Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – August 22, 2016

Windows 10 Anniversary Update breaks most webcams;  How to turn on Twitter’s quality filters and silence trolls;  How To Find Your Wireless Network Password;  Here’s how to make rechargeable batteries last for years;  22 Hidden Facebook Features Only Power Users Know;  Watch Out for Malware in Those Wikileaks Email Dumps;   How to avoid falling victim to Android app scams on Google Play;  The 15 most exciting PC games still coming in 2016 – and much more news you need to know.

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Windows 10 Anniversary Update breaks most webcams – The Windows 10 Anniversary Update, aka version 1607, has been found to leave many webcams inoperable. The update prevents the use of webcams in applications such as Skype and Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), along with all manner of custom CCTV programs. Extremely popular hardware, such as Logitech’s C920 and C930e cameras, in conjunction even with Microsoft’s own Skype, will fail to properly broadcast video. People first noticed the issue earlier this month. But it’s only within the last couple of days that the exact cause became clear via a post by Brad Sams on Microsoft has said that a fix is in development, but has not yet said when that fix will be distributed.

How to tap into the benefits of Windows 10’s Default Programs tool – The Default Programs tool is often underused or overlooked. Learn how to take advantage of all the configuration settings it offers.

Unauthorized, mislabeled Microsoft support tool leaks; could cause more trouble than it cures – Several mainstream tech sites this week published details of a purported new Microsoft support tool designed to fix problems with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. After some digging, I can report that it is no such thing. My advice: Stay far away from this “Windows Self Healing Tool.”


One support expert called this unofficial tool “frightening”

How to turn on Twitter’s quality filters and silence trolls – Twitter has a solution for stopping trolls: A new timeline quality filter that discards nasty tweets in your notifications

Jim Hillier: How To Find Your Wireless Network Password – Everyone should be using a password to protect their wireless network from uninvited intruders. You are, aren’t you? Of course you are. Most of us do, and most of us also rely on Windows remembering that password for us so we don’t have to keep typing it in each time we connect. There are occasions, however, when we need to know the password – when connecting a device to the network for the first time for example – and while the computer is very good at remembering it, many of us aren’t. There are a few ways to retrieve your wireless network password, here are two common methods.

Google Duo edges out Pokemon Go on Android – Less than a week after its release, Google’s video-calling service is the second-most popular app in Google’s Play Store.

Facebook’s new teens-only app Lifestage turns bios into video profiles – “What if I figured out a way to take Facebook from 2004 and bring it to 2016? What if every field in your profile was a full video?” asks Facebook’s 19-year-old product prodigy Michael Sayman. The answer is Lifestage, a standalone iOS app for people 21 and under, which Facebook is launching today. It asks for your happy face, sad face, likes, dislikes, best friend, the way you dance and more, but instead of filling in this biography quiz with text, you shoot videos. Lifestage turns those clips you recorded into a video profile others can watch. While technically anyone can download Lifestage, anyone 22 or older will only be able to see their own profile.

How to backup images in device folders to Google Photos – Google Photos is a great way to back up and organize all your images, though you still need to do a little bit of legwork if you want to capture everything. That’s because Android organizes images that are saved from different apps into folders. So if you want to save screenshots, Instagram pictures, or photos from other social networks, you need to go through a few steps.

A dozen Raspberry Pi alternatives – The Raspberry Pi might be the name that springs to mind when people think of single board computers for homebrew projects, but there are other boards out there worth considering.

22 Hidden Facebook Features Only Power Users Know – Facebook has been around for awhile, but there are probably a few tricks you don’t know about.

Samsung Milk Music closes its virtual doors September 22 – Samsung will discontinue the streaming service to instead focus on partnerships with other music streaming companies.

Surface Pro 3 battery issue to receive software fix, confirms Microsoft – For more than a few weeks now, Surface Pro 3 tablet owners have been suffering from a rapidly draining battery issue. Back in July, Microsoft told users that this was not a failure on the hardware’s part, and that they should continue updating to the latest software version. Now the company has reiterated this message, saying that it has confirmed the battery problem can be fixed with a software patch which is currently in testing, and that users don’t need to pursue hardware replacements.

