Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – July 4, 2016

How to Get Google to Quit Tracking You;  8 mobile apps designed to help veterans;  Geek Uninstaller now Removes Windows Apps;  20 Things You Should Throw Away for Better Health;   Apps for planning your vacation;  Invoxia’s Voice Bridge puts your landline in your pocket – and much more news you need to know.

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How to Get Google to Quit Tracking You – On Google Maps, the search giant is with you every step of the way. But you can do something about it.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 nagware goes FULL SCREEN in final push – As the Windows 10 free upgrade period draws to a close, Microsoft is stepping up its operating system’s nagware to full-screen takeovers. The Redmond software giant confirmed today it will start showing dark blue screens urging people to install the latest version of Windows. The full-screen ads will pop up on Windows 7 and 8.1 desktops from now until July 30, when the free upgrade period ends. “This notification is a reminder that the Window 10 free upgrade offer ends on July 29, 2016. Microsoft recommends that you upgrade to Windows 10 before the offer expires,” Microsoft said.

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A Jim Hillier article – Geek Uninstaller now Removes Windows Apps – The latest version of Geek Uninstaller, a popular third-party program for removing installed software, now also supports removing Windows Store apps. Geek Uninstaller is a portable program which not only uninstalls software but also scans for and removes leftover traces, in much the same way as Revo Uninstaller. The latest update to Geek Uninstaller introduces support for the removal of Windows Store apps in addition to desktop programs. Thankfully, Geek Uninstaller has not merged Windows apps with the list of desktop programs and maintains both lists separately, making it much easier for users to identify which is which.

Apps for planning your vacation – It’s 4th of July weekend, and if you’re not off traveling somewhere, hopefully you’re taking a summer trip soon. From Kayak to Tripadvisor, there are plenty of apps that want to help you maximize your vacation planning. We’ve found some others that are worth a mention, too. TechCrunch tested out dozens of travel apps and these are our favorites right now.

8 mobile apps designed to help veterans – As a US Army veteran I’m proud of the time I served. I count myself among the lucky veterans that left service without any serious physical or mental harm. For those that weren’t so fortunate taking advantage of the services offered to veterans can be difficult. That’s why I put together this list of apps that are great for veterans. Whether you need emergency help, need to determine what level of service connected disability payment you’re eligible for, or simply want to network with vets there are some great apps available.

Facebook looks to break language barriers with new translation tool – Facebook is taking a major step in helping users around the world connect with more people by helping them share their posts and comments in multiple languages. The world’s largest social network announced today that its own developers have built a multilingual composer. A user test of the service will begin today. The tool enables users to compose a single post that will appear in multiple languages. Other users will see that post in their preferred language.

Google extends free trial for Google Play Music and YouTube Red to 4 months – Google has offered pretty generous trials for its Google Play Music / YouTube Red services in the past, including up to 90 days for just $1, but this 4th of July weekend the deal became even sweeter. First spotted by 9to5Google, the free trial for the $9.99 a month unlimited music streaming service and ad-free YouTube experience has expanded to four months for new subscribers. Getting unlimited streaming music and no ads on YouTube for a third of a year without having to pay anything is really one of the best deals in streaming.

End of an era: Linux distributions will soon stop supporting 32-bit PCs – Linux 32-bit support is going away. According to developers, it’s too much hassle to support, for a decreasing numbers of users. “I know some people passionately enjoy their old 32-bit hardware, but I think now’s the time to consider letting it go,” said OpenSUSe’s Richard Brown.

Free SEO analysis from SearchBloom – Search engine optimization is something you should take very seriously when you’re running an online business. If your site’s content isn’t easily found through Google, your entire operation could be severely impacted. So take a few minutes, have your site analyzed for free on SearchBloom, and find out what changes you should make going forward.

Invoxia’s Voice Bridge puts your landline in your pocket – If you’ve ever wished you could roll out a five-mile extension cable for your home phone so you can get your calls when you’re out and about, Invoxia’s new Voice Bridge may be the solution to your globetrotting woes. It’s a virtual phone that connects your landline to your Wi-Fi, making it available via an app.

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Google Chrome gets built-in Cast integration – One of the most handy features of Google’s Cast television dongle is how easy it is to broadcast your Chrome browser tab onto a bigger screen. That is, as long as you have the browser extension installed. Well, that will soon no longer be the case, as Google has revealed that version 51 of Chrome for the desktop (rolling out now) will have the Cast option built right in. As is the case with software updates rolling out gradually, not everyone may have access to the setting just yet, so be patient if it’s not there. If you do have it, “Cast” can be found under the 3-dot tools button, on the right-hand side of the browser. Alternatively you can just right-click on any tab.

Amazon Echo now lets you order products from Amazon – Although there are a few limitations, you can now purchase a wide variety of products from Amazon by merely talking to Amazon’s virtual assistant.

Obnoxious iOS Apps That Will Drive Your Friends Crazy – Do you want fewer pals and associates? This collection of iOS apps might be the way to get there.

Dating sites for Trekkies, vampire lovers and just about anyone else – There’s a dating site for just about everyone, even if your idea of a perfect mate is a bit…unusual.

