Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – August 3, 2016

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: The good, the bad and the ‘meh’ (with video);  How to watch the Olympics without paying for cable TV;  Android security software: Unique features of five popular apps;  Transform Google Chrome into the ultimate browsing tool;  Five tips to soup up Chrome for Android;  The Motherboard Guide to Not Getting Hacked;  12 Tips to Make You a Chromebook Pro;  Manchester United vs. Everton to kick off live on Facebook – and much more news you need to know.

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Windows 10’s Anniversary Update is now available – Microsoft’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update is here and ready to download. The software maker first started testing its Anniversary Update back in December, and now all Windows 10 users get to experience the new features and improvements free of charge. Chief among them is a new Windows Ink feature. Microsoft has supported inking in Windows for years, but Windows Ink is a dedicated hub designed for devices like the Surface Pro 4, and other 2-in-1s with styluses. Windows Ink will work with your fingers, for doodling and inking on screenshots, but it will obviously work better with a dedicated stylus. Windows 10 Anniversary Update also includes a number of UI improvements to the Start menu, notification center, taskbar, and overall dark theme. Microsoft is also tweaking Cortana to allow the digital assistant to work on the lock screen and answer queries.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: The good, the bad and the ‘meh’ (with video) – The Windows 10 Anniversary Update has been a year in the making, with more than two dozen public previews made available so that we could get a taste of what was to come. As of August 2nd, it is finally here. So after all the time, all the work and all the hype, how does it stack up? Will it improve Microsoft’s one-year-old operating system, or make users regret that they upgraded? I’ve installed it on a Microsoft Surface 2 tablet and HP Stream 13 laptop in order to take an in-depth look. Read on for details.

10 Cool New Features in Windows 10 Anniversary Update – Windows 10 has now been around for almost a year, and it’s off to a much better start than Microsoft’s previous major release, Windows 8. With over 350 million devices running the operating system so far, the company claims it’s experienced the fastest update of any version of Windows. It also gets the highest satisfaction level, according to customer feedback. Click through the slideshow to see what we consider the coolest new capabilities in the Anniversary Update.

How to install Microsoft Edge browser extensions – With the Anniversary Update Microsoft Edge can finally use browser extensions. Here’s how to install them.

Five tips to soup up Chrome for Android – For the first few years of Android’s existence, the stock browser was a WebKit-based affair that was only updated when the OS was. Now, Chrome ships on nearly all Android phones and tablets, and it’s updated at near light speed via the Play Store. It’s gotten a lot better over the years, but many of the best features are not immediately apparent, and a few need to be toggled on. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of Chrome on Android.

LibreOffice 5.2 includes classified documents and a streamlined interface – The Document Foundation is today releasing LibreOffice 5.2 for Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs. Major new features include support for marking sensitive documents as classified and a function for forecasting financial data. It’s still open source and completely free to use.

Transform Google Chrome into the ultimate browsing tool – Simple hacks to make the Google Chrome browser better, faster, and more RAM efficient, as well as helping to make you more productive.

12 Tips to Make You a Chromebook Pro – They’re inexpensive and easy to use, but these tricks make Chromebooks even more user friendly.

A beginner’s guide to BitLocker, Windows’ built-in encryption tool – Here’s how to get started with BitLocker, the encryption tool Microsoft built right into many versions of Windows.

Instagram’s anti-abuse comment filter is rolling out now – As detailed last week, Instagram is now letting some of its users ban certain words from appearing in comments on their posts. The photo-sharing social network has now introduced a new filter that users can manually customize by adding words of their choosing that they want excluded, potentially allowing them to ban trolls, spammers, and other nefarious figures from leaving offensive or annoying messages on personal accounts.

Instagram launches “Stories,” a Snapchatty feature for imperfect sharing – People only post the highlights of their life on Instagram, so today the app adds its own version of “Stories” to poach goofy, off-the-cuff, everyday content from Snapchat. It works exactly like Snapchat Stories, allowing you to post 24-hour ephemeral photo and video slideshows that disappear. But because Instagram Stories appear at the top of the old feed, your followers will inevitably see them without you needing to build a new audience in a different app. Instagram Stories is rolling out globally for iOS and Android over the next few weeks.

Four US firms rule the world’s cloud infrastructure – There are plenty of companies vying for a piece of the worldwide cloud infrastructure market, but the top four — all in the U.S. — currently dominate by such a wide margin as to effectively leave their competitors in the dust.

