Monthly Archives: June 2016

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – June 29, 2016

Google Chrome security tips for the paranoid at heart;  How a Hacker Got Facebook to Let Him Take Over Someone Else’s Account;  How to set up 9to5Google for easier two-factor authentication;  One of the nastiest types of ransomware has just come back to life;  More Steam Summer Sale gems: 15 great games under $5;  How to turn off this creepy Facebook feature –  and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Microsoft backs off click-the-X trick in Windows 10 upgrade pitch – Microsoft today said it will revamp the notification of a pending Windows 10 upgrade so that clicking the red “X” — an action that for decades has been used to dismiss or ignore a dialog box — will no longer be interpreted as authorizing the process. With just a month to go before it stops offering a free upgrade to consumers and many businesses running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, Microsoft said it would modify the notice that appears when the company pitches the Windows 10 upgrade.

You have a deadline: Windows 10’s free upgrade ends July 29 – Windows 10’s free upgrade ends July 29. Are you ready? Here’s what to expect and how to get ready for it.

How (and why) to customize the Windows 10 Start menu – The Windows 10 Start menu is a blend of navigation from Windows Phone and Windows 7, and it’s highly customizable. We’ll walk you through it.

Windows 10 reinstallation tip: How to reset your PC and keep your files – Sometimes Windows needs a fresh start—maybe a program’s gone awry or a file’s been corrupted. Luckily, Windows 10 has an option where you can reinstall Windows and wipe your programs, but it keeps your files intact.

Woman successfully sued Microsoft over sneaky tactics used for Windows 10 update – The tactics used by Microsoft to get PC users to install its latest Windows operating system has angered countless customers and one woman has even sued the company for a $13,000 payout over the update. (recommended by Mal C.)

Google’s new pervasive ad tracking is thankfully opt-in – Google isn’t exactly popular for its privacy practices, despite official protestations that it is, in fact, pro-privacy. So when the company initiates changes to its ad tracking that includes more of your Internet life, that’s not exactly out of the ordinary. What is extraordinary, however, is that Google has made the changes opt-in, which means it is disabled by default and needs an informed and conscientious decision by the user to join in. And even when they do, they’re being given fine-grained control on which things they will allow Google to track.

How to start using Google Now on Tap in Android Marshmallow – With Android Marshmallow, Google Now has morphed into something completely different called Google Now on Tap. See how easy it is to use.

Android phones can now read books, signs, business cards via Google’s Mobile Vision – Developers can make their apps read aloud in real time any text that’s in the camera’s field of vision.

Evernote raises prices of its paid plans, limits device sharing on free tier – Evernote today announced a new suite of pricing for its paid plans and new limitations for its free service. The new plans, which are still labeled Basic, Plus, and Premium, will have the new prices and limits starting today. The biggest change, which will affect the most users, is coming to the Basic plan. Evernote Basic remains a free-to-use service, but it is now limited to two devices per account.

Five tips to help you get the most out of Google Play Music – Google has built a top-notch music service, though you have to know how everything works to get the best experience.

Android root – the lowdown and pitfalls of the super user – In the past, rooting was not only something for power users to play with but somewhat even recommended for more adventurous ones to squeeze out the best functionality from their smartphones. But does rooting still have that sway today? What do we gain and what do we lose when we set our smartphones free? Read on the find out.

All 156 Amazon Dash Buttons, Ranked – Amazon just announced more than 50 plastic dongles that’ll let you order all sorts of things with the press of a button—but which are worth getting?


Amazon Inspire crowdsources resources for educators – In this Internet age, a lot of information flows freely on the Web, but not all of them are reliable or even factually correct. A whole market, led by the likes of Coursera and Udacity, have sprung up to give a bit of formality to “online education.” Now Amazon is jumping in with its new Amazon Inspire platform, but with a very different twist. Instead of catering to students looking online instruction, Inspire practically crowdsources educational materials and resources that other teachers and educators can use and customize for their particular use cases.

Facebook releases Chrome extensions for sharing and saving articles – The Share to Facebook extension puts a Facebook icon in your browser next to the address bar. Click it when you want to share the page that is open in the browser, and the extension will open a new window pre-populated with the link. Add a message and congratulations — you have shared content to Facebook. (If you’re looking for an alternative to this method that does not involve installing a dedicated piece of software inside an app that is already murdering your laptop battery, consider selecting the URL, hitting CMD-C, and then pasting it into a new Facebook post directly.)

How to turn off this creepy Facebook feature – Ever wondered how Facebook comes up with some of your random friend suggestions? Turns out, it uses your phone’s location along with other data.

Twitter targets smaller businesses with launch of Dashboard – Twitter — hot on the heels of the launch of its app for influencers, Twitter Engage — has today released yet another standalone application: Twitter Dashboard. The new service, available on both web and mobile, is aimed at businesses that want to use Twitter to connect with their customers. The app offers a suite of tools, including customized feeds of tweets, tools for scheduling posts, access to tips on what to tweet, analytics and more.


Finding Song Lyrics on Google Just Got Easier – Google is bringing more lyrics right to its search results with the help of LyricFind.

Google is testing an internet speed tool built right into search results – Searching Google using the phrase “speed test” has become a common practice for internet users looking to double check their Mbps rate, typically by surfacing a link for the free web product provided by analytics firm Ookla. To take advantage of the common behavior, Google appears to be building its own internet speed test function right into search. That way, when someone types “check internet speed” into the search box, Google can do it for them. The feature may be in response to Netflix’s new website, which lets you check your internet speed by just typing in the URL and waiting a moment.

Google Maps gets sharper thanks to satellite upgrade – Satellite images on Google Maps and Earth are now higher res thanks to a new, more powerful satellite launched by the search giant.


This malware pretends to be WhatsApp, Uber and Google Play – Hackers are stealing credit card information in Europe with malware that can spoof the user interfaces of Uber, WhatsApp and Google Play.

Google Chrome security tips for the paranoid at heart – If you’re a Google Chrome user who loses sleep about online privacy risks, check out these tricks to making your browsing experience more secure.

How a Hacker Got Facebook to Let Him Take Over Someone Else’s Account – Aaron Thompson lost control of his Facebook account after an attacker used social engineering and a fake passport.

One of the nastiest types of ransomware has just come back to life – Just when you thought it was safe to go back onto internet… instances of Locky malware, one of the most prolific forms of malicious software, have bounced back following what had been a huge decline in activity. Then if that wasn’t bad enough, a new, more highly evolved and more effective version of the CryptXXX family of ransomware has been discovered — and cybersecurity researchers say it’s only going to become and more dangerous.

How greed could destroy the ransomware racket – Ransomware attackers have a good thing going: Lock or encrypt your PC remotely, then demand money to release it. Unfortunately, greed is driving them to do the one thing they shouldn’t do if they want the cash to keep flowing.

Used hard drives on eBay, Craigslist are often still ripe with leftover data – Before you throw away that old hard drive, make sure you purge the memory clean. A new study has found that most users are accidentally giving up photos, social security numbers and financial data, by failing to properly delete the files on their recycled hard drives.

How to set up 9to5Google for easier two-factor authentication – Google has made it even easier to use two-factor authentication. With 9to5Google, there are no more excuses for not adding an extra layer of security. Jack Wallen shows you how to make use of this new feature.

Report: New security threats costing businesses $1 million an incident, flash performance suffers – A new report from EMC shows that businesses are tackling traditional cybersecurity issues better, but they are failing to address emerging threats.

Company News:

Cisco to acquire API-based app security startup CloudLock for $293M – Today, Cisco announced it plans to pay $293 million in a mix of cash and equity to acquire CloudLock, a cloud-based security provider that uses APIs to let enterprises apply and monitor security on documents and other content that they share and store in cloud-based applications. CloudLock works with Office365, Google Drive, and Salesforce applications, among thousands of other apps and software. Its focus is on offering security and enforcing policies to protect documents, regardless of device used to access it, and allowing for specific controls based on location.

Red Hat goes all in on OpenShift and containers at Red Hat Summit 2016 – At the annual Red Hat Summit in San Francisco, the company announced a host of updates that it hopes will spur container adoption in the enterprise.

IBM to set up cyber centre in Canberra – Led by a former federal police assistant commissioner, the new centre is intended to bring together business and government to tackle security issues.

Dell invests millions to support global startups and women entrepreneurs – Dell continues to invest in helping the United Nations drive global entrepreneurship, which it believes will bring more job growth, and in women-led businesses.

Games and Entertainment:

More Steam Summer Sale gems: 15 great games under $5 – Valve’s Steam Summer Sales are a great time to pick up top-notch PC games for rock-bottom prices. Case in point: We’ve already sifted through the 13,000-plus games being sold at a discount during the Steam Summer Picnic Sale to highlight 10 delightful games under $10 and 10 great game bundles that save you even more money. We spent hours sifting through the Summer Sale’s stock to create this hand-picked list of 15 great games that cost less than a fiver. These may not cost much, but they each kick a lot of ass.

Watch Galaxy S7 gaming get WAY better with Vulcan API – Earlier this year we spoke with Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney about why Vulkan API was important to the Galaxy S7. It was a trailblazer, he said, saying that the graphics prowess this device was about to have would be mind-blowing. Today we get to see more about what it means to have the connection Sweeney speaks of. Moving from OpenGL, developed back in the 1980s, to Vulkan API. It’s radical.


Sony is killing Ustream support for the PS4 from August 1st – Sony has announced it’s ending support for game-streaming service Ustream on the PlayStation 4. Gamers will be unable to stream their games or view others’ broadcasts on Ustream from August 1st onwards. This includes watching Ustream via the PlayStation Vita, on the PlayStation App, or using Live from PlayStation on the PS4 itself. It’s not the biggest blow to PS4 owners though. Although Sony did not say why it was cutting support for Ustream, the service simply wasn’t as popular as its competitors. PS4 owners will still be able to create and watch broadcasts on YouTube, Twitch, and Dailymotion — which is more than enough options for most streamers and fans.

Batman: Return to Arkham hit with delay just one month before release – If you were looking forward to the release of Batman: Return to Arkham, we’ve unfortunately got some sour news for you. As it turns out, Warner Bros. has decided to delay the title in an effort to give developer Virtuos Games more time to create a better experience for players. The announcement comes just a month before the game was originally intended to launch, which is bound to sting fans who were preparing to take another romp through Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Stephen Hawking: We’re not getting any less greedy or stupid – Technically Incorrect: Speaking with Larry King, the renowned physicist despairs about the state of humanity and suggests rogue AI will be hard to stop.

YouTube live mobile video changes everything – Google finally embraces mobile live video streaming. Here’s why the world will never be the same.

UK has fastest mobile internet while US lags behind, says report – In a bad week for Britain in the news, the UK can at least take solace in its average mobile connection speeds, which — according to a new report from content delivery network Akamai — are the best in the world. The company’s latest State of the Internet report claims that British mobile users were able to get average speeds of 27.9 Mbps when connecting to Akamai’s HTTP/S platform in Q1 2016, beating most countries in Europe by an average of more than 10 Mbps, and the United States’ average speed by more than 20 Mbps.

Traffic tickets got you down? This robo-lawyer has already saved users $4 million – Robots are already no strangers to the legal profession thanks to tools like LawGeex, but recently one has emerged that appears to be a sort of “Robin Hood” of the modern world.

Mosquitoes Have Developed Resistance to Every One of Our Malaria-Fighting Tools – Though not widespread yet, this developing resistance threatens to render each of our most effective malaria-stopping technologies useless.

Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, the original Iron Man – Of all the figures in Australian history, Ned Kelly, born in December 1854, is the most legendary. The petty criminal catapulted into full-blown outlaw status after murdering three policemen and went on a two-year rampage of armed bank robberies, before his final capture by police at the Siege of Glenrowan, Victoria on June 28, 1880 — 136 years ago today. Yet the most iconic aspect of the bushranger was something he wore only once: his suit of iron armour.


Four things to know about the FAA’s rules about commercial drone usage – The rules for commercial drone usage released last week by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) left some unanswered questions on the table. We discussed some of these with Thomas Gemmell, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and the co-leader of the drone team at the law firm Husch Blackwell in Chicago. The rules, which concern unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds and flying no more than 400 feet above ground, require that drones remain within the visual line of sight of the pilot. Remote pilots are also required to hold a remote pilot airman certificate.

Google+ turns 5 and is somehow still alive – People who love Google+ sure love Google+. That hasn’t changed since Google first launched what at the time seemed like a credible Facebook competitor back in June 2011. If you’re a Google+ fan, today is a day to celebrate: Against all odds, your favorite social network turned five today. For everybody else, the fact that Google+ is still online may come as a surprise.

Something to think about:

“Give light and people will find the way.”

–      Ella Baker

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

FBI expansion of surveillance powers meets obstacle – A move in the Senate to provide enhanced surveillance powers to the FBI through the use of National Security Letters met a hurdle Monday after Senator Ron Wyden placed a hold on the 2017 Intelligence Authorization bill over the controversial provisions.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – June 27, 2016

3 Must Do Things After Upgrading to Windows 10;  How to reinstall Windows like a pro;  Making your phone battery last all day (without using a power bank);  You can now livestream right from the YouTube app;  Chrome Bug Makes it Easy to Pirate Streaming Content; Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) – What you need to know;  Seven tips on keeping your phone safe while traveling;  How to delete your OK Google Now audio search history – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

A Jim Hillier article – 3 Must Do Things After Upgrading to Windows 10 – Because it’s a hybrid operating system, catering for both desktop and mobile users alike, Windows 10 is a very different animal to Windows 7 and even more mobile-centric than Windows 8.1. You will no doubt have heard complaints regarding increased telemetry (data collection) in Windows 10 and this is largely related to the mobile side of things. In my humble opinion, the so-called “privacy” issues in Windows 10 have been widely overstated. The increased level of telemetry in Windows 10 bears a direct correlation to mobile, so disabling mobile related apps and features will exponentially decrease the level of data collection. If you’ve upgraded a desktop Windows 7 or 8.1 operating system to Windows 10, these are three steps you will need to take in order to not only achieve the lowest level of data collection but also help with the system’s speed and overall responsiveness.

Microsoft tweaks activation rules for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update – With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update nearly ready, Microsoft this week announced a seemingly minor change to its activation process. Under the new rules, it should be easier to reactivate Windows on a PC after major hardware changes. But is there more to the story?

How to reinstall Windows like a pro – It’s super-easy to reinstall Windows 10 or 8, and not much more difficult to reinstall Windows 7. Use these tips to get the most out of a reinstall.

You can now livestream right from the YouTube app – YouTube is finally ready to take on Periscope, Facebook Live, and other livestreaming mobile services, as the company is building live mobile video broadcasting right into the core YouTube app. Firing up a livestream seems pretty simple, according to the introductory blog post. “You won’t need to open anything else, just hit the big red capture button right there in the corner, take or select a photo to use as a thumbnail, and you can broadcast live to your fans and chat in near real time,” YouTube says.


How to delete your OK Google Now audio search history – If you’re a Google Now power user, you might want to know that Google saves all of your audio searches. You might also want to know how to delete those searches from your account. Jack Wallen shows you how.

The Very Best Android Phnes – Apple’s iPhone not up your alley? Here’s how to find the right Google-powered alternative, along with our top-rated Android phones.

Making your phone battery last all day (without using a power bank) – Our phones are always with us, and they’re our only tool for doing most things anymore: getting in touch with someone, finding an address or phone number, navigating somewhere, taking a picture, and all that fun stuff. As such, a low or dead phone battery is harrowing. We’ll keep the phone on a charger when possible, but getting through a day without having to charge is ideal…and, fortunately, entirely possible.

Which browser is best for battery life: We test Edge vs. Chrome vs. Opera vs. Firefox – It’s a power struggle for the age of the web, as we test major browsers in a carefully controlled battery-rundown test. Which one will kill your laptop first? The answer’s not as simple as you’d think.

Toddler-Proof Your iPhone With This Quick Trick – The big danger of putting smartphones and tablets in tiny, unpredictable hands is that they’re likely to hit the home button, closing the episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that was the one thing standing between a civilized meal and a toddler meltdown. (Or worse, accidentally sending potentially embarrassing messages.) But there is a way to put your Apple device on lockdown while still letting an open app operate as usual. A setting called Guided Access keeps an iPhone or iPad locked in an app, even if someone hits the home button.

Five tips for taking professional looking photos with your smartphone – Want to take better photographs with your iPhone or Android smartphone? Here are my top tips.

What’s inside a $4 smartphone? – Indian company Ringing Bells is ready to start shipping a $4 smartphone – but how much smartphone can you buy for $4?

Chrome Bug Makes it Easy to Pirate Streaming Content – Will Google fix the Chrome vulnerability? Can it even truly be fixed? Free Netflix movies, then! According to Wired, two security researchers have found a vulnerability in Google’s Chrome browser related to how the browser treats media streaming. Specifically, the issue centers around how Chrome’s Wildvine—its digital rights management system—handles the exchange between the browser and streaming services’ content protection systems. The bug, allegedly a simple one to execute, allows a person to obtain a copy of a stream right after it’s decrypted but before it starts streaming in your browser. Hello, free content.


Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) – What you need to know – Malware, Trojans, Bugs – these very words strike fear in the heart of all of us, evoking images of lines of falling code, skulls and crossbones. These malicious programs are the filth of the Internet, the proof that with every useful technology there is an equal and opposite piece of garbage that at times could have adverse effects on your system. A potentially unwanted program (PUP) is exactly what it sounds like; software that you may or may not want clogging up your system. PUPs are similar to malware in that they cause problems when downloaded and installed, but what makes a PUP different is that when you download one, you are doing it with your consent.


Adware loads annoying toolbars into your web browser

Seven tips on keeping your phone safe while traveling – In this edition of Ask Maggie, CNET’s Marguerite Reardon offers advice on how to make sure your vacation isn’t ruined by becoming a victim of mobile cybercrime.

Researchers steal data from a PC by controllng the noise from the fans – Even the noise from your PC’s fans could be used to steal the data inside. Researchers in Israel have found a way to do just by hijacking the fans inside and manipulating the sounds they create.

7 Ways the Cops Will Bust You on the Dark Web – Because users are protected by a veil of technological anonymity, the dark web is often portrayed as a space beyond the reach of law enforcement, where criminals can run amok without fear of prosecution. That couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, police all over the world have deployed a wide array of different techniques to identify and ultimately convict dark web drug dealers, weapon buyers, child pornographers, and more in the past several years. If anything, law enforcement agencies have become more accustomed to working in this space, and are likely to develop even more ways to bust technologically savvy criminals.

