Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – September 12, 2016

System Restore – A Layman’s Guide;  How to remove your login password from Windows 10;  US government: Stop using the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 right now;  Should I take the free iPhone 7 deal or lease my next phone?  You can remove Cortana from Windows 10, but it’s tricky;  Nine Android alternatives to the iPhone 7;  5 audiophile myths, totally busted;  Cord cutting is a bigger bargain than ever;  – and much more news you need to know.

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Jim Hillier: System Restore – A Layman’s Guide – I peruse a lot of articles on tech sites, not only to help further my own education but also to keep an eye on what others are writing about. Although some tech sites are spot on with their information, it never ceases to amaze me just how many are spreading bad advice and misinformation. I recently came across one such article discussing System Restore which included the following closing statement:

Everyone should think of System Restore first when they start having problems with their computer.

In my humble opinion, that is patently bad advice. System Restore should always be the last resort, not the first response. There are several very good reasons for this:

How to use Windows 10’s Projecting To This PC feature to create a wireless multiple-monitor configuration – The Anniversary Update includes a new feature that lets you use Wi-Fi to project the display from a Windows 10 phone or computer to your Windows 10 PC. Here’s how to set it up.

How to remove your login password from Windows 10 – Because not everyone needs to run his or her PC like Fort Knox.

You can remove Cortana from Windows 10, but it’s tricky – Just turning off Cortana is easy. Removing her completely is hard. We’ll show you how to delve cautiously into the Windows registry.

US government: Stop using the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 right now – Amid more reports of fires and exploding devices, the CPSC is asking Note 7 owners to immediately stop using the faulty device.

How to repair Windows’ master boot record and fix your bricked PC – Your PC won’t work if Windows’ MBR is corrupted or erased. Luckily, it can be fixed.

Facebook photo-sharing app Moments expands to web, adds support for full-res photos – Facebook Moments, the company’s private photo-sharing application which took the place of mobile photo sync late last year, is now expanding beyond the confines of your mobile phone and your personal network. While previously, the app allowed you to share your photos with select Facebook friends, the new version allows you to share a web link to your private album with anyone – even those you’re not connected with on the social network. They can then join the album, and proceed to add their own photos. This makes Moments more useful at larger events where not everyone may be connected on Facebook, such as baby showers, weddings, parties, and more.

How to install a Chrome extension to your desktop from your smartphone – Sometimes it’s stunning how handy Google makes it to use its software—it really, really is. If you have a smartphone you can now remotely install Google Chrome extensions to your desktop PC. This is similar to the way you can remotely install Android apps to your phone from your PC (just in reverse). Even better, this method works on any smartphone. I tested it on an Android phone, a Windows 10 Mobile phone, and an iPhone. In each case, it worked exactly the same way.

SafeZone guides you to safe spaces in crises – The five person crew that developed Safe Zone wanted to do something more meaningful than creating just another geo-based social app. The app uses the MapQuest API to show users a map to a safe zones (currently with a focus of police stations or hospitals) in the event of a crisis. The user only has to tap a single button and a map display comes up that shows the nearest safe zone and directions to it. The team is looking to add another feature that would connect users immediately to 911 emergency services, too.

Raspberry Pi: how it sold 10 million in 4 years – Even for only $35 a pop, 10 million units sold is no joking number. Especially for something that’s been going on for four years, where it has had the possibility of going out of fashion or being displaced by something newer or even better. But that is exactly the momentous achievement that the Raspberry Pi is able to brag about today. But what is all the fuss about an electronics board that doesn’t even come with case? And how exactly did the Raspberry Pi gain that much attention, users, and loyalty? We take a look back in time to find out.

Raspberry Pi … in less than two minutes – Wondering what’s possible with a Raspberry Pi? Find out in less than two minutes!

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Faster, longer-range Bluetooth 5 to reach devices soon – A new version of the Bluetooth wireless spec will be coming to devices soon, giving users faster connectivity among devices over longer distances. The new version, Bluetooth 5, is a big upgrade over Bluetooth 4.2, the current specification. In a clear line of sight, the range of Bluetooth 5 could stretch to 400 meters, said analysts at The Linley Group in a research note this week. That means users could connect a smartphone to a Bluetooth speaker that may not even be visible. Final Bluetooth 5 specifications will be disclosed by the end of this year or early next year, the Linley analysts said.

