Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 31, 2016

5 reasons why your laptop is slow;  The IoT security doomsday is lurking, but we cannot talk about it properly;  WTF is the dark web?  6 smart settings to make your Android phone anticipate your needs;  22 Cool Tricks and Secret Gems Inside Facebook Messenger;  How to Launch Windows Without Entering a Password;  How To Clean Boot Windows;  How to Get Windows XP’s Quick Launch Bar In Windows 10 – – and much more news you need to know.

The IoT security doomsday is lurking, but we cannot talk about it properly – Something needs to be done to stop the IoT turning into the IoDDoS, but communication with lay people is all but impossible.

5 reasons why your laptop is slow – If your old laptop is starting to show its age, there can be any number of issues affecting its performance. Here are five likely culprits for why your laptop is running so frustratingly slow and five solutions to return it to its former glory.

6 smart settings to make your Android phone anticipate your needs – There’s no denying that our smartphones have made our lives so much easier, putting our contacts and schedules, our driving directions, the whole internet, right at our fingertips. But if you’re using an Android phone you might be leaving even more convenience on the table. There are a bunch of super-smart settings in Nougat and Google Now that’ll make your Android device feel like it’s 10 steps ahead of you.

22 Cool Tricks and Secret Gems Inside Facebook Messenger – Facebook’s standalone messaging platform, the aptly named Facebook Messenger, has become almost as popular as Facebook itself. As of July, Messenger can boast 1 billion monthly users. That’s pretty impressive. But Zuck & Co. appear to have far bigger plans for Messenger than just being Facebook’s chatty kid sibling. In recent months, Facebook has packed a lot of cool (and somewhat unexpected) functionality into Messenger and has hinted at a lot more to come—particularly in the realms of AI and commerce. It seems that Facebook, Inc. is grooming Messenger to become an all-in-one productivity/communication platform.

Skype for Business comes to Mac, Skype iOS gets Siri messaging support – Microsoft’s messaging and video calling platform Skype has released two updates heading into the weekend, one each for the Mac and iOS. The first isn’t technically an update, but a brand-new app for the desktop: Skype for Business, the platform’s service that focuses more on inter-office communication and productivity, along with heavy Office integration. The second is an update the regular Skype app on iOS, which introduces the ability to send messages by dictating them to Siri.

Min Vid Test Pilot experiment gives Firefox a YouTube picture-in-picture mode – Firefox has a Test Pilot experiment that hardcore YouTube fans will want to grab right away. The new experiment is called Min Vid, and it allows users to watch YouTube videos in a “picture-in-picture” mode. That way you can continue to browse and get work done while still watching your video. But that doesn’t even describe the half of it. Mozilla’s experimental feature places a web-based persistent video player on your desktop that is “always on top” no matter which app or program you’re using. It’s a really great experiment worth trying out for anyone who likes to run a video while doing other things on their PC.

Jim Hillier: How To Clean Boot Windows – You may have read about using Clean Boot to help with diagnosing issues, especially recently in reference to installing the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, but do you know how to Clean Boot and what it actually does? Clean Booting Windows involves disabling all third party startups and services and is a recognized method to help ensure a major upgrade installation completes successfully. Starting Windows in a Clean Boot state is a very simple process which has remained pretty much the same throughout all recent Windows versions, with just a slight variation when startup management was moved from the System Configuration utility in Windows 7 to Task Manager in Windows 8.1 and 10.

How to Launch Windows Without Entering a Password – As long as you feel secure without the protection, you can easily dodge that Windows log-in password.

How to add Google Drive folder shortcuts to your Android homescreen – If you’d like to have home shortcuts to various Google Drive folders on your Android homescreen, check out how to do it.

How to customize Windows 10 colors – You can tweak the built-in Windows 10 color palette quite easily; you just have to know where to look!

How to Get Windows XP’s Quick Launch Bar In Windows 10 – The beloved Quick Launch Bar from Windows XP lives on in Windows 10, providing easy access to specific folders and files from the taskbar. Here’s how to get it.

How to get KeepPass password protection on Android with Keepass2Android – If you’re looking for a best-in-breed password safe for Android, look no further than Keepass2Android.

