Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – August 19, 2016

Windows 10 needs proper privacy portal, says EFF;  How Trolls Are Ruining the Internet;  We ignore computer security alerts up to 90% of the time;  When your computer beeps at you, that’s a cry for help;  12 Tips to Troubleshoot Your Internet Connection;  Bloatware as a security risk: Researchers’ innovative ways to combat the scourge;  20 great new features in Android 7.0 Nougat;  Companies Can’t Legally Void the Warranty for Jailbreaking or Rooting Your Phone –  and much more news you need to know.

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We ignore computer security alerts up to 90% of the time, study says – We as a society may be more concerned about privacy and cybersecurity than ever, but that doesn’t mean we’re paying more attention to security alerts. People ignore software security warnings up to 90 percent of the time, according to a new study from Brigham Young University. The cause? Our inability to multitask.

Twitter’s Anti-Abuse Filter Is Finally Available to All – The social media giant finally introduced full public access to the quality filter, a hopeful step in curbing persistent online abuse. The filter, which had been rolled out to some verified users last year, can screen for spam bots, offensive language, and duplicate accounts. And journalist Caitlin Dewey reported that it works pretty well—blocking out trolls and users threatening to kill her. (It was also able to discern between a news story talking about rape and let that reach her feed.)

Google updates Classroom with new tools for students, parents and teachers – Google Classroom, the company’s platform that brings together Google Apps for Education and a number of tools for managing classes and content, is getting one of its regular summer updates today (right in time before the next school year starts). While Classroom has traditionally focused on offering tools for teachers and students, this new version now also brings in parents and guardians. Parents can now automatically receive summaries of their kids’ work so they can know exactly how they are doing in any given class (helicopter parents will surely love this feature, though students may not be so happy about it). This feature is optional, and teachers can opt in parents to daily or weekly emails.

12 Tips to Troubleshoot Your Internet Connection – With the proliferation of smart home devices, online gaming platforms, and streaming video services, maintaining a strong Internet connection at home is more important than ever. If you’re experiencing lag while playing League of Legends, or it takes forever to download music, there’s good chance that the problem is on your end and not an Internet Service Provider (ISP) issue. Before you schedule a service call with your cable company, check out our tips for troubleshooting your Internet connection.

When your computer beeps at you, that’s a cry for help – There’s only one good beep: The single tone of power-on affirmation you’d hear back in the day when you turned on your PC. Nowadays most computers don’t have speakers on the mainboard, so we don’t hear beeps unless there’s a problem. If that’s the case, here’s what you do. First, note the pattern of beeps. It could be one long beep, or one short, one long, etc. It varies according to the situation. Note the number and duration of beeps, then head to your motherboard or system manufacturer’s website, or search online. Here are links to explanations of beep codes for Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI.

Myth busted: Copper pennies didn’t help our overheating laptop – Copper is a fantastic conductor, and the top of your MacBook is where the heat likes to party. If you placed some copper coins there, wouldn’t that heat go away? It’s not hard to see why that idea became such a popular myth. But we busted it wide open.

Google Duo will support audio-only calls ‘soon’ – Earlier this week, Google introduced Duo, its latest app for both Android and iOS that features simple to use video calling. The comparisons to Apple’s own FaceTime are obvious, with both offering high quality video and audio, however Duo’s big advantage is that it is cross-platform. Unfortunately, the one major feature that Duo doesn’t have yet is support for audio-only calls. But at least Google has confirmed that it’s on the way.

20 great new features in Android 7.0 Nougat – Google’s operating system is everywhere, and it just keeps getting better. Here’s what’s new in this year’s big release.

24 Instagram Tips for the Photo Obsessed – Whether you’re an old pro freaking out a little about changes coming to your timeline or just started gramming, PCMag rounded up a few tips that could make your photos stand out and garner you acclaim—well, at least a like or two more than you might have gotten before.

WhatsApp usage is now free on FreedomPop in the U.S. – Millions of people use WhatsApp every month, and now FreedomPop is aiming to make sure its customers are able to use the messaging app no matter what. The carrier is providing a zero-rated WhatsApp SIM in the United States, as well as free data to those customers in more than 30 other countries in Southeast Asia and Europe. With it, users can use WhatsApp’s service without it eating into their data allotment, of which there are 200MB included in the company’s free basic plan.

Google Maps updates Street View rendering and controls – Google has detailed a slew of updates over at its Developers Blog aimed at making Street View rendering less crummy, courtesy of some tweaks to the Maps JavaScript API. Among the resulting improvements are smoother transitions from place to place, thanks to more frames and better loading animations, as the system has switched from repeating old images, which resulted in a stuttering effect to new low-res shots, which creates the effect of a blurry periphery coming into to sharper focus.

