How to secure Windows 10: The paranoid’s guide; Microsoft Windows 10: Five free apps you should download; New rules for buying back-to-school laptops; Google restructures, naming parent company Alphabet; Four apps better than your phone’s built-in address book; Add Star Wars emojis to your text messages; LastPass makes its password management apps free on smartphones; 7 top Linux desktop environments compared; Thirty five Flash Player holes plugged; Facebook security hole remains open months after report; Microsoft rolls out second cumulative update for Windows 10; Facebook Says This Is How We Laugh on the Internet; Dual-booting Linux with Windows: What you need to know; Snapchat Just Fixed the Worst Thing About its App; Pushbullet adds end-to-end encryption for SMS; Researchers wirelessly hack a Corvette’s brakes using an insurance dongle; Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 beta has 3 maps and 7 modes; PlayStation Plus subscription prices to increase in UK; Driving Your Car Will Soon Be Illegal; Xbox One DVR to launch in US, UK, and Canada; The NSA Playset: Espionage tools for the rest of us.
How to secure Windows 10: The paranoid’s guide – I think some people’s fears about Microsoft looking over your shoulder are over-the-top. And, I speak as someone who looks at Microsoft with a great deal of suspicion. What you need to realize is that Microsoft has made Windows 10 both a desktop and a cloud operating system. Adding cloud functionality means that when you run Windows 10 you’ll be sharing far more information with Microsoft and its partner customers than ever before. For example, while Windows 10 doesn’t have a keylogger it does collect your keystrokes and voice to improve spell-checking and voice recognition. Before having a fit about this, keep in mind that every cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) program does this to one degree or another.
Microsoft Windows 10: Five free apps you should download – With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft decided to cut and mangle some beloved, long-standing features available in previous versions of its operating system. Windows Media Center is gone and Solitaire now shows you full-screen ads, which you have to pay to get rid of. That’s not to mention the outcry over Microsoft releasing software to play DVDs that costs $14.99 through the Windows Store. Fortunately, you can ignore these shenanigans – as there is plenty of free software out there to fill the gaps in Microsoft’s new OS.
Microsoft: glitch preventing Windows 10 store downloads will be fixed soon – While Microsoft’s much-anticipated (or dreaded, depending on your situation) rollout of Windows 10 has been fairly smooth for most users, this weekend a bug surfaced that prevented some from being able to download app updates from the Windows Store. Users that are affected say they haven’t been able to sign into the store, preventing them from either downloading new apps or getting updates for apps they already have installed.
New rules for buying back-to-school laptops – With that new school year may come the need for a new laptop, and time- and cash-strapped parents are often left confused and scrambling. How much do you really need to spend on a school-minded PC? And how can you make sure you’re getting a system that will go the distance? (Hopefully just four years, if you’re packing a kid off to college.) Fear not: Even with hundreds of options, picking the right laptop (or perhaps…tablet?) is easy if you follow a few simple guidelines.
Pushbullet adds end-to-end encryption for SMS, copy and paste, and notification mirroring – The company is ramping up its security by adding optional end-to-end encryption. This means your data is encrypted before it leaves your phone, and decrypted when it gets to your other devices. It’s a good layer of security to include, as all those SMS messages and notifications contain a lot of personal data. The encryption also applies to Pushbullet’s ability to copy and paste between devices. To set it up, you need to go to Settings on every device where you’re using Pushbullet select Enable encryption, then enter a password.
Four apps better than your phone’s built-in address book – The address book is at the core of your phone. Since most of us don’t memorize phone numbers anymore, it’s a crucial tool for keeping touch with friends and family through phone calls, texts and emails. Unfortunately, the built-in contacts app that comes with the iPhone or Android phones hasn’t changed in years. It can be frustrating to edit, fraught with duplicates and lacking the most up-to-date information. Luckily, there are several address book apps out there that offer a better alternative with innovative features and modern designs.
LastPass makes its password management apps free on smartphones – LastPass, one of the more popular password management solutions next to 1Password, is making its smartphone apps free to use. “Now, if you get started with LastPass on your Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone, you’ll have completely free access from your smartphone, and can even sync across smartphones for free,” the company wrote in a blog post today. “The same is true for tablets, if that’s where you get started.”
