Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – August 5, 2015

Trust no one: How caller ID spoofing has ruined the simple phone call;   Want Windows 10 to stop tracking you? Now there’s an app for that;  Use Cortana to control your Android phone from Windows 10;  Tor users: Do not expect anonymity and end-to-end security;  LibreOffice 5: The best office suite today won’t cost you a dime;  12 obscure new Windows 10 features that eliminate everyday hassles;  Mac backup basics;  YouTube rolls out an updated video player;  How to install Windows 10 on a Mac;  BitTorrent Sync apps updated with productivity features;  Yahoo’s ads spread malware via hackers, vulnerable Flash;  Netflix Surges 8% To All-Time High;  Xbox One will get a TV DVR feature next year;  14 Optical Illusions That Prove Your Brain Sucks;  Why it’s time to prepare for a world where machines can do your job.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Trust no one: How caller ID spoofing has ruined the simple phone call – Caller ID is easy to spoof and it’s leading to a host of real threats, from account recovery fraud to marketing scams to malicious pranks resulting in SWAT teams showing up at a victim’s door.

Windows 10 doesn’t offer much privacy by default: Here’s how to fix it – Windows 10, by default, has permission to report a huge amount of data back to Microsoft. By clicking through “Express Settings” during installation, you allow Windows 10 to gather up your contacts, calendar details, text and touch input, location data, and a whole lot more. The OS then sends it all back to Microsoft so that it can be used for personalisation and targeted ads. That isn’t to say you should be happy about this state of affairs, however. If you’d like to retain most of your privacy and keep your personal data on your PC, Windows 10 can be configured in that way. Just be warned that there are quite a few toggles that need to be turned off, and you’ll lose some functionality as well (Cortana won’t work, for example).

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Want Windows 10 to stop tracking you? Now there’s an app for that – Some have said Microsoft does not respect its users’ privacy by default; others believe some of the hype is overblown. Perhaps the biggest critique is that upon setup, the process could offer more granular options, and report less data back to the software giant. All of the tracking mechanisms can be switched off through the various options at setup, and after the fact through the settings. But now there’s a lightweight, open-source app that aims to claw back your privacy.

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Windows 10 Tip: Customizing the Start menu – With Windows 10, Microsoft is offering new ways to customize the Start menu and for those of you who are new to the OS, we have a guide to help you get started making Windows feel a bit more personal.

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Windows 10 ‘Service Release 1’ expected to roll out next month – SR1 will be a maintenance update, focusing on adding polish and stability to the OS, so don’t expect any new features. As more people continue to upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft will gather more telemetry from the OS in action, and will no doubt use that data to help inform development of future maintenance releases.

Use Cortana to control your Android phone from Windows 10 – Cortana is now almost everywhere, thanks to Windows 10 bringing Microsoft’s smart assistant desktops and tablets. While there have been indications that Cortana will indeed come to Android smartphones, that might still be a long time coming. What if you wanted Cortana to let you control your smartphone, or almost anything else, hands-free and only using your voice? Good thing, then, that Android already has all the needed tools to make that happen and, with a bit of trickery, rope in Cortana into it as well.

12 obscure new Windows 10 features that eliminate everyday hassles – The amount of new goodies in Windows 10 is almost mind-boggling. Even if you’ve read PCWorld’s insanely detailed Windows 10 review, our look at Windows 10’s best new features, and our mammoth guides to the operating system’s best tips and tricks and hidden features, you still haven’t seen everything Microsoft has to throw at you. Case in point: These 10 awesome new Windows 10 features that fly under the radar. Between these and virtual desktop support, Windows 10 renders a decent chunk of our list of free PC programs that ease headaches obsolete. Let’s dig in.

How to install Windows 10 on a Mac – If you haven’t already heard, Windows 10 is pretty great and worth installing on your PC. Apple fans won’t miss out either, since the new operating system can be installed on your Mac as well. Following these instructions will install Windows 10 on your Mac in a dual-boot configuration, meaning you’ll have the option to choose which operating system (Windows 10 or Mac OS) to use each time you turn on the computer.

Mac backup basics – A Mac backup plan doesn’t have to be complicated. The easier a plan is to set up and follow, the more likely you are to use it and have a current backup when disaster happens.

