Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – August 26, 2015

UK surveillance “worse than 1984,” says new UN privacy chief;  Major Android remote-access vulnerability is now being exploited;  How to reclaim your privacy in Windows 10, piece by piece;  Microsoft releases printable Windows 10 key shortcut list;  BitTorrent tracker blocks Windows 10 users;  Microsoft starts public test of Cortana app for Android;  Vysor Puts Your Android Device’s Screen On Your Desktop;  7 Voice-Activated Apps Waiting for Your Command;  Google Calendar is getting much smarter for business users;  Review: Metal Gear Solid 5;  Office 2016’s Windows release tipped for September 22;  How to encrypt and password-protect ZIP files the right way;  Microsoft App Turns Your Phone Into a 3D Scanner;  Until Dawn combines the best of horror films and games on PS4;  50 fascinating facts about Android;  32 killer games for Steam Machines and Linux;  Your guide to geeky TV this fall (pictures).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to reclaim your privacy in Windows 10, piece by piece – Windows 10 has deep cloud hooks and shares a lot of data with Microsoft in order to create a smart, seamless experience across devices. If you prefer to keep some privacy, here’s how to disable all of it.


BitTorrent tracker blocks Windows 10 users – Windows 10 is quickly gaining fans. Some of them, however, are growing distrustful of Windows 10’s privacy settings. Some BitTorrent sites don’t trust Windows 10 at all. So, at least one BitTorrent tracker, iTS, has blocked Windows 10 users from accessing torrents from their site. Others are considering banning Windows 10 users.

Cheat sheet! Microsoft releases printable Windows 10 key shortcut list – This handy guide lists every Windows key shortcut in Windows 10. It’s ready to print or view offline–and we made it better.

Microsoft starts public test of Cortana app for Android smartphones – Microsoft now lets anyone with an Android phone try out its app that brings the virtual assistant from Windows 10 to a non-Microsoft platform.

Vysor Puts Your Android Device’s Screen On Your Desktop – If you’ve ever wanted to play games or use apps from your phone on your desktop — web versions of messaging apps prove how convenient desktops are — then Vysor is a new service for Android owners that might well be up your alley. Created by Koushik Dutta, the prominent Android developer behind apps like AllCast, it is a Chrome extension that recreates a fully functioning version of your Android screen on your desktop, with mouse support for touch and hotkeys. It’s worth noting that the app is currently in beta — it leaked out via a Reddit thread — and it requires a USB cable for the connection.


7 Voice-Activated Apps Waiting for Your Command – More than just a gimmick, it’s a helpful, hands-free way to get things done. Whether you want to avoid distraction or are unable to manipulate a touch screen, a voice assistant can be your best friend. Some of the tasks voice-guided apps tackle are really specific (like ordering a pizza), but some can really save you, whether you’re taking a photo or going for a run. These seven examples show that sometimes if you speak up, you get exactly what you ask for.

Facebook’s New Moments App Now Automatically Creates Music Videos From Your Photos – Facebook Moments, the social network’s recently launched photo-sharing app that aims to address the problem of getting friends to send each other the photos they’ve been hoarding on their own phones, is expanding to video. The app received its first major update today since its mid-June debut, and will now automatically create a video of your shared photos which you can customize, personalize and share back to Facebook.

Twitter shutdown of apps for deleted tweets could give politicians new control – By effectively shutting down apps that showed politicians’ deleted tweets, Twitter is giving politicians more control over public speech, and at the cost of transparency, some digital media experts said.

Google Calendar is getting much smarter for business users – Google Apps users are going to start having an easier time managing their calendar. With an update rolling out this week, Google Calendar will begin automatically grabbing events that it detects in Gmail — like flights and hotel or restaurant reservations — and adding an entry for them. Those entries are supposed to stay updated, too, should there be a change in plans or a delay. Google says that basically any ticketed event should be detected.


Microsoft App Turns Your Phone Into a 3D Scanner – A new Microsoft Research project, dubbed MobileFusion, runs on off-the-shelf mobile phones, using the RGB camera found on most phones to scan objects of varying shape, size, and appearance. Without any added hardware or software, or even an Internet connection, MobileFusion provides real-time feedback during the capture process. “Everything happens on the phone itself,” Pushmeet Kohli, a principal research scientist with Microsoft Research, said in a statement.


Office 2016’s Windows release tipped for September 22 – The Windows version of Microsoft Office 2016 appears to be less than a month away, according to a leaked internal document. A screenshot from Microsoft’s employee intranet lists a September 22 release date for Office 2016 on Windows, reports. Microsoft released a Mac version for Office 365 subscribers in July, promising a standalone release in June.

