Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – August 26, 2016

10 Hidden Tricks Inside Windows 10;  Windows 10 update breaks PowerShell;   The Best Encryption Software of 2016;  A list of all the Google Now voice commands;  Windows 10’s Quick Assist lets you fix Dad’s computer from your desk;  The best ways to watch football this season (with or without cable);  Amazon Vehicles is a new destination for car shoppers;  Your Instagram account shows how depressed you are – and much more news you need to know.

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Windows 10 update breaks PowerShell and Microsoft won’t fix it until next week – If you can’t use Microsoft’s PowerShell after the latest Windows 10 update, Microsoft has four words for you: sorry for the inconvenience Microsoft published an article giving consumers ‘five reasons why you should install the Windows 10 Anniversary Update’ on its website before the rollout began in August. However, since then it’s given Windows 10 users at least three reasons to be wary of updates. The latest came on Tuesday, when Microsoft rolled-out a cumulative patch for the Anniversary Update that broke PowerShell, its command line shell and scripting language. The notes accompanying the release suggest Microsoft knew the changes would stop several PowerShell features from working.

10 Hidden Tricks Inside Windows 10 – Microsoft’s Windows OS isn’t any one thing. It arises from a patchwork of finely tuned features. Each individual feature is, in turn, the result of a team of dedicated engineers who create the best (often personalizable) experience possible. So, with such a complex, nuanced, and vast piece of software, it makes sense that there are little tricks and UI flourishes that most people don’t even know about. As it turns out, there are all sorts of tricks hidden beneath the surface of the sprawling beast that is Windows. All it takes is a little digging. Here we present a list of 10 cool tips that will help you get a little bit more out of your Windows 10 experience.

Windows 10’s Quick Assist lets you fix Dad’s computer from your desk – Anyone who works in the computer industry, or has a reputation for being technologically savvy, knows the sinking feeling that accompanies these words: “So I bought a new computer.” Those six words inevitably mean you’re going to end up on a long telephone call trying to explain something like how to save a web document as a PDF, with each participant becoming more frustrated by the minute. Wouldn’t you just like to perform the task for them and be done with it? Quick Assist makes that possible—and without the car ride.

Five translation and language learning apps to make international business easier – Whether you need on-the-fly translation while overseas or you’re trying to learn a new language, here are five apps that can give you an edge.

The Best Encryption Software of 2016 – Businesses, websites, and government agencies that store your personal data have a duty to protect that data from hackers. Not that even the best practices and security software can keep the hackers out—they always find a way in. But if the data is properly encrypted, stealing it doesn’t do the hacker much good. You can up your security game by encrypting sensitive data on your own desktop and laptop computers. We’ve rounded up a collection of products to help you with that project.

Amazon Vehicles is a new destination for car shoppers – Amazon has announced a new destination targeted at car enthusiasts called “Amazon Vehicles.” The platform allows Amazon users to explore vehicles using a bunch of different filtering options, such as body type, make and model, mileage ratings, transmission type, and more. It’s the ultimate window shopping for cars, allowing one to find a vehicle, customize it, and see how much it costs.


Your Instagram account shows how depressed you are – The photos you post on social media may be saying more about you than you intend. Scientists from Harvard University and the University of Vermont have found that there is a strong correlation between the nature of photos posted on Instagram and the poster’s mental health. The link is so strong that researchers Andrew Reece and Chris Danforth suggest the algorithm they devised could be used for early detection of mental illness.

Google now lets you play solitaire and tic-tac-toe in search – Google will now allow you to play games with search results. When you search for solitaire or tic-tac-toe, it will return a playable game as a result.

My Favorite Back-to-School Tools for Your Tiny Egghead – To the dismay of kids and relief of their parents, back-to-school season has arrived. Of course, with the proliferation of blended learning initiatives and flipped classrooms, the boundaries of school have grown porous. More education occurs outside traditional classrooms, mediated through learning management systems, web forums, and mobile apps. But what about tools that are not prescribed by a teacher or school district? This week, I will share some new tech that parents can use to cultivate their children’s learning.

