Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – August 17, 2016

Respect: Windows 10 security impresses hackers;  Android antivirus apps are useless — here’s what to do instead;  The best free Android apps for going back to school;  11 awesome back-to-school gadgets for students;  The 100 Best Android Apps of 2016;  How to boost your Wi-Fi speed by choosing the right channel;  Windows 10: The best hidden features, tips, and tricks;  Cortana: The spy in Windows 10 –  and much more news you need to know.

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Android antivirus apps are useless — here’s what to do instead – It seems like you can’t go a week without one security firm or another producing a statistic illustrating just how much Android malware there is in the wilds of the internet. More often than not, these reports come with a few reminders that the company’s own security suite can protect you from these nasty bits of code, which is true some of the time. However, Android is by its very nature more secure than a desktop computer, so maybe you don’t need these security apps. You’ve probably already got what you need.

The 100 Best Android Apps of 2016 – Whether you’ve got a brand-new Galaxy Note 7 or an older Android phone or tablet you just want to spruce up, these are the apps that matter.


Windows 10: The best hidden features, tips, and tricks – Now that Windows 10 Anniversary Update is out and millions of people are running it, let’s take a look at some of the best hidden features, tips, and tricks in the operating system. Windows 10 combines the best of Windows 8 — super-fast startup, improved security — with much of what made Windows 7 familiar and easy to use, and without trying to force you to buy a touch screen or learn a whole set of hidden UI gestures. The Anniversary Update only makes it that much sweeter.

When will your PC get the Windows 10 Anniversary Update? – Version 1607 is rolling out to Windows 10 users slowly, via Windows Update. Here’s how you can take charge of the upgrade process and avoid unpleasant surprises.

How to remove unwanted apps from Windows 10 (even though Microsoft doesn’t want you to) – Certain Windows 10 apps can’t be uninstalled the normal way–they have to be removed with PowerShell commands. Here’s how you do it.

Top five 2016 Chromebooks for school and everywhere else – Chromebooks are now the most popular school laptops of them all. If your school doesn’t supply them, here are your best choices.

How to boost your Wi-Fi speed by choosing the right channel – If you’ve ever messed around with your Wi-Fi router’s settings, you’ve probably seen the word “channel.” Most routers have the channel set to Auto, but we’re sure many of us have looked through that list of a dozen or so channels and wondered what they are, and more importantly, which of the channels are faster than the others. Well, some channels are indeed much faster — but that doesn’t mean you should go ahead and change them just yet. Read on to find out more about 802.11 channels, interference, and the massive difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi.

How to get to Firefox’s ‘about:’ pages the easy way – Firefox’s ‘about:’ pages open the door to settings changes, UI customization, performance info, and more. Here are two easy ways to reveal all the available options.

Google launches Duo, a barebones video calling app – Google Duo is a video calling app and just a video calling app—it does one-to-one video calls and nothing else. It’s also only available for mobile phones—there are no Web, Chrome, or desktop clients. It doesn’t even require a Google Account—Google says that “all you need is your phone number and you’ll be able to reach people in your phone’s contacts list.” Duo has two features. The first is that the video calling is claimed to be “fast and reliable” even with limited bandwidth. It can switch between Wi-Fi and cellular data without dropping the call and can “gracefully degrade” the video when bandwidth gets low. The other feature is called “Knock Knock,” which shows live video from your contact on the incoming call screen before you even answer the call.

Google Duo vs. FaceTime vs. Skype vs. Messenger: How They Stack Up – Google rolled out its latest app on Tuesday—a video calling service called “Duo.” Strangely enough, it is completely separate from Google’s other communication services including Hangouts, which already supports video calls. Here’s how Duo stacks up against its rivals:

These 20 essential applications let you move easily between Windows and a Mac – While many consumers are moving to tablets and phones, many professionals find themselves working on both Macs and PCs. If you find yourself jumping back and forth between Windows and Mac systems, here are some apps that will make your job easier. No matter what you do, though, most of these apps will be incredibly helpful and make the jump back and forth between platforms almost seamless.

