Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 12, 2015

10 Ways to Protect Against Hackers;  Windows 10 on an old PC: When it comes to specs, how low can you go?  How to cut your Facebook stress to zero;  65% of Adults Now Use Social Media;  Stop hoarding: How to clean up your digital life;  iOS Podcast App Overcast Adds Streaming, Drops Price To Free;  Master Windows processes for better performance;  How to fix five known issues affecting OS X El Capitan;  Digital voyeur spied on women’s webcams 5-12 hours a day;  Dow Jones hacked: customer data compromised;  LogMeIn buys LastPass for $125 million;  Yahoo, NHL Ban Employees from Fantasy Sports Contest Sites;  Adobe to brick eight Acrobat, Reader flaws next Tuesday;  The Final Leaked TPP Text is All That We Feared;  You can change drive letters, but know the risk of doing so;  10 enthralling visions for the future of computing;  Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit BETA.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

10 Ways to Protect Against Hackers – It’s pitch black. You peer into the backseat of your car. There’s no one there. Still, you can’t shake an uneasy feeling as you slip into the driver’s side. Turning your key in the ignition, you glance one last time into the backseat, and there he is…the hacker trying to kill your computer. Hackers are a scary bunch—whether working as part of a criminal syndicate or an idealist with a political agenda, they’ve got the knowledge and the power to access your most precious data. So instead of sitting back and waiting to get infected, why not arm yourself and fight back? Bad guys, beware. We’ve got 10 ways to beat you.


Windows 10 on an old PC: When it comes to specs, how low can you go? – The days of Windows being a system hog are gone. So modest are the requirements for Windows 10, you may be able to run it on machines that shipped with Windows Vista eight years ago. But just how low can Windows 10 go when it comes to PC specs? Since Microsoft released the OS for testing last year people have been loading Windows 10 onto hardware dating back to 2003 – eons ago on the PC refresh timescale. Here are the low-end and long-in-the-tooth machines that proved capable of running Windows 10.

Master Windows processes for better performance – Does your Windows computer seem slow, or does it seem to be running a number of mysterious processes like svchost.exe? If you’ve looked at your list of running processes in the Windows Task Manager (press Ctrl-Shift-Esc on your keyboard and click the Processes tab), you’ve probably seen a lot of things that you don’t recognize. These can eat up system RAM, which can affect functionality, like how many applications and browser tabs you can have open at once. It’s a good idea to check the Processes list regularly for suspicious activity, but if you don’t know what you’re looking at, it can create needless anxiety. So let’s explore what the common processes do and how to manage them correctly.

Report: 65% of Adults Now Use Social Media (From 7% in 2005) – In a bit of news from the shouldn’t-surprise-anyone department, a lot of people use social media. (That’s kind of why it has that name—social media.) What might come as more of a surprise is just how many people use social media and who, exactly, they are. To that, the Pew Research Center analyzed 27 different national surveys it has conducted between 2005 and 2015 (excluding 2007, for whatever reason). In doing so, the organization found that just around 65 percent or so of all adults use social media right now. And that number has jumped from a very, very meager seven percent back in 2005.

How to cut your Facebook stress to zero – The most important pull-down menu on the entirety of the world’s most used social network sits right up front and center of your best friend’s profile page. This menu hides under the “Following” button, and inside you’ll find the most excellent option Facebook has ever offered. The menu item you’re looking for is “Unfollow.” With this option you’ll retain your friendship 100% without having to see your friend’s posts in your news feed. You have the power to sort out what you want to see and what you’re tired of seeing on Facebook without any negative repercussions. All tapping the “Unfollow” button does is take your contact’s endless blabbering out of your main news feed. With this one button you can cut out every person that ever posted an image like the following:


Stop hoarding: How to clean up your digital life – Clean the clutter, improve your productivity and stay safer.

