Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – June 3, 2016

Microsoft makes blocking Windows 10 ‘Recommended’ update near impossible;  The Best of Computex 2016;  Stop Facebook tracking you across the web, change these settings;  10 forgotten (but still useful) tips for Microsoft Word;  Five Android apps to feed your RSS needs;   Free up Android space: Google trials uninstall app tool to help you do it;  Google My Account can now locate Android and iOS devices;  7 Video Games You’ll Want to Buy in June;   ‘Tramps Against Trump’ Will Trade You Nudes for Voting This Election – and much more news you need to know.

Microsoft makes blocking Windows 10 ‘Recommended’ update near impossible: Report – Microsoft’s push to update existing Windows 7 and 8.1 users is now becoming a shove, according to a new report. But it now sounds like the situation may not be as dire as feared.

These devices add Windows Hello biometric authentication to any Windows 10 PC – Windows Hello is Microsoft’s biometric security system for Windows 10 PCs, but it requires special hardware. Japan’s Mouse Computer will soon launch add-on sensors for any PC.

Stop Facebook tracking you across the web, change these settings – It takes less than a minute to opt-out of Facebook’s new ads system.

The Best of Computex 2016 – From powerful processors to adorable robots, Computex 2016 did not disappoint.

Five Android apps to feed your RSS needs – RSS offers an efficient way to stay in the know, but the right newsreader can make a big difference. Here are five outstanding Android apps that should do the trick.

10 forgotten (but still useful) tips for Microsoft Word – Plenty of Microsoft Word commands have gathered a bit of dust over the years, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful for those who remember them. Here are 10 tricks you may find handy.

Google launches a simpler website testing tool aimed at small businesses – Google today is launching a new tool aimed at helping business owners determine how well their website performs on the mobile web, including on both smartphones and tablets. Given that mobile searches surpassed desktop search for the first time last fall, it’s critical for website owners – but also for Google – that the sites showing up in search results are accessible, functional and performant. The new website testing tool (available at testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com) is simple for anyone to use – you don’t have to be technical.

Facebook to enable community-activated Safety Check – Facebook is making its Safety Check feature more stable and easier to deploy, which means that you might start seeing more Safety Checks on the platform. Before today, engineers had to type code to deploy a Safety Check. Now, there’s a simple form that any Facebook employee on the team could activate, which brings the total of people able to deploy a Safety Check from about two to a dozen throughout the world. Safety Check is Facebook’s tool that enables you to quickly let people know that you’re okay during a crisis.

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Upgrading to Windows 10 and questioning The New York Times – Recently, The New York Times ran a long article, “Why Windows 10 Upgrades Go Wrong, and How to Avoid It,” that featured questionable claims and large omissions. This is my attempt to set the record straight. I was lucky enough to get feedback on the article from Woody Leonhard, who writes about Windows for InfoWorld, and Leo Notenboom who, for years, has been answering questions about Windows on his askleo.com site. Both are experts on the subject and live on the front lines when it comes to battling Windows. Unlike the expert in The Times’ article, Notenboom and Leonhard have public presences online, allowing you to judge their expertise for yourself. I trust them.

Free up Android space: Google trials uninstall app tool to help you do it – Android Police, which first reported the feature, notes the ‘app uninstall manager’ recommends uninstalling apps that aren’t frequently used. It’s specifically aimed at the moment a user attempts to install an app but can’t, due to a lack of space. When that occurs, Google Play will display how much space is needed and how much space is taken up by each app it is recommending for uninstalling. Users can simply check which of the listed apps they want to uninstall to make way for the new app.

ChromeOS bug halts automatic updates on certain Chromebooks – When updates come out for a device, it tends to be good practice to install them. This is especially true for firmware updates, as they can sometimes drastically change the operation of the device. Unfortunately, sometimes those updates can backfire, and that’s exactly what appears to have happened with certain Chromebooks.

