Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – September 14, 2016

How to get free home phone service from Google;  Using a thing made by Microsoft, Apple or Adobe? It probably needs a patch today;  Run Android apps on your Windows PC;  Confide brings self-destructing messaging to iMessage;  The Best Password Managers of 2016;  WeConnect is an app to support addiction recovery;  15 neat hidden features in iOS 10;  Simplenote: So simple, it just works – and much more news you need to know.

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How to get free home phone service from Google – You’ll almost never see it promoted — and hardly anyone outside of hardcore tech enthusiasts knows it even exists — but Google has a free home phone service just waiting to be utilized. And all you need is a simple little box to tap into its power. Plain and simple, having a home phone can be a nice convenience — something that makes life just a little bit easier. And if said service is free to use, why the hell not? Here’s what you need to get started:

Windows 10 Anniversary Update rollout may not be done until early November – Microsoft is notifying Windows 10 users that the Anniversary Update may take three months to roll out. Here’s why.

Run Android apps on your Windows PC – Android’s application ecosystem has proven to be versatile and developer-friendly, after a bit of a slow start. You are free to develop an app for Android and publish it to the Play Store with just a few basic restrictions. This has led to a plethora of really cool Android apps, some of which aren’t available on iOS or other platforms. Running Android apps usually requires an Android smartphone or tablet — obviously! — but what if you currently use iOS or another mobile OS, and want to try out Android without actually getting an Android device? Well, fortunately, with a little leg work, you can run Android apps on a regular old Windows PC. There are a few different ways to go about it, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

The Best Password Managers of 2016 – A password like “123456” or “monkey” is easy to remember, but it’s also easy to crack. With the help of a password manager, you can have a unique and strong password for every secure website.

iOS 10 reviewed: There’s no reason not to update – iOS 10 offers a lot of new stuff for users, including several redesigned apps, a new design for notifications, an improved Control Center, and more. But it’s also got a lot of under-the-hood changes for developers in the vein of iOS 8: it opens up notifications, the UI for making and receiving voice and video calls, the Maps app, and Siri, and it re-imagines Messages as a sort of platform-unto-itself complete with its own branch of the App Store. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s dive right in.

15 neat hidden features in iOS 10 – After months and months of beta, iOS 10 is finally here — and it’s a huge update. In particular, Apple has tucked away many little features that you won’t see right away. If you want to impress all your friends with your mad iOS skills, here is a list of some of these features.

Five security settings in iOS 10 you should immediately change – The latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system comes with some privacy improvements. Before you do anything like customizing your phone, loading new apps, or syncing your data for the first time, you should take a few steps to lock down your device and protect your privacy. Here are the important tweaks to get you started.

How to install Tonido to enable cloud access to your desktop – One of the easiest ways to access your desktop files and folders from the cloud is Tonido, says Jack Wallen. See why self-employed IT pros, in particular, might like this option.

This PC Is the Size of a Pack of Gum (And it’s Really Good) – Ever thought that a stick PC that functions as a full desktop when you plug it into a TV is a good idea, but that the Intel Atom processor really is too low-powered for your needs? If so, then Intel’s latest Compute Stick is what you’ve been waiting for. In addition to a more powerful Core m3 chip, it comes with better connectivity, double the memory and storage, and, of course, a higher price. The base version of this year’s Compute Stick$129.99 at Amazon goes for $129, but the upgraded model we tested runs $379.99. That’s not too bad, and well worth it if you’re planning on getting things done.


Twitter’s reworked character limit tipped to arrive September 19 – Twitter gives you 140 characters to say whatever it is you need to say. This is a very restrictive limit, yes, but one that is ultimately good for the service, many users argue. That’s why past notions of raising the character limit resulted in swift outcries against doing so, and why Twitter’s May announcement was received with a mixed response. At the time, Twitter revealed something of a compromise: while it is keeping its 140-character limitation, it is tweaking which things count toward that character count. Assuming a new tip is correct, Twitter will be kicking off this change on September 19th.

Twitter can now alert you when someone you follow starts live streaming – Twitter is increasing its focus on live streaming today with the launch of a new Notification button on its app that lets you subscribe to be alerted when someone you follow starts live-streaming. When you receive the alert, you can immediately join the broadcast with just a tap. The feature works both for alerting users to new streams from Periscope, as well as for content from Twitter’s live streaming partners, such as the NFL.

