Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – September 16, 2016

Microsoft is finally bringing desktop apps to the Windows Store;  Remix OS is now available as a simple-to-use Android emulator for Windows;  Five types of browser extensions every professional should have;  12 little-known tips and tricks for Apple Music;  6 tips to get the most out of Google Apps for Education;   The Best Web Browsers of 2016;  21 Amazing Apps That Will Ruin Your Life;   Hackers are shaping US election coverage with data leaks – and much more news you need to know.

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Microsoft is finally bringing desktop apps to the Windows Store – Microsoft’s Windows Store originally launched alongside Windows 8 nearly four years ago. Instead of listing existing desktop apps and useful Windows tools, the Windows Store has always been used as a way to push Microsoft’s new universal apps. Microsoft is finally changing the way the Windows Store works this week, allowing third-party developers to easily bring their existing desktop apps and games over to the universal app platform. Evernote, Arduino IDE, doubleTwist, PhotoScape, MAGIX Movie Edit Pro, Virtual Robotics Kit, Relab, SQL Pro, Voya Media, Predicted Desire, and korAccount are all available in the Windows Store this week, and many more are expected in the coming months

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update enhances the Settings tool – Windows is moving toward a more sensible and user-friendly Settings tool. And although progress has been slow, the Anniversary Update does include some promising improvements.

How to turn off Windows Defender’s enhanced notifications in Windows 10 – Windows Defender in the Anniversary Update loves to tell you what it’s doing. Here’s how to stop that.

How to tweak the Windows 10 Action Center to make it less annoying – The default settings for the Windows 10 Action Center can be irritating. Take a few minutes to customize it and reduce the annoyance factor.

Remix OS is now available as a simple-to-use Android emulator for Windows – Remix OS is basically a desktop version of Android, with floating windows and a start menu-style app drawer. So, it makes sense that creators Jide would make it as easy to use on a desktop. Enter Remix OS Player — a free, downloadable emulator of the OS for Windows. It’s always been fairly easy to get Remix OS on a Windows device by booting from a USB stick, for example, but with the Player you simply download it as .EXE.


The Best Web Browsers of 2016 – With new browser options like Edge and Vivaldi, the Web has become a much more interesting place. Here’s how the newbies stack up against your old favorites on features and performance.

Five types of browser extensions every professional should have – Google Chrome and Firefox both make installing extensions easy. With more and more work done online, these five types of extensions will save you time and effort.

5 more Firefox add-ons that boost browser productivity – Keep tabs on all your email accounts, track your web surfing, and more with these customizations.

Pandora launches Pandora Plus, an improved version of its $5 subscription service – As expected, Pandora has launched Pandora Plus, a rebranded and improved version of its $5-a-month Pandora One offering. It also has enhanced its free, ad-supported service, which the majority of its users take advantage of. The release of the updated services marks the beginning of a new era for Pandora, as the company will end 2016 with three tiers of service and an on-demand service to compete against Spotify and Apple Music.

12 little-known tips and tricks for Apple Music – Apple Music’s new look refreshes some old features, like For You, and adds few under-the-radar ones that make version 2.0 a whole lot easier to use. Yes, Connect is no longer taking up valuable space in your navigation bar, although it’s not gone altogether. Here are 12 tips that will help you get the most out of Apple Music in iOS 10.

Google Maps adds speed limits to Android app and Android Auto – We have all been cruising down the road at one time or another and wondered exactly what the speed limit was on the road. Often this thought comes to mind right after we see a police car. The problem is for a lot of the roads there are no speed limit signs or they are few and far between. Google has an update for its Google Maps app rolling out that will help us know what the speed limit is. Google Maps is now showing speed limit icons on maps on Android Auto and on the Android app.

6 tips to get the most out of Google Apps for Education – More and more educational organizations are moving to Google Apps for Education. Tim Burke of BetterCloud suggests a few best practices for Google Apps admins in the space.