Google CEO’s Quora account briefly hijacked by Mark Zuckerberg hackers – Google CEO Sundar Pichai had his Quora account hacked last night, becoming the latest in a list of major tech figures to have their social media presences hijacked by a group calling itself “OurMine.” The breach comes less than a month after both Mark Zuckerberg and Spotify boss Daniel Ek suffered a similar fate. The breach of Pichai’s account became apparent when tweets linking to Pichai’s Quora posts — referencing the OurMine group — appeared on his official Twitter account late Sunday night. Unlike the case of Daniel Ek, however, the hackers hadn’t gained access to Pichai’s Twitter account proper, instead relying on Quora’s auto-tweet functionality to notify his half-a-million followers about the breach.

New exploits target hospital devices, places patients at risk – It is not just the enterprise, banks and individuals that are targeted by cybercriminals looking to cash in on data and rinse bank accounts. Things have taken a more sinister turn with the introduction — and evolution — of attacks specifically designed to compromise medical devices, which places both patient health and information at serious risk. A new report released by security firm TrapX on Monday highlights how this trend is becoming more and more serious, and healthcare organizations must sit up and take note of these emerging threats before it is too late.

How the ‘insecurity of things’ creates the next wave of security opportunities – More than 5 billion IoT devices were installed in 2015. Gartner estimates this will grow to 20 billion by 2020. Unfortunately, experts agree that security is not only an afterthought, but often is actively resisted and circumvented.

Company News:

Microsoft to end production on the Surface 3 by late 2016 – Microsoft plans to stop manufacturing its entry-level Surface 3 tablet by year’s end, the company announced today. The Surface 3 first launched back in May of 2015 as a more affordable 2-in-1 designed to attract students and those who might have gravitated more toward an iPad instead of a full-blown laptop. Quite a few sites dedicated to Microsoft and Windows news noticed of late that stock for the device has been running low, and ZDNet confirmed the company would be winding down production over the next six months.

Sony settles with PS3 owners over Linux lawsuit – A long-running class-action lawsuit from PlayStation 3 owners angry over losing the ability to run Linux on the console may finally be over. When the PS3 launched in 2006, it featured support for “OtherOS,” which let owners install Linux on the console’s hard drive. Only a few short years later, Sony disabled the feature in a software update, claiming it was necessary to fight piracy. After years of court battles, Sony has now agreed to a settlement worth millions of dollars.

Apple celebrates Pride with rainbow Watch straps – Apple joined with revellers across the world this weekend to celebrate LGBT rights, with the company’s employees and Chief Executive Tim Cook participating in the San Francisco Pride parade. The company distributed rainbow-patterned wristbands for the Apple Watch to employees who joined the celebrations, according to Reddit user Sakusuhon. Posting a picture of the band, Sakusuhon said they were “distributed as gifts for registration” and that he didn’t know whether they would be made available to the public.

Expanding in Africa, eBay partners with – American eBay sellers will soon gain access to Africa’s biggest consumer markets. This comes via a new partnership between the U.S. e-commerce giant and online shopping startup, set to go live July 2016.

Games and Entertainment:

‘Civilization V’ Is Set to Conquer American High School Classrooms Next Year – It’s a sign of how far video games have come in the last few years that some of the biggest titles are working their way into the classrooms. The modern incarnation of the old classroom favorite SimCity has been doing well, as has Minecraft in its educational edition, but now players more suited to the “maps and chaps” aspect of learning are in for a treat. Through a partnership with publisher Take-Two Interactive, developer Firaxis Games, and an educational game company called GlassLab, the grand strategy game Sid Meier’s Civilization V will start appearing in American high school classrooms by autumn of next year.

You Can Play ‘Halo 5’ For Free Next Week – It will be playable from June 29 until July 5 as part of the Xbox Live Free Play Days program. Halo 5’s new Warzone Firefight mode is set to launch on June 29 as a free downloadable update. Newcomers will have an entire week to try out the game so long as they hold a valid Xbox Live gold membership. You can check out the new content to be included in Warzone Firefight below:

Most anticipated games of 2016: July to December – E3 is over, and now we have hard dates for nearly all of the big games for the rest of 2016. Here are ones we’re most looking forward to.

New Quake episode released in honor of 20th anniversary – 2016 appears to be the year to honor the influential FPS games from developer Id Software. First we got a brand new Doom that actually lives up to the legacy of the originals, and this last week saw the 20th anniversary of the first Quake. In an unexpected surprise celebrating the latter, a brand new episode for Quake was released — for free — by MachineGames, the developer behind the recent Wolfenstein titles The New Order and The Old Blood.

10 great Steam Summer Sale game bundles that will save you even more money – The legendary Steam Summer Sale may have lost a tinge of its excitement when Valve shifted away from Daily Deals and Flash Sales, but it’s still the place to go when you want to pick up great PC games for rock-bottom prices. This year’s Steam Summer Picnic Sale is no different. The glorious, brand new Doom for 40 percent off! Half-Life 2 for just $2! It’s ridiculous—ridiculously great. But if you want to save even more cash, bundles are the way to go.

Destiny developer Bungie gives more details on leaving PS3, Xbox 360 behind – When Destiny’s upcoming expansion, Rise of Iron, was officially revealed during a livestream just a few days before E3, developer Bungie clearly stated that the content would not be coming to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, now referred to as “legacy consoles.” In other words, all future development and releases would be exclusive to the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game. Now Bungie has revealed more concrete details about how Destiny will work on those older consoles, and how players can migrate their progress to the current platforms.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Brexit: Answers to 8 crucial questions for business and technology professionals – The UK recently voted to leave the EU, which will likely have major implications for business and IT. Here are answers to the most important questions raised by the exit.

Teachers out at prep school after nasty Slack messages about students are revealed – Several teachers privately called the kids “idiots” and worse; then screenshots of their chats were circulated, say reports.

The heart of smart devices: These sensors make the Internet of Things aware – Sensors are at the heart of the Internet of Things, collecting the data that powers wearables and smart cities alike. We took a look at some of these components.

Facebook and Google may be using copyright scanners to suppress ‘extremist’ speech – The systems that automatically enforce copyright laws on the internet may be expanding to block unfavorable speech. Reuters reports that Facebook, Google, and other companies are exploring automated removal of extremist content, and could be repurposing copyright takedown methods to identify and suppress it. It’s unclear where the lines have been drawn, but the systems are likely targeted at radical messages on social networks from enemies of European powers and the United States. Leaders in the US and Europe have increasingly decried radical extremism on the internet and have attempted to enlist internet companies in a fight to suppress it. Many of those companies have been receptive to the idea and already have procedures to block violent and hateful content. Neither Facebook and Google would confirm automation of these efforts to Reuters, which relied on two anonymous sources who are “familiar with the process.”

A quick look at the state of hardware technologies in China and beyond – Recent developments in the hardware world show just how far China’s star has risen and how dominant the country has become in the world of technology hardware manufacturing, development, and innovation. And the physical impact of these products is only just beginning to shape the direction the tech industry will take in years to come.

Mr Zuckerberg, tear down this wall – Today we need to cut the crap. This nonsense has gone too far. I’m speaking of the Echo Chamber. The search engine optimization, and the filtering of the content I see on the internet. Not only me, but my family and my friends, as well. This point was driven home to me this morning by a fellow by the name of Tom Steinberg who, earlier today, attempted to find any people on Facebook who were expressing happiness with the results of the “Brexit” vote for which results have come in overnight. He couldn’t find any. That’s not real. At least it’s not realistic. At most, it’s extremely dangerous.

Something to think about:

“To find a fault is easy; to do better may be difficult.”

–    Plutarch (46 AD – 120 AD)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

US Customs wants to collect social media account names at the border – Your Twitter handle may soon be part of the US visa process. Yesterday, US Customs and Border Protection entered a new proposal into the federal register, suggesting a new field in which persons entering the country can declare their various social media accounts and screen names. The information wouldn’t be mandatory, but the proposed field would still provide customs officials with an unprecedented window into the online life of travelers. The process already includes fingerprinting, an in-person interview, and numerous database checks.

The proposal focuses on arrival / departure forms commonly collected from non-citizens at the US border, as well as the electronic form used for anyone entering the country under a visa waiver. Under the proposed changes, those forms would include a new optional data field prompting visitors to “please enter information associated with your online presence,” followed by open fields for specific platforms and screen names.

It’s unclear from the proposal how thoroughly officials will examine the social profiles, although it’s clear they will be used for investigative purposes. “Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections,” the announcement reads.

The public has 60 days to comment on the new proposal before it will be formally considered. Comments can be mailed to Customs and Border Protection at its Washington office.

Russia moves toward alarming new counter-terrorism law – The lower house of Russia’s parliament has passed so-called anti-terrorism legislation that would allow steep prison sentences for dissent, and require ISPs and phone companies to store huge amounts of communications for long periods of time, The Guardian reports. The “Yarovaya law” would also make it a crime not to report information about terrorist attacks and other crimes, require telecoms to assist the government to break into encrypted messages, and increase the strongest penalty for “extremism” from four to eight years of imprisonment, according to The Guardian. Even this bill, which was passed on Friday, is softer than a previous version which would have allowed the government to strip Russians of citizenship.

The bill was reportedly crafted as a response to the bombing of a Russian passenger plane last October, and The Guardian speculates that it will likely be passed by the rest of parliament and eventually signed by President Vladimir Putin. Critics of the law liken it to Soviet-era measures; Tanya Lokshina, a program director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that the bill “will severely curb people’s right to exercise free expression and other fundamental freedoms in Russia.” The bill could be used to intimidate dissenters and expand punishments against those critical of the Kremlin; the Russian government has already punished citizens harshly for attending anti-war rallies in recent years through mass arrests and prison sentences for protesters.

FBI’s use of Tor exploit is like peering through “broken blinds” – Law enforcement does not need a warrant to hack someone’s computer, according to a just-unsealed court order written by a federal judge in Virginia.

This case, United States v. Matish, is one of at least 135 cases currently being prosecuted nationwide stemming from the FBI’s investigation of the Tor-hidden child pornography site called “Playpen.”

US District Judge Henry Coke Morgan, Jr. further explained in the order on Thursday that warrantless government-sanctioned hacking “resembles” law enforcement looking through broken blinds. In this case, however, a warrant was sought and obtained. Judge Morgan found that even if the warrant did not exist—or was found to be invalid—the search would have been valid.


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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – June 24, 2016

11 Secret Codes That Unlock Hidden Features on Your Phone;  The end is near: Say goodbye to the Windows 10 free upgrade;  Five Android apps for audiophiles;  Linux recommendations for a novice;  How to speed up a sluggish iPhone;  YouTube ready to put live streaming in the palm of your hand  –  and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The end is near: Say goodbye to the Windows 10 free upgrade – The deadline for a free Windows 10 upgrade is right around the corner. Find out what happens after the offer expires.

Can’t activate Windows 10? Microsoft adds troubleshooter to resolve common complaints – New feature aimed at helping users who are unable to activate their copy of Windows 10 after upgrading their PC.

11 Secret Codes That Unlock Hidden Features on Your Phone – The USSD protocol allows you to access hidden features you didn’t know about right from your smartphone’s dialer.

Linux recommendations for a novice: Trying out Linux Mint, Manjaro, and PCLinuxOS – As recommended in my previous post, I have loaded Linux Mint, Manjaro, and PCLinuxOS on an old Samsung N150 Plus netbook. Here are the results, and a few screenshots.

Five Android apps to help pass the time – When you need to kill a little time between meetings, classes, or when you’re on a break, these five outstanding apps will help make the time fly by.

Five Android apps for audiophiles – If you’re a music lover who demands the best sound possible, you’ll be glad to know there are Android apps ready to meet (or exceed) your needs.

YouTube ready to put live streaming in the palm of your hand – YouTube promises its app will offer live streaming on mobile devices, complete with all the features of regular videos.

Controversial $4 smartphone to start shipping next week – After stirring controversy with its dirt-cheap smartphone earlier this year, Indian company Ringing Bells says it has over 200,000 Freedom 251 units ready for shipping.

Instantly Determine Everyone’s True Feelings With This Text Tone Analyzer – Finally, there’s a way to confirm if your friends are true friends without speaking to them in person. The web site Tone Analyzer uses linguistic analysis to determine the tone in texts and e-mails, reports The DeBrief. You simply type up the message from your e-mails or texts on Tone Analyzer, and the site will create a color-coded breakdown of how much joy, fear, anger or sadness that message contains.

How to speed up a sluggish iPhone – Is your iPhone feeling a bit sluggish? Here’s how to give it a refresh while you wait for the iPhone 7 to land.

More than a thousand WhatsApp calls are made every second – Over 1,100 voice calls are made on WhatsApp a second, totaling up to 100 million calls a day.

How to remove Android apps from the battery optimization list – Android 6.0’s standby mode does wonders for battery life, but the feature may cause some of your apps to not function as you’d like. Learn how to remove those apps from standby mode.

Kodi dives into hardware with a Raspberry Pi 3 case perfect for low-cost HTPCs – Kodi’s new Raspberry Pi case looks like it belongs in the living room and provides a little cooling too.


BitTorrent Now is a radically different take on traditional media streaming apps – BitTorrent Now lets you stream or buy music, movies, and art on iOS, Android, and Apple TV.

Microsoft’s gift for PC builders: associate Windows 10 licenses with your Microsoft ID – As Microsoft hurtles towards the release of its major Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the company has introduced a tool that’s supposed to help PC owners solve common problems with activating the operating system on their computers.

Microsoft’s pricey Surface Book is getting stomped by the ancient Surface Pro 3 – Microsoft customers have overwhelmingly adopted the Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4, according to new data released by AdDuplex, while the pricier Surface Book garners just a small slice of market share.

Instagram will soon automatically translate foreign languages in-app – Bios, comments and captions will begin to be automatically translated to the user’s native language in the ever-popular app.

Instagram’s latest numbers show how easily it is demolishing Twitter – Instagram’s daily active user base is closing in on Twitter’s number of monthly users, and the gap between the companies continues to widen. Why? Three words: Facebook, Facebook, Facebook.

How to hack the Windows 10 registry to customize hidden system sounds – Microsoft decided to hide certain system sounds from users in Windows 10. A simple Registry file hack can bring them back. Mark Kaelin explains how.

12 YouTube Science Project Your Kids Will Love – Be your own Bill Nye the Science Guy with these crazy YouTube science experiments.


“Godless” apps, some found in Google Play, root 90% of Android phones – Researchers have detected a family of malicious apps, some that were available in Google Play, that contain malicious code capable of secretly rooting an estimated 90 percent of all Android phones.

GozNym Trojan turns its sight on business accounts at major US banks – A hybrid Trojan program created for financial fraud has started redirecting users of four large U.S. banks to rogue websites in order to hijack their accounts.

The number of corporate users hit by crypto ransomware is skyrocketing – The prevalence of ransomware programs, both those that encrypt data and those that don’t, has exploded over the past two years, with companies being increasingly targeted.

The not-so-cute side of emojis: Potential security, privacy, and bandwidth issues – Those adorable emojis may could lead to serious enterprise headaches. Jack Wallen makes the case for why emojis have no place in the business world.

AWS, Microsoft cloud win US government security approval – Three vendors, including Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, have won a key U.S. government authorization that will allow federal agencies to put highly sensitive data on the cloud-computing services.

Company News:

Netflix CEO says Trump will ‘destroy’ what is great about America – Executives from Netflix, Google and Airbnb throw their support behind the Clinton campaign while attacking Trump’s policies.

Uber not the road to riches, BuzzFeed report finds – An examination of leaked documents and Uber’s own calculations finds that drivers in three major markets are making little more than retail workers.

VW to pay $10.2 billion in diesel emissions scandal, reports AP – Anonymous sources told the AP that Volkswagen has agreed to a $10.2 billion settlement package, compensating owners of its diesel-engined cars for violating emissions standards.

FAA propses more fines against Amazon over alleged shipment violations – On the heels of a recent proposed $350,000 fine against Amazon over the alleged improper shipment of hazardous materials comes another two notices from the FAA: a proposed fine of $78,000 and a proposed fine of $52,000, both likewise over the claimed violations of hazardous materials shipment regulations. The shipping instances took place in 2014, and are said to have involved a total of three cardboard boxes.

BlackBerry slips into the red as revenue drops by a third – It looks as though BlackBerry CEO John Chen will still be in charge long enough to launch another couple of phones — although don’t expect any new flagship models.

Google Fiber buys Webpass to speed up broadband deployment in cities – The purchase of a company that delivers wireless high-speed broadband should help Google Fiber build its 1Gbps network quicker and for less money.

Huawei said to be planning own OS to free itself of Google – It seems that Samsung isn’t the only one thinking of breaking away from its dependence on Android and Google. Insider sources are now claiming that Huawei is also mulling over the possibility of creating its own OS, in the somewhat distant feature, in order to not rely on the crutch of Android. These latest “separatist” sentiments have been prompted by recent talk about Google planning to exert more control not just over its own Nexus devices but OEM devices as well.

Battle lines are drawn: IBM prepares Power9 to take on Intel and ARM – IBM has many goals with its upcoming Power9 chip, and one is to challenge the dominance of Intel’s x86 chips in the data center.

Games and Entertainment:

Steam Summer Sale kicks off with huge discounts on PC games and hardware – The Steam Summer Picnic Sale has all the usual steep game discounts you expect, plus some sweet deals on Steam-related PC hardware.

EVGA GTX 1080 FTW review: The most powerful graphics card in the world, made better – The GeForce GTX 1080 is the most powerful graphics card in the world today, and EVGA’s custom GTX 1080 FTW version makes it better in every way.


Top 10 Video Game Myths – Sometimes the rumors become more interesting than the games themselves. Join WatchMojo as they count down their top picks for the top 10 myths in video games.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Brexit: what happens when Britain leaves the EU – Voters have voted in favor of Brexit: British exit from the European Union. That means that in the coming months, British and European leaders will begin negotiating the terms of Britain’s departure. Britain’s exit will affect the British economy, immigration policy, and lots more. It will take years for the full consequences to become clear. But here are some of the most important changes we can expect in the coming months.