Get Started on LastPass for Free – If you’ve been meaning to try the password manager LastPass, now is the perfect opportunity, because the service is currently free to start. Under the new pricing model, you can get started with LastPass for free on any device, including smartphones, tablets, or desktops. Sync data between similar devices, like two smartphones or two tablets. But if you want to sync between two different devices—between phone and desktop, for example—you’ll need to upgrade to premium.
Microsoft introduces Floatie for OneNote on Android – Microsoft has added a new feature to the OneNote application for Android that allows users to access their notes from any where across the phone with the help of floating icons.
Microsoft rolls out second cumulative update for Windows 10 – Microsoft has rolled out another cumulative update for Windows 10 and you can download it now by checking Windows Update – but what’s new in this release is not yet known.
Snapchat Just Fixed the Worst Thing About its App – Ephemeral messaging app Snapchat knows its demographic well. Teens are still at the mercy of their parents’ financial decisions, and that can sometimes mean they don’t have a whole bunch of mobile data to use up every month. Luckily for data-strapped teens (and everyone else), the company rolled out a new data-conserving feature Monday. “Travel Mode,” which “disables auto-loading of content like Stories when you’re using mobile data,” as it’s described in the app.
Add Star Wars emojis to your text messages – The official Star Wars app now features over 50 adorable characters, ships and more. Animated GIFs, too! Here’s how to text them.
Freedom of choice: 7 top Linux desktop environments compared – Linux distros usually have a default desktop environment, but there are a slew of desktop environments available to use. Heck, Ubuntu alone offers nine official alternate “flavors” with different desktop configurations. None of these desktop environments is better than another. They have different aesthetics, functionality, and features. They may perform better or worse on different hardware. Only you can decide which you prefer. Curious? Here’s a run-down of some of the most popular Linux desktop environments.
Dual-booting Linux with Windows: What you need to know – Windows 10 isn’t the only (kind of) free operating system you can install on your computer. Linux can run from just a USB drive without modifying your existing system, but you’ll want to install it on your PC if you plan on using it regularly. Installing a Linux distribution alongside Windows as a “dual boot” system will give you a choice of either operating system each time you start your PC. It’s the ideal way for most people to install Linux, as you can always get back to a full Windows system with a reboot.
Windows 10 on the Raspberry Pi: What you need to know – Microsoft has released a version of Windows 10 for the credit card-sized machine. But just what can you do with it?
Windows 10 IoT Core on the Raspberry Pi / Image: Microsoft
Facebook Says This Is How We Laugh on the Internet – Well now you can tell exactly how your e-laughing compares with the average joe’s, after Facebook published an analysis on it’s research blog. Inspired by a New Yorker blog post about the various ways we indicate laughter online, researchers, “analyzed de-identified posts and comments posted on Facebook in the last week of May with at least one string of characters matching laughter,” the post reads. “We did the matching with regular expressions which automatically identified laughter in the text, including variants of haha, hehe, emoji, and lol.” Here’s what they found:
Google Launches First Beta Of Its Zync Visual Effects Renderer On Google Cloud Platform – Google, the largest subsidiary corporation of Alphabet, wants movie studios to use its cloud to render their special effects. Last August, Google acquired Zync, a visual effects rendering service that allows studios and independent artists to render their works in the cloud. Today, the company announced that it will open up the first beta of Zync on its Cloud Platform next week on August 20.
Study: Ad-blocking software use is rising at breakneck speed – AdBlock and apps like it are the bane of ad-supported websites, and an occasional bit of browser extension-based guilt for users. On one hand, no one wants to deal with ads, at least not the poorly utilized ads found on many websites. At the same time, many users recognize that their favorite websites probably depend on those advertisement dollars, and so they may disable AdBlock for certain websites. Many ad-blocking users don’t bother doing the latter, however, and that makes a new report from Adobe and PageFair particularly worrisome for companies.
