Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 10, 2016

Why an unhackable mobile phone is a complete marketing myth;  How to stop failing Windows Updates from bothering you;  Infographic: How to identify and avoid phishing attacks;  How to encrypt your Facebook messages;  Google Pixel phone: The smart person’s guide;  What To Do If Your Smartphone Battery Is Overheating;  The Best Tablets of 2016;  These 5 SMART errors help you predict your hard drive’s death – and much more news you need to know.

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Why an unhackable mobile phone is a complete marketing myth – Consider this: The smartphone in your pocket is 10 times more powerful than the fastest multi-million dollar supercomputers of just 20 years ago. There are tens of millions of lines of software in that phone of yours. There are hundreds of apps written by more than one million developers, some of whom are hackers, and some of whom are just incompetent at security. And then there are chips in your phone that run sophisticated software, from companies located in countries all around the world, all of which have security bugs. The complexity is mind-boggling — and so are all the security vulnerabilities that exist and will be found in the future. In short, anyone who claims to sell an “unhackable phone” is either ignorant or lying.

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.

Google Assistant: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers the history behind Google’s AI-powered Google Assistant, its features, and what it means for the future of Google’s business.

Microsoft’s new Windows 10 beta build improves touchpads, updates Photos, and stabilizes your PC – While Windows 10 is designed for a range of hardware, more modern, powerful PCs will benefit from reliability improvements in the new Windows 10 Insider build 14942, released Friday. The new Insider build for the Fast ring includes a laundry list of tweaks and new changes, but the most important are some under-the-hood improvements that Microsoft promises will help improve the reliability of PCs with over 3.5GB of memory. Microsoft’s other updates include an extension of the Active Hours period, improving the touchpad, and an update to the Photos app.

How to stop failing Windows Updates from bothering you – Microsoft’s show or hide updates troubleshooter is a handy tool for those times when you need to say “no” to Windows 10’s mandatory updates.

How to Use and Tweak Your Windows 10 Lock Screen – The first item that greets you when you fire up Windows 10 is the Lock screen. Clicking or tapping on it brings you to the sign-in screen where you log in to Windows. Yes, the Lock screen seems unnecessary, but it carries with it some tidbits that can be useful before you even launch Windows.


Windows 10’s big Microsoft Paint refresh: Now you get 3D objects, stickers, new tools – Details of a new Windows 10 Paint app have leaked ahead of Microsoft’s supposed all-in-one Surface launch later this month.

How to encrypt your Facebook messages with Secret Conversations – Facebook’s new encrypted messaging feature, Secret Conversations, is now live for everyone on Android and iOS.

Samsung halts production of the Galaxy Note 7 – Following reports that replacement models of the Note 7 also suffered from the battery flaws that led to the initial recall, Samsung reportedly has stopped production of its latest phone.

What To Do If Your Smartphone Battery Is Overheating – As Samsung works to replace millions of Galaxy Note 7 devices amid reports of overheating and exploding batteries, we were curious: What should you do if your smartphone starts to overheat, smoke, or, worse, actually catch fire? So we reached out once again to battery expert Dr. Donald R. Sadoway, the John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for an answer. Sadoway previously us helped explain the science behind exploding batteries.

The Best Tablets of 2016 – Whether you’re looking for an Android, Apple, or Windows tablet, here’s what to consider, along with our top-rated slates.

Prisma Now Lets You Turn Videos Into Works of Art – The Prisma app arrived this summer to turn your photos into works of digital art, and now it’s doing the same for your videos. With the latest version of the iOS app, users can choose a saved file from the gallery, or shoot up to 15 seconds of content through the Prisma camera. Then watch as your clip is transformed using any of the nine available artist filters. “Turn your memories into moving artworks using unique video styles,” the App Store description says.