Android security software: Unique features of five popular apps – There are a lot of antivirus apps available for Android, and like everything in the Google Play store, caution is required. Antivirus apps need lots of access to your phone, so make sure you completely trust whatever you choose to install. If you’re wondering which apps you can trust take a look at these five and some of the features that make them unique.


19 ways to stay anonymous and protect your online privacy – Whether you’re a political activist or simply someone who hates the idea of third-parties scrutinizing your surfing habits, there are plenty of tools available to keep prying eyes off of your traffic. In this post, I’m going to highlight 19 ways to increase your online privacy. Some methods are more complicated than others, but if you’re serious about remaining private, these tips will help shield your traffic from snoops. Of course, internet security is a topic in and of itself, so you’re going to need to do some reading to remain thoroughly protected on all fronts. And remember, even the most careful among us are still vulnerable to imperfect technology.

The Motherboard Guide to Not Getting Hacked – The internet can sometimes be a scary place, where hackers steal hundreds of millions of passwords in one swoop, or cause large-scale blackouts. The future is probably not going to get better, with real-life disasters caused by internet-connected stuff, smart house robots that could kill you, flying hacker laptops, and the dangers of hackers getting your genetic data. But here’s the good news. There’s actually no need to be scared. Hacking and data breaches are real, growing dangers, but there are basic steps that can keep you generally safe on the internet, and we’re going to tell you what they are.

Bitcoin exchange hit with $61 million theft – Hackers have compromised the Bitcoin exchange Bitfinex, the company announced today, withdrawing roughly $61 million from various consumer accounts. The causes of the breach are still unclear, but the attackers appear to have bypassed Bitfinex’s mandated limits on withdrawals. “The theft is being reported to — and we are co-operating with — law enforcement,” the statement reads. “We ask for the community’s patience as we unravel the causes and consequences of this breach.” Bitfinex halted trading at 2pm GMT in order to stop further thefts, and users can check the public blockchain to see if their own accounts were affected.

Google now gives you Android notifications when new devices log into your accounts – Rather than receiving an email alert from Google when a new device has been used to login to a Google account, Android users can expect to see a native notification on their smartphone asking whether they have just tried to sign in. From there, the user can tap the notification to review account activity and take action to secure their account if necessary.


People are four times more likely to review alerts in mobile notifications than in email. Image: Google

Frequent password changes are the enemy of security, FTC technologist says – Shortly after Carnegie Mellon University professor Lorrie Cranor became chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission in January, she was surprised by an official agency tweet that echoed some oft-repeated security advice. It read: “Encourage your loved ones to change passwords often, making them long, strong, and unique.” Cranor wasted no time challenging it. The reasoning behind the advice is that an organization’s network may have attackers inside who have yet to be discovered. Frequent password changes lock them out. But to a university professor who focuses on security, Cranor found the advice problematic for a couple of reasons.

Jeep hackers at it again, this time taking control of steering and braking systems – A pair of hackers have compromised their Jeep Cherokee, fooling the car into doing dangerous things like turning the steering wheel or activating the parking brake at highway speeds. It’s the same pair that hacked their Jeep remotely last year. But, because this version of the hack requires physical access to the car — in this case, through a laptop connected to the OBD II engine diagnostic port — it may not be quite as scary, except for the fact that they’re controlling way more vehicle systems.

Hacker Dumps Sensitive Patient Data From Ohio Urology Clinics – On Tuesday, a hacker or group of hackers using the name Pravvy Sector posted a link on Twitter to over 150 GB of data from the Central Ohio Urology Group. On its website, the organisation says it is the largest concentration of experienced urologists in Ohio, and lists more than 20 locations. The data contains a mountain of apparent financial spreadsheets, human resource documents, and patient records. The files include names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, and what looks like treatments patients have received, such as renal ultrasound, sperm count, or semen analysis. Some records show the insurance company patients are registered with.

Yahoo ‘Aware’ Hacker Is Advertising 200 Million Supposed Accounts on Dark Web – A notorious cybercriminal is advertising 200 million of alleged Yahoo user credentials on the dark web, and the company has said it is “aware” of the hacker’s claims, but has not confirmed nor denied the legitimacy of the data. On Monday, the hacker known as Peace, who has previously sold dumps of Myspace and LinkedIn, listed supposed credentials of Yahoo users on The Real Deal marketplace. Peace told Motherboard that he has been trading the data privately for some time, but only now decided to sell it openly.

