Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – June 1, 2015

Hola VPN is selling users’ bandwidth as botnet;  Ten reasons to still consider a basic flip phone;  Alibi – Android app that records the last hour of your life;  7 steps for archiving your files for posterity;  4 essential Google Drive add-ons;  17 Tips to Help You Master Microsoft OneDrive;  The best email app for Android;  The best email app for the iPhone;  Five tips to speed up your Mac;  10 Luxury Father’s Day Gifts for Your Geeky Pop;  Apps to customize your Android smartphone;  Sleeper ransomware “Locker” rises from the dead;  56 Movies and Shows Coming to Netflix in June;  26 Movies and TV Shows Coming to Amazon Instant in June;  5 things you should know about cyber insurance;  Here’s how the Windows 10 reservation app works;  The Patriot Act’s broadest surveillance powers have expired.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

An app that passively records your life so you always have a witness – Alibi is an Android app that records the last hour of your life. So if you’re in a protest, police altercation, or even a dangerous personal situation, you can always have evidence. The ACLU recently developed an app called Mobile Justice, which allows you to record and report any instances of police brutality on the go. It’s been adopted in California, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Oregon. I’m Getting Arrested is an Android app that sends emergency messages to people in your phone. Stop and Frisk Watch is a free app developed by the New York Civil Liberties Union to report unlawful stop and frisk encounters. The SWAT App allows you to record and livestream police encounters, and also informs you of your rights. Similarly, platforms like Periscope and Meerkat allow you to livestream video to see the world in real-time through other people’s eyes.

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7 steps for archiving your files for posterity – We really don’t know how long our photos and other digital content will last. But you can increase the odds that your great-grandchildren will enjoy the digital record of your life.

Google’s Project Vault is a security system disguised as a microSD card – The Vault card is essentially a secure computer that protects the personal information of a phone’s owner. For example, it can encrypt, or scramble, chat messages from an app and provide extra levels of authentication, so your device knows that you are you. The card itself has a near-field communication, or NFC, chip for communicating with nearby devices and has 4 gigabytes of storage. It can be recognized by any OS — including Google’s Android software, Windows, and Apple’s OS X — but all the software is being run off the microSD card.

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4 essential Google Drive add-ons – Add-ons are a great way to give Google Drive’s productivity suite a little more horsepower. These four offer creative solutions for collaborating, automating document workflow, and mapping data and ideas. Give them a try, and push your productivity to new levels.

17 Tips to Help You Master Microsoft OneDrive – OneDrive really should be a bigger name than it is. But Microsoft isn’t as synonymous with cloud/sync as Dropbox or Google Drive. The latter has the excellent integration of Docs and Sheets for online editing, but OneDrive has something arguably better: full integration with Office Online (formerly Office Web Apps; see what I mean about renaming?). Office Online houses the online versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Plus, OneDrive is integrated directly with Windows 8.1—no utility needed. All it takes to access OneDrive is a Microsoft account. The service will sync files between all your Windows and Mac computers, which you can access online via mobile apps and the Web.

Try the Microsoft Hyperlapse beta on Android – Microsoft has released a new app for Android devices that will let you turn any video into a smooth hyperlapse. If you’re interested in creating super-smooth hyperlapse videos on your Android phone, then you’ll want to check out this latest app from Microsoft. But first, you’ll need to perform a bit of setup.

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The best email app for Android – If we all have one thing in common, it’s that we hate dealing with email. Whether it’s personal or professional, it’s something we just can’t escape. The best way to deal with email is still at the desktop, but mobile apps are catching up fast. So which ones can help you get the closest to inbox zero nirvana?

The best email app for the iPhone – More than anything, a good email app should be fast. Refreshing your inbox, loading messages — none of these things should take more than a second or two. It should also give you plenty of different ways to deal with the daily email deluge. That means letting you do things like reply, archive, delete, or schedule messages with swipes or taps, while also giving you easy access to other services like calendars and files.

Apps to customize your Android smartphone – Your smartphone doesn’t have to just be functional — there are many apps which can customize your gadget to your satisfaction in a matter of clicks.

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Themer is an Android launcher — a kind of skin for your device which allows you to install custom themes.

Ten reasons to still consider a basic flip phone in today’s smartphone world – Summary:Most phones sold by carriers are smartphones, but there are still many reasons that a basic flip phone is still a valid option for many people.

Windows 7 and 8 users are now able to reserve their free copy of Windows 10 – Microsoft has started advertising Windows 10 to Windows 7 and 8 users with a popup that allows the user to reserve their copy of Windows 10 by following the instructions in the prompt.

