Monthly Archives: May 2015

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – May 29, 2015

Protect Your Account With Facebook Security Checkup;  How Bad Bots Are Destroying The Internet;  Google Photos is now available for Android, iOS, and the web;  Windows 10 signoff is slated for mid July; This is Android M: what has changed so far;  Keep an eye on Congress and contact your reps with Countable;  Google Opens Inbox To All;  17 Tricks to Master Microsoft PowerPoint ;  Google I/O 2015 round-up: the main keynote;  Google Play Gets More Family-Friendly;  Here Are the Funniest Error Pages on the Web;  Legal trouble in wearables: Jawbone sues Fitbit;  Google’s new goal: Make everything work together;  Sex disease surge in US state partly blamed on hook-up apps;  Screenshot Captor (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How Bad Bots Are Destroying The Internet – The Internet has been described in many different ways over the years. We don’t use the term “information superhighway” much anymore, but a recent report may make you reconsider where and how you cruise around on it, regardless. That’s because a quarter of the cars on this road with you, dear reader, are being driven by mindless bandits looking to steal anything they can. Now, imagine traveling a road like that in the real world. No thanks, I’d rather walk. Last year was the first time in history that bots outnumbered people on the web. According to research from Distil Networks, almost 60% of 2014’s web traffic consisted of automated bits of code, 23% of which exist to do dirty work for fraudsters and hackers.

Protect Your Account With Facebook Security Checkup – You might not care much about your Facebook security beyond having what you believe to be a fairly hard-to-guess password. And that’s fine; most people probably don’t have much to worry about. But in case you need a friendly reminder, Facebook has launched a new “Security Checkup” feature that should give users a bit more of a helping hand for setting up the various security measures that Facebook uses to keep your data safe.


The new Google Photos is now available for Android, iOS, and the web – Photos organizes your images using powerful face detection and machine learning, and lets you search for photos by keyword even if the photos aren’t tagged in any way. And an “assistant” feature will back up photos to the cloud as soon as you shoot them, then let you know when it’s OK to delete them and free up space on your device. Google has also built in some clever sharing tools to make it easy to drag a box around a few photos and share them with friends with a couple of clicks. Folks worried about Google having access to more of their data will likely be scared away from the new service. But for everyone else, it’s a powerful solution to a real problem — and now it’s free.

This is Android M: what has changed so far – Google has just released preview images of Android M, so naturally everyone tries to get their hands on the latest and would be greatest Android version, regardless of being in a stable state or not. And although this super early version is not yet in its final state, or even in its semi-final state, it is already showing some promise, some interesting changes, and even some rather strange ones. So buckle up while we take a cursory look at some of those changes in Android M.


Scan documents and whiteboards with your Android smartphone and Microsoft Office Lens – Microsoft completes the trifecta with the full release of Office Lens for Android joining iOS and Windows Phone products.

Five download utilities that can save you time and trouble– With today’s blazing network speeds and multiple platforms to manage, what tools are the best to have at the ready? I’ve listed five download utilities that might well make your daily download duties hassle free. Let’s check out these utilities and see if any are worth adding to your current line up of networking tools.

The Best Smart Home Automation Hubs of 2015 – Smart home automation hubs are a one-stop solution for unifying your connected gadgets and controlling them from one simple app, instead of many. But not all hubs are created equal; different hubs support different connectivity protocols, so it’s important to look for a hub that supports the devices you use. Bluetooth LE, Lutron ClearConnect, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and ZigBee are all popular ways to connect, so you want a hub that supports as many of these standards as possible. Support for IFTTT (If This Then That) is also useful, as it adds even more ways to configure and trigger your connected devices.

Mozilla appears to abandon Firefox tracking protection initiative: Is privacy protection impossible? – Summary:A hidden feature in the open-source Firefox browser can cut load times for modern web pages nearly in half. So why isn’t this feature easy to find and enable? Blame the well-funded online advertising industry.

Here Are the Funniest Error Pages on the Web – From 2016 presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to social networks like Reddit and Google, here are some of most creative 404 sites.


Amazon Debuts A $99 Kindle Bundle For Kids Including An E-Reader, Cover And Warranty – The Bundle is being sold for $99, which is a savings of $39.98 if all three items were purchased separately, notes Amazon. The Kindle e-reader is designed for books, meaning it doesn’t support apps and games as with Kindle tablets. The device’s 4 GB of storage can hold thousands of books, and stays charged up to four weeks, based on half an hour of reading per day with wireless off. Parents can buy Kindle books from Amazon, which today offers over 250,000 titles, or they can borrow e-books from their public library to use with the device.

Google Opens Inbox To All, Adds Smart Reminders, Trip Bundles, Undo Send And More – Google today announced that Inbox, the Gmail-based mobile email client the company launched late last year, is now open to all. Until today, you still needed an invitation to use the service, though invites have long been pretty easy to come by. Google says it will also open up Inbox to all Google for Works customers (whose admins enable this feature for them) through the early-adopter program starting today.

Microsoft adds Dolby Digital Plus support to Edge, beats Chrome and Firefox to the punch – Microsoft is bringing Dolby Audio support to Edge that will allow websites to deliver high-quality multi-channel audio and it is the first browser to support Dolby Digital Plus.

Screenshots: Microsoft Edge preview – Microsoft Windows 10 will feature a brand new web browser that is technologically superior to Internet Explorer. Here’s a look at the preview version.


17 Tricks to Master Microsoft PowerPoint – This collection of tips is all about the vagaries of the powerful PowerPoint software itself. It’s meant for those with a grasp of the basics and beyond who are looking for that extra little goose to get the most out of the program. We hope with these tricks—some of which will, inevitably, have some advice for better presentations and slideshows—help make your next speaking engagement even more persuasive. Note, these tips are specific to PowerPoint 2013, the latest version.

Amazon Prime launches free same-day delivery in 14 cities – Should an Amazon Prime member live in one of 14 qualifying metropolitan areas—including the company’s home base of Seattle, along with the Bay area, New York City, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Boston—they can get free same-day delivery on orders of $35 and up. Be advised: you’ll want to check at Amazon’s zip code search site for your own eligibility if you live in a sprawling region; our test of addresses in the Seattle and Dallas/Fort Worth regions proved scattershot.


Apple offers official workaround for bug that crashes iPhone Messages – Earlier this week, iPhone users discovered that receiving a small string of text characters over Apple’s iMessage service could crash their phone’s Messages app, effectively blocking them from reading incoming texts. Now, in a support document published on Apple’s site, the company has detailed an official workaround for the problem. The company says iPhone owners who’ve been targeted with the string will need to complete the following steps, using Siri to unlock their Messages app:

SourceForge grabs GIMP for Windows’ account, wraps installer in bundle-pushing adware – SourceForge, the code repository site owned by Slashdot Media, has apparently seized control of the account hosting GIMP for Windows on the service, according to e-mails and discussions amongst members of the GIMP community—locking out GIMP’s lead Windows developer. And now anyone downloading the Windows version of the open source image editing tool from SourceForge gets the software wrapped in an installer replete with advertisements.


Windows 10 signoff is slated for mid July – Microsoft is targeting the middle of July for a signoff of Windows 10 which means that the OS will be in the hands of OEMs by the end of July, if the roadmap stays on schedule.

Google I/O 2015 round-up: the main keynote – Google focuses on Android, development of Internet of Things, Photos, and virtual reality at this year’s Google I/O developer conference. The conference began with a brief introduction to Android M, Google’s next software for mobile devices. From there, they went on to celebrate their first billion user products and the release of Android Pay. Needless to say, this wasn’t a super Chrome-focused sort of day. This was a day of mobile engagement from the start of this first keynote to the end. All about movement and tiny device software.


Linux/Moose router malware seems to be targeting Facebook logins – ESET security researchers have issued a paper outlining a new variant of router malware, a worm that is stealing social media auth tokens to “like” pages without the user’s consent.

Security vuln allows Android app tampering through single URL click – A severe security flaw has been discovered within device APIs used to develop Android applications. Apache Cordova, developed by The Apache Software Foundation, is a toolkit of device APIs used by mobile app developers to access native device functions including cameras and accelerometer from JavaScript. The APIs provide a Javascript library to invoke different functions, and when used with Cordova, mobile apps can be built using web technologies such as HTML, CSS and Javascript. The service is compatible with the iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Palm WebOS, Bada, and Symbian platforms. In a security bulletin posted this week, Cordova admitted a “major” security issue has been discovered in the API platform.

Yay for Tor! It’s given us RANSOMWARE-as-a-service – Threat Research head Jim Walter says a virus writer has created a ransomware-as-a-service offering which allows luddite criminals to fleece users. Walter discovered the Tox ransomware on an eponymously named Tor hidden service noting the author required a 30 percent cut of paid Bitcoin ransoms. He says Tox is one of the few turnkey ransomware offerings allowing scumbags to key in custom ransom notes in a web form.

Company News:

Setback for Uber as South Korea Bans Private Taxis – In a largely symbolic move that appears to be aimed directly at Uber’s cheap UberX service, South Korea passed legislation on Friday banning unlicensed drivers from providing taxi services — becoming the first country to institute a nationwide prohibition of the practice.

Wi-Fi chip maker Broadcom to be acquired in a $37-billion deal – Avago Technologies has agreed to buy Broadcom in a deal that will create a networking chip giant with a wide variety of products, including components for the burgeoning Internet of Things sector. It has offered US$37 billion for Broadcom, including $17 billion in cash and equity valued at approximately $20 billion, it said on Thursday. The combined company will offer products for wired and wireless networks.

Amazon plans on selling its own brand of groceries – Amazon wants to completely replace your supermarket. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that the company plans on selling its own private line of perishable foods, including milk, cereal, and baby food. The move expands on the e-commerce site’s other private label brands, and could help position it as a one-stop shop for all consumers’ deliverable needs.

Alibaba Expands Logistics Network To Power Next-Day Grocery Deliveries In More Chinese Cities – Over the past two years, groceries have become an increasingly important segment for Chinese e-commerce companies. Now Alibaba, which is facing slowing growth despite its leading market position, is ramping up the growth of its countrywide logistics network to power next-day deliveries.

Google Reveals Plan To Get Android Powering Internet Of Things Devices – Today at Google I/O 2015 Google detailed its plan to roll Android into the home and everyday devices. Meet Brillo and Weave. Together, these two software products will power and allow Internet of Things devices. Brillo builds in the ability for device managers and hardware owners to control multiple devices from a centralized software location. Weave is the communication layer that sits between Brillo devices, the cloud and devices like phones or tablets. This allows devices to talk to each other. Since Brillo and Weave are built around Android, it allowed Google to design a new way to set up these devices.


Legal trouble in wearables: Jawbone sues Fitbit – The intense rivalry in the wearables market has spilled over into court with Jawbone accusing rival Fitbit of “systematically plundering” its employees, trade secrets and intellectual property. In a suit filed in San Francisco against Fitbit and five employees, Jawbone said that beginning this year, Fitbit recruiters contacted about 30 percent of Jawbone’s employees and induced at least five employees to join the company.

Japan remains Google Play’s top country by revenue – App Annie has said the vast majority of revenue on Google Play is made from Japan, the United States, and South Korea

Games and Entertainment:

Twitch no longer allows streaming of Adults Only-rated games – The popular video game streaming service Twitch has announced that it will no longer permit users to stream games that have received the AO, or ‘Adults Only,’ rating from the US’s Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). This change was revealed on Twitch’s official blog, and is part of an update to the service’s rules of conduct. The company says it has a goal of creating “a safe, welcoming, inclusive community platform where everyone can feel comfortable and have fun.”

Google Play Gets More Family-Friendly With Content Ratings, Filtering By Age And Interest – Parents searching Google’s mobile app store will now be able to tap on a new “Family” button indicated with a green, smiley faced star icon in order to find the family-friendly content across apps, games, movies and TV homepages. There’s also a “Children’s Books” button on the Books homepage, where parents can also filter the selection by age range and genre.


Microsoft is updating the Xbox One controller with a 3.5mm headset port – Microsoft’s Xbox Support site now includes references to a 3.5mm audio port on Xbox One “controllers released after June 2015”, hinting at a revised controller being launched at E3 next month.

Capcom removes Ultra Street Fighter 4 from tournament, blames Sony for bugs – Following the recent news that the release of Ultra Street Fighter IV for the PlayStation 4 has a large number of bugs and glitches, the game’s developer Capcom has said that it will be pulled from the official Street Fighter tournaments, taking place this summer. Among the problems with USF4 reported, including audio issues and animation problems, the most damaging has been input lag, or delays between button presses and in-game movements/actions. As Street Fighter is built on some of the most precise timing mechanisms, lag of this sort would be devastating during a tournament.


Nintendo’s first true online shooter—Splatoon—is a hot, painted mess – There is absolutely fun to be had in a good Splatoon battle, but the catch here is the future tense. Splatoon reveals more than a few signs of immaturity in the online gaming space, but its worse offense sees Nintendo catching up, unfortunately, with another big gaming trend of late. This is yet another retail launch of an unfinished game. The version of Splatoon we’d like to play—different from the one people are about to spend $60 on—evidently hasn’t been made yet.


The tech that’s putting women in EA’s FIFA games for the first time – This morning, Electronic Arts announced that this year’s version of its FIFA soccer franchise would be the first ever to include female players. Twelve international women’s teams will be added to the game for FIFA 16 after over 20 years of the games featuring only male players. At a preview event for the game, FIFA Senior Producer Nick Shannon told Ars that the change is “one of the most important additions, in my opinion, we’ve ever made. I’m the father of two daughters who both play soccer, and for them, this is probably the best feature we’ve ever added.”


‘Game of Thrones’ drives traffic spike for HBO — and dings Netflix – A twice-yearly Internet traffic report provides a peek at how the season premiere of the hit fantasy series boosted viewership of HBO’s online services.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Google’s new goal: Make everything work together – The search giant has found a new purpose in all our lives: Bringing together the various products and services we use to work together as easily as possible.

9 tech companies’ earliest website designs – In many ways, a website serves as most companies’ digital fingerprint. While some corporate websites are merely gateways to buy and learn about new products (e.g., Apple), others may entirely define what a company is (e.g., Facebook). That said, it’s always fun to take a trip back in time and explore what the digital fingerprints of yore looked like. Here are what some of the earliest tech company websites looked like when they first launched.


Sex disease surge in US state partly blamed on hook-up apps – Authorities undecided on name: Sexual health scare 2.0 or Clap from an App. – Tinder, Grindr and other mobile “hook-up” apps have been blamed for a spike in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the US state of Rhode Island.. From 2013 to 2014, infections of syphilis increased by 79 per cent, gonorrhea cases rose 30 per cent and new HIV diagnosis increased by about a third, according to data from the Rhode Island Department of Health. Hook-up apps may be partially to blame, according to officials, who also noted that other “high risk” behaviours and better medical testing may be also be factors in the rise.

Watch This Drone’s Unfortunate Encounter With a Goose – In a video posted by RTV NH, a media production company in Holland, a goose appears to smash into a drone (potentially on purpose). Thankfully, both the drone and the goose seemingly end the encounter unscathed. In case you were wondering, the bird is an Egyptian Goose, which is known for being territorial. The drone was capturing images of Oudorperpolder, in the city of Alkmaar, according to The Daily Mail.


Periscope live tour held by The British Museum – Periscope is a livestreaming service, and it can be used for more than piracy and vlogs. Case in point: the British Museum gave a live broadcast of an exhibit earlier today using Periscope, and we can only hope it’ll be doing more of them in the future. This makes it easier than ever to tune into live events from iOS or Android (which is now supported) devices, the same device users can use to broadcast their own events. In the case of The British Museum, Periscope was used to offer an exclusive live guided tour for people scattered around the world.

StereoLabs announces huge hardware breakthrough: Human vision – Summary:Earlier this month, a Bay Area startup called ​StereoLabs quietly introduced the first affordable high definition stereo camera. This is a big deal, and autonomous machines will never be the same. Here’s why.


Photo Courtesy of StereoLabs

Airbnb Express parody gets into the dark side of home sharing – Comedy troupe Above Average released a promo video for Airbnb Express, which lets you pay to go through other people’s belongings without having to sleep in their beds. Watch the video then be sure to hide your Crocs, bongs and vibrators better the next time you have strangers invading the house for a night.


How TIME Explained the Way Computers Work – When Alan Turing submitted his paper On Computable Numbers to the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society on this day, May 28, in 1936, he could not have guessed that it would lead not only to the computer as we know it today, but also nearly all of the gadgets and devices that are so crucial a part of our lives. The paper demonstrated that a so-called Turing Machine could perform solvable computations, a proof that is commonly seen as one of the original stepping stones toward the existence of modern computers. Though Turing, who died in 1954, never got to see a smartphone, his paper remains the touchstone behind the technology.


The Feb. 20, 1978, cover of TIME

Something to think about:

“Contrary to popular belief, I don’t spend a whole lot of time following soccer. But as I have traveled around the world to better understand global development and health, I’ve learned that soccer is truly universal. No matter where I go, that’s what kids are playing. That’s what people are talking about.”

–      Bill Gates

Today’s Free Downloads:

Screenshot Captor – Screenshot Captor was designed for grabbing screenshots with minimal intervention.

Screenshot Captor has great multimon suport and includes a full image explorer with full shell functionality and unsurpassed integration with external tools like graphic editors, watermarkers, etc.

Screenshot Captor also supports unique effects not seen in other capture tools, including the ability to automatically locate and enhance the active window.

Supports tons of image capture methods, including full screen, multimon workspace, arbitrary regions, fixed sized areas, or gdi objects. Suppors gif, png, jpg, tiff and others. Easily embeds user coments in any image type.


Optimized for taking lots of screenshots with minimal intervention – super efficient workflow.

Smart autonaming of files, and ability to embed textual comments in files; automatic image file versioning – with tons of options for automatically naming the file and inserting comments.

Great multi-monitor support.

Highly configurable to make it work the way you want it to; stays out of your way in the system tray.

Lots of capture modes: Multimon, Desktop, Active Window, Region, Windows Object. Each mode has a hotkey for quick access.

Unique Cool Effects, including automatic active window enhancement (see picture below).

Unsurpassed support for 3rd party user configurable tools, including file browsers and image editors; extend the program to do whatever you need b interfacing it with other programs.

Slimline sidebar file browser provides full shell operations, with special quick MoveTo menu.

Optional automatic image file versioning.

Seamless integration with Unicode Image Maker tool.

Autoscroll capture for windows too big for screen, and windows object capture for menus, toolbars, and buttons.

Deluxe thumbnail maker.

Quick Email sending menu using smtp or mapi (remembers who you sent to so you can send to them again super easy).

Automatically finds boundaries of non-rectangular/themed windows.

Autoscroll capture for windows too big for screen.

Deluxe thumbnail maker.

Quick PostCapture PopUp Dialog.

Quick Screenshot Emailer Menu.


Windows Firewall Control – Windows Firewall Control is a nifty little application which extends the functionality of the Windows Firewall and provides quick access to the most frequent options of Windows Firewall. It runs in the system tray and allows user to control the native firewall easily without having to waste time by navigating to the specific part of the firewall. This is the best tool to manage the native firewall from Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.


Intuitive and easy accessible interface in the system tray.

Full support with standard user accounts. Elevated privileges are required only at installation.

Create temporary rules which are automatically deleted when they expire or on program restart.

Disable the ability of other programs to add Windows Firewall rules.

Multiple and easier ways of creating new rules in Windows Firewall.

Full support of creating, modifying and deleting Window Firewall rules.

Lock feature which can disable the access to the settings of the program and Windows Firewall.

Shell integration into the right click context menu of the executable files.

Search for invalid rules with the possibility to delete them.

Search for executable files through folders and create new rules in seconds.

View recently blocked connections and create new rules from the logs: inbound and outbound.

Choose if you want the program to start at user logon.

Import and export the settings of the program.

Protection to unauthorized uninstallation.

Possibility to restore previous settings at uninstallation.

And many more. Just try it out.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Keep an eye on Congress and contact your reps with Countable – Unless you spend your free time watching hours of C-SPAN, the odds are you aren’t too keenly aware of the inner workings of Congress and instead rely on hysterical headlines from MSNBC, Fox News and other news outlets to keep you informed. With Countable, you can stay better informed of the bills making their way through Congress and cast yea or nay votes to make your voice heard. Countable also lets you see how your representatives have voted and makes it easy to contact them. You can access Countable on the Web or use the Countable iPhone app or Android app.

UN says encryption “necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom” – The United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner released a report Thursday heralding encryption, but it was wishy-washy when it came to government-mandated backdoors to undermine encryption.

The report said:

Encryption and anonymity, and the security concepts behind them, provide the privacy and security necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age. Such security may be essential for the exercise of other rights, including economic rights, privacy, due process, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the right to life and bodily integrity.

This isn’t the first time the UN weighed in on the digital age. In 2011, it declared Internet access a human right.

The latest report, by special rapporteur David Kaye, comes amid government calls—from the United States to Europe—for technology companies to provide authorities so-called backdoor access into encrypted apps and services.

Australia: Government wants piracy site-blocking Bill passed in June – Australian Attorney-General George Brandis has told Senate Estimates the Australian government wants its legislation to block piracy sites passed before the end of June.


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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – May 27, 2015

Twitter’s Periscope is now available for Android;  Opera Max now monitors Wi-Fi usage, blocks data-hungry apps;  4 tips for buying a used iPhone;  Smart credit cards are coming – Here’s what you need to know;  Turn your smartphone into a remote control for YouTube on your PC;  Secure your web browsing with TunnelBear’s free Chrome extension;  Cortana is coming to Android and iOS;  Fedora 22: Cloud, desktop and server innovation;  Why SSDs don’t perform;  9 Pocket Tips to Help You Read it Later;  Android ransomware poses as FBI smut warning;  IRS hacked; data stolen from over 100,000 taxpayers;  UPDATED: The 30 Best iPhone Games;  Mad Max Savage Road game trailer;  The 10 Most-Pirated Movies;  Steve Jobs and Bill Gates battle in new National Geographic series;  The best time to drink coffee for maximum jolt? Video has answers;  Glary Disk Cleaner (free);  Steve Wozniak: Edward Snowden is ‘a Hero to Me’.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Smart credit cards are coming. Here’s what you need to know – Smart cards want to replace your wallet full of debit and credit cards with one dynamic smart card. Here’s what you need to know.

4 tips for buying a used iPhone – There are three main ways to buy a used iPhone, assuming you don’t have a friend or family member who wants to sell you one on the cheap. You can purchase a certified preowned iPhone from a reputable seller, such as Gazelle; you can bid on a preowned iPhone on an auction site such as eBay; or you can pay cash for a used iPhone from a local seller on a site like Craigslist. No matter which method you choose, follow these four tips to make sure your used iPhone is as awesome and problem-free as a new iPhone.

How to turn your smartphone into a remote control for YouTube on your PC – Whether you’re watching on a PC at the office or at home, you can make it even better by turning your smartphone into a remote control. No, you don’t need a Chromecast or a TV. Just your PC and a smartphone will do. Here’s how it works using an Android smartphone, but it works pretty much the same way on iPhones, too.


Click the Pair Device tile to get started at

How to easily secure your web browsing with TunnelBear’s free Chrome extension – Only need VPN-like protection for your browser and not your whole desktop? Check out TunnelBear for Chrome and Chrome OS.

Twitter’s Periscope is now available for Android – Twitter has officially released the live streaming app Periscope for Android users. The app allows users to broadcast video to users and receive feedback in the form of chat messages.


Cortana is coming to Android and iOS – Microsoft just announced that a Cortana application is landing on Android and iOS devices to work as a companion to the digital assistant found on Windows 10. Details incoming

Facebook adds restaurant reviews from actual food critics – Following a partnership with news outlets for Instant Articles, Facebook is now integrating restaurant reviews from reputable food publications.

9 Pocket Tips to Help You Read it Later – At launch, Pocket was actually known as Read It Later, before the App Store even existed. But after a 2012 name change, it has evolved into a seriously handy app. It archives whatever you’ve saved so that you can read it offline, which is particularly helpful when you’re on a subway or train with limited service. While Pocket is a simple cross-platform app, there are a few things that can make it that much more enjoyable.

Opera Max now monitors Wi-Fi usage, block data-hungry apps – Opera is a name you might more readily associate with mobile browsers, but in late 2013 it tried to diverge a bit from that core business. Focusing on one of its key strengths, which is compressing Internet data before it arrives on your device, it launched the Opera Max service that brings that feature to cover not just web pages, but more kinds of data. In the latest iteration of its Android app, it brings two new features to the fold: watching Wi-Fi data usage and shutting down obstinate apps.


Three helpful Word formatting tips for working smarter – These three formatting skills will improve your productivity and make you more efficient when working with Word documents.

Lenovo looks to low-cost laptops with three new models – Just ahead of its Tech World event in Beijing, Lenovo reveals three new low-cost consumer laptops, including the entry-level 14-inch ideapad 100 starting at just $249.


Fedora 22: Cloud, desktop and server innovation – Summary:Red Hat’s new Fedora Linux comes with a better desktop, but the real improvements are in the cloud and server updates.


Google’s Internet-connected toys patent sparks privacy concerns, visions of IoT Chucky – Google’s recently published patent for Internet-connected toys, which have microphones, cameras, speakers and motors, have sparked privacy concerns; the ‘creepy’ anthropomorphic devices might look like a doll or teddy bear, but some people believe it belongs ‘in a horror film’ and have visions of an IoT-version of Chucky.


Credit: Mike Mozart

Why SSDs don’t perform – From their earliest days, people have reported that SSDs were not providing the performance they expected. As SSDs age, for instance, they get slower. Here’s why.