Samsung’s replacement Note 7s will be in US stores by September 21st – Moments ago Samsung announcement a formal, CPSC-backed recall of the Galaxy Note 7 in the United States. And in a press release dealing with that news, Samsung also provided an update on when its new, replacement Note 7s (with safe batteries inside, hopefully) will reach retailers: they’ll be arriving by next week. “We confirmed that new Note 7 replacement devices will be available in the United States at most retail locations no later than September 21st, 2016,” the company said in a statement.

T-Mobile Warns: Don’t Download iOS 10 – Bricked iPhones, lost network connections, and porn are a few of the operating system’s unintended features.

21 Amazing Apps That Will Ruin Your Life – There are some “productivity” apps that will suck you in and never let you go. Day after day, you’ll return to them, enjoy them, and then wonder “Where the hell did the time go?” They’re the empty calories of the app world. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth downloading; just beware that these apps don’t suck … but they will suck time.


Remote hacker nabs Win10 logins in ‘won’t-fix’ Safe Mode attack – Security researcher Doron Naim has cooked an attack that abuses Windows 10’s Safe Mode to help hackers steal logins. The Cyberark man says remote attackers need to have access to a PC before they can spring this trap, which involves rebooting a machine into Safe Mode to take advantage of the lesser security controls offered in that environment. Once in Safe Mode, logins can be stolen and otherwise with defeated pass-the-hash lateral techniques can be used to compromise other networked machines.

Microsoft releases one of its biggest security updates this year – Microsoft released one of its biggest security updates this year, fixing 50 vulnerabilities in its products and 26 more in Flash Player which is bundled with its Edge browser.

Adobe fixes critical flaws in Flash Player and Digital Editions – Adobe Systems has fixed over 30 vulnerabilities in its Flash Player and Digital Editions products, most of which could be exploited to remotely install malware on computers.

Hackers are shaping US election coverage with data leaks – Hackers are becoming a major source for political leaks in this year’s presidential election. Tuesday’s leak of emails from former Secretary of State Colin Powell has security experts worried that hackers are manipulating U.S. media outlets to influence this year’s election.

FBI director says tape is the best way to defeat webcam hacks – According to officials tasked with keeping the US homeland safe, tape should be the first supply atop everybody’s safety list. Today, that leftover tape can now help us stave off a webcam hack—at least an attack that secretly films unsuspecting computer users. That’s what James Comey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation director, said Wednesday. In April, he told Americans that he puts tape on his webcam. Now it’s your turn.

Cybersecurity predictions for 2016: How are they doing? – We examine the frequency and scale of cyberattacks in the first half of 2016, and see whether security experts’ predictions were on the money at the start of the year.

Pokémon Go guide app with half a million downloads hacks Android devices – A rogue Pokémon Go helper application with over 500,000 downloads on Google Play had Trojan code that downloaded root exploits to take over Android devices.

Just how vulnerable is election technology? – This year’s electoral process has been unconventional, to say the least, and most voters are either polarized or frustrated (sometimes both) with how we got to this point. Now, as this volatile election approaches the final threshold of November, citizens are skeptical about whether our electoral system — particularly the technology used in it — is precise, unbiased or secure enough to produce a fair, accurate vote count. In fact, 66 percent of citizens think our electoral system is, in some ways, broken. But just how vulnerable is our election technology? Is it something we should be collectively worried about?

Company News:

Apple unit in Japan said to pay $118M to cover underreported tax – An Apple iTunes unit in Japan agreed to pay 12 billion yen ($118 million) in tax after local authorities determined it had underreported income, according to local media. Apple is one of many US technology companies that have benefited from stashing cash overseas. That maneuver lets the companies avoid paying hefty taxes they could face by bringing the cash back to the US. The report comes a little more than two weeks after the European Union hit Apple with a $14.5 billion tax penalty, ruling its deal with Ireland was illegal.

Twitter rolls out new features for businesses running customer service accounts – Twitter today is rolling out a series of new features designed to help users better connect with businesses offering customer support through their official Twitter accounts. Now those businesses will be able to clearly display on their profile if their account offers customer service, as well as which times those accounts are active. The business can now indicate if it offers service via a new Customer Support settings page on the Twitter Dashboard website. Once enabled, the business’s Twitter profile will read that it “Provides Support.” This option will also turn on the account’s ability to receive Direct Messages from anyone. In other words, the business will no longer need to request that customers follow them back so they can send a private message.