$400 Chinese smartphones? Apple and Samsung shrug off cheap rivals, raise prices anyway – With new Chinese flagships entering the US market in the $400 range, you’d think this would spur competition in the rest of the high-end market. You’d be wrong.

Apple iPhone 7 vs. iPhone 6s: Should You Upgrade? – Apple’s newest smartphones, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus bring some significant upgrades over the 6s lineup. Both devices lose the headphone jack, but they gain waterproofing and dual speakers. Under the hood, the camera, processor, and battery life have all been improved. So, if you’re the owner of a perfectly good iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus, should you upgrade? Let’s take a look at the major similarities and differences to help you decide.

Should I take the free iPhone 7 deal or lease my next phone? – AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint are all running promotions offering new and existing customers a free iPhone 7 with 32GB of memory. Sounds like a great deal. But is it really as good as it sounds? In this edition of Ask Maggie, I explain who should consider taking advantage of these promotions and who would be better off sticking with one of the device upgrade programs offered by the carriers or Apple.

Sorry, iPhone 7 Plus Does Not Have a Telephoto Lens – The iPhone 7 Plus has the same camera as the iPhone 7. And it’s got another rear camera. Apple kept referring to it as a telephoto camera. But it’s not. Its field of view is roughly half that of the standard camera, delivering a full-frame equivalent of 56mm. If you’re old enough to have shot with a manual focus 35mm SLR, there’s a very good chance that your first lens was a 50mm or 55mm prime. Both fall into the standard-angle category. Apple can call the lens telephoto all it wants, but it ain’t.

Nine Android alternatives to the iPhone 7 – No headphone jack, no physical home button, no mind-blowing physical upgrades … there are quite a few reasons to be unhappy with the iPhone 7. If you’re not excited about upgrading it might be time to think about jumping ship to an Android device. Here are nine Android phones that have features that match or beat the iPhone 7. Different phones will suit different users, so be sure to check out the full list to discover the best one for your needs.

Facebook isn’t just fighting ad blockers, it’s fighting the underlying causes of blocking – Many have interpreted Facebook’s move to “block the blockers” as a sign that Facebook is prioritizing its relationship to advertisers over users. It’s actually far more subtle. Facebook is trying to find — and own — the middle ground that neither advertisers nor publishers have been able to inhabit successfully.

Security:

Securing the human operating system: How to stop people being the weakest link in enterprise security – A company can spend all the funds it wants on the latest cybersecurity technology, like firewalls, threat detection, artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, but there is one security risk that can’t blocked from entering the company networks: the employee. And the problem is only going to become trickier to solve because people are becoming more connected than ever, offering hackers additional opportunities to find that one weakness that allows them access.

Infographic: Businesses are more concerned about security of mobile devices and employee data than cyberwarfare – A recent survey by Tech Pro Research indicates that everyday breaches scare businesses more than hackers, and threats posed by mobile devices and employee data top the list.

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Image: Erik Underwood/TechRepublic

Crafty GovRAT malware targets U.S. gov’t employees – A tough-to-detect malware that attacks government and corporate computers has been upgraded, making it more aggressive in its mission to steal sensitive files, according to security firm InfoArmor. Last November, InfoArmor published details on GovRAT, a sophisticated piece of malware that’s designed to bypass antivirus tools. It does this by using stolen digital certificates to avoid detection. Through GovRAT, hackers can potentially steal files from a victim’s computer, remotely execute commands, or upload other malware to the system.

911 could face its own emergency: Hackers – A network of hacked smartphone, commandeered remotely to call 911 over and over again, may sound farfetched, but the researchers found it plausible based on how much malicious software already exists to target phones. They also point out that repeated phone calls from a hacked phone can’t be blocked by the current system. The researchers shared their findings with the US Department of Homeland Security, according to The Washington Post. DHS did not respond to a request for comment. The agency has previously warned of the dangers of a denial of service attack on emergency response infrastructure.