Android ransomware poses as FBI smut warning – Cybercrooks have launched a new wave of Android ransomware that poses as a pretty convincing FBI-imposed porn-surfing warning. Over 15,000 spam emails, including zipped files, have hit the inboxes of Android users in recent days, according to Romanian security software firm Bitdefender. If activated, the ransomware demands $500 to restore access. Users that try to independently unlock their devices will see the amount increase to $1,500, with payment demanded via Money Pak and PayPal My Cash transfers. The malware poses as an Adobe Flash Player update, a common malware slinging ruse.


Android ransomware demands $500 to restore access.

IRS hacked; data stolen from over 100,000 taxpayers – Hackers successfully accessed—stole—personal information, including tax return data, from over 100,000 U.S. taxpayers. In a series of attacks that took place from February to mid-May, the hackers utilized the IRS’s “Get Transcript” system to access all of the personal information that would be on a tax return, from birthdays and social security numbers to addresses. The motivation behind the attack is, apparently, an extensive plot to claim fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities. According to the IRS, over $5.8 billion USD in fraudulent refunds were sent out in the year 2013, alone.

Blackhat hack trick wallops popular routers – A cybercrime vigilante known as Kafeine says criminals are hitting thousands of victims with a hacking tool that targets more than 40 router models. The well-known hacker says the novel attacks use cross-site request forgery and exploits against new and old bugs to change router DNS settings. This bypasses the need to target only routers with vulnerable remote services. Kafeine says the most popular routers can be targeted including Netgear, D-Link, and Asus to name a few. The hacker says the attackers’ have set up a dodgy DNS service that doesn’t direct traffic faithfully. Instead, Kafeine says victims are pointed to phishing sites whenever, for example, they attempt to log into internet banking portals. One such dodgy DNS server received up to a million unique hits on 9 May, he says.

Attackers use email spam to infect point-of-sale terminals with new malware – They’re likely counting on some employees misusing such terminals to browse the Web or check their personal email at work.

$19 million Target, MasterCard breach settlement crumbles – A proposed $19 million settlement reached last month between Target Corp. and MasterCard over a 2013 security breach fell apart after not enough banks who had sued the retailer agreed to be part of the deal they said fell short of actual damages, according to MasterCard. The settlement, announced last month, needed agreement by May 20 from 90% of MasterCard issuing banks and credit unions. Those numbers were not met, MasterCard reported. The $19 million was for reimbursement for fraudulent charges and the cost that card issuers suffered in re-issuing cards that had been compromised.

Company News:

Charter buys Time Warner Cable to create America’s second biggest cable provider – Charter Communications is buying Time Warner Cable (TWC) in a deal that values the latter, larger company at $78.7 billion. The two firms will merge together under the newly created parent company New Charter, which will become the second biggest cable provider in the US after Comcast. A separate acquisition by Charter of the smaller cable company Bright House Networks for $10.4 billion means that the new company will soon have 23.9 million customers in 41 states.

Microsoft moves deeper into Android territory, 20 new partners to ship tablets with Office apps – Microsoft has announced today that they have signed up 20 more hardware partners to ship their Android tablets with Office apps pre-installed; this includes LG, Sony, Haier, Positivo and Wortman.

Hyundai becomes first to use Android Auto in production cars – Hyundai today announced it will begin using Android Auto in vehicles this year, making it the first carmaker to enable vehicles to mirror a connected Android smartphone to the car’s dashboard infotainment system. Android Auto is premiering on the 2015 Sonata with navigation capabilities at dealerships nationwide, and will later become available on other Hyundai models, the company said.


Android Auto enables Google maps navigation.

Oculus acquires 3D mapping company Surreal Vision to turn reality into a video game – Virtual reality company Oculus has acquired Surreal Vision, a UK company whose software can map and recreate the real world in a virtual one. Surreal Vision grew out of its three co-founders’ Ph.D. research at Imperial College London; the team will now move to Oculus’ lab in Redmond, Washington. This is the latest of several acquisitions by Oculus, which was itself purchased by Facebook in March of 2014. After the Facebook buyout, it brought on the design team that helped create the Xbox 360 controller and Kinect, followed by motion-tracking company Nimble VR.


Apple’s Jony Ive promoted to chief design officer – Jony Ive, the design guru responsible for the minimalist characteristics of several Apple products over the years, has been promoted by the iPhone maker. Ive, who has served as the company’s senior vice president of design for several years, has been named to the newly created position of chief design officer, according to a memo sent to company employees by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Online Publisher Vox Acquires Tech News Site Recode – Online news publisher Vox Media said on Tuesday that it’s acquiring Recode, an influential tech news site, adding to a growing wave of consolidation in the tech media world.

Games and Entertainment:

UPDATED: The 30 Best iPhone Games – From casual match-three games to trivia to intense first-person shooters, our 30 best games for Apple’s iPhone span a range of genres.


Infinity Blade II

Mad Max Savage Road game trailer: it’s no Fury Road – Cars and monster trucks that tumble and go boom. People beating the hell out of other people. Malformed, and mostly bald, inhabitants of a post-apocalyptic world. A mysterious leading lady slash love interest. And more cars that go boom. That is the gist of the new trailer for the game tie-in to the blockbuster hit Mad Max Fury Road. And the title, Mad Max Savage Road, might be totally appropriate, as this adaptation involves much more gore and violence than the film was willing to show.


The latest Humble Bundle is for Nintendo fans – The base, pay-what-you-want bundle includes Guacamelee for the Wii U and Woah Dave and Mighty Switch Force on 3DS. Pay more than the average amount, and you can grab games like Steamworld Dig and OlliOlli as well. As with most Humble Bundles, more games will be added partway through the sale, which runs for the next two weeks. And while nothing has been announced just yet, the bundle could also mean more sales for more consoles in the future. “I hope this is the start of something,” Humble Bundle co-founder John Graham tells Polygon. You can grab the games right here.


Riot rolls out automated, instant bans for League of Legends trolls – League of Legends developer Riot Games is taking new steps to handle problem players more quickly and automatically, introducing a system to identify and ban players engaging in “verbal harassment” as quickly as 15 minutes after the end of a match. Riot explains how the new system works in a post on its Player Behavior blog. After teammates or opponents report a League player for “homophobia, racism, sexism, death threats, and other forms of excessive abuse,” Riot’s automated system will validate those reports, determine whether they’re worthy of punishment, and send a “reform card” that pairs chat log evidence of the behavior with an explanation of the punishment.

The 10 Most-Pirated Movies – There are two new flicks that made it onto the most-pirated movies list this week: Home, starring Rihanna, and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, starring Antonio Banderas. If you want to learn more about these movies, as well as the eight other films that were popular among pirates, check out the slideshow linked both above and below for more information.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates battle in new National Geographic series – The TV channel is launching a show called “American Genius” that’s about bitter rivalries, including the Wright Brothers vs. Curtiss, Colt vs. Wesson and Oppenheimer vs. Heisenberg.


In May 2007, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates got together for a rare–and amicable–joint appearance at the D5 technology conference.

Over 4 billion people still have no Internet connection – The number of people using the Internet is growing at a steady rate, but 4.2 billion out of 7.4 billion will still be offline by the end of the year. Overall, 35.3 percent of people in developing countries will use the Internet, compared to 82.2 percent in developed countries, according to data from the ITU (International Telecommunication Union). People who live in the so-called least developed countries will the worst off by far: In those nations only 9.5 percent will be connected by the end of December.

Largest photo ever is a 46TB image of the Alps – The world’s largest photo keeps getting bigger, and at this point it’s far too big to store on your laptop’s hard drive. The latest image to earn the title is a massive shot of the Alps that took more than two weeks to fully photograph and that takes up an astounding 46TB of space. With an image this big, you can zoom in, and in, and in, up to an incredible level of detail. Zoom all the way out, though, and you’re graced with an unprecedented photograph of the mountains. This latest record-setting image was very much a dedicated effort, requiring a total of 70,000 photographs to assemble.


You Can Now Buy a Lock of Mozart’s Hair If You Are Rich and Insane – If you love Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and have $20,000 to blow, you can head to Sotheby’s auction house in London this week and bid on a genuine lock of the composer’s hair. The Guardian reports that the ancient gray strands have been passed down through generations of musicians and come inside a gold locket with a note claiming they sprouted from the scalp of one of music’s greatest composers, who died in 1791. If you’re a less-rich-but-equally-insane classical music fan, you can bid on a smaller lock of genuine Beethoven hair that is expected to sell for around $5,000. Also up for auction this week is an invitation to Beethoven’s funeral.


The best time to drink coffee for maximum jolt? Video has answers – Let the folks at AsapScience open your eyes to a new strategy for consuming your coffee at precisely the right time to boost the buzz.


Creationist: The Flintstones was an accurate portrayal of Dino-human coexistence – Ken Ham, an Australian young-Earth creationist, says he is on the verge of proving that dinosaurs and humans coexisted only a couple of thousand years ago. According to a report on, Ham – along with a Dr David Menton – declared that he will soon publish “world-changing” evidence disproving that dinosaurs were present on the earth over 65 million years ago. “It is understood Mr Ham will claim that a bunch of donated Edmontosaurus bones are only a few thousand years old, based on the fact that they still contain remnants of bone marrow,” the Australian news site said.

Dealing with an infection lowers your IQ for up to 15 years – A new study conducted in Denmark makes the bold claim that infections can lead to a decrease in your cognitive ability severe enough to show up on diagnostic exams like an IQ test. The study consisted of more than 180,000 participants thanks to Denmark’s universal health care system. A little more than a third of the people in the study were diagnosed with a general infection at a Danish hospital between 1977 and 2012. Those who presented with infections showed a slight decline in cognitive ability compared to the average, with the IQ measurements made in 2006-2012. The effect was small — a single infection dropped the IQ of participants by 1.76 points, but those with five infections saw an average reduction in IQ of 9.44 points.

Something to think about:

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

–      Vince Lombardi

Today’s Free Downloads:

Glary Disk Cleaner – Protect your privacy, optimize system performance, and release considerable disk space.


Intuitive and easy to use interface

Support Ignore List, exclude files which don’t want to be deleted

Professional rapid scanning kernel

Support custom cleaning up temporary files

Clean up history at a glance


SSuite Office – Gif Animator – An easy to use gif animator and slide show creator. Just load your images into the list, and press create.

All animated files created with Gif Animator are completely compatible with all current web browsers for viewing.

Supports jpg, jpeg, and bmp images.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Steve Wozniak: Edward Snowden is ‘a Hero to Me’ – Steve Wozniak reaffirmed his staunch support for digital privacy in an interview over the weekend in which the Apple co-founder called National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden “a hero.”

Wozniak, who helped build Apple [fortune-stock symbol=”AAPL”] with Steve Jobs before leaving the tech giant in the mid-1980’s, has expressed an affinity for Snowden in the past. Over the weekend, Wozniak reiterated his admiration for Snowden in an interview with in which the inventor said Snowden “gave up his own life . . . to help the rest of us.”

Wozniak went on to tell the publication more on his feelings about Snowden:

“‘Total hero to me; total hero,’ he gushes. ‘Not necessarily [for] what he exposed, but the fact that he internally came from his own heart, his own belief in the United States Constitution, what democracy and freedom was about. And now a federal judge has said that NSA data collection was unconstitutional.’”

Skype hauled into court after refusing to hand call records to cops – Skype has been called to appear before a court in Belgium after refusing to hand over customer data following a request for assistance in a criminal investigation.

A court in Mechelen near Brussels wanted “data from messages and calls exchanged on Microsoft-owned Skype”, a regulatory requirement that a Belgian telecoms operator would be required to comply with.

The Microsoft-owned firm declined, Reuters reports.

The case turns on the legal question of whether or not a VoIP service such as Skype should be treated as a telecoms operator in Belgium and therefore be subject to the same laws. It’s unclear how serious the alleged crimes under investigation are, much less the identity of the suspect or suspects.

In response to a request for comment, Microsoft outlined its reasons for contesting the case without going into detail on the specifics or the legal arguments it intends to field.

UK porn laws might mean ID checks with the post office – The UK’s plans to introduce mandatory age checks for viewing pornography online could involve verifying users’ identities via third parties such as banks, mobile operators, credit agencies, or even the post office. The country’s Conservative party pledged to introduce such age checks earlier this year, and following their recent re-election, discussions have reportedly begun between the technology industry and the government over ways to implement the checks.

The Digital Policy Alliance (DPA), a nonpartisan body that offers advice on technology policy in the UK, has suggested using “information already on file” to carry out the checks. “Nobody in the UK wants a centralized identity database,” Dr Rachel O’Connell, an expert on online child safety advising the DPA, told The Guardian. “The way around that is that Royal Mail knows who you are, your mobile operator knows who you are.”

O’Connell suggests that users visiting porn sites could choose which organization would verify their ID, with their request and the organization’s reply transmitted through an “anonymizing hub” to protect their identity. A regulator could then block sites that don’t offer age checks, with the Authority for Television on Demand — the body that regulates online video streaming — expected to be given this role.

EU to David Cameron: Leave porn alone! – The UK and its leading Conservative government have been looking for a long time now at ways toblock online pornography, in the name of children’s safety. But it looks like the EU is not at all happy with the country’s approach, which it deems to be against the people’s interests.

A leaked EU document showed that David Cameron’s approach to online pornography – have it banned by default and make people opt in – has not been viewed in positive terms in Brussels. The issue of net neutrality comes up, with the EU reportedly considering making the PM’s plan illegal. Instead, the European officials would opt for a system that allows pornography by default with users, then being able to opt into a deal where the ISP blocks such content. The user would also be able to back out of the agreement with the ISP at any time.

John Carr, a government adviser on online safety and security for children and an executive member on the board of the UK council on Child Internet Safety, was quick to mention that such a proposal from the EU would destroy “a major plank of the UK’s approach to online child protection”.


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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – May 25, 2015

Who’s That? Facebook Messenger Adds ‘Caller ID’;  Boat safely with the help of the US Coast Guard mobile app;  14 privacy tools you should use to stay secure;  iOS 9 will work with your old iPhone;  Tips for buying used and unlocked phones;  How your iPhone can help you in a medical emergency;  5 Secret Amazon Prime Perks You Don’t Know About;  Meet OneClip, Microsoft’s cross-platform universal clipboard;  Here’s the 1 Trick to Getting People to Like Your Photos;  2.8 million victims squared up by malicious Minecraft;  Database of 4 million Adult Friend Finder users leaked for all to see;  Watch a robot sew a grape’s skin back on;  Google patents kids toys with hidden microphones, cameras;  IC3 urges social media users to beware: scams and fraud are surging;  These 20 deep, absorbing PC games will eat days of your life;   Russia threatens to block Google, Facebook, and Twitter if they don’t turn over blogger data;  IceCream Media Converter (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Boat safely and keep others informed with the help of the US Coast Guard mobile app – Boating season kicks off this weekend and while many recreational boaters do not have advanced navigation and communications equipment, they do have a smartphone. Install the USCG mobile app to stay informed and improve safety.


Who’s That? Facebook Messenger Adds ‘Caller ID’ – Do you have so many friends on Facebook that sometimes you forget who they are? Me neither, but some people are super popular and need a reminder about whether they’re talking to Matt from work, Matt from college, or Matt from the bar last weekend. For those folks, Facebook is adding “caller ID” for Facebook Messenger. Now, when someone contacts you on the chat app, Facebook will display a larger photo and identifying information.

How your iPhone can help you in a medical emergency – The Health app on your iPhone can be of help in a medical crisis. But you need to make sure your medical data stored in the app is accessible to a doctor or hospital. Here’s how to do just that.

iOS 9 will work with your old iPhone – Apple’s next iPhone and iPad software tipped to focus on quality, will work on older devices. Word this week is that the next operating system suite for Apple mobile and desktop machines will be aimed at delivering a highest-quality experience to the user. Not that Apple products with iOS or OS X didn’t promise this before, but this round it’s suggested that every product released over the past several years will be getting onboard with the same top-notch quality experience, working well top to bottom.

Tips for buying used and unlocked phones – Summary:You can save money and pick up some quality hardware if you know where to shop and what to avoid. Matthew Miller has the details.

5 Secret Amazon Prime Perks You Don’t Know About – Every year when my Amazon Prime membership is about to auto-renew, like the tens of millions of other members, I take a step back and wonder if the $99 per year price is worth it. So what keeps me re-upping my subscription? There’s a slew of other Amazon Prime benefits that, when all added up, are worth much more than the shipping savings alone. Here are five of the lesser-known Prime perks:

Google’s new ‘Literata’ font makes ebooks beautiful – You expect different fonts in the books you read than on the Web pages you read, and so it is common for some fonts to only be found in books — they’re tailored for the long-form reading experience, and altogether visually pleasant. Apple will reportedly be switching up its system fonts for better readability, and Google is doing something similar with its Google Play Books specifically. The Internet giant has unveiled a new font specifically for ebooks, and it’s called “Literata”.


See all 38 new Emoji here, before Unicode approves – The newest batch of proposed Emoji have been released (in proposal mode) this morning. These 38 new images include such gems as Drooling Face, Raised Back of Hand, and Croissant. The list includes notes about proposed popularity, including suggestions based on Google searches. Imagine how popular a Selfie Emoji will be with Google hits at 233,000,000 in text and 138,000,000 in images. People want these tiny representations of complex ideas, and they want them now. Immediately! Before they have to resort to words!


Ed Bott: With build 10122, Windows 10 finally starts coming together – Summary:It’s not a release candidate, but the latest Windows 10 preview has plenty of interesting new features and apps to explore. Here are some first impressions on what’s improved and what’s still missing in action.


Meet OneClip, Microsoft’s cross-platform universal clipboard – Microsoft is working on a new app called OneClip and the app lets you copy contents from any device to another, regardless of the platform and we have gotten our hands on the new product.


Instagram ‘highlights’ emails hitting your inbox soon – Instagram is getting on board with email. The popular social network started sending out “highlights” emails to some of its users this month. Like Twitter’s similar “best of” emails, the messages serve up a sort of recap of what’s been going on in your social network. More importantly for Instagram, the emails serve as a way to keep the photo sharing service at the front of users’ minds. An email here or there can help occasional users interact with the service without committing to opening the app every day or week.

Here’s the 1 Trick to Getting People to Like Your Photos – Researchers at Yahoo, in partnership with a professor at Georgia Tech, have published a new study analyzing how filters impact engagement on Yahoo’s photo-sharing site Flickr. According to the study, filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed than non-filtered photos and 45% more likely to be commented on. Photos with filters that project warm colors tend to drive more engagement than cooler filters (though we’re unconvinced anyone ever “likes” photos filtered with Kelvin, the overly orange tint available on Instagram)


Multitask like a champ with PinTasking on pre-Android Lollipop devices – PinTasking makes switching between two frequently used apps on a KitKat or earlier device a breeze. See how simple it is to use this free Android multitasking app.

One year with the Surface Pro 3: The best computer I have ever owned – I bought my Surface Pro 3 in May 2014 and it quickly became my primary computer for my home office, while accompanying me on 20 out-of-town trips. It’s my only tablet, with an iPad Mini and Nexus 9 coming and going because they were redundant and offered less. I’ve used my Surface Pro 3 in a number of different ways and in different situations so let me take you through my last year of usage.


14 privacy tools you should use to stay secure: Often, open-source software is the most secure – The latest Edward Snowden leaks have shown that the oldest, least funded open-source technologies are still able to hold out against intrusions and exploits by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Open-source offers one major benefit over their closed-source counterparts: The code is public and available for inspection, and therefore can’t as easily include secret backdoors for surveillance. Here are some of those (as of yet) still secure apps, services, and technologies that can keep you safe online.


OpenDNS aims to offer malware and botnet protection, and Web filtering to home users. This can help prevent gaining access to sites that are honeypots for hackers, or might put users at risk. And best of all, it’s free.

Database of 4 million Adult Friend Finder users leaked for all to see – E-mail addresses, sexual orientations, and other sensitive details from almost four million subscribers have been leaked onto the Internet following a hack that rooted the casual dating service, security researchers said. The cache includes more than 3.8 million unique e-mail addresses of current and former subscribers, Australian security researcher Troy Hunt reported early Friday morning. The data, which is in the form of 15 Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, was first seeded to anonymous sites hosted on the Tor privacy network. It has since spread to sites on the open Internet. Links to sites hosting the data are easily found on Twitter and other social networking sites, (Ars isn’t publishing the locations).

2.8 million victims squared up by malicious Minecraft apps – ESET researcher Lukas Stefanko says a whopping 2.8 million users have downloaded malicious Minecraft Android applications. Stefanko found 30 malicious apps uploaded to the Google Play store over nine months masquerading as Minecraft cheats and tip guides. Stefanko says “… several of them were installed between 100,000 and 500,000 times and the total number of installations of all 33 scareware applications lies between 660,000 and 2,800,000.”

IC3 urges social media users to beware: scams and fraud are surging – 12% of the 269,422 complaints received in 2014 had a social media aspect, be it doxing, clickjacking or pharming. Here’s how to stay safe.

How one US Embassy staffer allegedly sextorted hundreds from his desk – An American staffer at the United States Embassy in London has been accused of running a sextortion scheme—amazingly, primarily from his heavily monitored, government-owned work computer. Despite this, the embassy’s network security protocol apparently failed to flag the man’s behavior. Ford faces federal charges of stalking, extortion, and computer fraud, among others. To be clear, he is not accused of extorting money. During his detention hearing, according to the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, the native Georgian is suspected of harassing hundreds of women, primarily university students.

Canadian teen pleads guilty to 23 charges for online harassment, bomb threats – A Canadian teen has pleaded guilty to 12 charges this week related to online harassment and “swatting” families across the US and Canada in 2013 and 2014. He had previously pleaded guilty to 11 other charges, bringing the total to 23 counts of extortion, public mischief, and criminal harassment. His actions, outlined in detail by Tri City News, follow a pattern of threats, doxing, and swatting. He would threaten his victims, hack their social media accounts and tweet out personal information, and then call the police to demand a ransom, while claiming to have bombs or guns at the homes of his victims. He also admitted to a bomb hoax that shut down Disneyland’s Space Mountain last year.

Company News:

BlackBerry slashes smartphone workforce – BlackBerry is axing jobs across its smartphone business, as the ailing Canadian company attempts to coax out a profit amid dwindling demand. The job losses, confirmed by BlackBerry this week, are a result of moves to “consolidate our device software, hardware and applications business,” a spokesperson for the firm said, with a renewed focus on pushing software and licensing revenues rather than relying on handsets that have singularly failed to set enterprise or consumer markets alight.

Google patents kids toys with hidden microphones, cameras – If your laptop’s webcam staring back at you gives you the willies, Google’s newly patented connected kids toys will bring a whole new level of creepiness. The patent details “an anthropomorphic device, perhaps in the form factor of a doll or toy, [that] may be configured to control one or more media devices.” Joining the description is an illustration showing a stuffed teddy bear and bunny rabbit with embedded microphones, cameras, speakers, and motors. We’ve a copy of the illustration after the jump!


Microsoft’s acquisition falls through due to price disagreements – The buyout, had it gone through, would have been the largest software company sale in history. According to sources familiar with the talks, Marc Benioff kept raising the price and at point wanted as high as $70 billion for the company, placing it well above Microsoft’s $55 billion offer. This large gap between what Microsoft was willing to pay and what Salesforce was seeking is reportedly the main reason the companies failed to reach an agreement.

AT&T et al challenging net neutrality order on 1st Amendment grounds – In a statement of issues that AT&T intends to raise when the case moves further into the court process, the company said last week that it plans on challenging whether the FCC’s net neutrality order “violates the terms of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and the First and Fifth Amendments to the US Constitution.” The First and Fifth Amendment will be used to attack the FCC’s decision to reclassify both fixed and mobile broadband as common carrier services, as well as the FCC’s assertion of authority over how ISPs interconnect with other networks.

Games and Entertainment:

These 20 deep, absorbing PC games will eat days of your life – Far too many games these days are built to be played in small bursts: brief encounters, designed for a world with too few hours in the day and too many digital distractions. And that’s fine! Blasting through a few rounds of Call of Duty multiplayer, or playing a few run-throughs in Spelunky, is a wonderful way to spend a few minutes. But sometimes, you want something more—something meatier. Whether you’re looking for an entertaining way to blow a long weekend or simply want to wrap your head around a satisfyingly complex experience, these 20 deep, intricate, and just plain great PC games will hold you for hours and hours and hours on end.

Mario Kart: Fury Road is the best Mad Max mash-up yet – The ridiculously fun new version of Mad Max has only been in theaters for a week, but the hot takes, memes, and mash-ups are already popping up with a fury. If you loved Mario Kart 64 as much as I did, it hits all the right notes: a flying blue shell takes out a lead car, there’s a scene on Rainbow Road, and the sound effects — my god, the sound effects! Excuse me while I head home and blow some dust out of my Mario Kart cartridge.


HBO’s Game of Thrones continues to smash piracy records – HBO seems to have one of the best problems that a television network could have. Their mega hit Game of Thrones continues to break internet piracy records, and the show gets more viewers from illicit methods than many other TV shows get legitimately. It must be some form of a compliment when fans of the show who don’t have HBO will do anything they can to catch the latest episode. And in fact it’s the latest episode that once has once again set a new piracy record.

Steam isn’t helping gaming grow on Linux, usage drops to less than 1% – The rise of Linux on the desktop is always just around the corner, right? Most recently it was Valve’s new focus on Steam-powered Linux gaming that was supposed to boost the open source OS to new heights. However, the most recent Steam Hardware & Software Survey shows a big drop for Linux. It’s now less than 1% of Steam systems. Linux didn’t have all that much to lose before, at least. The usage share prior to the April report (that’s the most recent, obviously) was 1.05% and now it’s at 0.94%. The top OS is Windows by a huge margin with total usage share of 95.81%. Even OS X is more than tripling Linux usage with 3.16%.

Virtual reality wants to rule video games. Here’s who’ll rule VR – Soon you’ll don a high-tech headset as easily as you reach for your controller. Watch for blockbuster launches in the year ahead, with Facebook and Valve leading the charge.