Hands-on with Manjaro Linux 16.06 RC2: An excellent distribution – The official Xfce and KDE releases will have a fresh set of ISO images for new installations. I have installed the latest Release Candidates for both of them, and updated a couple of other Manjaro 15.12 systems. Here are the results.

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Manjaro Linux 16.06 – Xfce Desktop

Russian facial recognition program beats Google, but big privacy questions linger – NTechLab’s facial recognition app uses AI to identify a face among billions of photos in less than a second, and is one of the best in the world, but the Russian startup draws concerns from academics.

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This App Maps Your Face Wrinkles to Help You Deal With Aging – RYNKL is a mobile app that aims to make users aware of their facial wrinklescapes beyond mere vanity. In the long-run, the creators want to help you extend your lifespan. For the moment, snap a selfie and the app will map the saggy areas around your mouth, eyes, and forehead. Using a mixture of deep learning and imaging techniques, RYNKL can work out each user’s “wrinkle index” by looking at the depth of sag and the breadth and number of creases. Users can also compare how their faces fare in relation to people in the same peer group.

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This Terrifying Chart Shows Smartphone Makers Are in Deep Trouble – Smartphone sales across the world are slowing as global markets hit their saturation points, according to Kleiner Perkins venture capitalist Mary Meeker‘s often-cited annual “Internet Trends Report.” Device shipments grew 10% in 2015, compared to 28% growth in the previous year. Here’s a look at the data contained in Meeker’s report, released June 1.

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The PC upgrade cycle slows to every five to six years, Intel’s CEO says – The upgrade cycle for PCs has slowed down drastically, now extending to nearly six years, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said on Wednesday. The “replacement cycle for the PC has extended,” Krzanich said. “Four years was the average, now it has moved to about five to six years.” Intel needs to ramp up its efforts and release the right innovations so people are motivated to upgrade PCs quickly and easily, Krzanich said at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York.

Security:

Google My Account can now locate Android and iOS devices – With the first birthday of My Account here, Google has added three new features to give users more ways to easily access, control and protect personal data. One of the new features is “Find your phone” to help you locate your phone if it is lost or stolen. Find your phone gives users a way to locate the phone, lock it, and call it. A link to get in touch with your operator is also included to have the device cancelled if needed. Hopefully this is more accurate than Apple’s find your phone feature is in some locations.

Trouble originating between chair and keyboard caused most UK breaches – UK data breaches caused by good old human error rose again early this year, accounting for 62 per cent of all data breaches reported to UK data protection watchdogs in the first quarter of 2016. This far outstrips other causes of breaches, such as insecure webpages and hacking, which stands at nine per cent combined. The figures are based on a Freedom of Information request to the Information Commissioner’s Office by Egress Software Technologies and cover the first three months of 2016. Egress put in similar requests in both 2014 and 2015, meaning it can make a comparison of data breach figures over recent years.

Winking smile    Most of us old timers will remember this as PEBCAK – (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair).

Former NSA and CIA director recommends managing consequences instead of vulnerabilities – Michael Hayden believes managing vulnerabilities is untenable and consequence management using the Risk Equation is preferable. Read about the equation’s components.

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TeamViewer denies hack after PCs hijacked, PayPal accounts drained – TeamViewer users say their computers were hijacked and bank accounts emptied all while the software company’s systems mysteriously fell offline. TeamViewer denies it has been hacked. In the past 24 hours, we’ve seen a spike in complaints from people who say their PCs, Macs and servers were taken over via the widely used remote-control tool on their machines. Even users with strong passwords and two-factor authentication enabled on their TeamViewer accounts say they were hit. It appears miscreants gained control of victims’ TeamViewer web accounts, and used those to connect into computers, where they seized web browsers to empty PayPal accounts, access webmail, and order stuff from Amazon and eBay.

Three important security upgrades to Android N – I updated my Nexus 6 to Android N and, although it’s not a massive change to the interface, I’m very impressed. There are features that users will immediately love, and some features they’ll never know exist. Above and beyond multi-window mode and a few other outstanding features added to the platform, there are three improvements that take on various security issues. These are some of the most important updates to Android.

