Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – September 19, 2016

Easily Uninstall/Reinstall Windows 10 Apps;  Got an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus? Do these 10 things first;  12 Must-Have iPhone Apps;  20 Things You Didn’t Know Your Chromecast Could Do;  How to tell if your Galaxy Note7 is safe to use;  Hack This: Become a Command Line Assassin;  A Simple Way to Secure Sensitive Information;  Xbox Play Anywhere launches, here’s how it works – and much more news you need to know.

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Jim Hillier: Easily Uninstall/Reinstall Windows 10 Apps – Windows 10 comes with a slew of pre-installed apps, the usefulness of which will vary from user to user. Most of the less useful apps, such as “Get Office” for example, include their own right-click uninstall option. However, some do not, and this is where third party removal tools can come in handy.

12 Must-Have iPhone Apps – Which apps are so essential that pretty much everyone will benefit from downloading them? Here are a dozen top-notch titles that deserve a home on your iPhone. Bonus: They’re all free!

Got an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus? Do these 10 things first – After you inhale that new-iPhone smell, follow this setup guide to be up and running faster than you can say A10 Fusion.

20 Things You Didn’t Know Your Chromecast Could Do – Part of its appeal lies in its pure portability, but there’s also the price: just $35 to wirelessly stream Netflix, Spotify, HBO, Hulu, and more from your mobile device or PC to the TV. Not to mention apps for music, working out, and catching up on sports. When the Chromecast was released in July 2013, it quickly sold out, and is still going strong. Sales have now topped 30 million. While the ultraportable device is pretty much plug and play, there are a few tips and tricks that can make casting more magical. Check them out in the slideshow.

Windows 10 Redstone: A guide to the builds – Microsoft never sleeps. Even before the Windows 10 Anniversary Update was rolled out, the company began work on the next two major updates to Windows 10, code-named Redstone 2 and Redstone 3. (Redstone 1 was the code name for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.) Redstone 2 will likely be fully ready in the spring of 2017. It’s not yet clear when Redstone 3 will be finished. We’re making it easy for you to keep track of when builds are available. What follows is a list of every preview build of Redstone 2, starting with the most recent. When Redstone 2 is finished and Redstone 3 builds become available, we’ll list those as well. For each build, we’ve included the date of its release and a link to Microsoft’s announcement about it.

How to tell if your Galaxy Note7 is safe to use – Samsung has created specific box markings and an IMEI lookup tool so you can tell if you have a non-explosive model.

Russia bans Pornhub, YouPorn—tells citizens to “meet someone in real life” – Two of the biggest porn sites in the world have been blocked by Russia’s media regulator, a decision which has apparently prompted uproar on the country’s social media. The regulator dropped the banhammer on Tuesday, applying rules which had previously been imposed by two separate regional courts. Any Russian citizen visiting PornHub or YouPorn is now redirected to a simple message telling them that the sites have been blocked “by decision of public authorities.”

Facebook ads still slipping past Adblock Plus via stripped-down code – It’s been a month since Facebook broke ABP’s last workaround, and the social network’s marketing messages are still getting through. Despite the fact that ABP’s browser extension gets the final say on what appears on your screen, it can’t build filters fast enough when Facebook has total control over the code it serves.

The Problem with Sexual Consent Apps – Not only are they far from sexy, which can hamper use, they miss the mark on discussing what consent actually is.

Here how the uninterruptible power supply keeps your gadgets going – A UPS can keep your gadgets and appliances working when the power goes out. How do they do this? Appliance Science looks at how Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPSes) work.

We tear apart a hard drive and SSD to show you how they work – What’s inside your PC’s storage? We took a screwdriver to a dead hard drive and SSD to reveal the inner workings of these vital components.

Hack This: Become a Command Line Assassin – Using the command line is second-nature for me, almost as much so as using the regular old OSX/Windows GUIs. In developing software/programming, we wind up constantly using a lot of tiny utility applications that just don’t have graphical frontends, nor do they need them. To interact with these utilities, we use command-line interfaces, either those provided by an operating system—Terminal in OSX or just the command prompt in Windows—or something third-party, like Cygwin. Why should you the non-hacker care about this particular functionality? For one thing, it’s a slight window into how operating systems actually work. Moreover, there are a few fairly routine tasks that can really only be done via command prompt, and, beyond that, a much larger number of small, helpful utilities that you might like to employ in your regular day-today computing, especially those relating to automation.