55 Movies and TV Shows Leaving Netflix in June – Below we bring you the complete, official list of what will be leaving the service in June, direct from Netflix HQ. But first, a quick look at the geekiest flicks (and one mini-series) to cram in before they get the boot.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Watch a robot sew a grape’s skin back on – As you can see in the video below, the claw-like hands are used not just to lay a small piece of grape skin back on the piece of fruit, but to then use sutures to sew it back in place. While the video shows off what the Single-Site Wristed Needle Driver can do, it also notes that the piece of equipment is pending FDA 510(k) clearance and does not yet have a CE mark. The disclosure at the end of clip states that the Single-Site instruments can be used for hysterectomies and the removal of ovaries and gallbladders.


Justice Department releases guidelines on domestic drone use – The US Justice Department is the latest to provide policy guidelines on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). On Friday it published its guidelines laying out how federal law enforcement agencies may (and may not) use the remote-controlled vehicles. So far, the FBI is the only agency within the department to use the drones in missions. In a five page document, the department says that UAVs may not be used to monitor any activities protected by the First Amendment, such as peaceful protests and demonstrations. In addition, law enforcement must “seek a warrant in circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy,” consistent with the Constitution.

NASA astronaut records stunning view as he flies across the night sky – Astronauts aboard the International Space Station don’t need to flick on the TV to help them fall asleep at night. They can just look out the window. This weekend, Commander Terry Virts, who’s been aboard the station since November, gave us Earthbound folk a look at just what we’re missing. A video posted to his Twitter account shows the absolutely surreal view from aboard ISS as it hurtles around the Earth at roughly 17,000 mph. As the stars slip below the horizon, they meet the rapidly-moving lights from the surface. It’s utterly stupendous.


Do You Remember Your First Cell Phone? – The thought of having a phone without instant access to email, maps, Facebook, Instagram, and texts is a foreign concept, and a day without a phone is like a day without air. But it wasn’t always this way, of course. In the 90s and early aughts, all we wanted was a mobile phone with acceptable voice quality that didn’t weigh 5 pounds or cost $4 per minute. It was an amazing time to be alive.

Scientists Reconstruct the Life of a Bronze Age Sun-Worshipping Priestess – During the summer of 1370 BCE, a young woman died in Egtved, Denmark. She was between 16 and 18 years old, and her immaculate burial suggests she was from a high status family. Slim, blonde, and 5’3” tall, the girl has become known to history as the Egtved Girl—one of the most well-preserved human specimens from Bronze Age Europe. Except, as it turns out, the Egtved Girl was not from Egtved at all. According to a fascinating new study published this week in Scientific Reports, this teenager traveled widely during her short life, and she likely grew up near the Black Forest in Germany, some 500 miles away from where she was buried, as the crow flies.


Reconstruction of Egtved Girl’s clothes. Image: Eigenes Wirk

Here’s what it looks like when your rocket launch aborts – A pilot’s eye view of what happens when a rocket launch goes wrong is not something most would like to experience, but SpaceX can help you live it vicariously. Elon Musk’s commercial space flight company has released capsule footage from the Dragon craft used in the launch abort system test completed successfully earlier this month, a vital backup should something go wrong when the ship starts taking human passengers up into Earth’s atmosphere and beyond.


Watch: This Real-Life Hoverboard Is Almost Impossible to Believe – But it’s real, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.


Meditation can make you miserable, psychologist says – Technically Incorrect: Meditation and mindfulness may be milestones on the road to bliss, but you may also end up in a ditch of despair, says a brain expert.

Something to think about:

“The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.”

–      Oscar Wilde

Today’s Free Downloads:

IceCream Media Converter – Meet IceCream Media Converter, one of the most powerful and user-friendly media conversion tools that supports major and popular audio and video formats. The program also allows you to download YouTube videos and convert them to AVI, MP4, MP3 and other formats. Its intuitive interface makes conversion of AVI, MKV, MP4, WMV, MP3, WAV, MPEG, WMA and other files to any audio and video format easy for everyone.

Audio and video formats supported:

flv, mkv, mp4, avi, swf, 3gp, flac, wmv, vob, rmvb, mov, m4v, midi, mp4, mpg, mpeg, m2ts, mts, mp3, wma, wav, m4a, m4p, cda, aac, aiff, ogg


Farbar Recovery Scan Tool – Farbar Recovery Scan Tool, or FRST, is a portable application designed to run in normal or safe mode to diagnose malware issues. It is also possible to run FRST in the Windows Recovery Environment in order to diagnose and fix boot issues.

This program will display detailed information about the Windows Registry loading points, services, driver services, Netsvcs entries, known DLLs, drives, and partition specifications. It will also list some important system files that could be patched by malware.

Note: There are both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Farbar Recovery Scan Tool available. Please pick the version that matches your operating system’s bit type. If you don’t know which version matches your system, you may try both of them. Only one of them will run on your system.

Limitations: If you are using Windows XP and have boot issue, the system should boot to the Recovery Environment using a PE Boot CD and then you can run FRST


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA is getting ready to shut down bulk surveillance programs in response to failed Senate vote – After a late Senate vote after midnight on Friday, the NSA is starting to take moves to shut down its bulk surveillance programs. With the legal foundation of those programs, the Patriot Act, set to expire at the end of the month, lawmakers have been working to agree on which parts of the mass surveillance systems should stay and which should go. The Senate failed to pass a replacement bill, the USA Freedom Act, and another measure proposed by Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) to extend the program as-is also did not pass.

County sheriff has used stingray over 300 times with no warrant – The sheriff in San Bernardino County—east of Los Angeles County—has deployed a stingray hundreds of times without a warrant, and under questionable judicial authority.

In response to a public records request, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department (SBSD) sent Ars, among other outlets, a rare example of a template for a “pen register and trap and trace order” application. (In the letter, county lawyers claimed this was a warrant application template, when it clearly is not.) The SBSD is the law enforcement agency for the entire county, the 12th-most populous county in the United States, and the fifth-most populous in California.

Stingrays, or cell-site simulators, can be used to determine location by spoofing a cell tower, but they can also be used to intercept calls and text messages. Once deployed, the devices intercept data from a target phone as well as information from other phones within the vicinity. For years, federal and local law enforcement have tried to keep their existence a secret while simultaneously upgrading their capabilities. Over the last year, as the devices have become scrutinized, new information about the secretive devices has been revealed.

This template application, surprisingly, cites no legal authority on which to base its activities. The SBSD did not respond to Ars’ request for comment.

Cops don’t have to give man his own license plate reader data, court finds – A San Diego, California court has ruled that a tech entrepreneur will not be allowed to access his license plate reader (LPR) records from a regional government agency.

Earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal handed down a six-page decision to Michael Robertson, finding that he does not have the right, under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), to access records of his own license plate as scanned by members of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

Judge Bacal found that the LPR records were exempt from the CPRA, under a provision of the law that protects “records of investigation,” and under a catch-all section if releasing such records is not in the public interest. As she wrote in the Statement of Decision:

Petitioner has not articulated how his LPR data will contribute to the public’ s understanding of the government. On the other hand, disclosure of the LPR data will be detrimental to the public’s interest. As explained above, the data is collected and used to investigate criminal-activity, and disclosure of that information can be used to hinder law enforcement’s efforts to identify and apprehend criminals and to protect ‘victims of criminal activity. The Court finds the public interest in nondisclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

The decision against Robertson, who has been involved in some high-profile legal disputes with the recording industry for over a decade, is the second one this month where courts have found that the petitioners do not have the right to access such data.

Russia threatens to block Google, Facebook, and Twitter if they don’t turn over blogger data – The Guardian reported last week that Russia is demanding Google, Twitter, and Facebook to hand over all data on any Russian bloggers who get more than 3,000 hits per day. Russia states that not doing so is a violation of its internet laws and websites found breaking these laws could be met with serious sanctions.

According to the Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal branch responsible for media oversight, the encryption employed by these companies does not allow Russia to block specific content that it deems inappropriate. This could potentially result in the blocking of these services entirely if they refuse to turn over the data and block posts by Russian bloggers that call for “unsanctioned protests and unrest”.

Critics of the Russian government are viewing this as a serious crackdown on freedom of speech. President Vladimir Putin has grown increasingly concerned with the openness of the internet and difficultly of regulating content. In the past, he has gone as far as calling the internet a project of the CIA.


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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – May 22, 2015

NSA planned Google Play hack to target Android smartphones;  14 privacy tools you should use to stay secure;  How to prevent mobile malware in 3 easy steps;  How to restart your Android phone into safe mode;  The 20 best Android apps for kids;  Five precautions for avoiding malware when you download and install software;  30 Google Drive Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss;  Mileage trackers made easy;  The Best Free Antivirus for 2015;  9 malware defenders;  Your Secret Questions Are Just as Terrible As Your Passwords;  Google Will Retool Its Maps Service To Prevent Racist Listings;   The 20 best free Android games to play right now;  Ransomware rescue kit released to combat criminal enterprise;   Microsoft, Facebook, Google And The Future Of Voice Communications.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

NSA planned Google Play hack to target Android smartphones – The project, first published Wednesday by CBC News and The Intercept, sought to exploit the smartphone operating system for surveillance. Dubbed “Irritant Horn” by the NSA, the agency planned to hack and hijack the connections to app stores and direct users to spyware. That spyware would collect data and send it back to the NSA without the user noticing. The newly-released document shows how the NSA and its partner agencies in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, wanted to launch man-in-the-middle attacks, a process of tapping into the connection between a user and a server, to install the spyware implant.

14 privacy tools you should use to stay secure – From encrypted instant messengers to secure browsers and operating systems, these privacy-enhancing apps, extensions, and services can protect you both online and offline.

How to prevent mobile malware in 3 easy steps – Most malicious software is found in third-party app stores popular in a few countries that are loaded with pirated versions of software or trojanized applications. While Symantec automatically discovered and analyzed 6.3 million mobile apps in 2014, for example, there are only about 1.5 million apps in the Google Play store and fewer than that in the Apple App Store, according to AppFigures, meaning that two-thirds of applications from other sources make up the majority of data. Paying heed to the data, three simple steps are recommended for North American users.

How to restart your Android phone into safe mode – Safe mode is indispensable when it comes to troubleshooting pesky software problems on your computer. But have you ever wished that a similar feature existed on your Android device? It does, and it’s easy to use: Here’s how to restart your Android phone into safe mode.

The Top Tablets for Your Kids – The iPad is not the only tablet on the market that will appeal to your tech-savvy toddler, tween, or teen. There are a number of Android-based slates that won’t break the bank, Amazon has a kid-focused Kindle Fire, and toy manufacturers are turning their attention toward rugged tablets that can withstand a few drops, crashes, or throws. If the child in your life has been begging for a tablet, or keeps stealing yours, check out our list of the top tablets you should consider.

Learn by doing and exploring with the 20 best Android apps for kids – Whether it’s after school hours or during those long holidays, handing your child a phone or tablet doesn’t have to mean they’re frying their brain through dreaded “screen time.” Instead these educational apps and games show that they can investigate new concepts, practice math, and play games that will sharpen their skills. So check out our roundup of the 20 best selections for kids to get your child hooked on apps that will help them get excited about learning and develop those imperative problem-solving skills.


Mileage trackers made easy – Tracking mileage can be tedious–but it’s also necessary, whether you need to report it to the IRS or file for reimbursement from your employer. And if your system involves scribbling odometer readings and meeting names on scraps of paper, I have good news for you: There’s an easier way. Here are three apps that make tracking and reporting your miles a whole lot easier.

Adblock Plus’ new Firefox-based browser eradicates ads on Android devices – ABP announced the new effort on Wednesday with an open beta that anyone can join. Unfortunately it’s not exactly a hassle-free process, and at this writing the browser was still awaiting approval from Google before appearing in the Play Store. When it does show up, you can get in on the beta by joining the ABP Browser Google+ community and then click the (at this writing, non-existent) Beta Opt-in button under the About section. The button will appear once Google approves the browser for Play.

30 Google Drive Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss – After almost a decade, Google Drive has come a long way in its own maturity. Anyone with a Google account—the kind you have for Gmail or any other Google service—gets instant instant access to the tools. Businesses, schools, and non-profits have the option of using Google Apps, a version of Google Drive with all the storage and tools, plus integration of Gmail, Calendar, Sites, and more under their own domain name. Drive—one of our Editors’ Choice suites—is a serious set of tools for serious (or fun) work, all entirely free. But it pays to know more than just the basics. That’s why we’ve put together these 30 tips for you on how to get the most out of Google Drive.

4 Gmail Labs features you should be using – To enable any Gmail Lab feature, click the gear icon in the top left of the Gmail pane. Go to Settings > Labs. Scroll down to the feature you want, select the Enable radio button, and click Save Changes. Should you run into trouble using any of these, you can get to your email by going to, which disables these features so you can reach your inbox. Assuming you’re comfortable being Gmail’s guinea pig, here are four Google Labs features you should experiment with yourself.

Microsoft is rolling out a large update to Clutter, themes, add-ins and more – Microsoft has announced today a major update to that will bring with it new features designed to improve productivity by delivering a refined inbox, improved collaboration and more.

Debunked: Your SSD won’t lose data if left unplugged after all – If you’re in a panic because the Internet told you that your shiny new SSD may lose data in “just a few days” when stored in a hot room, take a chill pill—it’s apparently all a huge misunderstanding, according to the man who wrote the original presentation all the fear is based on. In a conversation with Kent Smith of Seagate and Alvin Cox, the Seagate engineer who wrote the presentation that set the Internet abuzz, PCWorld was told we’re all just reading it wrong.

Firefox to get more ads via upcoming ‘Suggested Tiles’ – Firefox’s previous introduction of in-tab advertisements didn’t go over well with many users, but the outcry apparently wasn’t high enough to reverse things. Today Mozilla announced “Suggested Tiles”, which are advertisements that appear as tiles inside of a new tab. It differs a bit from the previous Directory Tiles (it is said to be a “complement” to them), and works by presenting content from advertisers that are personalized based on the user’s own activity. It is promised the ads are fully “user controlled”.


Snapchat starts dabbling with music videos – Snapchat has been slowly but surely expanding its reach, adding in content from various partners in an effort to draw in more users and advertisers. Latest to give the mobile service a shot is Josh Legg, a musician who goes by the name Goldroom. Given that some of his fanbase has started increasingly using Snapchat as a communication medium, he has decided to partner with the messaging service and will release four music videos on it. The first video came out on Tuesday, and the last one is scheduled to be released tomorrow.

Court orders Popcorn Time websites be blocked by Israeli ISPs – With its nickname of “Netflix for pirates,” the app/service Popcorn Time has quickly become popular the world over among, well, internet pirates, and with new features like the ability to watch content in a web browser, media giants and copyright holders are quickly becoming concerned. Following a similar move in the UK last month, media companies in Israel have successfully petitioned a court to order the nation’s internet service providers block all Popcorn Time websites.

Google Will Retool Its Maps Service To Prevent Racist Listings – Google has confirmed that it is making changes to its Google Maps service to stop racist terms and other inappropriate words from displaying location search results. The issue blew up this week after searches for “n*****” or “nigga” were found to pull up the White House and other locations associated with African Americans and other ethnic minorities.


The Best Free Antivirus for 2015 – While you certainly get your money’s worth from the premium antivirus software, there are also some very good third-party antivirus tools that don’t cost a thing. We’ve rounded up a collection of totally free antivirus products that should serve you well. Your antivirus should definitely have the ability to root out existing malware, but its ongoing task is to prevent any nasty programs from getting a foothold. All of the antivirus programs in this collection offer real-time protection against malware attack. Some take the fight upstream, working hard to ensure you never even browse to a malware-hosting site.

9 malware defenders – Keeping your computer clean and secure requires more than removing viruses. Many pieces of malicious code are designed to circumvent antivirus protection. These applications can range from minor annoyances like potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) to advertisements (adware) to outright malicious software (malware and spyware) that can cripple your day-to-day usage. We tested some of the latest and greatest antimalware kits that can help you before your PC is compromised. These Windows apps will work in conjunction with your current antivirus software as an additional layer of protection.

Five precautions for avoiding malware when you download and install software – Downloading a program—especially one from an obscure publisher without a positive reputation—is something of a leap of faith. It’s a bit like letting a total stranger into your home. But if you follow these five steps, you should be okay.

Flawed Android factory reset leaves crypto and login keys ripe for picking – The researchers tested the factory reset of 21 Android smartphones that ran versions 2.3.x to 4.3 of the mobile OS and were sold by five manufacturers. All of the phones retained at least some fragments of old data, including contact data stored in the phone app and third-party apps such as Facebook and What’sApp, images and video from the camera, and text-based conversations from SMS and e-mail apps. In 80 percent of phones, the researchers were able to extract the master token Android uses to give access to most Google user data, such as Gmail and Google calendar.

Google, Samsung, and 16 others receive post-password certification – This morning, the plot to kill the password got a little stronger. 18 different companies received an official FIDO certification for 31 different products, ranging from physical devices to login services. They’re the first products to be officially certified under the specification, opening the door for interoperating services down the road. The services aren’t comprehensive enough to do away with passwords entirely, and not all of them have been deployed — but once they are, anyone using the systems will have a robust alternative to simply typing in a string of characters.

Your Secret Questions Are Just as Terrible As Your Passwords – Not only do we use awful passwords, but we can’t even remember the answers to our secret questions, Google finds.

Ransomware rescue kit released to combat criminal enterprise – Often infecting computers through phishing campaigns and malicious links, the malware locks systems and displays a message — often masquerading as police or an intelligence agency — and accuses the victim of illegal activities. The notice demands payment in a certain timeframe in order to provide a key to unlock a system and its files — which may or may not work. In order to combat this kind of criminal enterprise, security professional Jada Cyrus has compiled a rescue kit which is available for free online. Designed to help “streamline the process of responding to ransomware infections,” the ransomware response kit comes with instructions and decryption tools for different strains of ransomware.

Company News:

Uber is One Step Closer to Picking You Up in a Self-driving Car – Uber users are a step closer being chauffeured around town in driverless cars. The ride hailing service has started testing a self-driving car as part of plan to automate rides and eliminate the cost of drivers, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times. The test car was recently spotted on the road in Pittsburgh, where Uber has opened a research lab. The car, with “Uber Advanced Technologies Center” emblazoned on the side, had what appeared to be equipment for autonomous navigation affixed to its roof.

HP’s profit slips 21% as services business stumbles – Hewlett-Packard has reported another drop in quarterly revenue and profit, with a notable 16% slide in its enterprise services business. The company said it’s on track to divide itself into two companies later this year, but made a last-minute change to its leadership plans: CFO Cathie Lesjak will move to HP Inc., the division that will sell PCs and printers, and not to HP Enterprise, as originally planned. HP has been trying to expand its business for a few years without success, and the split is a bold gambit to see if can perform better as two companies. Revenue slipped 7% in the quarter ended April 30, to $25.5 billion — its 15th straight quarter of declining sales.

Lenovo Q4: Revenue boost rides on record PC sales – Lenovo has taken a financial hit in Q4 FY2014/2015, but the firm’s fourth quarter financial report does show increased revenue and sales figures. The Chinese PC maker reported on Thursday Q4 net income of $100 million with earnings of $0.91 cents per share, falling 37 percent from $253 million in the third quarter of FY2014/2015 due to the closure of acquisitions as well as currency fluctuations. ( statement)

Report: Google prepping Android-based ‘Internet of Things’ operating system – The Information reports that Google is building an Android-powered operating system code-named Brillo that will run on low-powered devices with as little as 32 MB of RAM. Also, no screen would be required to run the software. By comparison, the typical Android smartphone has at least 512 MB of memory. The report says the operating system is the work of Google’s Android team, so it will carry some type of Android branding. It also could connect into Google’s Nest thermostats, which have demonstrated the capability to connect to Android Wear and Google Now.

Tech IPO Scorecard: Shopify Skyrockets 51%, While Baozun Rises A Slimmer 4.6% – Two tech companies went public today, both posting first-day gains. The Canadian Shopify popped a massive 51 percent, while Baozun picked up a slimmer 4.6 percent. While seeing your share price appreciate on your IPO day is always welcome, Baozun had to work harder to get its pop than Shopify.

Games and Entertainment:

The 20 best free Android games to play right now – Most new games that launch on the Play Store tend to be free, but too many feel like business models disguised as entertainment. Luckily, not every free game is like that. In fact, some of them are pretty excellent. Sure, some of these games have ads or opportunities to spend money, but those small annoyances are easily outweighed by great fun and long-lasting amusement. Looking for some worthwhile games to play that don’t cost anything and won’t lose steam after a few early minutes of fun? Here are 20 worth downloading right away.

The Witcher 3 gets a graphics-boosting PC patch as furor erupts over visual quality – One of the ugliest bits about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s launch has been the ongoing controversy about the “graphics downgrade” on PC. If you’re not familiar, Kirk Hamilton’s written a pretty excellent summary at Kotaku. Basically, in-game Witcher 3 doesn’t look quite up to snuff compared to a 2013 early gameplay trailer for The Witcher 3—and some argue it doesn’t even look as good as The Witcher 2 at times. The Witcher 3 isn’t exactly the graphics card-punishing beast we all expected (unless you activate Nvidia’s HairWorks option with an AMD Radeon graphics card, that is). To that end, CD Projekt released a patch today that should clear up some of your woes. Maybe. Here’s the full list of changes, most of them related to graphics and performance:


YouTube launches 60fps live streaming in quest to take on Twitch – While the 60fps streaming isn’t just for gaming content, YouTube notes that it will mean “silky smooth playback for gaming and other fast-action videos.” The feature is available now as an “early preview,” and will work in any browser that supports HTML5. “We’ll also make your stream available in 30fps on devices where high frame rate viewing is not yet available,” the company explains, “while we work to expand support in the coming weeks.”


Meet the new QuizUp, an addicting trivia game and social network – QuizUp is one of those games you can play for hours before realizing that you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and can’t escape. It’s about to get worse: The popular trivia game just relaunched with a social networking facet that’s more Reddit than Facebook. QuizUp, which launched about 18 months ago and has racked up 33 million users, also rolled out a desktop version of the game and a refreshed design on Thursday. But it’s the social features that Plain Vanilla CEO Thor Fridriksson believes will set his game apart from other addicting trivia apps (cough, Trivia Crack, cough).


Windows 10 headed to Xbox One after the summer – Microsoft plans to put Windows 10 on everything from PCs to smartphones and tablets. That Windows 10 love will spill over to your Xbox One gaming console as well getting just about every hardware device Microsoft fiddles with into the Windows 10 love fest. If you are looking forward to trying out Windows 10 on your Xbox One exactly when it will land for the game console is a bit clearer now after some details were offered from Phil Spencer.


Hauppauge’s Xbox One TV tuner is now available in the US and Canada – The Xbox One has long been what some have considered a robust entertainment machine. Today, Hauppauge’s OTA TV tuner is getting a general release for those in the U.S. and Canada. The Hauppauge Digital TV Tuner for the Xbox One is now available for $59.99 via Amazon and the Microsoft Store. For those interested in an antenna, Microsoft is also offering the Hauppauge Digital TV Tuner plus a Mohu Leaf 50 antenna for $99.99 for a limited time.


BBC’s Grand Theft Auto movie earns it a lawsuit – In case you hadn’t heard, the BBC is working on a Grand Theft Auto movie and it, by all accounts, is progressing nicely. Or was up until the moment Rockstar Games slapped the BBC with a lawsuit. The lawsuit was recently filed against the BBC by Take-Two Interactive, which is Rockstar Games’ parent company. The reasons revolve around trademark infringement, and according to a statement Take-Two tried to work things out with the BBC before resorting to the legal route. Apparently the talks did not go well.

Off Topic (Sort of):

An unapologetic history of plane hacking: Beyond the hype and hysteria – Controversy over a security researcher’s alleged hacking into a plane’s engine mid-flight raises serious questions as to why years of public research on airline hacking has gone ignored.

Caffeine may help men wake up in more ways than one (wink, wink) – Science can’t seem to make its mind up whether caffeine is good or bad for us. One week, we might get a study saying caffeine is more likely to cause aliens to plant their spawn in our chest cavities, and the next, we might get another saying the stuff can give us the ability to fly and walk through walls. Recently, caffeine got another line of chalk in the win column, thanks to a study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Researchers there found that men who drink approximately two to three cups of coffee a day may have a lower risk of erectile dysfunction.

Bin Laden Might Have Trained Terrorists With a Video Game – The SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden recovered video game-related books from the Al Qaeda leader’s bunker, according to documents released Wednesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. But was bin Laden just a gaming enthusiast or was he using the material to train terrorists?


Microsoft, Facebook, Google And The Future Of Voice Communications – All of a sudden, it seems like Facebook, Google and Apple are climbing all over each other to own the voice interaction, and specifically, the phone conversation. They’re in a race to compete in the most valuable part of “social” — as if they’ve forgotten, until now, just how much humans ultimately value one-on-one conversation.

This week’s YouTube hit: How to scare a charging bear – Technically Incorrect: On a snowy trail in the woods, a bear meets a Swedish man — and apparently meets its match.


Einstein considered a bigger hero than Jesus, says study – It seems that the biggest hero in the world is Einstein. As reports, he’s bigger than Mother Teresa. He’s bigger than Martin Luther King Jr. He’s bigger than Jesus Christ (he came in sixth). Isaac Newton also came in above Jesus. He was fifth. That must make up a little for having a failed Apple product named after him. Thomas Edison came in eighth. Yes, above Abraham Lincoln and Buddha. Could there possibly have been a more positive sign for science? Only if one of the “Mythbusters” presenters had streaked past Jesus. The students who responded to this survey were, on average, 23 years old. They came from 37 countries. They all had quite similar notions of who their heroes were. They had very different notions about their villains.

Tech nostalgia: The top 10 innovations of the 1970s – In the decade of all things “groovy,” modern technology was advancing at lightning speed. Here are the most important innovations of the 1970s.