How to find the right baby monitor – When you’re about to have a child, one of the must-buy products is a baby monitor. Sure, you’ll be sleeping in the same room for a few months, but if you want any alone time while the baby is napping, a monitor is paramount. Of course, picking the right monitor isn’t as simple as it once was. When you’re picking one out, here are the four most important questions to ask.


How to avoid falling victim to Android app scams on Google Play – Android security is a serious problem, and the Play store is a hotbed of malware. Here are a few simple tips for avoiding the wrong apps when you go looking for new ones.

Shopped in an Eddie Bauer store recently? Your card’s probably gone. It’s just gone – Clothing chain Eddie Bauer has admitted the payment terminals in more than 350 of its stores have been siphoning customers’ bank card details to criminals. The retailer – which sells high-end clobber for hikers or anyone who wants to pretend they’re outdoorsy – said malware infected its cash registers on January 2 and the code remained undetected for at least six months. The software nasty was cleaned up on July 17. Anyone who used their credit or debit card at any of the group’s 350 stores in the US and Canada during that time may well have handed over their card numbers to fraudsters. The malware silently skimmed people’s payment information during transactions and fed the data to crooks to create cloned cards for spending sprees.

Watch Out for Malware in Those Wikileaks Email Dumps – A security researcher found more than 300 instances of malware available for download on Wikileaks.

Inventor of The Internet’s Most Terrifying Search Engine Shows Us How To Use It – The internet isn’t just made of Facebook, Motherboard, 4chan and all your other favorite websites. There are thousands of devices, such as webcams, smart light bulbs, printers, and even smart homes, connected to it and there’s a special search engine that allows you to find them. It’s called Shodan and it’s a great tool to find insecure devices, so that people can fix them and make the internet safer. Shodan crawls the internet and collects all kind of stuff connected to the internet, from mundane smart fridges to industrial control systems. It’s a powerful tool, and you don’t really appreciate it until you use it yourself, or, better yet, until its inventor shows you what it can do. We met with Shodan’s creator John Matherly, who gave us a glimpse of all the crazy things you can find with Shodan.

Smart Electrial Sockets Could Be the Next Botnet – Smart electrical sockets might launch the next cyberattack, or might even put your life in danger. Security researchers at Bitdefender have found a vulnerability in a popular brand—the researchers did not disclose which—that they say could allow an attacker to turn power outlets into botnets, read your email, and even set your house on fire if you connect an appliance that could overheat. The vulnerable socket plugs into a regular one, and allows users to schedule the activity of any dumb electronic device, with the help of a smartphone. The app is available for both iOS and Android platforms, and there have been over 10,000 downloads from Google Play alone. Bitdefender contacted the smart socket vendor, and they’ve promised to release a fix during Q3 2016.


Shared code in Snowden leaks and NSA breach back up hackers’ claims – Documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden share a malware tracking code with several files released this week by hacking group Shadow Brokers, according to a news report. Shadow Brokers claimed they had hacked a cyberespionage team linked to the U.S. spy agency when they released a group of sample files earlier this week. Similarities between the Shadow Broker files and information in documents leaked by Snowden give credence to the claims by the anonymous hacking group.

Company News:

Lyft reported to have failed to find buyer in Apple, Uber, GM, others – Just a week ago it was reported that Lyft, the US’s second largest ride-hailing company, turned down an acquisition offer from investor General Motors. But new details from the New York Times say that Lyft has actually been looking for a buyer for several months now, holding discussions with a number of companies, including Apple, Amazon, Google, GM, China’s Didi Chuxing, and even main rival Uber, but failing to make any deals.

Anti-Google research group in Washington is funded by Oracle – The Google Transparency Project is a Washington, DC group that’s laser-focused on letting Americans know about Google’s lobbying efforts. To get its message out, GTP has worked with journalists at Re/Code and The Intercept, which have run stories about Google’s many visits to the White House, the prevalence of ex-Googlers in the US Digital Service, and other links. What wasn’t known, until today, is who was paying the bills for research by the “nonprofit watchdog” group. Today, Roberts has published a followup, confirming that based on a tip, he found at least one funder—Oracle. That’s the same company that lost a major copyright trial to Google and continues to spar with the search giant in court.

