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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Security:

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.

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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.

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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.

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Microsoft said to be considering a bid for Salesforce – Less than a week after rumors surfaced that Salesforce.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

Features:

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 HWBOT.org.

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.

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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.

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12 Comments

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

12 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – May 6, 2015

  1. Graham Cluley is the best at what he does. I trust him. Thanks for the heads up though.

    • Hi gh0stpupp3t,

      For sure – Graham knows his stuff. Was kind of sorry to see him leave Naked Security. But, he’s still pumping out the good stuff – and that’s what counts. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill

  2. HarleyGordon Shunk

    Hi Bill,
    Just a quick note to let you know that your recent newsletters are showing the year as 2014 not 2015. Just thought you might want to know.
    Other than that small glitch – great newsletter – keep up the good work.

    Thanks
    HarleyGordon

  3. lunabawa

    Reblogged this on Luna Bawa.