Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – November 13, 2015

The Edward Snowden guide to practical privacy;  Firefox finally comes to iOS;  Battery myths that need to die;  Microsoft building data centers in Germany that US government can’t touch;  Five super-easy IP traffic monitoring tools;  Hobbled Cortana arrives in Canada, Australia, Japan, and India;  First Impressions Of YouTube’s New Music App;  Google’s new About Me page helps you control how your personal info is shared;  Who makes the best home-security camera?  Appeals court allows NSA bulk phone spying to continue unabated;  Roku is Launching a New Streaming TV Box That Will Only Cost $25;  Apple Apologizes For Alleged Racist Incident;  10 Games Every Sony PlayStation 4 Player Needs;  Hack to cost UK’s TalkTalk up to $53 million;  Google Input Tools (free);  From Australia to Mexico, 34 Countries Ranked on Quality of Life;  Windows 10 November Update: features, fixes.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Edward Snowden guide to practical privacy – If you want to limit how much governments and companies know about you and your private life, then use Tor, download specific apps and plug-ins, encrypt your hard drive, and use a password manager. Those are among the tips provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in an interview with “digital bodyguard” Micah Lee. The interview, published on The Intercept, is interesting in that it provides a practical guide for protecting your privacy from the very mass surveillance that Snowden revealed in his huge leak of US government documents. The guide covers everyone from the typical concerned citizen to someone who may be handling highly sensitive documents. Here are the highlights:

These Are the Governments That Request (and Block) the Most Facebook Content – The requests for user data and the blocking of content by governments have increased significantly since last year. Facebook on Wednesday released its biannual Global Government Requests Report for the first half of 2015, detailing the number of times governments have asked the company for information on its millions of users and also asked for certain content to be blocked. The report, which covers 93 countries and encompasses the period from January to June this year, shows the U.S. far outstripping the others with 26,579 requests for user data — of which Facebook provided 17,577 or just under 80%. India and the U.K. were second and third in that regard, with 6,268 and 4,489 requests, respectively.

Windows 10 November Update: features, fixes, and enterprise readiness – The Windows 10 November update is available now to everyone running Windows 10. This first major update has a handful of visible features, a variety of bug fixes, and even some enterprise features. Microsoft’s message to businesses is that if they were following the traditional policy of waiting for the first Service Pack or major update to Windows before deploying it, this is it: time to take the plunge. It’s also the time for gamers to make the switch too—in parallel with this release, Microsoft is rolling out the new Xbox Experience, which is based on Windows 10, and gives the dashboard a big shake-up.


Hobbled Cortana arrives in Canada, Australia, Japan, and India – Users of Windows 10 in Canada, Australia, Japan, and India will be able to make use of Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, from today. However, Cortana will not be as capable in these geographies as it is in Microsoft’s native US, and for Canadian and Indian users, Cortana will only be available in English.

Microsoft admits Win 10 tries unauthorized install on Win 7/8 pcs – Microsoft says that the fault lies in a bug in the automatic update codes that went out to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users back in August. This issue left error code 0×80240020 in the log files when the attempts failed. Microsoft says that the bug has now been fixed. This is the second issue that cause upgrades to Windows 10 that users didn’t specifically approve. A previous update ticked the upgrade to Win 10 box and Microsoft called that an accident.

Google’s new About Me page helps you control how your personal info is shared – People concerned about how much information is out there about them on Google have a new way to control what everyone can see. Without any fanfare, Google has begun rolling out an About Me page to make it easier for people to control what others can see about them across Google services.

Mac App Store authentication error causing ‘damaged’ software – An increasing number of Mac users are getting messages today when trying to open apps purchased from OS X’s App Store that the software is “damaged” and can’t be opened. It seems the issue started appearing as early as Wednesday evening, and can affect a range of popular apps, including Acorn, Tweetbot, 1Password, and Byword. As the error message states, users are getting around the issue by deleting and re-downloading the apps, but it doesn’t seem to work for everyone.