Company News:

Twitter and Yahoo reportedly meet to discuss merger – Billionaire Warren Buffett, UK outlet The Daily Mail and US telco AT&T have all been said to have expressed interest in buying Yahoo, or at least parts of it, which for months has been looking for a new suitor. Now, we can add Twitter to that list, according to the New York Post. Twitter executives met with Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer weeks ago, the publication reports, to discuss a potential merger. It was noted, however, that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was not present during the discussion.

Samsung plans to add intrusive advertising to its smart TVs – Samsung has long been a giant in TV manufacturing, but falling prices and shrinking profit margins have hit the company’s bottom line. As a result, it’s reportedly testing programs that would add new advertisements to the main menu bar of its higher-end televisions. The program is currently only active in the US but is expected to roll out to Europe as well. The Wall Street Journal reports that this move isn’t confined to top-end televisions from 2015 or 2016; Samsung is exploring adding software updates to older models that would introduce advertising on those platforms as well.

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Samsung Pay debuts in Spain, its first European market – Samsung Pay has launched in Spain, its first European country. This gives the mobile payment service a headstart over competitors Apple Pay and Android Pay, since the two haven’t landed in Europe yet. In Spain, as in other markets, Samsung Pay is available on Samsung’s flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S7 and S6 series. It will also be added to this year’s model of the Galaxy A5 in the next few weeks.

New rules would make CEO Mark Zuckerberg lose control of Facebook if he quits – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg would lose majority voting control of the social networking company if he quits his job or his services are terminated, according to new rules proposed by the board. The rules, which were first mooted as part of a reclassification of Facebook’s shares to help meet Zuckerberg’s philanthropy plans, will be voted on by shareholders at an annual meeting on June 20. The aim of the regulations is apparently to make it easier for the company to hire a top-quality successor to Zuckerberg, who would not be shadowed by the founder or be from his family.

Box down 7% despite “strong quarter” – Enterprise cloud storage company Box posted its first-quarter earnings after the bell on Wednesday. Despite beating analyst expectations on revenue and earnings per share, the stock dropped 12.89 percent then recovered to an 8 percent loss in after-hours trading after investors were disappointed with the billings numbers.

Walmart partners with Uber and Lyft to test grocery delivery service – Walmart is partnering with Uber and Lyft to test a grocery delivery service, in a bid to directly compete with similar offerings from Amazon. The pilot program will begin within the next two weeks in Denver and one other market, Michael Bender, Walmart’s head of e-commerce, said in a blog post this week. A Walmart spokesman tells The Wall Street Journal that the service will launch in Denver and Phoenix. Company CEO Doug McMillon will discuss the program at Walmart’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday. A last-mile delivery program would mark a direct challenge to Amazon, which has expanded its AmazonFresh grocery delivery service to several cities across the US.

Now there’s an Uber service for bike riders – Cycling has become more and more common as way to get around cities and urban environments. It’s easy to understand the growing popularity; riding a bike is cheaper and healthier than owning a car, and many cities are now creating dedicated lanes and paths for cyclists. But there are obviously still times when people need a car, which explains the rapid growth of Uber in similar urban environments. So, in order to be more useful to cyclists, Uber has announced a new service dubbed UberBike.

Saudi Arabia Invests $3.5B in Uber – Uber’s pockets just got a whole lot deeper: The ride-hailing service this week raised $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). Marking one of the largest-ever investments into a privately held start-up, the money pushes Uber’s latest funding series to $62.5 billion, and its total balance sheet to more than $11 billion. “We appreciate the vote of confidence in our business as we continue to expand our global presence,” company CEO Travis Kalanick said in a statement to PCMag. In return, Uber will spend $250 million to expand its presence in the Middle East, where it boasts more than 395,000 active riders and 19,000 drivers operating in 15 cities and nine countries—including Saudi Arabia.

