Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – July 20, 2015

Ripping CDs and movies for personal use is once again illegal in UK;  UK government releases plan to jail online pirates for up to 10 years;   Stop pesky HTML5 videos from auto-playing;  These 4 Gadgets Will Make Your Home Environmentally Friendly;  Photos: 9 apps that can help people with disabilities;  Virtual reality for beginners: Everything you need to know to wrap your head around VR;  Pocket for iOS updated with text-to-speech feature;  Save the world using your PC or phone;  Microsoft will support Windows 10 till 2025;  Hacking Attacks on Ashley Madison Could Mean Trouble for Millions of Would-Be Cheaters;  Windows 10 to be sold on USB sticks;  Microsoft to spoofed Skype users: Change your account passwords NOW;  Google might soon help you find anyone from a plumber to a painter;  Amazon Looks to Turn India into Firm’s Biggest Market Outside the U.S.  10 Games Every Xbox One Player Needs;  Xbox One game streaming to Windows 10 PCs is now available for everyone;  GoPro captures road rage as alleged victim fights back (and wins);  The Pocket Guide to Fighting with Idiots on the Internet;  Are the Ten Commandments really the basis for our laws?

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Ripping CDs and movies for personal use is once again illegal in UK – Today’s ruling quashes the 2014 regulation that made it legal to make personal copies of performances for private use as long as the person doing so has lawfully acquired the content and doesn’t distribute it to anyone else. That regulation allowed people to make backups or play songs or movies in different formats but didn’t allow selling copies or sharing them with family and friends. But the High Court ruled last month that the regulation hadn’t been enacted properly. The personal use exception wasn’t immediately thrown out because other remedies could have been considered, but today’s ruling takes it off the books.

These 4 Gadgets Will Make Your Home Environmentally Friendly – Long promised to be the next big thing, smart home gear hasn’t just arrived, some of it has already departed for the clearance racks and the deal-a-day websites. The problem with a lot of these products? They’re technology for the sake of gadgetry — meaning they do something kind of cool, but that’s about it. For smart home devices to be truly innovative, they must solve a problem facing consumers. One of those problems ripe for solving: Utility bills. Here are four ways smart home devices can give you a better handle on how your home uses energy and water, saving not only money, but also precious resources.

Inbox by Gmail adds some extra smarts to the snooze button – Google’s email app now looks at message content to predict just the right time to pop messages back into your inbox

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Stop pesky HTML5 videos from auto-playing with this helpful Firefox add-on – This nifty add-on helps you silence pesky auto-playing audio and video that you come across on the web–as long it’s not Flash-based.

Intel’s Skylake chips: What you need to know about the next big CPU change – Move over, Broadwell: the sixth generation of Intel Core i-series CPUs are almost here. Here’s how it will — and won’t — affect your PC and Mac buying choices.

Sideclick is back to make streamer remote controls more useful – The $21 attachment adds volume and other television controls to Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Google Nexus Player remotes.

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Meet Voat, the website that wants to be the anti-Reddit – With all the drama surrounding Reddit, from debates over free speech to its messy game of musical chairs among executives, it’s understandable some users might want to leave. Now they’ve found a place to go. It’s called Voat (rhymes with goat), and it says it’s fixed all those things people don’t like about Reddit.

Photos: 9 apps that can help people with disabilities – It’s easy to how powerful a simple technology can be. Here are nine apps to help make day-to-day tasks much easier for people with disabilities.

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HearYouNow is a personal sound amplifier for people trying to listen in specific types of environments, like in a loud restaurant or during a meeting. You can choose to focus on conversations happening near you, or those further away, and it’s easy to replay the last 20 seconds of a conversation. Available for free for iOS.

Pocket for iOS updated with text-to-speech feature – Pocket, the wonderful app that lets users save articles and other content for reading later on, has updated its iOS app with a text to speed feature. With this feature, busy users can have their saved articles read to them while they do other things the same as an audio book. It’s a handy feature, one that makes it easier to work through one’s saved articles while driving to or from work or while doing other things that require your attention to be (mostly) elsewhere.

Virtual reality for beginners: Everything you need to know to wrap your head around VR – Virtual reality has the potential to change the world, but you’ll need to understand the radical new technology before you embrace it.

Save the world using your PC or phone – Volunteer computing is a way for people to get their computers or phones to link up to solve complicated modeling and calculations to aid in research projects. What’s being volunteered is your machine’s spare processing power. When multiple computers are a part of the same project, these separate machines act in concert to serve as a supercomputer.