Apple shoots down rumor it’s buying Tidal – For months now we’ve been hearing rumors and industry talk about streaming music service Tidal looking for a buyer, with an acquisition by Apple being the most expected. However, in a rare case of addressing such rumors, Apple has come out and clearly stated that it has no plans to purchase Tidal or any other streaming service. That doesn’t mean the two companies didn’t have talks at some point, but it certainly looks like a deal won’t be reached anytime in the near future.

Volkswagen is founding a new cybersecurity firm to prevent car hacking – As cars become more computerized, the vehicles are facing a greater risk of being hacked. That’s why Volkswagen is founding a new cyber security company devoted to protecting next generation cars.

Uber Launches Self-Driving Vehicles in Pittsburgh – Uber on Wednesday launched its self-driving pilot program that allows some passengers to get to their destination in a vehicle that drives itself, marking the company’s first public test in the U.S. of the future of the technology.

Amazon will use stocking stuffers to take over your home – The e-commerce giant plans to seed the market with cheap, Alexa-powered electronics, and corner the smart home in the process.

Amazon plans mammoth wind farm in Texas – Amazon unveiled on Thursday its largest renewable energy project to date: a mammoth wind farm in Texas. When it opens next year, the west Texas farm will generate 1 million megawatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power nearly 90,000 US homes, Amazon said. The farm will include more than 100 turbines, each with a rotor diameter twice as long as the wingspan of a Boeing 747, the company said.

Games and Entertainment:

PSA: Grab all of Battlefield 4’s expansions for free through next week – Good things come to those who wait—and, in this case, “good things” means “All five packs of Battlefield 4 DLC, for free.” That’s right, all of it. Each pack has been given away separately at some point in the past, but with Battlefield 1 releasing next month, DICE and EA have made it easy on everyone and thrown all the deals together—but only for a short time. Grab them by Monday, September 19 if you want them. You need the base copy of the game too, naturally.

Battlefield 1 beta becomes largest EA beta of all time with 13.2m players – If you thought that maybe the market for first person shooters was beginning to narrow, Electronic Arts and DICE would like a word with you. The two companies announced today that its multiplayer beta for Battlefield 1, which ran for a little over a week, has become the largest beta in EA history, attracting a grand total of 13.2 million players.

New Resident Evil 7 details include trailer and demo update – With the Tokyo Game Show currently underway in, well, Tokyo, developer Capcom has used the event to reveal new details and media on Resident Evil 7 biohazard. The most exciting bit is that the “Beginning Hour” teaser demo that was first released in June on PS4 has received a free update that adds new areas to explore. Also neat is that the PS Plus requirement has been dropped, so now anyone can download the latest version of the demo at no cost. The “Twilight” update to the demo is available starting today, and once installed, “allows players to explore more of the mysterious, derelict mansion,” Capcom notes. In addition to new rooms are more items and clues to the game’s mysteries.

Assassin’s Creed: Ezio Collection arrives for PS4, Xbox One in November – Ubisoft has announced that Assassin’s Creed The Ezio Collection will be available for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 starting this upcoming November. According to the company, more than 100 million copies of Assassin’s Creed games have been sold thus far, marking a big milestone for the franchise ahead of November’s “The Ezio Collection” launch. The Ezio Collection will include Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, and Assassin’s Creed Revelations, among other things.

How to build a cheap but powerful gaming PC for $500 – This budget gaming PC might cost only $500 to build, but it’ll deliver excellent performance in any PC game you throw at it.

The Fifty Shades Darker trailer set a new record for views in its first day – In its first 24 hours of existence, the trailer for the sequel to last year’s Fifty Shades of Grey garnered more views than the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens did in its first day. The Fifty Shades Darker trailer was viewed more than 114 million times during a one-day time frame, according to Deadline. The Force Awakens trailer previously held that record with 112 million views.

