Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – June 20, 2016

How & Where To Safely Download Software;  What happens to those free Windows 10 upgrades after July 29, 2016?  How to Download YouTube Videos;  Track stocks like a pro with a free Excel add-in;  This Chrome extension will give you the gist of online articles;  How to enable Android notifications on the Windows 10 preview –  and much more news you need to know.

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How & Where To Safely Download Software – A comment from a reader of my recent Freeware article asked how she could know if a software was safe to download. This question really rammed home just how much of a perilous exercise downloading software has become these days, especially for less experienced users. With many software download portals and developers now disregarding user safety in favor of monetizing their efforts, trusted download sources are fast becoming a scarce commodity. While downloading direct from the developer is generally put forward as being the preferred option, even this is no guarantee of absolute safety. So, for “Kathy” and others in the same boat here are the safety checks I go through prior to making any software recommendations on DCT:


How to Download YouTube Videos – Tons of footage is uploaded to YouTube every minute. But what if you want to download a video? Here’s how.

Microsoft yesterday released a free tool for Windows 10 that claims to scrub PCs of the “bloatware” — also called “crapware” — that computer makers pack on new machines. Refresh Windows, which must be downloaded from Microsoft’s website, currently works only on preview builds of 10, those seeded to participants of the Insider program. Since Insider is a precursor to the production code, the tool should be usable by owners of systems upgraded to the Anniversary Update, version 1607, which is slated to ship next month.

Clues point to Windows 10 Anniversary Update code lock-down after July 12 – Microsoft is just six weeks away from releasing the next major upgrade of Windows 10, but according to past practice, will likely lock down the code in less than half that time. The release date for what is being called “Windows 10 Anniversary Edition” has not been confirmed by the company, although the name itself hints at July 29, a match for last year’s debut launch. But other signals, and Microsoft’s moves prior to the past two releases — the original in July 2015 and the first major upgrade issued in November — give users a good idea of when to expect the Anniversary Edition to arrive.

What happens to those free Windows 10 upgrades after July 29, 2016? – We’re nearing the end of Microsoft’s unprecedented free upgrade offer for Windows 10. The offer officially expires July 29, 2016, on the one-year anniversary of the operating system’s initial release. But what happens then?

3 team collaboration tools you can use with Google Drive – Collaboration is Google Drive’s killer feature, so it’s not surprising that several team-oriented tools have integrated Drive into their services. Plenty of their users are already using Drive to create documents and spreadsheets and store all their files. By connecting your Google account with one of these robust collaboration apps, you can easily add files to projects, link them to tasks, or share them with team members.

Track stocks like a pro with a free Excel add-in – Retrieving up to date stock market prices for Excel is a snap with the free Stock Connector add-in. Here’s a walkthrough of how you get it and how it works.


5 things you need to know about password managers – New data breaches are coming to light almost weekly and they reveal a simple fact: many people still choose weak passwords and reuse them across multiple sites. Password managers offer a solution.

Top Android news of the week: Samsung update, Android update, Cyanogen – This week in Android has been all about security with updates released plugging malware.

SwiftKey Beta saves your copied text in new clipboard feature – Tired of re-copying the same text? SwiftKey’s new clipboard may vastly simplify your life.

$199 2-in-1s could pose a threat to both the Chromebook and the PC industry – For better or worse, cheap 2-in-1s are going to be a game changer.

How to enable Android notifications on the Windows 10 preview – The feature is a work in progress, but it offers a hint at how your PC might integrate more deeply with an Android phone.

This Chrome extension will give you the gist of online articles – The extension is appropriately named TL;DR—short for “too long; didn’t read.” TL;DR for Chrome takes an article you want to read and summarizes it for you. The summary size is adjustable, allowing for breakdowns that are small, medium, or large in length.

How Apple plans on making features smarter while balancing privacy – Terms like “magical,” “incredible,” “amazing” and even “chamfered edge” have long appeared in the lexicon of Apple keynote events. Here’s a new one: “differential privacy.” The words were uttered at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday by Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, as he explained the way the company’s new iOS 10 software will anticipate your needs and wants. More importantly, he said, the operating system will get smarter without violating your privacy.

