Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – November 7, 2016

4 things to know about Black Friday;  The Top Black Friday Deals Sites;   4 ways to get things done faster with Cortana;  You will soon be able to order McDonalds from your smartphone;  Microsoft’s popping up ads from the Windows 10 toolbar;  Over one billion installs of apps using OAuth 2.0 can be remotely hijacked;  What about the personal data on those millions of recalled Note7s?  The best budget earbuds and headphones for every need;  35 great PC games for Linux and Steam Machines;  3 handy apps for iOS-to-Android switchers – and much more news you need to know.

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Here we go again: Microsoft’s popping up ads from the Windows 10 toolbar – Microsoft appears to be sneakily reinstating Windows 10 ads without explicit user permission. Weren’t we done with all this?

Jim Hillier: Windows 10’s ‘Quick Assist’ Built-in Remote Access App – If you’re the unofficial tech support for your circle of family and are running Windows 10 Anniversary Update, you’ll surely appreciate the new built-in remote access program called Quick Assist. Quick Assist allows you to remotely access any computer also running Windows 10 1607 (Anniversary Update), working much along the same lines as third party programs such as LogMeIn and TeamViewer.

3 inexpensive steps to secure IoT – The attack against Dyn had a sustained rate of 620Gbps. The result was the outage of several web services due to the inability to perform DNS resolution. According to security experts, the botnet was composed mainly of compromised IoT devices. Unsecured IoT devices are a treasure trove for botnet operators. It’s the responsibility of IT managers to ensure these devices remain protected against botnet enlistment. IT security vendors offer expensive protection products. Alternatively, here are three simple steps to protect your enterprise IoT against compromise, even if you have a limited budget.

4 ways to get things done faster with Cortana – You can have Cortana compose and send emails, capture your notes, and more with these tips.

Basketball without cable: A cord-cutter’s guide to the NBA – Cord cutters can get their fill of big nationally televised games, but local broadcasts are still left on the bench.

How to Control Your Battery Usage in Windows 10 – Uh oh, the battery charge on your Windows 10 laptop is down to 10 percent, and there’s no AC outlet in sight. What can you do? Well, you want to squeeze as much as you can out of your current battery charge before it loses all its juice. Let’s look at how different settings in Windows 10 can coax your laptop to last longer on a single charge.

Best USB-C battery packs: We review the best portable batteries for your phone or tablet – Battery cases and portable battery backs are slowly creeping into the must-have accessory column for many users, especially those who frequently travel. With Amazon seemingly overrun by inexpensive battery packs, each one claiming faster charging and better efficiency than the next, it’s hard to know just what you are getting. So we went out, purchased fancy testing equipment, and gathered batteries priced high and low, with capacities all over the place.

Easy iPhone wireless charging hack – Tired of waiting for Apple to add wireless charging to the iPhone? Here’s how you can do it yourself, no screwdrivers or soldering irons required.

3 handy apps for iOS-to-Android switchers – Switching from iOS to Android can mean leaving some things behind. If you’re worried about losing features like Find My Friends and iMessage’s desktop abilities, these helpful Android apps can bridge the gap.

5 Simple Steps for Getting Started With Gantt Charts – Whether you’re building a deck on your house, building a new corporate website, or launching a rocket into space, Gantt charts let see you see exactly how to get your project done.

5 terminal commands every Linux newbie should know – A graphical user interface makes modern computing more enjoyable and easier to use the majority of the time. After all, placing an Amazon order using a text-mode browser in a terminal sounds like an over-enthusiastic exercise in masochism. We like our GUIs and graphical browsers, but there are times when you’ll find yourself in the world of the command line. Like any new tool, knowing a few basics can keep your blood pressure in check when a GUI fails to start, or you need to perform maintenance. For starters, here are five commands you should become comfortable with as a Linux user.

The Top Black Friday Deals Sites – Cash-strapped shoppers looking for the best deals should check out these online destinations.

