Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 17, 2016

It’s a world wide web of lies (but facts strike back);  How to Clean Up Windows 10 With the Refresh Windows Tool;  Chromebooks: The smart person’s guide;  Windows 10 tip: Pin your favorite folders to the Start menu;  5 great Android app alternatives to Gmail;  These 10 widgets belong on your iPhone’s lock screen;  WTF is a container?  Browse faster and safer with Brave – and much more news you need to know.

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It’s a world wide web of lies (but facts strike back) – The internet is overrun by urban legends, hoaxes and politicians who make up their own ‘facts.’ Here’s help.

How to Clean Up Windows 10 With the Refresh Windows Tool – Microsoft’s Refresh Windows tool can rid your Windows 10 PC of junkware and return it to a clean, pristine state.

Windows 10 tip: Pin your favorite folders to the Start menu – Windows 10 includes a well-hidden option that gives you quick access to common folders. This secret shortcut list appears on the left of the Start menu. Here’s how to customize that list.

Chromebooks: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about Google’s Chromebooks and Chrome OS.

The Best Backup Software of 2016 – Nobody likes taking the time and effort required to back up their PC’s system, document, and media files, but doing so can save you a world of hurt. These apps can take care of it for you.

These 10 widgets belong on your iPhone’s lock screen – Along with many of Apple’s stock apps, third-party apps are allowed widgets on the lock screen. Options abound; I tried many. After roughly a month with iOS 10, here are the 10 widgets that currently occupy a spot on my iPhone.

Five must-have iOS apps for freelancers, independent contractors, and the self-employed – Independent people know that every penny, mile, and minute on a project count. Here are five apps for iOS that make working solo just a bit easier.

Browse faster and safer with Brave – The new Brave browser automatically blocks ads and trackers, making it faster and safer than your current browser.

Jim Hillier: Create Customized Word Cloud Art for Free – Word clouds are a fun and innovative way to transform a collection of ordinary words into an illustration. It works by using combinations of font sizes and colors to arrange a group of words into an image which can then be used to illustrate a website, letterhead, signature, logo, homework, whatever. No specialized software required – Tagul Word Cloud Art is a website which allows you to create your own fully customized word cloud online for free (personal use only). Simply visit, click the CREATE NOW button, and away you go.

The one mistake people make when asking for tech support – If you’re ever seeking tech help for computer issues, here are some tips: Be specific, take screenshots, explain what is happening and not what you think is happening.Whether you’re asking a tech-savvy friend (like me!) for advice or calling AppleCare support or the Geek Squad, using this tip will get you the help you need in the fastest way possible. So what do I mean by “be specific”?

How to use Windows PowerShell: A beginner’s guide – PowerShell is an enormous addition to the Windows toolbox, and it can provoke a bit of fear given that enormity. Is it a scripting language, a command shell, a floor wax? Do you have to link a cmdlet with an instantiated .Net class to run with providers? And why do all the support docs talk about administrators—do I have to be a professional Windows admin to make use of it? Relax. PowerShell is powerful, but it needn’t be intimidating. The following guide is aimed at those who have run a Windows command or two or jimmied a batch file. Consider it a step-by-step transformation from PowerShell curious to PowerShell capable.

Windows 10 Is Still Free – July 29th has come and gone. That was the anniversary of the official Windows 10 release in 2015 and this year marked the day that Windows 10 would no longer be available as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8.x systems. Well, I’ve got news for you—you can still get Windows 10 at no cost if you can satisfy certain requirements. There is no guarantee that any of the following methods will remain applicable for any specific amount of time. One may work today and not work tomorrow.

5 great Android app alternatives to Gmail – Gmail is great, but there are several other solid alternatives for consolidating all your email accounts into one app.

Yahoo email forwarding is back – The company caught major flak for disabling automatic forwarding after the revelation of a major data breach.

WTF is a container? – You can’t go to a developer conference today and not hear about software containers: Docker, Kubernetes, Mesos and a bunch of other names with a nautical ring to them. Microsoft, Google, Amazon and everybody else seems to have jumped on this bandwagon in the last year or so, but why is everybody so excited about this stuff? To understand why containers are such a big deal, let’s think about physical containers for a moment.


Microsoft: ‘Apple can no more secure your iPhone than Google can secure Android’ – Given the recent discovery of the Trident malware for iPhones, Microsoft thinks it’s time businesses rethought their unwavering trust in iOS as a controlled ecosystem.

Your Android smartphone might still be vulnerable to ancient Ghost Push Trojan – Researchers have warned that over half of Android devices are still susceptible to Ghost Push malware.

Android Security Bulletin October 2016: What you need to know – For the first time in a long time, there are zero Critical issues affecting the MediaServer in the Android Security Bulletin. Get the highlights of the October 2016 bulletin.

Mirai DDoS botnet powers up, infects Sierra Wireless gateways – Sierra Wireless is warning customers to change their default access credentials on AirLink gateway products after discovering the wireless products are being compromised by Mirai malware. Mirai, a malware and botnet combination recently publicized after a 620 Gbps distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on the prominent security blog Krebs on Security, enslaves thousands — if not millions — of vulnerable Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including DVRs, CCTV surveillance cameras, and routers. Now, it seems the malware’s operators could be scanning the web for Sierra Wireless gateway devices vulnerable to exploit.