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SETI@home in action on a Mac. Ariel Nunez/CNET

Microsoft starts the countdown to Windows 10 release with ’10 reasons to upgrade’ – Microsoft has released a new video series to promote Windows 10 that highlights 10 features of the OS and why you should upgrade when it arrives later this month.

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Windows 10 to be sold on … wait for it … USB sticks – Microsoft has confirmed scuttlebutt that had been flying around for a number of weeks now: Windows 10 will be sold on USB Flash drives. Over on Amazon.com, pre-order pages show that the operating system will be available on media other than DVDs. A release date has now been tagged for 30 August with the drive retailing in the US at $119.99 for the Windows 10 Home version and $199.99 for Windows 10 Pro.

Windows 10 — download full version, before release date (RTM build 10240) – Yes, you can get the Windows 10 “RTM” build, right now, for download, even before the release date. Build 10240 is the final, full version. It’s available for update, but you can also get hold of the ISOs (even though Microsoft doesn’t want you to). As before, this is an Insider Program thing only. You did sign up for the program, like I told you, right?

Microsoft will support Windows 10 till 2025 – With the move to Windows a a Service, Microsoft had left some questions unanswered about the support and lifecycle of the OS. The company has now updated its product page to indicate 10 years.

Save your money and download Microsoft’s free eBooks on Windows 10 – Not only is Microsoft giving away it new Windows 10 operating system for Free, the company is also giving away 100’s of Free eBooks covering a wide range of Microsoft technologies-including Windows 10.Let’s take a closer look.

Microsoft Will Release Cortana For Android In “Next Few Weeks” – Following an apparent leak of Cortana for the Android platform, Microsoft released comment indicating that it is in fact testing its digital assistant for the Google platform, and will cut it live in short order. So all that cross-platform talk wasn’t a charade. Expect Cortana to land on Android and, later, iOS.

Security:

0-day attacks exploiting Flash just got harder thanks to new defenses – A string of weaponized attacks targeting Adobe’s Flash media player—including three in the past 10 days—has kept software engineers scrambling to fix the underlying vulnerabilities that make the exploits so dangerous. Fortunately, they have also been busy making structural changes to the way the program interacts with computer operating systems to significantly reduce the damage that can result not only from those specific attacks but entire classes of similar ones. At the moment, the defenses are fully implemented only in the Flash version included in Google Chrome, having made their debut earlier this week. One of the two mitigations is available in other versions of Flash, and the remaining one is expected to be added to other browsers in August.

UCLA’s Health System Was Hacked and Now 4.5 Million People May Have Had Their Personal Data Stolen – The University of California, Los Angeles, announced today that their health system had been hacked sometime in the past ten months, potentially compromising the personal data of 4.5 million people. UCLA Health first noticed the security breach in September 2014, when the system detected “suspicious activity” and the FBI was called in to investigate. At that time, it didn’t appear that hackers posed a threat. Then, in May 2015, the healthcare provider realized hackers had accessed their internal system, which contained privileged information like names, addresses, social security numbers, and medical records that may have been stolen.

Microsoft to spoofed Skype users: Change your account passwords NOW – An unknown number of frustrated Skype customers have been pestered by spoof messages on the Microsoft service for weeks, but the company is yet to close what appears to be a gaping hole in its software. Instead, Redmond has advised Skype users to change their account passwords. But complaints are building up about the lack of communication coming out of the Microsoft camp regarding what seems to be a Skype security flaw. The problem first appeared late last month. One Skype user, posting in a thread that now runs to 22 pages long, said:

Hacking Attacks on Ashley Madison Could Mean Trouble for Millions of Would-Be Cheaters – KrebsOnSecurity — the Internet security blog run by former Washington Post cybercrime reporter Brian Krebs — says the hackers, calling themselves the Impact Team, are demanding that Avid Life Media (ALM), a Canadian company that owns Ashley Madison as well as Established Men (which promises to set successful men up with “young, beautiful women”) to take the two sites down permanently. If ALM doesn’t comply, the hackers say they will continue releasing “all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails,” Krebs reports.

Email Spam Rates Dip Below 50 Percent – Despite what your email inbox might be telling you, overall spam rates have dropped below 50 percent for the first time in 12 years. In June, the rate of unwanted emails reached 49.7 percent—1.8 percent less than the month before, which fell 0.6 percent from the month before that. According to the latest Symantec Intelligence Report, the last time the security firm recorded a similarly low spam rate was in September 2003.