FBI arrests alleged members of Crackas With Attitude for hacking US gov’t officials – The FBI has arrested two men believed to be part of the “Crackas With Attitude” group which hit the headlines last year after leaking information on thousands of government officials to the public. On Thursday, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) revealed the arrest of two alleged members of a hacking group which took responsibility for targeting the communications and online accounts of thousands of US government figures. The first alleged member of the Crackas With Attitude group is Andrew Otto Boggs, also known as “Incursio,” a 22-year-old from North Carolina. The second alleged member of the group to be collared by law enforcement is 24-year-old Justin Gray Liverman, also known as “D3f4ult,” who was arrested in Morehead City, North Carolina.

Company News:

HP is buying Samsung’s printer business for $1.05 billion – HP is buying Samsung’s printer business for $1.05 billion in a move aimed at “disrupting” the dusty and stale printing industry. The deal will see Samsung’s Printing Business Unit spun out independently, with HP picking up full 100 percent ownership in the business. The companies estimate it will take one year to close, pending the usual regulatory scrutiny, and, upon doing so, Samsung will make a reciprocal investment of between $100 million and $300 million into HP’s business. Samsung’s printer divisions employs around 6,000 people — around 1,300 of whom are in R&D — with 50 sales offices across the world and a production base that is located in China. In addition to that business, which recorded nearly $1.8 billion in revenue last year, HP will also get its hands on a “compelling” portfolio of around 6,500 printing patents.

Seagate sued by angry staff following phishing data breach – Seagate is trying to fend off a lawsuit brought against the company by its own employees after falling for a phishing scam which exposed the sensitive data of staff. The electronics maker is the focus of a class-action lawsuit, originally filed in July through the Northern California District Court, which accuses Seagate of malpractice and a lack of regard for employees affected by the negligent handling of data. In March this year, Seagate HR was duped into handing over W-2 forms and the personally identifiable information (PII) of the company’s current and past employees.

Samsung Shares Fall After the Galaxy Note 7 Is Recalled – Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s shares fell to their lowest level in nearly two months on Monday after the tech giant told customers to switch off and return their new Galaxy Note 7 smartphones due to fire-prone batteries. Investors had wiped 15.9 trillion won ($14.3 billion) off the South Korean firm’s market capitalisation as of 0303 GMT, as a series of warnings from regulators and airlines around the world raised fears for the future of the flagship device.

Dell swings layoffs axe at 3,000 EMC people – Dell is to trim the workforce following its $60bn-plus buy of storage titan EMC, with between 2,000 to 3,000 heads expected to roll. But if sales don’t track to management expectations, sources told us to expect more. A Bloomberg report claimed Dell will seek out $1.7bn in cost savings in the next eighteen months – but it will seek to beef up sales by several times that amount, minimising the need to thin out more. A Dell spokeswoman gave us the same line Bloomberg carried: “As is common with deals of this size, there will be some overlaps we will need to manage and where some employee reduction will occur.

Amazon expected to open 100 pop-up stores to demo Echo, Kindle, more – Despite helping to revolutionize online shopping, e-commerce giant Amazon is going to continue its push into the physical retail environment. Shortly after the news that Amazon will be opening more physical bookstores in new cities across the US comes word that the next year will see 100 or so pop-up stores come to shopping malls around the country.

Amazon said to be negotiating streaming rights for live sports – As Amazon has already become a major player in the streaming video market, it’s now looking to move beyond just offering TV shows, movies, and original series. A new report from Bloomberg says the company want to challenge broadcast TV by offering coverage of live sporting events, including soccer, golf, tennis, and auto racing. The paper’s anonymous sources say Amazon has begun talks into acquiring the licenses needed to stream such events.

Google rumored to tap Huawei for its next Android tablet – Online leak suggests that the manufacturer of the Nexus 6P phone will be creating the tech giant’s new tablet for release later this year, but will it retain the Nexus name?

