Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – October 7, 2016

Best second-screen apps for watching Major League Baseball;  How to enable two-step authentication in Dropbox;  $300 (or less) laptops for work and play;  Spotify ads slipped malware onto PCs and Macs;  Google Pixel phone: The smart person’s guide;  Facebook rolls out encryption for Messenger, but it’s not as private as you think;  10 best smartphones for the 2016 holiday season;  Battlefield 1, Call of Duty lead the way in Nielsen’s most anticipated games – and much more news you need to know.

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Ed Bott: Microsoft releases fix for Windows 10 cumulative update issues – Six days after delivering a failed Windows 10 update, Microsoft has offered a fix-it script and an explanation.

Best second-screen apps for watching Major League Baseball – Major League Baseball’s playoff season is in full swing. Whether you’re in the stands or on the couch, our guide to the best second-screen apps will enable you to make the most of your experience.

Facebook rolls out encryption for Messenger, but it’s not as private as you think – Facebook recently enabled end-to-end encryption for all Facebook Messenger users with an opt-in program called Secret Conversations. Here’s what it means and how to use it.

How to enable two-step authentication in Dropbox – Concerned about the security of your Dropbox account? For an added layer of protection, follow this process of setting up two-step authentication in Dropbox.

$300 (or less) laptops for work and play – Not every wants to throw down thousands of dollars for a new laptop. Here are a handful of systems, all priced under $300.


Lenovo Ideapad 100S – Tech specs:

11.6-inch HD LED Glossy (1366×768) display

Intel Atom Z3735F quad-core CPU

Intel HD graphics

Up to 2 GB RAM

32GB storage

Dolby Advanced Audio

Windows 10

Price: $160

Google Pixel phone: The smart person’s guide – Our comprehensive guide covers the origin of the Google Pixel phone, its specifications and features, and what it means for Google’s mobile strategy.

10 best smartphones for the 2016 holiday season – Now that Google has announced the Pixel smartphones, it is time to see what Matthew Miller considers the ten best smartphones available as we head into the holiday gift buying season.

When will your phone get Android Nougat? – Our continually updated list has all the latest details, announcements, and rumors to give you the best possible picture of when you’ll get Android 7.0.

GIPHY Cam arrives on Android with GIF recording, fun editing tools – A short while after making the beta available, GIPHY Inc. has officially launched GIPHY Cam in the Google Play Store, making it available to all Android users. GIPHY Cam is just about the most fun and simple way to make creative GIFs with your phone, offering an interface not unlike what you find in Vine, but with its own flavors. After holding the record button to film a short looping GIF, users can spice it up with stickers, amusing animations, and more.

Hands on with Google Home: Your Google universe in a home-appliance wrapper – It’s impossible to discuss Google Home in a vacuum. It’s a direct, blatant, so-obvious-it-hurts competitor to the Amazon Echo—and if you spend just a few minutes with it, you may come away feeling it’s got the Echo’s number. It even costs $50 less than Amazon’s product on Google’s pre-order page.

How to use the Shell command to view all your applications in File Explorer – The Shell command offers a handy way to view your Applications folder. Here’s how it works–and why you might find the trick useful.


Spotify ads slipped malware onto PCs and Macs – Spotify’s ads crossed from nuisance over to outright nasty this week, after the music service’s advertising started serving up malware to users on Wednesday. The malware was able to automatically launch browser tabs on Windows and Mac PCs, according to complaints that surfaced online. As is typical for this kind of malware, the ads directed users’ browsers to other malware-containing sites in the hopes that someone would be duped into downloading more malicious software. The “malvertising” attack didn’t last long as Spotify was able to quickly correct the problem.

Cops arrest hundreds of people allegedly involved in IRS phone scam – Hundreds of people in Mumbai, India have been detained in relation to a massive telephone scam where fake callers “from the IRS” targeted Americans. In said calls, scammers tried to convince recipients that they were from the IRS in order to con victims into forking over thousands of dollars payable via prepaid credit cards. According to The Guardian, 200 Indian police officers raided nine locations across one of India’s largest cities.

