Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – July 15, 2016

10 compelling reasons to upgrade to Windows 10;  Google quietly brings forgetting to the U.S.;  10 tips to help you beat smartphone addiction;  4 tools that will make your sloppy emails seem smart;  New Locky ransomware version can operate in offline mode;  OneDrive starts cutting free storage down to 5GB – and much more news you need to know.

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10 compelling reasons to upgrade to Windows 10 – The deadline cometh. July 29 looms, and after that, Windows 7 and 8 users will no longer be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. If you’ve been waiting for Microsoft to polish out the operating system’s initial bugs, it’s time to make the leap. This article’s more for the fence-sitters—the folks who haven’t decided whether to stick with what they know or embrace Microsoft’s new-school operating system. There are some very valid reasons not to upgrade to Windows 10, to be honest. But Windows 10 is the best Windows yet, and most people should claim the free upgrade while there’s still time. Here’s why.

Google quietly brings forgetting to the U.S. – If you are worried about your online privacy, it might be of interest to you that Google has quietly brought its Google forget program to the U.S. It has made it quite simple, for the most part. Simply go to myactivity.google.com to see the history of your searches, YouTube viewing and everything else you do on Google platforms, and then be guided through the process of trimming that history. But be careful. Privacy restrictions bring with them good and bad, and some consumers who become gung ho about deleting activity may find the usefulness of their web surfing drop off.

10 tips to help you beat smartphone addiction – Smartphone addiction is a real thing! We obsessively check our smartphones when we’re talking, working, walking, and driving, even though we know we shouldn’t. We just can’t help it! But you know what they say: recognizing you have a problem is the first step to fixing it, so congrats on reading this far. Here are 10 tips you can use to help you kick your smartphone addiction, reclaim your place in the real world, and possibly even venture outside without a phone glued to your hand (thanks a lot, Pokemon Go).

How to create a custom folder to access the Windows 10 GodMode tools you need – Don’t settle for GodMode overload in Windows 10 when a few shortcuts will do. Follow these steps to build your own custom toolset.

4 tools that will make your sloppy emails seem smart – Clean up clutter, correct grammar, improve tone, and just generally make a better impression with these apps and extensions.

OneDrive starts cutting free storage down to 5GB – Last November, Microsoft advised OneDrive users that some big changes would be coming eventually — that OneDrive storage would be decreasing from 15GB to 5GB, that Office 365 users wouldn’t be getting unlimited storage, and the 15GB of camera roll storage would be removed. Microsoft gave its users a chance to opt out of this change; those who missed the memo are now receiving warnings that their OneDrive allotment is about to be slashed.

Early Look at Skype for Linux and Chromebooks – Skype for Linux is no longer an afterthought for Microsoft as the company introduces new versions of Skype for Linux Chromebooks and the Chrome web browser.

Confirmed: Only Microsoft Edge will play Netflix content at 1080p on your PC – Microsoft claims that Edge does something Chrome, Firefox, and Opera can’t: Stream 1080p Netflix content on your PC. Turns out it’s true.

Google Proposal for ‘Professional Women’ Emoji Accepted – The company petitioned the Unicode Consortium in May to add 13 new “working emoji” that cover new jobs and build more gender equality into these tiny icons. Unicode has since agreed to launch 11 of Google’s proposed emoji, with representations for men and women (and support for varying skin tones). That’s not all. Unicode is also retrofitting 33 existing emoji with selectable male and female versions. If you want to send a friend female runner, you can. A man or a woman getting their hair cut? Done. A female weightlifter? Let ‘er rip.

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Maxthon MX5 review: Rough-and-ready browser offers paid features for free – Maxthon’s fifth-generation MX5 Web browser includes a number of key features, such as password management, that you might end up paying for on other browsers.

