Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – August 15, 2016

The best free Android apps for going back to school;  Secret Tips for Getting Started in No Man’s Sky;  8 Dangerous Data Breaches That Should Freak You the F*&K Out;  How to give Dropbox on Android a boost with Dropsync;  15 Android Apps Actually Worth Paying For; 13 essential network security utilities;  Best budget laptops;  The best graphics cards for PC gaming –  and much more news you need to know.

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The best free Android apps for going back to school – Sadly, it’s time for fewer games and more productivity. Here’s how to get your Android device ready for another school year.

How to lock down Windows 10 Anniversary Update’s privacy settings – The Windows 10 Anniversary Update has dropped, bringing a significant number of under-the-hood changes to the operating system. We’ve written many times about Windows 10 privacy issues over the past year, but haven’t gathered up our recommendations and strategies into a single story until now. Want to lock down your install and improve security? You’ve come to the right place.

Jim Hillier: Make File Explorer Open to ‘This PC’ in Windows 10 – In Windows 10, Microsoft changed File Explorer’s default view from This PC  (formerly My Computer or Computer) to Quick Access. Whenever you open a File Explorer window, you’ll see the Quick Access view, which provides access to frequently used folders and recently used files. *File Explorer was previously named Windows Explorer in earlier Windows versions but was renamed to File Explorer in Windows 8. Some may find the new Quick Access display handy but others might prefer the more traditional view, similar to older versions of Windows, which displays connected drives and devices. Changing between the two is a very quick and simple process, here’s how:

Windows 10 Anniversary Update freezing: Microsoft offers temporary fix – Microsoft confirms that some Windows 10 devices are freezing after installing the Anniversary Update and suggests ways around the issue while it investigates.

Best budget laptops: We rate the best-selling portables on Amazon and Best Buy – Everyone’s received that call for help. So here’s what we’d tell our non-nerdy friends if they asked which laptops are really the best deals on Amazon and Best Buy.

The hacking toolkit: 13 essential network security utilities – “Magic bullet” software does not exist. There is no single app that will be used to attack, or help defend all desktop, mobile, and IoT networks. Instead, a suite of open source and commercial software is used to map networks, sniff packets, and crack passwords. These are the most widely used exploitation tools.

15 Android Apps Actually Worth Paying For – Really, when you think about it, apps—truly worthwhile apps—are some of the best bargains available. The alternative is barf-inducing mobile ads or sly freemium models that prey on the ignorant. Everybody wins when you are willing to shell out a little for the apps you use every day. Here we present 15 apps available for download in Google Play that are completely worth the tiny cost of entry.

How to work with PGP keys using GnuPG – To encrypt email and files, you need to know how to work with PGP keys. Get up to speed on generating, exporting, and importing encryption keys with GnuPG.

How to give Dropbox on Android a boost with Dropsync – If you use Dropbox on an Android device, the Dropsync app is a must-have, says Jack Wallen. Learn how to use Dropsync.

Google Cloud Platform … in less than two minutes – Wondering what makes Google Cloud Platform different from AWS and MS Azure? Find out … in less than two minutes!


20 top US hotels hit by fresh malware attacks – A new swathe of US hotels has fallen prey to point-of-sale (PoS) malware which may have exposed customer financial data. 20 US hotels operated by HEI Hotel & Resorts on behalf of Starwood, Marriot, Hyatt and Intercontinental may have leaked the financial data of customers due to malware installed at PoS terminals and systems, including at bars, restaurants, spas and shops. Hotel properties in cities including San Francisco, Chicago, Arlington and Washington DC were included in the data breach. Malware was active at different stages depending on the property, but customer data was exposed between 2015 and 2016. The full list is below:

8 Dangerous Data Breaches That Should Freak You the F*&K Out – In recent decades, some of the most secure servers in the world have gotten pwned. Security is an illusion!

How to mitigate ransomware, DDoS attacks, and other cyber extortion threats – Ransomware and other forms of cyber extortion are effective moneymakers for the bad guys. Learn why, and how not to fall prey to digital extortionists.

Hackers can steal data via the sounds of a hard drive – Just about anytime you think you and your computer are safe from hackers and security weaknesses, some bizarre, unexpected method or flaw gets discovered. Case in point: security researchers have come up with a way to steal data from a computer’s hard drive just by listening to the sounds it makes. Not only can information be transmitted without a users’ knowledge, but their computer doesn’t even need to be connected to the internet. Called DiskFiltration, the hack works by taking control of a hard drive’s actuator, or the arm that moves back and forth across the platters when reading and writing data. These movements make various noises — the kind you usually hear when first booting up a desktop PC.


Guccifer 2.0 doxes hundreds of House Democrats with massive document dump – On Friday, the online persona behind a high-profile hack of the Democratic National Committee took credit for a separate breach of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. To prove they were responsible, the leaker known as Guccifer 2.0 published a massive amount of personal information belonging to hundreds of Democratic representatives. One Excel spreadsheet contains a dizzying amount of work and cell phone numbers, home addresses, official and personal e-mail addresses, names of staffers, and other personal information for the entire roster of Democratic representatives.

These were the best hacks at Black Hat and Def Con this year – Weren’t in Vegas for the heat and hacking? Here’s what you need to know.

Gmail’s new security warnings make your email safer – Google has made its email service a bit safer thanks to the inclusion of a pair of new security warnings. Gmail users will see these security warnings both on the Web and in Gmail for Android, with one warning showing up as a question mark and the other being a big, bold red “Warning” notice. The security warnings are being rolled out as part of a rapid release, which is scheduled to happen in two weeks; the actual rollout will only take a couple days, though, so you should see both arrive in your inbox fairly soon.

The IoT threat to privacy – As the Internet of Things becomes more widespread, consumers must demand better security and privacy protections that don’t leave them vulnerable to corporate surveillance and data breaches. But before consumers can demand change, they must be informed — which requires companies to be more transparent.

Company News:

Lyft turned down an acquisition offer from General Motors – General Motors recently told Lyft that it is interested in acquiring the ridesharing company. Though Lyft at least briefly considered it — and went on to look into other potential acquirers, as well — it ultimately turned GM away. This is according to a pair of sources who cropped up recently; while they don’t know how much General Motors was looking to pay, it is worth pointing out that GM has already invested heavily in Lyft, having shelled out $500 million to get a 9-percent stake in the company several months ago.

Foxconn completes acquisition of Sharp – After months of negotiation, Foxconn has acquired debt-ridden Sharp, and as a result has appointed Tai Jeng-wu as the company’s new president and chief executive.

Microsoft gives partners their Windows 10 marching orders – “If you haven’t gotten it yet: Security, security, security. Focus on security first.” That was the missive from Microsoft execs to the company’s reseller partners in one of several sessions on selling Windows 10 at the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference last month. In a session called “Content and Cash: Microsoft investments in helping partners sell and deploy Windows 10,” Microsoft’s emphasis on getting Windows 10 into enterprises was clear. And the way to enterprises hearts is first and foremost through improved security, Microsoft officials said.

Games and Entertainment:

The best graphics cards for PC gaming – Let us make it easy for you. We’ve tested damned near every major GPU that has hit the streets over the past couple of years, from $100 budget cards to $1,200 luxury models. Our knowledge has been distilled down into this article—a buying guide with recommendations on which graphics card to buy, across all major price points.

Secret Tips for Getting Started in No Man’s Sky – To help you get started, here are our tips for how to take the first steps on your journey toward the center of the No Man’s Sky galaxy. It’s going to be a long trip, and we’ll all surely arrive changed from what we were when we began, but it’s time to take to the sky. Not sure this is the game for you? Maybe our list of 5 Reasons to Get No Man’s Sky will convince you.


No Man’s Sky is a game so vast and so open that knowing where to start can be tricky. Our tips can help you take your first steps into the unknown.

No Man’s Sky launch on PC puts a big dent in the resurgence of computer gaming – The No Man’s Sky launch on PC is a terrible nightmare. Some gamers have even decided to wait for bug fixes. This is not a good sign.

PlayStation Now tipped for PC launch later this month – Sony has a game subscription service called PlayStation Now that allows PlayStation owners to play a bunch of games streamed over the Internet. According to a new source that has cropped up, the company is planning to launch that game subscription service for PCs later this month, giving computer gamers the same massive roster of games for, presumably, the same $19.99/month price that PlayStation owners pay.

Another Halo Wars 2 beta will hit Xbox One, PC in 2017 – The Xbox One’s open beta for Halo Wars 2, the second real-time strategy game set in the Halo universe, was held back in June, and developer 343 Industries has revealed details on what their main takeaways from the experience were, along with some of the things they’ll be changing as a result of player feedback. The biggest surprise, however, was the announcement that a second beta will be released in early 2017 for both of the game’s platforms, Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs.

Final Fantasy XV release delayed by two months, Square Enix confirms – The long, long wait for Final Fantasy XV just got a little longer, as director Hajime Tabata confirmed rumors that the game has been delayed. The new release date is November 29th, almost two months after the previously announced date of September 30th.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Woman caught texting with hands, steering car with foot – Technically Incorrect: In Pennsylvania, a couple films a woman who relies on her New Balance shoe to balance her car.