Company News:

Verizon may want a $1 billion discount on Yahoo – Verizon may be getting cold feet with its acquisition of Yahoo. Reportedly, it’s asking for a $1 billion discount on the original $4.8 billion deal for the Internet company.

Google dealt setback in age bias case by judge interested in ‘Googleyness’ – An age discrimination lawsuit against Google was approved Wednesday as a ‘”collective action” by a federal court judge in San Jose. The decision means that certain types of software engineers, age 40 or over, who were rejected for jobs at Google since August 2014, and after an in-person interview, will be able to join the lawsuit. Thousands of others may be eligible.

Tesla hit with age discrimination lawsuit from former engineer – Tesla Motors is being sued by a former engineer who claims he suffered discrimination — and was ultimately fired — because of his age. Thomas Flessner, age 69, was hired by Tesla in 2012 to work as a materials engineer at a company facility in Fremont, California. While there, Flessner’s lawsuit alleges he was subjected to harsher treatment than his younger peers, and that his supervisor repeatedly singled him out or made it difficult to correct issues, reportedly cancelling scheduled meetings and more. Flessner was fired this past February.

Twitter shares drop 20% as takeover rumors fade away – Twitter has performed incredibly well on the stock market for the past couple of weeks. But the honeymoon is over as it’s back to reality and correction time. Twitter shares are currently down 20.06 percent to $19.88 compared to yesterday’s closing price of $24.87. So what happened? Recode has published multiple reports saying that many of the companies that were looking at Twitter for a potential acquisition backed away from the deal. Google, Apple and Disney don’t want to buy Twitter anymore.

Samsung buys Viv Labs in pursuit of its own AI assistant – Samsung is turning its attention to personal assistants—the company has acquired Viv Labs, a startup founded by Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer, and Chris Brigham, all of whom were part of the original Siri team that Apple bought in 2010. The three departed Apple shortly after the acquisition to start Viv Labs, which recently showed off its AI personal assistant at Disrupt NY. While pricing has not been disclosed, the deal has been confirmed by Kittlaus in a post on Medium.

Snap is reportedly preparing for an IPO that could value it at $25B or higher – The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Snap — the now-parent company of Snapchat — is working on an initial public offering for as early as March that could value the company at $25 billion or higher. The company most recently raised $1.8 billion in a financing round in May this year. The company has around 150 million daily active users, and leaked documents reported by TechCrunch showed that it was projecting it could generate as much as $1 billion in revenue in 2017. The company estimated, according to those documents, that it would generate between $250 million and $350 million for 2016.

BitTorrent fires co-CEOs and shuts down BitTorrent Now – BitTorrent has fired its two CEOs, closed its Los Angeles production studio, and is giving up on BitTorrent Now, the ambitious media streaming service it launched less than six months ago. The changes were announced in an email to staff sent by BitTorrent founder Bram Cohen earlier this week, Variety reports, sent as an unknown number of employees were also let go from the company. CFO Dipak Joshi is moving into the role once occupied by Co-CEOs Jeremy Johnson and Robert Delamar.

Games and Entertainment:

Battlefield 1, Call of Duty lead the way in Nielsen’s most anticipated games – Nielsen Game Rank has released its list of the most anticipated games for the Holiday 2016 season, and it probably won’t come as much of a surprise that Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare are in a dead heat for the most anticipated multi-platform title. The survey gives both titles an overall anticipation rating of 96%, while Final Fantasy XV and Batman: Return to Arkham round out the top four most anticipated multi-platform games.

