Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – June 17, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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Adult films come complete with dialogue? Who knew!    Smile

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–    Isaac Asimov

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – June 17, 2016

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Beyond the data breach singularity

    I enjoyed reading that article. I even visited the site mentioned https://haveibeenpwned.com and entered my email address. Found two breaches, one on Malwarebytes back in 2014 (first time I heard of it) and MySpace, which I haven’t used in years and cancelled ages ago.

    I’ve said it a thousand times but here goes: one has to have a sense of paranoia when using the web, or one will get hacked.

    Cheers