Thirty five Flash Player holes plugged (and there’s one quick fix) – Adobe has patched 35 security vulnerabilities in its Flash Player, all of one of which could lead to unexpected code execution. The fixes relate to vulnerabilities including 15 use-after-free, eight memory corruption, and five type confusion bugs. Most flaws have been slapped with the panic severity rating of one, meaning someone is or probably will soon hack the holes. Linux and Chrome OS users can afford to ignore the patch issuance for a while with the respective holes being rated a boring severity score of three. Microsoft’s Edge and its older browser sisters Internet Explorer 11 and 10 get the same Player version update as Google Chrome, and the Desktop runtime. Linux and AIR offerings are also fixed.
Windows 10 gets its first set of security patches – For August, Microsoft’s monthly round of security patches contains five bulletins that cover Windows 10, as well as a bulletin that covers the new Edge browser that runs on Windows 10. Overall, Microsoft released 14 security bulletins for this month’s Patch Tuesday—which occurs on the second Tuesday of each month. Three of the bulletins were marked as critical, meaning that they should be patched as quickly as possible.
Researchers wirelessly hack a Corvette’s brakes using an insurance dongle – Researchers at the University of California at San Diego have found a way to wirelessly hack thousands of vehicles by exploiting the on-board diagnostics (or OBD) devices that insurance companies use to monitor speed and location. In a video posted to YouTube (seen above), they were able to activate the windshield wipers and engage or disengage the brakes of a 2013 model Corvette by sending an SMS message to the OBD dongle’s cellular radio. More details about the vulnerability will be revealed at the Usenix security conference today, according to Wired.
Facebook security hole remains open months after report – Android users can relax. This isn’t about you this time. This time, it’s Facebook’s turn to take the hot seat. Not that it has completely left the chair anyway. According to Reza Moaiandinm, Technical Director of marketing company SALT.agency, Facebook has a gaping security hole that leaves it wide open to attack and its users vulnerable to phishing attempts. While news of such security lapses aren’t exactly new, especially with Facebook involved, Moaiandinm’s beef stems from the fact that Facebook has seemingly done nothing months after he reported the exploit.
Intel left a fascinating security flaw in its chips for 16 years – here’s how to exploit it – A design flaw in Intel’s processors can be exploited to install malware beneath operating systems and antivirus – making it tough to detect and remove. The blunder was introduced in 1995, in the Pentium Pro. It is hardwired into the silicon, and has been staring kernel-level programmers in the face for years. The good news is that Intel spotted the howler in its processor blueprints, and corrected the issue: chips built from January 2011 and onwards (Sandy Bridge Core CPUs and later) are not affected. A trusty Linux box from the previous decade that’s still plodding away, an office of old PCs, or a relative’s aging laptop, are the sorts of computers at risk of attack via this vulnerability. Your fancy new gaming rig, your virtual machine in the cloud or on your workstation, and that office PC bought two years ago in the last refresh, are immune.
Facebook, Google, and Twitter band together to battle child pornography – Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Twitter are working with the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to implement a new system that will help detect and block images of child pornography online. IWF, a charitable foundation, has introduced a new technology that enables it to tag images of sexual abuse with distinct hashes — essentially codes that act like a digital fingerprint. The hash is generated by an algorithm; once assigned to an image, it’s unique to it, making it easy to identify a specific image against a list of offending hashes. The IWF keeps a record of all the hashes, which it has only shared with the five tech companies so far, but plans to roll out to other IWF members soon.
Wearsafe Is A Connected Panic Button For The App Generation – At the Disrupt NY hackathon this year the winning hack was a live-streaming app called Witness whose team’s pitch was a desire to be the panic button for the mobile age. But what about sticky situations where you don’t have time to fire up an app? That’s where Connecticut-based startup Wearsafe Labs is hoping to step in, with a hardware panic button also updated for the app era.
IBM discovers Android serialization vulnerability allows arbitrary code execution – In the latest security issue to plague Android, IBM has discovered a vulnerability in Android and some third-party SDKs that allows malicious code to elevate its privileges to the system user.