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Here’s how the Windows 10 reservation app works and how to remove it – Microsoft has officially opened up the reservation process for Windows 10 and when the window pops up, here are the steps you will need to complete to reserve your copy of the OS.

Windows 10 OEM pre-orders show up on Newegg, $109 for Home and $149 for Pro – We are quickly approaching the time when Microsoft will have to formally announce the release date and pricing for Windows 10 but Newegg has already opened up pre-orders for the software.

Fedora 22 walk through: The first major Linux distro with GNOME 3.16 – Fedora 22 ships with version 4.0 of the Linux kernel and GNOME 3.16, and Workstation, Server, and Cloud builds. Here’s a first look at the release.

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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. It’s a far cry from the one-size-fits-all, this-is-just-what-comes-with-your-PC vision of Windows. 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.

Facebook now supports animated GIFs in the Timeline – Facebook users will finally be able to post animated GIFs to their timeline albeit using third-party hosts, as the company has finally enabled the support for these files.

Five tips to speed up your Mac – The only place I like seeing a beach ball is at a beach or in a stadium during a baseball game or concert. The one place I least like to see a beach ball is on my aging MacBook Pro, where the spinning beach ball has become an altogether too familiar a sight. 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.

Amazon’s ‘Kindle for Kids Bundle’ comes just in time for summer – School’s out for summer, which means that children will have a lot more free time, and their parents are going to have to find ways to entertain them. Amazon wants to be your solution to summertime as it introduces the “Kindle for Kids Bundle”. Perfect for rainy days and long car trips, the package includes the latest Kindle, kid-friendly case, and 2 year warranty for $99.00. If purchased separately, parents would be spending about $40 more.

10 Luxury Father’s Day Gifts for Your Geeky Pop – Father’s Day doesn’t get the pomp and circumstance of that other day. And that’s fine. Dads don’t need much. Just a little somethin’-somethin’ to know that their work is appreciated. BUT if you really wanted to, I’m sure that your dad wouldn’t mind if you splurged just a bit. Or, perhaps—if you were so inclined—you could even splurge a whole bunch!

Security:

Hola VPN is selling users’ bandwidth as botnet – Free virtual private network (VPN) service Hola, available as a popular Chrome extension, is well-known among users who frequently like to watch videos and TV shows from other countries that location blocked. Sadly, it has just been discovered that owners of the service have actually been selling users’ bandwidth as botnet, or bulk traffic that can be purchased and used in a denial-of-service attack on a website. Hola claims this has always been clear in their terms of service, but users say they have never been made aware of this bandwidth usage.

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Sleeper ransomware “Locker” rises from the dead, infects hundreds of PCs – A dormant ransomware similar to Cryptolocker has recently been activated. Dubbed “Locker,” the program encrypts computer files, and asks the victim for 0.1 bitcoin in exchange for the decryption key.

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Google wants to make your life the password – Our digital lives are punctuated by an increasing number of PINs, fingerprint scans, and other security hurdles, but an Android project could end all that. The Google ATAP team has been working on a new authentication system, publicly revealed at I/O 2015 this week for the first time, which bypasses explicit codes and biometrics, and instead uses ongoing user-recognition to figure out who you are simply by how you use your phone.

US says it will help Japan defend against cyberattacks – The US government this week announced that it will expand its cybersecurity partnership with Japan, amid growing concerns over potential attacks against military bases and other infrastructure on the island nation. As Reuters reports, both countries are looking to strengthen their ties to counter threats from China and North Korea. A partnership established in 2013 will integrate the missile defense systems of the US and Japan, while giving Japan a greater security role in the region.

The US tried to sabotage North Korea’s nuclear program with targeted malware – In 2010, the United States launched a covert malware campaign aimed at sabotaging North Korea’s nuclear program, according to a new report from Reuters’ Joseph Menn, citing multiple sources familiar with the campaign. The campaign was ultimately unable to breach North Korean systems, but would have been activated when it detected Korean language settings on an appropriately structured industrial system. The program came on the heels of the Stuxnet campaign against Iran that met with much greater success.

China developing ATM with face recognition – A prototype facial recognition technology has been developed by Beijing’s Tsinghua University and Hangzhou-based security company Tzekwan Technology in an aim to help reduce crimes committed using ATMs.