Bethesda announces PS4 mod support for Fallout 4 and Skyrim Enhanced Edition, plus native 4K on PS4 Pro – Game developer Bethesda Softworks has announced the upcoming Skyrim Special Edition and Fallout 4 will both be receiving mod support on the PS4. Previously, this had been in some doubt — while Bethesda announced plans to bring FO4 mod support to both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, updates from earlier this summer suggested that Sony wasn’t keen on the idea and Bethesda might scrap it altogether. It’s not clear how the two companies came to agree on extending modding support for Sony’s new system, but Skyrim Special Edition will arrive with modding options on Sony’s console when it ships on October 28.

Roku Express – Roku has created its most affordable streaming media device yet with the Roku Express – At $29.99, this little box costs less than the Google Chromecast and offers all of the apps and services you can find on any other Roku device. It also outputs video at 1080p, which is a pleasant surprise. It makes some compromises to reach its low price, like a very basic infrared remote control and noticeably slower performance than the Roku Streaming Stick. But if you’re looking to connect your television on the cheap and want to access the all the streaming media Roku offers, the Express is a very solid choice.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Smartphone reseller cheated customers out of millions, Feds say – The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sued a Nevada-based company called Laptop & Desktop Repair LLC (LDR) for allegedly bilking thousands of customers out of millions of dollars in promised funds for the resale of their smartphones. LDR operated dozens of websites that promised customers high returns for their smartphones and tablets using an instant quote generator. The customers, believing that this website would pay the highest price for their used gadget, sent their phones to LDR. Once LDR received the gadget, it would offer the customer a “revised quote” that was often only three to ten percent of the original quoted price.


Air bag bike helmets shown to reduce impacts as much as six-times – Researchers at Stanford have been developing a new breed of bicycle helmets that use air bags to significantly reduce injuries sustained in the event of an accident. David Camarillo is a bioengineer at Stanford working on the helmet design and according to testing performed at the University, the new airbag helmets can reduce the force of an impact as much as six times compared to a traditional bike helmet.

Ancient kangaroos didn’t hop and 15 other weird prehistoric animal facts – Oh, ancient Earth, your animal kingdom was wonderfully weird. Take the kangaroo. More than 30,000 years ago, a forerunner of our modern-day hippity-hopping mammal probably didn’t hop at all, researchers say; it was just too bulky. Instead, the quarter-ton “short-faced giant kangaroo” loped around on two legs. Here are 13 other cool facts about prehistoric animals, both great and shrunken.

Matt Drudge is an idiot who could be making a hurricane more dangerous – Thanks to the rise of Donald Trump, conspiracy theorists are having a moment — and it’s now an imminently dangerous one. Right now Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm, is headed toward Florida. The state’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, said today that “this is going to kill people,” as he asked residents to evacuate. Coastal surges, waves beyond 18 feet, extreme winds, and debris all will threaten lives and property if the predictions of scientists and civil authorities hold up. But the best facts we have about the storm from professional weather scientists aren’t good enough for idiots like Matt Drudge, who is currently tweeting that meteorological reports might all be a government conspiracy to make climate change seem worse.

Something to think about:

“Put up with it and you will get more of it.”

–       Lynne Deal

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Welcome to the machine—Yahoo mail scanning exposes another US spy tool – Imagine a futuristic society in which robots are deployed to everybody’s house, fulfilling a mission to scan the inside of each and every residence. Does that mental image look far-off and futuristic? Well, this week’s Yahoo e-mail surveillance revelations perhaps prove this intrusive robot scenario has already arrived in the digital world.

Days ago, Reuters cited anonymous sources and reported that Yahoo covertly built a secret “custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming e-mails for specific information.” Yahoo, the report noted, “complied with a classified US government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI.”

Reuters then followed up, saying Yahoo acted at the behest of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Not to be outdone, The New York Times reported Yahoo used its system designed to scan for child pornography and spam to search for messages containing an undisclosed “signature.” The Times said a FISA judge found probable cause to believe that this digital signature “was uniquely used by a foreign power.” The scanning has ceased, the report noted, but neither of the news agencies said how long the search lasted and when it began.