Best Password Managers for 2016 – Take control of your logins – It’s 2016 and people have stored more information, a lot of the private, on a public, intangible system more than any other time in the history of mankind. And yet, these very same people protect those pieces of themselves with passwords like “1234” or “password”. The increasing rate of hacks don’t seem to be enough to shock people into adopting better habits when it comes to their digital lives. Because, let’s face it, trying to come up with more than a dozen strong passwords is a tough job, much less remembering all of them. That is why there are such things as Password Managers to do the heavy lifting for us, and still they aren’t utilized enough. In the interest of spreading the word, here are our top five picks for Password Managers for this year.

Five categories of apps you need to transform your phone into a mobile office – It’s not always practical to reach for your laptop, but things still have to get done. Here are five app categories that can turn your smartphone into a work powerhouse.

How to activate Cortana voice recognition on your Xbox One – Cortana on Xbox isn’t as powerful as Amazon’s Echo, but it will make your entertainment system smarter.

Cortana: The spy in Windows 10 – Let’s start with Cortana’s fundamental lust for your data. When it’s working as your virtual assistant it’s collecting your every keystroke and spoken syllable. It does this so it can be more helpful to you. If you don’t like that, well, you’ve got more problems than just Cortana. Google Now and Apple Siri do the same things. And it’s not just virtual assistants; every cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) does this to one degree or another — Google Docs, Office 365, whatever. But Cortana doesn’t stop there. With the recently released Windows 10 Anniversary Update, hereafter Windows 10 SP1, you can’t shut Cortana off.

Intel challenges Raspberry Pi 3 with tricked-out Joule board – Intel has unleashed a new competitor to Raspberry Pi 3 with its new Joule development board, which packs superior graphics and wireless connectivity.


Intel’s Joule developer board looks to challenge Raspberry Pi. Credit: Intel

11 awesome back-to-school gadgets for students – Whether you’re just starting high school or about to graduate college, our list of essential gear for students will ensure that you have a productive—and fun—school year.

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.


Respect: Windows 10 security impresses hackers – Windows is a popular attack target for criminals and security researchers alike, but Microsoft has done a good job of making it harder to exploit security flaws in the OS.

Kaspersky outs Android malware riding on Google Adsense network – More often than not, malware attacks start with conning unsuspecting users into visiting seemingly innocent, even helpful, websites or downloading software. Far more frightening, however, is malware that escapes early detection because it piggybacks on legitimate channels or apps. Such is the case with an Android Trojan reported by security company Kaspersky Lab Solutions called Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng.q”, or Svpeng, for short. This particular malware, which attempts to intercept and steal banking information, is spreading on perfectly legit websites through Google’s own AdSense advertising network.

Best secure Android browser: Orfox (with Orbot) – Orfox is a variant of Mozilla Firefox, which should be familiar to desktop users. Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari have an effective duopoly on mobile devices, and that’s too bad, because Firefox and Orfox have a lot to offer. However, we’d argue that a Web browser alone can’t create a reasonably secure user experience, because browser security and privacy depend on the path you take across the Internet from your phone to your destination site, and depend on how much personal information you share online (knowingly or otherwise). That’s where Orbot comes in.

Now data-stealing Marcher Android malware is posing as security update – Cybercriminals are telling users their device is at risk from viruses unless they download a particular ‘security update’ — which delivers the malware.

Ransomware-as-a-service allows wannabe hackers to cash-in on cyber extortion – Authors of the Cerber ransomware are selling their ransomware as-a-service for a 40 percent cut of their customers’ ill-gotten gains.

Windows 7, 8.1 switches to monthly rollup update scheme – Windows as a Service. That was one of Microsoft’s battle cries for Windows 10. In a nutshell, it compared Windows to web services, like web apps and cloud services, whose software get updated behind the scenes in a rolling basis. Now it is bringing that same paradigm to Windows 10’s immediate predecessors, Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1, with monthly rollup and security-only updates. This new system, promises Microsoft, will ensure higher quality patches and a more consistent update experience for users.

