Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – June 15, 2015

Net neutrality rules go into effect: what happens now;  Create dynamic 3D animated avatars with your smartphone;  How to get started with Linux: A beginner’s guide;  Windows 10: The only major OS still trying to squeeze a buck from consumers;  Google’s Free App of the Week Promo Focuses on Kids;  Consumer group says Apple’s iPads are slower than a Surface Pro 3 or a $150 Android tablet;  Five unusual Android launchers to spruce up your phone;  How to take better photos in low light;  The latest joy: Selfies with police officers giving you a ticket;  How MajorGeeks Protects You and Why We Do What We Do;  Even with a VPN, open Wi-Fi exposes users;  Staying safe on public Wi-Fi;  This Tech Stock Is Up 4200% in Less Than 2 Months;  Playing games on the PC is making a comeback;  7 Steam Summer Sale Tips Every Gamer Should Know;  Online-Only Shows You Need to Watch Now;  Twitter tells us in which state people hate their jobs the most.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Net neutrality rules go into effect: what happens now – The rules prohibit broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Internet traffic and from charging website owners and providers of Web-based services for prioritized traffic. The rules also reclassify broadband from a lightly regulated information service to a more heavily regulated telecom-style service, although the FCC voted to exempt broadband providers from many of those common-carrier rules. Here are four things to watch for as the rules go into effect and the lawsuits go forward:

Texas teacher fired for ‘black segregation’ Facebook post about McKinney video – An elementary-school teacher goes on Facebook to declare “blacks are the problem.” She is the second educator this week to be removed from her job for a Facebook posting.

Consumer group says Apple’s iPads are slower than a Surface Pro 3 or a $150 Android tablet – A consumer group conducted a tablet performance test in which Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 was 20% faster than the iPad Air 2, and the iPad mini 3 was beaten by a supermarket’s low-cost Android tablet.

Chrome Should Soon Be Easier On Your Mac’s Battery – Chrome already got a new feature that can disable crappy Flash ads and win you back some battery cycles, but there’s more in the pipeline. Per senior Chrome engineer Peter Kasting outlining future steps on Google+, we’re going to see changes to the way Chrome handles rendering of background tabs (i.e., the ones you aren’t immediately looking at), and eking out some minor but important gains in the CPU efficiency of searching with Google. There’s a lot more going on, most of which is designed to help Chrome match or approach CPU efficiency found in Safari.

Hidden Chrome on Android features will improve your mobile browsing – Chrome has a lot of hidden features, some of which take a bit more digging to find. Jack Wallen highlights four such features that will help improve your Chrome on Android experience.

Create dynamic 3D animated avatars with your smartphone – The researchers report that this technology “facilitates a range of new applications in computer animation and consumer-level online communication based on personalized avatars.” Indeed, imagine going into one of BioWare’s or Bethesda’s character creators and having the ability to upload your 3D face. No longer would gamers spend hours fine-tuning their avatar. The researchers were even able to show how an actor could manipulate multiple 3D facial renders in real-time.

The latest joy: Selfies with police officers giving you a ticket – In Sri Lanka, there’s a curious new selfie trend, one the world shouldn’t miss. And police say they like it.

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The selfie that apparently started it all. Dhada Selfie/Facebook screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Windows 10: The only major OS still trying to squeeze a buck from consumers – Putting a monetary obstacle in the way of people who want to jump to Windows 10 hampers Microsoft’s vision for a service-centric, cloud-connected future for Windows. Consumers also love getting stuff for free.

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.

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Linux Mint’s system settings.

Google’s Free App of the Week Promo Focuses on Kids – According to reports, Google’s new free app giveaway is limited to a weekly timeframe—or “free app of the week,” if you prefer the traditional phrasing. And it’s not just any ol’ Android app that’s getting the special, cheaper treatment. The free app of the week promotion only seems to apply to apps within Google’s recently launched Family section of the Google Play store—at least, right now. It’s unclear whether Google will be branching the promotion out to additional categories, or whether this free app release promotion is just timed to take advantage of the new Family section’s launch.

Five unusual Android launchers to spruce up your phone – One of the benefits of Android’s openness is that many of its parts can be replaced by third party apps and services. One of those parts is the homescree and app launcher, the very first piece of software the user meets when using their smartphone. After the lock screen, of course. You might have heard of launchers like Nova, Apex, Go, or even Google’s own Google Now, but here are five more that you won’t usually read about in the news unless they have a major update or release.

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The seven “Prime Directives” of repairing and upgrading tech – Over the years I’ve built up a set of rules that I keep in mind when fixing things. I call them the “Prime Directives,” not because I’m a huge Star Trek fan, but because they’re important, and bad things tend to happen when I violate them.