Indian smartphone leader Micromax plans to sell devices in China – The company’s co-founder also added that it was looking into bringing its budget smartphones to the US.

Games and Entertainment:

The Sims 4 discards gender rules for all clothing, customizations – The Sims game series has typically offered a ridiculous number of options for how their virtual denizens live, work, play, and love—and it has never shied away from political blowback in the “love” category. The only major exception at this point has been a delineation between the series’ three types of Sims—men, women, and children—in terms of 3D character rendering. That changed on Thursday with an official unlocking of The Sims 4’s customization options to all grown-up Sims. Voices, walking styles, clothing, accessories, and physiques can now be applied to men and women however users see fit.

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Minecraft hits the 100 million sales milestone – Do you play Minecraft? You’re certainly not alone if you do. According to Mojang, the company has sold an average of 53,000 copies of Minecraft everyday so far in 2016, and it has officially reached (and exceeded) the 100 million sales milestone since first launching. To help put that massive number in perspective, Mojang says that if you were to take everyone who has purchased Minecraft and put them together in the same country, it would be the 12th most populous nation in the world. Because numbers are fun and visuals are easy to decipher, Mojang has published the infographic you see below.

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Seven months later, Valve’s Steam Machines look dead in the water – It’s been about seven months now since Valve officially got into the hardware business with its Steam Machines, a line of Linux-powered gaming console/PC hybrids paired with a unique dual touchpad Steam Controller. Today, we’re getting our first concrete glimpse of the impact that hardware has had on the wider market for gaming machines—and the numbers don’t look too good for Valve.

Surgeon Simulator, Meet Donald Trump – Well, at least you know he’s good for the bill—if the presidential candidate survives your horrible attempts at a virtual heart transplant.

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7 Video Games You’ll Want to Buy in June – As if 2016 wasn’t already a strong year for video games, June bolsters the catalog further with even more titles you’ll want to check out. This month sees notable video game releases across all platforms, including PC, Nintendo 3DS, and even PlayStation Vita, so there’s something to enjoy regardless of your system of choice. We’ve selected seven of June’s hottest titles for our list, so be sure to take a look if you’re in market for a new game.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Don’t Hook These Gadgets Up to the Internet of Things – In this feature, we’ll spotlight the dumbest and most dangerous examples of the Internet of Things, from egg trays that talk to your iPhone to robotic belts that let themselves out when you’ve downed too many hoagies.

Artificial intelligence brings new life to old photos – A team out of Waseda University in Japan has unveiled some pretty cool images from the first half of the 20th century, given new depth with full colorization thanks to an artificial intelligence. Unlike colorizing black and white photos using software, which can be a lengthy process of repeated cleaning and coloring – this AI samples similar photos and applies those colors and tones to the photo at hand. So, for example, if you have an old black and white photo of your grandparent’s house – and that house is still standing today – you can take a photo of it and the AI will learn how to color the old photo based on the tones and levels from the modern day one. Similarly, if you have an old photo of an area or people that don’t exist, the program can still learn and adapt those colors from similarly colored images. The more photos and images it has to pull from, the greater detail and true to color matching it will be able to provide.

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How to survive in the wilderness using primitive technology – Outdoor survival expert Tom McElroy explains how to make the nature your home by constructing sophisticated and ancient technology.

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Image: Tom McElroy

Where do dogs come from? Genetic evidence offers a new origin story – Dogs were some of the first animals that humans domesticated. These furry pals were living with people for thousands of years before we invented agriculture and started keeping other animals like goats and pigs. Though we have archaeological evidence of dog bones within human communities dating back 15,000 years, scientists still aren’t sure where humans began the process of converting wild wolves into snuggly companions. Now, a new study suggests that dogs were domesticated twice—once in Europe and once in Asia, probably around the same time.