Patch Tuesday Windows security update rendered Outlook unusable for many – Users of Microsoft Outlook for Windows reportedly ran into numerous problems on Wednesday, after Microsoft issued a buggy—but critical—security patch. As noted by ZDNet, users reported that the program became crash-prone after installing update KB3097877, particularly when loading HTML messages. In some cases users would see only a black screen when trying to log in. The problems reportedly occurred in all versions of Outlook on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, but Windows 10 appeared to be unaffected.

Let Disk Usage & Storage Analyzer zero in on what’s eating up your Android device’s space – Every once in awhile you come across an app and wonder, “Why haven’t I been using this all along?” That’s what happened when I discovered Disk Usage & Storage Analyzer for Android. This tool will easily keep track of what is gobbling up precious space on your mobile device. Anyone that has found their smartphone dangerously full knows how helpful an app like this can be. Yes, Android has a built-in tool for this purpose, but it’s not exactly helpful. If you want to really get granular and interact with files, you need Disk Usage & Storage Analyzer.

Five super-easy IP traffic monitoring tools – For system admins, one of the most important tasks is keeping an eye on the network. When things go bad in your world, a rogue ne’er-do-well could be the cause. Whether that malicious entity is a hacker, a compromised system, or a bad piece of hardware, it’s essential to sniff out the issue. To that end, you need the right tools. One of the first tools you might turn to is an IP traffic monitoring tool. The good news is that there are tons of these tools ready to serve you. The bad news… some of them are a bit complex. That’s why I thought I’d find the easiest IP traffic monitoring tools and list five of them for your network monitoring pleasure.


First Impressions Of YouTube’s New Music App – Today YouTube launched an official music app. With YouTube Music, you’ll get a new experience, designed to make discovering music on YouTube easier. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise, considering the popularity of music videos on the site, which boasts access to a potential audience of over 1 billion people around the globe.


Twitter Doing More With GIFs, Introduces Feature Called “ScratchReel”– Twitter tweeted out a new toy for you to play with for video called “ScratchReel.” Basically, it lets you scrub a short GIF back and forth for cool effects.

Who makes the best home-security camera? We test 6 new models to find out – A boom in wireless security cameras is inspiring a movement in DIY home surveillance. Follow our buying guide and read our reviews to find the best option for you.


Firefox finally comes to iOS – At long last, Firefox has come to iOS. Rather unusually, this is the first version of the Firefox browser that does not use the Gecko layout engine, instead using iOS’s built-in WebKit-based layout engine. The app is available as a free download from the App Store.

Walmart Black Friday 2015 ad includes $29 Android tablet, $399 iPad Air 2  – The retailing giant will also have plenty of bargain Android tablets available for as little as $29, along with a $199 Windows 10 laptop.

Office Depot, OfficeMax Black Friday 2015 ad includes $90 Windows tablet, $95 Chromebook deals – The office superstore chain will be selling a Toshiba Windows 10 laptop for as little as $119.99 and a Lenovo desktop as low as $169.99.

Bluetooth to Get Significant Speed, Range Boost in 2016 – The leading Bluetooth organization tipped four times better range and a 100 percent increase in speed.


Hack to cost UK’s TalkTalk up to $53 million – TalkTalk Telecom Group in the U.K. expects the financial impact of a recent cyber attack to be up to £35 million (US$53 million) but said the people affected may have been far less than had been earlier expected.

Gmail Will Soon Warn Users When Emails Arrive Over Unencrypted Connections – Gmail already defaults to using HTTPS for the connections between your browser and its servers, but for the longest time, the standard practice for sending email between providers was to leave them unencrypted. If somebody managed to intercept those messages, it was pretty trivial to snoop on them. Over the last few years (and especially after the Snowden leaks), Google and other email providers started to change this and today, 57 percent of messages that users on other email providers send to Gmail are encrypted (and 81 percent of outgoing messages from Gmail are, too). Gmail-to-Gmail traffic is always encrypted.

