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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Security:

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 servicesATapple.com, claims that the account needs to be unlocked by confirming the potential victim’s identity.

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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 SubTorrents.com, 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.

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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 WinByState.com, 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. WinByState.com encouraged users to post and trade nude photographs of women, including their ex-girlfriends and current girlfriends. WinbyState.com 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.

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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?

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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.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

HillaryClinton.net 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 CarlyFiorina.org. Type HillaryClinton.net into your browser right now, though, and you’ll be redirected to Fiorina’s website.

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If you type in HillaryClinton.net, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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7 Comments

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

7 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – May 11, 2015

  1. Fred

    Bill this gets more interesting as the day progresses. Earlier I had NO problems with it after using BleachBit a couple of times, visited websites that had earlier triggered it, as did Tech Thoughts just now but BB clean and nothing. However during that entire period I tried to check Windows Updates and said could not do it. Suggested I restart, which I did, so then popped up the new updates. BTW the svchost.exe is now up to over 50% again, but I had an hour or two without this issue. So I clicked to update one of them the MSE update from the other day which I lost in one of the restore points I’d done earlier today, and the svchost.exe came up and went into the 50+%, as it is doing now, and would not allow the updating to make the connection the downloading of the updates went nowhere so while this site is getting the high CU I just wonder WHAT THE HECK IT COULD BE. I had no problems doing an update and scan with MBAM which found nothing. Just puzzles me, hopefully you can tell me something about this. Hate to have to buy a new one.
    Sorry to have to keep posting but I figure the MORE Info, even if it may be irrelevant, SOME of it could be helpful to you in diagnosing the problem.
    Once again thanks for your kindness and PATIENCE with me, my dear and valued friend,
    Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      No, I haven’t abandoned you – I had an opportunity for a quick get-away this week and grabbed it. 🙂

      But, to the problem. When faced with this type of issue, Google is your friend. It may surprise you to know that tech pros refer to Google regularly for a host of issues, including the issue you are dealing with. In other words, the vast amount of data available on any specific issue has more value than that offered by one individual.

      Still, having looked over your info, I think you’re running into an insufficient physical memory problem which is causing more disk read/write (virtual memory), on sites that are graphic heavy – like this one (some days).

      For example, on an older machine I’m running Win 10 on (Core 2 Duo, 2 GB memory, 320 HD, on-board graphics), I often run into the same issue you’re dealing with – high Disk use and svchost.exe running away with itself. I’ve found that with anything less than 4 GB of memory, my Internet experience suffers.

      In any event, take a look at one of today’s free downloads – svchost viewer – it should be able to help you track down the culprit.

      Best,

      Bill