Russia Reverses Ban on Russian Wikipedia After Only a Few Hours – A Russian communications watchdog agency told Internet providers to block access to the popular site’s Russian language material on Monday, after a provincial court ruled Wikipedia’s entry on hashish contained banned information, the Associated Press reports. Recent legislation in Russia has banned sites from carrying information about drugs, suicide and hate, leading critics to accuse authorities of censorship. The communications agency lifted the ban on Russian language Wikipedia after saying the entry had been edited to comply with the court decision. But users noted that the entry for hashish had only adjusted its title.

Intel introduces its smallest socketed form factor yet: the 5×5 – OK, it’s not going to to threaten high end discrete GPUs, but this kind of processor packed into the 5×5 form factor raises the bar on what a small system can do. Hitherto, mini-ITX was arguably the smallest system size that was credible for gaming or heavy workloads such as software development, graphics, and CAD. 5×5 will be able to serve many of those same markets, making it a compelling candidate for set-top-boxes and business workloads that push the limits of what the NUC can handle. Equipped with 35W processors and an M.2 drive, 5×5 systems should come in at around 1.5 inches tall for a total system volume of less than 1 liter. 65W processors and 2.5 inch SATA drives will increase the height, though the system volume should remain significantly smaller than a comparable mini-ITX device.


Google will upload mailed hard drives, USB drives to cloud for developers – While the vast majority of us common users can get by with cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive by simply uploading files via our local WiFi connection or from our phones, it’s not exactly the same situation for developers with terabytes of data that needs to be migrated to cloud storage in a hurry. Fortunately for them, Google now offers an “Offline Media Import/Export” service that will take mailed in hard drives, USB flash drives, and tapes and upload the data to the cloud, for a fee, of course.

How to encrypt and password-protect ZIP files the right way – You can protect the contents of a ZIP file, but unless you know the trick, you might as well not bother.


Major Android remote-access vulnerability is now being exploited – TeamViewer’s remote control plug-in, pre-installed by some phone OEMs and phone carriers for support, offers an exploitable backdoor for attackers (and even some legitimate apps) to gain root-level access to devices. Based on anonymized data collected from users of an app designed to check for a newly revealed vulnerability in many Android devices, Check Point discovered that one application in the Google Play store is exploiting the vulnerability to gain a high level of access to the Android OS, bypassing user permissions—and bypassing Google’s security scans of Play applications to do so. Update: A Google spokesperson told Ars that the offending app has been suspended in the Play store.


TeamViewer’s remote control plug-in, pre-installed by some phone OEMs and phone carriers for support, offers an exploitable backdoor for attackers (and even some legitimate apps) to gain root-level access to devices.

Advertising malware rates have tripled in the last year, according to report – Ad networks have been hit with a string of compromises in recent months, and according to a new report, many of the infections are making it through to consumers. A study published today by Cyphort found that instances of malware served by ad networks more than tripled between June 2014 and February 2015, based on monthly samples taken during the period. Dubbed “malvertising,” the attacks typically sneaking malicious ads onto far-reaching ad networks. The networks deliver those malware-seeded ads to popular websites, which pass them along to a portion of the visitors to the site. The attacks typically infect computers by exploiting vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash, typically triggered as soon as an ad is successfully loaded.


Facebook ‘Spam King’ Pleads Guilty – When you give yourself the nickname “Spam King” and you get charged with spamming, you really have no option but to plead guilty. And that’s how the situation with Sanford Wallace played out in court this week. Wallace, 47, of Las Vegas pleaded guilty on Monday to charges of fraud and criminal contempt, admitting that he compromised the Facebook accounts of about 500,000 users and used them to send more than 27 million spam messages through the company’s servers in 2008 and 2009, according to Bloomberg. Wallace also admitted that he violated a court order to not access the social network. He was released on bond and is set to be sentenced on Dec. 7 in federal court in San Jose, Calif. He’s facing up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Court rules FTC can prosecute companies over lax online security – The Third Circuit US Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has ruled that the Federal Trade Commission does have the right to prosecute firms who mishandle their customers’ data. Between 2008 and 2009, hotel chain Wyndham Worldwide – which runs hotels under the Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Ramada, Super 8, and Travelodge brands – suffered three computer intrusions. The hackers stole the personal information and credit card numbers of over 619,000 customers, causing at least $10.6m in thefts. In June 2012, the FTC filed suit against Wyndham, claiming that the firm had “unreasonably and unnecessarily” exposed their customers to risk. Wyndham has fought back in the case, claiming unreasonable government oversight.

