Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 3, 2016

More than 400 malicious apps infiltrate Google Play;  25 best Android tips to make your phone more useful;  This Android App Can Help You Text Without Typing;  How to know when your SSD could die;  Find Out What Google Knows About You;  3 tips for taking faster screenshots in Windows 10 – and much more news you need to know.

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More than 400 malicious apps infiltrate Google Play – Google Play was recently found to be hosting more than 400 apps that turned infected phones into listening posts that could siphon sensitive data out of the protected networks they connected to, security researchers said Thursday. One malicious app infected with the so-called DressCode malware had been downloaded from 100,000 to 500,000 times before it was removed from the Google-hosted marketplace, Trend Micro researchers said in a post. Trend Micro has found 3,000 such apps in all, 400 of which were available through Play.

25 best Android tips to make your phone more useful – Android is the most popular computing platform in the world thanks in part to how fast it has evolved over the years. Google is always adding new features and making changes to existing ones, and OEMs like Samsung and LG can add their own stuff on top of that. It can be hard to keep up, so we’ve gathered the 25 best tips for your Android phone right here.

This Android App Can Help You Text Without Typing – What separates TalkType from the myriad other smartphone keyboards out there is that its users aren’t greeted with a QWERTY typing pad, but rather a round microphone icon. Tapping this microphone triggers a “Speak now” prompt, indicating that the app is listening for input. As is the case with many other voice dictation capabilities, users will see the text field fill with words as they speak. (As a backup, Baidu’s app can also be used as a regular keyboard with the tap of a button, replete with animated GIFs, emoji, and the ability to search for restaurants built right in.) Of course, many smartphones have long offered voice dictation on their default keyboards. But Baidu’s app puts the feature front and center, a striking change from most smartphone keyboards.

3 tips for taking faster screenshots in Windows 10 – The default method of taking screenshots in Windows 10 is clunky. Use these tips to take faster and more precise screenshots without the need for an overpriced app.

Jim Hillier: Find Out What Google Knows About You – I recently visited Google’s new(ish) My Activity page which allows users with a Google account to delve into their Google past and find out just how much data the search giant has collected about them – and I got the shock of my life. This collection not only includes past search queries going back to the year dot but also all activity associated with any of Google’s online services – a veritable bottomless pit of information. To Google’s credit, setting up the My Activity service not only portrays a refreshing willingness toward transparency but also allows users to delete some or all of the collected data. Here’s how:

You might be surprised to learn who’s collecting your data – Most people understand that in order for digital services to work properly or stay free they may need to allow the services to track some of their data. But what about the businesses that provide services for consumer-facing companies? The partners and third-parties that operate behind the scenes? Typically they’re ISPs, cloud services or even content-delivery networks (CDNs), through which 45 percent of the internet’s traffic passes. They kept the Olympic games streaming fast and uninterrupted. They’re handling billions of transactions for e-commerce sites. What many people don’t realize is that these third-parties could also be tracking and selling their online behaviors as data.

Google Maps gains new voice commands via “OK Google” – It’s not a good thing when you are driving to take your eyes of the road for any reason. This includes taking eyes off the road to mess with your navigation device. Google Maps has gained some new voice controls that will make it easier to control Maps while you drive without having to touch the smartphone. When in navigation or driving mode, say “OK Google.”

Telegram levels up its bot platform with competitive games that live inside chats – Messaging platform Telegram is powering up on the chatbot front, with the launch of what it dubs a “bot-powered gaming platform” — in a bid to try to drive more engagement via addictive new features.

Facebook launches Messenger Lite app for basic Android phones – Facebook has come out with a “lite” version of its Messenger app, in a bid to reach users in emerging markets where mobile internet connections are slow. In a blog post published Monday, the company described Facebook Messenger Lite as a “slimmed down version of Messenger” designed for basic Android phones with low memory. The app rolls out today to users in Kenya, Tunisia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Venezuela, before expanding to other markets in coming months.

Meerkat, star app of 2015, is officially dead – Remember Meerkat? It came out of nowhere in early 2015 — a star of SXSW, in particular — and was on everyone’s tongue for weeks. Then came Periscope, a strikingly similar competitor built mostly in stealth mode, and word that Twitter had acquired it for nearly $100 million dollars before much of the world even knew it existed. Suddenly, interest in Meerkat fizzled. A year and a half later, Meerkat is dead, officially, as the company behind it shifts its efforts into a new project.

Twitch adds ad-free viewing, premium features for Amazon Prime subscribers – Live-streaming outfit Twitch said Friday that it will be letting viewers who have an active Amazon Prime membership eliminate ads and subscribe to one channel per month for free, among other video-game-related discounts and bonuses. Twitch is most known for letting people broadcast their video-gaming sessions, their own talk shows and even their adventures in cooking.

The best Google Cardboard VR apps – We first assembled this list in 2015, but the selection has grown and improved significantly since then, and we’ve responded in kind. If you’re just getting started with Cardboard or you’re looking for fresh ways to utilize Google’s entry-level VR solution, these are the first 15 apps and games worth experiencing—most of which are free. And remember, the split images are stitched into a single scene once it’s in your face.

How to know when your SSD could die – SSDs are fundamentally different from hard drives, and they can, in fact, die in one of two ways. In this column I’ll explain this difference, how SSDs can die, and how you can check yours to make sure it still has plenty of life.

New Ethernet standards will offer up to 5Gbps performance using cables you already own – A newly-approved wired Ethernet standard could deliver 2.5GbE and 5GbE connections over existing infrastructure. After nearly 20 years, are we finally ready to move past gigabit Ethernet?


Get to know the security features in the Edge browser – Microsoft knows that Internet Explorer ended up with a bad rap for being slow and lacking in security, so the company even disabled several legacy technologies in Edge to ensure it didn’t fall prey to the same (bad) reputation. The new browser has a lot of security tricks up its sleeve, including isolating Flash into its own separate AppContainer and making all Flash videos click-to-play.

What makes IoT ransomware a different and more dangerous threat? – Ransomware has already managed to carve itself a niche as one of the main cybersecurity threats of 2016. As individuals, organizations and government agencies, we’re taking precautionary steps to protect ourselves against malware that can encrypt files beyond our reach. What we’re ignoring though, is the next wave of ransomware attacks, which will not target our files, but rather our IoT devices, which can be more dangerous and damaging, given the different nature of IoT security.

Did attackers take down Newsweek because of an anti-Trump story? – Newsweek suspects that attackers took down its site for hours on Thursday in order to bury a story about a company that Donald Trump owned decades ago. The magazine claims that the company secretly did business in Cuba, even though that was illegal at the time. Details about the volume of the attack or what made it sophisticated were not immediately available. On Friday, Eichenwald described it as “a major attack on Newsweek.” Later in the afternoon, Eichenwald tweeted, “Lots of IP addresses involved. Main ones from Russia.”


Hacker Releases Code That Powered Record-Breaking Botnet Attack – It’s only been a few weeks since hackers hijacked more than 1 million Internet of Things devices to launch a record-breaking Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack against the website of cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs. Now, the malware that powered the unprecedented attack has been released online for anyone to use.

Company News:

Apple loses patent retrial to the litigious VirnetX, ordered to pay $302.4M – Back in February we reported that Apple had been ordered to pay $625 million to notorious litigator VirnetX after a U.S. court judged that the iPhone-maker had infringed on patents held by VirnetX in its iMessage and FaceTime services. (VirnetX often described as a patent troll because it makes almost all of its revenue from patent licensing and lawsuits). Apple went ahead and appealed the decision, arguing that the patents in question were not valid. But on Friday night that appeal came to nothing. A federal jury in Texas ordered Apple pay more than $302 million in damages for using VirnetX’s internet security patent without permission. The $302.4 million award was close to what VirnetX had demanded.

Tesla sets record for vehicle deliveries and production in Q3 – Tesla set new quarterly records for vehicle production and deliveries in Q3, according to data released today by the company. The company delivered around 24,500 vehicles, an increase of 70 percent from last quarter when the company fell short of its own delivery projections. The deliveries this quarter were made up of 15,800 Model S sedans and 8,700 Model X SUVs, with vehicle production rising to 25,185. That’s up 37 percent from Q2’s production of 18,345.

Avast CEO on why it’s just spent $1.4BN to absorb security rival AVG – Security firm Avast has today confirmed the completion of a $1.4 billion acquisition of fellow Czech-based antivirus company AVG. The deal will see Avast’s customer base nearly double — swelling from 230 million to more than 400 million in total, 160M of whom are mobile users. The acquisition was announced back in July, with scale and geographical breadth touted as the driving forces, along with a plan to expand product offerings including in the Internet of Things space. Avast says the new combined entity reaches one-third of the world’s PC users outside of China. Both the Avast and AVG brands are likely to continue to operate, depending on relative market strengths.

Google’s Uber Competitor Is Finally Here – Google’s Uber-like app is now available to users throughout the San Francisco area, The Wall Street Journal reports, marking the latest escalation in the simmering battle between the search giant and the ride-hailing firm. The app, Waze Rider, is intended to match drivers and riders who are already headed in the same direction. By contrast, Uber drivers tend to criss-cross cities in search of fares. Another difference: Waze Rider offers cheaper prices for passengers, but also lower pay for drivers. And for now, drivers and riders alike can only use the app twice a day, the Journal reports.

The EU is considering major fines for Google over alleged Android antitrust violations – European antitrust regulators are set to order Google’s parent company Alphabet to stop incentivizing Android phone makers to pre-install Google Search on their phones, according to Reuters and are are also considering imposing a substantial fines on the company. This appears to be separate from massive fines that the EU is reportedly imposing on the company for monopolistic practices when it comes to search, which could go as high as €3.3 billion Euros.

Games and Entertainment:

Watch Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump on SNL’s Presidential Debate – Saturday Night Live‘s latest cold open was familiar for anyone who watched Monday’s first presidential debate, but introduced a new player: Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump. Baldwin took to a podium opposite SNL’s regular Clinton, Kate McKinnon. The show took digs at both candidates, such as by lampooning Trump’s thoughts about “the blacks” and Clinton’s concerted efforts to be relatable.

Everything Coming to Netflix in October – October has a lot going for it: crisp autumn weather, caramel apples, and—best of all—Halloween. Netflix has plenty this month to enhance the chill in the air, with season 11 of Supernatural, American Horror Story: Hotel, and season 7 of Vampire Diaries. There are also a few things to watch if you need some realistic horror (and maybe some costume ideas).

Nintendo shows off some highly nerdy features of the NES Mini – Nintendo has further taken the wraps off the must-have gaming gadget of the holidays — which is to say, the one we’re all buying ourselves as soon as it’s available. An aggressively retro-themed video released today visually demonstrates three of the NES Mini’s features. Brace yourselves, it’s about to get real nerdy in here. Most relevant to the average player is the save state option — Nintendo calls them suspend points. Those of you who’ve used emulators or the Virtual Console will be familiar with this, but old-school players will be amazed and possibly offended. Basically, you can save the game at any moment — mid-jump, just before a boss, before opening a randomized chest, etc. Then you can reload if you die, get a bad item, or just want to play through a part again.


Microsoft announces two more Xbox One S Gears of War 4 bundles – Gears of War 4 is the Xbox One’s big exclusive title this holiday season, and Microsoft is doing all it can to make sure as many gamers pick up a copy as possible. To make things easy, the company has announced two new bundle options that pair GoW4 with the new Xbox One S, in addition to the previous limited edition bundle that features a 2TB console in crimson red.

9 Games You’ll Want to Buy in October – Fall is in full swing, and we all know what that means in the video game world: shopping, and lots of it. With October here, publishers are scheduling their biggest and best titles for release in hopes of riding that big holiday shopping wave. With games big and small pouring into store and digital shelves, we’ve put together a list of nine of October’s must buy video game.

The CW network releases cable subscription-free Apple TV app – US television network The CW is making the jump into set-top box streaming in a way that can only be described as a cord cutter’s dream come true: with no requirement for a cable subscription. In addition to updating its iOS app, the network has released a new app for the fourth-gen Apple TV that allows viewers to watch The CW — including brand-new episodes of its shows — for free with no login or authentication of a cable subscription.

The Nintendo 64 launched 20 years ago—and changed my life forever – Only one year after the PlayStation, the Nintendo 64 launched in 1996 and became the first console I could afford to buy with my own cash. This week marks exactly 20 years since that system’s launch in the United States, and it’s a milestone I’ll never forget. My initial encounter with the N64 isn’t etched in memory just because it coincided with the release of one of the greatest 3D platformers of all time or because it was the first system to ship with four-player modes as a default. For me, it marked the beginning of the rest of my life.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The Coolest Real World Spy Gadgets – As civilians, we don’t have access to the good stuff our government is hiding. But the private sector is working hard to make our spy daydreams a reality. If you’ve got cash to spend, you can outfit yourself with all the coolest non-lethal weaponry, surveillance tools, and other amazing stuff you need to have. Grab your black ops budget and come with us on a tour of incredible spy gizmos that you can buy in the real world.

WTF is a mirrorless camera? – Digital cameras today tend to fall under one of two categories: SLR or mirrorless. What’s the difference? And why does it matter? To find out, let’s take a quick trip through the history of the medium. It turns out that many of the changes to how cameras work have been attempts to solve a simple problem: How do you show what’s in front of the lens to both the user and whatever’s recording that image?

“Trek against Trump” urges voters to choose Hillary Clinton – Over 100 prominent members of the Star Trek cast and crew have written an open letter against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The letter, which was posted to Facebook on Thursday, trumpets:

Star Trek has always offered a positive vision of the future, a vision of hope and optimism, and most importantly, a vision of inclusion, where people of all races are accorded equal respect and dignity, where individual beliefs and lifestyles are respected so long as they pose no threat to others. We cannot turn our backs on what is happening in the upcoming election. Never has there been a presidential candidate who stands in such complete opposition to the ideals of the Star Trek universe as Donald Trump. His election would take this country backward, perhaps disastrously. We need to elect a president who will move this country forward into the kind of future we all dream of: where personal differences are understood and accepted, where science overrules superstition, where people work together instead of against each other.

Yahoo open sources its porn-detecting neural network – Ever wonder how things get marked NSFW on the internet? It’s Yahoo. Yahoo does it — with their special-made, smut-trained, porn-detecting neural network. And now you can, too, because the team behind the system has made it open source. I guess you could say they’re down to fork. I jest, of course: Yahoo’s algorithm doesn’t do it all. In fact, detecting NSFW imagery is an infamously difficult problem. To paraphrase the famous saying, you know it when you see it, but you — admit it — have a lifetime of viewing pornography to reflect on when you make that categorization.

4 Ways to Learn Anything in 20 Hours – What if you could learn anything in 20 hours, what would you learn? Would you learn how to dance? Would you learn a new language? Would you learn an instrument? In the TED talk, The First 20 Hours — How To Learn Anything, Josh Kaufman explains how to practice intelligently and how to learn any new skill in 20 hours. It takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a field. But it only takes 20 hours to get good at something, if you practice intelligently.

Wireless Emergency Alerts will soon support more characters, embedded URLs – The Wireless Emergency Alert system, which pushes AMBER Alerts and emergency notifications of things like natural disasters to phones across the US, is about to get something of an overhaul. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted today to expand the WEA system in a number of different ways, ranging from giving the alerts more characters to adding embedded URLs where it’s appropriate.


Jim Hillier: Huge List of Ashampoo Freebies – Our contact at Ashampoo has offered the following software titles all free for DCT readers:

    Ashampoo Backup 2016

    Ashampoo Burning Studio 2016

    Ashampoo WinOptimizer 2016

    Ashampoo HDD Control 2017

    Ashampoo UnInstaller 2017

    Ashampoo Photo Commander 12 – (latest version is v14)

    Ashampoo Slideshow Studi0 2017

    Ashampoo Snap 2017

    Ashampoo Photo Optimizer 2016

    Ashampoo Music Studio 2016

NOTE: Ashampoo products with a number in the title (such as Ashampoo WinOptimizer 14) are full-featured Premium versions, while those products with a year in the title (such as Ashampoo WinOptimizer 2016) include fewer features at a lower cost. However, products with a year in the title still provide pretty much all significant features and are, generally speaking, far superior to freeware.

Something to think about:

“It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.”

–      H. L. Mencken

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Researchers ask federal court to unseal years of surveillance records – Two lawyers and legal researchers based at Stanford University have formally asked a federal court in San Francisco to unseal numerous records of surveillance-related cases, as a way to better understand how authorities seek such powers from judges. This courthouse is responsible for the entire Northern District of California, which includes the region where tech companies such as Twitter, Apple, and Google, are based.

According to the petition, Jennifer Granick and Riana Pfefferkorn were partly inspired by a number of high-profile privacy cases that have unfolded in recent years, ranging from Lavabit to Apple’s battle with the Department of Justice.

As they wrote in their Wednesday filing:

Most surveillance orders are sealed, however. Therefore, the public does not have a strong understanding of what technical assistance courts may order private entities to provide to law enforcement. There are at least 70 cases, many under seal, in which courts have mandated that Apple and Google unlock mobile phones—and potentially many more. The Lavabit district court may not be the only court to have ordered companies to turn over private encryption keys to law enforcement based on novel interpretations of law. Courts today may be granting orders forcing private companies to turn on microphones or cameras in cars, laptops, mobile phones, smart TVs, or other audio- and video-enabled Internet-connected devices in order to conduct wiretapping or visual surveillance.

In their 45-page petition, they specifically say that they don’t need all sealed surveillance records, simply those that should have been unsealed—which, unfortunately, doesn’t always happen automatically.

US to Transfer Internet DNS Oversight After GOP Sabotage Effort Fails – The United States government moved to relinquish stewardship of key internet technical functions on Saturday, paving the way for a private, international non-profit group to assume oversight of the internet’s core naming directory.

Tech policy experts say the historic transfer of US stewardship over the Domain Name System (DNS) to an independent group of global stakeholders will help ensure internet openness and freedom. The transition moved forward after a last-ditch Republican effort to sabotage the handover was rejected by a federal judge late Friday.

The oversight transfer, which has been in the works for nearly two decades, is largely clerical in nature, and is unlikely to even be noticed by internet users. But that didn’t stop Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and presidential candidate Donald Trump from using scare-tactics to try to scuttle the plan for political gain.

“This is a symbolic, but important step in preserving the stability and openness of the internet, which impacts free speech, our economy and our national security,” Ed Black, President & CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represents companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, said in an emailed statement.

Starting Saturday, stewardship of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, including the DNS, which translates website names like into numeric internet protocol (IP) addresses, will be fully overseen by a Los Angeles-based nonprofit group of international stakeholders called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).


Filed under Latest Tech News

9 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 3, 2016

  1. delenn13

    Hey Bill,

    Those free Ashampoo products are top-notch, easy to use. I have been using the burning software for probably over 10 years or more. Ashampoo Burning Studio 2016, Ashampoo Photo Commander 12 – (latest version is v14), Ashampoo Slideshow Studi0 2017, Ashampoo Snap 2017, Ashampoo Photo Optimizer 2016 and Ashampoo Music Studio 2016 work pretty much out of the box. You can’t ask for anything much simpler. And no matter what any one says..they don’t spam you. You can easily unsubscribe. I like getting the emails because sometimes they offer free stuff.



    • Hey Del,

      Same here – I have 4/5 of these apps on my system – and, have had for 7/8 years (updated, of course.) 🙂

      Like you, I highly recommend Ashampoo’s products.

      Good to get your comment on this.



      • delenn13

        Hey Bill,

        Right now, you can get Ashampoo® Uninstaller 5 (Premium lifetime license) for free.

        “Always have the right tool at your fingertips. Ashampoo UnInstaller 5 was designed to bundle common tasks in a well-organized user-interface. Once active, Ashampoo UnInstaller 5 will silently monitor your installation in the background and not interfere with the actual installation process.”i

        Giveaway Club – Windows



        • Hey Del,

          Now, that sounds like a particularly good one. Giveaway Club – Windows, looks like an interesting site – I’ve bookmarked that.

          Thanks Del.



          • delenn13

            Hey Bill,
            I have gotten a few things from them. They have a new section for games too.
            Giveaway Club – Games

            Right now they have.. Forge of Gods: Infernal War Pack (Steam Keys)

            “Join the action in this highly addictive multiplayer card strategy RPG “FORGE OF GODS”!
            Collect and train as many monsters as you can to assemble the greatest team and burst through hordes of enemies in thrilling, addictive and fast-paced game!”

            Most of them are either Steam games or Packages for Steam games. They have had some DLC for downloadable games too.



            • Thanks Del – you have a knack for finding the most interesting stuff.

              Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂



              • delenn13

                Hey Bill,

                Thanks. Same to you!

                Yea, I know. The hubby always asks me to do his searching or if I know about a program that can do ..whatever. He says, “If you can’t find it, it isn’t there.” Some of it is sent to me in my RSS feeds.

                Anyways, I won’t be doing much for the next month …moving. Gonna be busy. I will be lucky to just read my stuff..much less share.



  2. Vic Reigel

    Hi Bill
    I tried to obtain one of the aShampoo offers, but encountered an error popup when I tried obtain a key. The “year” app was thus impossible to install