Quick glossary: Internet of Things – When history is written sometime in the distant future, the Internet of Things (IoT) could very well be designated as the technological culmination of the Information Age. By combining technologies ranging from simple sensors to super computers crunching big data results, the IoT changes the way we work, play, interact, and measure whatever reality we choose to create from this point forward. But to comprehend the true power of what we are creating, we should become familiar with at least some of the terms involved in IoT. This list of 27 concepts and technologies will help you grasp the vocabulary behind the Internet of Things and the ideas supporting an interconnected, all-things-networked world.

Android Pay launches in Australia – Google is continuing the expansion of Android Pay in Asia Pacific after the mobile payments service went live in Australia today, its most significant launch in the region to date. Android Pay initially landed in Asia with a launch in Singapore last month, and today it is in Australia, which has a population of around 22 million people. According to data from Kantar, Android represented around 64 percent of smartphones sold between March and May this year, with iOS on 36 percent, so Australia should represent a good-sized market for Android Pay. (Singapore, by contrast, is heavily skewed towards iOS and a population of just five million.)

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Messenger on Android gets Instant Articles – Facebook Instant Articles, the articles from participating publications that load instantly when clicked, have made their way to Messenger. The social network opened up Instant Articles to all publishers a few months back; it only makes sense that they’d expand them to cover Messenger, too, as they’ve done today. Kicking them off are Instant Articles on Android, but they’ll be coming to iOS in future weeks, too.

Five ways you can run Windows programs on a Mac – There are a number of ways that you can run your favorite Windows applications on your Mac – and some won’t cost you a penny.

Facebook activates Safety Check after truck attack kills dozens in Nice, France – Tool for informing contacts on the social network that you are safe is turned on after a truck rams a crowd in Nice, France, killing at least 73 people.

Security:

New Locky ransomware version can operate in offline mode – The creators of the widespread Locky ransomware have added a fall-back mechanism in the latest version of their program for situations where the malware can’t reach their command-and-control servers. Security researchers from antivirus vendor Avira have found a new Locky variant that starts encrypting files even when it cannot request a unique encryption key from the attacker’s servers because the computer is offline or a firewall blocks the communication.

Famous iPhone Hacker ‘Geohot’ Shows Us How Easy It Is To Hack a Computer – What does hacking really look like? We wanted to find out, so we asked famous hacker George Hotz, better known for his moniker “Geohot,” to show us. We visited Hotz as part of VICELAND’s CYBERWAR series, and got him to demonstrate how he would hack into a computer that was running vulnerable software. As part of the demo, Hotz explains how his exploit works. An exploit is nothing more than a custom program that takes advantage of a vulnerability or bug to give a hacker control over another computer. And in just a few seconds, he uses it to get complete, unfettered access to our computer.

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A surge of Pokemon Go-related apps is out to steal your data – Since the game launched last week, a swarm of unofficial apps has emerged and is trying to capitalize on the title’s success. And many are hungry for your personal data. These unofficial apps have been offering cheats, tips and even songs from the hit game. But in exchange, they demand permission to access sensitive data on your phone, said Chad Salisbury, a security engineer with RiskIQ, which monitors mobile malware. If permission is granted, the apps can collect contacts lists, photos and even login credentials to social media accounts. They can even take control of a phone’s camera and microphone. RiskIQ has detected 172 unofficial Pokemon Go-related apps. Salisbury estimated that over half of them suspiciously gather more user information than they need.

FBI says its malware isn’t malware because ‘we’re the good guys’ – Another tale from the “twisted and illogical” department…

Drupal calls on users to patch critical remote code execution vulnerabilities – The Drupal content management system (CMS) powers at least one million websites, and comes after WordPress and Joomla in popularity. However, the CMS is popular with business users thanks to e-commerce functionality, and approximately nine percent of the world’s top 10,000 websites run the Drupal system. On Wednesday, Drupal’s security team revealed that a “critical” remote code execution vulnerabilities have left at least 13,000 websites at risk due to the use of specific, vulnerable modules.