4 things to know about Black Friday – As CNET’s resident Cheapskate, it falls to me to give you a Black Friday primer, to share the secrets of this big day while simultaneously helping you avoid the hype. With that in mind, here are four things you should know about BF:

The best budget earbuds and headphones for every need – A good pair of headphones doesn’t have to be an expensive pair of headphones. In the same way an expensive model may have subpar quality for the price, it’s possible to find inexpensive offerings with quality far above what you paid. Knowing where to look is half the battle, but we’ve done the hard work for you: here are a variety of inexpensive headphones to satisfy every user type, including athletes, children, and the frequent commuter.

WhatsApp ‘Status’ feature tipped as a Snapchat clone – WhatsApp is reportedly working on a new feature called ‘Status’ that works in much the same way as Snapchat. The feature was discovered in the most recent public beta version of WhatsApp for both iOS and Android. With it, users can post status updates in the form of photos and videos and share them with friends. The status updates expire and disappear after 24 hours, and can include things like text and doodles.

Understanding Hype, a live-streaming app packed with weird – The creators of Vine have a new gift for the Internet — and it’s called Hype. Hype is a live-streaming video app on iOS with wide-ranging creative freedom. Every broadcaster can layer a live video with multimedia, including photos, videos, animated GIFs, music, text and emojis. Anything can be moved around the screen and added or deleted during the live broadcast. The point of Hype is to use these tools to engage with a live audience and win subscribers. Like in other live-streaming apps, the audience can share comments in a chat window. But Hype takes it up a notch: If the broadcasters like a comment, they can pull it into the video, having it float above as a chat bubble.

The new 64-bit Orange Pi is a quad-core computer for $20 – Need a teeny tiny computer that can run Android or Linux? Only have $20? Well you’re in luck. When we first met the Orange Pi (get it?) the company was selling a nice Raspberry Pi clone for $15. Now they’re selling a souped up version with all the trimmings. The board includes an Ethernet port and three USB ports. It has 1GB of memory, H5 High Performance Quad-core 64-bit Cortex-A53, and a standalone graphics chip. It supports camera input as well as HDMI out and even has a physical power switch and IR blaster. In short it’s a mini computer that can probably play some games, display some HD video, and generally be used in all sorts of home-brew projects.

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Apple USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 prices cut amid MacBook Pro dongle outcry – Today Apple cut prices of USB-C accessories of all sorts, citing a need for legacy connections to older devices by professionals. The MacBook Pro is meant to be a professional notebook, and as most accessories have not yet moved to USB-C, dongles are needed. Apple suggests today that they’ve seen the need for this, and are therefore cutting costs to USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 peripherals throughout the Apple Store.

You will soon be able to order McDonalds from your smartphone – A company representative told Business Insider that the technology will initially roll out to the United States and several international markets next year, with upwards of 25,000 stores using system by 2018. The move would help the restaurant chain catch up with competitors such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Chick-fil-A, which have apps that allow customers to place their orders before they arrive at the store, and in some cases, pay directly through the app.

8 digital turntables give old records a modern spin – Wondering what to do about that pile of records that’s collecting dust in your attic or basement? With one of these turntables, your records — from Shostakovich to Black Sabbath — can live again. This new generation of record players can play 33⅓ rpm (also known as LP), 45 rpm and sometimes even 78 rpm records — and most can also turn your favorite old vinyl into crisp new digital files. Each of these eight record players has the usual spinning platter, tonearm and needle to deliver analog audio from the record’s grooves. But wait, there’s more: An analog-to-digital converter turns the record player’s audio signal into a digital file.

Top Tips for Preserving Your Photos – It’s easy to forget about the old ways of doing things. Rotary phones, cassette tapes, and film are all relics that seem alien to youth raised on smartphones, streaming music, and digital cameras. But many families have photo albums gathering dust on a shelf or locked away in storage, and those with less organization may simply stumble upon a shoebox full of old prints and negatives in varying states of condition. Converting those images to digital format will ensure that they’re available for generations to come.

Uber and Google team up to get voters to the polls on election day – On Friday, days before the US presidential election on November 8, Uber said it wants to help increase voter turnout by offering an in-app feature that helps bring riders to their polling locations.