Company News:

Apple is investing more in China, including an R&D center – It’s not clear exactly where, how big, or how expensive the Chinese R&D center will be, but the move represents a further effort by Apple to get in Beijing’s good books. Earlier this year the company announced a $1 billion investment in ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing, which Cook said was being made “for a number of strategic reasons, including a chance to learn more about certain segments of the China market.”

Intel will start producing ARM chips to boost foundry business – Chip maker Intel and British semiconductor IP company ARM announced an agreement that could help boost the chip giant’s custom foundry business. The deal, revealed today at the the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, will allow Intel Custom Foundry to make ARM processors for third parties. Intel’s latest earnings announcement made it clear that the company is in the midst of a shift, and it needs to gear up for the Internet of Things. The agreement with ARM Holdings, which was acquired by Japanese tech giant Softbank a month ago, could be the first step in this direction.

UK antivirus firm BullGuard buys Israeli IoT security startup, Dojo-Labs – UK antivirus maker BullGuard is acquiring Israeli startup Dojo-Labs to expand its portfolio of security products to the Internet of Things. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed. We covered Dojo-Labs last November, when it launched out of stealth — unwrapping a pebble-shaped consumer focused Internet of Things security device, called Dojo, designed to monitor network traffic and flag and block anomalous behavior by connected devices on the home network.

LinkedIn sues 100 information scrapers after technical safeguard fail – Microsoft-owned LinkedIn has filed a lawsuit in California against 100 unnamed individuals who circumvented its security technology to harvest data from its network of 400 million people. The lawsuit claims that the individuals used a specially created botnet that has been collecting data from the site since December 2015 and created thousands of bogus accounts to facilitate the attack. They also used an unnamed “whitelisted third-party cloud service provider” to speed up the information retrieval.

Univision wins auction to acquire Gawker Media – Univision has won the auction to acquire Gawker Media’s websites and business. Recode broke the news, reporting the acquisition price was $135 million and would cover all seven of Gawker’s websites. The company’s founder Nick Denton confirmed the deal in an email to reporters. The sale is the result of Gawker’s defeat in a lawsuit by Terry Bollea, a.k.a. wrestler Hulk Hogan, who sued the company after it published a clip of a sex tape featuring Hogan. Hogan’s lawsuit was bankrolled, in part, by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who recently wrote an op-ed for The New York Times arguing that the case is about protecting privacy and gay rights.

Games and Entertainment:

HP gets into high-end gaming with this glowing cube – The Omen X Desktop’s baseline model will come with an i7 Skylake processor, 8GB of RAM, a 2TB hard drive and 256GB SSD, liquid cooling, and AMD’s Radeon RX 480 graphics card, which itself has 4GB of RAM. It also has a ludicrous 10 USB ports (eight 3.0, two USB-C). Buyers will be able to spec it much higher if they want to, with the machine’s graphics option maxing out at either dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 cards or dual AMD Radeon R9 Fury X cards. Pricing will start at $1,799 on HP’s website beginning tomorrow.


Amazon brings free episodes of its Original Series to YouTube & Facebook – Amazon this morning announced that, for the first time ever, it will begin distributing its Original Series from Amazon Video to social media sites, including Facebook and YouTube. Pilot episodes from ten primetime and kids series are now available in both places, in their entirety, allowing anyone – including non-Amazon Prime members – to watch. The goal with the expanded distribution, however, is not to allow people to watch or purchase these series in their entirety off-site, but rather give them a tease of what an Amazon Prime membership has to offer. Along with the free two-day shipping, Prime customers gain access to thousands of tv shows and movies for free through Prime Video, which will remain the place to watch these shows, and many others.

Spotify ‘Kids’ section brings music, fairy tales, lullabies, and more – Spotify has a music category for just about everything, and that now includes a “Kids” section. The newly launched category is a shortcut way to find kid-friendly music, and it’s broken down into specific age ranges for even more narrow results. The category includes music collected together into genres like “Family Road Trip,” “Milk & Cookies,” and “Kindie,” as well as spoken content.

