Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – July 22, 2016

Windows 10: The smart person’s guide;  Firefox to start blocking Flash content in August;  Android June 2016 Security Bulletin: What you need to know;  No-cost decryption tools released for two ransomware programs;  The 10 step guide to using Tor to protect your privacy;  The 5 best budgeting apps for tracking and planning your financial life –  and much more news you need to know.

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Lab Tested: The Best Security Suites of 2016 – Just what products and programs do you need to ensure your PC’s security? Antivirus is essential, to protect your system against all kinds of malicious products, not just viruses. And a firewall, to prevent network-based attacks probing for vulnerable computers. If your email provider doesn’t filter out spam, you need an antispam tool. If you have small kids, you may want a parental control system. And of course, if anything should happen to the PC, you’ll be glad you backed up your data. If you don’t install protection, you could lose your data to ransomware, or lose your credit card to a data-stealing Trojan. But wow, finding the right products for all of these distinct purposes could be a pain.

The procrastinator’s guide to free Windows 10 upgrades – The year-long free upgrade offer for Windows 10 ends in a matter of days. If you’re on the fence, it’s decision time. Here’s how to streamline the upgrade process to make it fast, simple, and nearly foolproof.

Windows 10: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers must-know Windows 10 details, like features, system requirements, upgrade options, and Microsoft’s Windows-as-a-service strategy.

How to get out of Windows Safe Mode – Safe Mode is a useful tool, but it’s not a desirable working environment. If your PC only boots into that limited environment, here’s your way out.

Firefox to start blocking Flash content in August – Firefox will begin retiring Adobe Flash on August 2 with the release of Firefox 48. In 2017, probably with Firefox 53, Flash plug-ins will require the user to actively click-to-play. In Firefox 48, Mozilla will enable a new Firefox plug-in blocklist by default. Initially the blocklist will be small, mostly containing URLs of Flash SWF files that have been identified by Mozilla as supercookies (i.e. cookies that are very hard to shake off) or fingerprinting files (i.e. they scan your system and create a unique fingerprint, again usually for tracking purposes).

BBC iPlayer Radio app now available in the U.S. – BBC does radio well, and now Americans can experience the full effect of the UK broadcaster’s audio content expertise with the iPlayer Radio app for iOS and Android. The app contains all of BBC’s radio feeds, including Radio 1 through 6, as well as the World Service. It also has offline support for BBC podcasts, and curated collections of past content. The app was originally released for iOS back In 2012 (and on Android in 2013), but the native app experience was limited to UK-only listeners. Today marks the first time it’s been available to people in the U.S.

Periscope adds tweet embeds, replay highlights to its list of features – Periscope has signaled a significant update to its live streaming platform today, announcing three new features that users will almost certainly get some mileage out of. The first is the ability to watch replay highlights from streams you missed. Now Periscope will automatically create highlight “trailers” covering the broadcasts you missed over the last day and put them in your home feed, meaning you don’t need to watch entire streams just to get caught up.

WhatsApp beta update brings voicemail and call back options – WhatsApp is bringing even more features for its users, and those taking part in its Android beta testing can get access to the newest ones as of today. Chief among the new features being tested is voicemail, a welcomed addition considering how many people have replaced their phone’s voice and texting services with feature-rich dedicated apps like WhatsApp.

The 5 best budgeting apps for tracking and planning your financial life – Whether you want to save more, pay down debt, or become a better investor, there’s a financial management app that can keep you on course.

6 Gadgets to Keep Your Home Safe From Intruders – Summertime, and the living is easy — especially for burglars. While you’re out of town chasing the sun, it’s easier for thieves to case your house for a quick plunder. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, burglaries are around 10% more likely in the summer than in the winter, a number that makes sense when you think of people leaving windows and patio doors open to let in the fresh air. Unfortunately, they also give bad guys good opportunities to get in and out. Technology will rarely stop a bad guy from breaking into your place. But are six ways that smart home devices can either scare them off or alert you to a burglary in progress.

Review: 4 mini-PCs give you full power in a very small package – There is a new generation of mini-PCs out there — small, inconspicuous but powerful. They offer a number of advantages for businesses over laptops or more traditional desktop systems.