Donald Trump praises Scotland for voting to leave the EU, but it didn’t – Donald Trump praised the Scottish this morning for “[taking] their country back” in the UK’s vote to leave the European Union. This is despite the fact that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU,.

UK to exit the EU: What are tech firms worried about? – Technology firms operating in the UK identify the biggest challenges facing the IT industry following the British public’s decision to leave the EU.

Bitcoin surges past $650 as Brexit result sends UK Pound tumbling to 30-year low – The global finance markets are slipping on Friday after the UK public voted to leave the EU, but there is one currency that is reveling in the uncertainty of the Brexit result: bitcoin.

PC Nerd Quiz: Builder’s Edition – If you still have a permanent scar on your arm from that cheap case and you can reach into a bucket of loose screws and fish out the right one for a PSU by feel, you’re ready to take our PC Nerd Quiz: Builder’s Edition.

Want to develop an app but have no expertise? Google now has a course for you – Google and Udacity say they can turn you into an Android developer in 165 hours.

Facebook is training employees to avoid political bias – After facing questions about how its widely used trending-topics feature is managed, the social network says it’s going to ensure employees are aware of how political bias can affect their work and the company’s products.

Inside the real ‘Imitation Game’: Bletchley Park in 360 – Go on an immersive VR tour of Britain’s code-breaking headquarters, where Nazi encryption was smashed and computer science leaped into the future.

Sperm self-sabotage to make sure mothers have a bigger influence on DNA – Here’s a fun biological fact: men pass on less DNA to their children than women do. The reason for this has been a long-standing mystery, though a study published today leads us closer to understanding.

Something to think about:

“We live in a time of transition, an uneasy era which is likely to endure for the rest of this century. During the period we may be tempted to abandon some of the time-honored principles and commitments which have been proven during the difficult times of past generations. We must never yield to this temptation. Our American values are not luxuries, but necessities – not the salt in our bread, but the bread itself.”

–     Jimmy Carter

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Senate nixes plan for warrantless FBI searches of internet browsing histories – The US Senate on Wednesday narrowly rejected a proposal that would have expanded the FBI’s surveillance powers, including allowing searches of internet browsing histories without a court order.

The legislation, included as an amendment to a criminal-justice funding bill, would have expanded the types of communications records the FBI could have demanded by submitting national security letters, which don’t require court approval. The proposal would have granted the FBI expanded access to telephone and internet records, including browser histories and email metadata.

The amendment, introduced earlier this week by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) to “track lone wolves” in the wake of the Orlando, Florida, massacre, fell two votes short of the required 60 votes to advance.

But the vote doesn’t mean the measure is dead. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) switched his vote to “no” at the last minute, allowing him to bring it up for reconsideration as early as next week.

Microsoft: Government’s data gag order practices worse than first thought – Microsoft has significantly upped the tally of U.S. government gag orders slapped on demands for customer information, according to court documents filed last week.

In a revised complaint submitted to a Seattle federal court last Friday, Microsoft said that more than half of all government data demands were bound by a secrecy order that prevented the company from telling customers of its cloud-based services that authorities had asked it to hand over their information.

The original complaint — the first round in a lawsuit Microsoft filed in April against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Attorney General Loretta Lynch — had pegged the number of data demands during the past 18 months at 5,624. Of those, 2,576, or 46%, were tagged with secrecy orders that prevented Microsoft from telling customers it had been compelled to give up their information.

The monthly average of data requests accompanied by a gag order during the stretch was 143.

U.S. court rules that FBI can hack into a computer without a warrant – A U.S. court has ruled that the FBI can hack into a computer without a warrant — a move that is troubling privacy advocates.

The criminal case involves a child pornography site, Playpen, that had been accessible through Tor, a browser designed for anonymous web surfing.

The FBI, however, managed to take over the site in 2014, and then tracked down and arrested its members by hacking their computers. This allowed law enforcement to secretly collect their IP addresses.

One of the arrested suspects has argued that the evidence against him had been unlawfully seized. But a  U.S. court in Virginia has ruled in favor of the FBI, according to court documents unsealed on Thursday.

The judge, Henry Morgan, ruled that even though the FBI obtained a warrant to hack into the suspect’s computer, none was needed.

The suspect may have used Tor to keep his browsing anonymous, but his IP address still isn’t private information, the judge wrote in his ruling. This is because the IP address is given out to third parties in order to access the Internet and even the Tor network.

White House warns Congress not to kill net neutrality and cable box rules – The White House has urged Republican lawmakers to give up efforts to strip the Federal Communications Commission of regulatory powers and tens of millions of dollars in budget funding. President Obama’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto the House of Representatives’ budget bill for fiscal 2017 because of these and other provisions.

Republicans use nation’s budget to launch broad attack on FCC regulations.

The Republican budget proposal “includes highly problematic ideological provisions,” like ones that “prevent the Federal Communications Commission from promoting a free and open Internet and encouraging competition in the set-top box market, impacting millions of broadband and cable customers,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administration policy yesterday.

The budget plan includes sections delaying or preventing implementation of the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which were just upheld by an appeals court despite a lawsuit filed by broadband providers. With the case possibly heading to the Supreme Court, a budget rider would prevent enforcement of net neutrality rules until broadband providers have exhausted all appeals. The budget plan would also prevent the FCC from stopping unjust and unreasonable pricing and data cap practices, regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome.

Protesting these provisions, the White House said:

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Filed under Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – June 22, 2016

Stop videos from autoplaying in your browser;  How My Neighbor Beat a Social-Engineering Scam;  6 Reasons You Should Get a ‘Burner’ Phone Number;  The Best Wireless Routers of 2016;  New Android malware can secretly root your phone and install programs;  The Best Laptops of 2016;   Twitter and Vine videos just got a whole lot longer;   How to authenticate your Google sign-in with just a tap – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

No more codes: How to authenticate your Google sign-in with just a tap – Multi-factor authentication is an important part of keeping your online accounts secure, but the process is notoriously cumbersome. Text messages, code generators, and the like significantly slow down the process of logging in, but Google is attempting to streamline the task by allowing you to authenticate with a tap on your smartphone. If you’re an Android user with the latest version of Google Play Services, or an iOS user with the Google app, you can now configure your Google account to send your device a notification whenever there’s a login attempt. Interacting with the notification (or launching the app) will then allow you to either authorize the login or deny it completely. No codes, nothing to copy, and no typos to trip you up.

6 Reasons You Should Get a ‘Burner’ Phone Number – Burner numbers might seem like a plot device best left to the writers on cheesy cop shows, but a fast-growing startup—aptly named Burner—is proving there are everyday use cases for a secondary set of digits that you can access through your existing phone via app. Here are six.

Stop videos from autoplaying in your browser – When you go to a website to read an article, you want to read the article, not listen to a video.

Using Edge instead of Chrome will add hours of extra battery life – According to company tests, Microsoft’s browser even beats Opera’s battery saver mode.

The Best Wireless Routers of 2016 – The right router can make the difference between a speedy network and a sluggish one. Here’s how to shop for one, and our top recommendations.

The Best Laptops of 2016 – Here’s everything you need to know when shopping for your next laptop, along with top-rated models in a range of form factors and prices.

Travel the world without printing a thing – Still printing out travel reservations and boarding passes when you head out on a trip? Break that habit now, because you can do it all on your phone — really, all of it. A few hacks and travel apps are all you need to bid adieu to easily lost, tearable, inconvenient paper.

Twitter and Vine videos just got a whole lot longer – This morning Twitter turned up the juice. In addition to allowing certain celebrities know what followers to follow back, they released some limits on video posting. Posting, that is, videos that are far longer than they used to be, both on Twitter itself and through Vine. Users of all sorts will be able to upload videos with a maximum file size of 512MB and a length of 2-minutes and 20 seconds.

Googling medical symptoms may no longer convince you that you’re dying – If you ask the Internet what’s wrong with you when you’re not feeling well, it’s bound to break the news that you’ve probably got cancer or perhaps some rare, terminal disease. It doesn’t matter that you just have a mundane, generic symptom. You likely only have a few months left and you should start getting your affairs in order. Sincere condolences, poor Internet user. With the Web brimming with such bum medical advice—alarming patients and irking doctors worldwide—Google is now rolling out new search tools to try to strip away the medical malarkey or at least shove it down deep in search results.

PDF to Excel – The absolute best way to convert PDF tables into Excel spreadsheets. Easily and quickly convert PDFs from anywhere on your device, Google Drive, Dropbox, Gmail, Box and OneDrive, into editable Microsoft Excel documents. Easy-to-use app and powerful converting engines. Google Drive integration (you can convert PDFs, Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations from your Drive)

VLC for Android now plays videos from your local network – VLC for Android just became much, much more useful if you like full control over how and where you play your videos. The newly released VLC 2.0 rolls in a few big features that you may well have missed, most notably network browsing. Yes, you can find that elusive movie on your home media server. The upgrade also brings a pop-up video window that’s helpful for tablet owners eager to multitask.

Twitter launches a standalone analytics and engagement app for power users – Twitter has announced a new standalone analytics app aiming to better serve its celebrity and power/marketing users, and — it surely hopes — eke out more activity on its platform in the process by making its highest profile users more effective tweeters.

Fedora 24: The 4 biggest improvements from the latest Workstation release – The release of Fedora 24 improves on a formula that has been working rather well. Here’s what you need to know about this Linux distribution.

Slack just made apps for its chat service way more useful – Workplace chat service Slack will now let users interact with third-party services without ever having to leave the app. The new feature, called message buttons, lets companies create interactive Slack apps for performing tasks from within the chat window, like approving expense reports or booking a trip. For example, companies that rely on the project-management software Trello can now create new project cards, add members to those cards, and set due dates for the project all by clicking buttons in a Slack channel.


How My Neighbor Beat a Social-Engineering Scam – We hear a lot in the news about big companies and organizations that are victimized by criminals who hold their data hostage until large amounts of money exchange hands. We hear less about individuals who are tricked and intimidated into forking over a few hundred dollars, but they too are being victimized. One person who came close to being taken by a social-engineering version of this scam my neighbor, Robert Coplin. He’s retired, but spends a lot of time on his computer, writing novels and hunting down solutions to problems in our building (he’s president of the tenants’ association).

New Android malware can secretly root your phone and install programs – Android users beware: a new type of malware has been found in legitimate-looking apps that can “root” your phone and secretly install unwanted programs. The malware, dubbed Godless, has been found lurking on app stores including Google Play, and it targets devices running Android 5.1 (Lollipop) and earlier, which accounts for more than 90 percent of Android devices, Trend Micro said Tuesday in a blog post.

How to find out if you have the latest Android security patch – Software updates don’t always guarantee you’re up to speed with security. Here’s where to look.

Apple blocks outdated versions of Adobe Flash – On Tuesday, the iPhone maker said on a support page that it would once again start blocking outdated and potentially vulnerable versions of Adobe’s Flash plug-in. Any Safari users with an older version of Flash will get a message saying it is out of date. They will also be prompted to download the latest version.

After huge hacks, these chief executives were given raises – You’ll often hear the same old spiel from companies who’ve just been hit by hackers. “We take security seriously,” they say. “We’ll offer you credit protection.” What you rarely hear is the sound of the door hitting the company’s boss on the way out of the executive suite. The average corporate cost of a data breach in the US is a little over $7 million, according to a recent Ponemon study. A new day, a new hack, and little changes. Companies offer their apologies, they swallow a fine or two, and move on. But don’t expect any fines to come out of the chief executive’s pay. It’s the customers who have to get new credit cards, change their passwords, and worry about identity theft, fraud, or a ding to their credit.

Hackers sold access to 170,000 compromised servers, many in the U.S. – The market for hacked servers might be much larger than previously thought, with new evidence suggesting that hackers sold access to over 170,000 compromised servers since 2014, a third of them located in the U.S.

Report: Chinese Hackers Slowing Attacks on US Infrastructure – The number of cyberattacks on US computer infrastructure that originate in China have declined sharply in recent years, according to a report by a private security company. Fire Eye, which provides malware protection and analyzes threats to computer networks, found that since mid-2014, there has been a drop in China-based groups’ overall “intrusion activity” against computers in the US and 25 other countries. The number of worldwide networks compromised by hackers suspected to be from China hovered at around 60 per month between the beginning of 2013 and the middle of 2014. They started to decline sharply in August of 2014, and there have been less than 10 per month since October 2015, according to Fire Eye’s analysis.

Apple fixes serious flaw in AirPort wireless routers – The flaw could allow hackers to execute malicious code on affected devices.

Don’t be surprised if you see spam coming from the top websites in the world – Lax security standards are allowing anyone to “spoof” emails from some of the most-visited domains, according to new research. Email spoofing — a common tactic of spammers — basically involves forging the sender’s address. Messages can appear as if they came from Google, a bank, or a best friend, even though the email never came from the actual source. The spammer simply altered the email’s “from” address. Authentication systems have stepped in to try and solve the problem. But many of the top website domains are failing to properly use them, opening the door for spoofing, according to Sweden-based Detectify, a security firm.

Company News:

Samsung pours $1.2 billion into the Internet of Things – Samsung is willing to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to the Internet of Things. The electronics giant is spending $1.2 billion on IoT development in the US over the next 4 years, sharing it between startups and its own work. This isn’t just about getting into a young field, if you ask Samsung. The company pitches this as crucial to dealing with an aging population — connected gadgets could help an older generation maintain its independence.

Tesla makes offer to buy Elon Musk-backed SolarCity – Tesla is making a bid to acquire sustainable energy company SolarCity, Tesla announced today. We are pleased to submit to you and the SolarCity board of directors a proposal to acquire all of the outstanding shares of common stock of SolarCity in exchange for Tesla common shares,” the company wrote in a letter announcing the proposed deal. Rather than paying cash, Tesla is offering a stock-swap deal at a premium of about 21 to 30 percent over the price of SolarCity’s shares. The deal values SolarCity at up to $2.8 billion.

Apple may finally get clearance for stores in India – Apple may finally get clearance to set up its stores in India, following the Indian government’s decision Monday to liberalize rules requiring local sourcing of some products sold in foreign-owned, single-brand stores. The iPhone maker operates in the country through third-party owned, exclusive stores run by partners like Imagine, in addition to selling through retail chains and online e-commerce websites. But Apple considers the design and layout of its own stores a key element of its branding and retail experience.

Apple is returning money to ebook buyers after losing price-fixing lawsuit – Three years after a court first ruled that Apple was liable for conspiring to fix ebook prices, consumers are finally getting their money back for buying overpriced books. Starting today, booksellers are beginning to refund customers by placing store credit into the accounts they bought the affected ebooks with. Apple will pay out $400 million to impacted consumers. It still denies wrongdoing with regard to ebook pricing.

Sony agrees to pay millions to gamers to settle PS3 Linux debacle – After six years of litigation, Sony is now agreeing to pay the price for its 2010 firmware update that removed support for the Linux operating system in the PlayStation 3. Sony and lawyers representing as many as 10 million console owners reached the deal on Friday. Under the terms of the accord, (PDF) which has not been approved by a California federal judge yet, gamers are eligible to receive $55 if they used Linux on the console. The proposed settlement, which will be vetted by a judge next month, also provides $9 to each console owner that bought a PS3 based on Sony’s claims about “Other OS” functionality.

Tumblr launches live video support in partnership with YouTube, YouNow and others – Tumblr this morning announced support for live video on its service, confirming our report from yesterday that such a move was in the works. The feature will allow Tumblr users to live stream video directly to their followers’ Dashboards, and will also send out push notifications when users go live or reblog a live stream.

Facebook is paying media companies millions to stream live video – Earlier this year, Facebook went all in on Live Video, placing it in a place of prominence in its app as well as promoting it rather heavily on the web. Now it appears that the company is even going so far as paying media companies and celebrities millions of dollars to create live-streaming content. According to a document received by the Wall Street Journal, almost 140 contracts totaling more than $50 million have already been signed.

Adobe’s Q2 solid as revenue climbs 20 percent – The Photoshop maker credits Q2’s record revenue to “breakthrough product innovation across each of our three cloud offerings.” As a result, Adobe is selling a lot more subscriptions to its cloud-based software tools. As for the numbers, the creative software giant reported Q2 net income of $277.07 million, or 48 cents a share. Non-GAAP earnings in the quarter were 71 cents a share on revenue of $1.40 billion, up 20 percent year-over-year. Wall Street was looking for earnings of 68 cents a share on revenue of $1.40 billion.

Games and Entertainment:

Android TV now unofficially supports x86 PCs – Ever have a few of them HDMI PC sticks or mini/pico PC boxes lying around and can’t think of something new to do with them? Well now you have one more. Geek Till it Hertz, the very same that brought Android TV to the new Raspberry Pi, has now done the same for x86 machines. That practically means that you can now install, unofficially of course, Android TV on any Intel or AMD PC to transform them into specialized multimedia computers, for fun or hacking.

PlayStation Vue arrives on Roku in the U.S. – Sony’s live TV streaming service PlayStation Vue has been available for a while now, and until today, you needed either a PS4 or PS3, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, or Chromecast device to watch it. That changes today, with Roku announcing that PlayStation Vue is now available on its own devices, as well, greatly expanding the number of cable cutters and set-top-box owners who can subscribe to it.


‘Outlast 2’ drops you in a desert for a fresh batch of nightmares – The Outlast 2 demo made me jump and shriek in the middle of the E3 show floor, in Microsoft’s rowdy Xbox space where I was surrounded by swashbuckling pirates, roaring racing games and joyous fans. With my clammy fingers gripping an Xbox One controller, headphones hugging my ears, Outlast 2 sucked me in. Its setting, a pitch-black northern Arizona desert, was impressively immersive — not to mention accurate to the actual Supai region that inspired it. I should know: I’ve backpacked through the area. The Outlast 2 demo is horrifying, wonderful, gruesome and downright marvelous — in a bone-chilling kind of way.


Hadean Lands is the new Infocom game you’ve always wanted – If you have any nostalgia at all for interactive fiction, Hadean Lands is certainly worth your time and money.


Jump into the ‘Overwatch’ Competitive Play beta now – Overwatch, the massively popular online multiplayer shooter from Blizzard, is now bringing its Public Test Region live in North America, allowing PC players the chance to square off in the upcoming Competitive Play update. That means any current PC player can pick up the official client to test out the Competitive Play mode right now. As in, right now?