Here’s how the MacBook Pro stacks up against the PC – If you had to put a word to Apple’s first big MacBook reveal in, well, years, it would have to be meh. Sure, you think I’m just throwing shade at Apple because I’m the original hater, but frankly I expected more after four years of neglecting the MacBook Pro lineup. I really expected Apple to knock it out of the park and show the PC world the bottom of its sneakers as it raced ahead. But no. Apple has not raised the bar. Worse, in plenty of metrics, the PC remains ahead. Don’t believe me? Let’s break it down.

Giphy to Offer Tool for Converting Vines to GIFs – Vine is going away, but your Vines—six-second looping videos that have attracted a faithful Internet following—are not. The Twitter-owned company already announced that the clips will continue to live on the web even after its mobile app is discontinued, and soon you’ll also be able to turn them into GIFs. That’s thanks to Giphy, which today announced it is working on a conversion tool for Vine that will be launching “very soon.” All that’s required is a Vine account, Giphy wrote in a blog post on Friday, although it’s unclear whether you’ll import Vines from the app or the web. If it’s the latter case, you should be able to convert your Vines to GIFs indefinitely, even after the Vine app shuts down.

Go PC! 5 killer MacBook Pro alternatives for disappointed Apple fans – Looking for an alternative to Apple’s new MacBook Pro? Check out these pretty, powerful PC laptops.

Free online ‘Web Bloat Scores’ encourage overweight pages to slim down – Most of today’s web pages are overweight, but a free service can provide a Web Bloat Score that’s more than just the raw download size. And, of course, cutting WebBS leads to faster downloads and happier users.

Best color LED smart bulbs – Today’s color-tunable bulbs are brighter and easier to control than ever, but choosing the right one for your environment remains a challenge.

Security:

Watch The FBI’s Hilariously Overacted Cybersecurity PSAs – Scared of being hacked? Have no fear, Americans, the FBI is here to help. Earlier this week, the agency released a collection of amazing, hilariously overacted cybersecurity public service announcements on YouTube. Citizens, wheel the big TV cart into your conference room and get ready to learn how to be a productive denizen of the internet. In all fairness, the FBI’s cybersecurity tips are actually pretty sound advice.

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New Annoying Ransomware Forces Victims to Take Online Surveys – Ransomware, as it’s called, is so lucrative that countless different strains have popped up in the last couple of years. Some are really effective ones, and some are just plain weird. Now, someone is making particularly annoying new type of ransomware. Instead of asking infected users for money, it forces them to fill out tedious online surveys. This new ransomware strain is apparently still in development, and hasn’t infected anyone yet, according to the blog Bleeping Computer, which first wrote about the ransomware on Thursday, after it was discovered by GData security researcher Karsten Hahn.

130 serious Firefox holes plugged this year – The browser-backing outfit announced the statistics in a post covering its bug bounty program and broader information security efforts. More than 500 million users ran Firefox at the close of 2015. It’s since become the world’s second-most-used browser. Google Chrome dominates the browser rankings soaking up 50 percent of all browser usage. Mozilla security head Richard Barnes says shuttering the serious bugs is critical for the security of the web.

Lost thumb drives bedevil U.S. banking agency – A U.S. banking regulator says an employee downloaded a large amount of data from its computer system a week before he retired and is now unable to locate the thumb drives he stored it on. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is a part of the Department of the Treasury, said the loss represented “a major information security incident” as it reported the case to Congress on Friday. The data was taken in November 2015, but its loss was only discovered in September this year as the agency reviewed downloads to removable media devices in the last two years.

Video: 5 things to know about ethical hacking – Tom Merritt explains how white hat hackers keep systems safe and secure from their bad guy counterparts.

Company News:

Amazon Prime arrives in China – Amazon Prime has arrived in China as of today, and it works more or less the same way it does in the U.S. Customers in China can subscribe to a year of Prime for the equivalent of $28 USD during a promotional period, with the regular price being $57 USD. With this comes free shipping, including on imports from the Amazon Global Store. With this new business move, Amazon takes on Alibaba and other competitors.