Something to think about:

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

–       William James

Today’s Free Downloads:

TeamViewer QuickSupport – TeamViewer is the fast, simple and friendly solution for remote access over the Internet – all applications in one single, very affordable module. This is the complete TeamViewer with install and uninstall support.

Desktop sharing has never been easier: With TeamViewer you will be able to connect to the desktop of a partner anywhere on the Internet.

TeamViewer also works in the other direction: Show your own desktop to a partner over the Internet and illustrate your own developed software, presentations or solutions.

Remote Control without Installation – With TeamViewer you can remotely control any PC anywhere on the Internet. No installation is required, just run the application on both sides and connect – even through tight firewalls.

Remote Presentation of Products, Solutions and Services – The second TeamViewer mode allows you to present your desktop to a partner. Show your demos, products and presentations over the Internet within seconds – live from your screen.

NOTE: Free for non-commercial use only.


Remote Control without Installation: With TeamViewer you can remotely control any PC anywhere on the Internet. No installation is required, just run the application on both sides and connect – even through tight firewalls.

Remote Presentation of Products, Solutions and Services: The second TeamViewer mode allows you to present your desktop to a partner. Show your demos, products and presentations over the Internet within seconds – live from your screen.

File Transfer: TeamViewer comes with integrated file transfer that allows you to copy files and folders from and to a remote partner – which also works behind firewalls

Works behind Firewalls: The major difficulties in using remote control software are firewalls and blocked ports, as well as NAT routing for local IP addresses.

If you use TeamViewer you don’t have to worry about  firewalls:  TeamViewer will find a route to your partner.

Highest Security Standard: TeamViewer is a very secure solution. The commercial TeamViewer versions feature completely secure data channels with key exchange and RC4 session encoding, the same security standard used by https/SSL.

No Installation Required: To install TeamViewer no admin rights are required. Just run the software and off you go…

High Performance: Optimized for connections over LANs AND the Internet, TeamViewer features automatic bandwidth-based quality selection for optimized use on any connection.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

New NSA documents reveal plans to deliver malware through the Google Play store – The NSA developed a plan to deliver malware through Google and Samsung app stores, according to newly published documents obtained by Edward Snowden and published by The Intercept. The documents details a program called IRRITANT HORN, which delivers malware by intercepting web traffic to and from mobile application servers. One slide details Samsung’s update protocol, while another pinpoints the Google Play servers in France, used to deliver updates to phones throughout northern Africa.

Once the path to those servers was established, the NSA could intercept traffic before it reached the servers, injecting malware to specific users through a man-in-the-middle attack. The files would appear to come from a trusted app store, but they would really be coming from the NSA. From there, the NSA could deliver tools from its extensive catalog of surveillance programs, including pulling a user’s contact list or reporting their location in near-real-time. Both Samsung and Google employ TLS encryption to protect against man-in-the-middle attacks like this, but cryptographers have been speculating for years that the NSA has found a way to break or circumvent those protections.

U.S. Senate leader to push for vote to renew NSA phone dragnet – The U.S. Senate on Thursday failed to move forward on efforts to extend the section of the Patriot Act that the National Security Agency has used to collect millions of domestic telephone records.

On Thursday, Senators were wrestling with three alternatives: Allow the Patriot Act’s records collection program to expire, extend the program with no new limits or pass a House of Representatives bill that aims to end bulk records collection but allows the NSA to search phone and business records in a more targeted manner.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said late Thursday he will push for a vote by the weekend to extend the Patriot Act’s records collection provisions.

Choose Deutsche Telekom for all your bargain spying needs – An Austrian newspaper has published what it claims is evidence that Deutsche Telekom spied on Vienna for German spooks for the miserly sum of just €6,500 a year.

On Tuesday, Peter Pilz publicly accused Deutsche Telekom of listening in on telephone and internet lines from Vienna, Luxembourg, Prague, Moscow and Ankara and passing the information on to the German national intelligence agency, the BND.

The document, secured by Pilz and published by Kronen Zeitung (known locally as “the Krone”), dates from March 2004. In it, Deutsche Telekom undertakes to pass on information “originating outside the Federal Republic of Germany” to the BND.

Last month, it emerged that the BND was happily turning over the fruits of its labours – including selectors such as IP addresses, emails and mobile phone numbers – to the United States’ National Security Agency.

U.S. proposes tighter export rules for computer security tools – The U.S. Commerce Department has proposed tighter export rules for computer security tools, a potentially controversial revision to an international agreement aimed at controlling weapons technology.

On Wednesday, the department published a proposal in the Federal Register and opened a two-month comment period.

The changes are proposed to the Wassenaar Arrangement, an international agreement reached in 1995 aimed at limiting the spread of “dual-use” technologies that could be used for harm.

Forty-one countries participate in the Wassenaar Arrangement, and lists of controlled items are revised annually.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is proposing requiring a license in order to export certain cybersecurity tools used for penetrating systems and analyzing network communications.


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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – May 20, 2015

Nearly 1/3 people use Facebook while driving;  How to get started with Linux: A beginner’s guide;  Majority of Americans “concerned” about NSA domestic surveillance;  In defense of ad-blockers, a vital tool for the privacy conscious;  How to back up and store photos when traveling;  Facebook Messenger video calling now rolling out to all;  Facebook Messenger platform’s next target: games;  13 apps for bettering your mental health;  Five Android-only apps worth a look;  Easily secure your web browsing with TunnelBear’s free Chrome extension;  Screenshots: A preview of Microsoft Windows 10;  Google reprimanded for YouTube Kids app showing inappropriate content;  How to upgrade graphics in a laptop;  Employees choose adult content, app downloads over security;  Process Hacker Portable (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Nearly 1/3 people use Facebook while driving – AT&T commissioned Braun Research poll finds nearly 1 out of every 3 people use Facebook while driving. Driving their automobile. On the road, in the United States, where you live. The study was done by poll, asking 2,067 in the United States aged between 16-65 who use their smartphone at least once a day AND drive at least once a day a number of questions. The least mind-blowing statistic in this study suggests that 62% of all drivers in the United States keep their smartphone within easy reach while driving. This means “in their hand, lap, or cup holder, or on the passenger seat or dash.” The rest is just nuts.

EFF’s Secure Messaging Scoreboard empowers developers and educates users – Most messaging apps are advertised as secure. The Electronic Frontier Foundation decided to verify those claims and then put its findings in a scoreboard. See which apps pass with flying colors.

In defense of ad-blockers, a vital tool for the privacy conscious – Look up. And then to the left and right. And somewhere in-between these words. You’ll see ads scattered all over the place, asking you to “buy this” or “click me,” or — if you’re really lucky — you’ll get one that takes over the entire page. Or you won’t. Millions instead opt to use an ad-blocker, a browser plugin that effectively scrubs every webpage from flashy, garish, and memory-consuming ads.

How to back up and store photos when traveling – Don’t lose your precious photo memories to a misplaced bag or stolen camera. Backing up your photos may seem daunting — especially on vacation — but it’s actually quite simple once you get started. Remember, the point of any backup solution is to ensure that you have multiple copies of your photos in different locations. Just having photos stored on an external hard drive and nowhere else does not make for a reliable backup.

Facebook Messenger video calling now rolling out to all – It’s time to freshen up, comb that hair, exercise that jaw, and maybe bring out the dictionary or translation guide. Facebook Messenger’s new video calling feature, which was announced barely a month ago, is now starting to roll out everywhere and on every platform. Messenger is shaping up to be one distinct and, more importantly, distinguishable product apart from Facebook’s main app, giving users the convenience of expressing themselves better, more immediately, and perhaps more creatively than they could with text, emoji, stickers, or even memes.


How to easily secure your web browsing with TunnelBear’s free Chrome extension – Only need VPN-like protection for your browser and not your whole desktop? Check out TunnelBear for Chrome and Chrome OS. We’ve talked about the importance of virtual private networks before. They’re a great tool for protecting your browsing on an open Wi-Fi network or defeating regional restrictions when you need to.

Five Android-only apps worth a look – The mobile ecosystem is filled with wonderful apps that can do nearly anything you need. For the most part, these apps can be found across platforms. But a handful of important apps can be found on just one platform or the other. I wanted to highlight some of the high-quality apps you will find on only Android.

How to get started with Linux: A beginner’s guide – The world of Linux is ready to welcome you, with a shower of free open-source software you can use on any PC: hundreds of active Linux distributions, and dozens of different desktop environments you could run on them. Everything from software installation to hardware drivers works differently on Linux, though, which can be daunting. Take heart—you don’t even need to install Linux on your PC to get started. Here’s everything you need to know.


Fedora Linux with the Gnome Shell desktop.

Screenshots: A preview of Microsoft Windows 10 – Windows 10 is coming and you’d better be prepared for it. Here are a few screenshots to get you started.


Microsoft will charge for Windows 10 upgrades after one-year freebie offer lapses – It’s official: If you want to upgrade to Windows 10 without spending a dime, you’ll want to do so in the first year after it launches. Afterwards, it’ll cost money.

How to upgrade graphics in a laptop – Pssst—there’s a secret that few in the PC gaming community know: You actually can upgrade your big-fat gaming laptop’s graphics. But even the few who know it’s possible, believe it to not be worth the time and effort. After all, who wants to scour some obscure forum to find out whether blowing a wad of cash on a GPU from eBay will work? And then there’s the inherent risk of having the used GPU blow up after a month of use. Enter Eurocom, a Canadian laptop vendor that in February began offering one-stop-shop upgrade kits for consumers who want to take the risk of performing the equivalent of open-heart surgery on a laptop.

13 apps for bettering your mental health – May is Mental Health Month, a time to bring more attention to the subject, shed the stigma, and give people the care they deserve. Here are 12 apps trying to do just that.


MY3 helps you stay connected when you are having thoughts of suicide.

Free music streaming service MixRadio launches on Android and iOS – Previously available exclusively on Windows Phone, MixRadio today announced its launch on Android and iOS. The company says that it is bringing “the world’s easiest and most personal music streaming experience” to these new platforms. And as part of that expansion, MixRadio is also teaming up with HTC to exclusively provide music updates for BlinkFeed on the manufacturer’s Android handsets.

Microsoft rolls out touch-first Office apps preview for Android phones – Microsoft is making available for Android phones public previews of its promised standalone touch versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The new Office for Android phone preview apps are similar to the touch-first Office apps preview for Windows phones that Microsoft made available to testers last week.

Inkscape: Open-source Illustrator sneaks up – While the bug fixes and performance improvements are welcome news in and of themselves, there are plenty of brand new features in this release. There’s a new Measurements tool that will live update the length of objects and angles as you move the mouse over them. The Text tool has also been significantly improved. The Text tool now defaults to points (pt) though you can change that to pixels, centimetres, inches and others, including the web-centric em. Even better, the em support actually works in this release, which should be a boon for anyone working with graphics destined for responsive websites. This release also features support for font faces beyond bold/italic and improved support for file formats created by other apps. Inkscape now works pretty well with Corel DRAW, EMF, and WMF files and even has support for Microsoft Visio diagrams.


Creating illustrations in Inkscape .91

Apple Pay troubleshooting tips and tricks – Apple Pay is one of the newest, most secure payment methods on the block, but sometimes it just doesn’t work with every retailer every time. Here are some tips on how to troubleshoot Apple Pay.


HTTPS-crippling attack threatens tens of thousands of Web and mail servers – The vulnerability affects an estimated 8.4 percent of the top one million websites and a slightly bigger percentage of mail servers populating the IPv4 address space, the researchers said. The threat stems from a flaw in the transport layer security protocol that websites and mail servers use to establish encrypted connections with end-users. The new attack, which its creators have dubbed Logjam, can be exploited against a subset of servers that support the widely used Diffie-Hellman key exchange, which allows two parties that have never met before to negotiate a secret key even though they’re communicating over an unsecured, public channel.

DDoS attacks are getting worse, as attackers shift tactics and targets – Attackers that harness the power of thousands or millions of devices to flood networks with data are shifting tactics to pack a smaller, but much longer-lasting punch. How these attacks are carried out has also changed. Attackers are increasingly exploiting Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP), a common protocol in most modern networked devices — including routers media servers, webcams, and games consoles. With widely available tools, they can seek out misconfigured and unsecured devices connected to the internet to launch larger, coordinated attacks against their targets. Not only that, the target of these attacks has shifted. Little by little, malicious actors are shifting away from financial gain and making it a far more personal mission.

Enterprise employees choose adult content, app downloads over security – The majority of 1580 survey respondents worldwide said they understood the cybersecurity risks linked to downloading email attachments from unknown senders, viewing adult content, using social media and downloading unapproved applications, but this has not curbed their risk-taking when using corporate systems and mobile gadgets. Across 11 countries, business employees admitted to accessing adult websites at work — a veritable breeding ground of malware and malicious content. A new report from Juniper Networks suggests that data breaches will cost the global economy up to $2 TRILLION by 2019, with the US the most heavy-hit.

Company News:

PayPal ordered to pay $25 million over deceptive practices – PayPal, used by online merchants and shoppers to send and process payments, has just settled a federal lawsuit from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over alleged deceptive practices in its “Bill Me Later” program which is now known as PayPal Credit. PayPal will be returning $15 million to customers who lost money due to PayPal’s practices, and a $10 million fine has been levied against PayPal, going towards the CFPB. After the settlement, PayPal will be required to correct its consumer disclosure policies, making them “clearly and prominently” displayed to consumers.

Google reprimanded for YouTube Kids app showing inappropriate content – Google’s recent mobile app, YouTube Kids, a version of the popular video service that curates safe content for young children, has come under fire from two child and consumer advocacy groups claiming that the app is deceiving. The Center for Digital Democracy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed a complaint with the FTC, stating that “the app is rife with videos that would not meet anyone’s definition of ‘family friendly.'” The complaint included evidence of video clips that had been found on YouTube Kids that were described as disturbing and/or harmful to young children.


Pandora buys music data cruncher Next Big Sound – By taking over a company that figures out the best tactics for music online, the biggest Internet radio service hopes to convince more labels and artists — oh, and advertisers — to join up.

Uber tests taking 30% commission from new drivers – The ride-hailing service is testing a new, tiered fee structure that could cut into part-time drivers’ pay but reward full-time drivers.

Uber threatens legal action against Australian tax office – After last month calling for regulation in Australia to allow it to operate legally, Uber is now considering using legal means to challenge a tax office ruling that requires its drivers to pay GST in line with taxi operators. Earlier today, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) classified Uber as a taxi service, and consequently its 9000 Australian drivers have until August 1 to get an Australian Business Number and register for GST. Uber disagreed with the decision and said its drivers, who typically earn $30,000 a year, should not pay tax on their first dollar earned as it hit out at the ATO.

Games and Entertainment:

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC) review impressions: Smoothly slaying monsters – After months of excitement about The Witcher 3, it seemed like it was falling apart in the run-up to launch. All of the reviews that went up last week were conducted on debug PS4 consoles. PC codes, meanwhile, were pushed back time and time again until finally I was told we’d receive code on launch day, probably. And all this from a PC-friendly developer like CD Projekt. When a game’s coming in that hot on PC, we’re right to be worried. Mortal Kombat X, Assassin’s Creed Unity—these are just two recent examples where the PC version came at the last minute and featured huge problems not caught on consoles. So yeah, I was worried about The Witcher 3. For no reason, it turns out.


Facebook Messenger platform’s next target: games – We should have seen this coming a mile away. After all, it seems to be the trend with popular instant messengers these days anyway. Facebook is said to be now eying adding the power of games to its Messenger service, leveraging the nascent platform announced barely two months ago. But while the move may sound like a no-brainer in retrospect, Facebook’s motivations might be somewhat different, driven instead by reports that its Messenger Platform as a whole is starting to become a slow-moving flop.


Against all odds, the new Wolfenstein games are fantastic – Wolfenstein: The New Order is as brutal and intense as any first-person shooter you’ll ever play, and it’s the most recent entry in a classic series whose stock has considerably fallen. But developer MachineGames used smart storytelling devices to build up a truly evil enemy that you feel no guilt at all in taking on — the game is set in an alternate history where the Nazis won — and the results are surprisingly congruous and emotional.


Unreleased footage of cancelled Doom 4 shows why they restarted – By now you’ve probably heard all about that new Doom teaser that was released yesterday as a build-up to Bethesda’s full unveiling at E3 next month. But did you know that developers id Software completely restarted the project back in late 2011? Prior to that, they had gotten pretty far on what they were then calling Doom 4, but eventually realized it just didn’t have the “soul” of a Doom game, and needed to be scrapped. A brief, unreleased video of that old version has surfaced today, and it’s pretty clear they made the right call.


Popcorn Time gains an in-browser viewing option – Popcorn Time, the so-called “Netflix of piracy”, went from a computer application to a mobile app, and now a new website is offering it as an in-browser option — meaning users are now able to watch pirated movies inside their web browser, perhaps proving the most simple version of the app to become available. The upside to this (for the pirates out there, at least) is that there’s no actual download or installation needed — one just browses, clicks a title, and it starts playing. The movie industry shudders.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Virtual reality could be the most important gimmick ever based on a brain flaw – Researchers working on ways to design computers that operate more like the human brain than like a really, really, really smart drugstore calculator might want to think twice considering some of the things virtual reality is revealing about how human brains actually work – and how they don’t.


Appeals court says anti-Muslim YouTube video doesn’t have to come down – A Los Angeles actress had demanded the video’s removal after claiming she was fired from her job and received death threats over her brief stint in the video. Cindy Garcia said she thought she would be in an adventure show but was tricked into performing in a “hateful anti-Islamic production” that sparked worldwide protests. A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the woman last year in a 2-1 vote and ordered Google to remove the video. The court ruled that she controlled the copyright of her five-second stint, in which her dubbed voice asks: “Is your Muhammad a child molester?” Google, the media, and digital rights groups asked the court to rehear the case en banc with 11 judges. The media argued that the original decision “expands the concept of copyright ownership.” The larger panel of the San Francisco-based appeals court agreed Monday in a 10-1 ruling.

LG creates stick-on OLED TV screen less than 1mm thick – LG Display just unveiled a new, ultra-thin television screen that is less than one millimeter thick, at an industry event in its home country, Korea. LG’s current thinnest TV screen is a 55-inch OLED panel that is 4.3 mm thick. So, four of these new screens stacked together are still thinner than LG’s thinnest screen on the market. This new display won’t be available in stores anytime soon. The design revealed in Seoul is a proof-of-concept showing that the technology is possible even though production costs may not be low enough to be practical, yet.


FTC sues four cancer charities over $187 million scam – The Federal Trade Commission has accused four cancer charities of defrauding well-meaning donors for over $187 million. Today, the FTC and law enforcement groups from all 50 states have filed a complaint against the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, and the Breast Cancer Society. The complaint alleges that these four “sham charities” solicited millions in donations by promising to help pay for hospice care, chemotherapy, and other services for cancer patients. But only a fraction of that money actually went to patients. The rest went to company cars, high salaries, and even a Caribbean cruise.

It’s raining spiders in Australia again – Australia’s Southern Tablelands are experiencing an Angel Hair event – a spider migration which covers entire towns in spiderwebs. Thousands of flying spiders falling from the sky, creating an ethereal, other-worldly event the likes of which you’ve only likely ever seen in a dream. Or a nightmare – depending on your preferences. “When I looked up at the sun it was like this tunnel of webs going up for a couple of hundred meters into the sky,” said Goulburn resident Ian Watson. “It was beautiful.”


KFC had a food tray that was also a Bluetooth keyboard – Whoever said that fast food does nothing good for you should get ready to eat their words. And some KFC too. The German division of the food chain has unveiling a solution to the problem of typing on your smartphone or tablet with greasy fingers: a thin, flexible Bluetooth keyboard that comes on the tray under your food order. It’s called the KFC Tray Typer, and before you rush out to your nearest fried chicken fast food outlet, know that this has only been shown in Germany, and you can’t really get your hands — greasy or not — on one. Read on for the explanation.


9 programming languages and the women who created them – From the dawn of mainframes through today, women have designed and developed programming languages that have had significant, lasting impact on software development.

Something to think about:

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

–      Margaret Atwood

Today’s Free Downloads:

Process Hacker Portable – Process Hacker is a feature-packed tool for manipulating processes and services on your computer.

Process Hacker is an application which helps users to view and manage the processes and their threads, modules and memory from their computers.

Installer version available.


A simple, customizable tree view with highlighting showing you the processes running on your computer.

Detailed performance graphs.

A complete list of services and full control over them (start, stop, pause, resume and delete).

A list of network connections.

Comprehensive information for all processes: full process performance history, thread listing and stacks with dbghelp symbols, token information, module and mapped file information, virtual memory map, environment variables, handles, …

Full control over all processes1, even processes protected by rootkits or security software. Its kernel-mode driver has unique abilities which allows it to terminate, suspend and resume all processes and threads, including software like IceSword, avast! anti-virus, AVG Antivirus, COMODO Internet Security, etc. (just to name a few).

Find hidden processes and terminate them. Process Hacker detects processes hidden by simple rootkits such as Hacker Defender and FU.

Easy DLL injection and unloading2 – simply right-click a process and select “Inject DLL” to inject and right-click a module and select “Unload” to unload!

Many more features…


Secret Disk – Secret Disk can create additional disk on your PC, which can be invisible and locked with a password within one second. You can make your private files and folders invisible and protected.

You don’t need to format your hard disk or make any changes to boot sector. Our program will create new disk automatically very quickly. You can make this disk invisible, including all contents, and protect it with a password. You can store any files and folders on the disk. Secret disk works as usual hard disk and compatible with any other programs which you have installed. You can have more than one secret disk and you can also choose disk letter.

In case of power outage or fatal error of OS Windows your secret disk will be locked and become invisible automatically. It happens automatically because information are stored in the virtual memory. Secret Disk does not encrypt any files, it just limits access to your files (you can use password). Software ties virtual disk to your files. This will provide you enough security to hide your files from any person.

Limitations: Free version limited to a single 5 GB database, no tech support and displays Pro upgrade nag screens.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Majority of Americans “concerned” about NSA domestic surveillance – A new survey shows there is wide support across the political spectrum for ending the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs.

The poll (PDF), commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), showed 84 percent of respondents believed the FBI and other law enforcement agencies should require a warrant to access phone and email records.

Parts of the Patriot Act will sunset this June. But the more egregious spying programs are under a different authority. Lawmakers say they only know a fraction of what they should.

Also, two-thirds of respondents believe the Patriot Act, which the NSA used to authorize the mass bulk collection of Americans’ phone records (which was later struck down by a court), should not be reauthorized in its current form.

Fewer than one-in-five respondents were “not concerned” that the US government was collecting and storing phone records, emails, bank statements, and other communications on them.

The poll is the latest to gather the opinions on Americans’ view of domestic surveillance. Since the Edward Snowden revelations landed almost two years ago, there has been an intense debate across the US about the role and scope of the US law enforcement and intelligence agencies, which have shown to have stored and accessed millions of Americans’ personal records and data.

Watch the ACLU and Tea Party’s New Anti-Patriot Act Ad – Just how bad is the Patriot Act? If you guessed “bad enough that the ACLU and Tea Party would join forces to make an ads about how bad it is bad,” then you’d be correct.

Below is “Collect Call,” a new TV spot from the ACLU and the Tea Party Patriots, reminding citizens that because of the Patriot Act, the government can watch you Skype with your favorite soldier, and also listen to your doctor tell you about the results of your latest medical test.

The Patriot Act expires on June 1, and if it dies, so will the NSA’s ability to spy on Americans. This is obviously the desired outcome for both the ACLU, which wants to preserve the civil rights of citizens, as well as the Tea Party apparently, who just generally don’t like the government meddling in their business. Which is why the two groups are airing the ad in Washington, DC, as well as in New Hampshire and Iowa.


Tech sector tells Obama encryption backdoors “undermine human rights” – Technology giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft urged President Barack Obama on Tuesday to refrain from supporting any US policy that would require the tech sector to install backdoors into their products so the authorities can access encrypted data.

In a letter (PDF) to Obama, dozens of tech companies, cryptologists, and rights groups said mandatory backdoors—which many authorities in the US government and abroad have been calling for—would weaken cybersecurity as well as “undermine human rights.”

More than undermining every American’s cybersecurity and the nation’s economic security, introducing new vulnerabilities to weaken encrypted products in the US would also undermine human rights and information security around the globe. If American companies maintain the ability to unlock their customers’ data and devices on request, governments other than the United States will demand the same access, and will also be emboldened to demand the same capability from their native companies. The US government, having made the same demands, will have little room to object. The result will be an information environment riddled with vulnerabilities that could be exploited by even the most repressive or dangerous regimes. That’s not a future that the American people or the people of the world deserve.

Tuesday’s letter comes as the White House is in the process of coming up with a position on the issue and in response to a chorus of government officials at home and abroad—including British Prime Minister David Cameron, FBI Director James Comey, and former Attorney General Eric Holder—all calling for backdoors.

Pre-thoughtcrime: Russian think tank app catches protestors before they protest – Issac Asimov’s Harry Seldon used “psycho-history” to predict the future. Tom Cruise used “precogs” in Minority Report. And now a pro-Putin think tank is trying to divine dissident activity by mining social media.

The Center for Research in Legitimacy and Political Protest claims to have developed software that will search Russian social media posts for signs of plans by political opposition to the government to stage unapproved protests or meetings. Described by an Izvestia report as “a system to prevent mass disorder,” the software searches through social media posts once every five minutes to catch hints of “unauthorized actions” and potentially alert law enforcement to prevent them.

Public protests, rallies, marches, and meetings staged without government approval are outlawed in Russia—individuals can be fined up to about $600 (30,000 rubles) for participating in such events or sentenced to 50 hours of community service.

South Korea mandates spyware installation on teenagers’ smartphones – A law requiring the mass installation of spyware on teenagers’ smartphones suggests that the frightening level of population control exercised by its neighbours in “Best Korea” has rubbed off on the Republic’s administrators in Seoul.