Pandora rumored to launch on-demand service to compete with Spotify – Pandora, one of the oldest players in the streaming music market, appears to finally be stepping up its service from simply radio-only to an actual on-demand option for users. A new report indicates that following the purchase of Rdio last year, Pandora is nearing the release of a premium on-demand music service that would allow it to compete with the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and others.

Apple and Google team up with FCC to fight robocalls – Remember back in July when we told you that the FCC had called on carriers and device makers to help in the fight against robocalls? You’d be forgiven if you thought nothing would come of the FCC’s urging, but the very next day, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said he was ready to lead a “strike force” to help the FCC put an end to the robocall problem. It turns out that strike force is real and it had meeting with the FCC today, kicking off its efforts to make robocalls a thing of the past.

Samsung mulls over refurbished smartphone sales scheme – As reported by the Reuters news agency, the South Korean tech giant will sell used and refurbished smartphones of the Samsung brand — including premium models — in a new program which could launch as early as 2017. According to people familiar with the matter, Samsung will refurbish devices returned by users who are part of upgrade programs in countries including South Korea and the United States which allow customers to upgrade their handsets every 12 months.

Why your Apple store is no longer a ‘store’ – The company’s brick-and-mortar locations are losing the “store” part of their name. Is this a conscious attempt to tweak the way you think about Apple?

Games and Entertainment:

The 15 most exciting PC games still coming in 2016 – Despite some high-profile games slipping into 2017 already (damn it, Mass Effect Andromeda), there’s still quite a bit to be excited about in 2016. We’ve gone ahead and picked the 15 titles we’re looking forward to most—from Deus Ex (August 23) to South Park (December 6) and everything in between.

Sony to reveal two new PlayStation 4 consoles next month, says WSJ – Sony will show off a new slimmer version of its current PlayStation 4 console next month, the Wall Street Journal reports, a smaller and less expensive machine that would go on sale alongside the upgraded 4K-capable PS4 that the company described earlier this year. The news comes soon after pictures appeared in an online auction that appeared to show a thinner and smaller PlayStation 4, suggesting that we may already have had our first glimpse at the device in question. The company is set to detail both this slimmer PS4 and the upgraded 4K version of the console at an event in New York on September 7th, just a month after competitor Microsoft released its own slimmed-down version of its Xbox One.

Tomb Raider on PS4 was worth waiting for, superior to Xbox One version – Rise of the Tomb Raider will be hitting the PlayStation 4 on October 11.  Since the PS4 is a more powerful system than the Xbox One, one would expect the game to run better on Sony’s console. The game was shown during this year’s Gamescom, and as was to be would expected, it does perform noticeably better on the PS4. More importantly, however, it plays better.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is the FPS’s latest sub-series – The release of this year’s Call of Duty, titled Infinite Warfare, is fast approaching, and many fans of the long-running franchise still aren’t pleased. It mostly boils down to two reasons: either they’re unhappy that they have to buy the special edition in order to get the remastered version of the beloved CoD4: Modern Warfare, or they don’t like the theme changes from modern combat settings to a futuristic, sci-fi story set in space. Unfortunately for those in the latter camp, there’s likely to be more Infinite Warfare titles in the coming years.

Five to Try: Google Duo delivers easy video calling, and Deus Ex Go dazzles on Android – All the new apps and games you need to check out this week.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Here’s how to make rechargeable batteries last for years – Whether it’s a rechargeable battery inside a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, here are a set of tips to help you get the most from it.

12 things your smartphone has replaced – New technology always replaces older tech (that’s kind of the point of “new” technology). But there’s nothing quite as versatile when it comes to making things obsolete as the smartphone—or, should I say, phone/internet browser/camera/music player/alarm clock/reading material/calculator/photo album/gaming device/flashlight. Here are 12 standalone devices that you never use anymore, thanks to that handy Android phone in your pocket.


Tech and the presidential race – For Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the importance of articulating a vision for the technology industry seems to be lost. While Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton released a comprehensive technology policy platform in June that should excite software developers, Mr. Trump doesn’t pay much attention to our industry’s concerns and is, frankly, on the wrong side of many of the most important issues facing tech today.