LibreOffice 5: The best office suite today won’t cost you a dime – I’ve used LibreOffice as my main office suite since it forked from OpenOffice five years ago. Now its latest edition, LibreOffice 5.0, is better than ever. And, in my book, that means it’s the best standalone office suite available in 2015.

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YouTube rolls out an updated video player – You may have already noticed this morning that YouTube has rolled out a revised version of its video player for desktop users. The new video player looks very nice and you can see it in the image here or when you play any of the embedded videos on SlashGear. YouTube didn’t bother to toss up a PR to tell us all of what it changed leaving us to glean the details for ourselves.

The $169 Cloudbook is Acer’s idea of a Windows 10 Chromebook – Announced a month ago, Acer has officially launched the Windows 10 equivalent of Google’s Chromebooks, coming in at jut $169 and running full Windows 10.

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Epson’s new printers will make ink cartridges a thing of the past – Printer drivers, paper jams, running out of ink, it’s all the worst (though the advent of wireless printing makes things marginally less horrible). Epson is trying to do its part to make things a little better with its new line of EcoTank printers — despite the ridiculous name, they have the smart idea of coming with huge tanks of ink that should last about two years before they need to be replaced. Epson claims that these printers have about the same capacity of 20 sets of ink cartridges; when the tanks run low, you can top them off with a bottle of ink. Basically, the EcoTank is the Droid Turbo of printers: can’t come up with better ink / battery technology? Just make things bigger. These printers don’t come cheap, either — the least expensive EcoTank printer starts at $379.

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BitTorrent Sync apps updated with productivity features – The Bittorrent Sync mobile apps have been updated with features needed for productivity, not just file sharing. Among the changes is the ability to directly edit files and then sync those changes on other devices where the item is stored. There’s also the option to create different file types that are saved straight into the Sync folder for sharing to other devices or users. The changes have arrived for mobile users on multiple platforms as of today.

Security:

Security experts create worm that infects Mac firmware and is nearly impossible to get rid of – Apple’s Macs and OS X have traditionally been viewed as a safer, more secure alternative to Windows, but researchers have proven that’s not the case. Security experts created a worm that attaches itself to a Mac’s firmware and remains there no matter what. Ahead of a presentation on this type of attack, researchers created a proof-of-concept worm that can stealthily burrow itself into a Mac’s firmware. It’s then impossible to remove without re-flashing the device’s firmware, which can be difficult and is only for those who really know what they’re doing.

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Yahoo’s ads spread malware via hackers, vulnerable Flash – Yahoo was recently hit by hackers who used its advertisements to deliver malware to an unspecified number of visitors on several of its own websites, it has been revealed. The malware campaign carried on for a full 7-day week before Yahoo, having been alerted by the researchers who discovered it, took it down. Yahoo says it is investigating the matter, and though it has not revealed how many people were affected, it said through a spokesperson that the initial reports “grossly misrepresented” the scale of the attack.

Tor users: Do not expect anonymity and end-to-end security – The Tor network is similar to a door lock: It works well, until a determined individual wants to get in. Get details on what Tor is and what it is not.

EFF developing stronger ‘Do Not Track’ standards for web browsers – While a “Do Not Track” setting has become standard in most browsers today, including Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, it’s commonly known that internet advertisers still have ways of tracking users. Advertisers profit from tracking the browsing history of users, and whether users have turned the Do Not Track setting on or not, many will ignore it altogether in their quest for data. That’s why the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has announced it’s building a stronger standard for the setting, aimed to protecting user privacy.

Battery Attributes Can Be Used To Track Web Users – A team of European security researchers has published a paper analyzing how the battery life of mobile devices could be used to track web browsing habits of Firefox users on Linux, using the HTML5 Battery Status API.

Company News:

Netflix Surges 8% To All-Time High On News Of New Price Target And Japan Launch Date – On a day the NASDAQ was down about 0.2 percent, Netflix hit a new all-time high during intra-day trading, hitting $122.78 and eventually closing at $121.00 per share, up 7.5 percent on the day. The video streaming service has seen its shares rise 143 percent so far in 2015. A stock split, Icahn cashing out, and and encouraging earnings reports have spurred investor’s attention in the company, as has its recently announced entry into Asian markets.