The Republic of South Korea’s Communications Commission, a media regulator modeled after the United States’ FCC, now requires telecom companies and parents to ensure a monitoring app is installed whenever anyone under the age of 19 receives a new smartphone.

The measure will only slowly come into force over the next few years as it doesn’t require old smartphones be updated, although AP reports that most schools in South Korea sent out letters to parents encouraging them to install the software anyway.

“It is the same as installing a surveillance camera in teenagers’ smartphones,” Kim Kha Yeun told AP. Kim is a general counsel at Open Net Korea, a non-profit organization that is challenging the regulator’s ordinance to South Korea’s Constitutional Court.


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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – May 18, 2015

The simple Smart Home: Where to start;  Don’t panic! How to fix 5 common PC emergencies;  6 Apps for People Who Hate Apps;  Tails 1.4 polishes up the privacy-obsessed Linux OS;  3 simple tips to get the most out of your webcam;  7 Android apps that track your expenses;  Plane hacker admitted in-flight engine takeover says FBI;  Make the Chrome New Tab page more useful, beautiful;  No free Windows 10 lunch for PC pirates;  10 utterly wonderful technologies you shouldn’t buy yet;  RAM for the rich: 128GB DDR4 memory kits;  These clothes manager apps help you dress better;  The 50 Geekiest Movies Streaming on Netflix;  The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is like an open-world, playable Game of Thrones;  The Internet Backbone is reaching its physical limits;  Microsoft Punishes Gears of War Leakers;  SlimCleaner (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The simple Smart Home: Where to start – Controlling lights, appliances, and keeping an eye on home security has never been easier, but as smart home technology proliferates, picking the best place to start can be tough.  I’m going to focus on products that require the minimum of installation effort. I’m a big fan of non-permanent options: it makes a lot of sense if you’re renting, but it also gives you flexibility to change things up as you get used to your newly-smart home. I’ve also made sure that my suggestions will all carry forward and work with many of the more capable home automation systems, in case you later decide on a more complex setup.

6 Apps for People Who Hate Apps – While smartphone apps are certainly as popular as ever, there’s also a revolt brewing against these attention-grabbing, notification-slinging programs. People are tired of being tied to their handsets and falling down the rabbit hole of their touchscreen every time an alert dings. These six apps will help you cut back on your screen time, while making you more productive than ever.

Flickr, Google Photos, Photobucket and more: Which photo storage service is right for you? – Find out which photo-sharing and storage site best suits your needs with this deep dive into the top online photo services.

10 utterly wonderful technologies you shouldn’t buy yet – Yes, there’s amazing gear out there that will blow your mind if money is no object. But the cutting edge requires compromise, be it in the form of high sticker prices, bugs galore, or other issues. With that in mind, here’s a list of technology that absolutely rocks—but you probably shouldn’t buy.

Don’t panic! How to fix 5 common PC emergencies – Your PC may not be as essential to you as your smartphone, but chances are it’s still pretty damn important. So it’s completely understandable if your first reaction is to freeze and freak out when you run into a PC emergency, such as a broken screen, accidentally-deleted important file, or a virus. But panicking is counter-productive, because time is often of the essence. Don’t worry. While you can’t call 9-1-1, here’s what you can do to fix five common PC emergencies.

Make the Chrome New Tab page more useful, beautiful – Right now, your New Tab page in Chrome is probably a Google Search box, eight quick links to frequently visited sites, and a few extra Google links nestled in the top right-hand corner. It gets the job done, but it’s not much to look at. If you want to add a bit more functionality to your New Tab page, then check out Leoh for Chrome. This extension will let you add a to-do list, custom backgrounds, take notes and much more.


7 Android apps that track your expenses – The following seven Android apps have been created to help users track and report on their expenses. Some are strictly for business purposes; others can be used for both personal and work finance tracking. All of these have been updated within the last six months and have earned a rating of at least 4 out of 5 stars on Google Play by at least 100 users.

RAM for the rich and nerdy: 128GB DDR4 memory kits become reality – Sure, you’ll have to sell both your kidneys to buy it, but at least now you can finally have 128GB of cutting-edge RAM in your PC. Corsair’s two kits fall into its premiere Dominator line up. The “cheaper” of the two uses eight 16GB DIMMs running at DDR4/2400 speeds for just $1,980. Corsair also offers a kit running at DDR4/2400 speeds for $2,120. Sign me up for two! Not to be outdone, Kingston this week also announced its own 128GB DDR4 kit, coming at even higher speeds. The company said its eight 16GB DIMMs are rated to hit DDR4/3000 speeds. Kingston did the deed not with the pricey Core i7-5960X Haswell-E processor, but the cheapie Core i7-5820K CPU.


No free Windows 10 lunch for PC pirates – Microsoft’s appetite to get Windows 10 on as many PCs as possible may have seen it extend an olive branch to those running stolen software, but it won’t be a free lunch. The software giant surprised many earlier this year with its promise of a complimentary update in the first year; now, tackling the thorny issue of whether those running “non-genuine” prior versions of Windows will also get the free 10 upgrade, Microsoft’s Terry Myerson has confirmed that it won’t be so simple.

6 awesome new Android apps you should check out – The selection of apps and games in the Play Store is getting huge, but that’s not always a good thing. You could wander through the listings every day and still never spot the best stuff behind all the mediocre free-to-play games and keyboard skins. Luckily, we’re here to find the coolest apps and games so you’ll know what’s worth your time and money. So here are the best new apps and games on Android right now. Make sure to hit the gallery above for images of each pick.

Panasonic’s Firefox TVs are now on sale – The first TVs running Firefox OS are now on sale. Mozilla announced this morning that six models of Panasonic TVs running its new OS are starting to ship in Europe, with global availability arriving in “the coming months.” It’s hard to actually find the TVs online, but the two models that did turn up — the 50-inch CX700 and the 40-inch CX680 — were selling for £999 (around US $1,570) and £791 (around US $1,240).


3 simple tips to get the most out of your webcam – The webcam is such a ubiquitous part of PCs we just don’t give them much thought anymore. They’re just one component among many on the latest desktops, laptops, and Ultrabooks sitting on store shelves.  People just aren’t giving the webcam the respect it deserves. Well, I say enough. Here are three tips to make the most of your webcam—including one tip that has nothing to do with video chat.

What to wear: These clothes manager apps help you dress better for work or play – Your phone can already handle a lot: Email, text messages, web-browsing, music-playing, picture-taking, and more. But did you know it can also serve as your personal stylist, helping you organize your wardrobe and dress appropriately for a wide variety of situations? Here are three apps that can help you look your best, whether you’re meeting with the CEO or taking clients out for a night on the town.


Microsoft says it’s taking over updates for Windows 10 Mobile devices – It’s not exactly Android-style fragmentation, but Windows Phone users are perennially frustrated at carriers dragging their feet on operating system updates. That’s all changing with Windows 10 Mobile, the company says. And this time they mean it.


Tails 1.4 polishes up the privacy-obsessed Linux OS trusted by Edward Snowden – Tails, a privacy and anonymity-focused Linux distribution most famously used by Edward Snowden, just released version 1.4. This Debian-based system is designed to preserve your privacy and anonymity online, providing better protection than just using the Tor browser alone on a typical operating system. How effective is this concealment-centric operating system’s tools? Well, in 2012, vulnerabilities for Tails topped the NSA’s most-wanted list alongside Tor and TrueCrypt. Let’s dig into Tails’ basic capabilities, as well as the new changes.

Use privacy software if you want to be safe from Facebook, warns watchdog – A Belgian watchdog has urged all Internet users to download privacy software specifically to shield themselves from Facebook’s grasp. The social network has been under fire for the ways in which it tracks user and non-user behaviour online, without consent, most recently becoming the target of a Europe-wide lawsuit headed up by activist Max Schrems.

Plane hacker admitted in-flight engine takeover says FBI – While we were all busy arguing whether our cellphones could affect planes, one security researcher was busily hacking into aircraft and potentially gaining access to engine control. An ill-advised tweet got infosec specialist Chris Roberts barred from a United flight last month, after he joked about tinkering with aircraft systems like passenger emergency oxygen control. Turns out, so documentation submitted by the FBI reveals, Roberts’ abilities were even greater, to the point of momentarily controlling engine thrust.


United launches bug bounty, but in-flight systems off limits – United Airlines is offering rewards to researchers for finding flaws in its websites but the company is excluding bugs related to in-flight systems, which the U.S. government says may be increasingly targeted by hackers. The bug bounty program rewards people with miles that can be used for the company’s Mileage Plus loyalty program as opposed to cash, which web giants such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo pay.

Penn State says it was hit with pair of “sophisticated” cyber attacks – Penn State has revealed that it was hit with two major cyber attacks, one of which it determined originated from China. The announcement was made today, with the university saying that it first became aware of the threats on November 21, 2014 after being alerted by the FBI. According to the statement, the FBI alerted the university of a cyber attack taking place on its College of Engineering network. The university is saying that “advanced persistent threat actors” conducted the two cyber attacks, with “at least” one being based in China. The oldest discovered date of intrusion was September of 2012.

Some perspective on Flash Player bugs – Last month, Adobe fixed 22 bugs in the Flash Player, in March, they fixed 11, in February, 15. January was a busy month, Adobe updated the software three different times to fix a total of 12 bugs. That’s 78 bugs fixed this year, after only 132 days. It averages out to a patch every 1.7 days. Or, 3 bug fixes every 5 days. What a disgrace, especially when you consider that Flash is a mature product. The software has been around since 1996. I started tracking it on my site back in 2003. Putting it another way, after 18 years of work, Adobe produced such poor software that in its 19th year it needed 143 bug fixes.

FireEye, Microsoft wipe TechNet clean of malware hidden by hackers – According to a new report released by cybersecurity firm FireEye, in late 2014, FireEye Threat Intelligence and the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center discovered a command-and-control (C&C) obfuscation code hidden within Microsoft’s TechNet web portal. A Chinese group dubbed APT17 — also known as Deputy Dog — used the TechNet forum in order to hide the C&C code, making it more difficult for security professionals to locate the true source of the attack infrastructure.

Company News:

Google tipped to show “Buy” buttons in mobile search results – This latest insider info will surely ruffle Amazon’s and eBay’s furthers. Sources familiar with the matter claim that Google will be slowly rolling out a new feature on its mobile search results that will show a “Shop on Google” for sponsored search results, which will take users to a new page to make tweak the order and make a purchase. This dangerously encroaches on the territory of the two largest e-tailers but it could also sour Google’s relationships with other retailers already paying Google for some prime spots on its search results.

Amazon Might Let Merchants Ship Amazon Prime Goods Directly – Amazon is allegedly considering allowing some merchants to ship items directly to Amazon Prime shoppers instead of forcing them to store Amazon Prime items in Amazon’s warehouses.

AdBlock Plus team rumored to launch their own Android browser next week – If a report is to be believed, AdBlock Plus is going all out with its own web browser on Android for release on Wednesday May 20th, and as with most custom web browsers today, the browser is expected to use the chromium rendering engine. Other details about the browser are sparse but we will be keeping a very close eye on this one and will report any details and features this new browser may have.

Alibaba faces lawsuit from luxury brands over counterfeits – Alibaba Group has been hit with a lawsuit from luxury brands that alleges that the Chinese e-commerce giant has been deliberately promoting the sale of counterfeit products. The lawsuit, filed in a New York federal, comes from Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other brands owned by Kering. The brands claim that Alibaba has knowingly helped an “army of counterfeiters” to sell their products over its e-commerce sites.

Apple quietly acquires Coherent Navigation for precision GPS mapping – Apple could be looking to bolster its mapping services; which have a bit of a spotted history, polarizing iPhone users. Apple just purchased the company Coherent Navigation which specializes in High Integrity GPS. This specialized GPS system differences from consumer-end GPS systems in that it uses data from multiple Iridium satellite networks to give incredibly precise locations–accurate within centimeters. Apple is keeping mum on the deal, confirming the deal with a standard, boilerplate response, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft Punishes Gears of War Leakers – Did you know that the original Gears of War is coming to the Xbox One? Well it turns out Microsoft wasn’t ready to let the secret out. After footage of the upcoming remake was leaked onto the Web, Microsoft retaliated by remotely disabling the consoles of the leakers responsible. That wasn’t all, though. According to VMC, Microsoft also rendered the Xboxs of the accused totally unusable. Microsoft later released a statement saying they only revoked online access on the consoles in question, but even that still leaves countless games on the platform essentially unplayable. Apparently the punishment is only temporary. Microsoft will turn the consoles back on once it feels justice has been adequately served. And the company definitely has the right to go after people who break contracts.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is like an open-world, playable Game of Thrones – The latest entry in the Polish role playing series is essentially what would happen if you mashed up Game of Thrones and Grand Theft Auto. It takes place in a gritty fantasy realm beleaguered by horrific happenings. Not unlike Westeros, here is a place where magic and monsters exist alongside people. Characters die in brutal ways, and seemingly every story has a tragic element. The Witcher 3 is also an open-world game, a huge virtual playground where you can go practically anywhere and tackle things however you like. If the main story doesn’t interest you, simply wander off and hunt some monsters in the woods or investigate murders in a bustling medieval town. But no matter what you choose, you’re going to have some fun.


Nvidia releases first WHQL driver for Windows 10 – Nvidia has beaten AMD to the punch with a full WHQL certified Windows 10 GPU driver, version 352.84, supporting their last three generations of desktop and four generations of mobile GPUs. This is a fairly major milestone for previewing Windows 10 on modern desktops, as solid video driver support is key to a good experience, and video driver issues have been known to plague Windows Insiders before. The full list of GPUs supported is as follows

The 50 Geekiest Movies Streaming on Netflix – It wasn’t hard to find 50 truly worthwhile movies to watch that hit all the right dork buttons. I limited the choices to science fiction and fantasy tales, with some horror thrown in if it had a super-natural element. Now sit back and fire up your My List with some streaming greatness (and check out the best geeky TV shows at left, too.)

Here’s the high-end PC you’ll need to run the Oculus Rift – It was always clear that the Oculus Rift would require a high-end PC — Oculus product VP Nate Mitchell said as much last week. But today, Oculus has published the actual recommended specs for a Rift-compatible computer. Here’s what you’ll need: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater; Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater; 8GB+ RAM; Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output; 2x USB 3.0 ports; Windows 7 SP1 or newer.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Google readies self-driving cars for public roads – As part of its self-driving car project, Google has announced plans to move prototype autonomous vehicles from its test center to city streets. Google’s self-driving cars have been in development for several years. The new prototypes are based on Google’s original fleet of self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs, which have logged nearly a million miles during testing and have recently begun driving themselves for roughly 10,000 miles each week.


Researchers: The Internet Backbone is reaching its physical limits – According to New Scientist, the fiber optic cables that make up the Internet’s Backbone have a maximum data capacity of about 100 terabits per second: René-Jean Essiambre of Alcatel-Lucent says that those cables could reach that full capacity within five years. It sounds a little scary, but we have some time to address this looming crisis. And researchers are working toward doing just that: A melding of minds took place last week at the Royal Society in London where Internet experts discussed ways to keep the Internet running smoothly. The group discussed several ideas, New Scientist says, ranging from methods to reduce signal interference to new kinds of fibers that “contain multiple cores for transmitting data.”

Starbucks app fail leads to manager’s epic YouTube meltdown – A New York customer says she was struggling with her mobile app. This seemed to lead to the Starbucks manager completely losing it. Of course it’s now on YouTube.


Who really wins from Facebook’s ‘free internet’ plan for Africa? – In the world’s least-developed countries, isn’t free internet, or at least a bit of it, a good thing? As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s expanding ventures in Asia and Africa demonstrate, the issue is considerably more complex than it might initially appear. Facebook caused a storm of controversy in India when it launched its app, offering free access to a suite of websites including Facebook’s own pared-down ‘zero rated’ service. Net neutrality advocates have been up in arms, and their arguments have gained enough traction to cause a number of Indian content providers, including the Times Group and NDTV, to step away from the initiative.

Woody Allen: I don’t own a computer – Technically Incorrect: The famed director reportedly says he’s sad that people now watch movies on tiny screens and regrets signing a deal to make a TV series for Amazon.

Something to think about:

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”

–     Mahatma Gandhi

Today’s Free Downloads:

SlimCleaner – SlimCleaner is the world’s first software that lets you clean and optimize Windows systems using a crowd-sourced approach.

Crowd-sourced and cloud-based, SlimCleaner combines a powerful PC cleaning engine with a community of tech-expert users who provide real-time feedback about the apps and items on a PC, to help others improve their own computer’s performance.

New Features:

New Interface: Gives users greater control and a faster experience, thanks to numerous refinements in SlimCleaner’s interface. Enhancements are based on extensive studies of how users interact with the software.

Intelligent Defrag: Allows users to run a personalized defrag based on their specific PC hardware. SlimCleaner will identify a PC’s hardware configuration and allow users to start a defrag based on settings intelligently determined by SlimCleaner based on that individual PC.

Software Updater: Lets users check for updates to the software on their PC and install those updates directly from SlimCleaner. SlimCleaner checks and installs updates for tens of thousands of commonly used software programs. Software updates are downloaded from SlimWare Utilities’ cloud, and all updates are scanned for viruses using CloudScan technology, SlimWare Utilities’ proprietary system of scanning files with multiple antivirus engines.

Solid-State Drive Optimization: Allows users to optimize the layout of files on their solid-state drives to speed-up loading programs and opening documents. The intelligent defrag system works with solid state drives by organizing files into logically sequential sectors while minimizing wear on the drive.

Duplicate Finder: Provides users with a quick, automated way to find and eliminate unnecessary duplicate files that can clutter and slow down a hard drive. The duplicate file finder wipes out extra or unneeded copies of files — including text files, videos, music files, etc. — that can take up space. The feature includes settings to allow for different levels of analysis.

The duplicate finder feature includes the company’s new “IntelliMatch Scan” engine, which uses SlimWare Utilities’ IntelliMatch technology to identify all duplicates. The engine works similar to a high-end anti-virus to read the various parameters of each file and accurately identify all duplicates across an unlimited amount of drives.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Critics blast NSA phone records bill as ‘fake reform’ – A lopsided vote in the U.S. House of Representatives this week to rein in the National Security Agency’s domestic telephone records dragnet won muted praise, with many supporters calling on Congress to take stronger action.

Critics, meanwhile, slammed the USA Freedom Act for extending the section of the antiterrorism Patriot Act that the NSA has used to collect the telephone records of nearly all U.S. residents. The bill, passed by a 338-88 vote late Wednesday, would end the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic telephone records, while allowing the agency to continue to collect phone and other business records in a more targeted manner.

The bill’s failure to kill the business and telephone records section of the Patriot Act, which would expire on June 1 without congressional action, is “fake reform,” according to digital rights groups Fight for the Future and Demand Progress and progressive carrier CREDO Mobile. The bill would expand NSA surveillance powers to VoIP and video chats and would take the “wind out of the sails of real reform by appearing to have addressed mass surveillance,” the groups said on a new website,

The USA Freedom Act is “the opposite of reform,” Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future, said by email.

UK government quietly rewrites hacking laws to give GCHQ immunity – The UK government has quietly passed new legislation that exempts GCHQ, police, and other intelligence officers from prosecution for hacking into computers and mobile phones.

While major or controversial legislative changes usually go through normal parliamentary process (i.e. democratic debate) before being passed into law, in this case an amendment to the Computer Misuse Act was snuck in under the radar as secondary legislation. According to Privacy International, “It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner’s Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes… There was no public debate.”

Privacy International also suggests that the change to the law was in direct response to a complaint that it filed last year. In May 2014, Privacy International and seven communications providers filed a complaint with the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), asserting that GCHQ’s hacking activities were unlawful under the Computer Misuse Act.


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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – May 15, 2015

Your Favorite Apps Know More About You Than You Realize;  Skype’s amazing real-time Translator Preview now available to all;  Five airfare apps that can save you big bucks;  How to Quit Social Media (and Why You Should);  30 Tips Every Evernote User Must Know;  Master multitasking on Android with these clever apps and tools;  Here’s What You Could Do With a $9 Computer;  Securely wipe your files, hard drive or SSD with one of these free utilities;  The rise of Zombie Apps on the mobile landscape;  For Venom security flaw, the fix is in: Patch your VM today;  GTA 5 “Angry Planes” mod and more tipped as viruses;  House votes 338-88 to stop bulk phone data collection;  Insecure routers hacked yet again.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Your Favorite Apps Know More About You Than You Realize – Earlier this week, a long-lost co-worker sent me a request on Trivia Crack. The message flashed on my iPhone’s screen, and then later popped up in my Facebook notifications. Hours later, an old barfly friend of mine sent another one. And then after a few days passed, a high school classmate sent one as well. Something had to be up, because not only was I not a big Trivia Crack player, I didn’t even have the app on my phone anymore. To learn more, I turned to PrivacyGrade, a website funded by the National Science Foundation that rates apps based on how invasive they are, compared to how people expect them to behave.

Skype’s amazing real-time Translator Preview now available to all – The company announced on Tuesday that the beta app is now available to all Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 Technical Preview users, no sign-up or wait list needed. If you want to have a translated, spoken conversation with someone who speaks Italian, Mandarin, or Spanish, just download the free app from the Windows Store. Microsoft says Skype Translator works with almost any Skype client, meaning only you need to be the one with the Translator app enabled. The app can also translate instant message conversations in more than 50 languages including the oh-so-geeky favorite: Klingon.

How to make Dropbox more secure without spending a cent – Dropbox has had its share of security woes over the years. While the cloud storage provider has done much to beef up its defenses, there’s still plenty you can do on your own to improve the safety of your files. Here are a few ways to get started.

Five airfare apps that can save you big bucks – Whether you travel a little or a lot, these apps will help you find the best available prices on airfare.

How to Quit Social Media (and Why You Should) – If social media has you down, here’s a guide to slowly but surely walk away, temporarily or for good.

Master multitasking on Android with these clever apps and tools – This short collection of apps give you more control and customization options over things you do everyday, like saving a link, multitasking, or launching a new app. Every smartphone user’s palette is different, but odds area at least one of these apps will give you that “How did I live without this?” feeling.

There’s going to be a whole bunch of Windows 10 versions – Microsoft has just announced the set of Windows 10 SKUs, and there are seven of them, plus some others not mentioned. The first few editions are straightforward. Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, and Windows 10 Enterprise will fill the same roles as their Windows 8.1 namesakes. Home will be the mainstream consumer version. Pro will add most of the management features (such as domain joining) that Home lacks. Enterprise will add further management capabilities and will only be available through volume licensing agreements.

Windows 10 will automatically install Candy Crush Saga, bundleware comes to Redmond – It’s no secret that Microsoft has had trouble filling its app stores with quality games and other content, so when the company announced Candy Crush Saga would be coming to Windows 10, it sounded like good news. But it’s not. Apparently, Microsoft has struck a deal with the devil to make this happen as the company has also said that Windows 10 will automatically install this game during the launch period of the new OS.

30 Tips Every Evernote User Must Know – It’s the ultimate digital repository. But what are the tips and tricks that will make you an Evernote master? We’ve got them here for you.

Don’t blink: Microsoft brings Hyperlapse video app to Windows Phone, Android – Summary:Intelligent algorithms and prior research in video stabilization make movies from Microsoft’s newest app fly past your eyes at breathtaking speed without appearing jumpy.


Google Tries Out New Gmail Login Screen – Gmail on Android is getting some updates, including a more reliable and user-friendly support for non-Gmail accounts. The Gmail login screen, meanwhile, is also getting an update that has some users annoyed.

Rdio launches cheap streaming-music tier…just like Rhapsody – Rdio unveils a $3.99-a-month plan that gives you infinite skips on Pandora-like radio stations plus 25 on-demand songs of your choosing. In other words: a riff on Rhapsody UnRadio.

Sony Tennis Sensor now available to perfect your swing – This is how athletes will be training in the future, with almost inconspicuous sensors and smartphones. Or at least that’s the future that Sony is painting. Almost a year in the making, the consumer electronics giant is finally making available its Smart Tennis Sensor. This little orange knob, which can fit in any certified racket bottom, will deliver statistics and critical information about a player’s swing, force, and other aspects of a player’s performance that could make or break the next Grand Slam championship match.


Google Docs and Slides finally let you insert images from your phone or tablet – Drive and Sheets also get bug fixes, rounding out a batch of updates to Google’s productivity suite.

Raspberry Pi Model B+ price cut to just $25 – The Raspberry Pi B+, which was previously priced at $35, has had its price cut to just $25. The price cuts have already gone into effect on the primary Raspberry Pi stockist websites: RS Components in the UK (£16) and MCM Electronics in the US ($25). According to Raspberry Pi, the price reduction was made possible by “production optimizations,” though no specifics were given. At first glance, there don’t appear to be any board- or component-level changes, though Raspberry Pi might not have updated its product images yet.


Here’s What You Could Do With a $9 Computer – By and large, you get what you pay for. That’s an adage that applies to everything from expertly crafted clothing to well cooked food. But when the price of goods drops dramatically, that doesn’t always mean you get less. Case in point: C.H.I.P., a $9 computer that’s raising money on Kickstarter right now. So, what will the 22,000 (and counting) C.H.I.P. users be able to do with their matchbook-sized PC? A lot, actually. Here’s 6 uses for the small wonder.


C.H.I.P. and battery.

Reddit’s anti-harassment policies protect users, ideas still fair game – Reddit, the so-called ‘front page of the Internet’, has a bit of a bad rap. Most of that reputation is earned; trolls would take to Reddit to harass or belittle others, and it became a dumping ground for all kinds of unsavory content. Largely unregulated since inception, Reddit has announced some anti-harassment policies — their first official stance on behavior that kept so many users away for so long. Now, attacking a person via Reddit will land you in hot water.


You can securely wipe your files, hard drive or SSD with one of these free utilities – You delete a file, then empty the recycle bin. But the contents of that file remains on your drive. Here’s what to do about that.