Ars’ favorite games of E3: From dueling VR wizards to calm underwater dives – Another E3 is in the books, and it’s nearly impossible to distill the dozens and dozens of games on display into a few titles to keep an eye out for—but that won’t stop us from trying. These 10 games in particular stood out from the crowded E3 show floor, and each has us excited to try out the full versions after a short taste this past week.

Off Topic (Sort of):

This Australian Party Has a New Voting Idea That Could Radically Change Politics – Growing distrust in mainstream politics could provide fertile ground for a party that promises to let voters and experts make policy through a cellphone app

Sex vs. tech: More than a third of working Americans prefer better work tech over a better sex life – Millennials and Baby Boomers value work over sex at a similar rate, while Gen X’ers opt for fun in the bedroom at a higher clip. See what else we learned from this June 2016 survey.

Mark Zuckerberg tapes up his webcam – Today, as Instagram celebrated reaching 500 million monthly users, Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo of himself enjoying the moment. But after he did, some sharp observers noticed another detail: the laptop on his desk, which seems to have a webcam wrapped up with tape. Zuckerberg is apparently paranoid enough about hackers that he took the extra security step, in a move to shut down any prying eyes savvy enough to gain control of the camera. There also appears to be some sort of obstruction on his mic jack, although it’s unclear what — tape, or some kind of dummy plug?


New FAA commercial drone rules require “pilot certificate” – The rules call for a new “remote pilot certificate,” a blanket ban on night flights, and a requirement that all flights remain below 400 feet or within 400 feet of a structure. Under the new operational rules, which take effect in August 2016, drone pilots must be at least 16 years old or be supervised by an adult with a remote pilot certificate. The pilot must also maintain “visual line of sight” with the drone at all times, among other requirements. (Personal, or hobbyist, use rules remain unchanged.)

True grit may be a false concept – A meta-analysis of 88 studies on grit raises some questions about the concept.


John Wayne in True Grit – Paramount Pictures

The Perfect Memory camera will record your entire life – The camera, created by the team at General Streaming Systems, LLC, is an evolution on the traditional body cam. This device connects to a chain you can wear around your neck or can clip to your clothes. It takes video constantly and allows you to note special events with a tap of the device. It can also stream photos and video to iOS and Android devices and, most importantly, it can connect to your pet. “Yes, it easily attachable to dogs, and even cats,” write the creators. “The camera lens is stable so you will be able to see in superb quality what your loved pet is up to.” It also mounts to other action camera mounts.


Cyberwarfare comes of age: The internet is now officially a battlefield – Cyberspace has joined air, sea, land, and space as an arena of military interest: but the concept of cyberwarfare continues of evolve beyond the grasp of military planners.

Resolving homelessness in the digital era – The explosion of tech companies setting up headquarters in major cities has encroached on the homeless population. Like San Francisco, the tech industry is growing rapidly in Seattle, and we too have the same dilemma. But unlike San Francisco, we have the opportunity to get ahead of this issue and truly make a difference.

Something to think about:

“Coming to terms with Donald Trump as the Republican nominee is like being told you have Stage 1 or Stage 2 cancer. You know you’ll probably survive, but one way or the other, there’s going to be a lot of throwing up.”

–     Christopher Buckley

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Pressure mounts against Rule 41 – the FBI’s power to hack Tor, VPN users on sight – The campaign against Rule 41 – which will give cops and Feds in America the power to hack people’s computers around the world – has kicked up a gear.

Leaders of the US House of Representatives and Senate got a letter today urging them to block the rule change before it becomes permanent in December.

The proposed legislative tweak, quietly passed by an obscure committee and approved by the Supreme Court in April, would allow a US magistrate judge to grant law enforcement access to any stored data on a computer, phone, or any storage device around the world that was suspected of being “related” to a crime.

The amendment would also grant automatic legal approval for police hacking against those who use technology to conceal “the district where the media or information is located.” Tor and VPN users, that means you: by accessing information remotely through an anonymizing or proxy service that hides where the information is truly stored, you’ll be fair game to the authorities.

On Tuesday, 50 organizations – including Google, PayPal, the TOR Project, Data Foundry, the rather unfortunately named Hide My Ass VPN, the ACLU and the EFF – urged Congress to block the Rule 41 change, saying it was an undemocratic decision and an issue that elected representatives needed to debate rather than usher in via the backdoor.

After Orlando, GOP Moves to Expand FBI Surveillance Power – In the wake of the Orlando attack, several Republican senators have proposed enhancing the FBI’s surveillance capabilities.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Richard Burr of North Carolina, among others, proposed an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill that would make it easier for the FBI to obtain “electronic communication transactional records” without a warrant when conducting investigations.

As Reuters notes, the proposal expands the FBI’s ability to use secretive National Security Letters (NSLs) to get information on suspects. NSLs allow the FBI to demand data about a company’s users without judicial review, and the companies that receive them have to remain silent, though the passage of the USA Freedom Act last year allowed for more transparency.

According to the bill text, the feds would be able to access a person’s name, physical address, email address, telephone number, instrument number, account number, login history, length of service (including start date), types of service, and means and sources of payment for service (including any card or bank account information). They could also get IP addresses, session times and durations for an electronic communication, but cell tower data is excluded.

Pointing up    Follows the same old pattern – scare the hell out of the populace – then, strip them of their civil liberties – for their own good, of course. Are we ever going to wake up to this Machiavellian manipulation?

Tech groups say FBI shouldn’t be allowed to do mass hacking – Congress should block proposed changes to rules governing U.S. law enforcement investigations that could give law enforcement agencies new authority to hack thousands of computers, several tech and advocacy groups said.

Congress should stop the proposed changes, approved by the Supreme Court in April, that would allow judges to issue warrants for hacking and surveillance in cases where investigators don’t know the target computer’s location, a coalition of 50 tech trade groups, digital rights groups, and tech companies said in a letter sent Tuesday to congressional leaders.

The proposed rule, which would allow judges to issue warrants outside their jurisdictions, “would threaten the civil liberties of everyday Internet users,” the coalition said in its letter. The new rule “would invite law enforcement to seek warrants authorizing them to hack thousands of computers at once.”

In addition, the rule change could hurt network security efforts, the groups said. “Increased government hacking will likely have unintended consequences that cause serious damage to computer security and negatively impact innocent users,” their letter said.


Filed under Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – June 20, 2016

How & Where To Safely Download Software;  What happens to those free Windows 10 upgrades after July 29, 2016?  How to Download YouTube Videos;  Track stocks like a pro with a free Excel add-in;  This Chrome extension will give you the gist of online articles;  How to enable Android notifications on the Windows 10 preview –  and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How & Where To Safely Download Software – A comment from a reader of my recent Freeware article asked how she could know if a software was safe to download. This question really rammed home just how much of a perilous exercise downloading software has become these days, especially for less experienced users. With many software download portals and developers now disregarding user safety in favor of monetizing their efforts, trusted download sources are fast becoming a scarce commodity. While downloading direct from the developer is generally put forward as being the preferred option, even this is no guarantee of absolute safety. So, for “Kathy” and others in the same boat here are the safety checks I go through prior to making any software recommendations on DCT:


How to Download YouTube Videos – Tons of footage is uploaded to YouTube every minute. But what if you want to download a video? Here’s how.

Microsoft yesterday released a free tool for Windows 10 that claims to scrub PCs of the “bloatware” — also called “crapware” — that computer makers pack on new machines. Refresh Windows, which must be downloaded from Microsoft’s website, currently works only on preview builds of 10, those seeded to participants of the Insider program. Since Insider is a precursor to the production code, the tool should be usable by owners of systems upgraded to the Anniversary Update, version 1607, which is slated to ship next month.

Clues point to Windows 10 Anniversary Update code lock-down after July 12 – Microsoft is just six weeks away from releasing the next major upgrade of Windows 10, but according to past practice, will likely lock down the code in less than half that time. The release date for what is being called “Windows 10 Anniversary Edition” has not been confirmed by the company, although the name itself hints at July 29, a match for last year’s debut launch. But other signals, and Microsoft’s moves prior to the past two releases — the original in July 2015 and the first major upgrade issued in November — give users a good idea of when to expect the Anniversary Edition to arrive.

What happens to those free Windows 10 upgrades after July 29, 2016? – We’re nearing the end of Microsoft’s unprecedented free upgrade offer for Windows 10. The offer officially expires July 29, 2016, on the one-year anniversary of the operating system’s initial release. But what happens then?

3 team collaboration tools you can use with Google Drive – Collaboration is Google Drive’s killer feature, so it’s not surprising that several team-oriented tools have integrated Drive into their services. Plenty of their users are already using Drive to create documents and spreadsheets and store all their files. By connecting your Google account with one of these robust collaboration apps, you can easily add files to projects, link them to tasks, or share them with team members.

Track stocks like a pro with a free Excel add-in – Retrieving up to date stock market prices for Excel is a snap with the free Stock Connector add-in. Here’s a walkthrough of how you get it and how it works.


5 things you need to know about password managers – New data breaches are coming to light almost weekly and they reveal a simple fact: many people still choose weak passwords and reuse them across multiple sites. Password managers offer a solution.

Top Android news of the week: Samsung update, Android update, Cyanogen – This week in Android has been all about security with updates released plugging malware.

SwiftKey Beta saves your copied text in new clipboard feature – Tired of re-copying the same text? SwiftKey’s new clipboard may vastly simplify your life.

$199 2-in-1s could pose a threat to both the Chromebook and the PC industry – For better or worse, cheap 2-in-1s are going to be a game changer.

How to enable Android notifications on the Windows 10 preview – The feature is a work in progress, but it offers a hint at how your PC might integrate more deeply with an Android phone.

This Chrome extension will give you the gist of online articles – The extension is appropriately named TL;DR—short for “too long; didn’t read.” TL;DR for Chrome takes an article you want to read and summarizes it for you. The summary size is adjustable, allowing for breakdowns that are small, medium, or large in length.

How Apple plans on making features smarter while balancing privacy – Terms like “magical,” “incredible,” “amazing” and even “chamfered edge” have long appeared in the lexicon of Apple keynote events. Here’s a new one: “differential privacy.” The words were uttered at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday by Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, as he explained the way the company’s new iOS 10 software will anticipate your needs and wants. More importantly, he said, the operating system will get smarter without violating your privacy.

Twitch fights view-inflating bot makers with lawsuit – The lawsuit is part of an effort by the livestreaming site to prevent video creators from gaming the system and artificially inflating their view counts.

10 parenting apps to keep things running smoothly at home – You spend your days surrounded by technology that makes your work tasks easier, why not try a few new apps that can make your dad duties easier, too?

Which browser is most popular on each major operating system? – New data from the U.S. Government Digital Analytics Program finally provides hard numbers about web usage. Here’s a breakdown of which browsers are winning on the four most widely used desktop and mobile operating systems.


Indian experts doubt government ban on porn sites will be effective – The Indian government directed service providers to block 240 websites but doubts have surfaced over the legality of such an order.


GoToMyPC hit with hack attack; users need to reset passwords – Citrix’s remote access service got hit by a “sophisticated” attack over the weekend, prompting password resets for all GoToMyPC users.

Hack sends cryptocurrency Ether plunging into the abyss – Vulnerabilities affecting DAO have been exploited, throwing the Ethereum network into chaos.

Security TV: Beware of the early morning phish – Taking care of the daily email pile before you head to work has one downside: It’s when users are at their most vulnerable to a phishing attack.

Tor Is Teaming Up With Researchers To Protect Users From FBI Hacking – The FBI has had a fair amount of success de-anonymizing Tor users over the past few years. Despite the encryption software’s well-earned reputation as one of the best tools for online privacy, recent court cases have shown that government malware has compromised Tor users by exploiting bugs in the underlying Firefox browser—one of which was controversially provided to the FBI in 2015 by academic researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. But according to a new paper, security researchers are now working closely with the Tor Project to create a “hardened” version of the Tor Browser, implementing new anti-hacking techniques which could dramatically improve the anonymity of users and further frustrate the efforts of law enforcement.

The value of ‘vintage’ passwords to hackers – Lately one of the big trends emerging is the use of “vintage” passwords to make an attempt at cracking into other services. Recent password thefts from Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace have made headlines, and have also made for some chuckles as people try to recall just what 16-year-old them posted to their MySpace accounts that might embarrass them today.

Acer Online Store Breach Exposes Credit Cards, Names, Addresses – If you’ve done any online shopping at Acer’s U.S. store recently, you might want to keep a close eye on your credit card statements.

The Pentagon expands program for hackers to test its security – Back in March, the US’s Department of Defense launched a “Hack the Pentagon” campaign to get hackers to test their websites and security networks for vulnerabilities, without the threat of jail time. The project was so successful that the government agency has announced it’s being expanded, including more DoD websites and networks, with further cash incentives for hackers. Think of it like the bug bounty programs that Google, Facebook, and other tech companies offer, except hackers get to put the government’s most secure facilities to the test.

10 Very Important Organizations Running on Scarily Outdated Tech – Can you guess which major airport is still running on Windows 3.1?

Company News:

Microsoft UK’s tax bill challenged… by the Sunday Times – Microsoft UK’s tax bill has been challenged, but not by the British government, which agreed to it. Instead, questions have been raised by the Sunday Times. It’s a weak story, but part of the trend whereby US tech giants are attracting more scrutiny as European countries seek to bolster their tax revenues.

Oracle, Mellanox team up on rapid cloud networking technology – The companies hope to improve industry standards for high-speed cloud networking.

New York Senate passes bill that bans short-term apartment listings on Airbnb – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will soon either veto or sign into law a bill that makes it illegal to advertise entire unoccupied apartments for short-term rentals on Airbnb. Despite loud objections from Airbnb and Silicon Valley investors like Ashton Kutcher and Paul Graham, the New York State Senate passed the bill on Friday, the latest development in a complicated relationship between Airbnb and its biggest market. Now the measure is headed to Cuomo’s desk. The bill prohibits online apartment listings that last under 30 days and run up against the city’s multiple dwelling law, which is designed to stop apartment buyers from renting out the entire space and basically turning their units into Airbnb hotels.

Chinese Regulators Order Apple to Stop Selling the iPhone 6 in Beijing – Regulators in China are ordering Apple to stop selling its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones in Beijing due to a patent infringement, according to reports. The two phone models are said to infringe on an exterior design patent held by Chinese firm Shenzhen Baili for a smartphone called the 100C, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple is filing an administrative litigation to reverse the ban, Engadget reports.

Games and Entertainment:

E3 2016: All the glorious new PC games, graphics cards, and hardware you need to know about – Game over, man. Game over! Another E3’s done and gone, and E3 2016 was one of the most exciting conferences for PC gamers in a long, long time. Now that the new consoles pack PC guts, the number of new PC games revealed at the show far exceeded E3 2015’s lineup. And that was just the tip of the iceberg! Don’t kick yourself if you missed any of PCWorld’s E3 coverage this week. Catch up on all the new games, graphics cards, PC gaming hardware, and more—right here, right now.

No Man’s Sky can keep its name after developer settles with Sky TV – No Man’s Sky, the hotly anticipated adventure game due out this summer, won’t suffer a last-minute name change. Hello Games founder Sean Murray tweeted last night that the company had just settled with Sky, the UK’s largest pay-TV broadcaster. Murray didn’t state what the terms of the settlement are, but apparently the legal battle has been plaguing Hello for years:


Fallout 4′ Dev Releases Patch to Stop Console Players from ‘Stealing’ PC Mods – Last month, Bethesda Softworks helped tear down one of the great barriers in video gaming by making player-made mods for the PC version of its acclaimed roleplaying game Fallout 4 available for players of Xbox One version. Last week the studio released another patch announcing coming mod support for the PlayStation 4, but it came with a brief, almost seemingly throwaway notice: Anyone making mods available for console play on would now have to have a version of the game linked to their accounts through Steam, the popular PC digital distribution platform. It addresses a bitter controversy in the game’s community, which, like so many other controversies in gaming these days, sparked from good intentions on the part of the developers.

Rumor: Nintendo Designing New Mario Game – You’re more likely to get your hands on Nintendo’s to-be-announced console before you get a new Mario game, though.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Apple cites Trump as it turns its back on GOP convention, says report – If Trump can boycott Apple, Apple can boycott Trump. That seems to be the message underlying a story from Politico, which cites unnamed sources in reporting that the Cupertino, California-based maker of the iPhone and other iconic tech gadgets won’t provide support to the upcoming GOP convention. The sources told the Beltway-news site that the reason is Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about immigrants, minorities and women. Other tech firms, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft are reportedly participating in the convention in some form or another, with Google set to provide a live stream of the event (despite protests), Microsoft contributing tablets and cloud storage and Facebook planning a presence including a lounge of some kind. None of the companies responded to a request for comment.

Chinese supercomputer is the world’s fastest — and without using US chips – A Chinese supercomputer built using domestic chip technology has been declared the world’s fastest. The news highlights China’s recent advances in the creation of such systems, as well the country’s waning reliance on US semiconductor technology. The Sunway TaihuLight takes the top spot from previous record-holder Tianhe-2 (also located in China), and more than triples the latter’s speed. The new number one is capable of performing some 93 quadrillion calculations per second (otherwise known as petaflops) and is roughly five times more powerful than the speediest US system, which is now ranked third worldwide.

How Nanotechnology Will Keep Your Bananas and Mangoes From Rotting – A Canadian team has invented a new way to make sure that fruit stays fresh for longer, by spraying them with a nano-scale formula. Jay Subramanian, a professor of tree fruit breeding and biotechnology at the University of Guelph, and his group have developed a treatment that extends the shelf life of fruits like mangoes, blueberries, and bananas, which could have huge implications in the battle against food waste, and help farmers, too.

I don’t want to be LinkedIn with Microsoft – I was one of LinkedIn’s first members, joining on June 27, 2003, when it was still in beta. Over the years, it has gotten me a lot of work and helped me write countless stories. But now that Microsoft is buying the company, I’m really wondering whether I should leave.

Apple responsible for removal of rifle for emoji consideration – Unicode 9.0 is set to be finalized later this month, formally introducing a number of sure-to-be hit emojis, including bacon, selfie, face-palm, and more. Turns out, however, that a rifle was once in consideration for new emoji additions in 2016, but objection and pressure from Apple saw its removal. Apple, along with Microsoft and Google are voting members of the Unicode Consortium, which oversees the standardization of emoji.