Twitch fights view-inflating bot makers with lawsuit – The lawsuit is part of an effort by the livestreaming site to prevent video creators from gaming the system and artificially inflating their view counts.

10 parenting apps to keep things running smoothly at home – You spend your days surrounded by technology that makes your work tasks easier, why not try a few new apps that can make your dad duties easier, too?

Which browser is most popular on each major operating system? – New data from the U.S. Government Digital Analytics Program finally provides hard numbers about web usage. Here’s a breakdown of which browsers are winning on the four most widely used desktop and mobile operating systems.


Indian experts doubt government ban on porn sites will be effective – The Indian government directed service providers to block 240 websites but doubts have surfaced over the legality of such an order.


GoToMyPC hit with hack attack; users need to reset passwords – Citrix’s remote access service got hit by a “sophisticated” attack over the weekend, prompting password resets for all GoToMyPC users.

Hack sends cryptocurrency Ether plunging into the abyss – Vulnerabilities affecting DAO have been exploited, throwing the Ethereum network into chaos.

Security TV: Beware of the early morning phish – Taking care of the daily email pile before you head to work has one downside: It’s when users are at their most vulnerable to a phishing attack.

Tor Is Teaming Up With Researchers To Protect Users From FBI Hacking – The FBI has had a fair amount of success de-anonymizing Tor users over the past few years. Despite the encryption software’s well-earned reputation as one of the best tools for online privacy, recent court cases have shown that government malware has compromised Tor users by exploiting bugs in the underlying Firefox browser—one of which was controversially provided to the FBI in 2015 by academic researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. But according to a new paper, security researchers are now working closely with the Tor Project to create a “hardened” version of the Tor Browser, implementing new anti-hacking techniques which could dramatically improve the anonymity of users and further frustrate the efforts of law enforcement.

The value of ‘vintage’ passwords to hackers – Lately one of the big trends emerging is the use of “vintage” passwords to make an attempt at cracking into other services. Recent password thefts from Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace have made headlines, and have also made for some chuckles as people try to recall just what 16-year-old them posted to their MySpace accounts that might embarrass them today.

Acer Online Store Breach Exposes Credit Cards, Names, Addresses – If you’ve done any online shopping at Acer’s U.S. store recently, you might want to keep a close eye on your credit card statements.

The Pentagon expands program for hackers to test its security – Back in March, the US’s Department of Defense launched a “Hack the Pentagon” campaign to get hackers to test their websites and security networks for vulnerabilities, without the threat of jail time. The project was so successful that the government agency has announced it’s being expanded, including more DoD websites and networks, with further cash incentives for hackers. Think of it like the bug bounty programs that Google, Facebook, and other tech companies offer, except hackers get to put the government’s most secure facilities to the test.

10 Very Important Organizations Running on Scarily Outdated Tech – Can you guess which major airport is still running on Windows 3.1?

Company News:

Microsoft UK’s tax bill challenged… by the Sunday Times – Microsoft UK’s tax bill has been challenged, but not by the British government, which agreed to it. Instead, questions have been raised by the Sunday Times. It’s a weak story, but part of the trend whereby US tech giants are attracting more scrutiny as European countries seek to bolster their tax revenues.

Oracle, Mellanox team up on rapid cloud networking technology – The companies hope to improve industry standards for high-speed cloud networking.

New York Senate passes bill that bans short-term apartment listings on Airbnb – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will soon either veto or sign into law a bill that makes it illegal to advertise entire unoccupied apartments for short-term rentals on Airbnb. Despite loud objections from Airbnb and Silicon Valley investors like Ashton Kutcher and Paul Graham, the New York State Senate passed the bill on Friday, the latest development in a complicated relationship between Airbnb and its biggest market. Now the measure is headed to Cuomo’s desk. The bill prohibits online apartment listings that last under 30 days and run up against the city’s multiple dwelling law, which is designed to stop apartment buyers from renting out the entire space and basically turning their units into Airbnb hotels.

