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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – May 8, 2015

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Canada passes controversial spook-powers law

    Yep, you are right, Abbot and Harper both fell out of the same rear end at the same time. That’s why they are such good mates, as the old saying goes, shit sticks together and all that.

    I read about this new law in Canada yesterday, and I knew you would be outraged. Canada’s government, like Australia’s, just seems to keep pushing and pushing the envelope on spying laws. They won’t be happy until they have complete access to everyone’s data, on hand, all the time. I don’t believe for one minute they would use it only for what they say, national security. They would also use it to control, and manipulate.