Insecure routers hacked yet again – The sorry state of consumer (a.k.a. SOHO) routers has reared its ugly head again. This time it came from a report issued by Incapsula called “Lax Security Opens the Door for Mass-Scale Abuse of SOHO Routers”. At the heart of the report is a familiar idea: routers configured with default passwords. Even worse, the malware-infected routers that Incapsula discovered were accessible from the Internet using both HTTP and SSH on their default ports. Bingo! You just can’t make a bigger security mistake than to enable remote administration with default passwords. Hacking routers is now a thing.

For Venom security flaw, the fix is in: Patch your VM today – Venom (Virtualized Environment Neglected Operations Manipulation), the recently discovered security hole in the open-source QEMU virtual machine hypervisor, has been fixed. That’s the good news. The bad news is many of you, even though you may use a QEMU-based hypervisor on your server or for your cloud, think you’ve nothing to worry about. You do.

The rise of Zombie Apps on the mobile landscape – Zombie Apps are a growing threat in mobility. This new phrase as it applies to mobility threats is not to be confused with the same term which, as TechCrunch explained last January, refers to “apps can only be discovered [in an online store] by searching for a specific type of app, or by searching for the app’s name directly” – in other words, those which do not appear in any category lists or ranks. This kind of zombie app is much more sinister.

It’s surprisingly easy to wipe a stolen Apple Watch without the passcode – If your Apple Watch gets stolen, the thief will have no trouble wiping your data and then using or selling the device, as an apparent bug in Apple’s software allows a hard reset without your passcode.

EU: Blocking access to file-sharing sites ‘ineffective’ against piracy – Internet site-blocking and shutdowns have almost no effect against music and video piracy, new research from the European Union says. A new paper published by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center concluded that copyright enforcement tactics, which include blocking of Web addresses to known illegal file-sharing and video-streaming sites, saw “significant but short-lived” declines in piracy levels. Relying on clickstream data of more than 5,000 internet users across three countries, researchers determined that there was “little difficulty” for those users to switch to other sites.

Asian nations increasingly hit by espionage groups – Multiple cyberespionage groups are specifically targeting government and military organizations from countries in Asia and the Pacific region with the goal of gathering geo-political intelligence, according to new security research. Some of the groups have been active for years, but the extent of their operations are only now coming to light.

Company News:

Facebook hikes minimum wage to $15/hr for contractors, vendors – The movement to get a higher minimum wage and more benefits for workers in the United States has apparently had its effect on Facebook, with the social network announcing on Wednesday its plan to boost the minimum wage and other benefits for its vendors and contractors. This will include a new $15 minimum wage, perks for new parents, more than two weeks minimum of paid time off, and more. The same standards were also put into place for some of the workers at Facebook’s headquarters earlier this month.

Verizon and Sprint pay $158 million in fines for fraudulent phone charges – Verizon Wireless and Sprint have agreed to pay a combined $158 million to settle allegations that they hit cellular customers with unauthorized third-party charges, a practice known as “cramming.” Most of the money will go toward giving customers refunds. The Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission announced the settlements today. Previously, federal regulators forced T-Mobile US and AT&T to pay $90 million and $105 million, respectively, over similar allegations.

Walmart’s testing a $50 Amazon Prime competitor – Walmart reportedly plans to take on Amazon this summer with an invite only trial program that offers unlimited free delivery for a low annual fee.

Symantec misses the mark with Q4 earnings, outlook weak – The security software maker reported a net income of $176 million, or 25 cents per share (statement). Non-GAAP earnings were 43 cents per share on a revenue of roughly $1.52 billion. Wall Street was looking for earnings of 44 cents per share with $1.56 billion in revenue. In reflection of the miss, Symantec shares started to tumble in after-hours trading by initially three percent.

Bing joins Google in favoring mobile-friendly sites – Microsoft is adjusting how it ranks Bing search results for mobile users, prioritizing sites that display better on smaller screens to accommodate the increased use of mobile search. The changes, announced Thursday, come less than a month after Google started prioritizing mobile-optimized sites in its search results. Both companies are looking to attract more users by providing a better search experience on smartphones and tablets. Microsoft said it expects to roll out the changes in the coming months. Sites that display well on smaller screens will also be flagged with a new “mobile friendly” tag.

Games and Entertainment:

GTA 5 “Angry Planes” mod and more tipped as viruses – If you’re a Grand Theft Auto 5 fan who plays on the PC, you better think twice before you download mods…even if they’re popular and widely known. Reports from upset users are stating that some of the most popular GTA 5 mods are installing malware of various sorts on users computers, including keyloggers and other programs. The “Angry Planes” mod is cited as one malicious GTA 5 mod, as well as “NoClip” and a mod manager. One user in particular has gone so far as to publish removal guides.


Stardock releases Galactic Civilizations III, a true 64-bit native strategy game – With Galactic Civilizations III’s release today, the PC gets its first native 64-bit strategy game. 64-bit, along with DirectX 12 is the one-two combination that is about to transform games both on the PC and the latest consoles (on the PS4, their GNM API accomplishes the same thing). Galactic Civilizations is a space-strategy game in which players start with Earth and must compete for control of the galaxy against multiple alien civilizations (controlled by either an AI or other human players via the Internet). For strategy games, 64-bit is a particularly big deal. While players have wanted strategy games with a “living” world to play in, the reality was that there just wasn’t enough memory available to deliver on that and have a good user experience.


The Witcher 3 Collector’s Edition is so big, it needs a person for scale – When you purchase a collector’s edition of a new video game, you expect it to come in a slightly bigger box. That’s because these editions usually include an art book, an extra disc for the soundtrack, and maybe a key chain or physical emblem of some sort. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a collector’s edition, and it’s absolutely massive.


Microsoft ban of Gears of War leakers doesn’t brick console – Leaks in whatever industry, be it mobile or gaming, isn’t a new thing, but most of the time, these “sources” are able to get away scot-free. However, rare and unfortunate is it for those who have been caught red-handed and have been punished for being too eager to share things covered by NDAs. Microsoft has apparently taken such action against testers of an unannounced but also leaked Xbox One remake of Gears of War. But what would normally be a non-event has been blown into a full scale drama involving claims of bricked Xbox One consoles.

The Xbox One was the best selling console in April according to the NPD – According to a report by the NPD Group, Microsoft’s Xbox One was the top selling console in the US for the month of April. The last time the Xbox One triumphed over rival Sony’s Playstation 4 was back in December. Factors influencing this likely included the un-pairing of the Kinect last year which allowed for a lower price point, as well as Microsoft’s continuing strategy of offering a $50 discount on top of bundling major game titles with new consoles.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Kim Dotcom just called out Clinton with Assange’s untold secrets – Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom speaks up about the 2016 Presidential Elections in the United States, suggesting that Julian Assange will call out Hillary Clinton with some “potential roadblocks.” In an interview about a wide range of internet-related topics, Dotcom spoke with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang this week on “Studio 1.0.” This interview called upon Dotcom’s earlier suggestion that he would be “Hillary’s worst nightmare in 2016,” while Dotcom suggested further that he’d “have to say it’s probably more Julian,” but that he was “aware of some of the things” that will inhibit Clinton’s road to the White House.

3D tech brings big data analytics to crime scene investigations – With 3D, not only can investigators record crime scenes and vital evidence data points, but they can take the 3D scans and review them at the office from multiple points of view, whether it be from the alleged victim, the perpetrator, or an observer. The ability to model crime scenes without losing the integrity of recorded evidence and data provide greater insights into crimes and motives. The objective of this forensic mapping process is to better understand what happened at the crime scene, and to be able to convincingly convey this understanding in a way that the evidence stands up in a court of law. owner pleads guilty to helping others beat lie detector – A former cop and owner of the website has pleaded guilty to five charges of obstruction of justice and mail fraud for teaching people how to cheat lie detector tests. Douglas Williams, 69, of Norman, Oklahoma, faces up to 20 years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine for selling polygraph-evasion training to two clients who were actually part of an undercover sting operation.

Moonfish found to be first warm-blooded fish – The moonfish, also known as the opah, is the first known warm-blooded fish, it has been announced. This rather voluptuous fish warms its blood using a flapping motion with its pectoral fins, and maintains that heat it generates with “a series of counter-current heat exchangers within its gills”. The fish is found in deep sea waters around west Africa and Hawaii, and can grow to be several feet in size. As far as researchers know, this is the first fish of its kind.


US Companies Are Throwing a Fit Because They’re Losing Control Over the Internet – Control over the internet is slipping away from the US government and American corporations in favour of a more global approach, and the corporations don’t like how they’re being treated so far. In a US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing today, representatives from the International Trademark Association, Amazon, and other US-based internet commerce organizations testified about how they’ve been treated unfairly by the International Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit corporation charged with managing new domain names.

New England Patriots bring out Nobel Prize winner in Deflategate rebuttal – Technically Incorrect: Still fighting a four-game suspension of their quarterback, the Patriots create a Web site to counter what they say is the NFL’s dismissal of scientific evidence about ball deflation.

Tesla resolves driverless car liability argument with one tweak – Through a simple modification in its driverless vehicle technology, Tesla has answered the question of who is responsible when collisions involving these cars take place.

Something to think about:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood … who spends himself in a worthy cause, and who, at the best, knows in the end the triumphs of high achievement and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

–       Theodore Roosevelt

Today’s Free Downloads:

Toolwiz Time Freeze – A free instant system protection tool that will protect your system from any unwanted changes and malicious activity in low disk level. Toolwiz also has a complete, all in one suite called Toolwiz Care.

With a simple click, it puts your actual system under virtual protection on the fly and creates a virtual environment as a copy of the real system, on which you can evaluate applications, watch movies, and perform online activities. It provides higher-level security to computer protection, and greatly improves the efficiency of virtual system


svchost viewer – Ever wondered what all those svchost.exe files are running ?? well here is an app to tell you, gives you some basic information like the Name, Description and the program path.

– No installstation required.

– Only requirement is that you have .net installed (ver 2.0 or newer).

– Work in Windows XP (sp2) and Vista and Windows 7(Beta).

– Coded in C#


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

House votes 338-88 to stop bulk phone data collection – Nearly two years after the US government’s collection of telephone calls became public following the Edward Snowden leaks, the US House of Representatives has passed, by a vote of 338-88, the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would end the government’s phone surveillance database. The data will still be available for government searches, but it will lie with the individual phone companies.

The bill was opposed by 47 Republicans and 41 Democrats, most of whom said the proposal didn’t go far enough to protect civil liberties. A roll call of votes on the bill is available here.

Policymakers on all sides of the surveillance debate were under pressure to make some kind of move, with relevant portions of the Patriot Act set to expire at the end of this month. The USA Freedom Act ends the bulk phone database but doesn’t include many other wished-for reforms, such as a privacy advocate at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was in an earlier version of the bill. It also doesn’t include “minimization” procedures meant to make sure the government purges information about people not related to its investigations.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where some Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have said that the bulk database shouldn’t be ended at all. That set off threats of a filibuster by surveillance reformers like Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) It’s unclear how the bill will fare in the upper house.

The New NSA Reform Bill Would Give the Government Even More Power to Spy on Your Smartphone – On Wednesday afternoon, the House passed the USA Freedom Act by large margins 383 to 88. What happens now—specifically, what the Senate will do—is anyone’s guess.

The bill, authored by Wisconsin Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner and New York Democrat Jerry Nadler, would replace the existing phone dragnet operated under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Currently, the NSA aims to obtain the records of all American’s phone calls every day, and holds on to those records for five years, querying under limited circumstances. Under the USA Freedom Act, telephone providers would instead hold onto the records, and the government would submit queries on individual accounts to get daily data on ingoing and outgoing calls and connected accounts.

Australia: Piracy site-blocking Bill limits right to expression: Committee – An Australian parliamentary committee has expressed concern that legislation to force internet service providers (ISPs) to block sites such as The Pirate Bay could limit freedom of expression.

The Australian government introduced legislation in March that would allow rights holders to get an injunction placed on ISPs to force telcos to block specific overseas piracy websites from access by Australian users.

The rights holders would need to demonstrate that the primary purpose of a website is for the infringement of copyright before the Federal Court will order ISPs to block it.

The legislation has been unsurprisingly welcomed by rights holders — albeit arguing that the legislation should make it even easier to block sites than is currently contained in the Bill — but has been condemned by consumer groups and internet companies, including Google.

In a report handed down by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights on Wednesday, the committee said that the legislation could result in sites being blocked that are for legitimate purposes, and it would therefore be a breach of the right to freedom of opinion.

Look out, law abiding folk: UK’s Counter-Extremism Bill slithers into view: Might as well just abolish ‘innocent until proven guilty’ – The UK’s National Security Council is meeting today to discuss the new Counter-Extremism Bill, with prime minister David Cameron seemingly determined to target those spouting extremist rhetoric – even when no criminal offence has been committed.

“For too long we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone,” Cameron said in a government press release.

The PM will set out his intention to “prioritise new legislation to make it much harder for people to promote dangerous extremist views in our communities”, the release continued.

Chaired by the PM, the council will discuss the bill, which is set to be included in the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament on 27 May.

The bill follows on from the recommendations of the Extremism Taskforce, delivered in December 2013, and is described as part of a wider package of legislative measures announced in the Home Secretary’s speech in March.

Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – May 15, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – May 11, 2015

CHIP hailed as world’s first $9 computer;  Microsoft will sell a 55- and 84-inch Surface this year;  Lenovo knowingly ships LaVie Z laptop with flaws;  Seven more cool ways to use Google Now;  5 Google Docs shortcuts for more efficient editing;  12 Gadgets You’ll Want in Your First Apartment;  37 iOS 8 Tips Every Apple Fan Should Know;  How to run Windows 10 on a virtual machine;  Five tips to speed up your Mac;  Order pizza directly from Google search results;  “Your Account PayPal Has Been Limited” Phishing Scam;  GPU-based rootkit and keylogger;  Dropbox to serve most of its customers from Ireland;  Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is a well-crafted, constrained follow-up;  The rapid rise of smartphone health care;  Arizona town mounts dozens of new license plate readers in fake cactuses;  Tech nostalgia: The top 15 innovations of the 1990s.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Lenovo knowingly ships LaVie Z laptop with flaws, offering 5 percent discount – The latest Lenovo LaVie Z 360 laptop won’t work as intended in the Tent and Stand modes, but the company ships it anyway, offering a 5 percent refund off the purchase price, says Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports learned about the problems not from testing the computer but from purchasing it. The publication said that on placing its order, it received an email from Lenovo that warned of the issues and apologized for the flaws in the new product. The letter also said Lenovo had made “missteps” in its “haste to bring the product to market.” The email offered Consumer Reports a 5 percent refund off the computer’s price. (The publication has an image of the email on its site.)

37 iOS 8 Tips Every Apple Fan Should Know – iOS 8 has a horde of upgrades over iOS 7, both obvious and well hidden. We dug into them for you.

Pro tip: Seven more cool ways to use Google Now – If you’re on the Android platform, and you’re not using Google Now … you have no idea what you’re missing. Google Now is one of the most powerful, and well integrated, personal digital assistants you’ll ever use. But most users only assume Google Now is good for web searches, setting reminders, and listening to their TV. Little do they know, Google Now has a lot more handy tricks up its sleeve–all ready to make your life easier.

12 Gadgets You’ll Want in Your First Apartment – Getting your first post-college apartment is a major life step. Say goodbye to dorm life and hello to a place of your own, however small and stuffed with roommates. But just because you can’t afford a remodeled condo on your own just yet doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the tech. Check out the slideshow for a few recommendations for gadgets to pad out your new pad.

Flickr redesigns web and mobile apps to create a powerhouse in online photo storage – When Marissa Mayer became Yahoo’s CEO in 2012, she was greeted with a viral internet campaign from one of the company’s most loved — and neglected — properties. “Dear Marissa Mayer,” began the website created by entrepreneur Sean Bonner. “Please make Flickr awesome again!” The path-breaking photo-sharing site, which doubled as a forerunner for modern social networks, had fallen into disrepair. But within a few months, Mayer responded with a redesigned mobile app, some powerful new editing features, and a truly generous offer: a full terabyte of free storage. The moves succeeded in introducing Flickr to a new generation of users.


Google Play Now Lets You ‘Pre-Register’ for Upcoming Apps – The setup is pretty easy. If there’s an app or a game that you’re interested in, but it’s not out yet, all you have to do is tap on the little “pre-register” button for supported titles in Google Play. Once the game or app comes out, your Android device will receive a little notification that the item you’re interested in is now available.

How to run Windows 10 on a virtual machine – Broadly speaking, a virtual machine (VM) is a sandbox that tricks one operating system into running inside another. Setup requires a more-than-entry-level PC, since you’ll be running two resource-hungry OSes at once. But a virtual machine is well worth the effort, because it means fewer headaches than fully upgrading to beta software or running a second version of Windows on a drive partition. Also, if a VM gets a virus or starts acting weird, you can just delete it and reinstall, assuming it doesn’t contain any important data.


Solid-state drives lose data if left without power for just a few days – Storage. It’s not a sexy topic. But everyone uses it in some way or another. You have iPhones, you have computers. Everyone knows how important a person’s data is. But it doesn’t just “disappear.” Or does it? New research suggests that newer solid-state hard drives, which are faster and offer better performance, are vulnerable to an inherent flaw — they lose data when they’re left dormant in storage for periods of time where the temperature isn’t properly regulated. The worrying factor is that the period of time can be weeks, months, but even in some circumstances — just a few days.

5 Google Docs shortcuts for more efficient editing – As a Google Docs user, you know behind its austere design is a wealth of powerful word processing features. But it’s easy for those features to hijack your time and attention when you have to format a paragraph or hunt down some function in the middle of working on a document. Here are some time-saving tips that will help you edit more efficiently so you can keep your focus where it belongs—on the content.

CHIP hailed as world’s first $9 computer – If the Raspberry Pi is still too expensive for your inner cheapskate, there’s a new contender on the block, and its makers are hawking it as the first-ever $9 computer. CHIP contains a 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of storage space. Connectivity is mostly wireless, with it including Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi 802.11 b/g/n. It can also be used with cables, however, such as a composite-out cable. It comes loaded with a bunch of apps, as well, like VLC, GIMP, Libre Office, Audacity, and a bunch of other software many will be familiar with.


Five tips to speed up your Mac – If your Mac has become frustratingly slow, there are a number of ways you can speed it up again. Before you engage in any maintenance, I would urge you to take caution and back up your data. For Macs, it’s easy: grab an external drive and run Time Machine. With your Mac’s drive freshly backed up, you may proceed.

Microsoft will sell a 55- and 84-inch Surface this year – Microsoft already sells Surface devices in two sizes — 10 and 12 inches. Later this year, the Surface is going big. Really, really big. Targeted primarily at business users, Microsoft will offer the Surface Hub in two sizes: 55 inches and 84 inches. In many ways, they really are just scaled-up versions of the Surface Pro. They have touchscreens and support pen input just like their siblings, but while the Surface Pro is built to let workers and teams get things done when they’re off on their own, the Surface Hub is all about letting them be more productive when they work together.


A hot market for pre-owned gadgets is a boon to savvy consumers – Smart consumers can get a great deal on a used device, while early adopters can invest in new tech knowing there will likely be a gadget once they move on to the next generation.

More than 2 million people still pay for AOL dial-up – AOL’s quarterly earnings report, published Friday, revealed discreetly that 2.1 million people are still dialing up and paying AOL around $20 a month for the privilege of accessing the Internet. Dial-up is infernally slow. It’s about as narrowband as a contemporary connected mortal could imagine and far beyond anything they could tolerate. Just to compare, in January the FCC redefined broadband as 25 megabits per second, though the average speed in the US is 10 Mbps. Dial-up is 56 kilobits per second. (As a quick refresher: kilo- anything is much smaller, or in this case slower, than mega- anything.) About 70 percent of Americans have broadband at home, as of a September 2013 survey, the latest figures from the Pew Internet Research project.

Link the business address on your website to a Google Map – Help people find your business locations from their smartphone by adding Google Maps links to your website.

You can now order pizza directly from Google search results – Google’s search algorithms are designed to make information on the internet more readily accessible. A new feature for mobile search goes a step further by making food more readily accessible. All you have to do is search for a restaurant on your phone or tablet, and Google’s search results will include integrated ordering.


The USBKILL anti-forensics tool – it doesn’t do quite what it says – A hacker who very modestly goes by the handle Hephaest0s has just announced an “anti-forensic kill switch” dubbed, well, usbkill. It doesn’t do quite what the name might suggest, and it could cut either way, so use it with care!

“Your Account PayPal Has Been Limited” Phishing Scam – There’s a “Your account has been limited” email in circulation, targeting users of PayPal. The mail, which (bizarrely) claims to come from, claims that the account needs to be unlocked by confirming the potential victim’s identity.


GPU-based rootkit and keylogger offer superior stealth and computing power – Developers have published two pieces of malware that take the highly unusual step of completely running on an infected computer’s graphics card, rather than its CPU, to enhance their stealthiness and give them increased computational abilities. Tapping an infected computer’s GPU allows malware to run without the usual software hooks or modifications malware makes in the operating system kernel. Those modifications can be dead giveaways that a system is infected. Here’s how the developers describe their rootkit:

Fiesta EK Wreaks Havoc on Popular Torrent Site – Downloading music and movies from Torrent sites seems to be more and more difficult these days. To get the actual content you were looking for is often a battle that could end with some unwanted toolbars added to your browser, or worse, malware. Such is the case with popular Torrent index, a very popular Torrent in Spain and Latin America. Users trying to download their favourite TV show may end up getting more than they were looking for. Upon browsing the site, a malicious redirection silently loads the Fiesta exploit kit and associated malware payload. Fortunately, Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit users were shielded from this threat.


Dropbox to serve most of its customers from Ireland – Back in December 2012, Dropbox opened its first overseas office in Dublin, Ireland. Fast-forward a couple years, and the company is serving all of its customers outside of North America via Dropbox Ireland. The information was revealed in the cloud company’s Terms of Service, with Dropbox saying that it will now serve most of its customers via Ireland, where it has about 100 workers and a far more favorable tax rate. The exception is with customers in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

US man pleads no contest to operating revenge porn site – Casey Meyering, operator of, pleaded no contest Friday in Napa County Superior Court to one count of extortion, three counts of attempted extortion, and one count of conspiracy, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced. encouraged users to post and trade nude photographs of women, including their ex-girlfriends and current girlfriends. charged victims $250 to have their photographs removed. The site used a Google Wallet account to process the payments, according to the attorney general’s office. The no contest plea is considered by the court to be the same as a guilty plea. Meyering, 28, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, is expected to be sentenced on June 8.

Company News:

Yahoo sues former staffer for alleged leaks to writer – Yahoo is going after a former employee the company claims was spilling its secrets. The lawsuit alleges that Cecile Lal, who was chief of staff to a vice president at Yahoo, leaked information about the company to journalist Nicholas Carlson for his book “Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!” The suit was filed in Santa Clara County in California on Wednesday and was first reported by Bloomberg.

Firefox OS phones have launched in Africa – Smartphones running the open-source Firefox OS have begun shipping in Africa. The Orange Klif, a 3G phone that runs on Orange’s mobile network, is now available in Senegal and Madagascar. Mozilla announced.


Uber to be valued at $50 billion in new funding round, say reports – Car-hailing company Uber could soon become the most highly valued venture-backed startup in history. That’s according to The Wall Street Journal, which reported Friday night that Uber is planning to raise from $1.5 billion to $2 billion in new funds, at a value of $50 billion or more. The Journal’s report draws its info from unnamed sources. It was followed by separate reports from Bloomberg and The New York Times, which also cite anonymous sources.

Here’s Why Uber Would Spend $3 Billion on Maps – Ride-hailing company Uber is willing to pay up to $3 billion for HERE, a Nokia-owned mapping service that competes with Google Maps, the New York Times reports. But why would Uber want a mapping company? Two reasons.

FCC marches on with open internet rules, AT&T stay denied – AT&T and fellow telecom companies are trying to prevent the FCC from rolling out new Net Neutrality rules. The telecom companies’ latest strategy to slow down the new regulation process from taking effect was to request a stay, which would delay the reclassification of internet as a public utility. The court officially denied the stay in its latest ruling. The telecom companies claimed that because they didn’t seek a say request against the three “bright-line” internet rules from the FCC’s new Internet regulation, (no throttling, no paid prioritization, and no obstruction of legal content) their stay would not harm the public interest. Yet, the court failed to agree.

Games and Entertainment:

Standalone Showtime Streaming Service Coming Soon – A standalone streaming version of Showtime is expected “in the coming months,” Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, which owns Showtime, said during a Thursday earnings call. CBS is “looking forward to rolling out our new Showtime over-the-top service in the coming months,” Moonves said. “There are 10 million broadband-only homes that cannot currently subscribe to Showtime. Going over-the-top will allow us to reach these consumers.” Over-the-top services refer to those that are delivered over the Internet.

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is a well-crafted, constrained follow-up – Last year’s Wolfenstein: The New Order was a surprise critical hit, successfully blending fast-paced action, strong character development, pulp aesthetics, and Nazi-based technological horror into a refreshingly bizarre big-budget first-person shooter. But developers MachineGames and publisher Bethesda Softworks chose to follow that success up not with a set of expansions or a DLC plan, but instead with a smaller standalone adventure: The Old Blood. In making a smaller game, they took a gamble—could the Wolfenstein cocktail work a second time, without all the ingredients of its fuller predecessor?


This week in games: Zombie goats, Portal Legos, guns that shoot cars, and more – Plus: A ton of pre-E3 game announcements and rumors, Ouya desperately needs a buyer, and Ubisoft threatens us with Watch Dogs 2. This is gaming news for the week of May 4.

