our urgent attention, scholars said.

Something to think about:

“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

–     Abraham Lincoln

Today’s Free Downloads:

Farbar MiniToolBox – MajorGeeks says: MiniToolBox will detect problems associated with your internet connection because of damaged LSP, proxy settings, as well as network adapter problems.

It can also be used to detect diversions or router hijacks. After execution, Farbar MiniToolBox will provide you with a detailed report (result.txt) for analysis.

Features:

Flush DNS

List content of hosts

List IP configuration

List winsock entries

List the last 10 event viewer errors

List of installed programs

List devices

List users, partitions and memory

And more…

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Tile Tabs – Tile Tabs allows tabs to be displayed in tiled layouts within the Firefox tabbed browser content area. In each tiled layout, tiles can be arranged horizontally, vertically or in a grid, and tiles can be re-sized by dragging splitter bars. Tabs and links can be dragged to open in new or existing tiles. The scrolling of tiles can be synchronized. A tiled layout can display tabs from more than one Firefox tab group.

The Firefox tabbed browser paradigm is fully maintained. Tiled layouts are achieved by presentational changes rather than functional changes. All features (menu commands, url bar, search bar, tabs buttons) continue to operate as normal.

Layouts can be created and tabs can be tiled individually above, below, left or right of the active tile. Tiles are arranged in groups – where all the tiles in a group have the same width or same height – and all the tiles in a group are separated by splitters all with the same orientation (horizontal or vertical). Tiles can be displayed with a tab button for each tile – or with a single tab button for each layout.

Individual layouts can be saved, opened, deleted or set as the default layout. In addition, all of the currently open layouts can be saved as a single Multi-Layout.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues: The system is like a ship – once it leaves port there is no stopping it. Unless it sinks.

FBI can’t cut Internet and pose as cable guy to search property, judge says – A federal judge issued a stern rebuke Friday to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s method for breaking up an illegal online betting ring. The Las Vegas court frowned on the FBI’s ruse of disconnecting Internet access to $25,000-per-night villas at Caesar’s Palace Hotel and Casino. FBI agents posed as the cable guy and secretly searched the premises.

The government claimed the search was legal because the suspects invited the agents into the room to fix the Internet. US District Judge Andrew P. Gordon wasn’t buying it. He ruled that if the government could get away with such tactics like those they used to nab gambling kingpin Paul Phua and some of his associates, then the government would have carte blanche power to search just about any property.

“Permitting the government to create the need for the occupant to invite a third party into his or her home would effectively allow the government to conduct warrantless searches of the vast majority of residents and hotel rooms in America,” Gordon wrote in throwing out evidence the agents collected. “Authorities would need only to disrupt phone, Internet, cable, or other ‘non-essential’ service and then pose as technicians to gain warrantless entry to the vast majority of homes, hotel rooms, and similarly protected premises across America.”

Twitter migrates non-US accounts to Ireland for security (and tax?) purposes – Large corporations like Twitter have been fighting against NSA spying for awhile, although defeats have been far more common than victories. While much of Twitter’s data consists of publicly available tweets, a vast amount of personal data is also stored within the company’s walls.

In an apparent effort to protect non-US citizens from the NSA’s reach, the company has recently updated their privacy policy. Starting May 18th, everyone outside of the US will be managed by Twitter International Company, based in Dublin, Ireland. The new language states:

Class action lawsuit filed against Bell Canada for privacy violations, asking $750 million – When Bell Mobility rolled out their targeted ad program in November 2013, it caused quite a stir among privacy advocates in Canada, with the claim being that they were spying on their users and not adequately describing the profiling or opt out process. After the release of a scathing review of the practice on April 7th, 2015, Bell agreed days later to end the program. Now a $750 million dollar class action lawsuit has been filed in Windsor, Ontario.

The Relevant Advertising Program (RAP), as branded by Bell, was an opt-out program that analyzed all Internet traffic from a customers mobile phone to build an advertising profile on that user. They would then intercept ads delivered by the web sites visited by the users and replaced them with ads targeted to their specific profile. This program was announced in August, 2013 and created a huge firestorm of criticism towards the telecommunications giant, especially in November after the program was rolled out when it was discovered that opting out of the RAP did not cease the analysis of traffic or creation of an advertising profile.

New Zealand Plotted Hack on China With NSA – New Zealand spies teamed with National Security Agency hackers to break into a data link in the country’s largest city, Auckland, as part of a secret plan to eavesdrop on Chinese diplomats, documents reveal.

The covert operation, reported Saturday by New Zealand’s Herald on Sunday in collaboration with The Intercept, highlights the contrast between New Zealand’s public and secret approaches to its relationship with China, its largest and most important trading partner.

The hacking project suggests that New Zealand’s electronic surveillance agency, Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB, may have violated international treaties that prohibit the interception of diplomatic communications.

New Zealand has signed both the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, international treaties that protect the “inviolability” of diplomatic correspondance. The country’s prime minister, John Key, said in a recent speech on security that New Zealand had an obligation to support the rule of law internationally, and was “known for its integrity, reliability and independence.”

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