Microsoft ordered to fix ‘excessively intrusive, insecure’ Windows 10 – A French regulator has issued Microsoft a formal warning over Windows 10, saying the operating system collects excessive amounts of personal data, ships that information illegally out of the EU, and has lousy security. The warning comes from the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), an independent data privacy watchdog with the power to levy fines against companies. The CNIL has been investigating Windows 10 since its launch and has now drawn up a damning list of criticisms.

This amazing search engine automatically face-swaps you into your image results – Ever wonder what you would look like with long, wavy hair? I think you’d look great. But how can you try on a few looks without spending a fortune at the salon, or hours in photoshop? I’m glad you asked. All you need is a selfie and Dreambit, the face-swapping search engine.


Best indoor digital TV antennas: Our top picks for cord cutters – Ready to cut the cord? You’ll need a quality antenna to pick up digital broadcasts. Here are our recommendations.

KickassTorrents resurfaces online, as all piracy sites do – The alleged founder and operator of the most popular torrenting site in the world, KickassTorrents (KAT), has been apprehend by the US authorities and the site’s domains seized. However, as we learned with the campaign to stop The Pirate Bay, you just can’t keep a good pirate site down. We’ve already spotted at least two clones of KAT, including one created by IsoHunt ( — a fairly limited mirror), and a second located at

Smartwatch shipments drop 32 percent in the second quarter – According to new numbers posted by IDC, smartwatch shipments are down for the second quarter of this year, marking the first drop of its kind. And it’s not insignificant falloff – moving from 5.1 million a year ago to 3.5 million this quarter. That’s a 32-percent decline. The culprit seems pretty clear for the research firm. IDC lays the blame squarely at the Apple’s feet.


The 10 step guide to using Tor to protect your privacy – Here are 10 easy steps to show you how to use the Tor network to mask your browsing habits.

Android June 2016 Security Bulletin: What you need to know – The Android Security Update for June 2016 includes a number of critical issues. Jack Wallen has the highlights, and shows how to find out if your device is up to date.

Free your files! No-cost decryption tools released for two ransomware programs – Security researchers have released tools this week that could help users recover files encrypted by two relatively new ransomware threats: Bart and PowerWare.

Snowden designs device to warn when an iPhone is ratting out users – Working with renowned hardware hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, Snowden has devised the design for what the team is calling the “Introspection Engine.” For now, it’s aimed only at iPhone 6 models, but eventually the pair hopes to create specifications for a large line of devices. Once built, the “field-ready” accessory would monitor various radio components inside the phone to confirm they’re not transmitting data when a user has put the device into airplane mode. The hardware is designed to be independent from the mobile device, under the assumption that malware-infected smartphones are a fact of life in high-risk environments.

GOP delegates suckered into connecting to insecure Wi-Fi hotspots – A Wi-Fi hack experiment conducted at various locations at or near the Republican National Convention site in Cleveland, US, underlines how risky it can be to connect to public Wi-Fi without protection from a VPN. The exercise, carried out by security researchers at Avast, an anti-virus firm, revealed that more than 1,000 delegates were careless when connecting to public Wi-Fi. In its day-long experiment Avast saw more than 1.6Gbps transferred from more than 1,200 users. Some 68.3 per cent of users‘ identities were exposed when they connected, and 44.5 per cent of Wi-Fi users checked their emails or chatted via messenger apps. The researchers scanned the data, but did not store it or collect personal information. Avast learned the following about the Republican National Convention attendees:

Maxthon browser is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – You may have installed the Maxthon browser on your mobile devices. If so, here’s why you should remove it. Immediately.

These figures show cybercrime is a much bigger menace than anyone thought before – The first official cybercrime figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest one in 10 adults have been victims in last 12 months — a much higher figure than previously thought.