Confide brings self-destructing messaging to iMessage – Confide, the confidential messaging app that launched back in 2013, has today announced an integration with iMessage in iOS 10. As part of iOS 10’s new iMessage features, which incorporates apps right within the iMessage application, Confide users will be able to send self-destructing messages direct from their texts. Confide for iMessage will support text and pictures, using Confide’s familiar wand functionality, where users can only see the text over which they drag their finger. Confide for iMessage requires that both users already have the app.

How to combine WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Slack in one window – A helpful Chrome app called All-in-One Messenger uses the power of web apps to bring together all your new messaging services.

WeConnect is an app to support addiction recovery – Keeping close, quantified track of personal progress is absolutely imperative for one group of people: recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. And it’s this often isolated segment of society that the startup behind the WeConnect app is aiming to help. Their app-based support platform includes context-sensitive notifications to encourage timely communication within support groups; a dashboard view that structures the user’s day with activities they view as beneficial to their wellbeing (such as prayer or meditation); and ongoing tracking of their personal progress at attending recovery program meetings — including using geofencing to determine they really attended a particular meeting and even how long they spent there.

Microsoft Outlook’s mobile app just added Sunrise’s best features – When it acquired calendar app Sunrise, Microsoft promised that its features would eventually come to Outlook. That moment arrives today with a big update to Outlook on Android and iOS that delivers several of Sunrise’s best features to the Outlook calendar. That likely won’t satisfy hardcore Sunrise users still upset the app is going away — and after a last-minute stay of execution on August 31st, Sunrise is finally dying today. But the new features in Outlook are robust enough that most users will want to give the calendar another look.

Simplenote: So simple, it just works – If you’re looking for a simple note keeping tool, one with a minimal feature set that still manages to get the job done, Jack Wallen might have just the app for you.

YouTube gets its own social network with the launch of YouTube Community – Confirming earlier reports that YouTube was planning to introduce more social networking features to its service, the company announced this morning the launch of YouTube Community, which allows video creators to better engage viewers using text, GIFs, images and more. The goal with the new features is to help keep creators from departing to competing platforms by offering more tools for connecting with their audience, beyond the videos themselves. YouTube has been testing the new service over the past several months with a handful of creators in order to gain feedback. Today, it’s launching the service into public beta with this group of early testers, and will make it available to a wider group of creators in the “months ahead,” it says.


Using a thing made by Microsoft, Apple or Adobe? It probably needs a patch today – Microsoft is wrapping up the summer with a dump of 14 bulletins for various security vulnerabilities in its products, while Apple and Adobe are following up with fixes of their own. The September edition of Patch Update Tuesday sees fixes released for critical issues in Windows, Windows Server, Internet Explorer, Edge, Flash Player, iOS, Xcode, and the Apple Watch.

The World Anti-Doping Agency says it was hacked by Russia – The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced today that Russian hackers gained access to its database and viewed information on athletes involved in this year’s Olympic games. The agency claims the state-sponsored group Fancy Bear is behind the attack, although it doesn’t clarify how that attribution was made. The attackers reportedly relied on spear phishing emails to gain access to the database and eventually used credentials specifically made for the Rio Olympic games.

ORWL PC: The most secure home computer ever – ORWL’s secure PC is hardened against physical attacks, using technology you might find in a bank’s ATM.


The ORWL features Skylake-based Core m3 or Core m7 CPUs and 8GB of RAM.

ClixSense data breach exposes personal information of million of subscribers – This week, ClixSense, a website which offers users cash in return for completing surveys and watching ads, admitted to a data breach in which an attacker was able to gain access to the firm’s database. The unknown attacker was able to use an old server which the company was no longer using — but was, at the time, still networked — to gain access to the main database. After gaining entry, the cybercriminal was able to copy “most, if not all” of the ClixSense users table, changed account names to “hacked account” and deleted a number of forum posts — as well as set user account balances to a zero balance.

Company News:

Viacom, Hasbro, and others fined $835,000 for ad tracking on children’s websites – Today, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an $835,000 settlement with Viacom, Hasbro, Mattel, and Jumpstart over online tracking on children’s websites. The Attorney General’s investigation found that websites for Barbie, Dora the Explorer, and other popular children’s brands were tracking users to serve ads. While common on the web, ad tracking is forbidden for sites directed at children under 13 by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (or COPPA). As part of the settlement, each company has agreed to withdraw third-party trackers, as well as conducing regular scans and vetting vendors to ensure they’re in compliance with COPPA in the future.