World of Warcraft has been losing a million subscribers a month – A slowly dwindling subscriber base for World of Warcraft is nothing to be surprised about. As an MMO it is the most successful game every released, continues to have more subscribers than any other paid-for MMO on the market, and is fast approaching 11 years of age. However, the drop in subscribers at the start of 2015 must have raised a few red flags within Blizzard.


Off Topic (Sort of): Redirects To Carly Fiorina’s Campaign Website – In the week since Carly Fiorina officially kicked off her presidential campaign, the Republican candidate has faced an onslaught of questions in media interviews about her failure to register the domain name for Type into your browser right now, though, and you’ll be redirected to Fiorina’s website.


If you type in, this is where you end up.

The rapid rise of smartphone health care – Smartphone health care is becoming a big business, with the global venture capital community pumping almost $300 million into the sector in Q1 2015, and the likes of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and the FDA all helping to facilitate its rapid rise.

Tech nostalgia: The top 15 innovations of the 1990s – In addition to awesome sitcoms, Dunakroos, and slap bracelets, the 1990s gave us some great technology too. Here are 15 of the best innovations from 1990-1999.


Pointing up   I still have this Nokia handset packed away in my “where old phones go” storage box. For it’s day, it was a terrific piece of hardware.

U.S. Reps Go After Businesses That Fine for Bad Reviews – New legislation introduced this week would make it illegal for businesses to set up non-disparagement clauses in an attempt to avoid criticisms on online reviewing sites.

17 strange and hilarious old-timey vacuums – Your great-grandma’s vacuum cleaner looked very, very weird.


This is what sunset looks like on Mars – Curiosity, which landed on Mars on August 6, 2012, has been busy for approaching three years now. Every “sol” — the solar Mars day, lasting just over 24 hours, 39 minutes — the rover sends back information about its activities. This includes photos it has taken with its powerful Mastcam, its high-resolution colour camera. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of rocks in those images. But finally, for the first time, on sol 956 (April 15, 2015 to all you Earthlings out there) Curiosity’s Mastcam captured the setting sun on the Red Planet.


San Francisco cops’ racist, sexist, homophobic texts prompt inquiry – Messages said “we celebrate whiteness” and that black women “should be spayed.”  As many as 3,000 San Francisco arrests conducted by officers implicated in a widening text-messaging scandal are being reviewed to see if police bias led to prosecutions, the city’s top prosecutor said. The prosecutor said he has identified as many as 3,000 arrests and criminal cases involving 14 officers implicated in the text-messaging fiasco. At least eight cases have been dismissed already.

Porn and video games engender masculinity crisis in boys, says psychologist – Technically Incorrect: A Stanford psychologist says that boys’ brains are being “digitally rewired” and that online activity is causing the young to have erectile dysfunction.

Something to think about:

“In any great organization it is far, far safer to be wrong with the majority than to be right alone.”

–      John Kenneth Galbraith

Today’s Free Downloads:

AS SSD Benchmark – The AS SSD benchmark determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains six synthetic and three copy tests.

The synthetic tests determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. These tests are carried out without using the operating system cache. In Seq-test the program measures how long it takes to read a 1 GB file to write respectively. 4K test the read and write performance is determined at random 4K blocks. The 4K-64 corresponds to the test Thrd 4K procedure except that the read and write operations are distributed to 64 threads. This test should SSDs pose with Native Command Queuing (NCQ), differences between the IDE operation mode where NCQ is not supported, and the AHCI mode. The additional compression test can measure the power of the SSD in response to compressibility of the data. This is especially for the controllers that use to increase the performance and life of the cell compression, important.

In the first three synthetic tests and the compression test, the size of the test file 1 GB. Finally the access time of the SSD is calculated, wherein the access to read over the entire capacity of the SSD (Full Stroke) is determined. The write access test, however, is done with a 1 GB big test file.

BrowsingHistoryView – BrowsingHistoryView is a handy and reliable application designed to view your browsing history from multiple browsers at once.

The software includes in the report details such as: visit time, visit count, user profile and the web browser that was used to access that webpage. BrowsingHistoryView features support for the following web browsers: IE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Edward Snowden says Australia undertaking ‘dangerous’ mass surveillance of citizens; criticises metadata laws – Whistleblower Edward Snowden has entered the debate over Australia’s new metadata laws, saying Australia has joined other countries in undertaking mass surveillance of its citizens.

Speaking at a Progress 2015 conference in Melbourne via satellite from Moscow, where he has sought asylum, Mr Snowden said Australia’s role in government surveillance resembled monitoring in the UK.

“Australia’s role in mass surveillance around the world is similar to the UK and the Tempora program, which is what’s called a rolling internet proffer,” he said.

“Basically they use local authorities such as this metadata program that’s been passed in Australia to collect everyone’s communications in advance of criminal suspicion.”

While acknowledging that governments must take steps to protect people from terrorism, he said the sort of metadata collection programs being operated by governments were at odds with free Western society.

“This is dangerous,” he said.

“This is not things that governments have ever traditionally been empowered to claim for themselves as authorities.

“And to have that change recently … is a radical departure from the operation of traditional liberal societies around the world.” (recommended by Mal C.)

Arizona town mounts dozens of new license plate readers in fake cactuses – The City of Paradise Valley, Arizona (population: 12,820) is so concerned with keeping its newly deployed license plate reader (LPR) system a secret that it has installed dozens of fake cactuses with the cameras mounted inside.

The wealthy Phoenix suburb has been reticent to explain why the cameras are necessary. Fox 10 News, a local television station, reported earlier this week that the Paradise Valley Police declined to comment on the installation of the devices.

Kevin Burke, the town manager, provided Fox 10 with a confusing answer, saying that the LPRs were not active. This claim comes despite the fact that last Saturday, the Paradise Valley Police announced it had recorded its first LPR hit, which resulted in a traffic stop but no arrest.


Privacy set to be biggest casualty of UK election, as “snoopers’ charter” returns – The new UK government is set to reintroduce a controversial bill, expanding the country’s surveillance powers. Home Secretary Theresa May said Friday, within hours of the prime minister David Cameron declaring a Conservative majority in Thursday’s general election, that the draft powers were “one very key example” of policy previously blocked by the coalition’s partners.

“A Conservative government would be giving the security agencies and law enforcement agencies the powers that they need to ensure they’re keeping up to date as people communicate with communications data,” said May in an interview with the BBC.

That law, the Draft Communications Data Bill (but also known by critics as the “snoopers’ charter”) would give government agencies far wider access to phone records and browsing activity, text messages, and social media use.

Did judge who ruled NSA phone dragnet illegal call Snowden a whistleblower? – When a three-judge federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the National Security Agency’s telephone metadata snooping program was illegal, many took the occasion to say that the decision vindicated Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who disclosed the surveillance to The Guardian in 2013.

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who originally broke the telephone spying story with Snowden’s documents, tweeted, “Maybe someone who reveals a secret program that multiple federal judges say is ILLEGAL is a whistleblower who deserves gratitude—not prison.” Stephen Kohn, the executive director of the National Whistleblower Center said in a statement that “[w]hether you supported or opposed Edward Snowden’s disclosure of this massive privacy violation committed by the NSA, the court’s ruling today demonstrates the importance of whistleblowing.”

Those are the comments we’d expect from these and others who believe Snowden—who is living in exile in Russia and faces espionage charges if he returned to the US—is a whistleblower. The same could be said for those on the other side of the debate, who point out that Snowden disclosed many more US surveillance secrets beyond the telephone dragnet.


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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – May 8, 2015

When Citizens Record Police;  When Trust Crumbles, Filming the Police Is All That’s Left;  Three free utilities to make your computing life easier;  Google’s essential tips for how to keep your Android phone safe;  There’s a Good Chance Your Tinder Date Isn’t Even Single;  This Chrome extension helps color-blind users see the web;  How to Turn Off Everything You Hate About Facebook;  5 handy Office apps from the Office Store;  How to take sharp smartphone photos;  Windows 10: What you need to run it;  55 free movies available now;  You can buy stolen Paypal accounts with a Paypal account;  The 5 Best Music Streaming Services; Overclock your graphics card and make PC games run faster;  The most influential pop-music genre? Science makes a ruling;  Why picking a college roommate is now like online dating;  NSA phone dragnet is illegal, appeals court rules.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

When Trust Crumbles, Filming the Police Is All That’s Left – Nearly everyone in Russia has a dash cam. This has led to an amazing trove of “Russian dash cam” videos on YouTube, but it shows a deep problem in Russian society: the traffic police are so utterly corrupt, so utterly untrustworthy, that filming what happens in your car is the only way to ensure that your version of the truth gets heard. Now we’re seeing a similar moment happen in the U.S. as the ACLU continues to spread cloud-based apps (such as today’s “Mobile Justice CA”) which let people film police misbehavior and save the footage even if their smartphone gets confiscated or smashed, which seems to be happening much too often. Live-streaming apps like Periscope can also do this.

When Citizens Record Police – Freddie Gray. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. The names of those who died after violent encounters with police have turned into an international rallying cry. Now that everyone has a camera in their pocket, young innovators are developing more ways for communities to document the actions of police. Watch #TheBrief to find out more.

Three free utilities to make your computing life easier – Get ready to work faster, smarter and better. These tools amp up your mouse, keyboard and clipboard.

Google’s essential tips for how to keep your Android phone safe – Android isn’t that scary, and there’s plenty you can do before you go out in the wild with your Android phone to keep it secure from shady apps and shady people. Google’s lead security engineer for Android, Adrian Ludwig, put together this helpful walkthrough of simple things you can do to keep your Android device safe from malware, theft, and everything in between.

There’s a Good Chance Your Tinder Date Isn’t Even Single – The notorious hookup app has never really had a reputation fostering serious relationships, but new research indicates that the Tinder dating pool may be even murkier than we thought. Turns out, a good portion of Tinder users aren’t even single. Research from GlobalWebIndex found that 42 percent of those who use the dating app are either married or in a relationship. Ouch.


How to Turn Off Everything You Hate About Facebook – The good news is there’s a way to get Facebook to quiet down. The bad news is, well, there isn’t any bad news. In fact, all of these things might get you to love Facebook; it’s really an invaluable utility for most of us—and one that can be enlightening, funny, and interesting. But before it can be those things, you have to turn off all the things that annoy you. Luckily, that’s just a click of a few buttons away, so let’s get started.

This Chrome extension helps color-blind users see the web – Google has a new Chrome extension to make the web a friendlier place for people with partial color-blindness. Called Color Enhancer, the new add-on by the Google Accessibility team is a “customizable color filter that applies to all webpages in order to improve color perception,” according to Chrome evangelist François Beaufort.


How to take sharp smartphone photos – Struggling to get your smartphone photos looking sharp? Here are a few ways to ensure your mobile photography is crisp rather than mushy. Many of these principles also apply to photos taken with conventional cameras, so don’t feel left out if mobile photography isn’t your thing.

Trueey, the iOS app “more anonymous” than Whisper – If you are sick of confrontation or like to hide behind anonymous comments then Trueey might be the app you are looking for. But is anything truly anonymous these days?

Why your PC has two Program Files folders, and why one of them is (x86) – Windows installs each program into one of two folders. Here’s why they don’t all go to the same place, and what the number 86 has to do with it.

5 handy Office apps from the Office Store – The Office Store isn’t the most vibrant app store out there, which no doubt plays into Microsoft’s decision to open Office data to third-party apps (and vice-versa). But it’s still worth exploring to find handy apps to use with Office. We’ve collected five here, plus tips to help you navigate the Office Store.

Flickr Now Recognizes What’s In Your Photos, Revamps Site, Search And Apps – Flickr today is rolling out a revamped version of its website, software applications for desktop and mobile, as well as its search service, in what’s perhaps the biggest update since the company’s decision to increase users’ free storage space on its photo-sharing site to 1 TB back in 2013. The new series of upgrades are focused on making every aspect of the service easier to use and more efficient, including uploads, edits, organization, search and sharing. Some of the more notable changes include the addition of auto-tagging and image recognition capabilities, the latter of which will now see Flickr competing more directly with Google’s photo service, Google+ Photos.


Spotify is reportedly planning a video streaming service, and may announce it this month – Spotify is said to have been in talks with numerous content creators, including many who produce videos for YouTube, as it plans to launch a video streaming service, which may launch this month.


“Who’s Viewed Your Posts?” LinkedIn Adds Analytics To Its Publishing Platform – LinkedIn, the social network for the working world, has been on a mission to add different services to its platform to expand the ways that people use it beyond looking for jobs and basic networking. One of these, a publishing platform for people to write and share blog posts about work life and other professional subjects, is today getting a boost: a new analytics tool so that authors can better track traffic that their posts receive. If you use LinkedIn, you will be all too familiar with its “Who’s viewed your profile?” emails and other alerts: you can think of this new analytics service as “Who’s viewed your posts?”

“Everything changes with iPad” promotional website launched – Apple has launched a new website to promote the iPad, which contains various videos showing people use their devices effectively for work and learning new things.


Windows 10: What you need to run it – I’m not surprised people are confused. There’s a lot of well-meaning yet inaccurate information out there written by people who don’t really understand what makes PCs tick. It’s understandable because tech can be confusing, and the Windows 10 system requirements throw a few curve balls into the mix.

3 commands you can send to Google Now from the Web – These commands allow you to skip picking up your device when it’s not convenient: like at your workplace, or if your phone is on a charger in another room of your home. The new commands will let you set an alarm, set a reminder or even make a note — all of which will feed into your Google Now service within the Google Search app. Here’s the new commands:

Three questions to ask before buying a Surface 3 – Microsoft’s latest member of the Surface family is a solid value for anyone on a budget. But its three unique features are either tremendous advantages or dealbreakers, depending on your point of view.


Superfish injects ads into 5 percent of all Google page views – The researchers behind Google’s study found that 49,127 (96%) browser extensions and 33,486 (97%) software programs of the identified ad injectors contacted However, 50 percent of extensions used at least two ad injection libraries and 80 percent of programs used at least four. To prevent such side-loading, since May last year the Chrome browser blocks the installation of extensions that are not hosted in the Chrome Web Store. Google also provides a removal tool for potentially unwanted programs, including ad injectors, that modify the browser.

Windows 10 will kill off ‘Patch Tuesday’ as Microsoft pushes constant stream of updates – At the Ignite conference this week, Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of operating systems, promised a “steady stream of innovation over time every month.” Microsoft will not be delivering updates on a single day of the month, he said, but as Microsoft prepares them and rolls them out. That could mean, for example, that as Microsoft evaluates and formulates a response to a so-called “zero-day” bug, that the patch could be in users’ hands almost as soon as it’s ready. (Patch Tuesday typically occurs on the second Tuesday of every month, when Microsoft releases patches for its products.) Myerson promised that Microsoft security researchers are following up on each and every potential security issue that is brought to their attention.

LinkedIn serves up resumes of 27,000 US intelligence personnel – The resumes of over 27,000 people working in the US intelligence community were revealed today in a searchable database created by mining LinkedIn. Transparency Toolkit said the database, called ICWatch, includes the public resumes of people working for intelligence contractors, the military and intelligence agencies. The group said the resumes frequently mention secret codewords and surveillance programs. “These resumes include many details about the names and functions of secret surveillance programs, including previously unknown secret codewords,” Transparency Toolkit said. “We are releasing these resumes in searchable form with the hopes that people can use them to better understand mass surveillance programs and research trends in the intelligence community.”

You can buy stolen Paypal accounts with a Paypal account – You can pay for just about anything with your Paypal account. Ebay items, a load of lumber at Home Depot, or hotel rooms with Hotwire. But did you know you can also use your Paypal account to buy someone else’s stolen Paypal account? Security researcher Brian Krebs discovered several sellers using a site called PayIvy to fence stolen digital goods. From Netflix, Hulu, and Minecraft accounts to license keys for apps from Microsoft and Adobe. And yes, some sellers will even hand over the credentials to a compromised Paypal account and you really can pay for it with your own account.


Apple patches multiple security bugs in Safari – The versions released include Safari 8.0.6, Safari 7.1.6, and Safari 6.2.6. The updates are appearing around one month after Apple released its last lot of security fixes for the browser, alongside a monster security update for OS X Mountain Lion, Mavericks, and Yosemite. The last Safari updates for Yosemite shipped with version v10.10.3 in April.

Fake privacy gadgets, from Anonabox to Sever: Fighting a strange and profitable epidemic – Combined with increasing public concern about hacking and security, a never-ending wave of too-good-to-be-true privacy gadgets have been raking in the dough through crowdfunding websites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter. None in the wave of magic gadgets has yet to deliver a single working product — and funders are getting restless. With the exposure of yet another fake magic privacy box on Kickstarter, and its subsequent silent shutdown, it’s clear this problem isn’t going away anytime soon.

Company News:

Office 365 customers pay Microsoft up to 80% more over long haul – Transactional customers buy Office once every five to seven years, said Hood. But by convincing businesses to subscribe to Office 365, specifically the E3 plan, Microsoft can realize an 80% increase in revenue over the years-long relationship. Office 365 E3 includes the core Office application suite, as well as cloud-based Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business, shifting those services from on-premises systems to Microsoft’s servers. In other words, for every $100 Microsoft earned the old way, it reaps $180 under the newer subscription regime over the long haul.


AMD vows to compete in the high-end PC market again, from CPUs to GPUs – AMD has been forced to pick its battles, wary of going toe-to-toe with Intel and its mighty manufacturing machine. But AMD chief executive Lisa Su said Wednesday that it’s time for AMD to re-enter the ring and again commit to high-end, premium products.


Windows 10 said to be Microsoft’s final Windows OS version – Windows 10 is on the horizon, and with its launch, Microsoft will be challenging the way you think about the operating system. Microsoft plans to run Windows more like a service and less like a traditional OS, where users are always waiting for the next big version to roll out. Microsoft announced at its Ignite conference this week that Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows. Microsoft has no plans to let Windows 10 become stale. On the contrary, it plans to keep Windows evolving with regular improvements and updates.

T-Mobile, BlackBerry Together Again After Spat – It looks like BlackBerry and T-Mobile have settled their differences. The companies, which have been on rocky terms since 2013 and officially broke up last year, on Thursday announced they are once again teaming up. This means that if you’re in the market for a BlackBerry Classic, you’ll soon be able to get one through T-Mobile.

Zynga Pops On Q1 Revenue Beat, Plans To Fire Lots Of People – Zynga reported its first-quarter financial performance today following the bell, sending its shares skyrocketing as investors cheered its revenue beat and plans to cut around 18 percent of its workforce, or more than 300 people. Zynga had revenue of $183.3 million in the quarter, and bookings of $167.4 million ahead of investor expectations of a slimmer $147.7 million. The company’s adjusted loss of $0.01 was better than expectations of a larger-than-expected $0.02 loss per share. On a GAAP basis, using normal accounting techniques, Zynga lost a steeper $0.05 per share.

Games and Entertainment:

55 free movies available now – We all know your life needs more Jean Claude Van Damme and Kevin Smith. You’re in luck because you can watch them for free online. Check out the full list below.

Yooka-Laylee: Crafting the spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie – Yooka-Laylee, which landed on Kickstarter just this week, is like a dream come true. An old favourite video game, returning from what seemed like the dead. It might be a little different in a few ways, but it’s the sequel you’d always wanted and never dared hope for. The game is a spiritual successor to 1998’s 3D-platformer Banjo-Kazooie, by a team of veteran Rare developers, most of whom worked on either Banjo-Kazooie, the iconic Donkey Kong Country, or both. Now the developers are flying the banner of their new studio, Playtonic Games.


How to overclock your graphics card and make PC games run faster for free – If you don’t have the budget for new gear or are just looking for a bit of an edge, overclocking the hardware you already own can be a great (and free!) option. Processors, system memory, and graphics cards can all be overclocked to boost the performance of a system—sometimes to a large extent. But for games, it’s the graphics card that typically has the largest impact on performance, assuming the system already has a decent processor and adequate memory inside. Intrigued? We’ll walk you through overclocking two graphics cards, using some easy-to-use, free tools that’ll work on a wide range of hardware. There are a few important things to consider before overclocking your graphics card, like cooling, power requirements, and general system stability.

Rockstar gives singleplayer Grand Theft Auto V PC mods an official blessing – Ever since Grand Theft Auto V launched on PC last month, there’s been one persistent question: Is modding okay? After all, the ability to tweak the game is the primary reason most people held out for a PC version, and even without official mod tools we’ve already seen some incredible work—from whales falling from the sky to guns that shoot cars to Half-Life 2’s gravity gun. But the question reached a fever pitch this week with many users claiming they’d been banned from GTA Online for using mods in singleplayer. Not so, says Rockstar. In a new FAQ, Rockstar officially addresses the mod question. Here’s your answer:


Goat Simulator gets “GoatZ” zombie DLC on Steam – The folks behind Goat Simulator have released a DLC that is full of puns and fun jabs, not the least of which is due to its double entendre name “GoatZ”. If you don’t get what that sounds like, we’ll not spoil your innocence. What you do need to know is that this DLC brings zombies. Lots of zombies. In GoatZ, gamers play as a goat decked out with weapons and tasked with surviving in a world filled with the undead. Have you ever seen a goat wield an automatic rifle? You will in the video we have after the jump.


Nintendo teams with Universal for theme park attractions – Are you ready to ride through green pipes with Mario or collect Triforce pieces with Link? You might just get your chance thanks to a deal between Nintendo and Universal Parks and Resorts. The partnership is focused on “creating spectacular, dedicated experiences based on Nintendo’s wildly popular games, characters and worlds.” In other words, Nintendo-themed rides and other theme park experiences are coming your way.


The 5 Best Music Streaming Services – Physical album sales have been plummeting since we first plugged our earbuds into iPods, and digital downloads are now on the decline, too. Instead, Americans are streaming their music online via a growing crop of music services that offer infinite choices for listening to and discovering new music.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Why picking a college roommate is now like online dating – Some colleges are now using software programs and algorithms to pair up first-year students. Much like online dating, it’s all based on compatibility.

FAA launches smartphone app B4UFly to answer questions about drones – Most of us see consumer level drones with cameras attached as nothing more than a toy like any other remote controlled airplane. We don’t really think about toys or RC planes needing FAA permission to fly, but for some drones in certain locations, that is exactly what you need. To help people wanting to fly their drone to figure out if it’s legal and safe to do so in their area, the FAA has a new app.

The most influential pop-music genre? Science makes a ruling – Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. A computer analysis of pop hits spanning 1960 to 2010 identifies three turning-point years in the evolution of music. Got any guesses?

Loki may prove evolution of all complex-celled life – A life form called Lokiarchaeota, or “Loki” for short, may prove to be the missing link between simple and complex-cell organisms here on Earth. The discovery of Loki could have major implications for everyone from scientists to text-book writers – not to mention those interested in disproving humanity’s evolution from single-celled organisms. Loki was discovered near the hostile underwater environment called Loki’s Castle, located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Norway and Greenland, over 2,000 meters below the surface of the water. Loki looks like the Norse god-like character Loki too, in an abstract sort of way.

Loki may prove evolution of all complex-celled life

10 examples of gender bias you may encounter in the workplace – Does your company suffer from gender bias? If your answer is “no,” are you certain? Here are 10 kinds of gender bias that can pop up in the workplace–some subtle, some not so subtle.

How to Treat the Homeless: Tips from Actual Homeless People – Some people can be incredibly, inexplicably nasty to rough sleepers. “Can’t get a job, mate?” they laugh, at 4 AM, 11 rum-and-cokes deep, skirts tucked deep into their going-out pants. “Have to pitch up in the street, do you? I tell you what I’m going to do: I’m going to kick your shins and rip your sleeping bag away because that’ll be a proper fucking laugh.” Clearly, however, it is not a laugh. It’s also not how you should treat any human being, regardless of whether or not they live in a house. Unfortunately, some people clearly haven’t grasped the very basic tenets of not being horrible, because, depressingly, this kind of thing does actually happen semi-regularly up and down the UK.

Full-body mega-muscle suit turns you into an instant superhero – The muscle suits are full-body suits you squeeze your out-of-shape body into. The suits come with your choice of muscles, ranging from lean to mega muscle. Let’s just skip over all those lesser muscle options and focus in on the mega suit. It gives you the look of a workout warrior. It’s on the Incredible Hulk end of the spectrum, rather than the slender Spider-Man side of things. And why settle for a normal human skin tone when the suits come in a variety of flashy colors, ranging from turquoise to neon pink?


A Senior Citizen in Nebraska Filed a Handwritten Lawsuit Against All Homosexuals on Behalf of God and Jesus – Painstakingly written in elementary-school-teacher-style cursive, the seven-page complaint, filed on May 1, teeters on a knife’s edge between old-fashioned prudishness, hate, and incoherence.

Something to think about:

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

–     Howard Zinn

Today’s Free Downloads:

Black Menu for Google – Quickly search almost everything Google is capable of – get easy access to the most commonly used Google services, available at any time.

This extension is meant to be a replacement for both, iGoogle and the quickly removed Google menu. This extension contains an extensive menu of Google services. You can access them by browsing through the black menu entries. By clicking the menu entry of your choice, you’ll go to the corresponding Google service in a new tab.


Super Simple Highlighter for Chrome – This Chrome extension will allow you to highlight selected blocks of text on a webpage, and restore them on each future visit.

To use, simply select some text, and choose the highlight style to apply from the context menu (right button click). To alter or remove an applied style, place the pointer over it, and right click. Applied highlights should reappear when the page is reloaded. Depending on the page design, this may not be possible, so please check beforehand (eg: refresh the page and see if it works).

Existing highlights are shown in a popup window, which is opened by clicking on the blue marker pen in the address bar. The pen is NOT shown if there are no highlights on the page.

Limitations: This extension stores the URL of each page that contains highlights, and the text within these highlights. This data is NOT synced across your other copies of Chrome. It is ONLY stored on your specific computer. It is also NOT encrypted. Sensitive information should NOT be associated with it. Please keep this in mind.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Canada passes controversial spook-powers law – The Canadian government has passed a controversial anti-terrorism Bill, designed to extend the powers of the country’s spy agencies.