Company News:

More Layoffs For Intuit As Company Continues Realignment – We first heard about the layoffs this morning, and Intuit also confirmed the layoffs to TechCrunch. In June, Intuit laid off 399 employees as part of a company realignment. Last week as part of its quarterly earnings, the company said that it would divest several business units, including Demandforce, QuickBase and Quicken. Accompanying layoffs are not uncommon as companies re-orient their strategies to focus on more successful products. Still, Intuit has had a tough run in recent weeks. Following its earnings report last week, the company’s stock fell sharply. Intuit also increased its cash dividend by 20%.

Dell creates new server division for ‘second-tier’ hyperscale customers – Dell has formed a new business unit to go after the “second tier” of hyperscale customers — those with similar needs to those of Google and Facebook but who aren’t quite as massive.


Intel invests in BlueData, forges big data partnership – Intel said Tuesday that it will invest in BlueData, which makes virtualization technology for big data deployments, and partner with the company. BlueData has a software platform called EPIC that allows enterprises to create Hadoop and Spark clusters in virtual environments. In theory, the combination of virtualization and big data tools should make it easier to deploy within data centers.

Uber and University of Arizona partner in self-driving car effort – Uber dreams of self-driving cars, and over the past year we’ve seen it take steps toward making those dreams reality. The company has already indicated that it is interested in Tesla’s future self-driving car, and it has teamed up with researchers to help develop autonomous driving technologies. Of the latter, Uber has recently expanded its research efforts in a new partnership with the University of Arizona, where it will work with researchers to increase self-driving efforts. In addition, Uber plans to test out autonomous cars in Tucson.

What’s behind smartphone market’s slowing growth? Look to China – Research firm predicts global shipments will rise around 10 percent this year, compared with more than 27 percent in 2014. One reason? Demand for devices in China is falling.

Ashley Madison users report extortion: more lawsuits filed – The damage caused by the Ashley Madison leak is growing, and some former users are reporting that others have attempted to extort them using information contained in the data dumps. Eight individuals residing in the United States have filed lawsuits against the infidelity website, and the service is facing similar legal action from users in Canada. The lawsuits cite a host of reasons for the legal action: violations of privacy, breach of contract, negligence, and more. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. lawsuits have been filed in Texas, California, Minnesota, Tennessee, Missouri, and Georgia. All eight of them are seeking class-action status, and would as such represent about 37 million affected Ashley Madison users.

Games and Entertainment:

Until Dawn combines the best of horror films and games on PS4 – The best horror movie of the year might just be a video game. Though it’s available on the PlayStation 4, and you play it with a controller, Until Dawn is really as much a film as it is a game; borrowing from some of the biggest horror franchises around, like Saw to Evil Dead, it combines the tropes into a terrifying experience that’s both familiar and unique. But it’s that added layer of interactivity — the fact that you actually have some measure of control over the events — that makes Until Dawn something special. It’s a horror movie where you can actually tell those stupid teens what to do, in hopes that they’ll actually survive the night. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up making the same mistakes they would.


Review: Metal Gear Solid 5 is cliched, confused, and utterly brilliant – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain arrives under so much hype, expectation, and otaku-fever that it’s almost destined to fail. In true Kojima fashion, this is a polarising game, one where the highest of highs is offset with lowest of lows. It distorts much of what has made the third-person stealth action series so revered, replacing the heavily structured levels of old with an open-world setting that allows for a more flexible approach. The series’ latest iteration presents greater opportunities to succeed spectacularly and fail wretchedly. An RPG-like system of unlocking and upgrading weapons requires you think four or five moves ahead, while an AI-controlled “buddy” option provides the kind of obliging assistance that many would consider sacrilege in a game of this type.


Linux gaming rising: 32 killer games for Steam Machines and Linux – Sure, Valve’s embrace of Linux may have a wee bit to do with advancing the Steam Machine ideal, but any game released for “SteamOS” works just fine on other Linux distros, too. With Valve and its hardware partners recently announcing a full 15 upcoming Steam Machine PCs, here are a slew of killer PC games that’ve recently become Linux natives—including the previous two PCWorld Game of the Year winners.


Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

YouTube’s answer to Twitch finally launches tomorrow – Just before E3 this year, YouTube announced that it was getting into gaming in a big way, with its own stand-alone video site that would take on Twitch. Called YouTube Gaming, the service was expected to launch some time this summer — and it looks like tomorrow will finally be the day. The service is expected to go live on the web, as well as through mobile apps on both iOS and Android.

Hobbit “Five Armies” Extended Edition release dated with R-rating – The final installment of the “Extended Editions” of The Hobbit trilogy has been revealed this week. The Battle of the Five Armies will include 20 minutes of additional footage for the film itself, then will also include more than 9 hours of special features. This movie will also be rated R – this is different from the theatrical cut of the film which is rated PG-13. This new rating has been pushed to the film by the MPAA for “some violence.” As if there weren’t violence in the film in the first place.

The 50 Best iPad Games – The line between iPad games and iPhone games has become a lot blurrier of late. There have always been games capable of running on both of Apple’s wildly successful iOS devices, and usually with just a single purchase. But as iPhones$199.00 at Verizon get bigger and iPads$376.99 at Amazon get smaller, the differences between their apps are becoming much more arbitrary. The good news is that most of the huge and constantly growing iOS gaming library can be enjoyed on a tablet that doesn’t require a contract to buy at a reasonable price. And that library really is worth checking out.

Your guide to geeky TV this fall (pictures) – Shows with superheroes, zombies, unexplained phenomena and monsters are now so prevalent, you can watch one every night of the week. CNET’s Michael Franco gives his picks.


Fear the Walking Dead

Xbox One and Xbox 360 Free Games With Gold for September 2015 Revealed – Microsoft has announced September’s free Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles for Xbox Live Gold members. There are two free games each for Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners, including The Deer God, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, Battlestations Pacific, and Crysis 3. Take a look at the full schedule below. Even if you don’t have an Xbox 360, it’s probably still worth picking up the last-generation games, as they could one day be made playable on Xbox One through backwards compatibility.

Off Topic (Sort of):

How I broke the internet without even trying – I have to apologise for breaking the internet. Yes, it was me. I’d have made my mea culpa sooner, but I didn’t realise how great a wrong I’d done. It was selfish of me to download ad-blocking software. I thought only of enhancing my own online experience. It never occurred to me that I would be the cause of so much trouble. The first hint that I was doing something wrong came when I visited a website and saw, where ordinarily an advertisement would have popped up, a plea that I consider either unblocking ads or making a contribution. Otherwise, I was told, the free internet was threatened. (recommended by Mal C.)

50 fascinating facts about Android – We’ve assembled 50 pieces of Android trivia for you to enjoy and bust out the next time you’re at a party about mobile operating systems.

Microsoft Offers Free Download Of “Start Me Up” To Celebrate 20 Years Of Windows 95 – Remember Windows 95? I mean, how could you not? Oh, you’re under 30? Yeah, then you probably don’t remember Windows 95. Its launch was a glorious day, it stood for the rise of graphical interfaces that we’ve come to known and love. Its launch also featured The Rolling Stones. Specifically, their song “Start Me Up.” You know, like the “Start” button. So schmart. Today, to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of Windows 95, Microsoft is offering a free download of the song for anyone who cares to download it. If you don’t own the song already, now’s your chance.


How Linux was born, as told by Linus Torvalds himself – One of the most famous messages in all computing was posted exactly 24 years ago today, on 25 August, 1991:

Hello everybody out there using minix –

I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and

professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing

since April, and is starting to get ready.

Many people have read that post by Linus Torvalds in the comp.os.minix newsgroup on Usenet, or at least heard about it. Many more are aware of how that (free) operating system ended up taking over vast swathes of the computing world, and becoming both “big” and “professional.” But what about before that famous moment? What were the key events that led to Linus creating that first public release of Linux?

Stephen Hawking theorizes escaping a black hole – Upon the event horizon of a black hole, suggested leading physicist Stephen Hawking this week, information may not be lost. While all matter is sucked into the hole, prevailing theories that all will be lost – are not quite as solid as they were before Hawking spoke. It was at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm this month that Hawking presented a new idea on how information may be able to escape a black hole – a flat, useless form, but released nonetheless.


VIDEO: Sony’s Drone Takes Flight – In a video (below), the drone is seen making a vertical lift-off, flying through sunny skies, and landing softly. Due out next year, the drones are expected to carry loads of up to 22 pounds, and fly more than two hours at a maximum speed of 106 mph, according to The Wall Street Journal. But don’t expect to walk into a local Best Buy to pick one up. The devices will not initially be on sale to the general public; the joint company will instead sell them to enterprise customers.


