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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Security:

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 AutoGuide.com, Motorcycle.com and Techsupportforum.com, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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