Games and Entertainment:

5 audiophile myths, totally busted – I’m an audiophile who loves music and audio gear more or less equally. That said, I think anyone who from time to time really savors music is an audiophile, or might become one at a future date. To clear the air a bit for up an coming audiophiles, I’m going to bust a few audiophile myths. Here we go.

9 reasons why PC gaming is a better value than consoles – This may come as some surprise to you, but we here at PCWorld are pretty big fans of PC gaming. Shocking, I know. And so please, all ye console believers, factor in whatever amount of bias you’d like to the following statement: PC gaming is the most affordable it’s ever been—and for a lot of people it’s also the best value, for a multitude of reasons. The announcement of Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro just drove that point home. Here’s why.

The best graphics cards for PC gaming – In the market for a new video card? These are the best graphics cards that PC gamers can buy today.

Cord cutting is a bigger bargain than ever – About 18 months ago, I tried to dispense with the notion that it’s hard to save money by cutting the cable TV cord. You’ll have to forgive me for essentially writing that column all over again, but cable-TV cheerleaders still haven’t listened to reason. They continue to argue that the costs of streaming-video services add up, to the point that cable TV remains the more economical choice.

This week in games: Mass Effect Andromeda on display, Deus Ex gets DirectX 12 – Plus: Interplay’s up for auction, Shadow Warrior 2 decapitates dozens of people, and The Walking Dead Season 3 targets a release date. This is gaming news for September 5 through 9.

The FCC wants to replace your cable box with apps – The Federal Communications Commission is overhauling its plan to open up the cable box. Now, the regulatory body wants cable companies to keep doing what they’re doing already, but more so: Making apps and putting them on as many platforms as possible. Cable companies with 400,000 subscribers or less would be exempt from the proposed rules.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Stunning Data Visualizations — From 1870 – Visualizing information isn’t new! Thanks to RadicalCartography.net and the Library of Congress, here are some pioneering data visualizations from the US census in 1870. The geology of the US, with sumptuous hand-shading that puts most computer-generated maps to shame:

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MIT researchers develop camera that can read books without opening them – You’ve almost surely heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but what if you could read a book through its cover? Because that’s basically what researchers from MIT and Georgia Tech are able to do with a new imaging system that can read individual pages without opening the cover. In a new study published on Friday, the researchers detail their system that can read the text on a stack of up to nine pages without the need to flip through them. While it sounds like X-ray vision, the technique is called terahertz radiation, where the imaging process can pass through layers of paper, but is reflected differently by ink.

Mercedes-Benz Vans Vision Van is all electric and carries drones – Mercedes-Benz Vans is showing off its vision for the future of delivery vehicles. The van concept is dubbed the Vision Van ad it is part of the Mercedes-Benz Vans future initiative called adVANce meant to expand the growth strategy and develop new business models for the automaker. A major investment has been made into the initiative of 500 million euros over the next five years to develop digitalization, automation, and robotic vans along with other innovative solutions.

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Inside the Morbidly Fascinating Autopsy Handbook that Changed Medical History – Over the course of his career, Vesalius performed countless public autopsies and dissections, mainly on executed criminals or unclaimed bodies. He accumulated his vast knowledge and observation of human anatomy into an illustrated masterpiece entitled De humani corporis fabrica libri septem, or “On the fabric of the human body in seven books.” A hand-colored and abridged version of the seven-volume Fabrica is currently on display at Cambridge University Library, as part of the “Lines of Thought” exhibition celebrating the 600th anniversary of the Library’s founding. On Friday, Cambridge released a short film about the stunning Renaissance work and its critical impact on medical history.

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Tesla makes Autopilot safer, smarter with major update – Tesla’s Version 8 software update is coming, and along with it some major enhancements to the company’s Autopilot functionality. Autopilot, available on all Model S and Model X cars manufactured since October 2014, is a term that aggregates a suite of features cumulatively enabling the cars to self-steer and adjust their speed on many driving circumstances, relying on a combination of imaging, sonar and radar sensors. Now, with Version 8, the cars will make even greater reliance on the radar sensor built into the car’s bumper.