US Air Force wants to plasma bomb the skies to improve radio reception – The US Air Force is working on a plan to plasma bomb the sky. No, they have not been co-opted by a super villain bent on world domination. This plan has legitimate, perhaps even noble goals. If the USAF can pull it off. Radio signals will be able to travel farther through the atmosphere.

The reality of VR porn – Is virtual reality porn merely an example of an industry — already known for early adoption of new tech — extending its market reach, or could the growing sophistication of the online porn experience have unforeseen social and psychological impacts?

DroidOL: Android malware detection based on online machine learning – Discover how researchers figured out a way to improve Android malware detection with machine learning that is continuously and automatically trained online.

Something to think about:

“The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.”

–      Herbert Spencer

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

How the NSA snooped on encrypted Internet traffic for a decade – In a revelation that shows how the National Security Agency was able to systematically spy on many Cisco Systems customers for the better part of a decade, researchers have uncovered an attack that remotely extracts decryption keys from the company’s now-decommissioned line of PIX firewalls.

The discovery is significant because the attack code, dubbed BenignCertain, worked on PIX versions Cisco released in 2002 and supported through 2009. Even after Cisco stopped providing PIX bug fixes in July 2009, the company continued offering limited service and support for the product for an additional four years. Unless PIX customers took special precautions, virtually all of them were vulnerable to attacks that surreptitiously eavesdropped on their VPN traffic. Beyond allowing attackers to snoop on encrypted VPN traffic, the key extraction also makes it possible to gain full access to a vulnerable network by posing as a remote user.

BenignCertain’s capabilities were tentatively revealed in this blog post from Thursday, and they were later confirmed to work on real-world PIX installations by three separate researchers. Before the confirmation came, Ars asked Cisco to investigate the exploit. The company declined, citing this policy for so-called end-of-life products. The exploit helps explain documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden and cited in a 2014 article that appeared in Der Spiegel. The article reported that the NSA had the ability to decrypt more than 1,000 VPN connections per hour.

“It shows that the NSA had the ability to remotely extract confidential keys from Cisco VPNs for over a decade,” Mustafa Al-Bassam, a security researcher at payments processing firm Secure Trading, told Ars. “This explains how they were able to decrypt thousands of VPN connections per minute as shown in documents previously published by Der Spiegel.”

EFF accuses T-Mobile of violating net neutrality with throttled video – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has accused T-Mobile USA of violating net neutrality principles with a new “unlimited” data plan that throttles video. The group is weighing whether to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, and the EFF is evaluating a similar offering from Sprint.

T-Mobile’s $70-per-month unlimited data plan limits video to about 480p resolution and requires customers to pay an extra $25 per month for high-definition video. The plan also throttles mobile hotspot connections unless customers pay an extra $15 for each 5GB allotment. Going forward, this will be the only plan offered to new T-Mobile customers, though existing subscribers can keep their current prices and data allotments.

UK’s mass-surveillance draft law grants spies incredible powers for no real reason – review – An independent review into bulk surveillance powers in the forthcoming Investigatory Powers Bill has warned that there is no proven case to let British snoops hack the planet.

The study group examined the UK government’s Operational Case for Bulk Powers [PDF], which provided the government’s reasons for needing the most intrusive and wide-reaching surveillance powers. The review panel questioned whether the information obtained via those powers could be gained by other, less intrusive means.

Published this morning, the 204-page study [PDF] found that bulk surveillance powers are indeed needed and are already in wide use by the security and intelligence agencies — but it warned that there was not yet a proven operational case for “bulk equipment interference.”

The power for the intelligence agencies to conduct enormous hacking campaigns has long been seen as one of the most controversial abilities the UK gives its spooks. The former terrorism legislation review, David Anderson QC, has advocated that “very considerable caution” over the power is needed, especially because of its ability particularly “when used at scale, to cause, even inadvertently … lasting harm to networks and to devices.”

His warning comes on the heels of a public auction of NSA hacking tools, many of which had been present in security gear for years.

As such, Anderson makes what he calls “a single, major, recommendation: that the Investigatory Powers Bill be amended to provide for a Technical Advisory Panel of security-cleared independent academics and industry experts to be appointed by the IPC ‘to advise the IPC and the Secretary of State on the impact of changing technology on the exercise of investigatory powers and on the availability of techniques to use those powers while minimising interference with privacy’.”

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