Twitter Serving Up Ads Based on the Apps You Install – The tool “enables app advertisers to reach users based on the categories of apps they have installed on their device, or in which we think they have interest,” Twitter product manager Deepak Rao wrote in a blog post. “One of the biggest priorities for mobile app marketers is to reach the people who are most likely to use and love their apps. Today’s launch is the next step in our journey to help these advertisers connect with the right customers on Twitter – while providing users with the most relevant and useful ad content.” As Re/code noted, Twitter first announced plans for this in November, and is rolling it out now.

How to take better photos in low light – Low-light photography doesn’t always mean taking photos at night. There are plenty of situations where your eyes may be able to adjust to lower light easily, such as in a restaurant, but your camera has trouble seeing as well as you do. Wherever you may be, taking images in low light doesn’t have to be tricky. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when making photos in challenging lighting conditions.

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The original image on the left lost a lot of detail in the shadows. By shooting raw, you can recover much of this lost detail with a simple slider and end up with the photo on the right. Lexy Savvides/CNET

Facebook’s SSD findings: Failure, fatigue and the data center – ​SSDs revolutionized data storage, even though we know little about how well they work. Now researchers at Facebook and Carnegie-Mellon share millions of hours of SSD experience

Security:

How MajorGeeks Protects You and Why We Do What We Do – There have been some articles written lately about download sites and we’d like to take a minute to respond to some of what we have been reading. Sites like HowToGeek wrote an article here that was actually very kind to MajorGeeks considering what and who we are up against. So, let us fill you in on how things work differently at MajorGeeks.

Pointing up    MajorGeeks has been my recommended download site for many years precisely because of the issues raised in this article.

US officials reveal second massive hack: security clearance forms grabbed – The recent hack of government data, at least according to those who know of the matter, is far worse than previously revealed. At least 4 million people were comprised, it was originally reported, but a recent letter to the OPM indicated that every single federal employee might have had some data stolen, including former federal workers. Now a second hack has been disclosed by sources, and it is said to have involved the theft of data related to intelligence employees and military personnel.

Even with a VPN, open Wi-Fi exposes users – By now, any sentient IT person knows the perils of open Wi-Fi. Those free connections in cafes and hotels don’t encrypt network traffic, so others on the network can read your traffic and possibly hijack your sessions. But one of the main solutions to this problem has a hole in it that isn’t widely appreciated. This gap in coverage may only be a matter of seconds, but that’s enough to expose valuable information like logon credentials. Try running a network monitoring tool like Microsoft’s TCPView for Windows or Little Snitch for Mac before you establish your Internet connection and see what happens in those first few seconds. The information may be protected by encryption, but it can carry details about your system configuration that could be used to identify it—or provide clues for an attacker.

Staying safe on public Wi-Fi – Stuck without a data connection on the road? Free public Wi-Fi is one of those little luxuries that can make travelling easier, but you do need to exercise caution in how you use it. Here are some tips on what to look out for when using public Wi-Fi, whether you use a laptop, smartphone or tablet.

US Navy is looking to buy zero-day and other exploits online – It’s no secret that security researchers and cyber criminals often buy and sell exploits online. Researchers usually sell their findings back to companies in bug-bounty programs, while criminals usually sell their knowledge to other criminals who can then exploit the unpatched vulnerability. But there’s also a third kind of exploit buyer out there, and that’s governments, who use these exploits for their own cyber-attacks. That’s seemingly the case here, where the US Navy actually posted an ad saying they were buying exploits found in popular software.

Company News:

This Tech Stock Is Up 4200% in Less Than 2 Months – The stock of a Chinese technology company has risen just over 4,200% since it went public just 56 days ago. The amazing run, Bloomberg notes, is equivalent to the past 11 years of gains in Apple’s shares. It also gives the company, Beijing Baofeng Technology Co., an almost unbelievable valuation of 715 times earnings. That’s 46 times Apple’s P/E of 15. Janus Capital’s Bill Gross, a legendary bond investor, recently said that the technology-heavy Shenzhen market, where Beijing Baofeng is listed, would be a great trade for short-sellers, who bet that shares will go down.

Rough sailing ahead for Twitter after CEO’s departure – Can Twitter finally give Wall Street what it wants now that its embattled CEO Dick Costolo is stepping aside after months of disappointing investors? While tech’s other heavy hitters, including Facebook — with nearly a billion more users than Twitter — and Google, constantly tinker to improve their products, Twitter ‘s momentum has stalled, some analysts believe.