Netflix Announces Its New ‘Unlimited’ Maternity And Paternity Leave Program – A few hours after hitting its all-time stock price high today, Netflix has announced a new program for all employees. This is a pretty landmark perk, with the company showing both current and potential employees how much it cares. The company suggests parents can come back to the office either part or full time, then go back out as necessary during the first year. All paid of course. Yahoo doubled its maternity and paternity leave in 2013 to make it more competitive with Facebook and Google, and it has shown to be an important perk for all three companies. The talent is growing up.

Apple falls to third in China smartphone rankings, while Xiaomi vaults ahead – Xiaomi regained its position as China’s leading smartphone vendor in the second quarter, while Apple fell to third place despite increased sales of its iPhones. Xiaomi took 15.9% of the Chinese market in the April-to-June quarter, according to research firm Canalys, followed by Huawei, which had 15.7% and was the fastest growing vendor. It’s an impressive feat for both Xiaomi and Huawei. China is the world’s biggest smartphone market and competition is more fierce than ever, with Apple, Samsung and dozens of smaller local vendors all fighting for a bigger piece of the pie.

Accenture acquires US cybersecurity firm FusionX – Global consulting giant Accenture announced on Tuesday it has acquired FusionX, a Washington, DC-based cybersecurity firm. FusionX specializes in cyber attack simulation, threat modeling, cyber investigations and security risk advisory — services that Dublin-based Accenture plans to fold into its own suite of global security offerings.

Amazon responds to furor over limits on Prime sharing – Amazon has responded to an erupting controversy surrounding its popular Prime membership program, saying that a change it quietly made in regard to sharing accounts was meant to benefit customers, not restrict them.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox One backward compatibility for Xbox 360 games launches in November with 100 titles – Microsoft’s Mike Ybarra said that over 83 years’ worth of Xbox 360 games have been played on the Xbox One so far – and there will soon be plenty more titles to look forward to. He announced that all future Xbox 360 Games with Gold titles will have backward compatibility support on the newer console. Most importantly of all, he announced that Microsoft will make Xbox 360 backward compatibility available on the Xbox One this November for everyone – not just those on the preview program – with over 100 titles at launch.

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Xbox One will get a TV DVR feature next year – Microsoft announced the new feature on stage at Gamescom today, but the company is limiting it to only free-to-air TV. While the Xbox One can control and view content from cable boxes using a HDMI-in port, Microsoft has released digital TV tuners in Europe and the US to support free-to-air television. Mike Ybarra, head of platform engineering at Xbox, only mentioned recording free-to-air TV on stage, and Microsoft’s blog post reveals this is for free-to-air only. Microsoft is planning to enable the Xbox One TV DVR feature in 2016.

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Microsoft announces Halo World Championship with $1 million prize pool – We’ve seen plenty of Halo 5: Guardians in the lead-up to its October 27th release date. For Gamescom 2015, Microsoft focused on Halo’s history as an e-sport — and then took it a step further by announcing a World Championship with $1 million in prizes. That’s a significant boost from last month’s $150,000 pool but still a far cry from the $18 million Dota 2 International Championships. The focus will be on Halo 5’s more frenetic Arena multiplayer (instead of Warzone).

Off Topic (Sort of):

Stratolaunch aircraft will have a 385-foot wingspan – Paul Allen, Elon Musk and several other partners are teaming up to build an aircraft that will be the largest aircraft in the entire world when finished. The aircraft is dubbed Stratolaunch and if all goes well the partners plan to begin testing the aircraft in 2016. Stratolaunch is already under construction at the Mojave Air and Spaceport in California. The partners plan to use the giant aircraft to perform in air launches of satellite-laden rockets. By launching the rockets in the air rather than from the ground, inclement weather wouldn’t delay a launch and the rockets would save fuel since they would already be at altitude and speed before the launch started.

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Google And MIT Researchers Demo An Algorithm That Lets You Take Clear Photos Through Reflections – In a paper they will present at Siggraph 2015 later this month, Tianfan Xue, Michael Rubinstein, Ce Liu and William T. Freeman show how you can take a short video sequence with your phone and then let their algorithms do their magic. Reflections, rain drops and fences mostly disappear from the final image. The algorithms looks at the different images from the video and then figure out what’s an obstruction in the foreground and what’s part of the background. Others have tried this before, but none of their results are as good as what these researcher came up with.