Company News:

Microsoft and Google rise while IBM sinks in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for cloud providers – Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) shows Amazon dominant, Microsoft and Google making progress, and IBM’s service – based on its purchase of SoftLayer – in relative decline…

Amid talk of an initial public offering, SnapChat raises $537.6 million – Already flush, Snapchat just got more cash. After raising $200 million in March, the photo-messaging app has raised an additional $537.6 million, according to government documents released on Friday. Those securities filings suggest that Snapchat might pull in another $112.3 million in funding, bringing its total for this year alone to $850 million. CNBC reported that the latest funding values the company at a whopping $16 billion.

With Android Pay on the way, Google Wallet pivots to focus on personal money transfers – Now in the shadow of Android Pay, Google is rebuilding Wallet’s mobile apps to target the new direction.

Qualcomm partners with Google on Tango phone – While both units remain “developer units”, Google has announced that Project Tango is prepared now as a tablet for the public and as a phone with Qualcomm inside. The Project Tango Developer Kit tablet will be available from the Google Store as early as this afternoon to all buyers. It’ll have the same price as it did for developers most recently (reduced from the original, of course), for a cool $512 USD. This kit will use an NVIDIA K1 processor inside while another phone-sized device is currently in development. This phone-sized device will have Qualcomm’s processor technology running the show.

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Google and Levi’s team on Jacquard touch-sensitive clothes – Google’s ATAP team promised to blow our socks off at I/O 2015, and Project Jacquard is how it plans to do that, a new conductive fabric that can track touch. Intended to bring new types of sensing and control to clothes, furnishings, and other areas which might not normally be electronically connected. And, while we’ve seen conductive threads woven through materials before, Project Jacquard goes further than most, including a partnership with one of the biggest names in fashion.

Games and Entertainment:

56 Movies and Shows Coming to Netflix in June – You should be outside enjoying the sun and sand but if you’re surfing your TV instead, here’s what to watch.

26 Movies and TV Shows Coming to Amazon Instant in June – Netflix might be sucking up most of the Internet’s peak traffic, but Amazon Prime Instant video has a nice little collection of movies and TV shows, too. Here are some of the selections arriving in June for your streaming pleasure.

Build a performance gaming PC for $620 – When it comes to gaming PCs, it’s not a case of how fast you want your PC to be, but how fast you want to spend money. Last week I looked at big bucks ways to supercharge your gaming PC. But what if you don’t have thousands of dollars laying about the place? Can you still build a killer gaming PC on a tight budget? Sure you can!

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New Need for Speed game will require constant online connection – Now that it has been revealed that a new entry in the Need for Speed game series is coming this year and will act as a “reboot” of the franchise, players have been wondering what they can expect this time around. Publisher EA has recently taken to answering some questions on Twitter, and yesterday stated in one reply that the game will require and internet connection at all time to be played. This sort of thing may sound familiar, as it was a controversial part of Microsoft’s initial announcement of the Xbox One console.

Now more than ever, the Internet belongs to cord-cutters – When I started using the Internet in the 80s it was all text. Then, along came the Web in 1993 and we got images. Oh boy! Today, as Mary Meeker, a partner at venture firm KIeiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), reported in her annual Internet trends report, 64 percent of all consumer Internet traffic is video. Sandvine, a broadband solution provider and analysis firm, has found that video takes up even more than that in the Internet’s peak hours.

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Android TV to bolster its app selection with Twitch, HBO Now, and more – As more people cut the cord and turn to streaming services to replace conventional cable networks, the competition between TV service platforms continues to heat up. Android TV, which is a newcomer on the market compared to seniors like Roku, has some things in the works to bring its service to the next level. Google announced at its I/O conference that new apps, including high-profile selections like HBO Now, are going to be coming to Android TV.

Valve accidentally tips Steam Summer Sale start date on Russia’s Facebook equivalent – The Steam Summer Sale will kick off June 11 and last through June 20, assuming a post on Russian social media is correct. It’s sort of a large assumption to make, but the post in question did originate from Valve’s official VKontakte page (Russian Facebook) so this rumor—originally spotted by IGN Russia—does have some credence to it. If true, it means the Steam Summer Sale is revving up quite a bit earlier than normal this time around.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Solar Impulse 2 begins world’s longest flight: Six days, five nights non-stop – Solar Impulse 2, which is attempting the world’s first solar-powered circumnavigation of Earth, has begun the longest leg of its journey: a single, non-stop flight of about 5078 miles (8172km) from China to Hawaii. The plane, and pilot André Borschberg, will be aloft for six days and five nights, with Borschberg attempting to stay awake for much of that time. The solar-powered aircraft, which has a larger wingspan than a 747, began its round-the-world trip in March. It departed from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, headed down the Persian Gulf to Oman, hopped over to India, then Myanmar, and finally into Nanjing in China at the end of April. You can watch the current flight live on the Solar Impulse website. (The website is pretty cool; you should check it out.)