Facebook will use Whatsapp users’ personal data to target ads – WhatsApp is changing its privacy policy to allow it to exchange information about account holders with parent Facebook

Facebook’s Plan for WhatsApp Data Poses Legal Risks – When WhatsApp announced on Thursday that it would start sharing data with its corporate parent, Facebook, some of its fans howled that the popular messaging service was betraying long-held promises to protect their privacy. But for the companies, angry users may pose less of a problem than the Federal Trade Commission, which serves as the country’s top privacy regulator.

You can stop WhatsApp from sharing your phone number with Facebook – Hyper-popular messaging app WhatsApp announced yesterday that it would start sharing some user data — including your phone number — with parent company Facebook. WhatsApp has promised that it won’t sell or share that number with advertisers, but if you still balk at the idea of putting your phone number where a legion of hungry brands could potentially see it, you’re in luck — you’ve still got a chance to stop WhatsApp from handing Facebook this new data if you act fast.

A list of all the Google Now voice commands – What can you do with your voice on your Android phone? More than you know!


Dropbox is resetting passwords for accounts that haven’t changed them since mid-2012 – Dropbox is requiring users who have not changed their passwords since mid-2012 to reset their passwords this afternoon. The action appears to be related to continued fallout over the massive hack on LinkedIn in 2012 where credentials for 117 million accounts were posted online. In recent months, treasure troves of user credentials and passwords — in addition to a large MySpace hack disclosed in May — have been discovered. Even though the data for these accounts is old, often passwords remain unchanged for long periods of time and are re-used across multiple accounts, leaving entire online identities vulnerable to hacks.

A serious attack on the iPhone was just seen in use for the first time – Earlier this month, an Emirati human rights activist named Ahmed Mansoor got a suspicious text. It promised new details of torture in the country’s state prisons, along with a link to follow if he was interested. If Mansoor had followed the link, it would have jailbroken his phone on the spot and implanted it with malware, capable of logging encrypted messages, activating the microphone and secretly tracking its movements. The attack is detailed in a new report from Citizen Lab and Lookout Security, which received the link directly from Mansoor. The malware targets three previously undisclosed vulnerabilities in iOS, allowing for arbitrary code execution, access to kernel memory, and access to kernel privileges. When combined, those vulnerabilities allow for a remote jailbreak of an iOS device, a long sought-after capability that has never been previously observed in an active campaign. On discovering the vulnerabilities, Citizen Lab and Lookout reported them to Apple, and fixes for the vulnerabilities have been patched with today’s release of iOS 9.3.5.

Exploits patched by Apple today hint at years of surreptitious government hacks – You’ll want to be updating your iOS devices to 9.3.5, the version released today by Apple — especially if you’re a prominent human rights activist. A recently thwarted attack on just such a person employed not one but three zero-day exploits addressed by the patch. The subsequent investigation suggests these were the work of a shadowy cybersecurity company whose software may have been used for years by governments looking to compromise political targets.

Is your Android phone being controlled by a rogue Twitter account? Botnet is first to receive commands via tweets – A new strain of mobile malware has been discovered that uses Twitter to control a botnet comprised of Android phones and tablets. Known as Twitoor, the Trojan is believed to be the first to use the social network to coordinate infected devices instead of a command-and-control (C&C) server. After the malware is downloaded, it hides and regularly checks in with a malicious Twitter account for commands. These instructions direct the Trojan to either download and install additional malicious applications — mostly data-stealing mobile banking malware — or to switch to a different C&C Twitter account.

How to remove pesky malware from your PC with Windows Defender Offline – Some malware is really good at hiding itself. You can thwart those malicious plans by running Windows Defender in offline mode.

A quarter of banks’ data breaches are down to lost phones and laptops – One in four breaches (25.3 per cent) in the US financial services sector over recent years were due to lost or stolen devices, according to a new study. Cloud security firm Bitglass further reports that one in five recorded breaches over the last 10 years were the result of hacking. More than 60 financial sector organisations suffered recurring breaches in the last decade, including most major banks. While hacking accounted for a disproportionate number of the individuals affected by financial services breaches, only one in five leaks were caused by hacking. Other breaches were the result of unintended disclosures (14 per cent), malicious insiders (13 per cent), and lost paper records.

SpyNote malware: One more reason to never sideload Android apps – Jack Wallen explains why the recently discovered SpyNote malware threat should make you squeamish about sideloading Android apps.