Now cybercriminals are using video ads to plant malware – Cybercriminals have been delivering malware through online display ads for years, but they appear to be making headway with a new distribution method: video advertisements. Both methods of attack, known as malvertising, can have a broad impact and are a major headache for the ad industry. A single malicious advertisement, distributed to several highly trafficked sites, can expose tens of thousands of computers to malware in a short time. Some ad networks and publishers have taken steps to vet their ads more thoroughly, but criminals are constantly on the lookout for weaknesses. An attack detected about two weeks ago shows how cybercriminals are showing more interest in creating malicious video ads.

Mac ransomware is nothing to worry about—for now – Security researchers say a second experiment showing how easy it is to write ransomware for Apple Macs isn’t surprising, so it’s likely that hackers will eventually target Apple computers with it.

India triples content banning on Facebook as governments increase user data requests – Facebook’s transparency report for the first six months of the year has seen India restrict more than 15,000 pieces of content, as globally, governments continue to increase requests for user data.

Self-encrypting drives are hardly any better than software-based encryption – If a laptop using a self-encrypted drive is stolen or lost while in sleep mode, the security of its data can’t be guaranteed.

Company News:

Alibaba Hit $14.3B In Total Sales On Singles’ Day, With 69 Percent Made On Mobile Devices – Alibaba Group reaped $14.3 billion in sales during Singles’ Day, a 54 percent increase from last year’s tally of $9.3 billion. The most significant number from yesterday’s annual shopping bonanza, however, is not how much Chinese consumers spent, but what devices they used to make purchases from Alibaba’s marketplaces. According to the company, which runs China’s largest e-commerce marketplaces, more than half, or 69 percent, of gross merchandise volume (or total sales) were made on mobile devices like smartphones, compared to 42.6 percent last year.

HomeAdvisor parent company IAC makes bid to acquire Angie’s List – IAC said the combination of Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor would create a home services platform with more than $700 million in revenue. But Angie’s List has rebuffed the offer.

Apple Apologizes For Alleged Racist Incident – Apple has apologized for an alleged incident of racism at an Australia store. Footage from a store in Australia made the rounds on social media Tuesday, BBC reports, showing six black school children being asked to leave the store for fears of shoplifting. In the video, a staff member at the Apple store says, “”These guys are … just a bit worried you might steal something…I need to ask you to leave our store.” The store manager reportedly apologized to the boys and to their school.

Fossil to buy fitness band maker Misfit for $260 million – Fossil Group on Thursday said it will acquire Misfit, a wearable-tech startup focused on fitness trackers, for $260 million. The deal weds Fossil’s fashion and watch-making know-how with Misfit’s technology, and underscores the growing importance of wearable products. It’s an area that has drawn heavy hitters from both sides, including tech giant Apple and luxury watchmaker Tag Heuer. Fossil could tap into Misfit’s resources to build fitness trackers that are more aesthetically appealing.

Will GM be the first US automaker to import a car built in China? – According to sources close to General Motors, the domestic automaker giant is planning on bringing a new midsize Buick crossover to the US market. Unlike other crossovers, though, this one will be a direct import from China, making GM the first American manufacturer to import a car from the Middle Kingdom. The Wall Street Journal reports that Buick will import between 30,000 and 40,000 units of the Buick Envision to the United States each year.

Games and Entertainment:

Roku is Launching a New Streaming TV Box That Will Only Cost $25 – Roku’s new device will be the among the cheapest streaming TV devices yet—if buyers snag it before it sells out during Black Friday weekend. The company unveiled the Roku SE on Nov. 11, a limited-edition set-top box that will cost $25 on the shopping holiday. The box officially launches on Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 26, and will be available through the weekend while supplies last.