Guy tricks Windows tech support scammers into installing ransomware – Windows tech support scammers have fleeced an unbelievable number of people out of their hard-earned cash. One geeky vigilante decided to turn the tables. Now, plenty of tech-savvy folks have had a little fun at the expense of these fraudsters. Generally they play along and waste as much of the caller’s time as possible and watch them harmlessly fiddle with a virtual machine. This guy took things to the next level.

Elio Motor’s 3-wheeled mini-car priced at $7,000 for pre-orders – You might remember hearing about Elio Motors before. The company is known for crowdfunding its small, three-wheeled car that gets 84 mpg from a 3-cylinder engine, promising a price “around $6,800,” and remaining noncommittal on a release date. Well, Elio Motors has announced a new pricing scheme that somewhat overshoots that original price, but will still allow customers to pre-order the vehicle for a guaranteed price of $7,000, as long as they make a binding commitment to purchase one.


Australia: Census 2016: A case study in the confluence of failure – Rather than being its usual night of civic duty, the 2016 Australian Census was a failure of leadership, technology, and communications by government, the ABS, and IBM.

Does Trump Really Write All of His Tweets? – An data scientist analyzes Donald Trump’s Twitter account to determine which ones he writes himself.

The Secret to Learning a Foreign Language as an Adult – I’ve learned several foreign languages as an adult. I was able to learn French to conversation fluency in 17 days using the following techniques. Note that I had previously learned Spanish to fluency so this was not my first foreign language.

MIT and Microsoft Research made a ‘smart’ tattoo that remotely controls your phone – A group of PhD students from the MIT Media Lab and researchers from Microsoft Research have come up with the ultimate wearable: a temporary tattoo that can turn into a touchpad, remotely control your smartphone, or share data using NFC. The researchers say you can design a circuit using any graphic software, stamp out the tattoo in gold leaf (which is conductive to electricity), and then apply other commodity materials and components that would make the tattoo interactive.


How 4 universities are using 3D printing to create ears, cartilage and blood cells – Innovations in 3D bioprinting continue to shock this year, with announcements of exciting new projects around the US aiming to make medical treatment advances.

Is Undead Smallpox Reemerging From Siberian Graves? – As if the news that resurrected anthrax from thawed-out reindeer wasn’t bad enough, increasingly warming temperatures are prompting renewed fears that permafrost could thaw enough to unleash smallbox from remote Russian cemeteries. As The Siberian Times reports, this year the permafrost melt has been three times more extreme than usual above the Arctic Circle, causing erosion near graveyards of a town where smallpox wiped out 40 percent of the population decades ago. Yet, some scientists argue that it’s not the graves we should be worried about.

Something to think about:

“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”

–      George Bernard Shaw

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

FACEBOOK REMOVES POTENTIAL EVIDENCE OF POLICE BRUTALITY TOO READILY, ACTIVISTS SAY – AS MORE DETAILS emerge about last week’s killing by Baltimore County police of 23-year-old Korryn Gaines, activists have directed growing anger not only at local law enforcement but also at Facebook, the social media platform where Gaines posted parts of her five-hour standoff with police.

At the request of law enforcement, Facebook deleted Gaines’ account, as well her account on Instagram, which it also owns, during her confrontation with authorities. While many of her videos remain inaccessible, in one, which was re-uploaded to YouTube, an officer can be seen pointing a gun as he peers into a living room from behind a door, while a child’s voice is heard in the background. In another video, which remains on Instagram, Gaines can be heard speaking to her five-year-old son, who’s sitting on the floor wearing red pajamas.

“Who’s outside?” she asks him. “The police,” he replies timidly. “What are they trying to do?” “They trying to kill us.”

Statements made by officials in the days after the incident revealed little-known details of a “law enforcement portal” through which agencies can ask for Facebook’s collaboration in emergencies, a feature of the site that remains mostly obscure to the general public and which has been criticized following Gaines’ death.


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4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – August 15, 2016

  1. I miss the freeware you used to post. Any chance of it returning ?

    • Hi Bob,

      You’re reading my mind – I’ve been thinking about that. 🙂

      I’ve been considering doing a personal review – for download recommendation – in Wednesday’s news edition. I’ll kick that off next week.

      Trust all is well down your way.



  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Australia: Census 2016: A case study in the confluence of failure

    I was just reading that the ABS is still several million short on surveys, because people just don’t trust them. I wonder if they are going to enforce those bullshit fines now, considering what a total stuff up the Census has become.

    People don’t trust them and why should they.


    • Hey Mal,

      I hear ya mate!

      “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” – ― Maya Angelou

      So, here we have a government showing its government issue incompetency – par for the course. So trust? Yeah, sure!

      Have a great weekend Mal. 🙂