Google restructures, naming parent company Alphabet – Google will become a subsidiary of a new parent company called Alphabet, under a massive restructuring arrangement designed to let the company’s businesses operate more efficiently. Alphabet will include a group of companies, the largest of which will be Google. Other efforts will be run separately but apart from Google, including health efforts such as Life Sciences, which works on glucose-sensing contact lenses, and Calico, focused on longevity. Alphabet will also include Google’s advanced X labs, which handles projects like Google’s self-driving cars and Wi-Fi balloons. Under the changes, the main Google business will be slimmed down to include search search, ads, maps, apps, YouTube and Android. Other businesses, like Calico as well as Nest, Fiber and Google’s investing arms, will be managed separately. All will be under Alphabet.
Google’s Larry Page explains the new Alphabet – Here’s the full text of the letter from Google CEO Larry Page announcing his company’s restructuring.
Apple Shares Tumble 5% Amid China Concerns – Apple suffered a 5 percent drop in its share price Tuesday as Wall Street reacted strongly to news from China that the government is further devaluing the yuan. The currency devaluation is likely to increase import costs of devices for Apple. The announcement from China’s central bank that official guidance for the yuan would be reduced 2 percent to 6.2298 yuan per dollar, its lowest point in three years, sent the $700 billion tech giant’s shares tumbling. A drop worth tens of billions in market cap value.
Facebook Brings Auto-Play Video Ads To Apps In Its Mobile Ad Network – These new ad formats include auto-play video, as well as its multi-image Carousel Ads that can give deeper looks at a product or tell stories, Dynamic Product Ads that retarget users with items they’ve considered buying elsewhere on the web, and more traditional interstitial Click-To-Play Video Ads. Some users might find these flashy ads annoying, but at least they’re well-targeted and run properly.
Facebook is making an app that will send breaking news alerts to your phone – The stand-alone app is still in the early stages, but it will reportedly ask users to choose which publications they want to receive notifications from, and specific topics or “stations” they want to receive news about. Then, when news in those preselected topics breaks, the publications can send a push notification of up to 100 characters to users. All notifications sent through Facebook’s app will link out to that publication’s website. Only a select number of publications will be available on the app, according to Business Insider.
Symantec Sells Veritas Division To Private Equity Group For $8B – Symantec announced today that it had sold its Veritas division to The Carlyle Group, a Washington, DC-based private equity firm for $8 billion in cash. The move comes after Symantec, mostly known as a computer security company, announced it was splitting into two separate publicly traded companies last fall. The first was going to be Symantec, which as you might expect focused on security and the second was Veritas, which concentrated on information management. It was named for a storage vendor that merged with Symantec back in 2005.
Judge orders Cablevision to stop calling Verizon a liar – A federal judge has ordered Cablevision to stop running advertisements that accuse Verizon of lying about offering its Fios broadband customers the fastest in-home Wi-Fi service. On Friday, Judge Gary Brown threw out Cablevision’s lawsuit against Verizon, which was filed in January, accusing Verizon of misrepresenting its service. Then on Monday, he ruled in favor of Verizon’s request for a temporary restraining order to put a stop to ads Cablevision has been running in the New York City metro area accusing Verizon of lying about its broadband Internet speeds, the quality of its DVR, service appointments and other aspects of its service.
Firefox sticks it to Microsoft, redirects Cortana searches in Windows 10 – After blasting Microsoft’s attempts to set Edge as the default browser in Windows 10, Mozilla is enjoying some sweet revenge by steering Firefox users away from Bing. With the newly-released Firefox 40, users no longer have to use Bing for web searches from Cortana on the Windows 10 taskbar. Instead, Firefox will show results from whatever search engine the user has chosen as the default. Using Firefox isn’t the only way to replace Cortana’s Bing searches with Google or another search engine. But Firefox is currently the only browser that does so without the need for third-party extensions. (It wouldn’t be surprising, however, if Google follows suit.)
Chinese vendors triple smartphone share in India – Chinese vendors tripled shipments year-on-year in the second quarter in the Indian market, indicating that low-cost vendors are posing a challenge to global players like Apple in a very price-sensitive market. The Chinese vendors have been successful by a combination of strategies, including online flash sales and by pushing low-cost 4G phones, priced at between US$100-150, a market that was unattended by Indian and global vendors, according to research firm IDC.