‘Tramps Against Trump’ Will Trade You Nudes for Voting This Election – The women behind Sluts Against Harper, the votes-for-nudes campaign that helped to oust the former Prime Minister during the 2015 federal election, have passed the torch to some American friends in their time of need. A group of women in the US are hoping to replicate Sluts Against Harper’s success by turning their attention to pestilential Doritos-dust gremlin Donald Trump with a new campaign called, you guessed it, Tramps Against Trump. The rules are simple: send a direct message to the group’s Instagram account with a photo of yourself outside a polling station (you don’t have to show who you voted for), and the Tramps will send you a nude pic from their roster of women, men, trans, and non-gender binary people.

America votes Galaxy Note 5 their favorite, followed by iPhone 6S Plus – Today the ACSI Telecommunications Report 2016 has revealed consumer satisfaction in smartphones in the United States. This American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report is run on “interviews with roughly 70,000 customers annually”, asking questions about customer satisfaction in brands including Apple, Motorola, Samsung, LG, HTC, and more. Measures are reported on a scale of 0 to 100, 100 being the most satisfied. You might be surprised who holds the number 4 spot – it’s not a phone released this year, nor last year, believe it or not.

NASA finds 39 human-made sources of ‘major’ unreported pollution – NASA has announced that researchers with the space agency, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and a couple universities have discovered 39 sources of unreported pollution, and they’re all caused by humans. The discoveries were made “using a satellite-based method,” NASA said in a statement today, and they all involve toxic sulfur dioxide emissions, which helps contribute to acid rain among other things. The unreported sources of pollution were found using satellite data gathered from 2005 through 2014; they are located in Russia, Mexico, and mostly in the Middle East, and result from places like smelters, power plants burning coal, and facilities related to gas and oil work.

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Arrests for ‘offensive’ Twitter and Facebook messages up by a third – Two-and-a-half thousand Londoners have been arrested over the past five years for allegedly sending “offensive” messages via social media, statistics have revealed. The full number of arrests made by the Metropolitan Police for alleged breaches of Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 increased by 37 per cent over the last five years. A total of 625 arrests were made for alleged section 127 offences in 2010 – a number which had ballooned to 857 by 2015. During the years 2010-2015 2,130 people were arrested between 2010 and 2015 for “sending by public communication network an offensive / indecent / obscene / menacing message / matter” – which is a criminal offence under section 127.

Something to think about:

“That is the greatest fallacy, the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful.”

–    Ernest Hemingway – (1899 – 1961), A Farewell to Arms, 1929

Downloads:

Tor – The Tor network is a group of volunteer-operated servers that allows people to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. Tor’s users employ this network by connecting through a series of virtual tunnels rather than making a direct connection, thus allowing both organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy. Along the same line, Tor is an effective censorship circumvention tool, allowing its users to reach otherwise blocked destinations or content. Tor can also be used as a building block for software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features.

Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers. Tor’s hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses.

Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they’re in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they’re working with that organization.

Groups such as Indymedia recommend Tor for safeguarding their members’ online privacy and security. Activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recommend Tor as a mechanism for maintaining civil liberties online. Corporations use Tor as a safe way to conduct competitive analysis, and to protect sensitive procurement patterns from eavesdroppers. They also use it to replace traditional VPNs, which reveal the exact amount and timing of communication. Which locations have employees working late? Which locations have employees consulting job-hunting websites? Which research divisions are communicating with the company’s patent lawyers?

A branch of the U.S. Navy uses Tor for open source intelligence gathering, and one of its teams used Tor while deployed in the Middle East recently. Law enforcement uses Tor for visiting or surveilling web sites without leaving government IP addresses in their web logs, and for security during sting operations.

The variety of people who use Tor is actually part of what makes it so secure. Tor hides you among the other users on the network, so the more populous and diverse the user base for Tor is, the more your anonymity will be protected.

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Running Tor on my home machine.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

UK surveillance bill “too broadly drafted”, says human rights committee – Another parliamentary committee that has been scrutinizing UK surveillance legislation currently before parliament says changes are needed to remove concerns the Investigatory Powers Bill would afford state security agencies powers that are too broad.