After years of silence, Amazon releases first transparency report – Despite it being known best for its online retail business, its cloud services power millions of apps, sites, and services around the world. But the news couldn’t come soon enough. Amazon is the last major technology company in the Fortune 500 to disclose how many times governments have come knocking on its door, demanding customer and user data. Amazon, known by insiders for being notoriously secretive, was at no point under a legal obligation to report its numbers, but had faced mounting pressure in the face of transparency reports becoming an industry norm. Schmidt said the report, which covers the six months starting January 1 and ending May 31, will be released biannually.

By the numbers:

Amazon received 813 subpoenas, of which it fully complied with 66 percent;

Amazon received 35 search warrants, of which it fully complied with just over half;

Out of the other 13 other court orders it received, Amazon fully complied with just four;

Amazon received 132 foreign requests, of which it fully complied with 82 percent;

Amazon complied with the one removal orders (like user data) it received

Amazon disclosed that it had received between zero and 249 national security requests, such as a court order issued by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Alibaba to launch Netflix-like streaming service in China – Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba has announced its plans to create its own media streaming platform. Alibaba will be calling the new platform TBO, Tmall Box Office. TBO will run licensed domestic content from China was well as foreign content. The service even has plans to create its own in-house programs, as Netflix did with House of Cards. Competition is heating up as Chinese companies are in a bit of a spending war with each other, trying to gain market share in the emerging market of media streaming technology.

This Country Is Logging Almost 1M Uber Trips Per Day – Uber has expanded rapidly in recent years, but like many tech companies, its main focus in the years to come will be China, according to a leaked letter from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to investors. Uber is available in 11 Chinese cities, which cover about 14 million people who are taking almost 1 million trips per day.

Uber to invest over $1B in China, expand to 50 more cities – In a letter to investors, CEO Travis Kalanick calls the ride-hailing service’s growth in the country “remarkable and unprecedented.”

With payroll in arrears, online antivirus seller shuts doors – The sudden shutdown of a computer tech support call center has left some of its employees wondering if they will be paid. EZ Tech Support, based in Portland, Oregon, took calls from people who had advertising software installed on their computers that warned of possible security and performance problems. The programs implored people to call the company’s number, which was displayed amid warnings.

Amazon to have select Prime items shipped from merchants – If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you may find many more items eligible for the service’s free two-day shipping option in the near future. That’s because the internet retailing giant is testing a program that has Prime items shipped directly from the independent merchants selling who sell them. Normally, only items sold directly by Amazon, or merchants’ items that are stored in Amazon’s warehouses, are eligible for the Prime two-day shipping option. This change benefit both customers and sellers.

Games and Entertainment:

Playing games on the PC is making a comeback – Video game consoles have long dominated the video game industry, offering a seemingly cheaper and more consistent experience. But not for long.

7 Steam Summer Sale Tips Every Gamer Should Know – It’s that time of year again. The Steam Summer Sale is back, and that means more than a week of constantly reloading the Steam store to see what games you can pick up for a few bucks each. It’s easy to go nuts during the sale, so here are some tips on how to get the most during the event.

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Look out, Twitch! YouTube Gaming is coming this summer – Launching this summer in the US and UK, gaming.youtube.com will be a portal just for games—bascially the “Twitch” portion of YouTube. There will be game pages for “over 25,000” titles showing info about the games and a list of streamers playing them. There will also be channel pages for streaming personalities and companies. Searches from gaming.youtube.com will be sectioned off from the rest of the site, too—YouTube’s blog post (which we received an advance copy of) says that “typing ‘call’ will show you Call of Duty and not Call Me Maybe.” And of course, there’s also chat.

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Fallout 4, Dishonored 2, Doom—Bethesda opens up with both barrels – We knew in advance that we’d be hearing more about Fallout 4 and Doom from Bethesda at their “E3 showcase” Sunday evening, but the best laid plans of mice and mutants gang aft agley—a brief technical mix-up the day before also told us that we’d be getting a look at Dishonored 2 as well. But there didn’t need to be any surprises—those three AAA games themselves were enough to warm any gamer’s heart. Especially if you like Fallout.

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Watch all the new footage of Doom from E3 – E3 2015 got off to a chainsaw-intensive start Sunday when Bethesda showed tons of footage from Doom, its forthcoming sequel to the genre-defining franchise. We took a long look of the single-player campaign that showed off many of the game’s best-loved weapons, including the shotgun, the rocket launcher, and (of course) the chainsaw. We also saw a glimpse of the multi-player campaign, which players will be able to mod heavily using a new tool called Snapmap. Check it out:

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The new Fallout mobile game, Fallout Shelter, is available right now – The creators of Fallout 4 have released a new mobile game associated with the Fallout franchise. In Fallout Shelter, you make your own nuclear shelter, or vault. As the overseer of said vault, you will then need to maintain the underground base, keeping your residents happy. The game has a 2D-animation look playing off the Pip-Boy characters of the Fallout series. The game looks like a cross between SimTower and the base management system in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The game is free on iOS tonight. It won’t have paywall timers and won’t require an internet connection to play.