Company News:

Uber reportedly lost $1.27 billion in just six months – Uber lost $1.27 billion in the first half of 2016, according to Bloomberg, which on the surface seems like a lot of money. Okay, not just on the surface. It is a lot of money. But this is Uber we’re talking about! The most valuable startup in the world, most recently valued at $62.5 billion. So $1.27 billion in losses probably isn’t a big deal, right? Well, yes and no.

Did Uber just burst the sharing economy bubble? – By the end of 2015, the ride-hailing company was valued at $62.5 billion. It closed $1.6 billion in financing in January 2015, raised $2 billion in Leveraged-Loan Market in June 2016 and raised $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund around that same time. Today is a different story. Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter, reports losses for Uber in first half of 2016 total at least $1.27 billion. The loss throws into question the narrative of the burgeoning sharing economy. The repurposing of resources like cars and apartments is supposed to create jobs, upend businesses and change the way we live. But what does that mean when Uber, one of the giants of this movement, can’t turn a profit?

Uber offers retirement plans to drivers as legal battle continues – The ride-hailing company announced today that drivers in several cities will be offered retirement plans through Betterment, an automated investment service. The deal, which has been in the works since this spring, will be offered first to drivers in Seattle, Boston, Chicago and New Jersey. Uber plans to eventually expand the program nationwide, and will offer drivers the opportunity to register for Betterment directly from the Uber app. The announcement comes as Uber’s legal battle over whether it should categorize drivers as employees or independent contractors continues, and Uber tells TechCrunch that it designed the retirement savings feature based on driver feedback.

Tesla gains antitrust approval for $2.6 billion SolarCity acquisition – Tesla announced plans to buy the solar panel maker earlier this month as part of its push to become a renewable-energy products company.

Google Fiber reportedly ordered to cut costs, downsize – Google Fiber’s ultrafast 1Gbps broadband service may not be going fast enough. Google Fiber, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, has fallen “well short” of its subscriber goals and is now looking to cut costs, according to a report Thursday from The Information. Alphabet co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have been unhappy with the rollout and costs of Google Fiber, unnamed sources told The Information. Last month, Page reportedly ordered Google Fiber chief Craig Barratt to halve the size of the team and significantly reduce the cost of bringing the service to customers’ homes. Google Fiber declined to comment.

TripAdvisor scoops up social mapping service Citymaps – New York-based Citymaps, a social mapping application backed by $12 million in venture funding, has been acquired by TripAdvisor, the companies have announced. The service, which serves both as a mapping and navigational tool as well as a travel guide of sorts, will continue on as a standalone business at TripAdvisor, following the deal’s close. Deal terms were not disclosed.

Games and Entertainment:

TV Everywhere apps aren’t just for cable subscribers – Officially, cord-cutters aren’t welcome to use video-streaming apps from TV channels such as ABC, Discovery, The Food Network, and many others. Known in the industry as “TV Everywhere” apps, they’re really meant for paying cable or satellite subscribers, who can enter their account credentials to access a trove of on-demand shows and live channel streams. But if you look in the right places, these apps can provide a trove of ad-supported free TV for cord cutters, ranging from guilty-pleasure reality shows to late-night variety. Here’s a list of TV channel apps that offer free streaming shows, and how you can find the good stuff in each one:

Primed for pigskin: The best ways to watch football this season (with or without cable) – Whether you’re a cord cutter or a pay-TV addict, we’ll show you all the ways you can watch this season’s bone-crunching action on screens of any size.

The best free games on the PS4 – Free-to-play games have been growing in popularity on the PC for over a decade now, but it wasn’t until the last few years that the console devs started to take this business model seriously. Developers big and small are now entering the fray, and as such, we wanted to see exactly how these games stand up on the PS4. From the start, we’ve been keeping an eye on each and every F2P release. While some titles on the PlayStation Store aren’t even worth mentioning, there’s a variety of rock-solid titles on offer. And thanks to the low barrier to entry, you can try out anything that strikes your fancy. Now let’s jump in, and find something new to play.

35 great games for Linux PCs and Steam Machines – It’s taken a long time and the promise of SteamOS, but more and more big-name games are finally becoming Linux natives. Here’s a sampling.

Best Retro-Inspired PC Games for 2016 – Today’s video game industry draws a lot on the successes of the past, and that certainly isn’t a bad thing. With so many indie developers (and a few triple-A developers) paying homage to gaming’s past, we’ve been treated to a number of excellent games, and here we’ll round up just a few of the best for those who want a hefty dose of nostalgia to go along with their gaming. Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a list of the best classic games available for PC, nor is it a list of the most recent games available. Rather, it’s a list of games, both new and old, that draw on the past to deliver an experience that’s worth both your time and money.

Best iPhone Games of Summer 2016 – Today we’re running down the best mobile games on all platforms for the Summer of 2016. That’s pretty specific, but it only refers to the time in which we played the games, not the time in which the games were originally released. In this way we’re able to bring you the best games on the market in their current state, which is great for games that’ve matured and become far better than they were at launch, of which there are many in this environment. New games have come up to fight for the top spot, too!

September Xbox Live Games With Gold Lineup Revealed – Heads up, Xbox Live Gold members: Microsoft just revealed next month’s Games With Gold lineup. Expect four free games in September — two on Xbox One and two on Xbox 360. On Xbox One, Live Gold members can download Earthlock: Festival of Magic (normally $30) for free all month while Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China (normally $10) will be available from Sept. 16 through Oct. 15. On Xbox 360, you can get Forza Horizon (normally $10) from Sept. 1 through Sept. 15. Then on Sept. 16, you can download Mirror’s Edge, which will be available through Sept. 30. Note that you can play both of these Xbox 360 titles on your Xbox One, thanks to the console’s backward-compatibility feature.

Off Topic (Sort of):

US unveils charges against KickassTorrents, names two more defendants – US prosecutors have now named a total of three men said to be operators of the defunct file-sharing site KickassTorrents (KAT). The new allegations are in a formal indictment filed Tuesday, which contains the most detailed charges against the site yet. Last month, alleged site operator 30-year-old Artem Vaulin of Ukraine was arrested in Poland. The new indictment (PDF) also names Ievgen (Eugene) Kutsenko aka “chill” and Oleksander (Alex) Radostin aka “pioneer,” also of Ukraine. Bench warrants have been issued for the arrest of all three men, although authorities have confirmed the arrest of only Vaulin. The indictment was reported earlier today by TorrentFreak.

The 25 biggest events in Linux’s 25-year history – You can argue about Linux’s official birthday. Heck, even Linus Torvalds thinks there are four different dates in 1991 that might deserve the honor. Regardless, Linux is twenty-five years old this year. Here are some of its highlights and lowlights.

How to create a privacy policy that protects your company and your customers – Concerns about online privacy continue to escalate, as breaches and leaks of personal information grow increasingly common. Here are the key issues your privacy policy needs to address.

Google now lets you explore U.S. National Parks via 360-degree virtual tours – Exploring the world is something that’s always been a bit of a luxury for those who can afford to travel, but technology is changing that. With VR and 360-degree videos, you can now immerse yourself in virtual environments that give you a real sense of what a place is like, without actually being there. Google has been taking advantage of things like VR field trips and virtual reality to transport students to distant lands, but today it’s releasing a way to explore scenic wonders closer to home: the U.S. National Parks. The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks is a new Google Arts & Culture exhibit and interactive documentary, timed to launch in celebration of this month’s NPS Centennial.

Americans say science is why they’ve given up religion – Technically Incorrect: A new Pew survey finds that those who say they have no religion tend to cite science as one of the main reasons.

These Tech Companies Are Bankrolling Hillary Clinton – Thus far, the technology industry as a whole has given far more to Clinton than her Republican rival, Donald Trump. Employees at Internet companies have given Clinton and Clinton-supporting groups about $1.5 million, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics. Workers at those same companies have given just over $13,000 to Trump’s efforts. (Companies themselves can’t donate to campaigns; the data tracks employees at those companies instead.) Which technology firm’s employees have put the most money behind Clinton? Here’s a breakdown of top technology firms with employees who have given the most to Clinton, according to data from OpenSecrets:

Something to think about:

“Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.”

–       Stephen King

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Persistent Surveillance Systems has been watching Baltimore for months – A company that sends Cessna aircraft to surveil cities from 25,000 feet up in an effort to fight crime has been watching Baltimore for months now with zero public notification, according to a new report from Bloomberg Businessweek.