Five budget and bookkeeping apps to help SMBs make the most of the new fiscal year – It’s October, and that means it’s already 2017 for a lot of businesses. It can be hard for SMBs to manage finances, but it doesn’t have to be: Here are five apps that can help make FY2017 a breeze.

These 5 SMART errors help you predict your hard drive’s death – Online backup service Backblaze frequently provides interesting storage analysis based on hard drive statistics gathered from its data center. Now the company’s talking about how it determines if a hard drive is likely to die, another return to a topic broached in 2014. If you’re not familiar with SMART it stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology. It’s a self-analysis feature built into modern hard drives. The catch is you usually need third-party software to retrieve your hard drive’s SMART report—though you can also fetch the report via the command line. The five key SMART errors Backblaze tracks are the following:

The Windows weakness no one mentions: Speech recognition – Microsoft has buried dictation capabilities within Windows for a decade. Isn’t it time that Microsoft put speech recognition front and center as a productivity assistant for Microsoft Office?

Google Chrome soon won’t be such a burden your computer – New version of the browser won’t take up as much memory, especially on mobile devices, Google programmers promise.

22 Hidden Facebook Features Only Power Users Know – Facebook has been around for awhile, but there are probably a few tricks you don’t know about.


Infographic: How to identify and avoid phishing attacks – A recently-published infographic from Digital Guardian can help your employees recognize and steer clear of phishing, spear phishing, and social media attacks.


Australians fail to keep their smartphones secure despite dramatic rise in mobile malware – AUSTRALIANS are targeted by up to 100 malware threats per hour on their smartphones and yet two thirds admit they do not have any security software on their phones. New research released today shows that 14 million Aussies do not bother with extra security steps on their smartphones despite five per cent having had their phones infected by malicious malware in the past quarter. The national survey conducted by Intel Security to launch Stay Smart Online Week found that 60 per cent of Australians view their smartphones as “priceless” and more than a third would rather have their wallet stolen than have a thief take their smartphone. The survey found particular risks for those who use their work phones at home, with nearly four in ten parents admitting they hand over their work devices to their kids to play with. (recommended by Mal C.)

Remove ransomware infections from your PC using these free tools – A how-to on finding out what ransomware is squatting in your PC — and how to get rid of it.

Serious security: Three changes that could turn the tide on hackers – The state of tech security is currently so dire that it feels like anything you have ever stored on a computer, or a company or government has ever stored about you, has already been hacked into by somebody. So where did it all go wrong? Building secure systems is hard, especially when the security is being bolted on afterwards, as is often the case. And security is expensive and hard to justify as it doesn’t come with a visible return on investment, making it easier to skimp on when times are hard.

Russia deliberately interfering with election, US says – It’s official: The White House says Russia has been conducting a broad campaign to interfere with US elections. This included hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other agencies and political officials. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security said in a joint statement Friday. “Such activity is not new to Moscow — the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there.”

U.S. could use sanctions to punish Russia for election hacking – The U.S. response to election-related hacks that the Obama administration now blames on the Russian government could include sanctions against that country. The administration has said that it has a range of options, including economic sanctions, to respond to Russian cyber attacks. On Friday, a Republican lawmaker said he would propose legislation to move those sanctions forward.

We’re not going to beat cybercrime in our lifetime says ex-FBI cyber chief – But we still need to proactively hunt down attackers or risk a “failure for future generations” says Shawn Henry.

Company News:

Apple v. Samsung heads to Supreme Court: What you need to know – The biggest patent case to hit the modern tech world is back again. Apple and Samsung will appear before the US Supreme Court on Tuesday to argue why their opponent was wrong when it came to a patent case from 2012. This is the first time a design patent case has been examined by the Supreme Court since the 1800s. A decision by the court could have a ripple effect across the technology industry and ultimately affect the gadgets you buy. What’s at question is how much money one company has to pay for copying the designs of another. Samsung says an Apple victory would stifle innovation. Apple argues that a Samsung win would weaken the protections afforded to new creations.