Company News:

Bitcoin drops 20% after $70M worth of Bitcoin was stolen from Bitfinex exchange – Bitfinex, one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges online, has suffered a major hack. The company has posted a note on their website detailing the security breach, and while it doesn’t mention a total amount, one of their employees confirmed on Reddit that the total amount stolen was 119,756 bitcoins. That amount converts to about $77,000,000 based on a price of $650 USD per bitcoin, which is about what Bitcoin traded at over the course of the last week. After news of the hack spread the price of Bitcoin dropped almost 20%, settling in around the current price of $540 USD per bitcoin. It’s not exactly clear why the price dropped, but it’s likely Bitcoin investors got nervous about potential hacks on other exchanges and decided to sell off their Bitcoin holdings, which led to a rapid decrease in price.

Judge wipes out patent troll’s $625M verdict against Apple – A patent-holding company that won a huge court victory against Apple had its victory wiped out today, and its stock plunged by more than 40 percent. Nevada-based VirnetX won a jury trial against Apple earlier this year. An East Texas jury ruled that Apple must pay $625.6 million to VirnetX for infringing four patents. The patents are said to cover Apple’s VPN on-demand feature, as well as FaceTime. US District Judge Robert Schroeder, who oversaw the trial, published an order (PDF) on Friday that vacates the verdict and orders a new trial to begin in September.

Google Project Wing drone delivery testing will take place in US – Google has been given the go-ahead to test its Project Wing delivery drones in the United States, permission announced by the White House itself to highlight research in the field of UAVs. The Project Wing testing is set to eclipse Amazon’s own drone testing, becoming the currently largest drone delivery trials in the U.S. Google will be given access to one of half a dozen drone testing sites approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

6 Things to Know About Uber’s Surrender in China – In a summer of big tech deals, this could be counted as the most unexpected. Uber is selling its China operations to its bitter – and more successful – rival, Didi Chuxing, which controls 80% of China’s ride-sharing market. The repercussions of the deal will be felt far beyond China, affecting everything from Uber’s prospects for an IPO to the fate of its competitors in other markets.

How Comcast convinced customers to buy “near-worthless” service plans – The Washington state attorney general’s $100 million lawsuit against Comcast, filed yesterday, uses a sales script and transcripts of chats with customers to make the case that Comcast deceived subscribers when marketing what the state calls “near-worthless” service plans. Since January 2011, Comcast made $73 million selling Service Protection Plans (SPP) for up to $5 a month to 500,000 customers in Washington. But the service plans were sold to customers under false pretenses, with Comcast describing the plans as being far more comprehensive and useful than they were, Attorney General Bob Ferguson alleged.

FCC forces TP-Link to support open source firmware on routers – Networking hardware vendor TP-Link today admitted violating US radio frequency rules by selling routers that could operate at power levels higher than their approved limits. In a settlement with the Federal Communications Commission, TP-Link agreed to pay a $200,000 fine, comply with the rules going forward, and to let customers install open source firmware on routers. The open source requirement is a unique one, as it isn’t directly related to TP-Link’s violation. Moreover, FCC rules don’t require router makers to allow loading of third-party, open source firmware. In fact, recent changes to FCC rules made it more difficult for router makers to allow open source software.

Games and Entertainment:

Manchester United vs. Everton to kick off live on Facebook – England captain Wayne Rooney’s testimonial game will be shown live from Old Trafford to Facebook users around the globe.

How to watch the Olympics without paying for cable TV – Rio 2016 promises to be the “most live Olympics ever.” It may also end up being the most-streamed, thanks to a wealth of options that enable cord cutters catch all the action. The good news is today there are alternatives for cord cutters we couldn’t dream of at the time of the last Summer Games just four years ago. And with very little hassle or expense, you can be sure you won’t miss a single medal-winning performance.

The Xbox One S heats up the HDR format war – The newly revised Xbox One S launched today and offers HDR video support as one of the primary distinctions from the original model. More specifically, the Xbox One S uses the HDR10 standard to allow your Xbox to output HDR video (assuming you’ve got one of the few compatible HDR TV sets) to offer better picture quality for supported games and videos than regular HD content. Wondering what HDR video is? What the differences between HDR10 and the competing standard, Dolby Vision are? Which TV sets support it? Read on.