Foxconn to invest $5B to set up first of up to 12 factories in India – As part of its plan to set up to 12 manufacturing facilities in India by 2020, contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group is investing US$5 billion in a factory and other facilities in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. The Indian government has been coaxing foreign companies, including smartphone makers, to set up manufacturing units in India under its “Make in India” program. A number of smartphone makers are planning to make the devices in the country, with Chinese maker Xiaomi expected to announce its first phone manufactured in India on Monday.
Games and Entertainment:
Why Everybody Should Play Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture – I can tell you the world wrought here looks as beautiful as a this-gen console game should, a sometimes linear, sometimes open swathe of blissful countryside you stroll freely through, espying mist-capped valleys punctuated by bus stops, phone booths, smoking ashtray-filled pubs, vast barns, spooky-looking domed towers, unpeopled flats, golden pastures choked with gently swaying strands of wheat and towering windmills. The weird stuff tends to happen as you amble along and trip (or interact with) trigger points.
The Chinese Room / Sony
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 beta has 3 maps and 7 modes – Activision today released a new trailer for the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops III multiplayer beta, which provides the first details about what fans can expect from it. As you can see in the video, the beta will have at least three maps and seven modes. The video specifically says three-plus maps and seven-plus modes are included, suggesting more of each may be added later. Players will also get to check out Black Ops III’s new movement system using eight different “Specialist” characters. You’ll also be able to test out Black Ops III’s weapon customization tools, including the paintshop.
Hulu says it won’t release its new original shows in binge-watch form – Hulu has no plans to start catering to binge-watchers with its original programming, preferring instead to release new episodes one week at a time. Hulu’s strategy runs counter to that of Netflix and Amazon, which release entire new seasons of their original shows all at once. While this allows viewers to easily get hooked by watching several episodes in one sitting, the trade-off is that any social media buzz around a show can die off quickly after the premiere. For Netflix and Amazon, the answer to that problem is to simply release more original content.
Xbox One DVR to launch in US, UK, and Canada – Microsoft announced last week that the Xbox One DVR would initially land in three countries at launch. Those three countries are the US, Canada, and the UK. The announcement was made at the Gamescom conference in Cologne. The launch is set for an unspecified time next year with more details coming closer to launch.
PlayStation Plus subscription prices to increase in UK – Bad news for PlayStation gamers in the UK today: the subscription prices for two of the PlayStation Plus plans are increasing next month. The one-month option is rising from £5.49 to £5.99, and the three-month plan is going from £11.99 to £14.99. The silver lining in all of this? The price for the one-year subscription is staying the same, at £39.99. This last option was already the best value, now it will be even more so.
Off Topic (Sort of):
It’s time for PC companies to copy one of Apple’s best features – I like PC hardware. OK, that’s sort of a lie; PC hardware infuriates me no end, because I can never find a motherboard with precisely the set of features I want, but it’s the kind of infuriation that comes of having high expectations. My main PC is a self-built desktop system, and Apple simply doesn’t have a desktop system offering the kind of longevity and flexibility that I want. PC hardware does, and this is great. But Apple from time to time does some things which are really neat, and sometimes I find myself looking at those things and yearning for them. Operating system installation and disaster recovery is one of those things.
Defusing The Internet Of Things Time Bomb – “Smart” devices are all the buzz, whether in the connected home (thermostats, lightbulbs, garage door openers, locks and various appliances) or new wearable devices. They promise convenience along with improved control and efficiency in our lives. But, as highlighted by the recent hacking of automobiles, connectivity can come at a significant cost. Consumers cringe as the barrage of data breaches continues — from major retailers to health insurers to government agencies, hundreds of millions of records are now exposed and there seems to be no end in sight. Will we face a similar future with some of our most personal and sensitive information (where we are, the status of our home, our latest health vitals), or even with our physical security?