However the Human Rights Committee is generally less critical of the controversial bill than the security-cleared Intelligence and Security Committee, concluding that the controversial bulk powers the government is seeking to enshrine in law are not, in and of themselves, incompatible with European Human Rights law — at least not if certain legal bases are properly established, and checks and balances built in. It says it is basing this assessment on current case law.

“On the current state of the ECHR case-law, we do not consider the bulk powers in the Bill to be inherently incompatible with the right to respect for private life, but capable of being justified if they have a sufficiently clear legal basis, are shown to be necessary, and are proportionate in that they are accompanied by adequate safeguards against arbitrariness,” it writes.

Australia: NSW government playing Big Brother with citizens’ data – The New South Wales government is currently undertaking a data analytics project in South Sydney to determine who lives where and with whom.

The project falls under the scope of the newly created NSW Data Analytics Centre (DAC), with Dr Ian Oppermann assuming the role of DAC CEO in late 2015.

Speaking in Sydney on Wednesday, Oppermann said the urban renewal project is the only one that genuinely frightens him from a technology perspective.

“Here we’re just trying to answer the question of who lives where with whom, and believe it or not, that’s a very difficult question to answer and it’s difficult because we rely on census data as the baseline for understanding,” he said.

With urban planning the tagline for the project, Oppermann said those that are charged with planning transport, schools, water, and electricity need to know accurate residency information in order to make their plans.

“When you project out 10 or 20 years, it actually makes it a very substantial difference if you know household composition,” he said. “Taking a census every five years is actually a pretty slow sampling rate, particularly when everything is changing [quickly].”

Oppermann said the area near Randwick, south of Sydney, is expected to be the most densely populated area of Australia very soon — if it is not already.

Yahoo Publishes National Security Letter Details – Yahoo this week publicly disclosed details of National Security Letters (NSL) received from the FBI, the first time a company has done so thanks to protections of the USA Freedom Act.

“We’re able to disclose details of these NSLs today because, with the enactment of the USA Freedom Act, the FBI is now required to periodically assess whether an NSL’s nondisclosure requirement is still appropriate, and to lift it when not,” Chris Madsen, head of global law enforcement, security, and safety at Yahoo, wrote in a blog post.

NSLs allowed the FBI to demand data about a company’s users without judicial review, and the companies that received them had to remain silent. There’s been some back and forth over whether they are constitutional or not. But the passage of the USA Freedom Act last year allowed for more transparency.

As a result, Yahoo today disclosed NSLs it received in April 2013, August 2013, and June 2015.

The documents are redacted to protect the identities of the involved FBI agents, Yahoo personnel, and affected users.

The FBI is building a tattoo-reading system to chart criminal affiliations – An investigation by the Electronic Frontier Foundation has shed new light on an experimental tattoo recognition program run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and raised serious questions about the privacy safeguards in place.

The FBI first began developing tattoo recognition systems in 2014, as part of a collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, but the program is poised to expand dramatically this year. Over the course of the summer, NIST and the FBI will enter a new phase of the project that will test the current tattoo recognition systems at a much broader scale, hoping to compile as many as 100,000 tattoo images from the Michigan State Police, Tennessee Department of Corrections, and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.


Shortly, the FBI will require all male U.S. Citizens to provide details on their penis – including length and girth – because, you know, it just might assist in solving…      Winking smile

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4 Comments

Filed under Latest Tech News

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – June 3, 2016

  1. Hi Bill,
    Funny you should mention PEBKAC, one of the slides in my current presentation on computer security makes that pretty clear. I also cover the ID10T error.

    Thanks for another interesting and enlightening addition.
    Welcome back. 🙂

  2. John

    G’Day Mate,
    I too echo the same thoughts and best wishes as others here in the past few days in welcoming you back, and look forward to reading your Tech Thoughts for a long time to come.
    HAPPY DAYS!
    Cheers,
    John