Facebook loses bid to dismiss teen’s revenge porn lawsuit – Facebook will have to head to the courtroom after losing a legal effort to reject a revenge porn case brought against it. The 14-year-old victim, who isn’t being identified because of her age, sued Facebook in a Belfast, Northern Ireland, court after her former partner spammed a naked photo of the teen on a “shame page” on the social network from November 2014 to January 2016. The incident is the latest example of the struggle that social networks face in handling online harassment.

Pandora is almost ready to launch its music subscription service – Pandora is getting closer to becoming the latest company to jump in the $10-a-month, all-you-can-eat music streaming world. The radio service has signed licensing deals with Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Merlin Network for its upcoming subscription music services. This leaves Warner Music Group as the sole major label that hasn’t signed on for the service.

2 million fake accounts later, Wells Fargo drops sales quotas for its employees – On Tuesday, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf released a statement promising that the bank would eliminate product sales goals for its employees after thousands of employees were found to have opened fake accounts using real customer names and identification in order to boost internal sales numbers. Stump did not go so far as to say that the practice of cross-selling financial products would end at Wells Fargo, but The Wall Street Journal reported that the company would put a temporary hold on the practice.

Adblock Plus finds the end-game of its business model: Selling ads – Eyeo GmbH, the company that makes the popular Adblock Plus software, will today start selling the very thing many of its users hate—advertisements. Publishers who place the ads will do so knowing that they won’t be blocked by most of the 100 million Adblock Plus users. The software extension’s default setting allows for “acceptable ads” to be shown, and more than 90 percent of its users don’t change that default setting.

OpenText to buy Dell EMC’s enterprise content division – Canadian enterprise information management vendor OpenText has agreed to buy Dell Technologies’ EMC Enterprise Content Division for US$1.62 billion, in a deal that allows both companies to focus on their core missions.

Netflix Urges FCC to Ban Data Caps – “Data caps…and usage-based pricing discourage a consumer’s consumption of broadband,” Netflix says.

Games and Entertainment:

The Best PC Games of 2016 – If the personal computer is your video game machine of choice, check out this curated game selection that will help you buy only the most entertaining titles on the Windows platform.

Don’t call it a comeback: The rebirth of the video game demo? – Free game demos still exist, of course, but they’re not quite so compulsory for publishers, and they can be downright difficult to find on modern consoles. A couple of recent news stories have shown that the humble old game demo might still have some life left in it, though.

FIFA 17 Demo arrives tomorrow with ‘The Journey’ experience – FIFA 17 will be launching on September 27, but some gamers will get a chance to experience the game ahead of that launch with “FIFA 17 Demo.” The demo launches starting tomorrow and brings with it a limited experience for ‘The Journey,’ a game mode we’ve previously detailed, as well as “Own Every Moment.” As well, EA Sports says there will be four single-player Skill Games included with the FIFA 17 Demo, as well as a trio of new multiplayer Skill Game, and more.

Xbox One S Battlefield 1 bundles detailed ahead of October 21 launch – Microsoft will release Xbox One S bundles featuring Battlefield 1 and either 500GB or 1TB of storage starting on October 13. The bundles will initially rollout in Europe on that date, and will be followed on October 21 in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The 500GB console bundle will be available in white and “Storm Grey Special Edition” colors, while the 1TB console will be available as the Xbox One S Battlefield 1 Special Edition Bundle.


Video Games Are So Realistic That They Can Teach AI What the World Looks Like – Thanks to the modern gaming industry, we can now spend our evenings wandering around photorealistic game worlds, like the post-apocalyptic Boston of Fallout 4 or Grand Theft Auto V’s Los Santos, instead of doing things like “seeing people” and “engaging in human interaction of any kind.” Games these days are so realistic, in fact, that artificial intelligence researchers are using them to teach computers how to recognize objects in real life. Not only that, but commercial video games could kick artificial intelligence research into high gear by dramatically lessening the time and money required to train AI.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Edward Snowden: I should be pardoned on moral grounds – Sure, Edward Snowden may have broken the law. But morally and ethically, he did the right thing, he told the Guardian in an interview published Tuesday.

Sex toys and the Internet of Things collide—what could go wrong? – It was only a matter of time before the Internet of Things caught up with sex toys and led to products like apps that remotely control vibrators from an Apple or Android device via a Bluetooth connection. And now, one of those apps is accused of being a little too connected to its users. Standard Innovation—the maker of the We-Vibe vibrator and accompanying app—is the subject of a federal privacy lawsuit. The suit, which seeks class-action status, claims the We-Vibe vibrator app chronicles how often and how long consumers use the sex toy and sends that data to the company’s Canadian servers.