Something to think about:

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”

–     Denis Waitley

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

UK surveillance bill under fire as data security risk – A 2015 data breach of UK ISP TalkTalk should serve as a warning to the government that its proposed new surveillance legislation risks creating vulnerable pools of data that could be exploited by hackers, a parliamentary committee has warned.

The Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) committee makes this observation in its report into the October 2015 data breach of TalkTalk, published this month.

The Investigatory Powers Bill has already passed through several rounds of debate in the House of Commons with its provision for so called Internet Connection Records (ICRs) intact.

The bill’s provision for ICRs would require ISPs to hold data on the websites and services accessed by all their customer for a full 12 months. It’s one example of how the bill would create honeypots of personal data that will present an inevitable target to hackers, such as the pair of teenagers who perpetrated the 2015 TalkTalk hack.

In its report into the latter hack the committee notes that during an oral evidence session the UK’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commission’s Office, issued what it couches as “a stark warning” about the IP bill.

FBI’s iPhone paid-for hack should be barred, say ex-govt officials – The FBI’s purchase of a hack to get into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone should have been barred.

That’s according to a new paper from two former US government cybersecurity officials, Ari Schwartz and Rob Knake.

In their paper [PDF] they dig into the current vulnerability equities process (VEP), disclosed in 2014, which the US government uses to decide whether to disclose critical security holes. They argue that it needs to be formalized.

While the VEP provides a useful guide, it is only an informal practice and the authors argue that with an increasingly important topic like software vulnerabilities, the government should have a formal policy, and one subject to public review and comment.

Although the question over whether to disclose a security hole is complex, it is not so complex as to avoid a clear set of rules, say Knake and Schwartz. They don’t agree with Bruce Schneier’s argument that all zero-day holes should be disclosed immediately regardless of their potential value, and instead highlight a possible case where disclosure would result in the loss of valuable intelligence in an ongoing investigation.

Snoopers’ Charter ‘goes too far’ says retired Met assistant commish – IPBill The Liberal Democrats are planning to meet the Investigatory Powers Bill with strong resistance in the House of Lords, a list of key issues shared with The Register reveals.

The bill, which will bolster state surveillance in the United Kingdom, remains especially unpopular amongst IT-literate members of the public, who are particularly aware of its potential to undermine security standards and civil liberties.

Encouraged by the Labour party’s comments, many expected this would provoke stronger opposition from their elected representatives when it was debated in the House of Commons. Eventually it passed through that chamber by 444 votes to 69 on 7 June.

Non-US encryption is ‘theoretical,’ claims CIA chief in backdoor debate – CIA director John Brennan told US senators they shouldn’t worry about mandatory encryption backdoors hurting American businesses.

And that’s because, according to Brennan, there’s no one else for people to turn to: if they don’t want to use US-based technology because it’s been forced to use weakened cryptography, they’ll be out of luck because non-American solutions are simply “theoretical.”

Thus, the choice is American-built-and-backdoored or nothing, apparently.

The spymaster made the remarks at a congressional hearing on Thursday after Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) questioned the CIA’s support for weakening cryptography to allow g-men to peek at people’s private communications and data.


Filed under Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – June 17, 2016

Microsoft makes it easier to clean install Windows 10;  Facebook will tell advertisers when you visit their offline stores;  Five Android apps to take the stress out of your vacation;  Opera adds native ad blocker on iOS, Android and Windows Phone;  Twitter Advertisers Can Target You Based on Emoji Use;  Twitter makes Periscope easy to launch right from the Twitter app –  and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

House lawmakers vote to reject ban on tech backdoors, warrantless spying on Americans – The bill would have also prevented the federal government from forcing tech companies to include surveillance “backdoors” in their products.

Microsoft makes it easier to clean install Windows 10 and wipe out bloatware – Microsoft is testing out a new tool that makes it a lot easier to clean install Windows 10. While the software giant has offered Windows 10 users the ability to “reset” a PC and restore it back to an original installation, the new tool will wipe out any bloatware installed by PC manufacturers and install a full clean copy of Windows 10. It seems ideally suited for new PCs that you want to quickly clean and remove unnecessary software from. The tool is currently only available to Windows insiders, but it appears that Microsoft is testing it before releasing it more widely.

Five Android apps to take the stress out of your vacation – Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, but planning, booking, packing… sometimes you need an app to handle the tedious details.

Geek deals: FreedomPop global SIM card kit for $5 with free wireless internet and a powerbank – If you’re fed up with paying high prices for wireless internet access with your current cell provider, check out today’s deal from FreedomPop. Order a SIM card online, slap it in your unlocked device, and enjoy free wireless internet in dozens of countries around the world.


Facebook will tell advertisers when you visit their offline stores – Facebook has long tracked people’s movements across the web, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. Now Facebook is rolling out a new service for retailers allowing them to connect their advertising campaigns on Facebook with your offline, flesh-and-blood movements when you shop in their brick-and-mortar stores. By tracking your smartphone’s location with GPS and nearby Wi-Fi signals, combined with the ads you see, Facebook can tell retailers how many people who see their ads subsequently visit their stores.

Twitter Advertisers Can Target You Based on Emoji Use – Twitter will soon start targeting you based on the kinds of emoji you use in your posts. That’s not a bad thing per se; in fact, you might not even realize Twitter is doing it. Unless, of course, you see ads for plumbing after your creative use of one particular emoji. The move isn’t that monumental if you consider the fact that emoji are really just graphical representations of words. So, if you’re feeling sad on Twitter and post a tweet indicating that, it’s possible you might get hit with advertising that’s trying to target your particular mood. That’s exactly what emoji-driven advertising will do, too.


Opera adds native ad blocker on iOS, Android and Windows Phone – Opera has announced a controversial new feature for its browsers on iOS, Android and Windows Phone: native ad blocking. Those who choose to enable it will have the browser block advertisements for them, something that feels beneficial on the user end but ultimately harms the websites those users visit. Opera says the new native ad blocking feature will help speed up mobile browsing while reducing data usage.

Experimental Firefox feature lets you use multiple identities while surfing the web – Mozilla’s Firefox browser is getting a new experimental feature today that aims to help you segregate your online identities and allow you to sign in into multiple mail or social media accounts side-by-side without having to use multiple browsers. This new “container tab” feature, which is now available in the unstable Nightly Firefox release channel, provides you with four default identities (personal, work, shopping and banking) with their own stores for cookies, IndexedDB data store, local storage and caches. In practice, this means you can surf Amazon without ads for products you may have looked at following you around the web when you switch over to your work persona.

Apple Maps in iOS 10 will watch you, even if you’re using Google Maps – Depending on how you look at it, Apple Maps is about to get a lot more helpful or a lot more annoying. As revealed in a prerelease beta of iOS 10 software, Apple Maps now watches what users are copying and pasting in their iPhone or iPad. Copy an address, for example, and Apple Maps’ upcoming app widget will offer driving directions. This function will work even if you copy a location inside the Google Maps app and is designed to make it easier for you to send directions to a friend by text or email.

10 tips for synching Outlook with mobile devices – Here’s a list of simple tips to help you maintain a healthy synching relationship between Outlook and your mobile devices.

Twitter makes Periscope easy to launch right from the Twitter app – If you’re looking to add a Periscope video stream to your latest tweet, you can now trigger that option directly from the Twitter mobile app. Following a limited test in May and June, Twitter has placed a Periscope button in its app for both iOS and Android phones, Twitter tweeted on Wednesday. The Periscope “Live” button shows up on the screen for posting a new tweet, alongside buttons for posting a photo or posting a video. Tapping that Periscope button simply opens the app or prompts you to download it. From there, you can start your live stream.

Fixico lets motorists snap photos to get quotes for cosmetic car repairs – Dutch startup Fixico is using the smartphone’s ubiquity to power a platform that connects car owners whose car has suffered cosmetic damage to bodywork repair shops that can polish out the scratches or hammer out the dent and return their pride and joy to its former glory. The startup, which currently only operates in the Netherlands — officially launching its platform in April 2014 after a pilot in Amsterdam the year before — says it has generated more than 50,000 orders at a body repair shop thus far via its photo-to-quote platform.


10 alternatives to the Raspberry Pi – The Raspberry Pi might be the name that springs to mind when people think of single board computers for homebrew projects, but there are other boards out there worth considering.

Bluetooth 5.0 to Quadruple Range, Double Speed – The next generation of Bluetooth devices will have quadruple the range and double the speed of what is currently available thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, which was announced today by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) and will be available to device manufacturers as early as this fall.

How to download and install Android N Developer Preview 4 – Here’s how you can get the Android 7.0 “N” Developer Preview 4 up and running on selected Android devices right now.

Under new management, SourceForge moves to put badness in past – Adware installers and malvertising banished, the company looks to build user trust.


Beyond the data breach singularity – why your online identity may never be safe again – Your personal details have probably already been stolen by hackers — so what can you do to protect yourself now?

How data thieves hook victims — and how to beat them – Say what you will about the thieves who ply their trade in the digital realm, you can’t deny they put in a hard day’s work. After all, according to Verizon’s just-released 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report, which analyzed an astounding 100,000 digital security incidents last year, these crooks continue to succeed at stealing corporate and personal data and records by the millions. And while high-tech trickery and sophisticated technical exploits are certainly employed by some, Verizon’s report suggests that most thieves rely on basic human frailties to do their dirty work.

Infamous ‘Spam King’ gets 2.5 years jail sentence, $310k fine – Following his guilty plea almost a year ago, Sanford Wallace, the self-proclaimed “Spam King,” was given a two-and-a-half year prison sentence this week. The hacker is known for plaguing Facebook users with over 27 million spam messages, in addition to collecting the log-in credentials of more than 500,000 people. While that punishment might seem a bit light considering the depth of Wallace’s operation, he has also been ordered to pay some $310,000 in fines.

How to really fix the latest Adobe Flash security hole – Patch it. Patch it now. Better still, get rid of Flash once and for all, or at least set it to only run when you really want it to run.

Flaws expose Cisco small-business routers, firewalls to hacking – Three models of Cisco wireless VPN firewalls and routers from the small business RV series contain a critical unpatched vulnerability that attackers can exploit remotely to take control of devices.

Verizon patches email flaw that exposed user accounts – The critical email flaw is the latest which places Verizon email accounts at risk.

Company News:

Facebook, Twitter, Google sued by father of student killed in Paris terror attacks – Facebook, Twitter and Google are on the receiving end of a lawsuit from a man who claims they’re providing “material support” to terrorist groups such as ISIS. Reynaldo Gonzalez, whose daughter Nohemi was among the 130 people killed in the Paris attacks last November, filed his lawsuit Tuesday in the US District Court in the Northern District of California. The suit specifically charges that the three tech companies “knowingly permitted the terrorist group ISIS to use their social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds and attracting new recruits.”

Samsung buys Joyent to build a cloud of its own – Samsung Electronics is acquiring U.S. cloud services company Joyent as it builds its services business around mobile phones and the Internet of Things.

Vimeo wins appeal against record labels in copyright lawsuit – Vimeo has succeeded in fending off a lawsuit over hosting copyright-infringing music files on its video site. The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York announced the ruling Thursday, absolving Vimeo of any legal responsible for the actions of its users under the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The plaintiffs in the suit included Capitol Records and subsidiaries of Sony Corporation.

Sears doubles down on the smart home with new Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard products – The retailer rolled out everything from sensor-laden appliances to tool chests with Bluetooth smart locks at an event in New York.

Microsoft is working on software for the legal marijuana industry – Microsoft’s next bet is on the weed business. The company announced today that it will partner with LA-based marijuana startup Kind on a system for tracking the legal growing and sale of weed. According to a statement issued today by Kind, Microsoft will work with the startup on software services for governments tracking legal weed, with Microsoft powering the software through its Azure cloud computing service.

Microsoft buys Wand to boost its chat-centric “conversations as a platform” vision – Microsoft just bought Wand, a chat app for iOS, to further its vision of conversations as the next big computing platform.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox One keyboard support is very close, mouse a bit later – It is a revelation that will most likely be met with both anticipation and dread, depending on which gaming side you’re camping on. Playing with a keyboard and a mouse is coming really, really soon for the Xbox One. For PC gamers more used to those input controls, it is welcome news. For console gamers dreading the feared amalgamation of Microsoft’s console and PC gaming worlds, it is yet another omen of that future. Of course for Microsoft, it just means being able to play Windows 10 games on any Microsoft-powered device, which ultimately means more profit for the company.

The 10 most exciting PC games of E3 2016 – There’s no way to spend enough time with each of these games to say with any certainty which are actually better than the others. So instead we’re taking a different tack. A more personal one. Rather than listing the so-called best PC games of E3 2016, these are the 10 PC games that got us personally excited at the show—the ones that got our own hearts pumping.

Meet Box Island, a new iOS game that aims to teach kids the fundamentals of code – Two years in the making — so long before the public outing of Apple’s Swift Playgrounds — Box Island is a new iOS game that promises to teach young kids the fundamentals of coding. By taking control of Hiro, described as a “charismatic cube-like sidekick,” you are tasked with solving various puzzles set in a bespoke 3D world that require the application of basic algorithms, pattern recognition, sequences, loops and conditionals. The whole game, of which the first 10 levels are free to play, follows Hiri’s story-driven journey, which Box Island’s makers, who all came to coding late in their lives, claim keeps kids highly engaged and motivated while playing.


tvOS 10 FAQ: Everything you need to know about the next Apple TV update – What are the biggest new features? What didn’t Apple announce at the WWDC 2016 keynote? And how did it get to version 10 already? We’ve got answers.

Hulu teams up with Disney to offer popular kids programing – Over 500 episodes and more than 20 original movies of Disney-ABC Television Group are now exclusively available in Hulu’s Kids library.

How to Play Facebook’s Hidden Soccer Game – Heard about Facebook’s secret new football game? Well it’s tucked away inside the Messenger app, so here’s how to play it.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Women use tablets, men prefer Smart TVs, says revealing U.S. Data – The U.S. government is collecting data about tech device use by age, education, sex, and other demographics and analyzing it — and that data says some interesting things about technology use in America. Take, for instance, the Internet of Things. About 7% of Internet users at least 15 years of age have used the Internet to control a thermostat, light bulb, security systems or some other household equipment, according to a government analysis released Tuesday. That amounts to about 13 million people. The government also reported that 40% of wearable users live in households with family incomes above $100,000 — and 52% are college graduates.

10 things I learned about people while working in IT – If you’ve spent any time in IT, you know that human interaction is a big part of the job. And while you’re interacting with those people, you’ll learn a thing or two. Or 10.

Hard of hearing? Pornhub now provides audio description for its adult films – The porn streaming site’s latest initiative aims to give the visually impaired a helping hand by offering professional narration to accompany its most popular videos.


Adult films come complete with dialogue? Who knew!    Smile

Machine learning: The smart person’s guide – From Apple to Google to Toyota, companies across the world are pouring resources into developing AI systems with machine learning. This comprehensive guide explains what the concept really means.

Social media rallies activists to remove Stanford rape-case judge – Just two weeks after news of the sentencing hit Twitter, millions have signed petitions and are attending events aimed at removing the judge from the bench.

Online loan sharks demand nude selfies from borrowers as collateral – Sleazy online lenders in China are giving students loans so long as the students send along naked photos as collateral. The loan sharks threaten people who fail to pay with posting the photos online as well as sending the pics to their families.

The Earth’s age: Billions of years or just thousands? – It’s another in our series of roundly discredited theories, myths, and rumors — ones that have pretty much no leg to stand on, but still, despite this fact, continue to be believed and propagated by far, far more people than we would like to admit. Like a flat earth, a faked moon landing, or the existence of Bigfoot, this theory coming up has been roundly disproved by countless scientists, and, in a more rational world, wouldn’t even be a topic of discussion.

Election Tech: How data-driven marketing is changing politics and business – TargetedVictory co-founder and Romney analytics guru Zac Moffatt explains how programmatic advertising helps campaigns microtarget audiences and raise more money than the competition.

Something to think about:

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

–    Isaac Asimov

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Surveillance reform measure blocked in the wake of Orlando killings – The U.S. House of Representatives voted down an anti-surveillance amendment after some of its members expressed concern about its impact on the fight against terrorism, in the wake of Sunday’s massacre at a nightclub in Orlando.

The measure was proposed by Congressman Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, and Congresswoman Zoe Lofrgren, a Democrat from California, as as an amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act.

It would prevent warrantless searches by law enforcement of information on Americans from a foreign intelligence communications database and prohibit with some exceptions the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency from using any funds appropriated under the Act to require that companies weaken the security of their products or services to enable surveillance of users.

The amendments had earlier been passed in 2014 and 2015 but were stripped from the defense appropriations bill before it reached the President. This year its timing seems to have been its biggest handicap, coming a few days after the killings at the Orlando nightclub.

They’re at it again: Senate panel votes to weaken net neutrality rules – It’s the issue that won’t die: A Senate committee has voted to weaken the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee voted Wednesday to approve a bill that would exempt small broadband providers from rules requiring them to provide their customers with information about network performance, network management practices, and other issues.

The rules are intended to give broadband customers data about actual speeds, compared to advertised speeds, and potentially controversial congestion management practices.

The Senate bill, the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act, would still ensure “meaningful transparency for consumers” because older FCC rules requiring some disclosure of network management practices remain in place, said Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican and committee chairman.

The committee’s vote on the bill, with strong support from majority Republicans, came just a day after a U.S. appeals court upheld the FCC’s net neutrality rules in full. Congress has the power to weaken or kill the rules, however.

Huge FBI facial recognition database falls short on privacy and accuracy, auditor says – The FBI has fallen short on assessing the privacy risks and accuracy of a huge facial recognition database used by several law enforcement agencies, a government auditor has said.

A new report, released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office Wednesday, shows the FBI’s use of facial recognition technology is “far greater” than previously understood, said Senator Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat who requested the GAO report.

The FBI’s Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System (NGI-IPS), which allows law enforcement agencies to search a database of more than 30 million photos of 16.9 million people, raises serious privacy concerns, Franken added in a press release.

“Facial recognition technology is a new and powerful tool that holds great promise for law enforcement,” he said. “But if we don’t ensure its accuracy and guard against misuse, I am concerned about the risk of innocent Americans being inadvertently swept up in criminal investigations.”

The FBI’s use of NGI-IPS has lacked transparency because the agency has been slow to assess the privacy impact when changes are made to it, according to the GAO report.