Best Fitness Trackers to keep you fit in 2016 – Fitness trackers and smartwatches with health features come in all shapes, sizes, and design, to keep you at least mindful of your activities, or lack of it. And though we’re way past the middle of the year, there’s no time like the present to start the journey towards a healthier you. But there are dozens, literally, of fitness-centric accessories out there. So to help you pick your next healthy purchase, here’s our top ten choices for this year’s best fitness wearables.

Microsoft’s new plan to save Edge: reward points – Microsoft today made a play to boost usage of Edge with an awards program that gives users points for browsing with the Windows 10 application. “Earn points for every hour of active browsing … up to 30 hours a month,” Microsoft announced on a promotional page. Edge usage — the browser only runs in Windows 10 — has eroded since its mid-2015 debut. According to analytics vendor Net Applications, Edge ran on 24% of all Windows 10 PCs in July, down from 27% in June and 29% in May.

US prepares to hand over power of the internet’s naming system – Starting October 1, the US will no longer have power over the domain naming system (DNS), the US Department of Commerce said in a blog post Tuesday. The DNS is one of the core components of the internet, linking every web address to servers using a unique set of numbers, commonly referred to as an IP address. Control of the system will be passed from the US government to a multi-stakeholder nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).


Cisco confirms NSA-linked zeroday targeted its firewalls for years – Cisco Systems has confirmed that recently-leaked malware tied to the National Security Agency exploited a high-severity vulnerability that had gone undetected for years in every supported version of the company’s Adaptive Security Appliance firewall. The previously unknown flaw makes it possible for remote attackers who have already gained a foothold in a targeted network to gain full control over a firewall, Cisco warned in an advisory published Wednesday.

Bloatware as a security risk: Researchers’ innovative ways to combat the scourge – Unnecessary code in software provides digital criminals more opportunities to compromise computing devices, according to researchers. Read about their solutions to bloatware.

Infographic and interview: The explosion of cybercrime and how to protect your business – A new chart details how cybercrime ballooned in the past decade. Cybersecurity expert Ron Schlecht explains how even small breaches can cost enterprise and SMB companies millions.


Netflix Aims to Shield Your TV Habits From Prying Eyes – Behind the scenes, Netflix engineers are trying to encrypt its video streams without sacrificing quality.

Company News:

Google loses appeal against Russia’s Android antitrust ruling – Google’s appeal against an antitrust ruling over its Android operating system in Russia was tossed out by Moscow’s ninth arbitration court on Wednesday. The ad giant was fined 438 million rubles (£5.25 million, $6.85 million) by the country’s competition watchdog, the Federation Antimonopoly Service (FAS) last week. FAS found that Google had imposed restrictive contracts on mobile phone manufacturers who want to use its Android operating system, forcing them to pre-install other Google services, while blocking those of rivals.

Netflix deal brings service’s app to more in-room hotel TVs – Enseo, in case you’ve never heard about it before, is the source of the in-room entertainment you get at many hotels. Netflix has announced a new expanded deal with Enseo that will allow the latter company to bring the Netflix app to some of its devices for in-room enjoyment at any hotel in any country where Netflix is available. On the consumer end of things, this means you’ll more frequently find the Netflix app provided on your hotel room’s TV.

McDonald’s ditches Happy Meal activity trackers – McDonald’s isn’t exactly seen as a healthy eating option by most parents. It’s more seen as a cheap place to fill your gob with food that is questionably tasty and not particularly good for you. The company is seeing demand for its food sag as parents and consumers in general have started to flock to eateries with healthier options. To combat this McDonald’s has relied on Happy Meals for kids with toys that grab their interest leading to parents taking kids in not so much for food as for the toys.

Pizza Hut DJ box puts two turn tables and conductive ink inside your pizza box – The fast food world is full of gimmicks to lure people into their restaurants to buy food. McDonalds is likely the most infamous for this practice with lots of toys packed inside Happy Meal bags and boxes to make kids want to eat their food. Pizza Hutt has a new box that it puts its pie into that has something special left behind for you to play with after you eat.


Judge rejects Uber’s $100 million settlement with drivers – A US district judge has rejected a proposed $100 million settlement in a pair of class action lawsuits filed in California and Massachusetts, saying the proposed settlement was neither fair nor adequate. “The settlement, mutually agreed by both sides, was fair and reasonable,” said Uber in a statement. “We’re disappointed in this decision and are taking a look at our options.”

Uber’s self-driving cars will pick up their first customers this month – Uber’s self-driving taxis will get their first real-world test in Pittsburgh this month, with the semi-autonomous vehicles assigned at random to customers using the company’s app. According to a report from Bloomberg, the test fleet will consist of modified Volvo XC90 SUVs, with each car supervised by a human in the driver’s seat (a legal requirement) as well as a co-pilot taking notes. The trips themselves will be free, with a tablet in the backseat informing the passenger about the car’s capabilities.