Chinese Regulators Order Apple to Stop Selling the iPhone 6 in Beijing – Regulators in China are ordering Apple to stop selling its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones in Beijing due to a patent infringement, according to reports. The two phone models are said to infringe on an exterior design patent held by Chinese firm Shenzhen Baili for a smartphone called the 100C, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple is filing an administrative litigation to reverse the ban, Engadget reports.

Games and Entertainment:

E3 2016: All the glorious new PC games, graphics cards, and hardware you need to know about – Game over, man. Game over! Another E3’s done and gone, and E3 2016 was one of the most exciting conferences for PC gamers in a long, long time. Now that the new consoles pack PC guts, the number of new PC games revealed at the show far exceeded E3 2015’s lineup. And that was just the tip of the iceberg! Don’t kick yourself if you missed any of PCWorld’s E3 coverage this week. Catch up on all the new games, graphics cards, PC gaming hardware, and more—right here, right now.

No Man’s Sky can keep its name after developer settles with Sky TV – No Man’s Sky, the hotly anticipated adventure game due out this summer, won’t suffer a last-minute name change. Hello Games founder Sean Murray tweeted last night that the company had just settled with Sky, the UK’s largest pay-TV broadcaster. Murray didn’t state what the terms of the settlement are, but apparently the legal battle has been plaguing Hello for years:


Fallout 4′ Dev Releases Patch to Stop Console Players from ‘Stealing’ PC Mods – Last month, Bethesda Softworks helped tear down one of the great barriers in video gaming by making player-made mods for the PC version of its acclaimed roleplaying game Fallout 4 available for players of Xbox One version. Last week the studio released another patch announcing coming mod support for the PlayStation 4, but it came with a brief, almost seemingly throwaway notice: Anyone making mods available for console play on would now have to have a version of the game linked to their accounts through Steam, the popular PC digital distribution platform. It addresses a bitter controversy in the game’s community, which, like so many other controversies in gaming these days, sparked from good intentions on the part of the developers.

Rumor: Nintendo Designing New Mario Game – You’re more likely to get your hands on Nintendo’s to-be-announced console before you get a new Mario game, though.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Apple cites Trump as it turns its back on GOP convention, says report – If Trump can boycott Apple, Apple can boycott Trump. That seems to be the message underlying a story from Politico, which cites unnamed sources in reporting that the Cupertino, California-based maker of the iPhone and other iconic tech gadgets won’t provide support to the upcoming GOP convention. The sources told the Beltway-news site that the reason is Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about immigrants, minorities and women. Other tech firms, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft are reportedly participating in the convention in some form or another, with Google set to provide a live stream of the event (despite protests), Microsoft contributing tablets and cloud storage and Facebook planning a presence including a lounge of some kind. None of the companies responded to a request for comment.

Chinese supercomputer is the world’s fastest — and without using US chips – A Chinese supercomputer built using domestic chip technology has been declared the world’s fastest. The news highlights China’s recent advances in the creation of such systems, as well the country’s waning reliance on US semiconductor technology. The Sunway TaihuLight takes the top spot from previous record-holder Tianhe-2 (also located in China), and more than triples the latter’s speed. The new number one is capable of performing some 93 quadrillion calculations per second (otherwise known as petaflops) and is roughly five times more powerful than the speediest US system, which is now ranked third worldwide.

How Nanotechnology Will Keep Your Bananas and Mangoes From Rotting – A Canadian team has invented a new way to make sure that fruit stays fresh for longer, by spraying them with a nano-scale formula. Jay Subramanian, a professor of tree fruit breeding and biotechnology at the University of Guelph, and his group have developed a treatment that extends the shelf life of fruits like mangoes, blueberries, and bananas, which could have huge implications in the battle against food waste, and help farmers, too.