Mozilla promises a next-gen Firefox engine that will deliver huge improvements – Mozilla says the new Project Quantum engine at the heart of its Mozilla web browser will be “blazing fast,” both for web browsing as well as apps.

UK court rules Uber drivers are employees, not contractors – The ride-hailing service has long maintained its drivers are independent contractors. In a decision that could majorly impact the gig economy, British judges disagree.

Facebook tried to buy Asian Snapchat clone Snow – Here’s fuel to the fire for those who believe that Facebook will buy anything that looks, smells or moves like Snapchat. The U.S. social networking giant this summer made an unsuccessful bid to acquire Snow, a Snapchat-like service from Naver, the $25 billion-valued Korean firm behind chat app Line, a source close to the company told TechCrunch.

Games and Entertainment:

Google is celebrating Halloween with an adorable, ghastly game – Google’s new doodle gets into the Halloween spirit a bit early this year with a browser game. This is a really clever game. Players disperse the ghosts by drawing the symbol hovering over their heads: A V and inverted V, horizontal and vertical lines, and lightning bolts. Players draw a heart to replenish their lives. The game takes place in five levels: the school’s library, cafeteria, a classroom, the gym, and the roof, each with their own boss. As each level progresses, the ghosts come with even more complicated strings of symbols, which you have to cast in the right order to make them go away.

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Review: Civilization VI is a beautiful prance through history – This time it’s not just Civilization’s version of history that’s virtually spotless and free of pesky complications. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is a nearly spotless game—freer of the menu-diving, micromanagement, and spreadsheet reading than just about any turn-based 4X strategy game I’ve yet played. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at exploring, expanding, exploiting, and exterminating ahistorical societies, but were always too afraid of numbers to give Civ a shot, there’s never been a better time to dive in. Newcomers will also be spared the trouble of un-learning all the franchise lessons that Civ 6 throws out of the series’ window. Civ 6 is both the easiest-on-the-eyes Civilization yet and the series’ biggest departure from tradition (among the mainline “numbered” games, that is).

Gears of War 4’s first free maps arrive on November 1 – Xbox One exclusive Gears of War 4 has been out for a few weeks now, and players, especially those that partake in the multiplayer modes, might be wondering when new maps will be released. Fortunately, Microsoft has just addressed that, revealing that the first two maps will be available for players starting in early November. GoW4 developer The Coalition has said that the legacy maps Checkout and Drydock will be the first additions to the third-person shooter’s multiplayer arena lineup. Players who have purchased the game’s Season Pass can start playing on the two maps on November 1st by visiting the early access Developer Playlist. Then on November 8th, the maps will be added to the general public playlists.

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Comparing Skyrim: Enhanced Edition with the classic version – Now that Skyrim: Enhanced Edition has hit shelves, plenty of people are going to be checking to see whether a five-year-old game is worth playing for the first time or generally good enough to justify a second playthrough. Special Edition is free if you own all of the Skyrim DLC and $39.99 if you don’t (the new game contains all previous DLC). If you already own the game, you can grab a pretty sweet upgrade for free. If you don’t, the $39.99 price tag isn’t terrible, but it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting when you buy a new version of a five-year-old title.

Off Topic (Sort of):

WTF is the dark web? – Maybe you heard your LinkedIn, Tumblr or Dropbox password was floating around there. Or maybe you read a news story about that guy who got busted for running Silk Road, that site that sold drugs and other illicit goods. Chances are, you’ve seen the words “dark web” splashed in a headline or heard them mentioned by a friend. But WTF is the dark web? How do you get there? And what makes it “dark”?

Horrible hacks, death robots, and kamikaze phones: Meet the scariest tech of the year – With Halloween just around the corner, what better way to mark the day than telling stories of wail and woe about the technology that wants to kill, terrify, or bring about the end of society as we know it. ZDNet’s bloggers, writers, and editors have come up with a list enough to scare the wits out of you. Robots that will murder you in the street. Cars that will drive you off this mortal coil. Phones that will blow up in your pocket (yes, we’re looking at you, Samsung). Why not ask your iPhone, “Siri, are you giving all of my data to the government?” See what she says. Boo! You weren’t expecting that now — were you? Let’s begin.