Security:

Tesco Bank freezes all online transactions after money stolen from 20,000 accounts – Tesco Bank has frozen the online transactions of all of its 136,000 current account holders following “online criminal activity”, resulting in the theft of funds from at least 20,000 customers. Some customers reported that money had gone missing from their accounts over the weekend, resulting in the banking arm of the British retailer opting to prevent online transfers as a “precautionary” measure. “Tesco Bank can confirm that, over the weekend, some of its customers’ current accounts have been subject to online criminal activity, in some cases resulting in money being withdrawn fraudulently,” said Benny Higgins, chief executive of Tesco Bank in a statement.

Sam’s Club resets passwords after thousands of logins posted online – Over 14,000 usernames and plain-text passwords for the retail giant’s online store were posted online over the weekend.

The US is reportedly readying cyber attacks if Russia tries to hack the election – In October, news broke that the CIA was preparing options to launch a cyberattack against Russia following revelations that the country was likely behind hacks at the Democratic National Committee earlier this summer. Now, a source has told NBC News that the US has penetrated key Russian systems, and will be ready to take action in case the country decides to interfere with next week’s elections. The systems allegedly include some of Russia’s telecommunications networks, its electrical power grid, and command systems at the Kremlin. NBC reported that the preparations are being made in the event that the US is “attacked in a significant way,” according to an anonymous intelligence official and top secret documents that the network had reviewed.

Cisco’s job applications site leaked personal data – Cisco has fixed a vulnerability in its Professional Careers portal that may have exposed truckloads of personal information. The networking giant has sent an email to affected users in which it says a “limited set of job application related information” was leaked from the mobile version of the website, blaming an “incorrect security setting” placed after system maintenance on a third party site. An unnamed researcher reported the flaw. Cisco says it has not found evidence of other unauthorised access but did find “an instance of unexplained, anomalous connection to the server” during the time data was exposed. Cisco says the borked security settings were in place from August to September 2015, and again from July to August 2016.

Over one billion installs of apps using OAuth 2.0 can be remotely hijacked, say researchers – OAuth 2.0 allows apps to verify credentials with Facebook or Google logins. One problem: over 41% of apps using OAuth 2.0 aren’t actually validating user info, allowing account hijacks.

Cerber ransomware menace now targeting databases – Criminals behind the massive Cerber ransomware enterprise are now targeting businesses as well as individuals with a module that kills and encrypts databases, warns Intel’s former security arm McAfee. Cerber had conducted more than 160 campaigns when examined in July targeting 150,0000 users and raking in a cracking US$195,000 in profits in that month alone. Of that figure, Cerber’s developer pocketed some US$78,000. It is estimated the malware earns authors and affiliates some US$1 million to US$2.5 million a year. Those figures surpass 2015 ransomware profits said to net authors a conservative US$84,000 a month for slinging ransomware at a cost of US$6000. That’s a whopping 1425 per cent profit margin. Security strategist Matthew Rosenquist says chasing businesses is the “next evolution” of ransomware.

What about the personal data on those millions of recalled Note7s? – The users of millions of faulty Samsung Galaxy Note7s, already turned in, face a bigger potential dilemma than whether the devices might blow up: The fate of their personal data on the devices. Many of the users of some 3 million Note7 devices sold were told by Samsung and government officials to immediately stop using the devices. They most likely didn’t have time to thoroughly wipe sensitive personal data like credit card numbers or medical information. Samsung hasn’t divulged what it plans to do with the Note7s that were turned in, and didn’t respond this week to a query about how it plans to ensure customer data is kept confidential.

Company News:

Google Capital changes its name to CapitalG – Google Capital — the company’s venture arm that focuses on growth-stage companies (read: those that have proven their idea and are now growing) as opposed to earlier-stage startups — is now “CapitalG.” All this, it’s worth noting, is a separate thing from GV, Alphabet’s investment arm that focuses on that earlier-stage stuff and rebranded from “Google Ventures” back in December of last year.

Uber settles ‘Jane Doe’ suit over alleged sexual assaults – Uber settled a lawsuit alleging it put profit over the safety of its female customers. The suit, originally filed October 2015 in US District Court in San Francisco, was brought by two unnamed “Jane Doe” women who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by their Uber drivers. The women said Uber should be held responsible for its drivers’ actions. The details of the settlement, reached Thursday, were not released.