Company News:

Amazon Looks to Turn India into Firm’s Biggest Market Outside the U.S. – Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is planning to invest as much as $5 billion to turn India into its biggest market outside the U.S., the Economic Times newspaper reports. Last year, the online behemoth, which entered India in 2013 with a website that offers a platform for local retailers to sell their goods online, committed itself to investing $2 billion in its Indian operations as it sought to capitalise on the country’s expanding middle class, a significant section of which is going online at a rapid rate.

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Google might soon help you find anyone from a plumber to a painter – It appears Google is about to enter the growing home services market. The search giant has snatched up roughly 20 employees from Homejoy, a startup that focused on pairing house cleaners with apartment-dwellers and homeowners. Google confirmed the hires to our sister site, Recode, just hours after Homejoy announced yesterday that it was closing shop for good at the end of the month. Google has yet to announce any foray into home services, but Buzzfeed reported earlier this year that the company was working on a service that would connect local plumbers, cleaners, painters, and other workers with homeowners.

Apple files patent for targeted ad system that checks what you can afford to buy – I am seeing a lot of praise on social networks recently for the introduction of Apple Pay across Apple’s mobile devices because it’s so convenient not having to take your wallet out to pay, especially if you own the Apple Watch. But Apple having access to your bank account and spending habits has opened up a new way to advertise to individual users: targeted adverts based on what you can afford. Apple has filed a patent that would allow it to enable such a system. Rather than having adverts appear based on your browsing and buying habits, Apple can now track how much cash you have in your bank account, on your credit card, or in pre-paid credit. It can then better select the ad to show you based on whether you can afford what the ad is attempting to sell.

Yahoo Files To Spin Off Its Alibaba Stake As “Aabaco Holdings” – Yahoo is moving forward with plans to spin off its Alibaba assets, as outlined in a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Basically, Yahoo is tossing its Alibaba stock and a minor part of its operations into a new corporate entity. The spinoff will be a public company called Aabaco Holdings, and it will own 384 million shares of Alibaba, which is about 15 percent of the total.

Microsoft is reportedly signing up Foxconn to build Lumia phones in India – After huge cuts to its phone division last week, it seems Microsoft may be planning to outsource at least part of its handset manufacturing, and is said to be close to a deal with Foxconn in India.

T-Mobile reaches settlement with FCC over 911 outages – Back in mid-March, Verizon settled with the FCC over 911 service outages that happened in April of last year. Verizon wasn’t the only wireless carrier that was swept up into some 911 outages, however, and now T-Mobile has followed in the carrier’s footsteps with its own FCC settlement. The big difference, though, is how much it will pay to settle the matter. While Verizon settled for $3.4 million, T-Mobile will be paying $17.5 million to settle the legal matter.

Huawei sales rise 30 percent in H1 2015 – Chinese technology giant Huawei has revealed a 30 percent rise in sales for the half year, with smartphones in the mid- and high-end markets contributing to its continuing high rate of growth.

Games and Entertainment:

10 Games Every Xbox One Player Needs – If you’re ready to discover what the PCMag staff considers the best Xbox One games, click through the slideshow. You can watch video clips of the games in action, and read our pithy words regarding what makes each title one that’s worth owning.

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Sunset Overdrive puts you in the role of a downtrodden garbage collector who works for Fizzco, a corporation that launches an energy drink that ultimately turns its customers into mutants.

Xbox One game streaming to Windows 10 PCs is now available for everyone – The impending arrival of Windows 10 is bringing a bunch of welcome new features for Xbox One players. Xbox’s Larry Hryb said in a blog post today that an update rolling out over the next few days will bring players the ability to play Xbox One games on their Windows 10 PCs and tablets by streaming them over their home networks. The feature, which was announced in January, lets players bring games to other rooms of their house without having to move their console. It was previously made available to about 5 million testers of Windows 10.

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Stardock releases Sorcerer King, its new strategy fantasy game – Stardock today announced that Sorcerer King is available now and ready to challenge strategy gamers across the globe. In Sorcerer King players must build a kingdom and raise a force powerful enough to challenge the Sorcerer King who’s all but destroyed their world. Gamers are able to purchase Sorcerer King for $39.99 at http://www.sorcererking.com.

