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.

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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

8 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – June 13, 2016

  1. Dave B.

    RE: Lost all your files to some nasty ransomware? One of the big things ransomware does is delete your shadow copies, this prevents users from using the “Previous Versions” option to recover encrypted files. This is surprisingly easy to counter. It won’t prevent your documents from being encrypted but it will make it much easier to recover your data without paying the ransom. Although anyone that reads Bill’s blog would have a recent backup so it shouldn’t be an issue, right? Details can be found here

  2. delenn13

    Hey Bill,
    As you know, I am an American living in Canada. I have lived here almost 20 years now, very happily. With the things that are happening over there at the moment(and for some time) has made me very unhappy. I don’t even want to visit; the place scares me.

    I can’t for the life of me figure out how in blue blazes the GOP can even entertain the thought of endorsing that sad, racist, lying Cheeto with the bad hair weave as a candidate for POTUS. I am not a Hillary fan but….OMG..Just NO! (Now Elizabeth Warren would be a different story. But she is really better served where she is now.)

    Now this..50 innocent people…DEAD……It’s disgusting and he makes it all about himself. What a jackass.

    I read this blog yesterday. Thoughts and Prayers – Whatever
    Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough. We need action.

    I was raised Southern. So yes, I learned to shoot when I was 5, how to clean a gun and RESPECT it. The gun was just in the night table..and how the 3 of us didn’t even see the need to get it out and “play” with it, amazes me. We were taught differently, I guess. And I don’t see the need for the semi automatic..or what ever..ban the damn things. In fact from what I see of the mentality of the Trump supporters, they should ban all guns. They don’t have the intelligence or self control to own a weapon. I use to cringe when they talked about banning guns because I remember the movie “Red Dawn” where they got the list from the Police of the gun owners..but now…… 50 innocent people… This is why we can’t have nice things.

    My heart goes out to the families of those people. This was an atrocity and feel really bad for them. But because of who the shooter was and who the people were….Nothing will be done. After all, “A man enters an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, and with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S carbine rifle, murders twenty children, all of whom are either six or seven years old.” and nothing was done.

    It’s all about hate and religion but, you know, I am a Christian. Jesus hung out with the tax collectors and prositutes. He basically said..Love everyone and don’t judge…. I can’t find anywhere(and I have looked) where Jesus says anything about hating gays..or anyone for that matter. It burns my butt when when people say “I am a Christian” and then spew hateful, nasty judgements on people that are different than themselves. (Oops, maybe I shouldn’t have called him a Cheeto….Yeah…It just feels right!)



  3. Chris A.

    Hi Bill, good to see you back!

    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)

    I’ve been trying a novel way of protecting files from being encrypted by ransomware. I’ve never been hit by any ransomware and am not brave enough to try downloading real ransomware as a valid test.

    Anyway you can read about Privacy Fence here:

    In theory it protects any designated file types from encryption even if the ransomware bypasses other onboard security.

    There’s also a thread on Privacy Fence here:

    Configuration can be an issue!

    All the best.


    • Thanks Chris – good to hear from you.

      I just finished downloading Privacy Fence and I’ll take it for a ride over the course of the next two weeks. I’ll post a review of my findings shortly afterwards.

      Much appreciate you taking the time to inform all of us on this protection.