Company News:

Yahoo shies away from investor questions, cancels earnings call – We can only speculate the unusual move has something to do with the firm’s security breach.

Salesforce officially walks away from Twitter acquisition for real this time – Salesforce wants to make things super clear for everyone — no, the company won’t buy Twitter. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff gave an interview to the FT and said that the company ruled out the acquisition. “In this case we’ve walked away. It wasn’t the right fit for us,” Benioff told the FT. If you were looking for an official confirmation, it can’t get more official than that.

40 percent now say they won’t buy another Samsung phone – My default is generally not to believe what people tell me. It makes for lovely surprises and relatively few disappointments. I therefore wonder about a new survey that suggests a large proportion of Samsung customers will never buy another Samsung phone again. Or at least they say they won’t. Conducted with 1,000 people by e-commerce platform Branding Brand, the survey mined respondents’ feelings on October 11 and 12. A fulsome 40 percent said they were done with Samsung phones, after the company managed to turn a problem into a debacle.

Peter Thiel is putting his money on Donald Trump – The PayPal cofounder and Silicon Valley billionaire is getting ready to invest $1.25 million in the Republican candidate’s campaign for president, the New York Times reported Sunday. Thiel will make the donation in a series of super PAC contributions, the Times reported, citing an anonymous source described as close to the billionaire. Representatives for Thiel and Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Games and Entertainment:

Netflix said to offer offline viewing before the year’s end – As the competition between streaming video services continues to heat up, one of the distinguishing features is quickly turning out to be offline viewing, or the ability for users to temporarily download media for watching in situations where an internet connection isn’t available, such as along airplane flights. Netflix, the reigning king of streaming video, has long balked at offline viewing, with CEO Reed Hastings previously stating that it was “never going to happen.” However, we’re hearing from more sources that things could soon change.

‘Shadow Warrior 2’ Is One of the Dumbest, Best Games of the Year – Shadow Warrior 2 is one of the dumbest, most entertaining games I’ve played this year. Earlier this year, Doom proved that there’s a lot to be gained by stripping the first-person shooter genre back to its 90s-era form, which focuses on constant movement and constant shooting and barely anything else. Story? Go read a book. Puzzles? No thanks, nerds. Shadow Warrior 2 doubles-down on that design philosophy. It’s as if Polish developer Flying Hog Games asked what if it made a game with psychopathic focus on shooting and killing things, realized that it wasn’t the most inspiring idea, and did it anyway.


Shadow Warrior 2 developers say DRM is a waste of time – In our recent review, we praised Shadow Warrior 2 for its varied weapons, random level generation, and over-the-top shooting. Apparently, the game has another feature that’s sure to draw praise from many gamers: a complete lack of piracy protection or digital rights management, which the developers apparently think is a waste of time. “We don’t support piracy, but currently there isn’t a good way to stop it without hurting our customers,” Flying Wild Hog developer Krzysztof “KriS” Narkowicz wrote on the game’s Steam forum (in response to a question about trying to force potential pirates to purchase the game instead). “Denuvo means we would have to spend money for making a worse version for our legit customers. It’s like this FBI warning screen on legit movies.”

18 Slick Xbox One Tips and Tricks – You probably have an Xbox One of your own (why else did you click into this story) and wonder how you can squeeze every last drop of digital delight out of the console. That’s why we put together this list of Xbone (does anyone call the console that but me?) features you may be missing out on.

Future Samsung TVs will include Steam Link streaming game support – Samsung has announced it will integrate Steam Link support in future televisions, improving support for PC gaming. For those of you who aren’t aware, Steam Link is a $50 product from Valve that plugs into your television and attaches to your home network (wired networking is strongly recommended). It scans for computers already on your network, joins them, and can stream games directly from your PC to your living room television. This works particularly well if you want to game on the couch via controller, though it obviously depends on how well the title supports that control scheme.

Off Topic (Sort of):

USA! USA! Canadians give Americans an online pat on the back – This election season has been tough on Americans, what with the contentious debates, disturbing news stories, and friendships divided along party lines. Could almost be enough to give a young country an insecurity complex. But our neighbors to the north have come to the rescue. The Garden, a creative agency based in Toronto, decided to pass on some much-needed praise to Canada’s southern neighbor with its Tell America It’s Great initiative

22,000 London police to be issued body cameras – More than 22,000 police officers in London will be issued body cameras by summer 2016. The wide-scale deployment of the devices follows years of trials and evaluations, with the UK’s police force claiming that the cameras will help deliver “speedier justice for victims.” The cameras are built by Taser, worn on the front of an officer’s uniform, and activated manually. Police have to inform members of the public when they turn the camera on “as soon as practical,” with a red light on the front of the device turning on when in use. When returned to its charging dock, the camera automatically uploads its footage to a police server. If police don’t expressly ask to retain the footage for evidence then it’s deleted in 31 days. Anyone can request to see footage taken of them by the cameras under data protection laws.