Security:

Jim Hillier: A Simple Way to Secure Sensitive Information – I’m always on the lookout for innovative methods to secure sensitive data/information stored on the hard drive and USB drives. Recently, I came across SafePad, a simple text editor (similar to Notepad) which automatically encrypts all contained information. I can see multiple useful applications for this type of software: to store a list of account passwords, credit card or banking details– indeed, any sensitive or confidential information.

Michael Horowitz: A Defensive Computing term paper on privacy: VPNs, Tor and VPN routers – If I was in High School, tasked with a writing a term paper about online privacy, I might hand in homework that compared and contrasted Tor, consumer VPNs and VPN routers. Something much like the following.

Malicious smartphone apps turn your phone into tracking device – Four apps available on the Google Play Store were spying on users in secret, according to research released Friday by Mobile security company Lookout. Running a malicious code that Lookout has dubbed Overseer, the apps could track your latitude and longitude and collect information on who you were emailing when.

Chrome, Firefox Make it Harder to Get Your Pirate Bay Fix – Google and Mozilla are reportedly blocking direct access to The Pirate Bay’s download pages. The homepage and search results load without issue, but when trying to download an actual torrent, users are met with a warning message in Chrome (“The site ahead contains harmful programs”—pictured) and Firefox (“Reported unwanted software page!”). “This Web page at thepiratebay.org has been reported to contain unwanted software and has been blocked based on your security preferences,” Firefox says. “Unwanted software pages try to install software that can be deceptive and affect your system in unexpected ways. Chrome users are similarly told that “Attackers on thepiratebay.org might attempt to trick you into installing programs that harm your browsing experience (for example, by changing your homepage or showing extra ads on sites you visit).”

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Blizzard hit with DDoS attack disrupting play for gamers – Blizzard Entertainment was hit with a denial-of-service attack on Sunday that knocked its Battle.net servers offline. “We are currently monitoring a DDOS attack against network providers which is affecting latency/connections to our games,” Blizzard wrote in a tweet. Battle.net runs many of Blizzard’s popular games, including Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, and more. Gamers took to social media with frustration, as VentureBeat points out it was the third time Blizzard’s servers have gone down in a week.

Mozilla plans Firefox fix for same malware vulnerability that bit Tor – Mozilla officials say they’ll release a Firefox update on Tuesday that fixes the same cross-platform, malicious code-execution vulnerability patched Friday in the Tor browser. The vulnerability allows an attacker who has a man-in-the-middle position and is able to obtain a forged certificate to impersonate Mozilla servers, Tor officials warned in an advisory. From there, the attacker could deliver a malicious update for NoScript or many other Firefox extensions installed on a targeted computer. The fraudulent certificate would have to be issued by any one of several hundred Firefox-trusted certificate authorities (CA).

Company News:

Galaxy Note 7 lawsuits begin: man blames Samsung for burns – If you haven’t heard yet, there’s a global recall for Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. It seems the batteries have a high probability of exploding. If have heard about this issue, along with the ensuing news about the Note 7 being prohibited from use on an airplane, or an explosion causing a car fire, then you know it’s just a matter of time before a lawsuit is filed against Samsung. Well, that time has arrived.

Samsung offloads shares of Seagate, Rambus – Samsung Electronics sold its shares in partner firms ASML, Seagate, Rambus, and Sharp, the company said, to efficiently manage assets and focus on its core businesses. Partnerships with the companies will continue “unaffected” by the selling of shares, it added. The sales are to “efficiently manage past investments to focus on core business,” the company said in a statement. The South Korean tech giant sold 1.5 percent share of the Netherlands’ ASML, half of its total of 3 percent, or 6.3 million shares.

Google acquires location-based analytics firm Urban Engines – Google has acquired the two-year old startup Urban Engines to incorporate its location-based analytics into Google Maps. “Location analytics is an important focus for both Urban Engines and Google, and we’re excited to combine forces to help organizations better understand how the world moves,” said Urban Engines in a blog post. Google Maps has been improving and expanding its functionality, as Apple and other companies like Uber bolster their own mapping capabilities.