Microsoft bringing built-in Xbox Wireless support to Windows 10 PCs – For most PC gamers, if a keyboard and mouse won’t do, the choice of controller seems to fall to either the Xbox 360 or the Xbox One gamepads. This isn’t exactly a coincidence, as the level of compatibility between Windows and Xbox – both being developed by Microsoft – means that gamers can usually just plug the controller in and get to playing. Microsoft is looking to make Xbox One controllers an even easier choice for gamers, announcing today the first Windows 10 PC with built-in support for Xbox Wireless.

Pokémon Go cracks down on cheaters with lifetime bans – Pokémon Go cheaters will now be permanently banned from playing the popular game, according to updated wording in the game’s terms of service. Niantic Labs, the game’s developer, writes that accounts can be banned for cheating, including by “falsifying your location, using emulators, modified or unofficial software and/or accessing Pokémon GO clients or backends in an unauthorized manner including through the use of third-party software.”

Oculus Rift arrives in Canada and Europe next month – The team behind the Oculus Rift is gearing up to significantly expand its reach, announcing today that the VR headset will be available in Canada and Europe starting on September 20. Oculus Rift will also go up for pre-order in those regions through a variety of retail partners, so if you’re inclined to reserve one before the Rift launches, you’ll be able to do so beginning today.

Xbox Game Preview is coming to Windows 10 to let you play PC games under development – Microsoft first introduced its Xbox Game Preview feature at E3 last year, allowing Xbox One owners to act as beta testers for games that are still being developed. PC gaming, in particular Steam, has had similar “early access” programs for years, and now Microsoft is bringing its own Xbox Game Preview version over to the world of Windows 10. The first title to debut on Xbox Game Preview for Windows 10 will be Everspace later this year, but Microsoft is promising “there will be many more to come.” Microsoft announced its Xbox Game Preview for Windows 10 as part of the company’s limited presence at Gamescom in Germany today.

Why I Stopped Playing No Man’s Sky – I spent roughly 12 hours and $60 on No Man’s Sky this past weekend. And I don’t think I can go back. That’s not because it’s bad — it’s wonderful, in the truest sense of the word. I stopped because of the way the game was making me feel.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Every major cable TV company lost subscribers last quarter – The second quarter of each year is generally bad for pay-TV companies, but subscriber losses this year reached new heights. The 11 biggest pay-TV providers in the US, representing 95 percent of the market, lost 665,000 net video subscribers in Q2 2016, Leichtman Research Group reported today. This is more than double the losses of two years ago. Previously, the companies lost 545,000 subscribers in Q2 2015, 300,000 in Q2 2014, and 350,000 in Q2 2013. This year’s Q2 net losses “surpass[ed] the previous quarterly low set in last year’s second quarter,” said the research group president, Bruce Leichtman. The group’s data goes back to 2001.

Viruses are 10x better at infecting humans in the morning – Getting ill sucks regardless of when it happens, although I’d argue around the holidays is the worst time to be sick. There’s lots of precautions you can take to avoid illness, and most of them are simple such as regularly washing your hands. But a recent study out of the University of Cambridge has discovered a new and interesting fact about viral infections: they are much more successful in the mornings.

5 things to know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership – The U.S. presidential campaign has shined a spotlight on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade deal that’s simmered on the back burner for years.

5 People Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls for Advice – Tim Cook might run one of the world’s biggest companies, but even the Apple CEO needs to ask for help once in a while. When asked who he turns to for advice, Cook rattled off a high-profile list of names in an interview with the Washington Post.

Google wants to help you vote – Yup, the search giant is adding information about how to vote in the upcoming presidential election in November. When people search for information about voting, they’ll get information, such as what’s on the ballot in each state, the ID requirements and deadlines for voting by mail. “We hope this customized state-by-state guide will help you find the information you need quickly and easily to help get your voice heard,” Google wrote in a statement Tuesday.

Something to think about:

“Remember that what you believe will depend very much on what you are.”

–       Noah Porter (1811 – 1892)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden speculates leak of NSA spying tools is tied to Russian DNC hack – Two former employees of the National Security Agency—including exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden—are speculating that Monday’s leak of what are now confirmed to be advanced hacking tools belonging to the US government is connected to the separate high-profile hacks and subsequent leaks of two Democratic groups.

