Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – August 8, 2016

Getting started with Tails, the encrypted, leave-no-trace operating system;  ‘Quadrooter’ flaws affect over 900 million Android phones;  Windows 10: You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers;  The Best Windows 10 Universal Apps of 2016;  How to solve Windows 10 crashes in less than a minute;  4 ways to repurpose your tablet – and much more news you need to know.

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Getting started with Tails, the encrypted, leave-no-trace operating system – A step-by-step guide on how to download, install, and start using Tails, the world’s most secure platform.

Ed Bott: Windows 10: You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers – After a full year of public release, Windows 10 has undergone major changes. This FAQ includes details about the Anniversary Update, Windows 10 version 1607, released in August 2016.

The Best Windows 10 Universal Apps of 2016 – Windows 10 lets you easily install apps that run on all manner of devices from tablets and phones to PCs and Xboxes. Here are our favorites. And most of them are free.

Hardcore Windows: How to solve Windows 10 crashes in less than a minute – Let’s get seriously geeky: we’ll tell you how to set up your Windows 10 system up so that, when it does, you’ll be able to find the cause of most crashes in less than a minute for no cost.

Microsoft reduces Windows 10 roll-back grace period – Microsoft has reduced the I-changed-my-mind period in Windows 10 by two-thirds, cutting it from 30 days to 10, the company confirmed. Users who upgraded to Windows 10 were able to roll back to the preceding Windows as long as they did so within 30 days. To make that possible, Microsoft stored the older operating system in a special folder on the device’s drive, consuming up to 5GB of storage space. After the grace period expired, the folder’s contents were deleted. With last week’s Anniversary Update, aka version 1607, the 30 days were reduced to 10.

Microsoft says Windows 10 to receive two big updates in 2017 – The last week has been a big one for Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system. The OS officially turned one year old, bringing an end to the free upgrade period for Windows 7 and 8 users, and shortly after Microsoft began rolling out the highly anticipated Anniversary Update, which introduces a number of new features and cross compatibility with the Xbox One. However, it seems Microsoft also quietly mentioned that it already has planned for two large updates to see release in 2017. There’s no word yet on what new features the first update of 2017 might include, but Windows Central notes that it’s believed to be codenamed “Redstone 2,” and should be released early in the year. The second update, known as “Redstone 3,” would follow at some point in the second half of 2017.

How to access a system image and restore individual files using Windows 10’s native VHD support – No one really has to tell you that it’s important to back up the data on your hard disk. With tools like File History and Create A System Image at your disposal, protecting your data is easy. The hard part often is remembering to use these tools regularly. A VHD is a virtual hard disk that is most notably used with virtual PC programs like Windows 10’s Client Hyper-V. And since Windows 10 lets you work natively work with VHD and ISO files, you can mount them simply by double-clicking on them in File Explorer. When you do, the operating system creates a virtual drive from the file, assigns a drive letter, and makes the drive available in Computer. What you may not know is that a VHD is at the heart of a system image of your hard disk. In other words, when you create a system image, the operating system actually creates a VHD file and stores the contents of the hard disk in it.

How to charge up your smartphone using a friend’s smartphone – Here’s how to make a cable that allows you to recharge your smartphone’s battery from almost any other charged device. Never let your devices go flat again!

Battery pack sales doubled after Pokémon Go’s release – People really weren’t joking about needing extra batteries to play Pokémon Go. Battery pack sales doubled in the US during roughly the two weeks that followed the game’s release, according to The NPD Group. It reports seeing a year-over-year growth of 101 percent, with 1.2 million mobile battery packs being sold between July 10th and July 23rd, just days after the game’s July 6th release. Pokémon Go really seems to be the only explanation here.

How to watch the Rio Olympics on the internet – More of the Olympics will be available online than over conventional TV. Here’s how to watch it.

4 ways to repurpose your tablet – Do you have an old tablet lying around? Or are you ready to upgrade but feel bad ditching your old one? You could make good use of it by repurposing it into something else. Here are a few easy ideas for turning your old tablet into something new — kind of.

Security:

‘Quadrooter’ flaws affect over 900 million Android phones – All versions of Android are vulnerable to these flaws, which won’t be fully patched until the September security release next month.

Hackers Make the First-Ever Ransomware for Smart Thermostats – One day, your thermostat will get hacked by some cybercriminal hundreds of miles away who will lock it with malware and demand a ransom to get it back to normal, leaving you literally in the cold until you pay up a few hundred dollars. This has been a scenario that security experts have touted as one of the theoretical dangers of the rise of the Internet of Things, internet-connected devices that are often insecure. On Saturday, what sounds like a Mr. Robot plot line came one step closer to being reality, when two white hat hackers showed off the first-ever ransomware that works against a “smart” device, in this case a thermostat. Luckily, Andrew Tierney and Ken Munro, the two security researchers who created the ransomware, actually have no ill intention. They just wanted to make a point: some Internet of Things devices fail to take simple security precautions, leaving users in danger.

wps2A5A.tmp

The ransomware message that Tierney and Munro were able to display on the vulnerable thermostat.

Flaw in Samsung Pay lets hackers wirelessly skim credit cards – The tokens that are used to make purchases can be easily stolen and used in other hardware to make fraudulent transactions.

Department of Justice Official Tells Hundred Federal Judges to Use Tor – The US government has a complicated relationship with Tor. While the US is the biggest funder of the non-profit that maintains the software, law enforcement bodies such as the FBI are exploiting Tor browser vulnerabilities on a huge scale to identify criminal suspects. To add to that messy, nuanced mix, one Department of Justice official recently personally recommended Tor to a room of over a hundred federal judges. Ovie Carroll, director for the Cybercrime Lab at the Department of Justice, urged the judges to “use the TOR [sic] network to protect their personal information on their computers, like work or home computers, against data breaches, and the like,” Judge Robert J. Bryan said in July, according to a hearing transcript released on Friday.

Three times as bad as malware: Google shines light on pay-per-install – As some point you have probably downloaded a “free” piece of software only to find it has come with a whole host of other unwanted friends that go on to redirect your browser search bar or inject ads where there weren’t any before. This is the world of pay-per-install (PPI) and Google, along with New York University and the International Computer Science Institute, spent a year digging into the little-understood market, publishing their results in a paper [PDF] this week. What they found over the course of 12 months makes for sobering reading: the issue of PPI is three times greater than malware: no less than 60 million download attempts every week. That’s something that the authors say represents “a major security threat”. They estimate as many as five per cent of all browsers have been affected.

Having a One-Network Stand in a Short-Term Rental? Use Protection! – Using the free Wi-Fi in a sharing-economy rental could put you in a world of hurt, and the sharing renters can have their own serious problems.

Hackers Could Break Into Your Monitor To Spy on You and Manipulate Your Pixels – We think of our monitors as passive entities. The computer sends them data, and they somehow—magically?—turn it into pixels which make words and pictures. But what if that wasn’t the case? What if hackers could hijack our monitors and turn them against us? As it turns out, that’s possible. A group of researchers has found a way to hack directly into the tiny computer that controls your monitor without getting into your actual computer, and both see the pixels displayed on the monitor—effectively spying on you—and also manipulate the pixels to display different images. “We can now hack the monitor and you shouldn’t have blind trust in those pixels coming out of your monitor,” And Cui, the lead researcher who come up with this ingenious hack, told me earlier this week.

Company News:

Walmart is buying Jet.com for $3 billion and will announce the deal on Monday – Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is set to acquire two-year-old online retailer Jet.com in what appears to be the largest-ever acquisition of an e-commerce company, according to multiple sources familiar with the transaction. The deal is expected to value Jet at right around $3 billion, according to these people. Some senior Jet executives, including co-founder and CEO Marc Lore, will have incentive bonuses on top of that. Lore will continue to run Jet as well as Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce operations after the acquisition closes. Walmart is expected to announce the blockbuster transaction on Monday, barring any last-minute hiccups. Bloomberg reported Saturday the two sides were trying to finalize the deal as early as this Monday. Walmart and Jet declined to comment.

Airbnb raising a reported $850M at a $30B valuation – TechCrunch independently verified that Airbnb indicated in a 28 page filing on July 28th that it has plans to bring in additional late-stage capital. Almost a year after its last raise of $1.6 billion, the company is said to be adding $850 million to its coffers, according to information obtained by Equidate. While $850 million is a ton of cash, it is not the largest round the company has raised. Last year, the company raised $1.5 billion in one of the largest VC rounds in history. The additional capital would only move Airbnb from the fifth to the forth most valuable tech unicorn at a potential valuation of $30 billion.