Fix New Xbox One Experience issues with this guide – Today, Microsoft released the New Xbox One Experience, and while it seems to be going smoothly for most, there are some people that are plagued with issues ranging from voice controls not working to being unable to sign into your account. Don’t worry though, Microsoft is already addressing these issues. To go along with the update, Microsoft has published a page of troubleshooting tips for the New Xbox One Experience. Thankfully most of the issues that the troubleshooting tips address are relatively minor, and the fixes are pretty easy.

Minecraft tipped to make Wii U debut – It looks like the mega-popular game Minecraft is about to make its debut on a new platform: Nintendo’s Wii U. A listing for the game has been found on the website for PEGI, the video game ratings association for Europe, complete with a release date of November 12th, which happens to be today. While it’s not clear if the latest version of Minecraft really will be available in the next few hours, what is scheduled for today is a Nintendo Direct livestream announcement.


‘Fallout 4’ Released Yesterday, But Modders Are Already Making Cool Stuff – Judging by the mods that are already out there, Fallout 4 is likely to get the same kind of support from the modding community. It’s only been out for a day, and modders are making little tweaks to the wasteland. Cruising through the modding website and community NexusMods, these are the Fallout 4 mods that caught our eye so far:


10 Games Every Sony PlayStation 4 Player Needs – “Greatness Awaits” has served as PlayStation 4’s tagline since Sony launched the console in late 2013, but little did the gaming populace realize that it also referred to the long, long wait for high-quality, next-generation titles. That’s not to say that PlayStation 4 has a bad library, but many of the console-exclusive games that people desire—Street Fighter V$59.96 at Amazon, Uncharted 4: Thief’s End—are slated to appear next year. That said, if you plan to buy PlayStation 4 this holiday season, there are a handful of excellent titles worth picking up.

The failure of the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility – The Xbox One has received the “New Xbox One Experience” today with a huge system update that overhauls the interface, puts the system on a Windows 10 backbone, and adds backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games. Adding backwards compatibility is great news (that sort of started with the release of Rare Replay, not the system update). The list of backwards compatible games isn’t. The list blows. Let’s look at exactly why.

Off Topic (Sort of):

True or false? Battery myths that need to die – Battery technology may not have changed much in the last couple decades, but common knowledge is even worse. Many people believe the limitations of nickel-based batteries that were prevalent in the early ’90s still apply to the more modern lithium ion and lithium polymer technologies we use today. Here are some common battery myths.

Google Self-Driving Car Pulled Over For Going Too Slow – The internets lit up today when someone posted a photo of a cop talking to someone in a self-driving car. Yep, it got pulled over. Why? According to Google, it was going too slow. According to the original poster, the Mountain View police officer didn’t get the memo on these things patrolling the streets, so of course wanted to know why the thing was going so damn slow:


4 ways humans will live and collaborate with robots – Humans and robots have a precarious yet unavoidable relationship. This was one idea underpinning Minds and Machines, the opening topic of the Next: Economy event on Thursday in San Francisco. The set of talks covered automation and how it will or won’t affect various aspects of our lives. Here are four takes on the relationship between humans and robots.

Chattanooga just discovered the dark web, and it is freaking out – It must be sweeps week in Tennessee, because Chattanooga’s WTVC pulled out all the stops for a series about why you should be afraid of the internet. “Computer gurus say there is a place they can go to dig up some of the internet’s oldest websites,” says WTVC’s Calvin Sneed, and — wait. What is this story about? “And visit chat rooms you cannot access through a normal Google search.” Old websites? Exclusive chat rooms? Co-anchor Kim Chapman steps in to raise the stakes even higher. “Chattanooga police say that part of the internet can also be a crime-ridden place that many people don’t even know exists.” Hope you’re sitting down, Tennessee, because the internet exists, and your children might be using it. Take it away, WTVC reporter Hannah Lawrence!