Oracle buys Palerra to boost its security stack – Terms of the deal were not disclosed but we will try to find out. Palerra was founded in 2013 (originally called Apprity) and raised $25 million with investors including Norwest Venture Partners and August Capital. Palerra’s business currently focuses on providing security automation for enterprise apps, covering not just data in the apps but as that data “moves across services and it offers several layers of protection across infrastructure and software services,” as we wrote about them last year. Given how many apps today integrate and exchange data by way of APIs, that makes for a significant business.

Lyft’s president says ‘majority’ of rides will be in self-driving cars by 2021 – Lyft President and co-founder John Zimmer released a 14-page document today in which he predicts that by 2021, “a majority” of rides on its network will be in autonomous vehicles. Also by 2025, Zimmer says personal car ownership in US cities will be a thing of the past. The end of car ownership will change cities in “huge ways,” he said, echoing those experts and academics that predict streets and parking lots will be transformed into housing and open spaces with the mass adoption of autonomous vehicles. It will also change the daily experience of riding in a car, he said.

Logitech acquires Saitek, maker of simulation game controllers – Logitech has acquired Saitek, maker of simulation game controls. The Saitek website already sports the Logitech logo (the acquisition was made public on Thursday); while Saitek hasn’t issued any statements about the business move, Logitech says it is excited with “a whole list of reasons.” What are those reasons? Logitech says that Saitek’s products are “just great,” giving simulation gaming fans the kind of controllers they need for an immersive experience.

Fox files suit against Netflix for employee poaching – 20th Century Fox is looking to get an injunction against Netflix to prevent it from luring away employees under contract, according to a new lawsuit filed with an LA court. Recent Netflix hires Tara Flynn and Marcos Waltenberg were apparently the proverbial straws that broke the camel’s back, as both ex-Fox employees had contracts signed that tied the to the studio through at least 2016. According to the suit, Netflix allegedly knew about the agreements in place before pursuing the hires of both employees, with the specific intent of incentivizing them to break their contracts. Fox is looking for damages in addition to the injunction against any further poaching.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox Play Anywhere launches, here’s how it works – With the launch of ReCore, Microsoft has started its Play Anywhere initiative. Users can now purchase a digital game on either Xbox One or PC (via the Windows Store) and have access to it on both platforms. Players can play on Xbox One and then move over to play on PC (and vice versa) and have their progress, including achievements, carry over. Play Anywhere gives players more freedom to play where and how they want, but how does it all work exactly?

The Best Documentaries On Netflix Streaming – Netflix has a solid selection of non-fiction films streaming (and one spectacular non-fiction series in Making A Murderer.) If you’re looking for a gripping story to occupy you for a few hours, these are our picks for the best documentaries on Netflix streaming. From psychological horror to true crime, video games and comics to conspiracy theories, these movies will give you a glimpse into corners of the world you may never have otherwise seen.

Two million people streamed the NFL on Twitter last night and loved it – More than 2M people watched the game on Twitter, compared to 48M who watched it on TV. The average user also spent 22 minutes watching on Twitter, compared to 25 minutes watching on TV (which is the only stat that is almost identical). More specifically, an average of 243,000 people were watching on Twitter at any given time, compared to an average of 15.4M watching at once on CBS and NFL Network (the two networks showing the game on cable). While the numbers seem low compared to cable, it’s actually a pretty big win for the network, which was able to show investors and the rest of the industry that at least some people will actually watch a live streamed game on Twitter.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The best inventions in food technology of all time – In this series we take a look at everything, large and small, that has changed the way we do things and significantly enhanced our lives. In part nine we look at technology advancements in food that we cannot live without.

Ted Cruz is Trying to Sabotage the Internet’s Governance Transition – Led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Republicans are working to sabotage the US government’s long-standing plan to transfer oversight of core internet technical functions, including management of the Domain Name System (DNS), to a nonprofit group of global stakeholders. Cruz and his GOP allies claim that the Oct. 1 transfer would undermine global internet freedom, imperil US national security, and violate federal law—and they’ve pledged to use the federal budget process to block the move. Cruz has even gone so far as to threaten federal employees working on the transition with prosecution and imprisonment.

New EU rules decree free, public 100Mbps Wi-Fi in every town in Europe – According to the president of the EU’s executive body, Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU is in trouble. Between the refugees and the terrorists and the finances, Juncker says, the EU is facing an “existential crisis,” and what Europe really needs right now is… more internet. All the cool kids are online, Juncker implies, and internet access empowers people. While he’s also in favor of logging all border crossings and giving that information straight to Europol, he wants to permanently kill roaming charges and spread out internet connectivity via free public Wi-Fi, so that it reaches everywhere people spend their time. He wants to do this by 2020. To that end, he’s got a €120M grant laid out for municipalities to use for internet infrastructure, and the plan is to start writing checks by the end of this year.