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Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace – The New Yorker, in a review of research on this nouveau workplace design, determined that the benefits in building camaraderie simply mask the negative effects on work performance. While employees feel like they’re part of a laid-back, innovative enterprise, the environment ultimately damages workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.  Furthermore, a sense of privacy boosts job performance, while the opposite can cause feelings of helplessness. In addition to the distractions, my colleagues and I have been more vulnerable to illness. Last flu season took down a succession of my co-workers like dominoes.

Awair monitors your home or office’s air quality – Your home’s air quality might be suffering thanks to the traffic or businesses around you, but you might not realize it. Many of the problems in the air can’t be detected without help until they reach fairly serious levels, and so to prevent them from reaching that point we turn to air monitoring technologies. Fortunately, those technologies have become relatively inexpensive over the years and as such have found their way into homes. Awair is the latest example of this, serving as a stereo-like device (it looks like a stereo, is all) that keep tabs on nasties in the air.

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5 things you should know about cyber insurance – As more companies step in to offer insurance coverage against a broad range of cyber losses, we break down five points that organizations should keep in mind as they consider their options.

Something to think about:

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists of not exceeding the limit.”

–     Elbert Hubbard

Today’s Free Downloads:

Wise Force Deleter 1.01.17 Beta – Wise Force Deleter is a safe and easy to use file unlocker & deleter that will allow you to delete any file that Windows can’t delete.

In Windows, when you try to delete a file, you might see notices or errors like this:

Cannot delete file: Access is denied.

There has been a sharing violation.

The source or destination file may be in use.

The file is in use by another program or user.

Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected and that the file is not currently in use.

Wise Force Deleter is designed to fix all the issues above by terminating the processes using the file or removing file-access restrictions that prevent you from deleting a file. With Wise Force Deleter, you can unlock and delete any file without frustration in Windows.

Wise Force Deleter allows you to access it via a context menu. Right after installing it, a new option named “Force Delete” will appear in the context menu. To unlock&delete a locked file, you just need to right click it, select ‘Force Delete’, Wise Force Deleter will be launched. Then you can unlock and delete the file from your Windows system immediately, which is real convenient.

Like all other WiseCleaner products, The interface of Wise Force Deleter is very intuitive. Even a first timer can get the hang of it in seconds. Better yet, it also supports drag and drop, making file-deletion super easy for you.

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Copy Handler 1.40 Beta – Copy Handler is a free, open source tool for Microsoft Windows that allows you to manage different copy/move operations for files and folders. You can use it on your own hard drive partition, other storage media (external hard drives, CD/DVD units, flash drives etc.).

Features:

full-control over the copy/move process (you can use pause,resume,cancel,restart buttons)

huge amount of options (task queuing, file filters, shutdown after finishing copy process, auto resume, logging, different shell options, adjust buffer size on multiple levels for CD-ROM/HDD/network and so on).

one of the most customizable application from this area: the options section has over 60 detailed areas that can be customized for your needs.

observe detailed information regarding the entire copy/move operation such as: estimated time left, progress, speed etc.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The Patriot Act’s broadest surveillance powers have expired – Central portions of the Patriot Act are set to expire at midnight tonight, after a late-night Senate vote failed to extend the provisions. Those portions include Section 215, which applies to business records requests and has been used to justify the bulk collection of American phone and internet records.

Tonight’s session was a second chance for the Senate, after the chamber failed to pass the USA Freedom Act last Friday, putting portions of the legal basis for US surveillance in jeopardy. The Freedom Act passed cloture with 77 votes, and is likely to pass through the Senate later this week, but an ongoing filibuster from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) meant the Senate was unable to pass the bill before the scheduled sunset of Patriot Act powers. Senator Paul has garnered significant publicity for his efforts in delaying the vote, including a remarkable and bizarre PAC ad which appeared to cheer on the filibuster on Friday.

Proposed rule change to expand feds’ legal hacking powers moves forward – A controversial proposed judicial rule change allowing judges to issue warrants to conduct “remote access” against a target computer regardless of its location has been approved by a United States Courts committee, according to the Department of Justice.