I don’t want to be LinkedIn with Microsoft – I was one of LinkedIn’s first members, joining on June 27, 2003, when it was still in beta. Over the years, it has gotten me a lot of work and helped me write countless stories. But now that Microsoft is buying the company, I’m really wondering whether I should leave.

Apple responsible for removal of rifle for emoji consideration – Unicode 9.0 is set to be finalized later this month, formally introducing a number of sure-to-be hit emojis, including bacon, selfie, face-palm, and more. Turns out, however, that a rifle was once in consideration for new emoji additions in 2016, but objection and pressure from Apple saw its removal. Apple, along with Microsoft and Google are voting members of the Unicode Consortium, which oversees the standardization of emoji.

Something to think about:

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”

–     Denis Waitley

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

UK surveillance bill under fire as data security risk – A 2015 data breach of UK ISP TalkTalk should serve as a warning to the government that its proposed new surveillance legislation risks creating vulnerable pools of data that could be exploited by hackers, a parliamentary committee has warned.

The Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) committee makes this observation in its report into the October 2015 data breach of TalkTalk, published this month.

The Investigatory Powers Bill has already passed through several rounds of debate in the House of Commons with its provision for so called Internet Connection Records (ICRs) intact.

The bill’s provision for ICRs would require ISPs to hold data on the websites and services accessed by all their customer for a full 12 months. It’s one example of how the bill would create honeypots of personal data that will present an inevitable target to hackers, such as the pair of teenagers who perpetrated the 2015 TalkTalk hack.

In its report into the latter hack the committee notes that during an oral evidence session the UK’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commission’s Office, issued what it couches as “a stark warning” about the IP bill.

FBI’s iPhone paid-for hack should be barred, say ex-govt officials – The FBI’s purchase of a hack to get into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone should have been barred.

That’s according to a new paper from two former US government cybersecurity officials, Ari Schwartz and Rob Knake.

In their paper [PDF] they dig into the current vulnerability equities process (VEP), disclosed in 2014, which the US government uses to decide whether to disclose critical security holes. They argue that it needs to be formalized.

While the VEP provides a useful guide, it is only an informal practice and the authors argue that with an increasingly important topic like software vulnerabilities, the government should have a formal policy, and one subject to public review and comment.

Although the question over whether to disclose a security hole is complex, it is not so complex as to avoid a clear set of rules, say Knake and Schwartz. They don’t agree with Bruce Schneier’s argument that all zero-day holes should be disclosed immediately regardless of their potential value, and instead highlight a possible case where disclosure would result in the loss of valuable intelligence in an ongoing investigation.

Snoopers’ Charter ‘goes too far’ says retired Met assistant commish – IPBill The Liberal Democrats are planning to meet the Investigatory Powers Bill with strong resistance in the House of Lords, a list of key issues shared with The Register reveals.

The bill, which will bolster state surveillance in the United Kingdom, remains especially unpopular amongst IT-literate members of the public, who are particularly aware of its potential to undermine security standards and civil liberties.

Encouraged by the Labour party’s comments, many expected this would provoke stronger opposition from their elected representatives when it was debated in the House of Commons. Eventually it passed through that chamber by 444 votes to 69 on 7 June.

Non-US encryption is ‘theoretical,’ claims CIA chief in backdoor debate – CIA director John Brennan told US senators they shouldn’t worry about mandatory encryption backdoors hurting American businesses.

And that’s because, according to Brennan, there’s no one else for people to turn to: if they don’t want to use US-based technology because it’s been forced to use weakened cryptography, they’ll be out of luck because non-American solutions are simply “theoretical.”

Thus, the choice is American-built-and-backdoored or nothing, apparently.

The spymaster made the remarks at a congressional hearing on Thursday after Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) questioned the CIA’s support for weakening cryptography to allow g-men to peek at people’s private communications and data.


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2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – June 20, 2016

  1. Hi Bill,
    You really don’t need any third party app to download a video from YouTube. Maybe this will help: