Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – September 21, 2016

Microsoft surprises everyone by releasing a new $37 Nokia phone;    Ransomware’s next target: Your car and your home;  This Tool Lets You Check If Your Personal Info Is on the Dark Web;  The essential macOS Sierra upgrade guide;  Opera’s free VPN is now available in its main desktop browser;    SanDisk reveals world’s first 1TB SD card;  10 Beyond-Basic Photography Tips;  The CW prepares to launch subscription-free streaming – and much more news you need to know.

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Microsoft surprises everyone by releasing a new $37 Nokia phone – No, this is not an extremely late April Fool’s Day prank. Microsoft really did just reveal another phone that bears the Nokia brand name. The new Nokia 216 is exactly what you’d expect from a budget phone. It sports a 2.4-inch QVGA display, VGA front and rear-facing cameras, integrated FM radio tuner, and an impressive 24 days of standby time. It comes in three colors: white, black, and a sort of robin’s egg blue. And yes, it still has a headphone jack.


Consumer Reports: iPhone 7 camera does not outperform iPhone 6s – Apple is advertising major improvements in the cameras on the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and the second telephoto camera on the 7 Plus is new for Apple. However, Consumer Reports initial testing shows the performance for the main cameras are about the same.

Ditching Microsoft Office? Tips on how to switch to LibreOffice – Breaking up with Microsoft doesn’t have to be difficult if you follow this advice from those in the know.

Opera’s free VPN is now available in its main desktop browser – VPNs or virtual private networks are services that re-route your traffic through different countries. They’re good if you want a little more anonymity or are trying to find your way around geoblocks, but they usually cost money. Not in Opera’s latest browser, though. After testing out a built-in VPN in the beta version earlier this year, the company is now rolling out the same service on its main software stream. That means if you download the latest version of the browser, Opera 40, you get a free VPN with unlimited data. We’ve tested the software and it’s quick and easy to use.



5 awesome Android widgets for a more useful home screen – Whether you’re looking to speed-dial friends or quickly scan documents, these widgets will help you get stuff done.

macOS Sierra is now available to download – After a summer of beta versions, Apple has just released the final version of macOS Sierra. macOS Sierra is the major update of OS X El Capitan — yes, OS X is dead, long live macOS. Other than the name change, this year’s update brings many neat improvements over El Capitan, making it a polished update from day one. It’s available in the Mac App Store as a free download. If you don’t see the update right away, don’t panic as it could take a few minutes due to App Store propagation.

The essential macOS Sierra upgrade guide – Mac users everywhere are full of anticipation as they await the next release of macOS Sierra, the latest version of the OS they rely on each day. There are a few hours to go until the release (traditionally though not exclusively at around 10am PDT) so please take a moment to review this upgrade guide.

You can now save drafts of your photos on Instagram – Instagram is now letting users save drafts of their photo edits so they can come back to them later. You know the situation: you just spent 15 minutes perfecting the shadows and highlights on your next Instagram post, only to realize you’re late for work and need to rush. Now the Instagram app will prompt you to either discard or save your photo draft if you leave the editing screen. Up until today, you had to use some serious tricks to save your work.

Blockchain: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about the blockchain, the innovative technology that powers Bitcoin, Litecoin, and other cryptocurrencies.

SanDisk reveals world’s first 1TB SD card – SanDisk today showcased its upcoming 1TB SDXC card prototype at a European trade show for photo and video professionals. The Western Digital subsidiary, which just two years ago debuted the first 512GB SD card, said doubling the capacity of its Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Memory Card was necessary to address the increasing demand for high-resolution content, such as 4K and 8K videos, virtual reality and 360-degree videography. SanDisk’s 512GB SD card sells for $345.77 on online retail sites.

Canary Flex is a small, smart outdoor security camera – Canary has launched a new security camera product called the Canary Flex; it is small, smart, and can be used outdoors, withstanding things like rain and wind to stand ever vigilant over your home. The camera sits idle, and starts recording when it detects movement. If something particularly odd — at least in the camera’s estimation — comes into view, it’ll fire off a push notification to its owner. Overtime, Flex will better understand what kind of things are worth sending notifications about and which ones are, while unusual, of no particular interest or importance.


Samsung: just 25 percent of Note 7s in US have been exchanged – Samsung has just announced that it has shipped 500,000 replacement Galaxy Note 7 devices to US retailers and carriers. They’ll be available beginning tomorrow to owners of the original, fire-hazard Note 7 for in-store exchanges. This first batch of replenishment stock is intended exclusively for exchanges; Samsung hasn’t yet said when Note 7 retail sales will officially resume — but VentureBeat claims the relaunch will come in late October. In another update, Samsung now says 25 percent of Note 7 devices have so far been exchanged in the United States.

Mobile productivity: These are the three apps Ed Bott can’t work without – What handful of mobile apps are essential to your daily work life? We asked our writers and editors to name the iOS or Android productivity tools they can’t live without. These are Ed Bott’s favorites.

Google Trips: This iOS, Android app gives you all your travel data plus offline access – Google has created a smart travel app that makes it easier to plan trips and search for information when on the go.

How to Take a Screenshot on Any Device – No matter what your platform, here’s how to take a picture of what’s on your screen.

10 Beyond-Basic Photography Tips – You don’t have to be a pro to really love photography. If taking pictures is your passion, consider these tips and ideas to help expand your skills and bring new perspective to your work.

Google’s New Messaging App Allo Is Surprisingly Addictive – Allo is more than just a messenger, it’s the future of Google Search.


Data-stealing Qadars Trojan malware takes aim at 18 UK banks – Sophisticated malware has been discovered, capable of tricking users into giving away admin rights to their entire system, as well as stealing their bank details.


Hackers hijack Tesla Model S from afar, while the cars are moving – Chinese hackers have attacked Tesla electric cars from afar, using exploits that can activate brakes, unlock doors, and fold mirrors from up to 20 kilometres (12 miles) away while the cars are in motion.

Ransomware’s next target: Your car and your home – Cybersecurity researchers have demonstrated how vulnerabilities in everyday connected devices can allow hackers to hold whole areas of your life to ransom.

This Tool Lets You Check If Your Personal Info Is on the Dark Web – It’s pretty hard to know when your data might have been compromised. Over the last few years, an industry of threat intelligence firms has popped up that offer to monitor criminal forums, paste sites, and Tor hidden services for stolen intellectual property or customer information. Now, one of these companies is letting anyone monitor the dark web for a limited amount of their own personal information. On Tuesday, Terbium Labs announced it was opening up its “Matchlight” product to the general public, allowing users to keep tabs on five different pieces of info for free.

Someone Is Putting Malicious USB Sticks in Australian Mailboxes – Some people just can’t resist the urge to plug random USB sticks into their computers. Now, someone in Australia is taking full advantage of the public’s naivety when it comes to cybersecurity. On Wednesday, police from Victoria warned of malicious USB sticks being placed in citizens’ mailboxes. “The USB drives are believed to be extremely harmful and members of the public are urged to avoid plugging them into their computers or other devices,” the announcement reads. Those who plug the devices into their PCs are presented with “fraudulent media streaming service offers, as well as other serious issues,” the announcement adds.


A picture of the offending USBs. Image: Victoria Police

Raum turns the most popular torrents on the web into malware spreading weapons – According to InfoArmor, Raum is used to “weaponize” these torrents by inserting malware into the packages through both the uTorrent client and a “special infrastructure” which allows the threat actors to manage new seeds for torrents using a network of dedicated and virtual servers, alongside compromised devices. The cybercriminals behind the scheme use data analytics to identify trends on video, audio, software and other downloads which are popular through torrents. Once the group has identified the most popular — and therefore most likely to distribute malicious code — Raum is used to create malicious “seeds” — the systems hosting the full file for download — while “leechers” seek the file for download, execute, and potentially become compromised.

Hackers Hit ‘Some’ Cisco Customers With Leaked NSA Hacking Tools – Unknown hackers have used NSA hacking tools released online last month to breach some targets using firewalls, switches and routers made by Cisco Systems, according to the tech company. This is apparently the first real-world cyberattack leveraging an unknown vulnerability that was in the arsenal of the NSA elite hacking team for years until a mysterious group calling itself The Shadow Brokers dumped several of those NSA tools on the internet.

Over 554M data records breached, with identity theft most common – More than 970 data breaches were reported worldwide in the first half of 2016, up 15 percent from the previous six months, according to Gemalto’s Breach Level Index.

Company News:

Google’s October 4 “Pixel phones” Nexus event is official – Google has confirmed it will hold an event on October 4, where we’re expecting to see the next generation of Android Nexus smartphones. The event, which will take place in San Francisco, has been rumored for some time now, with Google predicted to make some significant changes to how it runs its own-brand smartphone program.

Google is Facing a $400 Million Tax Bill and a Criminal Case in Indonesia – Indonesia plans to pursue Alphabet Inc’s Google for five years of back taxes, and the search giant could face a bill of more than $400 million for 2015 alone if it is found to have avoided payments, a senior tax official said. Muhammad Haniv, head of the tax office’s special cases branch, told Reuters its investigators went to Google’s local office in Indonesia on Monday. Asked to respond to Haniv’s comments, Google Indonesia reiterated a statement made last week in which it said it continues to cooperate with local authorities and has paid all applicable taxes.

HP inkjet printers refuse to accept third-party ink cartridges after stealth firmware update – The inkjet printer market has been a ridiculously profitable racket for HP and its ilk for decades, and manufacturers have fought tooth and nail to keep it that way. HP launched the latest salvo in this effort earlier this month, when a six-month-old firmware update suddenly kicked in and locked out third-party ink cartridges. Multiple models in HP’s OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro, and OfficeJet Pro X were all affected, even though none of these models had seen a firmware update in the past six months. The consensus is that HP actually baked this response into the March 2016 update it released, but told no one it was coming. This ensured more people would adopt the firmware and report that it worked without incident.

Pointing up  Purchased an OfficeJet Pro last month – and, had this HP policy been in effect, I would not have bought this printer (love the printer though). Limiting a purchaser’s options in such a fundamental way, after the fact, seems like a class-action lawsuit in the making, to me. What’s next – Nissan telling you that you can only use a particular brand of gasoline (in which they have a financial interest, naturally), in their vehicles?  Is that a stretch to far? Maybe not.

BlackBerry “Argon” DTEK60’s existence leaked by BlackBerry – BlackBerry apparently isn’t done with Android smartphones yet. Or at least isn’t half done. If you remember the days preceding the announcement of the oddly named DTEK50, there were rumors about “Neon” and “Argon”, even a “Mercury” smartphones coming up. Well, “Neon” eventually became the DTEK50 we know today and, apparently, Argon is going to be the DTEK60 after all. That is according to a product page that was, funnily enough, “accidentally” published by BlackBerry itself. And even if BB takes the page down, the Internet now knows and will remember.

Facebook makes its dynamic ads more friendly to brick-and-mortar retailers – Facebook just announced some new features for its dynamic ads, aimed at making the format more appealing to businesses with brick-and-mortar stores. Facebook’s dynamic ads show you different products based on your activity and interests. Now, the company says it can incorporate data about local product availability, pricing and special offers into these ads. So instead of just showing you the product, the ad can direct you to a specific store where the product is available at a specific price. Then if the product sells out at local stores, the campaign can start featuring something else from the catalog.

AT&T AirGig to Test Broadband Over Power Lines – AT&T today announced new technology it says has the potential to deliver “low cost, ultra-fast multi-gigabit per second wireless internet speeds” using existing infrastructure — power lines. The technology “has the potential to transform Internet access globally, well beyond the AT&T footprint,” delivering speedy wireless connectivity to homes and wireless devices all around the world. It’s performed “extremely well” in AT&T’s internal tests, so the company is now gearing up to see how it works in the real world and plans to soon announce AirGig market trials in select cities and countries.

Games and Entertainment:

The state of 4K gaming: What you need to know, from pricing to performance needs – When we last updated this article in November 2015, you’d need to drop roughly $1,300 at least on just your graphics card, 4K monitor, and power supply to get your PC up to snuff. A whole new PC would of course cost far more. Has the lower price of 4K displays and the launch of a supercharged new generation of graphics cards taken ultra-high resolution gaming mainstream? We’ll tell you what you need to start PC gaming at 4K resolution.

How LG uses fuzzy math to label some of its LCD TVs as 4K – By replacing every fourth red, green, or blue subpixel with a white one, LG boosts the brightness of its 6100-, 6500-, and 6800-series models. The trick works, but it sacrifices resolution.

The CW prepares to launch subscription-free streaming – The CW is making a big move many of its peers are still too afraid to make: it is getting ready to launch subscription-free streaming across just about every major device, including Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, and Xbox, as well as on iOS and Android, and over AirPlay. Because it will be subscription-free streaming, you won’t need an applicable for-pay cable plan in order to sign in and access the content.


Gears of War 4 comes free with Nvidia’s GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 cards – Microsoft is teaming up with Nvidia to give away free copies of Gears of War 4. If you purchase a GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 as a graphics card, part of a system, or inside a laptop then you’ll get a free copy of Gears of War 4. The promotion runs from today until October 30th, and as the game is Xbox Play Anywhere you’ll get a copy of the PC version and Xbox One variant for free. While graphics card game bundles are common on the PC side, it’s unusual to see Microsoft pairing up with Nvidia. Microsoft currently uses AMD chips inside its Xbox One, but there’s speculation the company may make the move to Nvidia in the future.

TV Shows Every Self-Respecting Geek Should Watch This Fall – A quick guide to the sci-fi/fantasy shows sure to get the nerd-rage/love as we start a new round of TV watching.

The 10 Most Pirated Movies – Films starring Chadwick Boseman, Tom Hanks, and Sheri Moon Zombie appear in this week’s list of the most pirated movies on the Internet.

Off Topic (Sort of):

MIT’s New Device Uses Wireless Signals to Detect Emotions – If you’ve ever dated an introvert you know that guessing someone’s emotions can be very risky. But soon, you may have more clues: A new device can detect people’s emotions using wireless signals. Designed by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, “EQ-Radio” measures heartbeat and breath to determine if someone is excited, happy, angry, or sad. “Our work shows that wireless signals can capture information about human behavior that is not always visible to the naked eye,” said MIT professor and project lead Dina Katabi. “We believe that our results could pave the way for future technologies that could help monitor and diagnose conditions like depression and anxiety.”


Here’s the full U.S. Federal Automated Vehicles Policy – The U.S. Federal Government noted yesterday that it would be releasing an autonomous vehicle policy designed to help guide the safe development of driverless tech, while also allowing flexibility so that companies can continue to innovate in this space. The full policy is now available, and viewable in full either via the embed below, or at the official website.

ABC News will stream the presidential debates on Facebook Live – ABC News and Facebook are teaming up to bring live streams of all the 2016 presidential debates online. The three debates will air live across eight TV networks as they typically do, but also on ABC News’ Facebook page. Viewers will be able to ask questions and make comments, which ABC says will be incorporated into the Facebook Live coverage. The debates will also be preceded by a new show called Strait Talk and then followed by another Facebook Live show hosted by Nightline co-anchor Dan Harris. The first debate is on September 26th in Hempstead, NY. This isn’t the first time Facebook Live has been involved in political moves this year.

Cops record themselves allegedly fabricating charges with suspect’s camera – In a US federal civil rights lawsuit, a Connecticut man has shared footage to bolster his claims that police illegally confronted the pedestrian because he was filming one of them. Authorities seized Michael Picard’s camera and his permitted pistol, and the officers involved then accidentally recorded themselves allegedly fabricating charges against the man.


New report details 3 reasons why messaging apps are taking over customer service – A recent report from Forrester explained that messaging apps will play a deeper and deeper role in how businesses interact with customers in the future. Here’s why.

Facebook, Google, other tech giants answer Obama’s refugee plea – President Obama says 51 US companies, including major tech players, will provide money, training and tech to help millions of refugees.

Microsoft wants to crack the cancer code using artificial intelligence – Cancer is like a computer virus and can be ‘solved’ by cracking the code, according to Microsoft. The computer software company says its researchers are using artificial intelligence in a new healthcare initiative to target cancerous cells and eliminate the disease. One of the projects within this new healthcare enterprise involves utilizing machine learning and natural language processing to help lead researchers sift through all the research data available and come up with a treatment plan for individual cancer patients. IBM is working on something similar using a program called Watson Oncology, which analyzes patient health info against research data.

Something to think about:

“Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity.”

–     Christopher Morley (1890 – 1957)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Terence Crutcher’s shooting was absent from Facebook Trends – Facebook said 53,000 people were talking about Terence Crutcher’s death by police, but instead it showed me Trends about Xbox, a Game Of Thrones actor, and New Jersey’s governor, even though they all had less chatter.

[Update 3:45pm PT: As of rougly 2:45pm Pacific, “Tulsa Police Shooting” become a Trend on Facebook. But the fact that it took an entire day to appear, and four hours after TechCrunch published this story, demonstrates just how badly Facebook Trends needs to be rethought. This article has been revised.]

Facebook denies it’s a media company, and has tried to distance itself from editorial decision-making by firing all its human Trend curators. But its values and stance towards important social issues are coded into the algorithms and processes that surface trends, and they’re not doing the public justice.

Hopefully this incident will spur Facebook to re-examine how it chooses trends, the way the Ferguson protests inspired Jack Dorsey to get Twitter more involved with activism for worthy causes.



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4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – September 21, 2016

  1. Agree 100% on the HP printer/ink cartridge situation Bill. Canon has blocked non-genuine and refilled cartridges for years. I believe that’s also the case with Samsung. I buy only Epson these days which, so far, has refrained from imposing this limitation. Some printers (including Canon) will also refuse to print if even one ink cartridge is empty whereas Epson will compensate and continue printing.

    Cheers mate… Jim

    • Thanks for that Jim.

      Admittedly, printers are low down on my “in-dept” knowledge chart – so your comment is more than welcome. Should have talked to you before I dropped in to BestBuy last month. 🙂

      Curiously, my Samsung Laser printer will accept refilled and third-party toners. Maybe I should keep quite about that – in case, ya know, of a sudden “update.” lol



  2. Vince

    I use Opera and tried the new VPN-It stopped internet trafficI turned it off  Vince Greco 

    From: Bill Mullins’ Weblog – Tech Thoughts To: Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2016 8:29 AM Subject: [New post] Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – September 21, 2016 #yiv6738696939 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6738696939 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6738696939 a.yiv6738696939primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6738696939 a.yiv6738696939primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6738696939 a.yiv6738696939primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6738696939 a.yiv6738696939primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv6738696939 | Bill Mullins posted: “Microsoft surprises everyone by releasing a new $37 Nokia phone;    Ransomware’s next target: Your car and your home;  This Tool Lets You Check If Your Personal Info Is on the Dark Web;  The essential macOS Sierra upgrade guide;  Opera’s free VPN is now a” | |