Company News:

PayPal ticks up 2% on earnings, Visa partnership – PayPal reported earnings after the bell on Thursday, showing $2.65 billion in revenue for the quarter, when analysts were expecting $2.6 billion. Adjusted earnings per share was also in line with Wall Street estimates at 36 cents. Shares ticked up 2 percent in after-hours trading, in part because of a Visa announcement that was timed with earnings.

eBay shares up 5% after beating earnings expectations – eBay reported second quarter results after the bell on Wednesday and saw its stock rise over 5% in initial after-hours trading. The company beat expectations, posting earnings at an adjusted 43 cents per share, when analysts were forecasting 42 cents. The company also brought in $2.23 billion in revenue, compared to the $2.17 billion expected by Wall Street. Investors were also pleased to see the company raise its full year guidance. eBay expects between $8.85 billion and $8.95 billion in revenue for 2016.

AMD beats Q2 expectations – AMD on Thursday reported a net loss of $40m for the second quarter, or 5 cents a share, on revenue of $1.027bn. The semiconductor maker posted a non-GAAP operating income of $3m. The second quarter earnings report beat Wall Street expectations, which predicted a loss of 8 cents a share on revenues of $951.6m.

Troubling signs for companies using Twitter for marketing – The largest Twitter profiles are suffering from a “massive” decline in new followers and interactions, reports Quintly in its first semi-annual report.

Reddit is still in turmoil – It’s been one year since Reddit revolted. When the company cracked down on revenge porn and subreddits containing offensive content last summer, the backlash was swift and ultimately led to the ouster of interim CEO Ellen Pao.

Games and Entertainment:

Nintendo NES Classic Edition a great deal. Numbers prove it – The Mini NES isn’t the only place you can get some of these classic video games — but it’s far and away the best overall value.

Here’s what classic games will actually look like on the HD NES Classic Edition – New trailer shows improved color matching, sharpness over previous official downloads.


Catch ’em all for longer: Quick tips to reduce Pokemon Go battery drain – Nintendo is working on a fix, but there are things you can do in the meantime to help.

Nvidia announces the new Titan X, an absurdly powerful $1,200 graphics card – While the recently released $599 GTX 1080 impressed by outperforming last year’s $999 Titan X, the new card goes all-out with Nvidia’s latest Pascal architecture, 12GB of GDDR5X memory, and 3,584 cores at 1.53GHz delivering a quoted 11 teraflops of performance. The new Titan X, which Nvidia calls “the biggest GPU ever built,” has 12 billion transistors in total — and you’ll be paying about $100 per billion. The card will be available on August 2nd in the US and Europe for $1,200, with an Asia release forthcoming.

Hulu’s universal Windows app quietly appears on Xbox One – Mere weeks after Microsoft tested the waters of the Xbox One’s newfound capability to run universal Windows apps with retooled Blu-ray player software, it looks like a much more notable service is ready to take the plunge, too. Late yesterday, users on the Xbox One subreddit noticed a new version of the Hulu app available in the console’s store, with support added for Windows Phones, the Surface Hub, and even Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality headset.

Netflix Users Waste Ton of Time Searching for Something to Watch – Unless you have a list of shows already queued up, you’re spending upwards of 57 minutes a day searching.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Tech reacts to Trump’s RNC speech – Trump’s RNC speech was long, so we here at TechCrunch cut it down for you with 10 quick reactions from investors, executives, and engineers.

Twitter reacts swiftly to Donald Trump’s acceptance speech – Trump’s usually hyperactive Twitter account was, naturally, radio silent, but others had their say on social media during the GOP presidential nominee’s acceptance speech.

Fact check: Donald Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention – Donald Trump does not exactly have a record in public office that can be used to assess his likely performance going forward. Nor does he really have a policy platform in a traditional sense. And his nomination acceptance speech, delivered Thursday night in Cleveland, is the biggest, most important speech he’s given yet. “I will present the facts plainly and honestly,” Trump said. But did he? We counted dozens of factual claims in the speech, and fewer than half scored as true or almost true. But there were also plenty of falsehoods, misleading or disputed claims, or baseless accusations.

The 7 steps of Elon Musk’s “Master Plan” – Why did Tesla buy SolarCity? To make your solar panel roof battery power your self-driving electric pickup truck. Elon Musk just revealed the second phase of his “Master Plan” and we broke it down so you can see the future too.