Apple TV remote app turns iPhone into a remote control – Apple has launched a new app to give users more control over their Apple TV without having to put down their iPhone. The app is simply called the Apple TV Remote and is designed to give iPhone users the same sort of control that Siri Remote offers from their smartphone. Using the app, the Apple TV can be controlled with a swipe of your finger and the keyboard can be used to enter text more quickly than you can with the normal Siri Remote.

6 Games You’ll Want to Buy in August – August breaks the video game dry spell with a fantastic lineup of titles. This year’s video game releases pick up the pace as we move into the second half of the year. August kick-starts the incoming flood with a wealth of great titles for a variety of platforms. We’ve selected some of the month’s most promising video games for our list, so be sure to consult it if you’re on the hunt for a new game or three.

The NFL is the first sports league on Snapchat Discover – The NFL and Snapchat heart each other, and will continue to heart each other for multiple years to come: The two announced an extension to their “strategic partnership” today, which includes Snapchat’s first official sports league Discover channel, an NFL-programmed collection of piping hot football fan service content. The NFL is also doubling down on its existing commitment to create Live Stories, promising one produced for every single NFL official season game, including the Super bowl, and for special events like the NFL Draft. Live Stories from the NFL blend behind-the-scenes content from insiders, as well as fan-created Snaps added via location-based contributions. Also in store for NFL fans are custom-created Snapchat Geofilters for each of the NFL’s 32 teams.

Off Topic (Sort of):

MIT creates video you can reach out and touch – Strictly speaking, video isn’t an interactive medium, but a new research project from MIT aims to change that: The school’s CSAIL lab has come up with a technique through which viewers can reach out and “touch” objects in videos, manipulating them directly to achieve effects similar to what you’d expect if you were actually touching the object live in the real world. Basically, that means that using this technique, if you were watching a YouTube video of someone playing guitar and it zoomed in tight on the fretboard, you could theoretically use your mouse to drag across the strings and watch them vibrate as if you’d strummed them in real life. Or, you could even load test an old covered bridge by applying virtual stressors like simulated wind, or a truck rumbling across.


Is it dumb to trust smart technology? – How do you use something that’s fully automatic, anyway? What is the responsibility of the “user”? Can we just hand over control to the bots? Recent events in the news suggest that when it comes to using our automatic products and features, some people are doing it wrong.

Donald Trump signs pledge to crack down on Internet porn – Donald Trump has pledged to crack down on Internet pornography via corporate partnerships and possibly establishing a federal commission on the harmful effects of pornography, a nonprofit said Monday. While it appears to be coincidental, Trump’s pledge comes a day after the New York Post’s Sunday edition included a full-page nude photo of Melania Trump, his wife, on its cover. Enough is Enough, a nonprofit dedicated to confronting online pornography, child pornography, child stalking and sexual predation, published Trump’s signed pledge on Monday. Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton refused to sign the pledge, Enough is Enough said, though her campaign told EiE that she supported its goals.

HPE CEO Meg Whitman endorses Hilary Clinton, dumps on Trump – Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman has endorsed Hilary Clinton as the next president of the United States. Whitman penned a statement on Facebook in which she unloaded on Trump. “As a proud Republican, casting my vote for President has usually been a simple matter,” she opens, before saying “To vote Republican out of party loyalty alone would be to endorse a candidacy that I believe has exploited anger, grievance, xenophobia and racial division. Donald Trump’s demagoguery has undermined the fabric of our national character.” She goes on to say Trump “lacks both the policy depth and sound judgment required as President” and “would endanger our prosperity and national security.” A vote for Hilary Clinton, she says, represents a vote for “stable and aspirational leadership” that America needs. She concludes by urging “all Republicans to reject Donald Trump this November.”

US Constitution becomes a best-seller after Trump comments – The US Constitution is hot. The document, which turns 229 years old next month, has become an Amazon best-seller after the father of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq pulled out a miniature copy at the Democratic National Convention last week to criticize Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. “Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution?” he asked, shaking the pocket edition in the air. “I will gladly lend you my copy.” Since then, a $1 pocket edition of the document has climbed the internet retailer’s best-seller list, coming in second only to “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

US government poised to approve first private mission to the Moon – Private spaceflight company Moon Express will soon announce it has been granted regulatory approval by the US government to send a lunar lander to the surface of the Moon, according to a source familiar with the matter. If so, that means the company will be the first private company to have received permission from the government to send a vehicle beyond Earth orbit and on to another world. Moon Express is a private spaceflight company with long-term hopes of mining the lunar surface.