Kibo iOS App Lets You Hide Messages In Your Messages – Just when you thought the wonderful world of digital messaging couldn’t get any more rich and layered, along comes another app to prove there are more ideas in the digital sphere than can be contained within the average web user’s philosophy… Just don’t call Kibo a messaging app. It is in fact an iOS keyboard app for sending hidden messages within other messaging apps’ messages — be that WhatsApp or iMessage or Facebook or whatever.

Here are the details of the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 chips, and why they matter – Microsoft has confirmed the details of the CPUs inside the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book computers, as well as some details of the GPU, too.

iOS Podcast App Overcast Adds Streaming, Drops Price To Free – Marco Arment just released a major update to its popular podcast app for iOS, Overcast. This update brings many under-the-hood improvements as well as a few new major features. Arment is also switching its pricing model entirely as the app is now completely free with an optional patronage subscription. I’ve been using Overcast for more than a year now, and there are many unique features that make it my favorite podcast app. You won’t find these features in any other podcast app. For instance, Smart Speed speeds up the silences — it makes podcasts shorter without making the podcasters sound weird. Voice Boost fix badly mixed podcasts by leveling the voices.


Let Server & Website Monitor keep you sane – Having the ability to easily monitor websites and servers from your Android device can help save your sanity. Jack Wallen introduces you to a great app just for that purpose.


The Windows Control Panel will eventually be killed, says Microsoft – Better get used to the Settings app now, because it could completely replace Control Panel in the future.

How to fix five known issues affecting OS X El Capitan – Latest OS X got you down? Jesus Vigo reviews five of the known issues affecting El Capitan and discusses how to go about fixing these problems.

You can change drive letters, but know the risk of doing so – You can easily change drive D: into drive F:. But if Windows expects a file to be on drive D:, this is going to cause a problem.


Dow Jones hacked: customer data compromised – The Dow Jones has revealed that it recently suffered a data breach, with its customer data being targeted. About 3500 customers have been affected as a result of the hack; the compromised data includes contact information and bank card details. Says the company, it does not have evidence that the data was stolen, only that it was compromised. Customers potentially affected by this will receive a letter in the mail with further information.

Digital voyeur spied on women’s webcams 5-12 hours a day – A young woman contacted me last week after reading some of my previous reporting on Remote Access Tools (RATs) and how they can be used to spy on people through the webcams and microphones in their computers. The woman had seen an image in one of the articles that, despite being blurred, looked almost exactly like her and her home. She felt worried and violated—and wondered what else may have been seen by her voyeur. Her story is typical. Few victims even know they are victims, sometimes finding out only years later when a security scan turns up RAT malware on their machines or when law enforcement contacts them after arresting a digital voyeur.

The FBI warns of weaknesses in chip-and-sign credit card systems – The FBI has a stern warning for the credit card industry’s latest security measure, the EMV chip. In a statement today, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center warned that the new chips don’t prevent against online fraud or point-of-sale compromises of the type seen in the Target hack. The underlying weaknesses in the warning were already known to much of the industry, but it emphasizes the frustration many feel with the current deployment. “The FBI’s alert should be a wake-up call to the banks and card networks that continue to stand in the way of making PIN authentication the standard in the US just as it has been around the world for years,” said Brian Dodge, executive vice president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, in a provided statement.

Adobe to brick eight Acrobat, Reader flaws next Tuesday – Adobe will be brick over eight holes in a patch run next week. Acrobat will receive the lion’s share of fixes; these include Acrobat DC, Reader DC, and XI. Adobe Reader X and XI will each receive a patch for versions 10.1.15 and 11.0.12 respectively. All patches apply to Windows and Mac offerings. The advanced notification of the fixes does not elaborate on the vulnerabilities given that doing so will help attackers brew exploits ahead of patch time, but it does award a ‘critical’ severity rating of two that indicates each bug is likely to be exploited when those details drop. It will be a busy Tuesday (or Antipodean Wednesday) for system administrators since Redmond is also scheduled to drop its monthly load of patches on the same day.