Something to think about:

“I have a simple philosophy. Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. And scratch where it itches.”

–    Alice Roosevelt Longworth  (1884 – 1980)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Why Obama should pardon Edward Snowden – Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has asked President Barack Obama for a pardon, and the ACLU, which represents Snowden in the US, agrees. The following essay by Timothy Edgar, which originally appeared on the blog Lawfare, supports that position. Edgar is the former director of privacy and civil liberties for the Obama administration’s national security staff, and is currently the academic director of law and policy at Brown University’s Executive Master in Cybersecurity program, and visiting scholar at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

Why President Obama won’t, and shouldn’t, pardon Snowden – A “pardon Snowden” campaign was launched Wednesday in conjunction with the Snowden film. Snowden himself made the “moral case” for why he should be pardoned, and Tim Edgar made a much more powerful case. I remain unconvinced. I don’t think the president will, or should, pardon Snowden.

I say this even though I agree with Tim about many of the upsides to Snowden’s theft and leak of documents from NSA databases. On the third anniversary of the Snowden disclosures, I wrote about how, despite their many costs, the disclosures strengthened the intelligence community. They forced the NSA to be more transparent and to better explain itself, demonstrated that the NSA was acting with the full knowledge and support of three branches, resulted in its authorities being strengthened and its collection practices barely narrowed (and in some respects expanded), and overall enhanced its domestic legitimacy going forward. I was not kidding when I said that “[t]hese are but some of the public services for which the US government has Snowden to thank.” This was not a new theme with me. I have made similar points for years.

Don’t just pardon Edward Snowden; give the man a medal – As Barack Obama’s second term comes to an end, an increasingly loud chorus of voices are calling for a dramatic final presidential act: the pardoning of Edward Snowden. Authoritarians are horrified by this, and, as usual, they are wrong. A pardon really isn’t enough. As I’ve argued before, Snowden deserves a medal.

I can hear the outraged naysayers already. “It was treason!” “He broke the law!” “He should have followed official channels!” They’ll probably point to the House Intelligence Committee report on Snowden, turning a wilfully blind eye to what Barton Gellman calls its “aggressive dishonesty.”

But whether you revere or despise Edward Snowden as a person, the cold hard fact is that America is a far better place because of Edward Snowden’s so-called “treason” — even if it was illegal. A certain apoplectic subset of the intellectual lazy seem unable to cope with the notion that an action can be simultaneously “against well-intended laws” and “good” — and yet, this is so, and the Snowden revelations act as a superb object example.

World’s largest internet exchange sues Germany over mass surveillance – The world’s largest internet exchange point is suing the German government for tapping its communications systems.

DE-CIX runs a number of critical exchange points – most of them in Germany, but with others in France, Spain and the United States – and has sued the German interior ministry over orders from the German security services to allow them to tap its exchange centers.

The goal of the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Leipzig, is to reach a “judicial clarification” over whether the German government’s actions are legal, the company said (in German), and “in particular, legal certainty for our customers and our company.”

According to DE-CIX, its customers – typically large ISPs from around the world – have pressured the exchange point to seek clarity over the legality of tapping its centers.

A recent paper by a German constitutional lawyer claimed that the actions of the German intelligence services (BND) were “completely illegal,” arguing that the degree of surveillance was “disproportionate” and failed to account for whether the communications covered German citizens or not.

News Orgs Sue FBI for Details on San Bernardino iPhone Hacking – The Associated Press and two other news organizations sued the FBI on Friday for details about who the agency worked with and how much it spent to hack the San Bernardino killer’s iPhone earlier this year.

The lawsuit, filed by the AP, Gannett (which owns USA Today), and Vice Media, “seeks records about the FBI’s contract with an unidentified vendor who provided a tool to unlock the phone belonging to Syed Rizwan Farook,” the AP said.

The lawsuit was filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia under the US Freedom of Information Act.

“Understanding the amount that the FBI deemed appropriate to spend on the tool, as well as the identity and reputation of the vendor it did business with, is essential for the public to provide effective oversight of government functions and help guard against potential improprieties,” the suit argues, according to the AP.

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