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Judge Approves $60M Settlement in Student-Athlete Video Game Lawsuit – It’s not going to make any student-athletes (or former student-athletes) rich, but a federal judge’s approval of a $60 million settlement as part of a class-action lawsuit filed against the NCAA and Electronic Arts is still fairly monumental. As part of the settlement, any student-athlete on the roster of a Division 1 men’s football or men’s basketball team—whose team was included on any Electronic Arts video game released between May 4, 2003 and September 3, 2014—may file for a claim as part of the settlement. More than 20,000 student-athletes filed for a claim based on the original July 2 deadline. That deadline has since been extended to July 31 for interested parties. The maximum amount that any individual player will be able to earn is $7,200, and they might receive it as early as September (depending how appeals to the settlement go).

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This week in games: Duke Nukem lives, Doom runs inside Doom, and more – Plus: Just Cause 3 turns into a Choose Your Own Adventure and someone’s making a new Warhammer 40,000 action-RPG.

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Android TV, like Google TV, still too ahead of its time – Name five devices that run on Google’s Android TV operating system. If you managed to do that without hurriedly running to a Google search, you are a rare breed. Ask the average user, even someone who is a longtime Android user, and you will probably get a blank stare.

Off Topic (Sort of):

CNN, Fox, other news networks still think we’re all technology idiots – While the endless filler and sometimes mind-numbing commentary that comes with 24-hour news networks provide plenty of subject matter worthy of eye-rolling criticism, it’s hard to find any subject that is approached with a deeper level of maddening condescension and downright idiocy than when a breaking technology-related story unfolds. Watching CNN and others last Wednesday was just the latest example in this continuously absurd area of mainstream journalism.

After Washington Post rolls out HTTPS, its editorial board bemoans encryption debate – Opinion: The national daily displays staggering naivety and hypocrisy in just 530 words.

The Pocket Guide to Fighting with Idiots on the Internet – The rules of the flame war are always changing. The spats of today aren’t at all similar to those our forefathers fought before modems; a changed arena requires a different tact. You can’t approach a fight on Twitter like you would one on the street, though ultimately it pays to be a total prick in both situations. But that shouldn’t be too hard should it, prick face? Let’s begin:

Which of the 11 American nations do you live in? – Colin Woodard, a reporter at the Portland Press Herald and author of several books, says North America can be broken neatly into 11 separate nation-states, where dominant cultures explain our voting behaviors and attitudes toward everything from social issues to the role of government. Woodard lays out his map in the new book “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.” Here’s how he breaks down the continent:

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Cyber-security’s dirty little secret: It’s not as bad as you think – New research from the Global Commission on Internet Governance has reached a surprising conclusion: cyberspace is actually getting safer. The report [PDF] starts from a simple enough premise: while we are constantly told that incidents of cyberattacks and online security threats are increasing, are they growing relative to the expanding size of the internet? In other words, while 10 homicides in a small town of 1,000 is terrifying, 100 in a city of 10 million would be considered low. The second is still 10 times the first. Having pulled data on the number of domain names from dot-com operator Verisign, volume of online activity from Cisco, and search activity from Google, author Eric Jardine, then mapped a wide variety of cybersecurity issues onto the expanding internet and found that things are actually getting better.

Spotify’s new map shows musical tastes of a thousand cities – Have you ever wondered what other people in your city are listening to? If so, Spotify’s newly created Musical Map will be of particular interest. The map uses Spotify’s glut of data to create playlists based on the listening habits of users across 1,000 cities around the globe. The map presently includes cities in the Americas, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Asia. Clicking on a city will pull up a link to a playlist on Spotify that was created to show what kind of music is popular in the region.

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GoPro captures road rage as alleged victim fights back (and wins) – Technically Incorrect: A video of a motorist getting angry at a motorcyclist depicts an instance of a man getting more than he bargained for. Almost 9 million YouTube viewers have checked it out.

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Are the Ten Commandments really the basis for our laws? – I was thinking about this recently. People seem to accept that our laws are based on the morals of the Old Testament laid out in the Commandments, but as a proper skeptic, I decided to take a look myself. Why not go over the Commandments, said I to myself, and compare them to our actual laws, as well as the Constitution, the legal document framed by the Founding Fathers, and upon which our laws are actually based? So I did.

Something to think about:

“It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.”

–      Julius Caesar

Today’s Free Downloads:

Yawcam – Yawcam is a shortening for Yet Another WebCAM software, and that’s exactly what it is 😉 More precise Yawcam is a webcam software for windows written in java. The main ideas for Yawcam are to keep it simple and easy to use but to include all the usual features.