Company News:

LogMeIn buys LastPass for $125 million – Remote computer-access company LogMeIn has acquired popular password-management company LastPass for $125 million, LogMeIn says in a statement today. The company says the deal is “expected to close in the coming weeks.” According to the statement, LogMeIn is planning to merge LastPass with another password-management company, Meldium, which was bought last year by LogMeIn. Eventually, Meldium and LastPass will go under the LastPass brand.

Yahoo, NHL Ban Employees from Fantasy Sports Contest Sites – Sorry, fantasy football fans—or fans of Microsoft Excel who charge their fantasy football-loving friends a portion of their winnings for access to an ultra-complicated database of player statistics and predictions. If you work at Yahoo or the NHL, you’ve been cut off from the growing trend that’s profitable (if not very profitable) for some, and quite frustrating for everyone else. The move by Yahoo and the NHL follows reports from this past week that an employee of one of two of the larger fantasy sports sites around, FanDuel and DraftKings, used insider information from one to win a not-so-insignificant amount of money in fantasy sports leagues on the other: $350,000.

NVIDIA’s patent case against Samsung and Qualcomm stumbles – NVIDIA’s hopes to tie up Samsung and Qualcomm in an expensive sales ban over mobile graphics chips has hit a roadblock. The company had sought an injunction from the United States International Trade Commission, alleging that rival chipmakers were infringing on its graphics patents with silicon found inside – among others – the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S5. However, in a ruling issued on Friday last week, ITC judge Thomas B. Pender decided that neither Samsung nor Qualcomm had, in fact, infringed on anything that NVIDIA had patented. In fact, justice Pender suggested that one of the patents NVIDIA was using for its case was, in fact, invalid, since further examination suggested the technologies it described were already included in previous patents.

More chipmakers to join AMD with heterogeneous designs – AMD is the only chipmaker to have released a processor based on the Heterogeneous Systems Architecture. But this week MediaTek, Imagination and ARM announced that they plan to adopt HSA, which should lead to more efficient systems and more powerful apps.

Dell Files IPO for Cybersecurity Unit – Dell Inc. has filed confidentially for an IPO for its SecureWorks cybersecurity unit, TechCrunch has confirmed. The IPO is anticipated to happen before the end of the year. First reported by the Wall Street Journal, SecureWorks could be valued at up to $2 billion. The report said that SecureWorks is working with Bank of America and Morgan Stanley to manage the IPO. Dell acquired SecureWorks for $612 million in 2011 for its security software and consulting businesses, in an effort to expand beyond its computer hardware focus.

Games and Entertainment:

New trailers: The Hunger Games, The Good Dinosaur, Spectre, and more – Movies are coming now. They’re coming fast. And they’re not gonna stop. You have to start watching keep watching never stop watching and also there are big tentpoles like The Hunger Games and Spectre mixed in with all of the emotional dramas like Trumbo and probably you’re going to want to see a lot of them. So yeah. Pick a few and start watching. Mockingjay seems like a good start. You were gonna see that one no matter what, right?


NVIDIA driver ready for Star Wars Battlefront Beta – This morning NVIDIA released their game-ready GeForce GPU driver made to optimize gameplay for the Star Wars Battlefront Open Beta. This driver will come via users’ GeForce Experience software and will be downloaded in moments – it’s not particularly large. Settings will allow users to view the game Star Wars Battlefront in the most spectacular fashion available to them given their chosen graphics processor power. NVIDIA has also offered up an SLI profile for those that wish to roll with multiple GPUs at optimum efficiency whilst playing the Star Wars Battlefront Open Beta.

The following screenshots taken from a personal machine running with the new driver. Verdict? Meh!



EA wants to show you its softer side – Unravel is a game that stars a tiny character made out of yarn. He’s pushes around apples like they’re giant boulders, and when he walks through flowers he might stop to idly chase a butterfly. At one point in the game he grabs on to a kite, for a brief, exhilarating sequence that feels like you’re riding a hang glider. I’ve only played 20 minutes of Unravel, but it’s already one of the most charming video games I can think of. It’s also a product from EA, the monolithic publisher that everyone loves to hate.