Cutting-edge 3D printer prints in 10 materials simultaneously – Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artifical Intelligence Laboratory have demonstrated that it’s possible to build a 3D printer that can print in 10 different materials at once in a single print, and they were able to do so for less than $7,000 using off-the-shelf components. Current multimaterial 3D printers are limited to three materials at one time and start at around $150,000.

Something to think about:

“People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”

–      Peter F. Drucker


CurrPorts v2.20 – Monitoring Opened TCP/IP network ports / connections – CurrPorts is network monitoring software that displays the list of all currently opened TCP/IP and UDP ports on your local computer. For each port in the list, information about the process that opened the port is also displayed, including the process name, full path of the process, version information of the process (product name, file description, and so on), the time that the process was created, and the user that created it.

In addition, CurrPorts allows you to close unwanted TCP connections, kill the process that opened the ports, and save the TCP/UDP ports information to HTML file , XML file, or to tab-delimited text file.

CurrPorts also automatically mark with pink color suspicious TCP/UDP ports owned by unidentified applications (Applications without version information and icons)


Screenshot from a personal system.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

UK surveillance “worse than 1984,” says new UN privacy chief – The newly appointed UN special rapporteur on privacy, Joseph Cannataci, has called the UK’s oversight of surveillance “a rather bad joke at its citizens’ expense,” and said that the situation regarding privacy is “worse” than anything George Orwell imagined in his novel 1984. Speaking to The Guardian, Cannataci said: “at least Winston [a character in Orwell’s 1984] was able to go out in the countryside and go under a tree and expect there wouldn’t be any screen, as it was called. Whereas today there are many parts of the English countryside where there are more cameras than George Orwell could ever have imagined. So the situation in some cases is far worse already.”

Cannataci is also concerned about the routine surveillance carried out by Internet companies as a key part of their business model. “They just went out and created a model where people’s data has become the new currency,” he said. “And unfortunately, the vast bulk of people sign their rights away without knowing or thinking too much about it.”

The mandate of the new post of UN special rapporteur on privacy is broad. Cannataci, who is a professor of law at the University of Malta, and uses neither Facebook nor Twitter, is empowered to review government policies on digital surveillance and the collection of personal data, and to identify activities that harm privacy protection without any compelling justification. He can also give his views on how the private sector should be addressing its human rights responsibilities in this field.

Feds’ cyberbullying reverses cops’ convictions for shooting unarmed people – In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, five former New Orleans police officers were sentenced to six to 65 years in prison in connection to on-the-job deadly shootings of unarmed civilians. But recently, these five officers had their convictions set aside by a federal appeals court. Why? Federal prosecutors’ anonymous online comments posted underneath local news accounts of the officers’ ongoing 2011 trial “contributed to the mob mentality potentially inherent in instantaneous, unbridled, passionate online discourse,” the court said. In light of that, the appellate court found a fair trial wasn’t possible.

The New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week (PDF) that the prosecutors’ behavior, unearthed by the same forensic expert who helped identify the Unabomber, created an “air of bullying” that federal prosecutors were “sworn to respect.”

“Just as a mob protesting outside the courthouse has the potential to intimidate parties and witnesses, so do streams of adverse online comments,” the court ruled 2-1. “The online anonymous postings, whether the product of lone wolf commenters or an informal propaganda campaign, gave the prosecution a tool for public castigation of the defendants that it could not have used against them otherwise, and in so doing deprived them of a fair trial.”

FBI probed SciFi author Ray Bradbury for plot to glum-down America – Among the many things the FBI of the 1950s and 1960s thought was corrupting America’s youth and harbouring communism was, apparently, the science fiction scene.

Documents recently released under freedom of information laws, show the G-men took an interest in one of the era’s leading authors, Ray Bradbury.

Their interest was apparently sparked by Martin Berkeley (Wikipedia), an enthusiastic anti-Communist and testator to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), who told the FBI the author of Fahrenheit 451 was “probably sympathetic with certain pro-Communist elements”.

“He noted that some of Bradbury’s stories have definitely slanted against the United States and its capitalistic form of government”, the report adds.

“Informant observed that Communists have found fertile opportunities for development; for spreading distrust; and lack of confidence in America [sic] institutions in the area of science fiction writing”, the FOI document states.

Another informant complained that Bradbury had “ridiculed” both the US government and the HUAC hearings, and that Bradbury had signed a joint letter from the American Civil Liberties Union in 1953.


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One response to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – August 26, 2015

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