Yahoo denies how the reports portrayed its assistance, saying they are “misleading.” Other tech companies have denied participating in such surveillance as it was outlined in those reports.

EU privacy watchdogs have questions about Yahoo’s secret email scanning – European Union privacy watchdogs are concerned by reports that Yahoo has been secretly scanning its users’ email at the request of U.S. intelligence services.

“It goes far beyond what is acceptable,” said Johannes Caspar, Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information in Hamburg, Germany.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Yahoo had built a system for U.S. government agencies to search all of its users’ incoming emails. Other tech companies were quick to distance themselves, saying they would have challenged any such request in court.

Yahoo later described that report as misleading, without saying what exactly did happen.

On Wednesday, the New York Times attempted to clarify the matter with a report that Yahoo had modified an existing system, designed to identify spam, malware and child pornography, so as to also search for code of interest to the FBI. The modification was made at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, the newspaper reported.

Yahoo declined to comment on the new report.

Senators ask FCC to investigate Stingray surveillance tech – A group of Democratic senators asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate cell site simulators like Stingrays to determine if the surveillance devices used by local law enforcement agencies are disrupting cellphone service for ordinary consumers and 911 calls. The senators are also asking the FCC to look into whether Stingray use disproportionately affects people of color.

Cell site simulators, commonly known as IMSI catchers or by the brand name Stingray, pose as normal cellphone towers. When nearby phones connect, the simulators can capture their unique ID numbers, track their locations and intercept the contents of calls and messages. Law enforcement agencies tend to be secretive about their use of Stingrays, but several civil rights groups, including Center for Media Justice, and New America’s Open Technology Institute, claimed in August that the Baltimore Police Department’s use of the devices was inhibiting emergency calls and unfairly targeting communities of color.

The organizations complained to the FCC, asking it to intervene. According to the complaint (PDF), BPD used Stingrays 4,700 times over the course of nine years to investigate everything from kidnappings to petty thefts. Because the devices affect any phone within a 200-500 meter radius, it could absorb not only a suspect’s calls but also calls to emergency services, suicide hotlines and other important resources. The complaint also cites USA Today reporting that shows BPD most commonly used Stingrays in black communities.

Secure messenger app Signal fought government and kept privacy promises – After fighting a gag order, Moxie Marlinspike, the founder of Open Whisper Systems, went public with details of a federal subpoena (pdf) demanding Signal subscribers’ information and communication records.

Open Whisper Systems built the encrypted communication app Signal; the Signal encryption protocol is also used in Google’s Allo, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. If you know anything at all about Signal, then you know privacy and security are not just marketing buzzwords; end-to-end encryption is a feature to which OWS is deeply committed. Even Edward Snowden gave the thumbs up to use any OWS product.

Perhaps the government wanted to find out if Signal keeps it privacy and security promises, or perhaps the government was clueless about the Signal app and desperate for more information to help in a criminal case in Virginia. At any rate, when OWS received its first federal grand jury subpoena, the government demanded for OWS to cough up data associated with two subscribers, including phone numbers, name, address, email address, payment info, IP logs, web browsing histories, browser cookie data, as well as upstream and downstream providers.

The government tacked a gag order onto the subpoena served in 2016. It was meant to silence OWS about the surveillance for one year since the government claimed that if news about the subpoena got out, then it would “seriously jeopardize the investigation, including by giving targets an opportunity to flee or continue flight from prosecution, destroy or tamper with evidence, change patterns of behavior, or notify confederates.”

1 Comment

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One response to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – October 7, 2016

  1. delenn13

    Hey Bill,

    Right now …Origin’s freebie for the month is Dungeon Keeper™ for PC | Origin. You do need to have the Origin “game mangler” installed to play.

    If you don’t want to deal with that, GOG has a dozen or more standalone EA games discounted including Dungeon Keeper, Theme Hospital, Medal of Honor and more