Xbox One USB Wireless Adapter for Windows Arrives Oct. 20 – According to multiple reports, Microsoft is finally releasing a wireless USB dongle that you can plug into your laptop or desktop for wireless gaming with an Xbox One controller. Said dongle officially launches on October 20, and it’ll cost you $25. That feels a wee expensive given that the controller itself costs $60, putting the total package for a PC user looking for some wireless console gaming at $85 (assuming you’re buying a separate controller for your office or bedroom, unless you really want to walk one controller between your living room and wherever it is you keep your PC).


Microsoft’s New Xbox One Experience brings Windows 10 onto the console—with Cortana – The New Xbox One Experience began touching down on testers’ consoles this week, including ours. Here’s our first look, together with a hidden feature: Cortana.

Asus GX700 deep-dive: Here’s what’s inside the world’s first water-cooled gaming laptop – Sure, the GX700 has an overclockable, quad-core Skylake Core i7-6820HK CPU, Nvidia’s bad-ass GeForce GTX 980, a buttery-smooth G-Sync panel, and up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM, but the real story on this laptop is the water-cooling. Yes, a water-cooled laptop. We’ve known about the water-cooling existence since the laptop’s first unveiling, but Asus is starting to finally spill some details on how it works.


The water-cooling dock contains two 90mm radiators, fans, a pump and reservoir.

Off Topic (Sort of):

NASA offers 1,200 patents to startups, with no upfront licensing costs – As part of an initiative to grow some new high-tech businesses, NASA is providing startups the opportunity to license its technologies without paying any up-front costs. Businesses will be able to choose from a portfolio spanning over 1,200 patents, which in turn is divided into 15 categories. This includes technologies such as multi-purpose humanoid robots, handheld laser torches, and even collapsible aeroplanes. “The Startup NASA initiative leverages the results of our cutting-edge research and development so entrepreneurs can take that research — and some risks — to create new products and new services,” said NASA’s chief technologist David Miller in a press release.


The Final Leaked TPP Text is All That We Feared – Today’s release by Wikileaks of what is believed to be the current and essentially final version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) confirms our worst fears about the agreement, and dashes the few hopes that we held out that its most onerous provisions wouldn’t survive to the end of the negotiations. Since we now have the agreed text, we’ll be including some paragraph references that you can cross-reference for yourself—but be aware that some of them contain placeholders like “x” that may change in the cleaned-up text. Also, our analysis here is limited to the copyright and Internet-related provisions of the chapter, but analyses of the impacts of other parts of the chapter have been published by Wikileaks and others.

The Emissionary Position: screwing the motorist the European way – Feature: Everyone has heard about the diesel emissions scandal surrounding Volkswagen, but finding out what really went wrong and who is to blame is not so clear cut. John Watkinson considers the culprits: mechanical, political and virtual.


Wait! Don’t give your filthy VW the push, the trail hasn’t ended yet. Source: Woody Allen’s Sleeper (1973), United Artists

Aerial video and photography is growing ever more popular as UAVs — Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, better known as “drones” — become easier to control and fly. These days, drone come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations, with most designs falling under the quad-copter format. Most UAVs worth their money pretty much fly themselves, unlike radio-controlled aircraft and helicopters — both of which actually require a lot of practice and skill to fly. That’s because the latest drones are armed with gyroscopes, barometers, GPS systems and other hardware that work together to keep them in the air, balanced and stable.


Computerworld contributing writer Michael deAgonia shows off two of the latest drones from DJI.

Astronauts on Mars: NASA details 3-phase plan – NASA details the three phases in reaching Mars with human astronauts, including Earth Reliant, Proving Ground, and Earth Independent. The first of these, Earth Reliant, requires that we make certain we’re capable of existing outside of our own atmosphere for long periods of time. This includes astronaut missions aboard the International Space Station. Part of NASA’s plan requires that we extend ISS operations until at least the year 2024. NASA also suggests that they’ll need to pursue an evolvable SLS via Exploration Upper Stage before advanced solid rocket boosters if they’re ever to make a craft that’ll bring humans to Mars AND be able to bring them back to Earth.