Private security firms brought in to investigate the breach of the Democratic National Committee and a separate hack of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have said that the software left behind implicates hackers tied to the Russian government. US intelligence officials have privately said they, too, have high confidence of Russian government involvement.

In the weeks following the reports, WikiLeaks and an unknown person using the moniker Guccifer 2.0 have published a steady stream of documents. One batch released just ahead of last month’s Democratic National Convention contained embarrassing private conversations that led to the resignation of DNC Chair Debra Wasserman Schultz. A more recent installment included a spreadsheet detailing the cell phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and other personal information of every Democratic member of the House of Representatives. The Obama administration has signaled that it may impose new economic sanctions on Russia in response to what critics claim is Russian attempts to disrupt or influence the US presidential election.

Canadian Cops Want a Law That Forces People to Hand Over Encryption Passwords – Encryption tools that keep your digital communications hidden from prying eyes are becoming more widespread, and Canadian police say they need a law that compels people to hand over their passwords so cops can access those communications.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), a lobbying organization with membership from across the country, passed a resolution at its annual conference on Tuesday mandating that the group advocate for a law that would force people to provide their computer passwords to police with a judge’s consent, CTV reported.

“To say this is deeply problematic is to understate the matter,” said Micheal Vonn, policy director for the BC Civil Liberties Association. “We have all kinds of laws that do not compel people to incriminate themselves or even speak.”

A law that compels people to give police access to their devices, which may contain messages, photos, and data that have nothing to do with any active criminal investigation, doesn’t fit within Canada’s current legal landscape and would be “tricky constitutionally,” Vonn added.

“If an individual legitimately objects to handing over their password, that alone makes them criminal”

“I’d question whether this proposal is constitutional,” said Tamir Israel, a lawyer for the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa.

“It’s rare to force people to help police investigate themselves, and for good reason,” Israel continued. “It shifts the focus of criminal condemnation away from actual criminal activity and onto compliance. So if an individual legitimately objects to handing over their password, that alone makes them criminal.”

Baltimore police accused of illegal mobile spectrum use with stingrays – A law professor has filed a formal legal complaint on behalf of three advocacy organizations, arguing that stingray use by law enforcement agencies nationwide—and the Baltimore Police Department in particular—violate Federal Communications Commission rules.

The new 38-page complaint makes a creative argument that because stingrays, or cell-site simulators, act as fake cell towers, that law enforcement agencies lack the spectrum licenses to be able to broadcast at the relevant frequencies. Worse still, when deployed, cell service, including 911 calls, are disrupted in the area.

Stingrays are used by law enforcement to determine a mobile phone’s location by spoofing a cell tower. In some cases, stingrays can intercept calls and text messages. Once deployed, the devices intercept data from a target phone along with information from other phones within the vicinity. At times, police have falsely claimed the use of a confidential informant when they have actually deployed these particularly sweeping and intrusive surveillance tools. Often, they are used to locate criminal suspects.

US wiretap numbers still don’t add up, and nobody knows why – There’s a big discrepancy between the number of wiretaps reported by the US courts and the number of wiretaps responded to by US phone companies.

Last month, the US Courts’ Administrative Office said the number of wiretaps authorized in 2015, which allow the authorities real-time access to communications, stood at 4,148 wiretaps, up by 17 percent from a year ago. Not a single wiretap request was rejected during the year.

But that figure doesn’t make sense when you look at how many government data demands were processed by the big telcos.

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint responded to 11,633 wiretaps during the year — almost a threefold increase over the government’s annual wiretap report. (T-Mobile alone said in its latest transparency report that it received hundreds more wiretaps than the government’s official tally.)

And that’s just the cell networks — the difference is likely far larger when you account for landlines and internet companies.

So how many wiretaps were authorized last year? Nobody can explain the discrepancy.


Filed under Latest Tech News

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – August 17, 2016

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Best secure Android browser: Orfox (with Orbot)

    I like what I read on this and am going to try it out. For the last few months, I’ve been using Ghostery Android browser, not a bad little browser in my opinion. Blocks most trackers, and a lot of ads too.


  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Can and will do.