From Australia to Mexico, 34 Countries Ranked on Quality of Life – The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), makers of the Better Life Index (not to be confused with the World Happiness Report) have put together an interactive chart showing how 34 countries fare against each other across 11 categories. The categories, deemed essential by the OECD for measuring quality of life, are housing, income, jobs, the quality of the country’s community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety, and work-life balance. Unsurprisingly, Scandinavian countries rank highly on the chart. Australians, however, have beaten pretty every country for providing the best balance across all categories, save for work-life balance and income.


Dubai firefighters get jetpacks to battle skyscraper fires – Being a firefighter in Dubai just got a lot more interesting. The city is home to many skyscrapers, and battling fires that result high up in these skyscrapers is not easy when you’re on the ground. To remedy that situation, the city will equip its firefighters with jetpacks, enabling them to get to upper levels much more quickly than they would using traditional methods. The jetpacks can handle weights up to 265lbs, and are able to take off and fly vertically, meaning they’ll take a firefighter up to the higher level, but there won’t be any zipping around like Iron Man. Operation can be performed using a remote control or a pilot.


Dumb Cuneiform preserves your fleeting tweets in ancient symbols – Some tweets deserve to live forever. A new service translates your best Twitter compositions into characters from thousands of years ago to be preserved on tablets. Not the iPad kind, the clay kind.


20 unusual things you can clean in the dishwasher – If your dishwasher is just cleaning dishes, then it isn’t living up to its potential. There are many things you can safely wash in a dishwasher. Any of these listed items can go through a “normal” wash cycle, unless otherwise noted. And, of course, use common sense when cleaning nonconventional items in the dishwasher — if you plan to clean an item on this list, inspect it for any plastic components that might not withstand the heat of a normal wash cycle.

Something to think about:

“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.”

–     Booker T. Washington    (1856 – 1915)


Google Input Tools – Your words, your language, anywhere. Available for Google services, Chrome, Android devices, and Windows.

Online, offline, on the go – Whether at home, at work, or somewhere in between—communicate in the language you need, when you need it.

Personalized for you, by you – Google Input Tools remembers your corrections and maintains a custom dictionary for new or uncommon words and names.

Type the way you want – Get your message across in the language and style you want. Switching among over 80 languages and input methods is as seamless as typing.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Appeals court allows NSA bulk phone spying to continue unabated – The nation’s only successful challenge to the National Security Agency’s bulk telephone metadata surveillance program lasted just one day, as a federal appeals court is allowing the constitutionally suspect program to continue unabated.

The day-long constitutional victory Monday impacted a handful of American lawyers but was blocked Tuesday by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The government said it would have to shutter the entire program because it was technologically incapable of immediately sifting out the lawyers from the hundreds of millions of people the NSA was routinely spying on. So instead of shuttering the program altogether, the appeals court acquiesced to the government’s concerns and blocked enforcement (PDF) of the lower court’s Monday order.

The outcome means that not a single person has successfully convinced the US court system to halt the surveillance program NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden divulged in the summer of 2013. There were plenty of constitutional challenges, too, but none resulted in a decision like Monday’s where a federal judge had ordered the NSA to immediately cease spying on the plaintiffs in a lawsuit.

NSA whistleblower: No software is ‘safe from surveillance’ – William Binney doesn’t have a membership card to the small group of which he’s a part — people who have spoken out against the National Security Agency, and been left relatively unscathed — but at least he has the next best thing, a valid passport.

The former National Security Agency official, who spent three decades of his life in espionage — and is said to have been one of the reasons why Edward Snowden took and handed thousands of classified documents to journalists two years ago — still talks about his time in the intelligence community.

“The biggest threat to US citizens is the US government,” said Binney in a Reddit “ask me anything” session on Wednesday.

Which in itself would be a bold claim if it weren’t for the most recent revelations, which we can thank his whistleblowing “successor” for.

Canada: Edward Snowden speaks to Queen’s students via Skype – Receiving astounding applause, Edward Snowden appeared on screen at Queen’s University stage via Skype as the keynote speaker for the Queen’s Model United Nations Invitational on Thursday night.

