Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – June 8, 2016

Security researchers’ smart home findings may keep you up at night;  Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft;  Here’s the free way to make your USB drive faster; Five good replacements for Windows Task Manager;  The Ultimate Adult’s Guide to Snapchat  – and much more news you need to know.

Petition condemns Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade practices, asks EFF to investigate – “Microsoft’s practices with their newest operating system, named Windows 10, has been ignorantly unethical at best and malicious at worst,” wrote the petition organizer, Todd Kleinpaste.

Security researchers’ smart home findings may keep you up at night – See how hackers can unlock smart home door lock codes and more in these proof-of-concept attacks.

Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft – As the incidence of identity theft rises, it’s best to assume the worst and learn how to protect your personal information. In his new book, Swiped, identity theft and fraud expert Adam Levin says that consumers are going to fall prey to these digital threats — so they need to prepare and fight back.

Facebook wants all of you on Messenger — now – Once upon a time, chatting was built into Facebook. Then the social network created Messenger as a thing unto itself, with the iOS and Android versions of the Facebook app directing you to use or install Messenger if you wanted to chat. Now users of Facebook’s mobile website are starting to find themselves in the same boat.

Five good replacements for Windows Task Manager – Task Manager is a valuable tool for monitoring processes and terminating unruly applications-but there are some alternatives out there worth investigating.

Slack voice calls finally available for all – Slack, one of the hottest tools in the realm of team and work communications has just flipped the switch to make its promised voice call feature available for anyone and everyone. It might seem almost antithetical to Slack’s original, primarily text-based nature, but it is an admission that sometimes typed words or even images just aren’t enough to get things rolling in the office. It is also a declaration of war and an incursion into the territory mostly dominated by Skype.

Here’s the free way to make your USB drive faster – Many vendors format their external USB drives in the universally supported FAT32 or exFAT. Simply reformatting in NTFS can triple your speed when you write small files and folders.

How to quickly find out what’s using up your Google Drive space – If your Google Drive account is running out of space, discover the quickest way to find out which files are causing the problem and what you can do about it.

Microsoft Planner is rolling out to all eligible Office 365 subscribers – Microsoft Planner will be rolling out to all applicable Office 365 customers, Microsoft has announced, with today marking the start of the software’s general availability. The rollout will be taking place over “the next several weeks,” heading out to those with Education and Premium subscription plans, Office 365 Enterprise E1-E5, and Business Essentials. When it makes its way to you, you’ll simply see a Planner tile pop up in the Office 365 launcher.

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Finally there’s an open source drop-in replacement for MS Office – There’s a new player in the office suite space and it promises to play well with MS Office. Jack Wallen offers up his take on the new open source FreeOffice suite of tools.

The Ultimate Adult’s Guide to Snapchat – Before I begin, apologies are in order. To the 310 million monthly active Snapchat users, many of whom are in their teens and early 20s: Sorry, but old people are about to crash your party. (I’m not even 40, and I’m one of them.)

Snapchat uncovers Discover – Snapchat combines the best of social networks, magazines, and television in a redesign of its omni-entertainment app. You’ll now see image and headline previews of the content inside Discover channels and Live stories on the Stories page, instead of just logos for the publishers or events they capture. The Discover page now features a Pinterest-style mason grid of tiles, while the Stories page now combines the two rows of static Discover channels and Live Stories into one scrollable row of non-friend content.

This is why your Instagram photos suck (and how to fix it) – Instagram is full of beautiful photographs. If you’ve been on the service long enough, you’ve probably found a bunch of accounts that regularly post mind-blowing images. Each one is beautiful in its own way; you imagine taking photos like it, carefully cultivating your own Instagram account into a trove of skilled, captivating pictures. Reality, though, hasn’t worked out this way. Your pictures aren’t so great and maybe you’re feeling discouraged, but don’t fret. Anyone can take great Instagram photos with the right steps.

Twitter intros three new ways to embed timelines – The first are factory functions, which allow you to generate timelines for a web app, no matter the number. For those looking into the new oEmbed API with a CMS, you can integrate profile, list, like, or collection timelines directly into the work environment. The third (and simplest option) is to opt for the publish.twitter.com approach, which would allow you to customize and embed a timeline into a site, with minimal coding skills required. This is the solution that I can see most new WordPress users leaning towards.

How I went from zero to overclocking in 30 minutes – If you think overclocking is something that only hardcore PC enthusiasts can get into, think again. At Computex in Taipei last week I got the chance to try overclocking Intel’s latest processor, the 10-core Broadwell-E chip, and it was a lot of fun.

How to fill out and sign digital documents on Android – You can sign your life away right on your phone with these finger- and stylus-friendly apps.

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A list of all the Google Now voice commands – What can you do with your voice on your Android phone? More than you know!