Features:

Video streaming

Image snapshots

Built-in webserver

Motion detection

Ftp-upload

Text and image overlays

Password protection

Online announcements for communities

Scheduler for online time

Time lapse movies

Run as a Windows service

Multi languages

Yawcam is freeware. However, if you enjoy using Yawcam and would like to help support its development, please consider making a donation.

Limitations: Requires Sun Java Runtime Environment installed.

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WhoCrashed Free Home Edition – WhoCrashed reveals the drivers responsible for crashing your computer.

Whenever a computer running Windows suddenly reboots without displaying any notice or blue screen of death, the first thing that is often thought about is a hardware failure. In reality, most crashes are caused by malfunctioning device drivers and kernel modules. In case of a kernel error, most computers running Windows do not show a blue screen unless they are configured to do so. Instead these systems suddenly reboot without any notice.

WhoCrashed shows the drivers which have been crashing your computer with a single click. In most cases it can pinpoint the offending drivers which have been causing misery on your computer system in the past. It does post-mortem crashdump analysis and presents all gathered information in a comprehensible way.

Normally, debugging skills and a set of debugging tools are required to do post-mortem crash dump analysis. By using this utility you do not need any debugging skills to be able to find out what drivers are causing trouble to your computer.

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Lastpass  – The Last Password You’ll Have To Remember.

Lastpass is a freeware password manager that will surely make your browsing a lot easier and much more secure.

Generate strong passwords, knowing you’ll only have to remember one.

Log into your favorite websites with just one click

Access and manage your important data from multiple workstations seamlessly

Share logins with your friends and let others share logins with you

The Universal Windows installer installs browser extensions for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. It also allows you to easily create a LastPass account and import your existing passwords. It’s the best way to install LastPass on Windows. The 64 bit installer includes 32 bit IE installer.

Supports Internet Explorer 8+, Firefox 2.0+, Chrome 18+, Safari 5+, Opera 11+.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Hacking Team apparently violated EU rules in sale of spyware to Russian agency – Newly released e-mails from Hacking Team, the now-embattled Italian spyware firm that sold what it claims is lawful intercept software to companies and governments, definitively show that it sold its Remote Control System surveillance software to the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), the successor agency to the KGB.

Officially, Hacking Team sold its wares to a company called “Advanced Monitoring,” whose corporate parent has a license to work with the FSB, as recently as August 28, 2014. That would put the Italian firm in violation of the July 31, 2014 European Union regulation that forbids selling such technology, whether directly or indirectly, to the Russian military.

It also seems odd that Hacking Team would sell on one side of the Atlantic to Western agencies like the US Army while also selling to the FSB. In its most recent human rights report, the United States Department of State refers to Russia as a “highly centralized, increasingly authoritarian political system.”

The report also notes, “There were allegations government officials and others engaged in electronic surveillance without appropriate authorization and entered residences and other premises without warrants.”

Hacking Team still refuses to say exactly when or why its relationship with its Russian customers stopped.

UK.gov will appeal against DRIPA-busting verdict, says minister – The government has announced it will appeal a High Court judgment which has ruled its DRIPA surveillance legislation unlawful.

The High Court judgment, which was delivered this morning, ruled that the “emergency” DRIPA surveillance legislation rushed through Parliament last year is unlawful.

Responding to the High Court verdict, security minister John Hayes declared: “We disagree absolutely with this judgment and will seek an appeal.”

This may be only the second time in history that the High Court has disapplied primary legislation, a fact which Financial Times legal blogger David Allen Green considers of “huge historical significance.”

Hayes stated that metadata, also known as communications data, “is not just crucial in the investigation of serious crime. It is also a fundamental part of investigating other crimes which still have a severe impact, such as stalking and harassment, as well as locating missing people.”

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Home Secretary Theresa May: Every free citizen’s nightmare

UK government releases plan to jail online pirates for up to 10 years – The UK government has launched a consultation paper on plans to increase the maximum sentence for online pirates from two to 10 years of imprisonment.

The proposed changes to the penalty have been outlined in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Intellectual Property Office’s ‘Changes to penalties for online copyright infringement’ paper (PDF). Under the proposal, this could could mean the penalty for infringing on the rights of copyright holders online will be equivalent to offences relating to the copyright infringement of physical goods.

Currently under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, online pirates only can receive a maximum of two years imprisonment whereas the maximum sentence for the infringement of physical goods of 10 years.

The consultation follows recommendations made in the independent review released in March, the ‘Penalty Fair?’ report (PDF), which saw calls from the creative industries to harmonise online and offline copyright infringement offences, as they suggested online offences should be not seen as less serious than its physical counterparts.

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