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14 Optical Illusions That Prove Your Brain Sucks – Our brains filter through a constant tsunami of stimuli and piece the important parts together to recreate what we know as “reality.” And they do all this in damn-near real-time—which is really impressive if you think about it. But here’s the thing: a big chunk of what we consider “reality” actually consists of our brains making guestimates. We know this because researchers have devised ways to consistently fool our brains into seeing things they’re not really seeing—even when our brains know that’s not what they’re seeing. These little reality busters are known as “optical illusions.”

Why it’s time to prepare for a world where machines can do your job – For decades movies have warned of intelligent machines taking our lives while ignoring a more plausible near-future threat: that they will take our jobs. A growing number of economists and artificial intelligence researchers are recommending that societies prepare for a world where large numbers of jobs are automated. If they’re right, the disruption to labour markets would be significant: the jobs identified as vulnerable are held by swathes of the population including supermarket cashiers and shop assistants, waiters, truck drivers and office admins. All of these tasks have a high probability of being carried out by software within “a decade or two”, according to a study by the Oxford Martin School & Faculty of Philosophy in the UK.

Watch: man surfs with dirt bike, rides across ocean – If you thought GoPro’s video of a man flying like a superhero down a mountain and through a split rock was impressive, DC’s new video will blow your mind. Titled ‘Pipe Dream’, the video shows the successful conclusion of one man’s two-year pursuit: to surf with his dirt bike. He took to the waves in full motocross getup, helmet and all. He also blasted his way over the ocean on the motor bike, dumbfounding a few people in the process. Full video after the jump!

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Dear sexists, this is what engineers actually look like – Technically Incorrect: In response to criticism of an ad featuring a female engineer, the Twitter hashtag #Ilooklikeanegineer attracts pictures of the sort of people that some wouldn’t expect.

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Sugar changes the chemical structure of tea and coffee – Some people just can’t handle their coffee or tea black. It’s too bitter, they say. So, they put a little sugar in to get rid of some of the bitter bite. However, researchers have found that the additive isn’t masking the flavor of these favorite morning beverages — it’s changing the chemistry of the caffeine within these drinks in a fundamental way.

Something to think about:

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

–       Isaac Asimov

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Global spy system ECHELON confirmed at last – by leaked Snowden files – Special Report: Duncan Campbell has spent decades unmasking Britain’s super-secretive GCHQ, its spying programmes, and its cosy relationship with America’s NSA. Today, he retells his life’s work exposing the government’s over-reaching surveillance, and reveals documents from the leaked Snowden files confirming the history of the fearsome ECHELON intercept project. This story is also published simultaneously today by The Intercept, as is – at long last – Duncan’s Register Christmas Lecture from last year.

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India nixes online porn ban following intense public outrage on social media – That didn’t take long. The world’s oldest Internet hobby is resuming in India, days after the country virtually banned Internet porn. Indians took to Twitter and other social-media sites blasting this weekend’s anti-porn move, and the government has listened.

IT and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Tuesday that websites that don’t display child pornography may resume streaming, according to local media reports. On Saturday, the Indian government initially ordered Internet providers to filter about 857 websites said to render pornographic material in a bid to protect morality. The government said the sites’ content was “immoral and indecent,” sites including things like Pornhub and Playboy.

“A new notification will be issued shortly. The ban will be partially withdrawn. Sites that do not promote child porn will be unbanned,” Prasad told India Today TV.

Senate heads toward vote on CISA cyberthreat info sharing bill – The U.S. Senate could take a preliminary vote as soon as Wednesday on a controversial bill intended to encourage businesses to share cyberthreat information with each other and with government agencies, despite concerns that the legislation would allow the widespread sharing of personal customer data.

Senate leaders are attempting to iron out compromise language to address privacy concerns in the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), but if no compromise is reached Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will schedule a so-called cloture vote on Wednesday morning, said a spokesman for McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.

A cloture vote would limit debate on the bill and move the Senate toward final passage, potentially before the Senate leaves for a four-week summer recess this weekend.

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4 Comments

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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – August 5, 2015

  1. Dave B.

    In RE: DoNotSpy10; Won’t be recommending this one, requires opt OUT of malware install and search hijacking.