Does too much technology make a car artificial? – Two trends are interacting in the car world right now, and I’m fascinated by the questions being raised as a result. Computers are in control of everything, modulating our control inputs and interpreting our intent. For example, between your foot and the pedals of a hybrid are complex software routines that decide how to juggle internal combustion engines and conventional brakes with electric motor-generator units when it comes to stopping and going. Cheap, rugged, and powerful electronics can let an engineer solve a suspension or engine problem with some code instead of mechanical fix. Is that a good thing, or is the solution an artificial one?
Driving Your Car Will Soon Be Illegal – Driving a car will be illegal by 2030. Our economy will be severely impacted as millions of truck drivers, cabbies and delivery people are put out of work. In this era of endless innovation, man’s century-long relationship with the automobile is about to be permanently disrupted.
Climate change deniers, like fanboys, don’t care about your science – Climate change is a hot topic in politics. That climate change is happening and that humanity has something to do with it isn’t up for debate anymore. How to deal with it is. Still, climate change has its deniers. You’d think that these people could be convinced with a bit of education. If they knew what the scientists knew then surely they’d change their minds. That’s what I thought, anyway — it’s not true. In fact, it’s the opposite. Or so says the research from Dan Kahan, professor of law and psychology at Yale, and member of the Cultural Cognition Project which tries to explain how we come to hold our beliefs.
Something to think about:
“You can’t outwit fate by trying to stand on the sidelines and place little side bets about the outcome of life. Either you wade in and risk everything to play the game, or you don’t play at all. And if you don’t play, you can’t win.”
– Judith McNaught
In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:
The NSA Playset: Espionage tools for the rest of us – When Der Spiegel and Jacob Appelbaum published leaked pages of the National Security Agency’s ANT Catalog—the collection of tools and software created for NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division—it triggered shock, awe, and a range of other emotions around the world. Among some hardware hackers and security researchers, it triggered something else, too—a desire to replicate the capabilities of TAO’s toolbox to conduct research on how the same approaches might be used by other adversaries.
In less than 18 months since the catalog’s leak, the NSA Playset project has done just that. The collection boasts over a dozen devices that put the power of the NSA’s TAO into the hands of researchers. Project creator Michael Ossmann—a security researcher, radio frequency hardware engineer, and founder of Great Scott Gadgets—detailed the tools at a presentation during the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas last week, and he talked with Ars more about it this past weekend at DEF CON 23.
Many of the software components of the 50-page ANT catalog were things that had already been developed by security researchers. Some of the discovered capabilities appeared to stem from off-the-shelf hardware (or its equivalent) and software similar to existing tools; they were simply combined in a package suitable for spy work. But other pieces of hardware in the NSA’s catalog appeared to have no openly available equivalent—such as wireless bugs planted in computer cables or connectors. Some of those bugs were radio “retro-reflectors,” wiretaps that only broadcast data when hit by a directed radio signal. (It’s similar in concept to “The Thing”—the infamous bug Soviet spies planted inside the US Embassy in Moscow.)
How Japan’s Privacy Visor fools face-recognition cameras – If you’re worried about Big Brother monitoring you from security cameras, Japan has developed eyewear that can keep you anonymous.
The Privacy Visor consists of a lightweight, wraparound, semitransparent plastic sheet fitted over eyewear frames. It’s bulky and not exactly stylish, but it could have customized designs.
It’s meant to thwart face-recognition camera systems through a very simple trick. It reflects overhead light into the camera lens, causing the area around the eyes to appear much brighter than it normally does.
That’s enough to trick standard face-recognition systems, such as the Viola-Jones object detection framework, according to the National Institute of Informatics (NII), which has been developing the visor for years.
At a demo on Tuesday, NII staffers showed how a face-recognition program can easily identify someone by comparing video input to a database of head shots. The system also works when the subject is wearing sunglasses.
Russia threatening nation-wide Reddit ban over drug posts – The Russian government has said it’s considering a nation-wide block on the social website Reddit over concerns about easily accessible information on growing and acquiring drugs. One government agency has said it’s tried contacting Reddit about removing such posts, but they haven’t gotten a response. Oddly enough, the government says it was prompted to take action because of complaints from users. Because surely people go right to the government when they see things on the internet, as this couldn’t be a case of Russia wanting to censor information.