Online-Only Shows You Need to Watch Now – Netflix isn’t alone in creating great TV that doesn’t require rabbit ears, cable (beyond the modem), or hell, even an actual TV. Streaming video has quickly become a natural setting for scripted drama and comedy. With Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Yahoo Screen, and more, you can watch at your own pace, or binge watch all at once.  The bottom line? You don’t need a TV to watch quality scripted television.

Off Topic (Sort of):

In the Future, Employees Won’t Exist – Contract work is becoming the new normal. Consider Uber: The ride-sharing startup has 160,000 contractors, but just 2,000 employees. That’s an astonishing ratio of 80 to 1. And when it comes to a focus on contract labor, Uber isn’t alone. Handy, Eaze and Luxe are just a few of the latest entrants into the “1099 Economy.” Though they get the most attention, it’s not just on-demand companies that employ significant contract workforces. Microsoft has nearly two-thirds as many contractors as full-time employees. Four trends are converging to make contracting more attractive for both employers and workers, and reshaping how businesses and employees look at the traditional full-time model.

Twitter tells us in which state people hate their jobs the most – Technically Incorrect: An analysis of an entire year’s tweets shows that there’s a geographical split between those who say they like their work and those who say they don’t.

Parrot unveils 13 new minidrones, including a drone-powered boat – Drones aren’t always huge and hugely expensive. Parrot has been selling a line of minidrones for the last few years, and today it has revealed 13 new ones. That’s not 13 individual types of drone, but 13 “versions” of three different types. There are new flying and rolling drones, as well as one that takes to the waves for the first time.

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1980s Amiga has been running the AC and heat in 19 schools for 30 years – The Grand Rapids Public School district took a big step into the future back in the 1980s when it used money from an energy bond to purchase a Commodore Amiga computer. The Amiga, which replaced a computer the size of a refrigerator, was set up to control heat and air conditioning at the district’s 19 schools. It has been doing that job tirelessly for the last 30 years. How long do you think you could keep a modern laptop working? Four or five years? Maybe? The Amiga uses an unusual 1200-bit modem and a wireless radio signal to communicate with the 19 buildings.

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Talk techie to me: RealDoll wants to make sex dolls that move, chat – RealDoll is reportedly working with robotics experts to make a more lifelike and unintentionally creepier love doll. Hopefully it won’t dump you for the Roomba.

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Something to think about:

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”

–      Mark Twain

Today’s Free Downloads:

RogueKiller 

MajorGeek says: We don’t really need a review here. If you’re a tech, you know what this tool does and it’s already in your toolbox. For the rest of you, Roguekiller is a popular, effective tool to remove some stubborn malware but be warned; you better know what you’re doing. While a lot of more well-known tools will simply scan and delete for you, this tool will show you everything it finds that is a possible problem. You need to know what to remove and what not to remove. In the second screenshot below you will see where it found 7 potential PUP’s on a clean install of Windows 7. If someone told you to download this and you’re not a knowledgeable computer tech, run. Run as fast as you can and get a new ‘friend’. A program like Malwarebytes Anti-Malware would serve you better. I’m not knocking RogueKiller, it’s excellent; in the right hands. If you don’t believe me, simply read the comments below.

RogueKiller is an anti-malware program written in C++ and able to detect and remove generic malwares and some advanced threats such as rootkits, rogues, worms…

Based on generic ways to find malwares by their behaviour (heuristics), on classic anti-malware analysis (signature finding) and on undocumented hacks, RogueKiller can find/remove most of the basic malwares (rogues, trojans, …) and some advanced threats like ZeroAccess or TDSS that behave more like rootkits.

Here’s a little summary of what RogueKiller is able to do:

Kill malicious processes

Stop malicious services

Unload malicious DLLs from processes

Find/Kill malicious hidden processes

Find and remove malicious autostart entries, including :

1: Registry keys (RUN/RUNONCE, …)

2: Tasks Scheduler (1.0/2.0)

3: Startup folders

Find and remove registry hijacks, including :

1: Shell / Load entries

2: Extension association hijacks

3: DLL hijacks

4: Many, many others …

Read / Fix DNS Hijacks (DNS Fix button)

Read / Fix Proxy Hijacks (Proxy Fix button)

Read / Fix Hosts Hijacks (Hosts Fix button)

Restore shortcuts / files hidden by rogues of type “Fake HDD“

Read / Fix malicious Master Boot Record (MBR), even hidden behind rootkit

List / Fix SSDT – Shadow SSDT – IRP Hooks (Even with inline hooks)

Find and restore system files patched / faked by a rootkit

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Audio Switcher – Easily switch between ANY sound device on your Windows PC with this incredibly small and lightweight application. Using this application allows you to switch output OR input sound devices at the click of a button, or the press of a key.