Filed under Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – June 15, 2016

What you should know about torrenting;  Windows 10 forced updates — lots of blame to go around;  The 10 Most Pirated Movies;  10 Ways Texting On Your iPhone Is About to Change Forever;  No Apple TV? Your iPad can be an Apple Home Hub;  Critical Adobe Flash bug under active attack currently has no patch;  ‘Springboard’ Is Google Now for Business;  Hackers Make Off With Over 40 Million Passwords From 1,000 Sites – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Windows 10 forced updates — lots of blame to go around – There have been many reports of people whose computers were updated to Windows 10 without their permission. Even here in Computerworld, Preston Gralla wrote that it happened to his wife. Same thing for Brad Chacos of our sister site PCWorld. People are mad at Microsoft, quite understandably. But, let’s call a spade a spade. Any computer that was upgraded to Windows 10 by Microsoft’s automated procedure, was being cared for by someone who was not paying attention.

Major Windows 10 update nears as Microsoft stops adding features to previews – Microsoft is hurtling towards the consumer release of its big Windows 10 Anniversary Update with the latest beta build for its operating system. Testers are being enlisted in a “Bug Bash” to help find and fix issues.

Five apps that make Outlook easier to use – The modern workforce spends a good part of the workday using an email client like Outlook. These five add-ins can make that time more productive and much less frustrating.

12 built-in iOS apps you should replace with third-party apps – iOS 10 will give iPhone and iPad users the ability to delete stock apps such as Mail, FaceTime, and Music and replace them with apps of your choosing. But which apps should you choose?

10 Ways Texting On Your iPhone Is About to Change Forever – When Apple’s next iPhone update launches this fall, iMessage will become more than just a means of sending simple messages and emojis. The company is building a handful of new capabilities into its messaging software that allow iPhone and iPad owners to communicate in different ways. Here’s a look at all the new features coming to iMessage in iOS 10.

What you should know about torrenting – I was a teenager in the days of Napster and LimeWire, when illegal files flowed through the internet like free hamburgers through a freshman dormitory orientation session. I didn’t understand the legality of file sharing, let alone the technical explanation of how it worked. Peer-to-peer file distribution has changed over the years. Though I feel more savvy to the legal issues, I am no less dumbfounded by how it all works. That’s why I invited my colleague Ashley Carman onto this week’s show. She provides a brief history of file sharing, then explains how torrenting works in the present. Is it legal? Who does it hurt? Why do people use it? We have answers to all that and more.

The 10 Most Pirated Movies – Prepare your popcorn right now. That said, before you dive into last week’s most pirated movies, please understand that this fine publication doesn’t condone illegally streaming or downloading movies. Really, it does not! That’s not what we’re trying to accomplish in this weekly update. This most pirated movies roundup contains mere observations about the nature of Internet film piracy. That’s it. We’re just the messengers, folks, and possess no ill will toward movie studios, even though they greenlight highly questionable projects. Got it? Good. With that clarification out of the way, let’s talk about last week’s crop of pirated movies!

Facebook Messenger for Android gets SMS support – Facebook has announced that Messenger for Android now allows users to send and receive SMS messages directly within the app, eliminating the need to toggle away from it whenever a new text message comes in. Some users have already seen this feature as part of Facebook’s testing — rumor had it in February that we’d see SMS return to Messenger soon, in fact — and for everyone else, it arrives today.

Twitter Boosts Blocking Feature – Twitter users have long been able to block people, but the microblogging service this week closed a loophole that makes sure those you don’t want to hear from never wind up on your timeline. Until this week, someone you had blocked could still make an appearance on your feed if another follower re-tweeted them. Similarly, they could see your tweets if a follower of yours re-tweeted you. Going forward, that won’t happen. “We’re making Block easier to help you control your Twitter experience,” Twitter tweeted.

‘Springboard’ Is Google Now for Business – Google on Monday unveiled a new digital assistant for enterprise customers. Dubbed Springboard, the program helps businesses “find the right information that you need at the moment that you need it.” A sort of Google Now for businesses, Springboard uses artificial intelligence to search all information across Google Apps—Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Drive, Contacts, etc. Looking for last month’s sales strategy? Type the query into Springboard and you’ll be greeted with emails, documents, videos, and more saved content relating to the search.


Facebook’s suicide prevention tools will now be available to all users – Facebook has updated its suicide prevention tools and is now making them available worldwide. The tools, which let people flag posts from friends who may be at risk for self-harm or suicide, were previously available only for some English-language users. Other users could report posts through a form, but the new tools make the process quicker and less complicated. In an announcement, Facebook said its suicide prevention resources will be available in all languages supported by the platform. The company’s global head of safety Antigone Davis and researcher Jennifer Guadagno wrote that the tools were “developed in collaboration with mental health organizations and with input from people who have personal experience with self-injury and suicide.”

No Apple TV? Your iPad can be an Apple Home Hub – Apple’s update for HomeKit may make the Apple TV even more important, with its addition of remote access to control things from afar, but it turns out you don’t actually need the set-top box. In an ideal setup – and certainly how Apple presented it at the WWDC keynote this week – the Apple TV running the upcoming version of tvOS acts as a Home Hub, but if you don’t have, or don’t want, the set-top box, you can use something else.

Netflix for iPad updated with picture-in-picture support – The last few Netflix for iOS updates have resulted in the same outcry: where is picture-in-picture support for all the iPad owners desperate to use it? Why hasn’t it been added? Was Netflix purposely ignoring its users’ requests? There was gnashing of teeth. People anguished. That ends today, though. Netflix has released an update for its iOS app that adds, among other things, support for picture-in-picture on the iPad.


The Very Best Headphones We’ve Ever Tested – These are the top-rated on-ear and around-ear headphones we’ve rated, at a wide variety of price levels.

Microsoft Office to get another controversial revamp – Just when you thought you have put the horrors of Ribbons and Tiles behind you, it seems Microsoft is ready to tempt fate again. At Speaking at the Bloomberg Technology Conference, Microsoft Office chief experience officer (CEO?) Julie Larson-Green revealed that she just shook up again one of Microsoft’s most sacred products. She is reorganizing and re-aligning teams in order to turn the Office suite from being document-centric to task-focused, with individual pieces of content easily accessible from Cortana. Probably much to the chagrin of long-time Office users again.


Critical Adobe Flash bug under active attack currently has no patch – Attackers are exploiting a critical vulnerability in Adobe’s widely used Flash Player, and Adobe says it won’t have a patch ready until later this week.

Safari 10 will turn off Flash by default when it ships with macOS Sierra – Apple is driving another nail in the coffin of Adobe Flash by no longer telling websites that offer both Flash and HTML5 that the plug-in is installed on users’ Macs.

Ransomware now locks your smart TV – and then demands Apple iTunes gifts – Malware researchers at Trend Micro have discovered a new variant of ransomware that locks up Android smartphones and Android TVs. FLocker, which is short for Frantic Locker, has posed a threat to Android smartphones since May 2015, but one version of several thousand variants has now gained the ability to infect smart TVs. The malware will lock a device’s screen and then displays a ransom message in the local language, purportedly from US Cyber Police or another law-enforcement agency. Next, it demands $200 in iTunes gift cards to unlock the infected device. Trend Micro says the malware operates in the same way on Android smart TVs as it does on smartphones.

Hackers Make Off With Over 40 Million Passwords From 1,000 Sites – Hackers have stolen the personal data, including usernames, passwords, email addresses, and IP addresses of more than 45 million people who are members of car, sports, and tech sites such as, and, according to the data breach notificaton site LeakedSource. “This data set contains nearly 45 million records from over 1100 websites and communities,” LeakedSource wrote in a blog post published on Tuesday. “Each record may contain an email address, a username, an IP address, one password and in some cases a second password.” All the sites that were victim of this hack run on a platform provided by VerticalScope, a Canadian company that owns and operates around 480 “online communities, content portals, and e-newsletters,” according to the company’s official website.

Don’t run JavaScript email attachments: they can carry potent ransomware – Attackers are infecting computers with a new ransomware program called RAA that’s written entirely in JavaScript and locks users’ files using strong encryption.

Data breach average costs hit $4 million mark on average – Ponemon finds that the healthcare industry has the highest costs per breached record. Data breach costs are up 29 percent from 2013.

The Car Hacker’s Handbook digs into automotive data security – In the coming age of autonomous cars, connected cars, and cars that can communicate with each other, the city’s infrastructure, our phones, and the entire internet of things, data security is going to be paramount. That’s why Craig Smith, who has spent 20 years working in banking and healthcare digital security, wrote The Car Hacker’s Handbook: A Guide for the Penetration Tester.


It’s [insert month] of 2016, and your Windows PC can still be owned by [insert document type] – Critical fixes for Office, Internet Explorer, and Windows DNS Server highlight this month’s edition of Patch Update Tuesday. The Redmond Windows slinger has kicked out 16 bulletins this month, five rated as “critical” and the remaining 11 considered “important” risks. Not to be outdone, Adobe is also dumping a load of patches for the second Tuesday of the month. The Adobe patches include an actively targeted vulnerability in Flash and multiple updates for ColdFusion, Brackets, Creative Cloud desktop application and DNG SDK.

Hackers invade Dems’ servers, steal entire Trump opposition file – A hack on the Democratic National Committee has given attackers access to a massive trove of data, including all opposition research into presidential candidate Donald Trump and almost a year’s worth of private e-mail and chat messages, according to a published report.

Doctors asked not to tweet confidential information worth $8B at conference tweet it anyway – Technically Incorrect: At the American Diabetes Conference, trust is tested. It fails.

Apple ramps up privacy – now all iOS apps must encrypt web connections by year end – Apple is accelerating its push for encryption, mandating that all iOS apps enforce secure connections over the web by the end of 2016.

Computer crash wipes out a decade of US Air Force data – More than 100,000 internal investigations records dating back to 2004 have been lost, Air Force officials say.

Company News:

The biggest maker of Raspberry Pis was just acquired for $871 million – Premier Farnell, the biggest maker of the wildly popular Raspberry Pi minicomputer, is now being acquired by Daetwyler Holding AG, a Swiss industrial component supplier, for approximately $871 million. According to Bloomberg, the union will reportedly allow both companies to better compete in the components market.

Twitter tunes up SoundCloud with a fresh investment – Twitter has invested in the audio streaming company SoundCloud, according to multiple reports. The investment, first reported by Recode, unites the two companies roughly two years after a botched buyout would have joined SoundCloud’s audio armory to Twitter’s social media platform. Both companies have fallen on hard times, with Wall Street punishing Twitter’s lackluster growth and SoundCloud saying earlier in the year that it needed the cash infusion to stay alive. According to a Financial Times report, Twitter’s venture arm made a $70 million investment at a $700 million valuation.

Samsung Pay launches in Australia to take on “tap-and-go” credit cards – Samsung Pay has expanded its reach in the Asia-Pacific region with yet another country launch. This time it is Australia, where Samsung smartphone owners can now use the service. Its launch Down Under–where tap-and-go credit cards are already popular–comes the day before Samsung Pay is set to debut in Singapore. The service is already available in South Korea, the United States, China, and Spain.

Uber is seeking up to $2 billion in high-risk loans – Today, The Wall Street Journal reported that Uber, the world’s wealthiest startup, is seeking up to $2 billion in loans from institutional investors, as it continues to bleed cash in most of its markets outside the US. The money would come from the leveraged-loan market, which is an untraditional place for startups like Uber to seek cash. According to the Journal, Uber is tapping two banks, Barclays and Morgan Stanley, to sell a leveraged loan of $1 billion to $2 billion, although there is no guarantee the deal will take place. Uber is also planning on issuing debt in the coming weeks, but no word on how much. The move comes on the heels of the ride-hailing company’s sale of $3.5 billion in equity from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Oracle pledges $3 million to help girls learn science, math and tech – The business-software maker worked with the White House to donate $200 million to support computer science education in the US. Now it’s adding even more to focus on women’s education.

Games and Entertainment:

47 must-see PC gaming gems revealed at E3 2016: Watch every trailer – The big-name publishers trip over themselves to announce PlayStation and Xbox exclusivity deals during blockbuster “Day Zero” conferences, and Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft’s booths eat up mammoth chunks of the conference floor. But here’s the thing: While consoles get all the E3 hype, the vast majority of the games revealed at the show actually wind up on PCs as well, thanks to the inclusion of AMD hardware in every major next-gen console. Every time you hear the term “console exclusive” at E3—rather than PlayStation or Xbox exclusive, specifically—that means the game’s destined for computers, too. And this year there were a whole lot of “console exclusives,” not to mention a whole show devoted solely to PC gaming.

Sling TV hits Apple TV with a new interface, more channels – Sling TV, Dish’s internet-based streaming TV service for cord cutters, has rolled out a number of changes to coincide with its debut on Apple TV, announced yesterday at Apple’s WWDC keynote. The company also launched a dozen Viacom channels across both its service tiers, including popular additions like Comedy Central, BET, MTV, Nick Jr., Spike and more. The Sling TV app is getting a new look-and-feel, too, with a more personalized interface that offers tools for tracking favorite channels, shows, movies and more.


PlayStation VR release date and pricing confirmed – The PlayStation VR is coming! The PlayStation VR is coming! Well, we all knew it was coming and had an idea of how much it’ll cost you to get one. At the PlayStation press event at E3 2016, Sony laid out (mostly) the full details of its launch. PS VR will finally be coming to stores on October 13, this year of course, and it will stick to the $399 price tag.


Nintendo’s new game is the Zelder Scrolls – The new Zelda game is called Breath of the Wild, we found out today, and while it’s still jam-packed with Zelda series conventions — you still play as blond boy Link, you’re still in Hyrule, you still love hurling ceramic pots around — it also seems to represent quite a break with the prescribed paths of previous Zeldas. Breath of the Wild seems to have taken its cues from huge western RPGs like Skyrim, giving Link free reign to run around its huge map, and allowing players to dictate how they approach puzzles, and giving them the chance to plot their own course through the game.

Linux gaming is poised for a boost with new hardware, Vulkan graphics – For decades, Windows has remained the gaming platform of choice for PC users. Linux gaming has suffered from poor hardware support and lack of titles, but that could slowly change.

Off Topic (Sort of):

AMA takes on NRA: Doctors prep for political battle over gun violence crisis – Following Sunday’s tragic mass shooting in Orlando—the deadliest in US history—the American Medical Association has officially declared gun violence in the US an unrivaled public health crisis. With this declaration, the AMA will now actively lobby Congress to overturn legislation that has kept the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence for the past 20 years—legislation backed largely by the National Rifle Association. The AMA now joins other medical organizations, including the American College of Physicians and American College of Surgeons, in declaring gun violence a public health crisis and pushing for renewed research. However, the declaration from the AMA may hold the most clout as the powerful organization has a massive membership and is a top spender when it comes to lobbying. Between 1998 and 2011, the AMA came up as the second highest spender on lobbying in the country, shelling out around $263 million.

What’s everyone saying about net neutrality? – Today’s appeals court decision to uphold the Federal Communications Commission’s rules regarding equal access to the internet gives the FCC another legal victory.

I’ve given up on budget phones, and maybe you should too – I’ve owned my share of budget phones over the years. In fact, the first smartphone I bought after my trusty LG KS360 slider phone died was some cheap ZTE phone on Cricket’s network. I don’t remember what kind it was, but I do remember the $40 price tag was hardly low enough to justify the terrible performance. I’ve had higher-end budget phones since then, but as of last year, I gave up on them altogether. Some things, it turns out, are always worth the money.

Woman poisons husband’s underwear in murder attempt – Genital rotting” isn’t a phrase anyone ever utters because things are going well, unless maybe it’s to announce that the process has been reversed. Or maybe as part of an apology for a horrendous misdiagnosis. Why the talk about genital rotting? Because for one extremely unfortunate husband in China, that’s what happened when his wife tried to off him. Causing his privates to rot wasn’t necessarily part of her plan — she just wanted him dead and planned to poison him. It’s the way she delivered the poison that led to the grisly side effect. See, she didn’t slip trace amounts of poison in his drinks for weeks or hide it in his shampoo or toothpaste. This devious black widow devised a rather different way to deliver doses of paraquat, a commonly-used herbicide, to her husband. She soaked his underpants in it and dried them in the sun.

2,000-year-old butter found buried in a bog is still edible – 170-year-old shipwreck beer that’s still drinkable? Sure, I’ll try that. But a 22-pound chunk of 2,000-year-old butter unearthed in an Irish bog that you say is edible? That’s all you. But experts really do think that it’s still edible despite being lost in the bogs of Meath County, Ireland for two millenia. Back in those times, bogs were commonly used to store food that can spoil because of their natural power of preservation. It’s possible that someone stashed it there and planned to dig it up later, but the butter may also have been an offering to an ancient deity. One reason the staff of the Ireland’s National Museum think that is because of how deep it was buried. It was twelve feet down when turf cutter Jack Conway uncovered it.

Wolf optical illusion shows internet a howling good time – Sure, you’ve picked a side in the infamous dress debate and figured out the brick wall photo. But watch long enough, and this latest visual puzzle solves itself.


Inside the digital historical tour of Sydney Opera House with Google Cultural Institute – The Sydney Opera House is one Australia’s most monumental landmarks and a must visit for tourists. For many, however, the distance and cost involved to travel to Sydney is a massive obstacle. Travellers no longer have to deal with the long haul flight or the fear of missing out, thanks to the Sydney Opera House recently announcing a partnership with Google Cultural Institute to give visitors the chance to explore Australia’s most famous building right from their screens.


The extraordinary sculptural form of the roof takes shape (1965)  (Image: Max Dupain, State Library of New South Wales)

India’s fintech revolution is primed to put banks out of business – While global stock markets reset and U.S. tech unicorns readjust to new expectations and valuations, India’s tech renaissance is just beginning to flourish.

Something to think about:

“We say keep your change, we’ll keep our God, our guns, our constitution.”

–      Sarah Palin

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Appeals court upholds FCC’s net neutrality order – Today, the federal appeals court for Washington, DC upheld the legal authority behind FCC’s Open Internet Order in a 2-1 decision, as first reported by Politico. Faced with multiple legal challenges, the court declined to pare back any of the commission’s powers. The ruling can still be appealed to the Supreme Court, but it hands a major victory to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and net neutrality advocates at large.

Filed the day after the FCC issued its landmark Open Internet Order, the lawsuit challenges the FCC’s power to classify internet providers as common carriers under Title II. “These rules will undermine future investment by large and small broadband providers, to the detriment of consumers,” The National Cable and Telecommunications Association argued in a brief in support of the lawsuit. “[The order] willfully ignores the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in reliance on the prior policy.”