T-Mobile and Sprint’s new unlimited plans have some nasty fine print – T-Mobile and Sprint are both making a big splash today with the introduction of some too-good-to-be-true data plans. Both companies’ new plans offer unlimited talk, text, and — importantly — data, but both companies’ unlimited data come with big asterisks beside them. That’s because their data plans have some significant limitations. T-Mobile’s plan, called T-Mobile One, limits all video playback to low-res 480p. Sprint’s plan, called Unlimited Freedom, has the same video limitation and then goes even further, limiting music streams to 500kbps (which is relatively high) and gaming to an extremely slow 2Mbps. T-Mobile will let you avoid that limitation if you pay an extra $25 per month per line; Sprint doesn’t seem to offer an option. There are also limitations around tethering.

Australia’s Telstra and Optus outed as two of the world’s six most expensive ISPs – Content delivery network Cloudflare has outed Australia’s Optus as one of the six most expensive internet service providers in the world, and says the other major local player Telstra is rubbish too.

Games and Entertainment:

Facebook is partnering with Unity for a desktop gaming platform – Facebook and game engine company Unity have announced a partnership that will let developers easily port their Unity games onto the social network, including a Facebook desktop gaming platform that’s currently in development. Developers have until August 31st to apply for a closed alpha of the export tool, which will be integrated directly into the Unity Editor. The details are still nebulous, and there’s no timeline given. But so far, it sounds like a potential competitor to desktop gaming catalogs like Steam and GOG — just one that’s focused more on casual gaming and comes with a massive built-in audience.

TiVo is ditching support for its Series 1 DVRs – If you’re still using the original TiVo Series 1 DVR released more than one and a half decades ago, TiVo has some bad news for you: it is dropping its support for the device next month. The model, which was first released in 1999, will not be functional as of September 29 per an email TiVo is sending out to device owners. Though the model is old, TiVo says there are still about 3,500 Series 1 DVRs still being used, which is a significant number of people who are going to have to upgrade.

Deus Ex GO brings diorama-esque cyberpunk to mobile – The first Deus Ex became a cult classic because of how it bended and blended genres, a daring proposition during its time. The third installment and the upcoming fourth follow up have revolutionized the franchise, bringing it to current graphics standards and tastes. And now, they’re doing genre bending revolution on mobile. In the tradition of Hitman GO, Lara Croft GO, but not Pokemon GO, Square Enix has finally released Deus Ex GO for Android and iOS, taking the now familiar puzzle game mechanic and slapping on a futuristic, cyberpunk aesthetic.


FIFA Mobile for Android and iOS launches this autumn – EA has announced FIFA Mobile, a soccer ‘experience’ for both Android and iOS. The game, which will launch this autumn across the globe, will feature a new gameplay mode, a ‘truly social experience,’ leaderboard and leagues, more than 650 teams, and more. The game was built specifically for the mobile devices it will be played on, and while a specific launch date hasn’t yet been revealed, EA promises it will give fans a whole new experience. The FIFA Mobile game will offer turn-based matches compatible with two players, as well as Live Events that bring new content every day based on actual happenings in the game across the world. This content will include mini games that give players tokens that are then redeemable for various packs and game characters.

Nvidia’s new $200 GeForce GTX 1060 3GB challenges the Radeon RX 480 head-on – Nvidia’s cut-down GeForce GTX 1060 3GB is priced the same as the AMD Radeon RX 480, but claims better performance.

Off Topic (Sort of):

How Trolls Are Ruining the Internet – Once it was a geek with lofty ideals about the free flow of information. Now, if you need help improving your upload speeds the web is eager to help with technical details, but if you tell it you’re struggling with depression it will try to goad you into killing yourself. Psychologists call this the online disinhibition effect, in which factors like anonymity, invisibility, a lack of authority and not communicating in real time strip away the mores society spent millennia building. And it’s seeping from our smartphones into every aspect of our lives.

Companies Can’t Legally Void the Warranty for Jailbreaking or Rooting Your Phone – After I published an article about how electronics manufacturers including Microsoft and Sony illegally void the warranties of consumers who open their devices, I got a flood of emails from people wondering whether federal law protects their right to jailbreak or root their phones. The short answer is yes, it does: Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975, manufacturers cannot legally void your hardware warranty simply because you altered the software of an electronic device. In order to void the warranty without violating federal law, the manufacturer must prove that the modifications you made directly led to a hardware malfunction. In practice, of course, it’s all much more complicated.