Flag’s new app offers free, ad-supported photo prints, no shipping fees required – A new application called Flag has launched on the App Store, promising user free photo prints that are actually free – no shipping or handling charges, no credit card required. This is possible because these photo prints will be ad-supported – that is, businesses pay to advertise on the back of the photo. Effectively, it’s an ad that people will never throw away. The startup has already lined up over 1,500 paying advertisers to get its app off the ground, including VISA and Squarespace, among others.

Security:

Netflix Resets Passwords Following LinkedIn, Myspace Breaches – Netflix sent password resets to those who used their Netflix password on LinkedIn, Tumblr, or MySpace

Facebook Patches Messenger Bug – Attackers could have inserted malicious links into chats to spread malware, among other possibilities.

British security firm hacks Mitsubishi Outlander via mobile app, Wi-Fi – Hacking a car might sound like a silly term that some fearmonger would use to get you all worked up about nothing, but it’s actually a bit scary. Pen Test Partners LLP found that the Outlander PHEV used an interesting method of connecting the car to an owner’s mobile phone. Whereas many mobile apps use the internet as an intermediary between phone and car, Mitsubishi offers a direct connection via Wi-Fi. Add in a weak factory password, and unscrupulous nerds can access the vehicle’s settings.

Six Tips to Avoid Cyber Crooks This Summer – Summer is almost here – the weather is pleasant, and summer vacation is project #1 for millions of us as we slip into a lower gear. As you pack your suitcase this season, remember crooks are always on the lookout. We compiled six tips to help keep your information safe this summer.

How to configure your Chromebook for ultimate security – Chrome OS is already tops at security, but with a few extra tweaks you can ensure the gates are even more secure.

How to Avoid the Microsoft Tech Support Scam – If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be with Microsoft Support, Windows Helpdesk, Microsoft Tech Support or any other Microsoft partner, your scammer radar should beep right away. The caller will most likely tell you that your PC or other device is infected with a virus and that Microsoft or company X can help you solve the problem. The key point is this: Neither Microsoft nor its partners make unsolicited phone calls about computer security or software fixes. The caller is a scammer.

Check your BITS, because deleting malware might not be enough – Rogue Windows Background Intelligent Transfer Service jobs can linger after malware clean-up and re-infect systems.

5 ways to stop spam from invading your email – Your email client (the local program or cloud-based service you use to access and send email) almost certainly filters spam, moving suspicious messages to a separate folder. But it’s not perfect. Some spam tricks the filter and ends up in your inbox. And some legitimate messages, called false positives, end up in the spam folder. While we can’t remove these errors entirely, we can reduce them.

Company News:

Verizon to bid $3B for Yahoo’s core Internet business – Verizon Communications will be bidding US$3 billion for the Internet assets of ailing Yahoo, according to a newspaper report.

Yahoo trying to sweeten sales pot with patent portfolio – The web pioneer hopes to raise $1 billion with sale of about 3,000 patents, including some for core search technology, sources tell The Wall Street Journal.

Doubling down: Amazon investing $3 billion in India – As Indians increasingly move to e-commerce to do their shopping, Amazon is giving domestic companies a big reason to worry. Company CEO Jeff Bezos on Tuesday announced that his company will be investing an additional $3 billion in India. This takes Amazon’s total investment in the country to $5 billion. India’s e-commerce space continues to grow, and is estimated by Morgan Stanley Research to be worth $119 billion by 2020. Bezos said that Amazon India’s performance is “surpassing even our most ambitious planned milestones.”

Apple might get an exception to sell in India after all – Apple’s persistence in negotiations with the Indian government might finally be paying off and it soon might have the fairy tale ending it’s dreaming of for a local Apple Store in India. An anonymous source talking to the Times of India claims that the government might be willing to waive the “30 percent rule” in Apple’s favor for two to three years in order to give Apple the chance to comply with the law and sell locally sourced goods by the time that grace period is over.

Apple Patents Waterproof Speakers, Vibration-Sensing Earbuds – Dropping your phone in the toilet might not mean “game over” much longer.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox One games may come to Windows 10 PCs – Microsoft recently released a preview of the Xbox One Anniversary Update that brings more Windows 10 to the Xbox. But if the latest rumors are correct, Microsoft wants to do a whole lot more by bringing the Xbox console experience to Windows 10 PCs.

Blizzard, Facebook working to let you live stream game play – The two companies say players can log onto games through the social media site and, soon, live stream their game-playing action directly to Facebook.

Google teases VR bowling, Daydream puzzle – This morning the folks at Google’s Daydream Labs have revealed two new VR experiences that may one day make their way to mobile. While previous teasers that’ve been released in this way have been centered on an HTC Vive demo experience, it’s easy to see how one might end up using the Daydream controller to make these games a reality for mobile devices. For now, we can giggle and cross our fingers.