The security-agency whistleblower, who now lives in exile in Russia, first thanked the professors and students involved with organizing the conference, moderated by Dr. David Lyons, who directs the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queens. Then he thanked the online Twitter community for ensuring that he received the invitation to speak at Queen’s — something he had missed at first — as an example of the importance of public opinion.

“Too often, when we are engaging in society we don’t get to seem to get the right response. By working together, and if we amplify our voice… we can get results.”

Snowden, a hero or a criminal depending on your point of view, began to lay down a brief history of the “growing up in the shadow of the NSA (National Security Agency)” and coming from a family with deep roots in the U.S. military. “When I started working for the government, I was really a true believer,” said Snowden. “I swallowed propaganda entirely.”

Microsoft building data centers in Germany that US government can’t touch – Microsoft has launched a new kind of cloud service in Germany where user data is controlled by a “data trustee” operating under German law. Microsoft is unable to access user data without the permission of the data trustee or the customer, even if it is instructed to do so by the US government. If permission is granted by the data trustee, Microsoft will still only do so under its supervision. The idea behind the new data trustee-based cloud services is presumably to address European concerns that the NSA and other US agencies could demand access to any user data stored using Microsoft’s current cloud services.

According to Microsoft’s press release, the data trustee for the new German cloud offerings is T-Systems, a subsidiary of the giant telecom company Deutsche Telekom. Timotheus Höttges, Deutsche Telekom’s CEO, is quoted as saying: “Microsoft is pioneering a new, unique, solution for customers in Germany and Europe. Now, customers who want local control of their data combined with Microsoft’s cloud services have a new option, and I anticipate it will be rapidly adopted.”

Two new data centres are being built: one in Frankfurt am Main, the other in Magdeburg. Both will offer Azure, Office 365, and the Dynamics CRM Online cloud services from the second half of 2016. The two locations will be connected by a private network, separate from the Internet, in order to ensure that data never leaves Germany as it moves between them—for example, to provide automatic backups. Microsoft says the new offering is aimed particularly at European companies and organisations working with sensitive data, such as those in the finance and health sectors.

Tor Project: US government paid university $1m bounty to hack our networks – The Tor Project is claiming that researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) were paid a hefty bounty by the FBI to stage an attack last year aiming to unmask the operators of the network’s hidden servers.

“We have been told that the payment to CMU was at least $1 million,” the group said in a blog post.

In July 2014 the Tor Project revealed that it had been the victim of a six-month hacking campaign which sought to flood the network with relays that modified Tor protocol headers to track hidden servers. Within a week Tor updated its software and pushed out new versions of code to block similar attacks in the future.

The attack was limited in that it didn’t monitor entry and exit nodes to the Tor network, but could have been used to trace traffic patterns to hidden sites by the academics-for-hire. But the Tor Project is fuming that the FBI used the university to circumvent federal hacking laws.

“Such action is a violation of our trust and basic guidelines for ethical research. We strongly support independent research on our software and network, but this attack crosses the crucial line between research and endangering innocent users,” said the group.

“This attack also sets a troubling precedent: civil liberties are under attack if law enforcement believes it can circumvent the rules of evidence by outsourcing police work to universities. If academia uses ‘research’ as a stalking horse for privacy invasion, the entire enterprise of security research will fall into disrepute.”

The UK’s international snooping plan is probably going to end in failure, again – The UK government is making a dramatic expansion of its internet surveillance efforts, in the space of less than 18 months trying to bring international tech companies firmly under the remit of its spy legislation.

But the attempt is unlikely to succeed, like its other attempts to make overseas companies hand over their customers’ data and communications.

Because millions in the UK now use services like Apple’s iMessage and Whatsapp — which are based outside of the UK and use strong encryption — the UK government says there is a large, and growing gap, in the ability of law enforcement to intercept and read communications.

It has been trying to close this gap with updates to its internet surveillance regime.

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