Off Topic (Sort of):

A ‘Memory Hacker’ Explains How to Plant False Memories in People’s Minds – We tend to think of memories as perfect little time capsules—important records of past events that matter to us and made us who we are, as unchangeable as a dragonfly stuck in amber. Well, they’re anything but. I recently met with Julia Shaw, a criminal psychologist who specializes in the science of memory. “I am a memory hacker,” Shaw told me. “I use the science of memory to make you think you did things that never happened.” Implanting a false memory, it turns out, is alarmingly easy to do.

You can now take a walk through 10 Downing Street with Google – The traditional home of the British Prime Minister has now been opened to the public — at least, in a digital fashion. Members of the public can now explore 10 Downing Street London after the traditional home of the British Prime Minister has remained off-limits to tourists for so long. While you may not be able to physically walk the halls or fondle the ornaments, you can, at least, wander around the buildings’ rooms and halls thanks to a new partnership between the UK government and Google.

Bayer Just Bought Monsanto, Here’s Why You Should Care – The $66 billion merger is the largest this year, and means Bayer now controls more than a quarter of all seeds and pesticides on the planet, according to the BBC. But what’s even crazier is that this is just the latest in a long list of big mergers of agricultural companies this year, meaning the options for where farmers buy their seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers are shrinking at lightning speed. If this all sounds vaguely threatening but you’re not sure why, it’s because there’s a chance these mergers could put additional pressure on farms, leading to higher food prices, or even threaten food security.

Something to think about:

“Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favour of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes man to seek and to accept a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position.”

–     Bertrand Russell    (1872 – 1970)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tech leaders, activists call for Obama to pardon Snowden – Tech luminaries Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, and Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, have joined a new campaign pushing for a pardon of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Other supporters of the campaign, launched Wednesday, are Harvard law professor and tech policy author Lawrence Lessig; tech investor Esther Dyson; noted cryptographer and MIT professor Ron Rivest; and Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow.

The campaign, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, asks supporters to sign a letter asking President Obama to pardon the former NSA contractor. “Snowden’s actions … set in motion the most important debate about government surveillance in decades, and brought about reforms that continue to benefit our security and democracy,” the letter says.

The campaign has also attracted high-profile support from outside the tech community, with many backers coming from the liberal end of the political spectrum.

Lawmakers tell Obama not to pardon Snowden – U.S. lawmakers are trying to stifle any hope that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden will receive a pardon. On Thursday, the House intelligence committee sent a letter to President Obama urging him to treat Snowden as a criminal.

The letter was sent amid calls from tech leaders and liberal activists for Obama to pardon Snowden. The campaign, supported by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and celebrities including actor Daniel Radcliffe, argues that Snowden sparked an important debate about government mass surveillance.

FBI makes new rules for impersonating reporters after fake news malware sting – After a controversial sting operation conducted by the FBI, in which agents impersonated the Associated Press to plant malware on a suspect’s computer, the agency says it has instituted new rules for when it can use the undercover practice.

The news came in a report from the Department of Justice inspector general, which acts as an independent watchdog for the agency. The report said that the FBI decided in June of this year to create a new “interim” policy, which requires top brass to sign off on any undercover operation where FBI agents impersonate journalists. The inspector general’s report called the new interim policy “a significant improvement.”

Facebook censored a live stream video posted by Dakota pipeline protesters – Facebook has admitted to censoring a video posted by activists protesting the Dakota Access pipeline, with the social network blaming the removal on its automated spam filter. The live stream video, published on Tuesday by the media collective Unicorn Riot, showed police arresting around two dozen protesters at a Dakota pipeline site. Unicorn Riot published a link to the live stream on its Facebook page, but the URL was blocked and other users were unable to share it. The link has since been restored, and a Facebook spokesperson apologized for the removal in a statement to Motherboard.

In a statement to Antimedia, a member of Unicorn Riot said that the video was censored “shortly before two of our journalists were arrested onsite,” adding that posts and comments that contained the URL “triggered popup security alerts.” According to the collective, Facebook’s debugger said that the link violated the site’s “community standards.”

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