The lawsuit also questioned whether the FCC had the authority to group wired and wireless services under the same rules. During oral arguments, judges had expressed support for the idea of extending the rules to wireless services. “So if I’m walking in my house with an iPad,” Judge Srinivasan asked a lawyer, “at one end of the hall I connect to my Wi-Fi, at the other end, my device switches over to my wireless subscription — did Congress really intend these two services to be regulated totally differently even if I can’t tell the difference?”

After net neutrality loss, ISPs get ready to take case to Supreme Court – Today’s court decision upholding net neutrality rules is a huge legal milestone for the Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to more strictly regulate Internet service providers. But as you might expect, the fight is not over, and it could end up being decided by the Supreme Court.

The FCC won a 2-1 decision (full text) from a three-judge panel at the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as judges rejected challenges to the FCC’s reclassification of broadband as a Title II common carrier service and imposition of net neutrality rules. But ISPs and their lobby groups are not out of legal options: they can ask the same court for an “en banc” review in front of all of the court’s judges instead of just a three-judge panel. If that fails, they could appeal to the Supreme Court, or they could skip the en banc step and go straight to the nation’s highest court.

The Supreme Court can pick and choose what cases it wants to hear, so there’s no guarantee ISPs would even get in front of the justices. Law professors interviewed by Bloomberg said chances of a high court review are so slim that ISPs would be best served by asking for an en banc review first. The fact that it was a 2-1 decision instead of 3-0 may increase the chances of an en banc review, but there’s no reliable way to predict how it will turn out.

A popular cloud privacy bill stalls in the Senate – A bill to give email and other documents stored in the cloud new protections from government searches may be dead in the U.S. Senate over a proposed amendment to expand the FBI’s surveillance powers.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act would require law enforcement agencies to get court-ordered warrants to search email and other data stored with third parties for longer than six months.

Under U.S. law, police need warrants to get their hands on paper files in a suspect’s home or office and on electronic files stored on his computer or in the cloud for less than 180 days. But under the 30-year-old ECPA, police agencies need only a subpoena, not reviewed by a judge, to demand files stored in the cloud or with other third-party providers for longer than 180 days.

A similar bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a 419-0 vote in April. But sponsors of the Senate bill, Senators Mike Lee and Patrick Leahy, pulled the bill from consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week after another committee member insisted on pushing forward with an amendment that would expand the FBI’s controversial National Security Letter (NSL) surveillance program.

The amendment from Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, would allow the FBI to use the administrative subpoena NSL program to obtain electronic data from communications providers.

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Filed under Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – June 13, 2016

Lost all your files to some nasty ransomware? We’re here to fix that;  15 Games We’re Most Excited to See at E3;  Over 8 billion devices connected to the internet;  Facebook to users: Download Moments or say goodbye to your synced photos;  The cheapest phone plans with the most data (2016);  How to back up your precious photos while traveling abroad;  How I cut my data usage in half on Android;  Should you unplug your smartphone charger when it’s not in use? –  and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Over 8 billion devices connected to the internet – By the end of 2015, there were 8.1 billion internet-connected, claims a report by IHS Technology. These devices consist of smartphones, tablets, PCs, TVs and TV-attached devices such as Apple TV and Chromecast, and audio devices. Averaged out across the globe, this works out at four devices per household.


Facebook to users: Download Moments or say goodbye to your synced photos – If you’ve synced photos from your phone to Facebook, you have until July 7 to get the Moments app or download your photos; otherwise, they will disappear from Facebook.

Facebook activates Safety Check after Orlando massacre, its first use in US – Tool for informing contacts that you are safe turned on after gunman kills at least 50 people in Orlando, Florida, night club.


Facebook turns on Safety Check tool after the deadliest mass shooting in US history – Facebook

How to back up your precious photos while traveling abroad – CNET’s Maggie Reardon helps you prevent phone thieves in foreign lands from stealing your vacation memories.

Linux Mint 18: Hands on with the Cinnammon and MATE betas – The Beta Releases for Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon and MATE are available now. That means it won’t be long until the final release. Here’s my experience with them so far.


Linux Mint 18 – Cinnamon and MATE Desktops

The cheapest phone plans with the most data (2016) – Let’s face it: phones plans aren’t really phone plans so much as they are mobile Internet plans. Not many people care about how many texts or minutes they get anymore (it’s almost always unlimited anyway), not when WhatsApp and Messenger and Skype and a slew of other apps exist with the same functionality and a better user experience. Long gone are the days of truly unlimited mobile data, though, and in their wake we’re left ever-hunting for the best ratio between cost and high speed data.

How I cut my data usage in half on Android – I added my teenage sister as an extra line on my Verizon plan in April, which was great except that I didn’t want to pay for more data, so now there were two of us chipping away at a 3GB data allotment rather than one. Three gigabytes were perfectly fine when it was just me. I thought two people would have no problem assuming we were conscientious and modest about our usage, but when May ended with 98% of that data having been used, it was apparent more drastic steps were needed.

Should you unplug your smartphone charger when it’s not in use? – How many smartphone and tablet chargers do you have? Ever wonder how much it’s costing you to leave them plugged in 24/7? Ever wonder if you should unplug them when they’re not being used?

Here’s a sneak peek at what’s coming in the next Linux Mint – The beta version of Linux Mint 18 ‘Sarah’ made its debut this week, and a final release won’t be far behind. Here’s a look at what’s coming to this popular free and open-source operating system.

Yes, you can build your own smartphone – Forget the iPhone or the latest Samsung Galaxy handset, and build your very own custom smartphone, complete with touchscreen and built-in camera. Here’s one example built around a Raspberry Pi board, and Adafruit Fona GSM board, a 5-megapixel camera, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and a 3.5-inch display. You’ll have to shop around for some of these parts, but the last time I looked they were all still available.



WhatsApp introduces quoted message responses – How many times have you been messaging a group of people and you try to answer a question or respond to something, but someone else writes something unrelated before you can reply? Your message and the one you’re trying to respond to end up with several lines of text in-between as other people chime in. It makes the conversation hard to read, and the context of your message can become unclear. That’s exactly what WhatsApp’s new quoted message feature aims to address.


Lost all your files to some nasty ransomware? We’re here to fix that – Download one of our free decrypter tools to recover your files without paying the ransom. (Recommended by delenn13)

Security researcher: Anyone can see links you share using Facebook Messenger – A quirk in Facebook’s developer tools lets anyone randomly see links others have shared using Facebook Messenger. But don’t hold your breath for Facebook to issue a fix.

Twitter didn’t have a password breach, your uncle did – This week a leak to the dark web included the passwords of thousands if not millions of Twitter users. Through our first report on this leak, LeakedSource suggests that the bulk of the users affected by this data breach were and are in Russia. It was also reported earlier this week that it was not Twitter itself that was hacked, but a vast number of users that, via malware, were being monitored and, as they used Twitter, their Twitter passwords were recorded.

Your cell phone number could be hijacked unless you add a PIN to your carrier account – Two-factor authentication and other verification systems are for naught if someone can call your phone carrier and get your number transferred to them.

Company News:

How GE is using 3D printing to unleash the biggest revolution in large-scale manufacturing in over a century – In 2015, GE inaugurated a new, Multi-Modal manufacturing facility in Chakan, India. If the company’s ambitions for the space are realized, it could drive a massive change in global manufacturing.

Symantec to acquire Blue Coat for $4.65 billion – Security company Symantec is to acquire Web security provider Blue Coat for US$4.65 billion in cash in a deal that will broaden the portfolio of security technologies the combined company can offer customers.

Google, Baidu and the race for an edge in the global speech recognition market – Speech recognition technology has been around for more than half a decade, though the early uses of speech recognition — like voice dialing or desktop dictation — certainly don’t seem as sexy as today’s burgeoning virtual agents or smart home devices.

Dell’s enterprise, PC units see sales slip in Q1 – Dell’s first quarter revenue fell 2 percent, but its units held up well relative to the broader market. Dell is looking to close its purchase of EMC.

Your next iPhone could have Intel inside – Intel has missed out on the iPhone party until now, ceding big business to other chip makers in the process. But that could be about to change. Apple will use modems from Intel in some models of its next smartphone, replacing chips from Qualcomm, according a Bloomberg report Friday. An Intel modem will go into iPhones for the AT&T Wireless network in the U.S. and in some international versions, the report says. If true, it would be a big win for Intel, especially after its decision to cancel its upcoming Atom chips for phones. Intel has kept its modem business alive, in part because it hopes to capitalize on the upcoming move to 5G networks.

Haunted by China, Amazon pumps $3 billion more into India – After failing to grab any significant market share in China, Amazon sets its sights on dominating the next big opportunity in global e-commerce.

Games and Entertainment:

Skyrim remastered is launching in October for Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4 – Nearly five years after it first came out, Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim continues to have a very impressive fan base that keeps the game pretty through HD mods. Now it’s Bethesda’s turn: tonight at its E3 press conference, the company has announced a remastered version of Skyrim coming to PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.


Slimmer, sleeker new Xbox One S leaks before Microsoft’s E3 2016 event – The list of E3 announcements that’ve leaked is probably longer now than the list of ones that haven’t. Add one more to the list, as an image of the Xbox One S (for slim) has apparently leaked in this Neogaf thread. Worth noting: This is not the rumored more powerful Xbox One refresh (codenamed Project Scorpio). This is the Xbox One’s current internals, crammed into a smaller chassis, just like the Xbox 360 S or the PS3 Slim. It’s beautiful, though. Way better than the chunky Xbox One model from 2013, especially when stood vertically like in the below image. Not only is the chassis smaller, but the power brick is now housed internally.


Microsoft Fixes Free Fallout 4 Price Mistake, Revokes Purchases – A pricing error led to a bunch of gamers getting a free copy of Fallour 4 and its DLC via the Xbox Store. They didn’t get a chance to play them for long, though.

Nvidia quietly kills 3- and 4-way SLI support for GeForce GTX 10-series graphics cards – Adios, Enthusiast Key. Nvidia’s doing away with plans to require a special software tool to unlock 3- and 4-way SLI setups. But instead of making systems with three or four GeForce GTX 1080 or GTX 1070 graphics cards play nice out-of-the-box with the company’s Game Ready drivers, Nvidia’s pretty much declaring 3- and 4-way SLI setups dead for traditional gaming.


15 Games We’re Most Excited to See at E3 – While this list may not have every game that folks are anticipating, it does cover the biggest titles that will leave the most lasting impression on gamers. Check out 15 of the most anticipated games of this year’s E3.

Valve Releases Free VR World Builder, Destinations – The package includes the same Source 2 engine tools Valve uses internally and an example map you can modify.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Guns killed more Americans in 12 years than AIDS, war, and illegal drug overdoses combined – 50 people were killed at a shooting at the Pulse gay bar in Orlando, Florida. It’s a shocking number — the largest mass shooting in American history. It’s also part of a rolling national tragedy: roughly 33,000 Americans every year are killed with firearms (homicides, suicides, and accidents). In the abstract, it’s hard to appreciate just how catastrophic this death toll is. So we made a chart to make things more concrete. It compares the number of Americans killed by guns between 2001 and 2013 to the number of Americans killed by war, AIDS, illegal drug overdoses, and terrorism combined during the same time period. It turns out that guns killed more Americans than all of those horrors put together:

After Orlando massacre, Donald Trump takes to Twitter to ‘appreciate’ congratulations – Of all the messages tweeted by major figures after 50 people were killed in Orlando, none was like that of the presumptive Republican candidate.

How do we stop killers from exploiting social media? – We are presenting this story again in light of the horrifying events in Orlando, Florida on Sunday. A terrorist attack on a gay nightclub — the largest mass shooting in US history — killed at least 50 people. As we learn more about the hateful attack, as in other mass shootings that have plagued the US in recent years, a troublesome media cycle may repeat itself.

Texas politician’s tweet after Orlando massacre appalls Twitter – Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor of Texas, tweets that you reap what you sow just a few hours after more than 50 people were murdered in a gay club in Orlando, Florida.

Video: The right way to kill a drone – So you want to kill a drone. Maybe your neighbors are flying their machines over your backyard or zooming past your windows. Maybe you’re on stage giving a talk about implementing SSL and you’re being dive-bombed by drone cam. Heck, maybe you want to destroy your own drone just to watch it die. We understand, and that’s why Ars’ intrepid video editor Jennifer Hahn has made this helpful guide to drone destruction.


Disturbing new site scrapes your private Facebook and informs landlords, employers – Score Assured takes a “deep dive” into all your social-media activity, analyzes the words you use and recommends whether you’ll be a good tenant or employee.

Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone, says Nancy Pelosi – The House minority leader says the US government was behind the actual invention; Jobs merely designed Apple’s famous phone and put it together.

Something to think about:

“I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts.”

–    Mark Twain

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The NSA wants to monitor pacemakers and other medical devices – The NSA is interested in collecting information from pacemakers and other biomedical devices for national security purposes, according to The Intercept. Richard Ledgett, the agency’s deputy director, reportedly said at a conference yesterday that, “We’re looking at it sort of theoretically from a research point of view right now.”

That suggests this isn’t something the NSA is actively doing; and if it did have the ability, Ledgett indicates that it wouldn’t exactly be a core source of information. “Maybe a niche kind of thing … a tool in the toolbox,” he said, according to The Intercept.

Still, it’s both wild and disconcerting to think that something as critical as a pacemaker could be monitored by a hacker. The NSA doesn’t plan to stop at that, either. Perhaps less surprising is Ledgett’s broader suggestion that the NSA is interested in using information from any internet-connected device.

National Intelligence director James Clapper indicated as much back in February, as The Intercept points out. The Guardian reports Clapper saying, “In the future, intelligence services might use the [Internet of Things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials.” Though he’s stating it here as a hypothetical, it’s not hard to imagine that the NSA views the addition of connectivity to more and more devices — be it a fridge or a pacemaker — as valuable.

It’s not a Fourth Amendment search if a cop swipes your credit card, court finds – A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that law enforcement can legally scan or swipe a seized credit card—in fact, it is not a Fourth Amendment search at all, so it doesn’t require a warrant.

In the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals’ 15-page opinion, swiping a card does not constitute a physical search, as the magnetic stripe simply contains the same information obviously visible on the front of the card. Plus, the defendant, Eric-Arnaud Benjamin Briere De L’Isle, couldn’t have had a reasonable privacy interest in the card, the court concluded, because he would have tried to use it when he tried to buy something, thereby giving up privacy interests to a third party (the issuing bank).

According to court records in United States v. De L’Isle, the case began in June 2014 when Eric-Arnaud Benjamin Briere De L’Isle was driving westbound on I-80 and was pulled over by a Seward County, Nebraska, sheriff’s deputy.

The deputy, Sgt. Michael Vance, pulled over De L’Isle (also known as “Briere”) for following too close to a tractor-trailer. As Sgt. Vance approached the car, he noticed the distinct “odor of burnt marijuana” coming from within the car, and he observed three air fresheners hanging from the rear-view mirror. After questioning De L’Isle, Sgt. Vance suspected that the driver might have drugs, so he deployed his drug-sniffing dog.

While no drugs were located, the law enforcement agent found and seized:

Cyberterrorism and the role of Silicon Valley – For the moment, at least, cyberterrorists have not harnessed the technology they would need to destroy Western civilization from a basement lab in some remote corner of the world.

Although Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said a “cyber-Armageddon” scenario is unlikely any time soon, new technological developments have the potential to allow terrorists to move from low-tech killings aimed at gaining attention and creating fear to high-tech sabotage aimed at disrupting the sinews and social tissue of society.

While defense budgets are declining in much of the developed world, the threat of terrorism has elevated homeland security concerns. Terrorists make no distinction between front lines and home fronts, between combatants and civilians.

Fear of terrorism, sometimes exaggerated, has put governments under pressure to prevent terrorist attacks before they occur, which means intervening before intentions become actions. One way to know what evil lurks in the heart of potential terrorists is to monitor what people say and write. Police states do that all the time, but democracies have strict rules about when and under what conditions that may be permitted.

Crafty plan to give FBI warrantless access to browser histories axed – A sly attempt to grant the FBI warrantless access to people’s browser histories in the US has been shot down by politicians.

Unfortunately, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Amendments Act of 2015, which would have brought in some privacy safeguards for Americans, was cut down in the crossfire.

The ECPA Amendments Act is very simple: it amends the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which gives cops and agents warrantless access to any email that has been read or is more than 180 days old.

That 30-year-old act made sense back in the day of 20MB hard drives and when we stored own emails on our own computers: if we deleted something to save space or to simply destroy it, it was gone. But in today’s cloudy world, where we have no real control over our information, it has proven a privacy nightmare. (By the way, the ECPA was used against Microsoft by the Feds in New York in 2014 to demand emails from a data center in Ireland.)

The ECPA Amendments Act of 2015 would have eliminated the 180-day rule, and ensures investigators get a warrant for the contents of emails.


Filed under Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – June 10, 2016

Google Chrome hacks: Make your browser faster, more efficient, and boost your productivity;  5 free streaming-TV apps (and why you’re probably not using them);  How to monitor ReadyBoost performance in Windows 10;  Why your next laptop should be a Chromebook;  Facebook allows users to upload videos in comments;  Here’s the one surprising lesson I learned as a victim of debit card fraud – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google Chrome hacks: Make your browser faster, more efficient, and boost your productivity – Simple hacks to make your installation of Google Chrome better, faster, more RAM efficient, and to help make you more productive.

5 free streaming-TV apps (and why you’re probably not using them) – In a perfect world, companies like Apple and Roku would open up their search tools so that any streaming service—large or small—could bring its content to the surface. Those services could then start hawking their wares in search results as a way to alert people to their existence. Until that happens, you’ll have to do some hunting and pecking. So here are five free streaming-video apps and services to keep an eye on, along with some of their best stuff. You can also read our Now Streaming column for our resident film critic’s specific content recommendations, which highlights movies available on these and other services.

Windows 10 tip: Stay organized using virtual desktops – You no longer need third-party software to use virtual desktops, now that this feature is included in Windows 10 as part of Task View. Here’s how to create extra desktops and move open apps and windows between them.