Social winners and losers in the US Presidential debates – The two US Presidential debates have caused a lot of online activity and some huge spikes in searches and commentary. Here is a look at what was happening online as Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump discussed the issues.

Thanks to Facebook, voter registrations surge – Facebook dove into the voter registration process this fall. On Sept. 23, Facebook sent reminders to its U.S. users, who were at least 18 years old, about registering to vote. The effort, which ran through Sept. 26, provided a link to voter registration sites at the top of Facebook’s News Feed. According to Padilla, it caused a “major surge” in online voter registrations in California.

Google adds ballot information to search results – Google is again stepping up its efforts to provide U.S. voters with all the information they need ahead of Election Day with the addition of ballot information to Google Search results. Web users who search for a query like “who’s on my ballot,” will now be presented with detailed information about the candidates, as well as information on your own state’s referenda.

Cocaine Bust Shows How Close the Dark Web and Street Crime Really Are – When police arrested Benjamin Bricker at his house in Lubbock, Texas in June, they found cocaine, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, a shotgun, counterfeit currency, and indications of a modest drug-peddling operation. Those discoveries might not really have stood out by themselves, but what made Bricker’s case different is that investigators suspected he purchased drugs from the so-called dark web, to then sell for a profit on the street. Although academic research has found that much of the dark web drug trade is likely between vendors rather than sold directly to users, it’s not often that a case so starkly demonstrates the close relationship between marketplaces on the Tor network and more traditional drug crime.

Every day carry pocket tools and gadgets – I do like to have a few tools and gadgets with me to help me fix things and otherwise get things done during the day. Here’s my every day carry (EDC) pocket gear. I always like to have a decent multitool, a pen, and a flashlight with me at all times, as well as a charging cable and a portable power pack (especially if I’m going to be away from a mains outlet for a while).

The 24 deadliest animals on Earth, ranked – The prospect of being fatally attacked by an animal is a gruesome one, but do you know which species are most likely to kill you? We’ve culled data from sources ranging from the Gates Foundation to National Geographic to provide a comprehensive list of the 24 creatures that kill the most humans each year.

Something to think about:

“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.”

–      Joseph Heller – Catch-22

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

U.S. lawmakers want answers on Yahoo email surveillance – A bipartisan group of 48 U.S. lawmakers wants two government agencies to explain a surveillance program in which Yahoo reportedly scanned all the messages of its email users on behalf of the FBI.

After recent news reports of the email scanning program, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence need to brief Congress about the efforts, the lawmakers said in a letter to the two agencies.

The first news reports about the program contained “conflicting reports about which legal authority was used” for the email scans, said the letter, organized by Representatives Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican, and Ted Lieu, a California Democrat.

“There is a significant confusion regarding the existence and nature of the program described by these reports and the legal questions implicated by the accuracy of specific details,” the letter added.

The DOJ and ODNI should provide a briefing to lawmakers “as soon as possible … to resolve the issues raised by these reports,” the letter said.

US renews fight for the right to seize content from the world’s servers – The US Department of Justice isn’t giving up its fight to access content stored in overseas servers. Federal prosecutors in New York late Thursday asked a federal appeals court to reconsider its July decision that allowed Microsoft to successfully claim that authorities had no legal right to access data stored on its servers outside the country, even with a warrant from a federal judge.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that federal law, notably the Stored Communications Act, allows US authorities to seize content in US-based servers, but not in overseas servers—in this case, Dublin, Ireland.

The dispute is an outgrowth of a years-long battle over whether Microsoft must hand over e-mails to New York prosecutors in a narcotics investigation. But the case has broader implications far beyond the drug probe. The case touches on consumer privacy, international relations, and the government’s desire to investigate criminal activity.

The government said (PDF) the decision by the appellate court, one stop short of the US Supreme Court, was “unmoored from any precedent.” Federal prosecutors urged the court to reconsider its decision and said Microsoft doesn’t have the legal right to stand up for one of its e-mail customers. The decision by Microsoft to do so, the government said, was “profit-driven.”

George Orwell never dreamed of advertising as invasive as Yahoo’s proposal – Yahoo wants to take advertising to the next level—that is, the Orwellian level—bombarding people in public places with targeted advertising served up by the surveillance society. That’s according to a Yahoo patent application recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office. According to Yahoo, the time has come to move outdoor and public-facing advertising into the digital age—and get there by deploying more intrusive techniques than how it’s now done online.

Introducing “Smart Billboards,” as Yahoo calls them. These digital billboards—which Yahoo envisions being placed along freeways and in bars, airports, planes, ferries, buses, trains, and other public spaces—might rely on video cameras, satellites, drones, microphones, motion detectors, and “biometric sensors” such as fingerprint, retinal, and facial recognition devices. Combined, these “sensor systems,” as Yahoo calls them, analyze their surroundings to determine a common theme to serve up ads, in what Yahoo describes as “grouplization.”

Yahoo’s patent proposal notes that “the sources of data and information that may be used to enable the techniques described herein are virtually limitless.”

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