10 enthralling visions for the future of computing – For years, our personal computers were made up of monitors, keyboards, and a big beige box. Then laptops came along and changed everything—until a small, flat plate of glass encased in metal, dubbed the iPhone, showed up and changed everything again, followed shortly thereafter by an even larger plate of glass called the iPad that changed things even more. As exciting as the iPad was, the original came to us five years ago. Today, we once again face major shifts in for computing. What will that future look like, both in the near term and the slightly further-off future?


Turnbull: Don’t assume government email is more secure than private email – Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull responded to concerns over the use of his own private email server by saying politicians use insecure communication all the time.

Something to think about:

“It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.”

–     Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), My Early Life, 1930


Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit BETA – Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit BETA is cutting edge technology for detecting and removing the nastiest malicious rootkits


    Download Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit

Run the file and follow the onscreen instructions to extract it to a location of your choosing (your desktop by default)

Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit will then open, follow the instruction in the wizard to update and allow the program to scan your computer for threats

Click on the Cleanup button to remove any threats and reboot if prompted to do so

Wait while the system shuts down and the cleanup process is performed

Perform another scan with Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit to verify that no threats remain. If they do, then click Cleanup once more and repeat the process

If no additional threats were found, verify that your system is now running normally, making sure that the following items are functional: Internet access, Windows Update, Windows Firewall

If there are additional problems with your system, such as any of those listed above or other system issues, then run the ‘fixdamage’ tool included with Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit located within the ‘Plugins’ folder and reboot

Verify that your system is now functioning normally

If you experience any problems running the tool or it hasn’t fully resolved all of the issues you had, please contact support

Disclaimer (partial)

While we encourage and invite participation, Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit BETA users run the tool at their own risk. Malwarebytes bears no responsibility for issues that may arise during use of this tool. However, all reasonable efforts will be made by Malwarebytes to assist in recovery should the need arise.

The following screen shots taken from a personal system.




CopyTrans Manager– The free iTunes Alternative to manage iPhone, iPad and iPhone without iTunes.

Use CopyTrans Manager to add songs, videos, apps and more to your iPhone. Add and manage playlists, lyrics and artwork, or change ID3 Tags such as artist, album, ratings etc. The best of all? CopyTrans Manager is portable, a 100% free and supports all iPhones, iPads and iPods.

Add music to iPhone, iPod, iPad on the go

CopyTrans Manager allows you to quickly drag and drop music and videos from PC directly to your iPhone, iPod or iPad. A lightweight iTunes alternative.

You can use CopyTrans Manager on multiple PCs to transfer apps and ringtones to iPhone or any other iOS device without the need for iTunes sync.

Edit track titles and artwork

CopyTrans Manager is a powerful iPhone, iPod, or iPad companion. Edit iPhone music and video titles. Change iPod track album names and genres in a few clicks and without iTunes. You can also edit other meta-data such as track ratings and song lyrics.

Manage iPhone or iPod playlists

Create new playlists or edit already existing iPhone playlists with ease. Use CopyTrans Manager to add or remove songs and videos to your customly created iPhone playlists. You can also change the order of songs within playlists via drag and drop.

CopyTrans Manager does not require installation and makes organizing iPhone playlists, and tracks easy on one or on different PCs without the need for iTunes.

The following screen shots taken from a personal system.



In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Partial Victory: Obama Encryption Policy Rejects Laws Mandating Backdoors, But Leaves the Door Open for Informal Deals – Obama’s position on encryption is now public, as reported by the Washington Post. According to Ellen Nakashima and Andrea Peterson of the Post, Obama “will not —for now—call for legislation requiring companies to decode messages for law enforcement.”

Instead, the Post reports, the “administration will continue trying to persuade companies that have moved to encrypt their customers’ data to create a way for the government to still peer into people’s data when needed for criminal or terrorism investigations.”