Features:

Change Windows Default Audio devices without opening Control Panel

Full Global Hot Key support which allows you to change the default audio device with the press of a key

Favorite Devices – Only your “favorite” devices will show up in the Tray Icon Menu.

Quick switch: Click on the notification icon once and it will cycle through your favorited devices! Great if you have two devices you switch between often.

Settings support for closing to tray, starting minimized to tray and running at start up (using a registry key)

Optional: Periodically check for updates

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Russia and China cracked Snowden’s files, identified U.S., UK spies – Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies have reportedly decrypted files of former U.S. National Security Agency contractor and leaker Edward Snowden, and have identified British and U.S. secret agents.

MI6, the U.K.’s secret intelligence service, has withdrawn agents from overseas operations in hostile countries, according to a report in the Sunday Times of London, citing U.K. government officials and Western intelligence agencies.

The report contains some apparently contradictory information. Although The Sunday Times quoted a U.K. Home Office official saying that Snowden has “blood on his hands,” it also quoted a government source saying that there was no sign that agents have been hurt.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s aides, however, confirmed that Snowden’s files are in the hands of Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies, according to the report.

Pointing up    It’s barely conceivable – just enough to shore up the convictions of the poorly informed. Just remember; liars lie. And, both the U. S. and the U. K. have proven to be A+++ liars in this matter.  Who would publicly admit that their very own ultra/ultra – secret/secret – futuristic/futuristic – encrypted/encrypted – impossible to break/impossible to break – encryption system is worthless?

More right wing extremist nonsense parroted by a mainstream media which continues to fail massively in it’s primary function – as it has for years.

Right to be forgotten applies to all Google domains, rules French privacy authority – Google must respect the European Union’s ‘right to be forgotten’ court ruling on all its sites, not just those it says target EU countries, the French data protection authority has ruled, giving the company 15 days to comply.

The French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) ordered Google to remove the affected search results on all its domains, including google.com, or face a fine of up to €300,000 (about $337,000). So far, Google has only removed such results from those of its sites it says target EU users, including google.fr or google.de. French residents need only click the “Use Google.com” link on the google.fr homepage to have access to unfiltered search results.

The dispute began over a year ago, when the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) gave people the right to request removal of search results for queries including their names, if the results are inadequate or irrelevant.

This means that E.U. residents who want to remove a search result displayed on a search of their name can ask a search engine to delist it. The search engine must review the request and grant it if the proper conditions are met. If the search engine does not comply, they can lodge a complaint with their local data protection authority.

Germany drops investigation into claims the NSA tapped Angela Merkel’s phone – The German government has dropped a formal investigation into allegations that the NSA had been tapping chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone for several years. German federal prosecutor Harald Range said in a statement on Friday there was insufficient evidence to continue the investigation, The New York Times reports.

Back in 2013, German newspaper Der Spiegel ran a report claiming the US had been monitoring Merkel’s phone since 2002, based on internal NSA documents it had obtained. The White House responded by assuring Merkel she was no longer being monitored, but the report suggested the surveillance had gone on for more than a decade.

Range noted that while the NSA documents did contain a phone number that could be traced back to Merkel, there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest there had been an “authentic” order from the NSA to tap the phone. He also said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Merkel’s phone had actually been tapped.

What The U.K. Surveillance Powers Review Says On Encryption And Hacking – An independent review of U.K. surveillance powers conducted by QC David Anderson published its findings this week. Among its recommendations the report calls for judges to sign off interception warrants, and for a new law to govern surveillance powers — replacing the problematic patchwork of outdated and amended legislation that currently exists with stricter and more coherent oversight.

The report also supports continued use of “bulk data collection” (aka mass surveillance) by U.K. intelligence agencies — so long as “strict additional safeguards” oversee its usage and minimize privacy impacts.

Anderson writes:

…if the acceptable use of vast state powers is to be guaranteed, it cannot simply be by reference to the probity of its servants, the ingenuity of its enemies or current technical limitations on what it can do. Firm limits must also be written into law: not merely safeguards, but red lines that may not be crossed.

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