Something to think about:

“Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.”

–    Henry Kissinger

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Judge blasts FBI for bugging courthouse, throws out 200 hours of recordings – The FBI violated the Fourth Amendment by recording more than 200 hours of conversation at the entrance to a county courthouse in the Bay Area, a federal judge has ruled.

Federal agents planted the concealed microphones around the San Mateo County Courthouse in 2009 and 2010 as part of an investigation into alleged bid-rigging at public auctions for foreclosed homes. In November, lawyers representing five defendants filed a motion arguing that the tactic was unconstitutional, since the Fourth Amendment bans unreasonable searches.

“[T]he government utterly failed to justify a warrantless electronic surveillance that recorded private conversations spoken in hushed tones by judges, attorneys, and court staff entering and exiting a courthouse,” US District Judge Charles Breyer wrote in an order (PDF) published yesterday. “Even putting aside the sensitive nature of the location here, Defendants have established that they believed their conversations were private and they took reasonable steps to thwart eavesdroppers.”

Breyer concluded that the disputed evidence must be suppressed. At a hearing next week, he’ll consider whether the recordings tainted the rest of the prosecution’s case.

Privacy Activists Launch Database to Track Global Sales of Surveillance Tech – The surveillance industry is notoriously secretive and opaque. But on Tuesday, activists at Privacy International released a searchable database on over 500 surveillance companies, including many of their brochures and export data.

“We’re trying to compile a resource which will track all the open source accounts of what technology is being used where, and who it’s provided by,” Edin Omanovic, research officer at Privacy International, told Motherboard in a phone call.

The database is called the Surveillance Industry Index (SII), and can be queried by company name and city, type of product, different surveillance trade shows, and more. The idea, Omanovic said, is to give journalists, activists, researchers, and policymakers “a better understanding of what kind of products are out there, and what the actual industry looks like.”

This is particularly important in regard to the sale of surveillance equipment to authoritarian regimes, or countries with a poor human rights record.

“In non-democratic and authoritarian systems, the power gained from the use of surveillance technologies can undermine democratic development and lead to serious human rights abuses”

Privacy International regularly sneaks into surveillance or military trade shows and obtains product brochures. The group has also collated and examined government-published export data, as well as media and NGO reports.

The top five countries represented in the SII are the US with 122 companies, the UK with 104, France and Germany with just over 40 each, and Israel with 27. In all, the SII covers 528 companies, and includes over 1500 brochures.

Census 2016: Chaos for Australians ahead of August 9 – The census next Tuesday will be the first time the names and addresses of 24 million Australians will be kept and linked to other data for four years, a change that has sparked outrage among public interest groups.

“The whole concept behind privacy is control of your personal information,” said Kat Lane, vice chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation.

“What we need to understand as a society is that it needs to be a choice whether you share your data with the world and whether you don’t.”

Ms Lane said Australians needed to be assured by the government that they would not be prosecuted and fined for not putting their names on the census if they did not wish.

“[The Australian Bureau of Statistics] didn’t factor in a large amount of media coverage over what is a significant change…the consultation process was so poor, they should be announcing that no one should be prosecuted.”

Australians that do not complete and return a census form could face fines of up to $180 a day. (recommended by Mal C.)

Data Shows How the UK Grants Licences to Export Interception Tech – Since 2015, the UK government has granted over 100 export licenses for “off the air” interception devices such as IMSI-catchers, figures show.

The data, compiled by activist group Privacy International and shown to Motherboard, highlights that the majority of applications to export these surveillance technologies to regimes such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia were granted.

“Such technology can be used to indiscriminately track and spy on vast amounts of people in a specific place, for example at a demonstration,” Edin Omanovic, research officer at Privacy International, told Motherboard in an email. “Without safeguards, an accountable security sector, and a strong legal framework in place, such technology can be used to undermine human rights and democratisation, and in such circumstance it should certainly not be being exported. It is therefore extremely worrying that countries with records of gross human rights abuses appear in the records.”

Most granted licenses were for Indonesia, which had 19, followed by Qatar and Singapore

UK companies have successfully applied to export interception tools to countries such as Turkey, Turkmenistan, Russia, Bangladesh and China. The data lists 64 different recipient countries. In all, 113 applications were successful, according to the data provided by Privacy International.

Most granted licenses were for Indonesia, which had 19, followed by Qatar and Singapore, with 17 and 16 licenses respectively.

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