Federal agents have been known to use such tactics in past and ongoing cases: a Colorado federal magistrate judge approved sending malware to a suspect’s known e-mail address in 2012. But similar techniques have been rejected by other judges on Fourth Amendment grounds. If this rule revision were to be approved, it would standardize and expand federal agents’ ability to surveil a suspect and to exfiltrate data from a target computer regardless of where it is. (Both the United States Army and the Drug Enforcement Administration are known to have purchased such exploits, most likely zero-days.)

In the United States, federal warrants are issued by judges who serve one of the 94 federal judicial districts and are typically only valid for that particular jurisdiction. Typically those warrants are limited to the district in which they are issued.

Push For Greater State Surveillance Powers Could Have Chilling Effect On U.K. Tech Sector – The U.K. government is lining up a new piece of legislation to expand the state’s digital data capture powers. The incoming bill, the Investigatory Powers Bill, was announced in the Queen’s speech this week. It has not yet been published in draft form so specific details of what is being planned remains unclear, but in recent times the Conservative party has been banging the drum to expand the type and volume of captured comms data. The U.K. Prime Minister has even appeared to suggest that strong encryption should be outlawed.

The Telegraph newspaper this week suggested new powers to be outlined in the Bill will require companies like Google and Facebook to give U.K. intelligence agencies access to the encrypted conversations of suspected terrorists and criminals. That scenario presupposes Internet companies have the ability to access their users’ encrypted messages.

Florida public schools to spy on students’ social media, report says – The more things that technology can do, the more it leaves open the possibility of further good and further not so good being perpetrated.

Please decide, therefore, whether you think it’s good that a school district buys itself software to monitor the social media activity of its students.

This is what the Orange County Public Schools District has chosen to do. As Click Orlando reports, the district announced on Thursday that it has signed up with a service called Snaptrends, which bills itself as “Pioneering Location-Based Social Media Discovery.” It promises to “quickly identify actionable insights.”

One person’s actionable could be another’s reprehensible.

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6 Comments

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

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – June 1, 2015

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Push For Greater State Surveillance Powers Could Have Chilling Effect On U.K. Tech Sector

    Like night follows day, Tony Slimeball Abbot will follow the UK on this. His recent initiative regarding terrorism and citizenship follows in the tracks of the UK and Canada. No doubt once the new data retention laws are in place, he will look to his comrades (Cameron and Parker) on how he can expand that law.

    I’m sure people think here in Australia that once the new laws are in, that will be the end of it. They are wrong, it is only the beginning.

    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      You couldn’t be more right mate – “it is only the beginning.” But, it doesn’t have to be.

      I find it curious that both Oz and the U.K. lack activist courts – particularly a Supreme Court (or equivalent), that will stand at the ramparts and actively engage these runaway governments. Here in Canada, the Supreme Court has already voted down SEVEN of Dictator Harper’s attempts to undermine civil liberties. The citizenship issues you mentioned is dead in the water – the legal consensus is it will mot withstand a Supreme Court challenge.

      Since all three countries are Westminster style parliamentary driven democracies, I’m at a loss to understand as to how each country’s judicial system can be so out of sync. At least here, we’re kicking some ass.

      There is no undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the present government here – instead, there is a major publicly supported movement to kick these creepy bastards to the curb. The upcoming October election is likely to devastate the Harper Government and force them into the boondocks (deservedly so), for years to come. This government (which was elected by 29% of eligible voters), is often referred to as the worst government this country has ever had.

      Unlike Americans with their hoopla and hype about everything (as their government strips the Constitution naked), Canadians simply go about their business and get the job done.

      Best,

      Bill

  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    I said to you once before that I think us Aussies are too laid back. We still have the attitude of “she’ll be right mate”. But I think once the old mission creep starts once these new laws are in, you will hear us all screaming over there in Canada. I really do believe that, eventually, these laws will be challenged all the way to the High Court. I really hope so anyway. And I hope they are overturned too.

    Cheers
    Mal

    • Hey Mal,

      Yep, I recall that. And, I absolutely agree with your forecast on this. Here’s an item from Snowden which I picked up this morning too late to include in the column – Snowden: balance of power has shifted as people defy government surveillance. There’s little doubt that what you and I have noted over the past few years is in fact, the reality.

      The Bullshit Baffles Brains theory of government (crafted for maximum effect by Harper, Cameron, Abbott, Obama and the rest) has had it’s day – except perhaps in the U.S where the general intellectual level is sub-par. That, coupled with a political class that is essentially criminal in nature and which is driven by an adherence to a fairy tale spread by a primitive desert dwelling culture, will destroy any chance the U.S. has of remaining a force for good in crafting Internet policy.

      Looking forward to you guys kicking some ass!

      Best,

      Bill