Security:

The first big Internet of Things security breach is just around the corner – A huge security breach traced back to an unsecured IoT device will happen within the next two years, warn security experts.

Satana ransomware encrypts user files and master boot record – Attackers are developing an aggressive new ransomware program for Windows machines that encrypts user files as well as the computer’s master boot record (MBR), leaving devices unable to load the OS. The program is dubbed Satana — meaning “Satan” in Italian and Romanian — and, according to researchers from security firm Malwarebytes, it is functional but still under development. Satana is the second ransomware threat affecting the MBR and seems inspired by another program, Petya, that appeared in March.

Lenovo scrambling to get a fix for BIOS vuln – Lenovo, and possibly other PC vendors, is exposed to a UEFI bug that can be exploited to disable firmware write-protection. If the claims made by Dmytro Oleksiuk at Github are correct, an attacker can “disable flash write protection and infect platform firmware, disable Secure Boot, [and] bypass Virtual Secure Mode (Credential Guard, etc.) on Windows 10 Enterprise.” The reason Oleksiuk believes other vendors are also vulnerable is that the buggy code is inherited from Intel.

Company News:

Walmart Pay rolls out to hundreds of stores across the U.S. – Walmart Pay, following a limited launch earlier this year, has gone live in about 600 stores across 14 states, including Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Oregon, and more. With Walmart Pay, customers at supported stores can use their phone and the Walmart app to pay for their goods at the register in the same way one would use Samsung Pay or Android Pay. The system is exclusive to Walmart, though, which had notably turned its nose up at other options in favor of its own platform.

Apple returns fire on Spotify, calling out ‘rumors and half-truths’ over App Store rejection – The dispute between Apple and Spotify over subscription revenues continues today with a letter from the former accusing the latter of using “rumors and half-truths” to advance “unfair and unreasonable” demands.

Google age-discrimination lawsuit may become a monster – There’s a motion to turn an existing lawsuit into a class action. People who interviewed in person for certain types of engineering jobs, were over the age of 40 at the time and were rejected could be eligible to join.

Senate ditches BlackBerry, offers iPhone SE and Galaxy S6 instead – Blackberry, despite its best efforts to stay alive, has failed to keep up with its iOS and Android competition, and its days as a ubiquitous brand in the political world has largely reached its end. According to a notice sent out to Senate staffers, including the system administrators, administrative managers, and chief clerks, BlackBerry phones and support will be available for as long as the Senate’s existing phone stock lasts; staffers who want to ditch the phones altogether, though, are being given the option of an iPhone SE or a Galaxy S6.

BlackBerry is reportedly building three new Android phones – BlackBerry is going all-in on Android, and perhaps with more devices than we thought. BlackBerry is currently working on three new Android phones, according to Evan Blass, a journalist with an excellent track record for phone leaks. The three new phones are codenamed Neon, Argon and Mercury, according to Blass’ source, and we will reportedly see one of the phones each quarter.

Independence Day: How developer and customer revolt will de-throne Apple – Perhaps it’s time for a new 3rd-party, truly independent app store — one not tied to an existing player — so that developers and end-users can determine their own fates?

SoftBank reportedly under investigation – The Securities and Exchange Commission is probing the internet and telecom giant over Nikesh Arora’s activities before he resigned as president, according to reports.

Microsoft Won, But Who Else Wanted LinkedIn? – New documents reveal some of the other companies that were allegedly interested in purchasing LinkedIn.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox Play Anywhere launches on September 13th – Microsoft revealed its Xbox Play Anywhere initiative back at E3 last month. It lets you buy participating cross-platform games once and play them on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. Microsoft is planning to bring all of its future first-party games to Windows 10 and Xbox One as part of the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative. Microsoft is now planning to launch Xbox Play Anywhere on September 13th. The new option will require the Windows 10 Anniversary Update on the PC side, and the summer Xbox One update for the console. Games listed in the Xbox Store will include a Play Anywhere logo to indicate they work with the scheme, and Microsoft has a number of titles arriving later this year that will support Play Anywhere. Here’s the full list of supported titles so far:

There Are Almost 200 VR Games on Steam, and That’s Not Necessarily Good for VR – The launch of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift this year began the virtual reality era. The fledgling VR ecosystem exploded since, with companies announcing new VR hardware or crowdfunding campaigns constantly. There are already 189 games organized under “VR” on Steam. A lot of games should be a boon for a new platform like VR. In the console gaming world, the quickest way to sink a new hardware release is to launch with no games (I’m looking at you, Nintendo GameCube). The trouble is, a big chunk of these new VR games are terrible. At best, they’re experimental prototypes put forth in good faith by inexperienced developers exploring new technology. At worst, they’re shovelware, low-quality shit plopped onto Steam’s doorstep and set on fire.

13 Patriotic Movies – Fire up these patriotic flicks on Netflix, Amazon, or HBO; you’ll be chanting USA! in no time.

AMD promises fix for Radeon RX 480’s controversial, spec-exceeding power consumption – AMD’s $200 Radeon RX 480 draws much more power than it should through your motherboard, which could damage low-end systems.