Something to think about:

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

–      Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987),  The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

You Need to Care About Facebook Censoring an Iconic Vietnam War Photo – Nick Ut’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of nine-year-old Kim Phúc fleeing from a napalm attack during the Vietnam war is one of the most iconic pieces of photojournalism in existence.

The importance of Ut’s 1972 photograph cannot be underestimated. The image was instrumental in exposing to the rest of the world what was happening in Vietnam. Some argue, including Ut himself, that this photograph alone was a turning point in the conflict. The photograph galvanized opposition to the war.

But this week, Facebook decided that the image breached the social network’s terms of service. Facebook banned a user who published the photograph, and then subsequently ordered a newspaper to also remove the photograph from its Facebook page, sparking uproar over the social network’s control of media.

Today, Facebook has deleted a further post featuring the photograph by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who joined in on the swelling debate regarding the censorship of the photograph. Solberg was one of many politicians who decided to share the image in the wake of the original incident. (Update: After a flood of critical media posts, Facebook has allowed the image to be reposted.)

Whether or not you use Facebook, it’s important to be aware of the misjudgement and questionable censorship happening at scale

The entire debacle not only shows Facebook’s opaque and haphazard approach to removing graphic content—the company has said it’s too hard to distinguish between one of the most notable photographs of the 20th century and child pornography—but also shows how users cannot currently trust Facebook to deliver important or potentially-controversial news without the risk of censorship or bias.

Federal Judge: Hacking Someone’s Computer Is Definitely a ‘Search’ – Courts across the country can’t seem to agree on whether the FBI’s recent hacking activities ran afoul of the law—and the confusion has led to some fairly alarming theories about law enforcement’s ability to remotely compromise computers.

In numerous cases spawned from the FBI takeover of a darkweb site that hosted child abuse images, courts have been split on the legality of an FBI campaign that used a single warrant to hack thousands of computers accessing the site from unknown locations, using malware called a Network Investigative Technique, or NIT. Some have gone even further, arguing that hacking a computer doesn’t constitute a “search,” and therefore doesn’t require a warrant at all.

But a federal judge in Texas ruled this week that actually, yes, sending malware to someone’s computer to secretly retrieve information from it—as the FBI did with the NIT—is a “search” under the Fourth Amendment.

“[T]he NIT placed code on Mr. Torres’ computer without his permission, causing it to transmit his IP address and other identifying data to the government,” Judge David Alan Ezra of wrote Friday, in a ruling for one of the NIT cases, in San Antonio, Texas. “That Mr. Torres did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his IP address is of no import. This was unquestionably a “search” for Fourth Amendment purposes.”

As obvious as that sounds, not everyone agrees. Previously, another judge in Virginia stunningly ruled that a warrant for hacking isn’t required at all, because a defendant infected with government malware “has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his computer.”

The ACLU Is About to Launch a Campaign Asking Obama to Pardon Edward Snowden – On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other prominent human rights organizations will launch a formal campaign asking President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden for revealing the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs.

The long-expected campaign will start just two days before Oliver Stone’s Snowden hits theaters. The hope is that Stone’s largely sympathetic portrayal of the whistleblower will further help Snowden’s image nationwide.

“I think Oliver will do more for Snowden in two hours than his lawyers have been able to do in three years,” Ben Wizner, Snowden’s lawyer and director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, told me after a screening of the film at the Brooklyn Public Library.

“We are going to be doing both a mass signature campaign around the world and trying to get prominent individuals and organizations to join our call to President Obama to pardon Snowden before he leaves office,” he said, adding that more information would be available after a press conference Wednesday.

Starting Wednesday, the groups will ask for signatures in support of Snowden at http://www.pardonsnowden.org. Much of the site is currently password protected, but the shell that is currently up confirms that both ACLU and Amnesty International will be involved. Facebook and Twitter accounts for the campaign have also been reserved, but none of the accounts have updated.

That civil liberties groups and Snowden’s legal team would formally ask for a pardon as Obama is set to leave office is no surprise. Wizner told New York magazine earlier this summer that his legal team would “make a very strong case between [June] and the end of this administration that this is one of those rare cases for which the pardon power exists.”

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