The firm, Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS), has been actively trying to get new contracts with large cities nationwide. When Ars profiled the company in 2014, company CEO Ross McNutt said PSS was trying to work with Chicago after having controversially flown for nine days over Compton, California—adjacent to Los Angeles—in 2012.

PSS has evidently now succeeded in Baltimore. As Businessweek reported, the Baltimore project was funded by two Texan philanthropists, John and Laura Arnold, who said that if the company could find a city to partner with, they would fund it.

Eventually McNutt worked his connections with the Baltimore Police Department, which arranged for payment via something called the Baltimore Community Foundation, a local group that describes itself as a “philanthropic foundation created by and for the people of Greater Baltimore, where many donors join together to make the region they love a better place, today and for future generations.”

Facebook, Google, Twitter lax on terrorists’ misuse of their sites, say UK MPs – A panel of U.K. lawmakers has described as “alarming” that social networking companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube have teams of only a few hundred employees to monitor billions of accounts for extremist content.

“These companies are hiding behind their supranational legal status to pass the parcel of responsibility and refusing to act responsibly in case they damage their brands,” said a report released early Thursday in the U.K. by the Home Affairs Committee appointed by the House of Commons.

If these companies do not tackle the issue and allow their services to become the ‘Wild West’ of the internet, their reputation as responsible operators will be eroded, it added.

The report, which said the use of the internet to promote radicalization and terror was one of the biggest threats faced by countries including the U.K., singled out Twitter for mention for not proactively reporting extremist content to law enforcement agencies.

The committee described as a “drop in the ocean” the suspension by Twitter of 125,000 accounts worldwide linked to terrorists between mid-2015 and February 2016, and Google’s removal in 2014 of over 14 million videos worldwide that related to all kinds of abuse.

In evidence to the panel, the companies said that they had staff who manually search for potentially extremist content online and decide on whether to take the content down and suspend accounts. Twitter said it had “more than a hundred” staff working on this job, while Facebook and Google did not provide a number.

Telegram’s encryption stymies French police but pleases their bosses – French government officials have been revealed as fervent users of Telegram, a messaging app that is frustrating their interior minister with its end-to-end encryption.

Telegram’s fans include the current head of the French judicial police, Christian Sainte, and his predecessor, Frédéric Péchenard. The app’s security has also won over a number of legislators, including the French finance minister, who encourages his team to use it, according to Wednesday’s edition of French newspaper Le Canard Enchainé.

Telegram claims over 100 million monthly users of its secure messaging app, but it was the action of just one of them — Normandy church attacker Adel Kermiche — that prompted French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve to call on Tuesday for investigators to be allowed to eavesdrop on Telegram users’ conversations.

Kermiche used the app to tell a group with 200 members to “download what’s coming and share it with everyone,” less than an hour before he and an accomplice stabbed a priest to death in northern France last month. The two filmed their action, but it is not known whether they succeeded in transmitting the video.

Police now have a transcript of the group chat, presumably either from Kermiche’s own phone or that of another group member, but Cazeneuve wants Telegram to provide investigators with much faster access to encrypted chats.

Cazeneuve doesn’t want to make communications operators like Telegram stop encrypting messages — merely to assist in decrypting them when asked by law enforcers, he said. Many companies are already providing such assistance, he said, but Telegram is not one of them.



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6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – August 26, 2016

  1. This will make setting up and using Quick Assist very easy:

  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Is your Android phone being controlled by a rogue Twitter account?

    My bank has recently being advertising Mobile Pay, using Android phones. Their marketing makes it seem all so easy and simple, and it probably is. No way I’ll be using it though, when I read stories like this.

    Before they force us all into cashless transactions, they need to get mobile security nailed down once and for all. But we know that won’t happen.

    Technology is evolving faster than we can keep up, security wise. There are always people who will find a way around any defence.

    I’m sticking to cash, probably until the day I drop off the planet.


    • Hey Mal,

      Well said mate – “Technology is evolving faster than we can keep up, security wise. There are always people who will find a way around any defence.” Current security is no more than a simple fantasy designed to conceal an absolute disaster.

      I love it when people say to me that “one day the shit is going to hit the security fan.” Don’t look now, but the shit hit the fan some time ago. 🙂



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