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Skyrim Remaster, Evil Within 2, Wolfenstein 2, and more will be announced at E3 – Report – Following the rumor Monday that one of Bethesda’s E3 announcements was going to be an unspecified remaster project, Eurogamer now reports that this could be for 2011’s acclaimed Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The game will launch for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the report said, though there was no mention of a release date. In November last year, Bethesda revealed that it ported Skyrim to Xbox One, but only as a technical exercise. It appears Bethesda now has grander plans. Additionally, Eurogamer said it has “heard” that Bethesda will announce The Evil Within 2, Wolfenstein: The New Order 2, and the “completely reworked” Prey 2 as part of its briefing.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Do We Really Hate Trump and Clinton So Much? – Something more sinister is happening: The internet has turned us into belligerent critics.

Dashcam footage of cop tasing, dragging, and dropping teen is unsealed – Graphic footage of the 2014 abuse of a 17-year-old by a suburban Kansas City, Missouri, police officer. Officer Timothy Runnels received four years in prison after the incident was captured on the officer’s dashcam. A federal judge on Monday unsealed disturbing dashcam footage of a suburban Kansas City, Missouri, police officer tasering a 17-year-old motorist who became brain damaged after what was billed as a routine traffic stop. That stop subsequently turned into an event of excessive force—resulting in a four-year prison sentence for Officer Timothy Runnels of the Independence Police Department.

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PrecisionHawk eyes an air traffic control system for drones – With companies like Amazon and Google pushing for commercial use of drones, the U.S. government is under tremendous pressure to develop a control system that keeps order when hordes of drones flock to the skies. Professional drone-maker PrecisionHawk is one of the companies working on this problem. At the drone Data X Conference in San Francisco last week, the company showed off LATAS (Low Altitude Traffic and Airspace Safety), a system which uses cell networks and satellites to map the flying area around a drone and ensure that is has a clear airspace.

Passenger drone taxi cleared for take-off in US trials – The EHang 184 pilotless passenger drone carries a single person and has been approved for testing this year in the US. The Chinese-Built drone stole technology trade show CES 2016 in Las Vegas in January, and it won’t have to go far from sin city for tests. The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) have given the green light for the vehicle to take to the skies over the state, with an eye to full approval by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). The Ehang 184 has eight rotors. It can carry a passenger for journeys of up to 23 minutes, reaching altitudes up to 11,500 feet and speeds up to 100kmph (63mph).

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Cell phones and cancer: 9 things you should know right now – The debate over whether cell phone use is hazardous to your health isn’t over, and it may never be.

A brief medical history of farting – One of my favorite hobbies is searching PubMed.gov. I love PubMed — I use it to develop stories, to find sources, and to generally learn about the world around me. For instance: farting.

Keurig Kold soda machine discontinued, company lays off 130 workers – It’s sad news for Keurig, but not terribly surprising: the company’s pod-based soda machine, the Kold, has been discontinued. Consumers weren’t interested in the Keurig Kold, and it’s not hard to see why — the machine cost nearly $370 USD and each pod, which produced one soda beverage, cost about $0.50. Considering a 12-pack of soda cans typically costs between $3 and $5, it would have taken a lot of soda consumption to make the machine worthwhile.

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We don’t update our biases, even after they lead us astray – In adapting to our environment, we’d ideally use the results of previous actions to inform future choices, updating our expectations and decisions to reflect knowledge gained from earlier experiences. However, sometimes we ignore the past’s feedback when we really should pay attention it, leaving us trapped in a series of bad decisions. A study published in PNAS demonstrates that this “bad choice persistence” occurs when changing our decisions would go against our existing biases. This means that our beliefs can trap us in a difficult-to-break bad-decision feedback loop.

Something to think about:

“The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.”

–      Hubert H. Humphrey (1911 – 1978)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Google, Facebook, Yahoo, rights groups oppose FBI expansion of surveillance powers – Google, Facebook, Yahoo and industry and civil rights groups have opposed legislation that would extend the categories of Internet records that the U.S. government can collect without court approval through administrative orders known as National Security Letters.

The companies and groups have pointed out in a letter to senators that the new provisions would expand the types of records, known as Electronic Communication Transactional Records (ECTRs), which the Federal Bureau of Investigation can obtain using the NSLs.

The ECTRs would include a variety of online information, such as IP addresses, routing and transmission information, session data, a person’s browsing history, email metadata, location information, and the exact date and time a person signs in or out of a particular online account.

Accessing your internet browsing history is FBI’s top legislative priority – Tech firms and privacy groups are fighting back against an amendment that would give the FBI a top-level view of “electronic communication transactional records” (ECTRs) without the need for a warrant in terrorism and spy cases.

ECTRs include everything from the websites you’ve visited to how long you browsed a particular page. It’s all up for grabs as part of an amendment to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act being considered this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The legislation would expand the government’s ability to collect data using a National Security Letter, or NSL, which doesn’t require a court order and typically includes a gag order saying the recipient cannot publicly acknowledge the letter.