7 unexpected places you can hide a spare key – It’s always a good idea to have a spare key for your home. While it poses an obvious security threat, it can also help you gain entry to your home should you misplace your primary key. Not to mention, it can save you a costly locksmith call. It takes just a small amount of creativity and time to come up with a few good hiding places for spare keys around your home. Below are seven unusual places you can use for inspiration for hiding your spare key.

Tesla Powerwall 2 can power a 2-bedroom home for a full day – In addition to the new Solar Roof, Elon Musk has announced the arrival of the Powerwall 2, an update to Tesla’s original Powerwall offering. The Powerwall 2 is a vital component for powering your home using the sun, particularly with one of the new solar roofs. This residential home battery will power a two bedroom home, including its lights and appliances, for a full day.

New ‘social impact scoring system’ xocial spurs a movement of competitive kindness – There is a new online community that calculates and curates what it calls “competitive kindness” to help mere mortals out-nice each other, and make the world a better place. Optimistic online community xocial (pronounced soh-shuhl) gives cause-conscious and otherwise kind-hearted individuals and companies the ability to do good, see good, feel good, and measure good. The platform connects people, businesses, and organizations to causes they care about. It also inspires them to take action, and measures the impact of their efforts. The idea is to compete to “out nice” each other. The tool calculates how nice they are (their social impact) and ranks them in a scoring system.

Spambots are impersonating teens to spread pro-Trump tweets – A new Twitter campaign is impersonating American teens, and using their likenesses to spread right-wing propaganda. The pattern was identified by Nicole Flotteron, who analyzes Twitter activity at Mercury LLC, after a friend fell victim to the scheme. But while Flotteron is used to spotting spam, she says this is something different. “They’re pushing pro-Trump propaganda,” Flotteron told The Verge. “There are a lot of disturbing things that happen on Twitter, but I’ve never seen something like this.”

The reasons why Twitter won’t let anyone save Vine – There are so many ways Twitter could end up looking like a fool if it gave up control of Vine that it would rather bury the app than sell it. There’s little to gain and a lot to lose. So in the spirit of Vine, I’m going to break down the reasoning into 6-second snippets of text:

Something to think about:

“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.”

–      Khalil Gibran

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Facebook lets advertisers exclude users by race – Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers.

Facebook’s ad platform now guesses at your race based on your behavior

That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays.

The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.

Here is a screenshot of a housing ad that we purchased from Facebook’s self-service advertising portal:

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The ad we purchased was targeted to Facebook members who were house hunting and excluded anyone with an “affinity” for African-American, Asian-American, or Hispanic people. (Here’s the ad itself.)

When we showed Facebook’s racial exclusion options to a prominent civil rights lawyer John Relman, he gasped and said, “This is horrifying. This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”

WhatsApp-Facebook privacy U-turn now being probed by EU data watchdog – A seismic shift in privacy policy by messaging app WhatsApp this summer, when it said it would begin sharing user data with parent company Facebook including for ad targeting, has now attracted the attention of European’s data protection watchdog group, the Article 29 Working Party.

The WP29 group wrote to WhatsApp founder Jan Koum yesterday, setting out its concerns about the privacy policy U-turn — including how the shift was communicated to users.

“The Article 29 Working Party (WP29) has serious concerns regarding the manner in which the information relating to the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy was provided to users and consequently about the validity of the users’ consent,” it writes.

“WP29 also questions the effectiveness of control mechanisms offered to users to exercise their rights and the effects that the data sharing will have on people that are not a user of any other service within the Facebook family of companies.”

It adds that its various members, so basically all the national DPAs of EU Member States, will “act in a coordinated way” to target any problems they identify, with a dedicated working group for enforcement actions set to address the WhatsApp issue specifically.

The letter asks WhatsApp for details of the specific data being shared — including data categories, source and recipients, and the effects of the data transfer on users and on “potential third persons” — so the working group can assess whether changes are necessary to ensure legal compliance.

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