When we’re happy, we actively sabotage our good moods with grim tasks – Always keeping your house tidy and spotless may earn you the label of “neat freak”—but “super happy” may be a more accurate tag. When people voluntarily take on unpleasant tasks such as housework, they tend to be in particularly happy states, according to a new study on hedonism. The finding challenges an old prediction by some researchers that humans can be constant pleasure-seekers. Instead, the new study suggests we might seek out fun, uplifting activities mainly when we’re in bad or down moods. But when we’re on the up, we’re more likely to go for the dull and dreary assignments.

Stealing bitcoins with badges: How Silk Road’s dirty cops got caught – DEA Special Agent Carl Force wanted his money—real cash, not just numbers on a screen—and he wanted it fast. It was October 2013, and Force had spent the past couple of years working on a Baltimore-based task force investigating the darknet’s biggest drug site, Silk Road. During that time, he had also carefully cultivated several lucrative side projects all connected to Bitcoin, the digital currency Force was convinced would make him rich.

7 Gadgets That Should Be in Your Emergency Kit – As the recent flooding in Louisiana and wildfires in California prove, it doesn’t take a hurricane to cause an emergency. Now is the time to check your emergency kit and ensure all your supplies are stocked up and ready to go. While you’re at it, it’s also wise to upgrade your gear with some of the newest emergency tech out there. These seven devices will help keep you warm, dry, and powered up.

Goodbye, Gawker – While the fate of Gawker is still unclear – last-minute Hail Mary media saves are the norm when it comes to online properties (even if it does gut the site) – what is clear is that Gawker as we once knew it is dead. The current staff probably won’t stick around only to fall under some less beneficent ruler and Univision doesn’t want what is perceived as a hive of snark and villainy. You don’t buy a business with a lawsuit hanging over it, especially if that lawsuit is bankrolled by a shark with legs and Hulk Hogan.

How Tesla Autopilot drove a man with a blood clot to the hospital, and expanded the autonomous car debate – News of the fatal crash involving Tesla Autopilot has sparked necessary debate over safety. The counterpoint is a life recently saved by Autopilot. Here’s the story.

Satellite images of Earth help us predict poverty better than ever – We already know that the more lit up an area is at night, the richer and more developed it is. Researchers use this method to estimate poverty in places where we don’t have exact data. But “night light” estimates are rough and don’t tell us much about the wealth differences of the very poor. Scientists at Stanford University fed a computer three data sources — night light images, daytime images, and actual survey data — to build an algorithm that predicts how rich or poor any given area is. This method, described in a study published today in the journal Science, estimates poverty in more detail than we’ve had before.

Twitter has suspended 235,000 accounts since February for promoting terrorism – Twitter has suspended 235,000 accounts since February for promoting terrorism, the company said in a blog post today. The company said it’s also expanded the team that works on flagging such content, and claims to have made progress on stopping accounts from starting again under a new handle. In a previous post from February, Twitter said it had suspended 125,000 accounts since mid-2015.

Something to think about:

“The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.”

–     Henry L. Stimson (1867 – 1950)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Windows 10 needs proper privacy portal, says EFF – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has called on Microsoft to offer a “single unified screen” on which Windows 10 users can control how Windows 10 deals with their personal information and monitors their use of the OS.

The organisation has listed the long list of nasty nagware tactics Microsoft used to get people running Windows 10, labelling some “questionable tactics to cause users to download a piece of software that many didn’t want.”

It’s not keen on the nagware bundled alongside patches, suggesting that tactic reduced trust in patches and therefore potentially exposed users who don’t act promptly when important fixes arrive.

It also rails against the telemetry Windows 10 collects and is especially harsh on Microsoft’s insistence that if business users send it less data, Windows Update will be less effective and PCs will be less secure.

The Foundation says “this is a false choice that is entirely of Microsoft’s own creation.”

Internet tracking software maker to face wiretapping trial, court rules – A US federal appeals court says the maker of an online spying tool can be sued on accusations of wiretapping. The federal lawsuit was brought by a man whose e-mail and instant messages to a woman were captured by the husband of the woman. That husband used that data as a “battering ram” as part of his 2010 divorce proceedings.

It’s the second time in a week that a federal court has ruled in a wiretapping case—in favor of a person whose online communications were intercepted without consent. The other ruling was against Google. A judge ruled that a person not using Gmail who sent e-mail to another person using Gmail had not consented to Gmail’s automatic scanning of the e-mail for marketing purposes. Hence, Google could be sued (PDF) for alleged wiretapping violations.

For the moment, the two outcomes are a major victory for privacy. But the reasoning in the lawsuit against the makers of the WebWatcher spy program could have ramifications far beyond the privacy context—and it places liability on the producers of spyware tools.

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