UK surveillance bill passes House of Commons with bulk powers facing review – The UK government’s controversial Investigatory Powers bill easily passed a vote in the House of Commons yesterday, with 444 votes in favor and 69 against, after securing support from the opposition Labour Party. Only the SNP and the Green Party voted against what critics have dubbed a Snoopers’ Charter.

The Labour party had abstained on an earlier vote, urging the government to make “substantial” changes to the proposed legislation. However this week it trumpeted winning “major concessions” from the government and Labour MPs duly voted with their Conservative counterparts.

New Snowden document reveals UK spy agency warned of ‘too much data’ risk in 2010 – Another document from the original cache leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 has just been published by The Intercept, and it further bolsters the view that government intelligence agencies’ bulk collection of data for investigatory purposes is counterproductive to national security efforts.

The release has been timed to coincide with the UK government’s move to update surveillance legislation and enshrine bulk collection powers at the heart of the security state. The controversial Investigatory Powers Bill is currently being debated in parliament.

Critics of the UK’s IP bill have included the security-focused Intelligence and Security Committee, which slammed an earlier draft for privacy failures, vague language and overly broad intrusive powers. Although the opposition Labour party, which withheld support in an earlier vote on the bill, now appears to be moving towards active support — after winning what it claimed were significant concessions from the government. The bill is continuing its progress through parliament, with further debate in parliament today, followed by a third reading.

Silicon Valley county passes new law requiring approval before cops buy spy kit – A Silicon Valley county has become the first in the United States to vote in a new law that requires “continued oversight and regular evaluation” for law enforcement agencies prior to the acquisition of surveillance technology.

The ordinance, which was unanimously approved by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, requires that the county sheriff and the district attorney’s office seek board approval before those agencies even begin the process of obtaining new snooping gear. The agencies are not required to immediately notify the board in exigent circumstances, but they must do so within 90 days.

Agencies must also submit a usage policy to the county government, and notably, an “Annual Surveillance Report,” which should describe what data the device captures, how the agency deals with information collected about people not suspected of any wrongdoing, and whether the gear has been effective, among other requirements.

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8 Comments

Filed under Latest Tech News

8 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – June 8, 2016

  1. delenn13

    Hey BIll,
    Just thought you might find this interesting.
    Download a free Emsisoft Decrypter for the latest file encryption ransomware

    Not bad for a PAID program. They seem to look after all users.

    BTW what have you been using since Cool Previews has been discontinued? I have been using Contact Peek Link Location. Not really thrilled so far.

    Regards,

    Del

    • Hey D,

      I’ll take a look at this over the weekend and put it up in Monday’s news. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

      I’m still using Cool Previews everyday – didn’t know it had been discontinued.

      Have a super weekend.

      Best,

      Bill

      • delenn13

        Hey Bill,
        Yes, I found out because Firefox won’t allow add ons that are not approved by them to be installed. So I went here…CoolPreviews Alternatives and Similar Software – AlternativeTo.net. But I think I am not going to resarch any more..and switch back to Palemoon. I am not fond of Chrome(I do use it but just a little), no MS browsers and i am sick of the Australis factor…so then..I won’t need Classic Theme Restorer either.

        • Hey D,

          From Mozilla – Override add-on signing (advanced users)

          “You can temporarily override the setting to enforce the add-on signing requirement by changing the preference xpinstall.signatures.required to false in the Firefox Configuration Editor (about:config page). Support is not available for any changes made with the Configuration Editor so please do this at your own risk.”

          Worked for me. 🙂

          Best,

          Bill

          • delenn13

            Thanks, Bill.
            Can do that. But I may trot out Palemoon just for a run again. I have forgotten why I quit using it….My Firefox will crash at times because of the number of tabs I have open.

            Regards,

            Del

  2. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Great blog as always.

    In the spirit of today’s “Something to think about”, I would like to suggest the following:

    “The right to be offended does not automatically include the right to ban that which offends.”

    There is a trend, that I find particularly disturbing in UK universities, to ban, or “no-platform”, speakers who are deemed likely to offend students or to make them feel “unsafe”.

    Of all places, surely universities should promote confronting and debating such views. How else will students be prepared to deal with them in later life?

    ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’, ascribed to Voltaire, appears to have been superseded by ‘I disapprove of what you say, so I’ll cover my ears and shout ‘la la la’ “.

    Sad.

    Kind regards,
    John

    • Hi John,

      Couldn’t agree more – I sometimes wonder if I’m living in an alternative universe. 🙂

      I see this nonsense as a blatant attempt to control my thinking – a form of mind control. But, the system is banging up against the wrong cortex with me. I’m too damn old to be influenced by any of it.

      Have a great weekend, John.

      Best,

      Bill