Carbon Health wants to put medical data in one place for patients and their many doctors – For all the high-tech advances in healthcare when it comes to drugs and devices, doctors, their back offices, pharmacies, labs that conduct health tests and insurance providers aren’t exactly in easy communication about or with the people in their care. And patients don’t have a single, easy place to interact with doctors and track their own medical data. That’s a hard thing to believe in a post-mobile and post-social era. Carbon Health, which presented on stage at TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF Startup Battlefield today, is aiming to change all of this with a platform that serves as a sophisticated electronic health records system and billing platform for even the smallest private practice.

Spotify Original Series Looks to Get Out the Young Vote – Clarify will encourage young people to vote, and discuss things like student debt, the economy, civil rights, and guns.

LinkedIn’s founder offers $5M to see Trump’s tax returns – LinkedIn founder and Silicon Valley billionaire Reid Hoffman is offering to donate up to $5 million to charity if Donald Trump releases his income tax returns. Hoffman made his offer Monday in a post on Medium calling attention to a veteran’s crowdfunding effort challenging Trump to release his returns. If the Republican nominee releases his returns before the final presidential debate on October 19, the CrowdPac effort launched by Marine Corp veteran Pete Kiernan will donate the money raised to a handful of veterans groups.

Science shows that drunk people don’t know how drunk they are – We now have solid scientific evidence that people are completely unable to determine how soused they are when drinking with a group. A team of social scientists recently completed a study of bar and club hoppers in Cardiff, Wales and discovered that most had incredibly inaccurate notions of their drunkenness and the dangers of drinking. But the researchers also learned something non-obvious and intriguing about how people estimate their levels of inebriation.

Something to think about:

“You can question somebody’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or patriotism.”

–       Barack Obama

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Senators want to revive ‘dead’ anti-encryption bill, leak shows – A controversial bipartisan bill that would prevent tech companies from using strong encryption isn’t as dead as was once thought.

The bill, which critics argue would have outlawed end-to-end encrypted apps and services because it ensured that companies must turn over readable data to law enforcement, had no support from the Senate, where the bill was raised because it would “undermine the foundation of cybersecurity for millions of Americans”.

It also had no support from the Obama administration, or even the intelligence community, which the bill aimed to help.

Tech companies were also vehemently against the bill’s efforts to compel companies to decrypt data at a court’s request.

The bill was eventually declared dead. But that isn’t going to stop Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) from fighting to get it back on the table.

Google’s become an obsessive stalker and you can’t get a restraining order – Google isn’t just interested in tracking you, or even very interested. Google tracks you with the defiant zeal of an obsessive stalker.

What’s curious is that the American state seems almost as keen on the unfettered collection and use of location data as Google itself.

Phones incorporated GPS silicon long before the iPhone launched – by 2007 it was a standard feature of Nokia’s mid- and high-end S60 devices. Curiously, the original “Jesus Phone” launched in 2007 with Google Maps installed – but without GPS. GPS was one of the original missing features, along with MMS and video recording.

We’ve generally been aware that smartphones track us. Concerns first surfaced in April 2011, when an app illustrating the iPhone’s location record made it easy to see.

What’s changed is that the collection and use of this location data now appears to us to be much more aggressive. Google simply doesn’t care about being discreet any more. It doesn’t care that users might think it is creepy. But the historical records show that Google always was pretty hardcore about location data.

Police union resists body cams, judge orders Boston cops to wear them – Boston cops on Monday reluctantly launched a six-month body cam pilot program after a state judge told the police union that making the decision to wear them “is a non-arbitrable management right.”

As many as 100 of the city’s 1,500 patrol officers are being assigned a camera after a judge set aside the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association’s (BPPA) edict that its union members not wear them until the demand is included in the union membership’s contract.

The union had brought litigation (PDF), which ended Friday with a decision (PDF) by Douglas Wilkins, a Suffolk County Superior Court judge. He ruled it was up to Police Commissioner William Evans, not the union, as to whether the Boston Police Department would become the latest agency to deploy body-worn cameras (BWCs). “[T]he court sees no defensible distinction between the non-delegable decisions regarding uniform, weapons, duties and assignments and the other in this case to wear BWCs as part of the standard equipment and mission of officers participating in the Pilot Program,” he wrote.

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