Company News:

Google under fire again from Europe’s antitrust regulator over AdSense, comparison shopping – After years of battles in Brussels and beyond, search giant Google has come under yet more fire from antitrust regulators in Europe concerned about the its dominance in online advertising. Today, the European Commission announced that it has sent further Statements of Objections to the company, accusing it of abusing its dominant position in search in areas like comparison shopping services and also by restricting the possibility of third party websites displaying search results from Google’s competitors, ads that would directly compete against Google’s own AdSense for Search product.

6 months on, Bleeping Computer will continue to have to defend libel lawsuit – A federal judge has recently allowed an ongoing libel lawsuit filed against a popular online forum to go forward. Bleeping Computer, the website, has characterized the lawsuit as “frivolous,” and has asked its readers to help defend its “freedom of speech.” The case revolves around numerous posts on the site concerning Enigma Software Group, which makes an anti-virus software known as SpyHunter. Those messages stem primarily from a September 2014 post, during which one of Bleeping’s moderators, “Quietman7,” wrote:

While there are mixed reviews for SpyHunter, some good and some bad, my main concern is the reports by customers of deceptive pricing, continued demands for payment after requesting a refund, lack of adequate customer support, removal (uninstall) problems and various other issues with their computer as a result of using this product.

Further posts described ESG as engaging in “deceptive pricing” and claimed that SpyHunter is a “dubious and ineffective program.”

As a result, ESG sued Bleeping Computer for libel in January 2016, seeking at least $75,000 in damages.

Tor shakes up exec board following Appelbaum withdrawal – In the aftermath of a scandal which saw one of the core members of the Tor project step down, Tor has replaced its entire board of directors in the hope of leaving such a past behind. The Tor project runs the onion router, a browser and relay-and-node system which helps mask your digital footprint. Used worldwide, the project is supported by a backbone of volunteers and donations and remains a thorn in the side of law enforcement seeking to break into the system to track criminal suspects. The Massachusetts-based nonprofit has not had an easy time in the spotlight recently. One of the project’s most prominent figures, security specialist Jacob Appelbaum, left his position in June after rumors of serious sexual misconduct emerged.

Google: YouTube has paid out over $2bn to rights holders – The internet giant defends its video platform, arguing it is a robust revenue stream for content creators that is legitimately fighting piracy.

Pokémon Go will soon get ads in the form of sponsored locations – After having become one of the most viral mobile applications of all time, Pokémon Go will soon include advertising, according to its developer. In an interview with the Financial Times, Niantic CEO John Hanke said that “sponsored locations” would provide a new revenue stream, in addition to in-app purchases of power-ups and virtual items. In other words, retailers and companies will be granted the paid opportunity to be featured prominently on the game’s virtual map, in the hope to drive customers inside their facilities. A Niantic spokesperson declined to provide further details about the amount of potential revenue split between ads and in-app purchases.

Games and Entertainment:

The 12 best PC co-op games to play with your friends – It’s good to have friends. That goes doubly so when you’re facing down a zombie horde or sneaking into a hostile spy base. Here we’ve rounded up 12 games that are better in every way to play with friends. Yeah, you could play some of them alone. Sure, you could (if you’re insane) play some of them with random Internet strangers who love to use profanity. But if you pair up with a partner or three you’ll have a much more rewarding experience.

Pokémon Go installed on more devices than Candy Crush, LinkedIn, Lyft, Tinder & more – The app on Monday topped Twitter’s daily users, and has people spending more minutes per day playing the game than browsing Facebook, reports have indicated. Now comes word that game has also topped Pandora, Netflix, Google Hangouts, and Spotify, in terms of daily active users, and is installed on more devices than many popular apps, like Candy Crush, Viber, LinkedIn, Clash of Clans, Tinder and others. The figures are based on tracking company SimilarWeb’s analysis of U.S. Android users. On Monday, July 11th, 5.9 percent of all U.S. Android owners played Pokémon Go, which was 46 percent more than the 4.1 percent who launched Twitter that day, the firm also reported. However, a handful of other apps are still beating Pokémon on this front, including Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Five tips I shouldn’t have to tell you about Pokemon GO, but probably do – We’re past the stage where gamers emerged, blinking and squinting in the light, and well into Pokemon GO as a cultural phenomenon. Nintendo and Niantic’s augmented reality game hit just the right balance of cherished franchise and smartphone-powered location based play, demonstrated by just how many people are up off the couch and out in the streets searching for Pikachu and Pidgey. Problem is, some bad habits have developed along with the hunt…