The Bill was passed 183 votes to 93 yesterday and was introduced following the first terror attack on Canadian soil last October, in which a gunman attacked the country’s parliament, shot a soldier on cermonial guard duty and was subsequently killed himself.

The legislation will give Canada’s spooks the ability to operate overseas and make preventative arrests.

It says the Canadian Security Intelligence Service will be able to take within and outside Canada “measures to reduce threats to the security of Canada, including measures that are authorised by the Federal Court”.

It will also enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which enhances the government information disclosure powers.

Pointing up    As a Canadian who will be affected by this abomination, I have no worries. This legislation is blatantly unconstitutional. And, as per the previous 7 out of 8 constitutional challenges to the Harper government’s dictatorial overreaches, this too will be rejected by the Supreme Court.

If you, like me, lived in Canada, you would be aware that this government (imagine a government that refers to itself as the Harper government, rather than  the Government of Canada), is considered amongst those who are informed, as the worst government in Canada’s history.

Come October of this year (the upcoming election), Stephen Harper will be forced to slink back into the sewer  from whence he came.

To my good mate Mal C – Uncomplimentary comparisons are frequently made in the Press here between your mental midget Abbott, and Stephen Harper. When the shoe fits…

NSA phone dragnet is illegal, appeals court rules – The decision (PDF) by the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said the snooping program “exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized.” Both the Bush and the Obama administrations have cited the Patriot Act, adopted a month after the 2001 terror attacks, as the legal basis authorizing the spying that began in 2007.

The lengthy ruling comes as the section of the Patriot Act in question expires at month’s end, and lawmakers are set to renew it outright or with a few limitations on the metadata collection program.

“The statutes to which the government points have never been interpreted to authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here,” the appeals court wrote.

The court noted that the Patriot Act gives the government wide powers to acquire all types of private records on Americans as long as they are “relevant” to an investigation. But the government is going too far when it comes to acquiring, via a subpoena, the metadata of every telephone call made to and from the United States, the court said.

Senate GOP leader pushes for phone spying after court says it’s illegal – Mitch McConnell, the GOP Senate majority leader, urged lawmakers Thursday to renew the expiring section of the Patriot Act that the National Security Agency says authorizes the bulk telephone metadata spying program. That’s the same section that the New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled hours earlier didn’t justify the NSA’s phone spying program.

“They’re not running rogue out there,” McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor. “The NSA is overseen by the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government.”

The Kentucky lawmaker has introduced legislation reauthorizing, until 2020, the section of the Patriot Act that the court had ruled upon. A competing measure, known as the USA Freedom Act, would take the bulk data out of the NSA’s hands and leave it with the telecoms. It would allow agents to query it, without a probable cause warrant, on an as-needed basis to combat terrorism.

The dispute is taking on a whirlwind sense of urgency because Section 215 of the Patriot Act is expiring June 1.

LA cops need not disclose license plate reader data, says appeals court – Two legal activist groups have lost their appeal in a public records lawsuit filed against the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department regarding license plate reader (LPR) data.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) had sued those law enforcement agencies to gain access to one week’s worth of LPR data as a way to better understand this surveillance technology. After losing in Los Angeles Superior Court last August, the EFF and ACLU SoCal appealed; the court’s decision was handed down on Wednesday.

Warrants not required for police to get your cell phone cell-site records – A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the government does not need a warrant to obtain a suspect’s cell-site location data records.

The 9-2 decision (PDF) by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals said that the records of towers that a mobile phone uses to make calls are considered “business records” maintained by a “third party” and are not protected by the Fourth Amendment. That means the government may obtain these records if it believes they are relevant to an investigation.

The case concerns a Florida man, Quartavious Davis, who was sentenced to life in prison for a string of robberies in a prosecution that was built with the suspect’s cell site records.


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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – May 6, 2015

How to check if extensions are slowing your browser down;  Here’s How to Spring Clean Your Computer in 7 Steps;  Secrets of the Windows Control Panel;  The best Bluetooth speakers in 2015 for under $100;  These Are the 3 Best Free iPhone Apps Right Now;  New app can unearth video gems on Periscope;  A new virus will self-destruct when analyzed;  Security research uncovers far flung reach of secret ad tracking sites in Android apps;  Mortal Kombat X PC patch pulled after erasing data;  70 new Google Now cards, here are the 10 best for professionals;  This Tech Keeps You Safe From Hackers;  Wolfenstein: The Old Blood now available;  Hostage saves herself via Pizza Hut app;  Five OS emulators to put you in an alternate environment;  Get ready for two more seasons of The Simpsons;  Microsoft said to be considering a bid for Salesforce;  Tesla Powerwall: What you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to check if extensions are slowing your browser down – Extensions and apps are great fun, but they can also be huge resource hogs that slow down your browser. (Ad blockers, I’m looking at you.), If you find your browser is slowing down, one of the first things you should do is see if the culprit or culprits are browser add-ons and extensions. Here’s how to do that in Chrome and Firefox. Internet Explorer doesn’t support extensions.

Secure your home network—and every device attached to it—in 3 simple steps – If companies can’t protect themselves from the bad guys, what chance do individual users have? Even the police are falling prey to criminals. In reality, consumers have a better chance than most companies. Yes, home users are overwhelmingly targets of opportunity, but they can protect themselves by making their systems harder to compromise and looking out for signs of infections. For consumers, these techniques boil down to three simple strategies.

Secrets of the Windows Control Panel – There are probably life-long Windows users who have never accessed the Control Panel—the interface for taking care of all the of the operating system’s settings. With the Control Panel, you can add or remove software/hardware, administer users’ accounts, take care of you security settings, change how Windows looks and acts, and a lot more. It’s powerful stuff. And scary for non-techies. We can’t cover everything you can do with Control Panel—that would fill entire books, and even then, not comprehensively. But we can get you started on the basics.


Personal screen grab – Windows 10 Control Panel

Here’s How to Spring Clean Your Computer in 7 Steps – Get down and dirty with your computer, wiping it clean from the screen to the system files, to make sure everything runs smooth the rest of the year. Don’t be daunted. Follow these seven steps to get your entire computer squeaky clean.

The best bluetooth speakers in 2015 for under $100 – I reviewed four Bluetooth portable speakers you can buy for less than $100. I found some top quality design, tech and sound features in my selection.

How to download and install the Office 2016 Preview – Mere months after releasing the locked-down Office 2016 developer preview, Microsoft has thrown open the proverbial doors to welcome all comers to the Office 2016 consumer preview. Want to get an early look at the future of Office? Here’s how to install the Office 2016 Preview today. It’s dead simple—though note that you’ll need to be running Windows 7, 8, or 10 to use the new Office suite.

These Are the 3 Best Free iPhone Apps Right Now – Looking to score some great new iPhone apps at no cost? These three are some of the best you can get without spending a dime right now.

Of the 70 new Google Now cards, here are the 10 best for professionals – Recently, Google released 70 new Google Now cards. Here are 10 that professionals can get the most out of.

Lock your phone to a single app with Lollipop’s screen pinning – Lollipop’s screen pinning feature can help keep your young kids from wreaking havoc on your phone. And it takes just a few moments to set up.

Abandoned Windows Media Center users will get a DVD playback option in Windows 10 – Gabriel Aul, an engineering general manager at Microsoft, wrote on Twitter that existing Windows Media Center users will get “a DVD option” in an update later this year. Aul noted that DVD playback is the main reason people still use Windows Media Center, which will not be compatible with Windows 10.

Here’s an Apple Watch app parents will love but teens will hate – As a the parent of a teenaged driver, I can appreciate what Volkswagen is trying do with its Apple Watch app. My son, however, is less likely to be excited. The just announced Volkswagen’s Car-Net app for Apple Watch can notify parents when the vehicle is driven somewhere it shouldn’t be or is going too fast. The new app supports select VW vehicles from the 2014 model year and up. Car owners can set up geo-fenced areas for driving: When the car leaves that area, a notifcation will appear on the Apple Watch.


New app can unearth video gems on Periscope – In perhaps the first sign that live streaming might spawn its own assortment of sub-players, a visual data analysis startup is putting its chops to work to categorize and rank videos on Periscope, the app owned by Twitter. Dextro, which uses algorithms to analyze the content of photos and videos, is launching Stream on Tuesday. It’s a web app that categorizes and links to videos posted publicly in Periscope as they’re broadcast in real time.

GreenIQ Smart Garden Hub takes control of irrigation – It’s warm enough in many places now to prep the garden, and with the garden comes some particulars, one of which is managing the irrigation needs. This includes working around the weather to ensure the watering schedule isn’t too often or too little, and ideally includes optimizing the schedule so that water is not wasted. GreenIQ wants to be that solution, serving as a control hub of sorts for your garden’s irrigation to automatically tweak the watering process as needed.


Google creates new, visual mobile ads as mobile searches overtake PCs – Mobile searches are overtaking PC searches around the world, and therein lies the opportunity for Google to sell and place new ads specifically designed for mobile searches. Bringing ads to mobile devices isn’t just a matter of scaling down current ads. There just isn’t enough screen space for lengthy keyword-based ads. Google also knows that when it comes to mobile devices, users prefer search from specialized apps like Yelp or Amazon instead using their browsers. So, Google’s mobile ads will be more pictorial to simulate the feeling of app-based searches.

Mysterious team resurrects Grooveshark – If all the streaming options and other ways to legally get music online aren’t to your tastes, there’s a decent chance Grooveshark’s demise was a disappointing blow to your music acquisition habits. Less than week later, however, the service is back and it’s thanks to a mysterious group that has surfaced to talk about their exploits. As it turns out, when the writing was on the wall some folks behind the scenes at Grooveshark started making backup plans in case things went south.

Comcast introduces voice-controlled remote for subscribers – Long gone are the days when you had to get up out of the chair to manually change the volume or the television channel, and if Comcast has its way, we’ll one day consider having to manually press buttons on the television remote as equally archaic. The company has introduced a new voice-enabled remote that leverages Texas Instruments’ RF technology to, according to Comcast, usher in what could end up being “the tipping point in a major revolution” for its subscribers.

Five OS emulators to put you in an alternate environment – Emulators are among my favorite tech-related items to play around with during my free time. Maybe it’s just me, but there is something cool about being able to run an alternate OS on your PC, especially when that alternate OS is something really off the wall. Let’s take a look at five emulators old and new.


Chinese Antivirus Company Tencent Endangers Users to Raise Test Scores – Today, three major antivirus testing labs reported an instance of test cheating that could actually harm users. Virus Bulletin, AV-Test Institute, and AV-Comparatives reported that Tencent, a Chinese software and Internet company, modified its antivirus with the very specific aim of gaming performance tests employed by AV-Test. A close examination revealed a whitelist that specifically exempted the installers and programs used in this test, so the antivirus skipped scanning them. Only the programs used in this test were listed, and each time AV-Test added or changed the programs they use, the list was updated to match.

Pointing up    Another black mark against the validity of these tests. This is the second reported manipulation attempt in less than a week.

Security research uncovers far flung reach of secret ad tracking sites in Android apps – Security researchers tested a group of 2,000 apps from the Play Store and found they connect to 250,000 different URLs from 2,000 different top-level domains. The team from Eurecam France said they’re working on an app that you’ll be able to use on your own Android device for determining if any of your favorite apps are connecting to nefarious tracking sites. About 10 percent of the sample group were rather aggressive about tracking, connecting to about 500 different URLs, some of them with questionable origins.

A new virus will self-destruct when analyzed by researchers – Security researchers at Cisco have published new research on a malware, named Rombertik, which will go out of its way to avoid getting analyzed by deleting essential data in the Windows system file called the Master Boot Record (MBR) sending the computer into an endless reboot loop. The malware also attempts to fool the researchers’ sandboxing tools by writing a random byte of data to the system’s memory over 960 million times. Once on a victims’ computer, Rombertik steals login information and other personal data entered into any website “in an indiscriminate manner” before sending the data to the attacker.


Windows 10 Ditches Patch Tuesday for Security’s Sake – With roughly 50 million lines of code, Windows is bound to have some bugs, and some of those bugs are bound to affect security. When flaws are found, Microsoft issues patches as fast as possible, but those patches do no good if you fail to apply them. Even if you’re diligent, Patch Tuesday comes just once a month, so a vulnerability discovered the day after Patch Tuesday won’t be patched until the next Patch Tuesday rolls around. At Microsoft’s Ignite conference in Chicago, Microsoft Executive VP Terry Myerson surprised his audience with the news that in Windows 10, Patch Tuesday will no longer exist (for consumers, anyway).

Hostage saves herself via Pizza Hut app: “Please help. Get 911 to me.”  – Cops sent to the house, where man arrested, mom and kids released unharmed.


This Tech Keeps You Safe From Hackers – From Edward Snowden to Anthem Healthcare, data security has been a hot-button topic the past couple of years. But between politics and personal data, one thing tying these two massive breaches together is encryption — or lack thereof.

Company News:

European court: Skype’s name too similar to Britain’s Sky broadcasting – A European court ruled Tuesday that Microsoft cannot trademark Skype, its popular Internet-calling service, in Europe because its name and logo is too similar to the longtime British broadcasting company. “The Court has dismissed Skype’s actions and by doing so confirmed that there exists a likelihood of confusion between the figurative and word sign SKYPE and the word mark SKY,” said a press release from the General Court of the European Union.

EA’s dice roll with Battlefield Hardline pays off, results beat Wall Street – The game maker ends a strong year thanks to its popular shooter franchise, while it also looks ahead to capitalize on the much-hyped Star Wars revival. The game maker took two big gambles with the popular franchise’s newest installment, Hardline, which was released in March. It delayed the game from last fall, when it has historically competed head-to-head with market leader Activision’s Call of Duty. But more dramatically, EA also changed its formula, moving players from the front lines of war to a setting in Los Angeles, where cops and robbers face off in the streets.


Microsoft said to be considering a bid for Salesforce – Less than a week after rumors surfaced that is fielding buyout offers, Microsoft is reportedly considering throwing its hat in the ring. Although Microsoft isn’t in talks with Salesforce and a deal isn’t imminent, Microsoft is evaluating making a bid for the cloud CRM provider after it was approached by another potential buyer, Bloomberg reported Tuesday afternoon.

Lenovo refreshes x86 servers, Flex systems – Lenovo on Monday updated its x86 server lineup and launched systems prequalified for analytics and enterprise applications such as SAP HANA. The refresh, which comes as Lenovo has finished digesting the acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business. A bevy of hardware makers are planning to announce new servers revolving around Intel’s latest Xeon processors.

Google buys Timeful, promising intelligent event scheduling for Inbox and Calendar – Timeful, originally an iOS app with plans of Android expansion, is now a Google product. The software smartly learns your daily patterns and helps schedule events to get things done.

Games and Entertainment:

Mortal Kombat X PC patch pulled after erasing data – Mortal Kombat X hasn’t been available for long, but it has already began causing problems for some users — in this case, those who are playing the game on the PC. A recent PC patch, users began reporting, was causing game data to be erased and gamers were losing their progress. In addition, the PC patch also resulted in some odd issue with the resolution, as some gamers discovered the game would launch in a low resolution after the patch was applied. As a result, the developer behind the fix has pulled it and is looking into the matter.

Zynga Launches Military Strategy Game, Empires & Allies – The company behind Words with Friends and FarmVille is taking things in a different direction with its latest mobile game. Zynga on Tuesday announced the worldwide launch of its military strategy game Empires & Allies on iOS and Android. The game challenges players to “design their perfect army and deploy the weapons of modern war in a never-ending battle to save the world,” Zynga said.


Get ready for two more seasons of ‘The Simpsons’ – Fox announced Tuesday that the long-running show will continue for a 27th and 28th season — that’s a whopping 625 episodes since “The Simpsons” began making it the longest-running scripted television series in history. Considering its long list of awards (31 Emmy Awards and 31 Annie Awards) and accolades including being named the “Best Show of the 20th Century” by Time magazine and the “Greatest American Sitcom” by Entertainment Weekly in 2013, it’s no surprise that “The Simpsons” continues to make us laugh since its debut in 1989.


PlayStation Now Subscriptions Headed to PS3 on May 12 – A PS Now game-streaming subscription gives you access to a catalog of more than 100 PS3 games for $19.99 a month, or $44.99 for three months. Sony first launched PlayStation Now subscriptions on the PS4 in January, and the service arrives on PS3 on May 12.


GOG Galaxy “Steam killer” in beta, everything is optional – When it comes to PC gaming and distribution, perhaps no name rings louder than Steam. Despite that, not everyone is happy to put all their eggs in Valve’s basket, especially when the question of DRM comes up. GOG, which doesn’t just do Old Games only anymore, has always challenged that business model and now it’s preparing to hit Steam where it hurts the most. After nearly a year since it was first revealed, GOG Galaxy is now partly out of the woodwork, taking everything you might have loved about Steam and making them completely optional.


Wolfenstein: The Old Blood now available – As promised, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is now available, bringing with it Nazis in zombie form. We previously detailed the game (and we’ve a trailer after the jump if you’re particularly keen on seeing it for yourself), and as expected it has arrived for those playing on the Xbox One, the PlayStation 4, or PC. The game takes place in 1946 as the second World War is coming to its end, being set before The New Order with a pair of intertwining stories.


Failed Christian shoe promoter makes anti-gay first-person shooter – The game makes very clear that its goal is to shoot and kill gay people (with liberal use of the pejorative F-word in the game’s title, at that). Players get points for killing gay people—more points if the person killed is transgender—and they lose points for any straight people they kill. It’s hard to make a judgment call about the “most” offensive thing in this game, but we were particularly disturbed to hear the game’s announcer celebrate a kill by saying, “AIDS carrier eliminated.” Before the game had been taken down, its Greenlight page included many comments from upset customers, including calls to Steam to institute a more rigorous filter or monitoring system so that the service didn’t have to depend on community votes.

HBO fights piracy by killing off review discs – Reviewers and pirates take note: HBO will no longer send out preview episodes on disc. Instead, the premium channel will set reviewers up with secure access to a streaming feed of the episode. Presumably, this will stop some of the lazier pirates out there, but definitely not all of them. Last month, four episodes of the ridiculously popular series Game of Thrones found their way online, and each one was traced back to a review disc.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Listen to the creepy voices of Thomas Edison’s talking dolls – Talking dolls designed by famous inventor Thomas Edison can speak again, thanks to a new method of audio reclamation pioneered by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in collaboration with the Library of Congress. Edison launched the talking dolls onto the market in 1890, when audio recording was brand new. The system invented by Edison involved recording sound in grooves on wax or tin cylinders (the phonograph cylinder), and a small enough cylinder could fit quite neatly inside a doll’s hollow torso.


Tesla Powerwall: What you need to know – Tesla’s massive Powerwall battery promises to be able to take homes and businesses off the grid. Here’s a sanity check on how realistic it is, and what it means for the energy market.

Meet the robot bartenders serving on smart ships – You’ll find them on cruise ships, but are they destined to become the future bartenders at your local pub?


ZDNet | Charlie Osborne

5 ways humanity is killing crowdfunding – Crowdfunding was meant to democratize finance and help the best ideas for changing the world have a chance to succeed. But as usual, humanity is trying to sabotage that mission.

Samsonite and Samsung working on bags that check themselves in at the airport – The smart luggage will have chips inside that serve multiple functions, one will sense when the bag is entering the airport and automatically check in for the flight. It will do this by identifying you to the airport and receiving the airline, flight number, and the gate of departure. Unique identifiers will be generated and sent to your phone. The owner avoids baggage check-in lines and simply puts the bag onto a generic conveyor belt where the embedded information directs it on its way.

Something to think about:

“We are all born atheists, until someone starts telling us lies.”

–      Unknown

Today’s Free Downloads:

Unchecky Beta – Unchecky aims to keep potentially unwanted programs out of your computer.

Have you ever felt, while installing software, that the installer tries to push additional unwanted programs at all cost? Ever missed a checkbox, and spent hours afterwards removing adware? Ever opened your browser after an installation, only to find out that you have a new homepage, a new search engine, or even a new browser?

Nowadays it’s a reality that many software installations are bundled with potentially unwanted programs, such as toolbars or scareware system cleaners. If you’re a power user, you probably know that you have to be very careful while installing software, because if you miss a checkbox you might spend hours afterwards cleaning up the mess. If you’re an average PC user, you possibly leave everything by default, thus installing lots of additional unwanted programs without even knowing it.

Unchehky’s primary feature is automatic unchecking of unrelated offers, such as potentially unwanted programs, offers to change your homepage or your search engine. With Unchecky, these offers become opt-in instead of opt-out, i.e. they will be installed only if you explicitly choose you want them (you usually don’t).

Another important feature of Unchecky is that it warns when you accept a potentially unwanted offer. Installers often provide them as a natural part of the installation, so they can easily be accepted by mistake. With Unchecky, it’s less likely to accidentally accept such offers.

Unchecky is not an universal solution, and might not support installers which were not released yet. Thus, it’s worth noting that Unchecky updates automatically, so you don’t have to worry about running the latest version.

Intel Extreme Tuning Utility – The Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel XTU) is a software application that allows you to fine-tune the settings of your K- or X-SKU processor. Using its various frequency, voltage, and other controls, you can fully customize your configuration in terms of power consumption and computing performance. Intel XTU is available for download at the Intel Download Center and can be loaded on any Intel system with a 2nd generation or newer Intel Core processor and a chipset that supports overclocking.

Intel Extreme Tuning Utility is a fully integrated overclocking software application that allows you to analyze your own configuration, share and find overclock settings from users around the world, and hype your own achievements through social media. Intel XTU and the HWBOT integration aim to facilitate overclocking for beginners and novice users as well as give the advanced overclocking community and its power users a platform to show their overclocking skills and knowledge.

Tweak to your heart’s content using the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel XTU).

Whether overclocking the CPU, memory, and system clocks, or monitoring system temperatures, voltages and fan speeds, Intel XTU allows you to tune, tweak and cool.

Intel Extreme Tuning Utility will prove a valuable helper in getting the most performance out of your components by easily overclocking them.


System Information – Inspect processor, memory, graphics, BIOS, operating system, and motherboard information.

Basic Tuning – Simple three-step process: benchmark your starting performance, overclock your processor, and measure your new performance and witness the performance unleashed!

Advanced Tuning – If you are an experienced overclocker, we give you all the controls to maximize the untapped performance of your processor, memory, and graphics hardware.

Stress Test – Interested in how stable your overclock is? The included stress tests help you test your system to be sure.

Benchmarking – Would you like to see how your setup compares? With Intel® XTU, you can benchmark your system and then compare your scores online with

Application and Profile Pairing – Have you optimized your overclock for a specific application? Use the app-profile pairing feature to apply different overclocking settings to separate applications.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Australia: Is the looming internet filter justified? Not yet – A bill now before Parliament, the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, would give courts power to require internet providers block access to foreign websites whose dominant purpose is to facilitate copyright infringement.

In practice this means that Time Warner, which owns the copyright to Game of Thrones, could go to a judge and demand Telstra or iiNet block access to the Pirate Bay.

There are lots of problems with this bill. Its language is absurdly vague and broad. What counts as “facilitating” copyright infringement? Maybe it would block sites that offer virtual private networks, perhaps – those VPNs that Malcolm Turnbull has been encouraging us all to use.

But these are legislative technicalities. More importantly, blocking websites is censorship. The bill is an internet filter, no matter how stridently the Abbott Government rejects the comparison. (recommended by Mal C.)

French lawmakers approve new sweeping spying powers – French lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved a new law granting the state sweeping powers to spy on its citizens despite criticism from rights groups that the Bill is vague and intrusive.

It will go before the upper house Senate later this month. Amnesty International has protested the legislation, warning it will take France “a step closer to a surveillance state”.

“This Bill is too vague, too far-reaching and leaves too many unanswered questions. Parliament should ensure that measures meant to protect people from terror should not violate their basic rights,” said Amnesty’s Europe director Gauri van Gulik.

The new law will set out exactly how agencies can gather intelligence, and sets up a new supervisory body known as the National Commission for Control of Intelligence Techniques to oversee access to data.

The new law will allow authorities to spy on the digital and mobile communications of anyone linked to a “terrorist” inquiry without prior authorisation from a judge, and forces internet service providers and phone companies to give up data upon request.

Intelligence services will have the right to place cameras and recording devices in private dwellings and install “keylogger” devices that record every key stroke on a targeted computer in real time.

One main criticism of the law is that authorities will be able to keep recordings for a month, and will be able to collect metadata for five years.

Cerf thinks encryption back doors would be ‘super risky’ – Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf argued Monday that more users should encrypt their data, and that the encryption back doors the U.S. FBI and other law enforcement agencies are asking for will weaken online security.

The Internet has numerous security challenges, and it needs more users and ISPs to adopt strong measures like encryption, two-factor authentication and HTTP over SSL, said Cerf, chief Internet evangelist at Google, in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Recent calls by the FBI and other government officials for technology vendors to build encryption workarounds into their products is a bad idea, said Cerf, co-creator of TCP/IP. “If you have a back door, somebody will find it, and that somebody may be a bad guy,” he said. “Creating this kind of technology is super, super risky.”

Court rules warrant not needed for cell phone location data – Mobile phone users have “no reasonable expectation of privacy” for their location tracking data, and should expect police agencies investigating crimes to obtain that information without court-approved warrants, a U.S. appeals court has ruled.

Historical cell tower location data is not private information owned by customers but by the mobile carrier, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled Tuesday. The court affirmed a district court’s convictions of defendant Quartavius Davis, charged with multiple crimes in connection with a string of seven armed robberies in South Florida in 2010. Davis was sentenced to nearly 162 years in prison.

Police obtained more than 11,600 location records over 67-day period from carrier MetroPCS in an effort to track Davis’ movements. In June 2014 a three-judge panel at the appeals court threw out Davis’ conviction, saying the police had violated his Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, but the entire court decided to rehear the case.


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