After sagging sales numbers, Fitbit’s stock price plunges by over 33% – In Thursday afternoon trading, Fitbit’s stock price lost more than one-third of its value after the company announced a significant drop in profits. According to its latest quarterly numbers, the company made $26.1 million in the third quarter of 2016 compared with $45.8 million during the same quarter a year ago. In mid-September, the company released the Fitbit Charge 2, a mid-range $150 device. Many financial analysts believe that the market for the popular fitness tracker may be hitting its saturation point. The company’s CEO, James Park, said as much on a call with analysts and reporters on Thursday.

Cannabis investor Privateer Holdings tacks on another $40 million in funding – In just five days, nine states will vote on marijuana legalization measures, so it’s perhaps not a surprise that the five-year-old, Seattle-based marijuana private equity investor Privateer Holdings just raised $40 million in convertible debt from undisclosed investors. Cowen and Co. is predicting that within 10 years, legal pot sales will hit $50 billion in the U.S., up from $6 billion today. Privateer has so far raised $122 million altogether. Earlier investors include Founders Fund, which led the company’s $75 million Series B round in March 2015, and Subversive Capital.

Games and Entertainment:

Facebook will begin testing ads on Apple TV and Roku devices – If you thought Facebook already has enough presence on the screens of your various devices, get ready for one more: the TV. The social network behemoth is gearing up to expand its ever-growing advertising network with a test that will run video ads within certain apps on the Apple TV and Roku set-top boxes. The tests could start as early as next week, but there’s no word yet on a pre-determined video length.

Windows 10 Store Refunds ‘Call of Duty’ Player Because Nobody’s Playing It – A few gamers who bought Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare through the digital storefront built into Windows 10 have discovered they can only play with other gamers who also bought the game from Microsoft. Xbox One players can only play with other Xbox One players, and PlayStation 4 players can only play with other PlayStation 4 players. This has always been the case. The trouble is that this time not all PC players can play with other PC players. For unknown reasons, Windows 10 Store customers are segregated from customers who bought the game from Steam, which is by far the most popular platform on PC. That’s like buying a game from Target and learning you can’t play with people who bought it from Best Buy. Call of Duty fans who made the unfortunate of mistake of giving Microsoft their cash are left sitting in lonely multiplayer lobbies waiting for games that’ll never start. However, it appears that Microsoft is giving out refunds.

Battlefield 1 is an anti-war message trapped in a best-selling shooter – Battlefield 1, set not during WWII but the global conflict more than two decades prior, is one of the most realistic first-person shooter games ever created. Every component, from the groundbreaking graphics to the sheer complexity of the maps, is in service of making players feel as if they’re experiencing a harrowing part of history — playing not the stars, but the forgotten extras of a Steven Spielberg film. Instead of shamelessly milking historical bloodshed, the development team has taken a different route with Battlefield 1. They made a game that is at once exhilarating and terrifying in almost equal measure — in effect, an anti-war game where the disposability of human life is treated not as a side effect of the gameplay, but as a core message it’s trying to convey.

Blizzard is recreating the original Diablo inside Diablo 3 – Blizzard’s BlizzCon is being held this weekend, and the developer has announced that one of its most classic games, the original Diablo, is making a return within the newer Diablo 3. In honor of the original dungeon crawler’s 20th anniversary, Blizzard is releasing a new “Darkening of Tristram” update for Diablo 3, allowing players to experience the classic graphics and gameplay, all on the engine of the latest entry.

Facebook Messenger is testing “Instant Games” like this one from King – Facebook Messenger is preparing to launch a new “Instant Games” platform that will let people  play lightweight games against friends. Candy Crush maker King.com is already testing one of these Instant Games called “Shuffle Cats Mini” in New Zealand, TechCrunch has discovered. And other studios including Big Viking also appear to be prepping for the Instant Games launch.