3DMark Time Spy tested: We pit Radeon vs. GeForce in this major new DX12 benchmark – Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards go head-to-head in the first major DirectX 12 benchmark tool, 3DMark’s Time Spy.

Fallout Shelter arrives on PC at long last – We heard earlier this week that the PC launch of Fallout Shelter was imminent, and now it appears that Bethesda has made good on that promise, finally bringing its charming little mobile game to the PC masses. The launch coincides with the release of Bethesda’s version 1.6 patch, which has been revealed to be Fallout Shelter’s largest content update ever.

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Nintendo is launching a mini version of its iconic NES console with 30 classic games – When you’re on a roll, why not make crowd-pleasing decisions. Nintendo, which has seen its market cap soar thanks to the Pokemon Go phenomenon, just announced that it will relaunch its iconic NES console. The NES Classic Edition will go on sale from November 11 priced at $59.99. There is a notable change however, the NES will come with 30 games pre-installed, including classics like Super Mario Bros. 1, 2 and 3, The Legend Of Zelda, Punch Out, Final Fantasy, Donkey Kong, Bubble Bobble and more. It’ll also be a little smaller than the original model — Nintendo described it as a “mini replica” — and there will be an HDMI cable to keep with the times.

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Nvidia’s VR Funhouse is a tech demo to test your PC’s limits – VR Funhouse is basically a collection of carnival-themed virtual reality minigames with advanced physics and visual effects built upon Unreal Engine 4. Nvidia warns that the game will run on low graphics settings even with a 980 Ti or 1070 card, or medium with a single 1080; you’ll need two 1080s running in SLI tandem, or one with a 980 Ti to serve as a backup physics card, for the best results. So yeah, this is a resource-heavy game even by VR standards. And of course, you’ll need an HTC Vive as well. If you have a Vive and a recent high-end Nvidia GPU, VR Funhouse is well worth checking out. It’s available now on Steam for free, and Nvidia also plans to open-source it later this summer so that developers can create their own games with the same technology.

Google Play Indie Games Festival kicks off in San Francisco this September – Competing as a game developer on the Google Play Store can be a tough proposition, especially as we see more and more professional game developers leave their big studios to start or join studios dedicated to mobile games. If you’re one of those small-time game developers, good news: Google has announced that it will be giving independent developers a chance to have their moment in the spotlight later this year, when it hosts the Google Play Indie Games Festival in San Francisco.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The Huffington Post will broadcast 360-degree video from Republican and Democrat National Conventions – The Huffington Post will broadcast 360-degree video from the Republican and Democratic National Conventions on Monday, its first major use of the technology after parent company AOL bought virtual reality studio RYOT earlier this year. Reporters and producers from the new HuffPost RYOT team formed after the purchase will be in Cleveland and Philadelphia, capturing the events with “immersive” 360-degree clips, supporting updates and breaking news.

More than 100 tech industry leaders say Trump presidency would be ‘disaster for innovation’ – Although Donald Trump just lined up Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel for a Republican National Convention speech, a new open letter makes it clear that much of the tech industry remains concerned about the prospect of a Trump presidency. In the letter, posted today to Medium, luminaries of Slack, Facebook, Instagram, and several other companies and organizations say that “Trump would be a disaster for innovation.” Signers include high-profile names like Tim Wu, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Butterfield, Padmasree Warrior, Esther Dyson, and Ev Williams. Katie Jacobs Stanton, a former Twitter exec who is now the CMO of Color Genomics, published the letter.