How to monitor ReadyBoost performance in Windows 10 – Just how much is ReadyBoost optimizing your system’s disk performance? Here’s a look at how to use Resource Monitor and Performance Monitor to nail down the specifics. I recently performed a clean install of 64-bit Windows 10 Pro on an older ASUS F3 with an AMD Turion 64 X2, 80GB hard disk, and 1GB of RAM. This is the system on which I have been experimenting with ReadyBoost. Since it really highlights a use case for ReadyBoost, I’ll use that system for this article.

Facebook allows users to upload videos in comments – Facebook users can now leave videos as comments on posts and status updates. By selecting the camera icon underneath a string of replies — previously used only to add a photo — you’re now able to upload your own video clip on Facebook’s iOS and Android app, as well as on its regular site. The feature was prototyped in a single day as part of the company’s 50th Hackathon early this year, but was honed over the past few months, Facebook engineer Bob Baldwin explaining that it was “no small feat to add support across interfaces and within two heavy traffic services, like comments and videos.”


Another 4 Gmail Labs features for a more productive inbox – Google’s incubator for experimental features offers up ways to prevent phishing scams, add extra inboxes, and more.

Tinder discontinues service for users under 18 – Tinder is discontinuing use of the app for everyone under the age of 18 starting next week, according to a statement from Tinder VP of Communications Rosette Pambakian. The dating app has allowed everyone 13 years of age or older to use the app since it launched back in 2012. Anyone between 13 and 17 years old was only allowed to match with others in that pool. However, that is all changing with today’s announcement, which requires that users be over 18 to sign on and start swiping.

Five apps to help you start a business – Starting a new business is challenging, but technology can make this daunting process just a little bit easier. The internet is filled with apps to help entrepreneurs get their new business up and running. Here are a few helpful tools to check out.

Why your next laptop should be a Chromebook – Chromebooks are good. Very good. If you’re looking to replace a laptop then you really should take a look at them.

Watch Lenovo’s foldable, flexible phones in action – This afternoon the folks at Lenovo let it be known that they were well into development of two Android-based smartphones with bendable displays. These devices utilize flexible pieces – flexible displays, first and foremost – as well as bits and pieces within that make their next-level wearability and foldability a possibility for the real world. These devices were shown off at Lenovo Tech World by YouTube personality Megan McCarthy and Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius.


Bluetooth 5 will be announced next week with four times the speed and double the range – The next version of the Bluetooth standard is called Bluetooth 5, and will be formally announced next week, Bluetooth Special Interest Group executive director Mark Powell has revealed. Bluetooth 5 is expected to be a significant upgrade over the current version of the wireless standard, offering double the range and four times the speed of current low-energy Bluetooth transmissions, but the Bluetooth SIG says it will also offer much more support for connectionless services — things like beacons that can help people navigate inside buildings or out in the open.

Uber is rolling out a Scheduled Rides feature – Uber’s great except for those times you can’t seem to get a driver. It may not be a big deal if you’re looking for a quick trip across the neighborhood, but if you’ve got a flight to get to, ensuring you can get a car is imperative. Enter one of Uber’s most-requested features: Scheduled Rides. The service has made the feature live in Seattle as of today, and plans to roll it out to other cities around the globe.

Using your phone to scan documents and old photos – Life has gone digital, but all sorts of documents and photos remain. It is uncomfortable leaving the important ones in their physical paper form — a flood, a fire, a mischievous cat are all potential sources of destruction, and it’s not really possible to replace an old photo for which the negatives are long gone. A scanner is the way to go if you want the best copies possible, but for every other situation, your phone is surprisingly capable of digitizing them.

Microsoft has created its own FreeBSD image– Microsoft has created its own cut of FreeBSD 10.3 in order to make the OS available and supported in Azure. Jason Anderson, principal PM manager at Microsoft’s Open Source Technology Center says Redmond “took on the work of building, testing, releasing and maintaining the image” so it could “ensure our customers have an enterprise SLA for their FreeBSD VMs running in Azure”. Microsoft did so “to remove that burden” from the FreeBSD Foundation, which relies on community contributions.


Here’s the one surprising lesson I learned as a victim of debit card fraud – There’s a good reason why the bank didn’t tell me it was happening…

Securing your car from cyberattacks is becoming a big business – A modern car has dozens of computers with as much as 100 million lines of code — and for every 1,000 lines there are as many as 15 bugs that are potential doors for would-be hackers. While cybersecurity became a top priority for carmakers after a 2015 Jeep Cherokee was hacked last year, the lead time for developing a new car is three to five years and with a service life of 20 years or more, most vehicles have systems that have vastly outdated compared to the latest consumer electronics devices. That’s creating what researchers expect to be an enormous market for vehicle anti-malware and secure hardware.

uTorrent forums breached via software vendor, consider passwords compromised – uTorrent forums warned users to consider passwords compromised and change them. Have I Been Pwned posted a notice about the BitTorrent IP.Board-based forum being hacked, adding that besides passwords, the breach included usernames, email and IP addresses.

A hacker claims to be selling millions of Twitter accounts – A hacker, who has links to the recent MySpace, LinkedIn, and Tumblr data breaches, is claiming another major tech scalp — this time, it’s said to be millions of Twitter accounts. A Russian seller, who goes by the name Tessa88, claimed in an encrypted chat on Tuesday to have obtained the database, which includes email addresses (and sometimes two per person), usernames, and plain-text passwords. Tessa88 is selling the cache for 10 bitcoins, or about $5,820 at the time of writing.

Security versus privacy? There’s only going to be one winner – Encryption might enable absolute privacy but in the long term national security will have to prevail, warns former Foreign Secretary William Hague.

One of the World’s Largest Botnets Has Vanished – With no warning, one of the world’s largest criminal botnets—a massive collection of computers used to launch attacks—has disappeared. Researchers have reported huge drops in traffic for two of the most popular pieces of malware which rely on it. “We can only tell that the Dridex and Locky spam campaigns stopped since June 1 in our observation. We cannot confirm how the botnet was brought down yet,” Joonho Sa, a researcher for cybersecurity company FireEye, told Motherboard in an email. Dridex is a piece of malware typically used to empty bank accounts, while Locky is a particularly widespread form of ransomware, which encrypts a victim’s files until they pay a hefty bounty in bitcoin. The two campaigns have been linked in the past.

Company News:

Avast expands beyond security with new storage-optimizing app called Photo Space – Avast is a company best known for its security software, but the days where everyone’s first download to their Windows PC is an anti-virus program are fading into the past. The 25-year old software maker still claims 230 million individuals and businesses using its security applications for mobile and PC, including anti-virus, VPN utilities and other programs, but today it’s expanding into a new direction: photo management. With the debut of a new app for iOS called Avast Photo Space, the company is now aiming to help users free up storage on their devices by moving full-res photos to the cloud service of users’ choice, while optimizing those photos remaining on the device.


Apple is making so much clean energy, it formed a new company to sell it – Apple has created a subsidiary to sell the excess electricity generated by its hundreds of megawatts of solar projects. The company, called Apple Energy LLC, filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to sell power on wholesale markets across the US. The company has announced plans for 521 megawatts of solar projects globally. It’s using that clean energy to power all of its data centers, as well as most of its Apple Stores and corporate offices. In addition, it has other investments in hydroelectric, biogas, and geothermal power, and looks to purchase green energy off the grid when it can’t generate its own power. In all, Apple says it generates enough electricity to cover 93 percent of its energy usage worldwide.

Apple website again hints at OS X name change to ‘macOS’ – Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is only a few days away, but it’s looking more and more like one of the announcements we can expect at the keynote is a rebranding of the Mac’s OS X to simply “macOS.” Following similar discoveries earlier this year, a page on the company’s developer replaced “OS X” with “macOS” (specifically with a lower-case M) alongside Apple’s other operating systems like iOS, tvOS, and watch OS.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft launches a free trial of Minecraft: Education Edition for teachers to test over the summer – Following up on its promises from January, Microsoft today released a free trial of Minecraft Education Edition – the version of Minecraft meant for use in the classroom – to educators worldwide. This “early access” version of the program includes new features and updated classroom content and curriculum, the company also says. For those unfamiliar with the Education Edition, the idea is to bring the world of Minecraft to the classroom to be used as a learning tool where students can develop skills in areas like digital citizenship, empathy, literacy, and more.


Microsoft admits Halo 5 isn’t coming to the PC – Halo 5: Guardians debuted on the Xbox One in October, and rumors of its port to the PC have persisted ever since. While Halo franchise director Frank O’Connor said “there is plenty of chance that Halo 5 could appear on the PC” back in October, it appears that Microsoft isn’t planning to port the title to PC. “Our approach is to deliver epic Halo experiences designed for PC gamers and Windows 10, such as Halo Wars 2 and the recently announced Halo 5: Forge,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to PC Gamer. “There are no plans to port Halo 5: Guardians to PC.”


No more Mr. Nice Ubisoft: First-time Division cheaters now banned permanently – In a move intended to help stem a wave of cheating in the online portions of The Division, Ubisoft says it is rescinding its policy of issuing 14-day suspensions when a player is first detected using a cheat engine. Now, those players will be permanently banned when found. The new policy comes after The Division team said it became clear to them that the 14-day suspension policy currently in place “has not been dissuasive enough… judging from your feedback, and based on what we witnessed when cheaters came back to the game.” That 14-day suspension policy was itself an increase from the previous three-day suspensions that were given out for first offenses until late April.


Destiny’s first major expansion in over a year is coming out this September – Destiny developer Bungie unveiled its first big addition to Destiny since The Taken King this afternoon. Rise of Iron is the interplanetary shooter-MMORPG’s next expansion, and it’s being released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 20th for $30 USD. (It’s the first Destiny content that isn’t being released for last-gen consoles, i.e., the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.) Bungie dove into Rise of Iron for the first time with a Twitch stream this afternoon, one that introduced the game’s new playable area — the Plaguelands, a devastated and dangerous part of what used to be Russia — and the mutated Fallen enemies that call it home.


Microsoft abandons Xbox One TV DVR feature – During last year’s Gamescom event, Microsoft announced that it would be adding TV DVR to the Xbox One. This feature would allow users to record free-to-air TV programs remotely, and stream or download them to Windows 10 PCs and mobile devices. This was meant to be an alternative to Windows Media Center for Windows 10, which the company killed off. It looks like the Xbox One will now have no TV DVR functionality at all as Microsoft is abandoning the feature.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The PC Hardware Nerd Quiz – Think you know your hardware? Put your big brain to work on this gallery of PC hardware trivia and you just might learn a thing or two.

The tipping point for rebellion – We are all getting lazy and spoiled. We’re not choosing simple over better, but easy over passably good. We’re self-sabotaging ourselves because effort is a price too great to pay for anything. At what point do we rebel? At what point do we notice that it’s the friction in life that enables us to feel something? That “difficult” is where satisfaction comes from, that the search is part of the destination, that life is for living and living is about experiences — and that involves thought and effort and the satisfaction of amazing and the risk of awful.

The Case for Giving Everyone Free Money – Sometime in the last few weeks, or months, or years, you may have heard about this idea called “universal basic income.” It’s the idea that maybe governments should give a monthly stipend—no questions asked—to everyone who lives there. It’s an idea we’ve covered quite a bit over the years, and it’s one that’s increasingly gaining steam among people on both sides of the political spectrum. Conservatives and libertarians say that it can simplify the bureaucracy associated with things like welfare and food stamps, and liberals like it because it would strengthen the social safety net.

Here’s why you might not want to make money decisions after a tough work day – After a hard day at the office, where you were focused intently on a challenging project, you may consider a choice on the way home: impulsively splurge on a fancy dinner as a reward for that cerebral slog or save that bit of cash as planned—perhaps putting it toward a relaxing vacation next month. Despite any frugal inclinations, your weary noggin may not be able to rally your normal level of willpower, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It also may point to the need for more brain-resting periods throughout a workday.

A single strain of the plague may be behind 7 centuries of deadly outbreaks – Fresh genetic sequencing data of plague bacteria from victims in Spain, Germany, and Russia suggest that a single wave of the deadly microbes sparked the Black Death as well as the subsequent outbreaks that flared for centuries in Europe and in the 19th century pandemic in China. This single wave also gave rise to plague strains behind some modern outbreaks. The study is the first to make a genetic link between the Black Death and modern plague, the authors report in Cell Host & Microbe. For the study, researchers collected bacterial DNA from the teeth of 178 individuals found in a mass-grave site in Barcelona, Spain, a single grave in Bolgar City in Russia, and a mass-grave site in Ellwangen, Germany.


The mass plague grave site in Ellwangen, Germany, which was dated to between 1486 and 1627.  Rainer Weiss

Pint-sized exoskeleton aims to help kids walk again – The exoskeleton the little boy in the image here is wearing was created by engineers from the Spanish National Research Council and rather than being designed for adults, this one is designed to help children. Specifically the 26-pound aluminum and titanium exoskeleton aims to help children with spinal muscular atrophy known as SMA. The simple act of walking could help stave off potentially deadly side effects of the disease.


Democracy, film review: How the EU’s data protection law was made – This documentary is almost as extraordinary an achievement as the passage of the General Data Protection Regulation: it makes data protection law and legislative compromise engrossing. Who knew that was even possible?

Something to think about:

“Get the facts, or the facts will get you. And when you get them, get them right, or they will get you wrong.”

–    Dr. Thomas Fuller(1654 – 1734), Gnomologia, 1732

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

US developing real-time camera-based behavior monitoring system – In the not-so-distant-future, your every public action may be monitored by cameras that deliver video feeds to behavior tracking systems capable of analyzing your actions for suspicious elements in real-time. The system is called Deep Intermodal Video Analytics, DIVA for short, and it is currently a research project with the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency. As you may have guessed, it is being developed under the banner of fighting terrorism.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency published a project synopsis last week which, in part, says:

The DIVA program will produce a common framework and software prototype for activity detection, person/object detection and recognition across a multicamera network. The impact will be the development of tools for forensic analysis, as well as real-time alerting for user-defined threat scenarios.

Senator Tells Funny J. Edgar Hoover Story to Warn Against Expanded FBI Surveillance Power – SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, D-Vt., warned colleagues Thursday to think hard before expanding FBI surveillance powers, sharing a cautionary tale about his own experiences with former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

“I know we’ve had some wonderful people in our government, but I worry anytime you give a lot of extra powers. There’s always potential for abuse,” Leahy said at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting

Leahy said he was on the board of the National District Attorney’s Association when he met with Hoover, now best known for surveilling anti-war protestors, Martin Luther King, and others. FBI Director James Comey has said he keeps a copy of Hoover’s request to wiretap King on his desk as a reminder of the FBI’s past mistakes.

“We were all over six feet tall”— except Hoover, Leahy said. “But we were all looking up at him. The legs of our chairs had been cut off, and his had been built up. He was talking about all these people he had to investigate … [saying] it’s these hippies who are really communists.”

“I’m glad I didn’t have a Volkswagen,” Leahy said, recalling how Hoover identified “hippies” with those particular vehicles.

“I was always having nightmares thinking what would a man like that do with enormous enhanced powers in the digital age. I’m sure you share my concerns, so let’s work together,” he concluded.

The legislation at issue is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2015 — a widely supported bill that would require a warrant when law enforcement wants to access the contents of emails older than 180 days.

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Filed under Latest Tech News

Technology – That Was Then, This is Now

This guest post is contributed by my Aussie mate, Jim Hillier. Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at Dave’s Computer Tips. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele… as well as writing for DCT, of course.

I was just sitting and thinking the other day – you probably heard the strange ticking noises – about how far PC technology has advanced over the past few decades. I’m getting a bit long in the tooth now so these moments of nostalgia are not uncommon.

A computer of some kind or another has been a part of my life for so long and I marvel at the differences between what we thought was the bees knees 30 odd years ago to what we expect today.


I started off circa 1980 with a TRS-80 purchased from Tandy, this was a very basic machine compared to today’s PCs but at that time it was considered pretty cool. Programs came on pre-recorded tapes which were loaded via a connected tape player. They were very volume sensitive with each program requiring its own optimum volume level and users had to keep a list of what programs loaded best at what volume setting. I taught myself Basic language during that time and used to amuse the kids with little programs I’d write especially for them.


Next, I moved on through the Commodore series of computers, starting off with a good old Commodore 64 and eventually to an Amiga 500 and 600. When it came to playing games, these machines were incomparable in their day. I still have a working Amiga 500 and 600 stored away in the garage but, unfortunately, the floppies and software have long fallen victim to far too many house moves.

I can’t even recall the exact specs of my first Windows PC but I do remember they were far from spectacular. Those were the days when 20GB hard drives and 256MB RAM were pretty much the norm. I do, however, still remember the specs, if not the model number, of my first Windows XP machine purchased from Dell some 14 years ago which came with an 80GB hard drive, Pentium 4 CPU, and 512MB RAM – pretty good specs at that time but laughable by today’s standards.


I’ll tell you something; XP sure taught me a lot about computers and the Windows operating system. I think I spent most of that initial year or so with XP on Google looking up how to fix this and that. XP really was a horrible operating system when it was first released, regularly BSODing all over the place. A decade and 3 service packs later, of course, XP had matured into a pretty good OS, but people tend to forget about those formative years.

Following the Dell’s untimely demise, I built my first custom machine. This was during a period when hardware advancements really went crazy and the “norm” moved to unprecedented new heights. The new norm for hard drive capacities increased from 40-80GB to 350-500GB.  The new standard for RAM was now 2-4GB rather than a measly 512MB, and Intel had introduced a whole new range of powerful CPUs.

My latest custom built machine is even more powerful of course. I always try to build my machines to specs which offer value while still retaining at least some relevancy for a period of time. However, technology is moving forward at such a rate that this is often a fool’s errand and, even as the last screw secures the tower’s side panel, I am aware that the machine is probably already outdated.


I can’t finish up without also mentioning the dramatic advancements in peripherals. I remember saving up for months to purchase an Epson LQ dot matrix printer which cost an exorbitant $599.00au, ten times the amount of today’s basic multi-function inkjets.

And who remembers the old CRT monitors, whose bulk and weight belied their small screen size?


Who would have thought that those humble beginnings would lead to a tiny portable device capable of not only making and receiving phone calls but also connecting to the internet, watching videos, playing games and music, taking photos, etc.

As I watch today’s youngsters nimbly manipulating their internet connected smartphones and tablets, I can’t help but wonder what awesome technological innovations might be in store for them during the next 30 years. The mind boggles!



Filed under computer, History