Smart Stitches Can Monitor Wounds as They Heal – Tiny sensors and electronics on threads create smart sutures that can monitor wounds as they heal.


You booze, you lose: Study confirms direct link between alcohol and cancer – Newly published research has found even moderate consumption of alcohol carries risk of seven types of cancer.

Tweeting trolls: Without tools, Twitter will remain a cesspool of abuse – We have no real tools to effectively manage the flow of information, and by shutting down the third-party client ecosystem, trolls have been enabled to run rampant.

Heinz reveals the secret way to get ketchup out of a bottle – Technically Incorrect: The company says only 11 percent of people know this secret.

Something to think about:

“My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”

–    Donald Trump

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

EFF declares anti-piracy DMCA unconstitutional in new legal showdown – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has launched a lawsuit claiming that a controversial anti-digital-piracy law in the US is unconstitutional.

Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) – which became law 18 years ago – has long been controversial due to its heavy restrictions on what people are allowed to do with software. It was originally intended to protect the movie industry from piracy.

But the expansion of software – and corresponding digital protections – into an enormous range of devices including cars and medical devices has put increasing pressure on the law.

Although the law does include a safety valve in the form of a review by the Copyright Office every three years in which it receives proposals for exemptions, the EFF argues that it has failed to keep pace with the modern world. And that disparity has effectively made the law unconstitutional.

The EFF brings the lawsuit in Washington, DC on behalf of two plaintiffs: a computer scientist and a security researcher.

Petition urges Apple not to release technology for jamming phone cameras – More than 12,000 people have signed an online petition asking Apple not to deploy technology that would allow third parties like the police to use it to disable cameras on user phones under certain circumstances.

Apple received a patent for the infrared technology in June but bagging a patent does not necessarily mean the company is going to use the technology in its new devices.

There is considerable anxiety that the technology, which appears to be designed to prevent people from recording copyrighted and prohibited material, could also be used by the police to remotely disable cameras that could be recording misconduct by law enforcement.

“The release of this technology would have huge implications, including the censoring of political dissidents, activists, and citizens who are recording police brutality,” according to the petition.

WSJ Reporter: Homeland Security Tried to Take My Phones at the Border – On Thursday, a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter claimed that the Department of Homeland Security demanded access to her mobile phones when she was crossing the border at the Los Angeles airport.

The case highlights the powers that border agents purport to have, and how vulnerable sensitive information can be when taken through airports in particular.

“I wanted to share a troubling experience I had with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in the hopes it may help you protect your private information,” Maria Abi-Habib, a WSJ journalist focused on ISIS and Al Qaeda wrote in a post on Facebook. (Abi-Habib confirmed to Motherboard that the Facebook account was hers, but declined to comment further.)

Abi-Habib says she had arrived in town for a wedding, when an immigration officer approached her, and took her aside from the main queue. This by itself was not unusual, Abi-Habib writes: because of her job, she has reportedly been put on a list that allows her to bypass the usual questioning someone with her travel profile may encounter.

But things changed quickly, and Abi-Habib was escorted to another part of the airport.

End-to-end encryption: What does the government really want to do about it? – During scrutiny of the Investigatory Powers Bill in the House of Lords last week the government took a rather vague stance on whether end-to-end encryption would be allowed to be used in the UK, suggesting that while it did not want to ban it, it wanted tech companies to have some way of decrypting those communications.

While some tech companies do have the ability to decrypt their customers conversations – largely because they need to analyse it themselves so they better-targeted their customers with advertising, not all can.

Companies such as Apple and Whatsapp offer end-to-end encrypted communications to customers, which means only the sender and the recipient are able to read it. This worries police who say they need access to all communications to stop criminals plotting in secret. But privacy campaigners warn that undermining encryption would hurt security online and damage UK businesses – and that criminals would simply use encrypted services overseas.

When questioned by Labour and Liberal Democrat peers in the House of Lords, Earl Howe, defence minister and deputy leader of the House of Lords said: “If we do not provide for access to encrypted communications when it is necessary and proportionate to do so, we must simply accept that there can be areas online beyond the reach of the law, where criminals can go about their business unimpeded and without the risk of detection. That cannot be right.”


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