Immerse yourself in whiskey with 360-degree video from Jack Daniel’s – A bit too much whiskey might have you walking in circles, but with a new 360-degree video from the Jack Daniel’s distillery, you can spin around as much as you want — totally sober — while getting a look at how the 150-year-old Tennessee whiskey is made.

$29.99 for the IT Security & Ethical Hacking Certification Training ($1,895 value) – Deal Alert – For a limited time, the bundle of courses is only $29.99 and jam-packed with over 48 hours of courses and 50 hours of advanced training.

Facebook post of murder-trial pic lands teen in jail – Technically Incorrect: A British teen goes to court to see his friend tried for murder. He takes pictures and posts one with a provocative caption. A judge is not impressed.

Something to think about:

“Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.”

–     Plutarch

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Microsoft wins major victory in legal fight over data center access – After years of arguments, Microsoft has won a major victory in its legal fight over US access to information stored in a company data center in Ireland. In a decision filed today by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, judges ruled that US investigators can’t use the Stored Communications Act to compel access to the data, as it is physically located outside of US borders. As a result, the court found that Microsoft has “no remaining lawful obligation to produce materials to the government.”

It’s a major victory for Microsoft, which has maintained that extraterritoriality was necessary to fulfill the company’s privacy policy to users. A number of outside groups made arguments in support for Microsoft’s case, including corporate partners and rivals like AT&T, Verizon, and Apple, as well as privacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union.

Microsoft argued that because the data was stored in Ireland, it was subject to Irish rather than US law, regardless of the company providing the infrastructure. That feature is central to Microsoft’s ambitions as a cloud provider, allowing the company to compete with local storage companies that are not otherwise subject to US requests. The nationality of the target of the investigation is still undisclosed.

Muckrock Is Building a Database of Excuses the Govt Uses to Withhold Public Info – In recent years, we’ve entered something of a golden era of government transparency—or at least, a golden era of journalists and interested citizens filing information requests with government agencies. Freedom of Information Act requests have increased greatly as the internet and services such as Muckrock, a tool that fills out sample language for information requests and then tracks them, have made filing easier. But there’s one major problem: Federal agencies use lots of different tactics to avoid actually releasing all sorts of documents, and few journalists actually know how to fight back against the system.

It’s not entirely their fault: Enforcement of different FOI “exemptions” varies by agency and often depends on which specific FOIA officer handles the request. At the state level, where a patchwork of “sunshine” laws govern what records are public well, things are even more of a mess.

“Even when public records laws are clear, the different exemptions are typically found in other bits of the legal code,” Michael Morisy, who founded Muckrock, told me. “A dairy bill might include an exemption for certain types of state dairy records or something, so what happens is you have a Swiss cheese situation—there’s holes everywhere.”

Dairy jokes aside, Morisy and Muckrock have decided to help journalists and other freedom of information champions navigate FOIA exemptions with a new project that will catalog every exemption cited by agencies in the United States, as well as ones that are hidden in a patchwork of FOI laws.

UK gov says new Home Sec will have powers to ban end-to-end encryption – During a committee stage debate in the UK’s House of Lords yesterday, the government revealed that the Investigatory Powers Bill will provide any Secretary of State with the ability to force communication service providers (CSPs) to remove or disable end-to-end encryption.

Earl Howe, a minister of state for defence and the British government’s deputy leader in the House of Lords, gave the first explicit admission that the new legislation would provide the government with the ability to force CSPs to “develop and maintain a technical capability to remove encryption that has been applied to communications or data”.

This power, if applied, would be imposed upon domestic CSPs by the new Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, who was formerly the secretary of state for energy and climate change. Rudd is now only the fifth woman to hold one of the great offices of state in the UK. As she was only appointed on Wednesday evening, she has yet to offer her thoughts on the matter.

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