5 Video Games You’ll Want to Buy in July – July marks the beginning of the second half of the year, as well as the beginning of the video game lull. There are fewer games to be had over the next month, but we’ve put together a list of five hot titles to keep you busy as you wait for the fall gaming surge.

Off Topic (Sort of):

20 Things You Should Throw Away for Better Health – When we talk about the steps you need to take to get healthier, they often involve buying new things: workout clothes, fitness equipment, ingredients for healthy recipes, and the list goes on. But becoming the healthiest version of yourself also means throwing away the stuff that’s holding you back—and we don’t only mean junk food. Get your recycling or garbage can ready!

Trump deletes Star of David tweet after angry response – The Twitter feed of the presumptive Republican nominee for president drew criticism Saturday after it featured a collage showing Hillary Clinton, a pile of money and the Jewish symbol.

Why the Internet of Things May Change How We View Privacy – Mark Zuckerberg famously claimed that privacy was no longer “a social norm,” but the new social norm may not long survive the coming of the Internet of Things.

Top 10 emerging technologies from the World Economic Forum – The World Economic Forum has put together a list of the top 10 emerging technologies that will change our lives. The list includes nanosensors that will circulate through the human body, a battery that will be able to power an entire town and socially aware artificial intelligence that will track our finances and health. These are not far-flung visions, according to the forum. They are technologies that are on the cusp of having a meaningful impact.

Cop who drew gun on man filming him says man deserved it – In May, we told you of a lawsuit involving a Rohnert Park, California, cop who looked ready to fire his handgun at a man who was filming him. Last year’s standoff happened right outside the resident’s house. Claiming civil rights violations, the alleged victim sued (PDF) the officer and police department that is located about an hour north of San Francisco. The police department and officer, David Rodriguez, have now responded to the lawsuit. They essentially say it was resident Don McComas’ fault from the get go and that McComas’ own actions outside his house prompted the officer to draw his weapon on the Rohnert Park man.

Plants Can Assess Risk Similar to Animals – Risk assessment has previously been documented in dozens of animals, including humans, primates, birds, and insects. Recently, a team from Oxford and Israel’s Tel-Hai College demonstrated for the first time that plants are also sensitive to the variability of resources in their environment, and are thus making risk assessments despite lacking a central nervous system.

Israel calls Facebook a ‘monster’ for not helping to curb violence – Israel has accused Facebook of not doing enough to curb online content that incites violence against the state, with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan describing the social network as a “monster” during a television interview on Saturday. Facebook defended its moderation policy in a statement to Reuters on Sunday, saying that it works closely with Israel to remove hateful or abusive content. The company did not directly address Erdan’s comments.

5 Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Someone: Backed By Research – Here are the things you can tell just by looking at someone.

Something to think about:

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”

–     John Adams

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

UN condemns internet access disruption as a human rights violation – The United Nations Human Rights Council has passed a non-binding resolution condemning countries that intentionally disrupt citizens’ internet access. The resolution builds on the UN’s previous statements on digital rights, reaffirming the organization’s stance that “the same rights people have offline must also be protected online,” in particular the freedom of expression covered under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The resolution was passed by consensus last Friday, but was opposed by a minority of authoritarian regimes including Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia, as well as democracies like South Africa and India.

Has technology made us more independent? – As the British celebrate their independence from the French and Germans, and we celebrate our independence from the British, I wonder about technology.

Has it made us more independent?

Has the rise of Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and friends made us all wake up in the morning and ululate with freedom at the choices placed in front of us?

Those who proclaim their independence feel they have thrown off their shackles in order to lower their hackles.

They are now truly themselves, masters of their own journeys, free to be whoever they want to be.

Yet we now seem angrier than we have for some time.

Tech companies, insisting they’ve made the world a better place, tell us they’re letting us be free. Which is nice of them.

It is, though, a curious independence.

SECURITY TIPS EVERY SIGNAL USER SHOULD KNOW – THERE ARE DOZENS of messaging apps for iPhone and Android, but one in particular continues to stand out in the crowd. Signal is easy to use, works on both iOS and Android, and encrypts communications so that only the sender and recipient can decipher them.

It also has open source code, meaning it can be inspected to verify security. You can download Signal from the Android Play Store and the iPhone App Store.

Although Signal is well-designed, there are extra steps you must take if you want to maximize the security for your most sensitive conversations — the ones that could be misinterpreted by an employer, client, or airport security screener; might be of interest to a snooping government, whether at home or abroad; or could allow a thief or hacker to blackmail you or steal your identity.

I discuss these steps at length below, in order of importance. If you wish to jump ahead to a specific section, you can click the appropriate link:

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – July 4, 2016

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Microsoft’s Windows 10 nagware goes FULL SCREEN in final push

    I saw this on blue screen on my computer for the first time yesterday, strangely right after I had installed an “important” update through Windows Update. Too much of coincidence for them not to be related, in my opinion. As we know, it is very difficult to actually get a description of what an update does nowadays, because there is no description.

    Anyway, for those who are interested, the update is number KB3163589.

    Cheers
    Mal