While eschewing attempts to legislatively mandate that tech companies build backdoors into their services, the president is continuing the status quo – that is, informally pressuring companies to give the government access to unencrypted data.

Basically, it’s a partial victory for those of us fighting for strong, secure, private communications online.

The coalition—representing more than 50,000 people and over 30 nonprofits and companies—has called on Obama to stand strong against attempts to undermine encryption. Specifically, the coalition states that no “legislation, executive order, or private agreement with the government should undermine our rights.”

Obama is taking a step in that direction, and that’s a victory for the technology rights activists across the globe who have come together during this campaign.

Where Do Major Tech Companies Stand on Encryption? – There’s a major battle brewing over encryption right now.

Law enforcement agencies are trying to demand “backdoors” to our sensitive data and communications, while civil liberties groups are fighting back through a new campaign called SaveCrypto. And President Obama seems to be trying to find a middle ground, eschewing legal mandates but continuing to informally pressure companies to provide unencrypted access to data.

So where do the tech companies stand?

Tech companies are in a unique position to know about and resist unofficial pressure from the government to provide access to user data. We hand over huge amounts of sensitive data to these companies while trusting them to keep it safe. Which companies are willing to go on the record as opposing backdoors?

We rounded up the public policies of 21 of the major tech companies so you can compare them.1 Some of the statements are from our annual Who Has Your Back report, and some from from company blogs and transparency reports.

Apple reportedly blocks access to Apple News in China – It appears Apple is choosing to outright block its news app in China rather than implement a system to censor stories that would earn it the ire of Beijing. A source has confirmed to The New York Times that the company has blocked users in China from accessing Apple News, which offers an iOS-optimized way to read stories from around the web.

China has proven to be a difficult market for many tech companies partly due to the Beijing’s restrictions on content available to people in the country. Companies are typically required to censor the media available in their apps to hew to China’s demands. If not, they risk being cut off by the so-called Great Firewall of China, like Facebook and Twitter. In this case, Apple, which sees China as a massive market for new iPhone sales, is itself blocking people in the country from accessing Apple News.


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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 12, 2015

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: 10 Ways to Protect Against Hackers

    Number 11 for me is………… encrypt your internet connection, with VPN. Today in Australia is the start of the Data Retention Laws and already it is a mess. Apparently 84% of Australian ISP’s are not ready to retain data, and/or are not sure what they are supposed to retain. Nobody knows who is going to pay for it, some reports suggest smaller ISP’s could go bust. But I expect nothing less really, this was all brought in when Phoney Abbot was still in charge. Useless, pathetic and embarrassing.


    • Hey Mal,

      “Useless, pathetic and embarrassing” – yep, and let’s not forget “laughable”.

      Politicians don’t seem to grasp a simple overriding concept – essentially, if you don’t play fair with me, then I’ll take the necessary steps to remedy the situation. In our particular case (that is, you and I), we rely heavily on VPNs. In my case Tor (free), and Hide My IP (subscription).

      On an industry wide basis, encryption continues to be rolled out as never before. But, you know all that, mate.

      And now for my annual gripe – as you settle back for an amazing Spring and Summer, up here, I’m getting the cold weather gear and tools ready for another blast of Canadian Winter. Arrrrg!! 🙂



  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Yep, you converted me to Tor, I use it regularly myself now. Great privacy tool.

    Right now, it is 6.30am in the morning and I can feel that lovely warm weather drifting through my window, as I sit in my t-shirt and shorts. Think it’s gonna be about 30 degrees celcius today. After I do what I have to do today, i might mosy up the pub and have a beer or ten, in the sunshine, and talk absolute man crap with my mates. Absolute bliss.

    Rug up mate, I’m thinking of ya lol.


    • LOL!

      Yeah, that’s what I like – a man who feels for his fellows. Thanks Mal. 🙂

      Not much point in wishing you a “super weekend” – I can see you’re already in practice, mate.