Apple acquires Turi, an AI and machine learning startup – Apple has acquired Seattle-based AI and machine learning startup Turi, according to sources, for around $200 million. Apple has not confirmed details about the acquisition, instead proffering its blanket statement that, on occasion, it buys small tech companies and generally doesn’t talk about why. Sources say the Turi team will probably remain in Seattle, but it isn’t known what exactly Apple has planned for the company.

Apple losing smartphone share in India despite big efforts – Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has described India as one of the company’s fastest growing markets and has proposed to the government a program to offer refurbished phones in the country as a way to get around the high prices of its devices in a price-sensitive market.

Games and Entertainment:

The Elder Scrolls: Legends enters open beta on PC – QuakeCon 2016 is officially underway, and Bethesda has kicked it off by making a pretty big announcement. The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Bethesda’s effort to capture some of the massive audience drawn in by Hearthstone, has entered open beta on PC. The game was previously available as part of an invite-only closed beta, but now Bethesda has opened the floodgates, letting everyone who’s interested have an early look at the game.

Pokemon Go arrives in 15 Asian countries, Niantic confirms catching difficulties are a bug – Pokemon trainers across Asia are rejoicing this weekend, as 15 additional countries in the region have seen Pokemon Go rollout to their app stores for iOS and Android. Niantic, the game’s developer, explained earlier this week that the controversial decision to shut out popular third-party mapping services, such as Pokevision, was in order to reduce strain on their servers, and give them the freedom to focus more on bringing Pokemon Go to other parts of the world.

Pokémon Go crosses $200M in global revenue one month into launch – While bugs and feature complaints are still causing a decent amount of negativity among users, Pokémon Go continues its upward trajectory in terms of overall revenue. App analytics platform Sensor Tower reveals that the game now have over $200 million in net revenue from players based on their estimates. The spending frenzy in Go compares favorably to in-game revenue generated by other huge in-app purchase-driven games, according to data also tracked by the firm. Pokémon’s star power has helped it nearly double the first month revenue of Clash Royale, the other big in-app star this year. And it’s made almost four times as much as Candy Crush Soda Saga managed during its first 30 days of availability.

Playing Early Copies of ‘No Man’s Sky’ Is a Waste of Time – All across the internet, players are managing to get their hands on early copies of the ridiculously hyped space exploration game No Man’s Sky and posting videos of what they’ve seen. For many, as should only be natural for a game that’s been burdened with so many expectations, the final product hasn’t lived up to the dream. But in that regard, the damage has been done (and the fact that Sony is forcing news sites to remove footage via DMCA requests isn’t exactly helping). But if one of those early copies manages to make its way to your door, you might be better off just waiting to play it with everyone else on the proper release date of August 9.

Hulu is developing several pop culture documentaries, including Batman and Bond – While Netflix continues to bolster its original content lineup with new series, streaming video rival Hulu has announced it’s working on a line of new original documentaries. Craig Erwich, Hulu’s senior vice president of global content, revealed on Friday that the service will establish its Limelight Documentary Series with several exclusive documentaries focusing on little-known people and stories in the world of pop culture.

Off Topic (Sort of):

IBM Watson: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers how the IBM Watson data analytics processor works, and how it helps customers in various industries make critical decisions.

6 myths about big data – Is your organization thinking about the best way to organize and analyze data? Here are 6 myths about big data to watch out for before you dive in.

The 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health – Depression is usually brought on by factors beyond our control—the death of a loved one, a job loss, or financial troubles. But the small choices you make every day may also affect your mood more than you may realize. Your social media habits, exercise routine, and even the way you walk may be sucking the happiness out of your day, and you may not even know it. Luckily, these behaviors can be changed. Read on for 12 ways you’re sabotaging your good moods, and what you can do to turn it around.