Three Law Firms Join iPhone 6 Plus ‘Touch Disease’ Lawsuit Against Apple – There is increasing pressure on Apple to explain why it’s ignored the fact that touchscreens on thousands of iPhone 6 Plus devices have stopped working, leaving consumers on the hook to replace devices that have a fundamental engineering flaw. Lawyers who filed a class action lawsuit against the company in California earlier this fall have signed on three additional law firms to support their case, and an additional class action lawsuit related to the issue has been filed against Apple in Utah.

Microsoft schedules its Fall hardware event for October 26 – The invitations are out: Microsoft will hold its Fall hardware launch on Oct. 26 in New York City. Expect Windows 10, Surface, and some gaming news.

Oracle says it’ll walk from NetSuite deal if shareholders balk – T. Rowe Price is one institutional shareholder that wants a higher price for NetSuite. Oracle is extending its tender offer for NetSuite until November 4, or it’ll walk.

Tesla to unveil “unexpected” new product October 17 – Tesla will unveil something on Monday October 17, according CEO and founder Elon Musk. It’ll be a new product, he said in a Tweet on Sunday, which will be “unexpected by most,” and which will be separate from a Tesla/SolarCity product unveiling on the 28th. Musk previously teased the October 28 event, saying it would include the unveiling of joint products from both the electric car and the solar energy companies, including a solar roof, along with an integrated second generation of the Tesla Powerwall energy storage solution, and a Tesla EV charger.

Games and Entertainment:

Halloween is coming! Stream these gems to get an early start on your monster mash – Here’s a fine collection of chilling monster and ghost movie recommendations, as well as a few favorites for the non-witching hour.

Gears of War 4 (PC) review: Passing the torch – The long time Xbox flagship finally lands on PCs.


EVE: Valkyrie arrives for PlayStation VR on October 13 – CCP Games has announced that EVE: Valkyrie will be available for the PlayStation VR starting on October 13. Following that launch, the studio will hold a double experience points weekend from October 14 to October 17, giving existing players and those new to the game the opportunity to level up quickly. The double experience points will be available to PC gamers, as well, not just those playing the PS VR version of the title.

Off Topic (Sort of):

6 biological strategies to help your business last for 100 years – Businesses are disappearing faster today than ever before. Here are some resilience and adaptivity tricks you can adopt from biology to help your business achieve long-term success.

Is sitting really the new smoking? An in-depth discussion with the experts – A new advisory from the American Heart Association reveals that anyone who sits for hours each day is at risk of developing a variety of health issues. Find out just how dangerous it can be.

Electronic stick-on notes make paper Post-its obsolete – Post-it and other sticky notes that you can quickly scribble a note on are great, and that’s probably why they’re not obsolete yet. Yes, you can set a reminder on your phone or tablet; it’s easy to sweep those notifications away, though, and they’re just not the same as a piece of yellow paper on your display or fridge. This could all change soon enough, though, thanks to the recent showcasing of an electronic sticky note powered by solar.

Something to think about:

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

–      Charles Mackay

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

FCC Moves to Let You Control How ISPs Use Your Data – FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today formally circulated a proposal intended to give Internet users more control over how ISPs use their personal information.

ISPs are “collecting information about us every time we go online,” Wheeler said in a blog post. “The problem is, there are currently no rules in place outlining how ISPs may use and share their customers’ personal information.”

Wheeler first floated a plan for stricter oversight of ISP customer data in March, and today’s proposal takes into account the public comments the agency has received on the subject since then.

“Based on the extensive feedback we’ve received, I am proposing new rules to provide consumers increased choice, transparency and security online. I have shared this proposal with my colleagues and the full Commission will consider these proposed privacy rules at our upcoming monthly meeting on October 27,” Wheeler said.

Probe cops’ Stingray phone masts, senators tell US comms watchdog – A group of US Senators has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate concerns that police stingray devices are causing illegally high levels of interference to wireless networks.