Microsoft, Sony, and other companies still use illegal warranty-void-if-removed stickers – One of the ways manufacturers coerce users not to modify or even open hardware they’ve purchased is through warranty-void-if-removed stickers. These stickers are common on electronics equipment — Microsoft uses them on the Xbox One, Sony has them on the PS4, and you’ve probably owned a phone that had at least one somewhere. These stickers are almost certainly illegal, as Motherboard points out in relation to the new Xbox One S. The problem with the stickers is that they run afoul of the FCC’s rules on tying repair services to specific products. This issue is also probably why Apple agreed to change its practices regarding iPhones, when devices that had been repaired by third-party shops would then suddenly fail when upgraded to Apple’s latest operating system.

Bats Crash Into Each Other All the Time, High-Speed Cameras Reveal – The sight of bats bursting forth from caves at dusk is majestic enough to dazzle any spectator, scientist, or Gotham City billionaire orphan vigilante. Comprised of hundreds of thousands of mammalian aeronauts, these massive clouds of biomass seem to move as one organism, demonstrating the extraordinary coordination of individual bats. Or, so it would appear to the untrained eye. High-speed video cameras, however, reveal that bats are a lot more accident-prone than they look at first glance.

People look guiltier when their actions are viewed in slow motion – Viewers who watch videos in slow motion—as opposed to regular speed—are more likely to feel that the people filmed act with a willful, deliberate, and premeditated intention, researchers report. The elongation of events, it turns out, gives viewers the impression that people in video clips have more time to think over and plan out what they are doing. The findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that jurors who view slow motion footage of an alleged crime may assign more responsibility to the accused than they would have otherwise.

How Google Analytics ruined marketing – Marketers in the high-tech world who use phrases such as “social media marketing,” “Facebook marketing” and “content marketing” do not understand the basic difference between marketing strategies, marketing channels and marketing content. And Google Analytics is to blame.

FTC sets its sights on sneaky sponsored social media posts – While some types of sponsored content are easy to spot, that kind of transparency hasn’t quite made its way into the social media realm. Tweets, status updates, Instagram photos and more dot the digital landscape with celebrities holding or using products, slyly showcasing notable brands to their thousands or millions of followers. Often times, these posts are advertisements the individual is getting paid to publish…but rarely are the statuses flagged as such.

Something to think about:

“There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be President.”

–     Kurt Vonnegut

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

FBI Dumps 18 Hours of Spy Plane Footage From Black Lives Matter Protests – It’s been just over a year since amateur aviation sleuths first revealed the FBI’s secret aerial surveillance of the civil unrest in Baltimore, Maryland.

Now, in response to a FOIA request from the ACLU, the Bureau has released more than 18 hours of aerial footage from the Baltimore protests captured by their once-secret spy planes, which regularly fly in circles above major cities and are commonly registered to fake companies.

The cache is likely the most comprehensive collection of aerial surveillance footage ever released by a US law enforcement agency. The videos, which the FBI claims are its “complete” recordings of the Baltimore unrest, cover the period of April 29 through May 3, 2015, when protests and riots erupted following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody under suspicious circumstances. Last month, prosecutors dropped all remaining charges in the case, concluding with no convictions for any of the police officers involved in the incident.

The footage shows the crowds of protesters captured in a combination of visible light and infrared spectrum video taken by the planes’ wing-mounted FLIR Talon cameras. While individual faces are not clearly visible in the videos, it’s frighteningly easy to imagine how cameras with a slightly improved zoom resolution and face recognition technology could be used to identify protesters in the future.

Challenge Over UK Bulk Hacking Powers Taken to European Court of Human Rights – On Friday, activist group Privacy International and five internet and communications providers lodged an application before the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the UK’s use of bulk hacking powers abroad.

“The European Court of Human Rights has a strong track record of ensuring that intelligence agencies act in compliance with human rights law. We call on the Court to hold GCHQ accountable for its unlawful bulk hacking practices,” Scarlet Kim, legal officer at Privacy International, said in a statement.

The application has been made with UK-based non-profit GreenNet, the Chaos Computer Club from Germany, Jibonet from South Korea, US internet service provider May First, and communications provider Rise Up.

In 2014, Privacy International filed a complaint over the country’s bulk hacking powers with the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a court which determines if public authorities have unlawfully used covert techniques. In February of this year, the IPT concluded that GCHQ’s hacking was legal under the UK’s Intelligence Service Act 1994.

Privacy International is now challenging whether the UK’s interpretation of the Intelligence Service Act for using bulk hacking powers complies with the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

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