In a letter addressed to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Senators Bernie Sanders (I‑VT), Ron Wyden (D‑OR), Al Franken (D‑MN), Sherrod Brown (D‑OH), Elizabeth Warren (D‑MA), Ed Markey (D‑MA), Jeff Merkley (D‑OR), Tammy Baldwin (D‑WI), Tom Udall (D‑NM), Chris Coons (D‑DE), and Martin Heinrich (D‑NM) all asked the commission to determine whether the use of the phone tower simulators is preventing local communities from being able to properly use their phones.

The concern, say the senators, is that by relying on Stingrays for long-term surveillance, police are violating FCC provisions on harmful radio interference.

“Reliable access to telecommunications services is vital to Americans’ ability to communicate and successfully engage in today’s economy, and it is the FCC’s responsibility to ensure that communications services are available to Americans of all backgrounds,” the letter reads.

The interference issue has been noted in the past by community groups. Because Stingrays impersonate functioning cell phone towers, nearby devices – both those of the targeted individuals and law-abiding citizens – connect to the fake towers. This, critics argue, can create a service disruption when the fake towers are used for a prolonged period.

The senators go on to note that minority communities in particular are suffering from the problem, as police have been more likely to use stingrays in those areas.

Thanks To Encryption, Governments Need Companies Like Yahoo To Spy on Users – Last year, the US government asked Yahoo to scan all its customers emails to look for the digital “signature” of certain method of communication used by a terrorist group.

The secret scanning tool rocked the tech world and that of privacy and anti-surveillance activists this week, shocked by how broad the request was, and the fact that it had kept under wraps. Until Reuters reported its existence this week, the tool remained a secret not just to the public, but also to most people at Yahoo, including the security team, which caught it and thought it was a sophisticated and dangerous piece of malware installed by hackers, as reported by Motherboard on Friday.

In an age where the FBI asked Apple to unlock the iPhone of a dead terrorist, and countless top secret documents revealed the vast surveillance powers of the NSA, asking Yahoo to use a scanning tool that former employees defined as a “buggy” and a “poorly designed” “backdoor” or “rootkit,” was an unusual request as it wasn’t targeted—Yahoo was essentially looking through the whole haystack looking for a few needles—and the company apparently didn’t fight back.

But such a request is a perfect example of how the rise of encryption technologies have changed the face of government surveillance. Before large tech companies such as Google and Yahoo turned on default encryption across their services, including email—in the process protecting their customers data as it travelled from their computers to the company’s servers, as well as when the data travelled through the internet—the NSA could’ve gone through users’ data without having to knock on Yahoo’s door.


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4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 10, 2016

  1. Rocco

    Hey Bill,
    Thanks for continuing to post the news. It’s always a pleasure to read what you post

  2. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    My Google Nexus 5 phone took to switching off randomly and with increasing frequency, which was not cured by a factory reset. I was looking forward eagerly to the new Google phone launch, when I became aware of the OnePlus3. The many reviews I read sang its praises to such an extent that I decided to give it a try. So far I’m delighted, particularly in view of the price point of the Google Pixel XL.

    For £329 (would have been £309 pre Brexit) I get a quality aluminium and gorilla glass build, 6Gb RAM, 64Gb storage (Pixel goes from 32Gb straight to 128Gb), 16Mp camera, Snapdragon 820 processor, AMOLED display, dual SIM, Dash charging (full charge in 1 hour), fingerprint sensor, NFC and as near to stock Android as you can get outside Google’s own devices.

    Considering it is less than half the price of the Pixel XL, what’s not to love?

    Kind regards,

    • John, I’m officially jealous- what a bargain! 🙂

      Looking at the specs, its mind blowing to think that you are describing a phone. Despite how long I’ve been around (or, maybe because of it), I continue to react like a newbie when presented with the latest tech and gadgets.

      Delighted to hear from you John. 🙂