Zotac Zbox EN1060 review: Better than console gaming in a tiny package – For the first time (Gigabyte’s awful Brix Gaming range and Alienware’s modest Steam Machines notwithstanding), you can buy a PC that’s smaller than a game console, yet packs in enough processing power to run games at ultra settings and 60FPS. Enter the Magnus EN1060, the latest model from mini PC champions Zotac. Inside its tiny 20cm-by-20cm footprint sits a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor and an Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card, giving it enough graphics grunt to power games at the highest settings, even at resolutions above 1080p. It makes for a mean, highly portable, VR-ready PC. Unfortunately, stuffing such powerful components into a chassis barely bigger than a DVD case was always going to result in some compromises—and the EN1060 isn’t quite the desktop powerhouse its spec sheet promises.

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35 great PC games for Linux and Steam Machines – The promise of SteamOS has lured several dozen big-name games to Linux PCs. Here are some of the best Linux PC games you can play today.

Original ‘Left 4 Dead’ Developer Releases ‘Lost’ Level for Free – Player cooperation and interaction lies at the heart of the zombie shooter Left 4 Dead, and thus it’s understandable why a campaign encouraging players to split up might have been left on the cutting room floor. Now, though—almost eight years to the day after Left 4 Dead’s 2008 release—that specific campaign’s been released as a free add-on, allowing players to experience what might have been if such ideas had made it into the final product.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Social media is a gold mine for detectives busting scams – How clean is your Facebook feed? Investigators have built a tool to more easily trawl for information you might want to keep private.

What is a blockchain, and why is it growing in popularity? – Effectively a blockchain is a kind of independent, transparent, and permanent database coexisting in multiple locations and shared by a community. This is why it’s sometimes referred to as a mutual distributed ledger (MDL). There’s nothing new about MDLs, their origins traceable to the seminal 1976 Diffie–Hellman research paper New Directions In Cryptography. But for a long time they were regarded as complicated and not altogether safe. It took the simpler blockchain implementation within Bitcoin to turn things around. The permanence, security, and distributed nature of Bitcoin ensured it was a currency maintained by a growing community but controlled by absolutely nobody and unable to be manipulated.

Elon Musk: Trump doesn’t reflect well on the US – Silicon Valley seems divided on the election. In one corner is Peter Thiel and a few quieter sympathizers. In the other stand a number of tech CEOs and employees, aghast at the notion that Donald Trump — a man who suggested boycotting Apple products — might be the next president. Tesla founder Elon Musk is in the latter category.

WTF is CRISPR? – Say you’ve inherited a rare genetic mutation that guarantees you’ll get a certain form of cancer by the time you reach 50 years of age. And that this is most likely how you are going to die. But what if I told you this cancer gene, passed down from generation to generation, can be snipped out of your genome entirely and you never pass it on to any of your offspring?

Something to think about:

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

–       Abraham Lincoln

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

How Bureaucrats and Spies Turned Canada Into a Surveillance State – This week, Canadians received a shock to the system when a spate of news items revealed how police and spy agencies flout the law and moral conventions to spy on citizens and journalists, in some cases dating back for many years.

The largest blow to Canada’s often rosy image came on Thursday when a federal court ruling revealed that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has been operating a secret metadata collection program since 2006, and retained citizens’ identifying information illegally. The question on every Canadian’s mind now is: how, in our supposedly sleepy liberal democracy, did this happen?

In establishing the domestic spy agency with the CSIS Act, legislators largely left it up to CSIS itself to decide how the law should be interpreted. “It appears that CSIS got their own legal advice that gave them the most favourable spin or interpretation of the law that one could possibly take,” said privacy lawyer David Fraser in an interview. “Really, stretching it almost to the breaking point.”

“We believed we had the authority. Was it set out specifically? No, it wasn’t”

In a call with journalists on Thursday, Chief General Counsel for the Department of Justice Robert Frater seemed to confirm this perspective. “Our legal position was that we were retaining it legally,” he said. “We believed we had the authority. Was it set out specifically? No, it wasn’t.”

China’s new cybersecurity law is bad news for business – The Chinese government has passed new cybersecurity regulations Nov. 7 that will put stringent new requirements on technology companies operating in the country. The proposed Cybersecurity Law comes with data localization, surveillance, and real-name requirements.

The regulation would require instant messaging services and other internet companies to require users to register with their real names and personal information, and to censor content that is “prohibited.” Real name policies restrict anonymity and can encourage self-censorship for online communication.

The law also includes a requirement for data localization, which would force “critical information infrastructure operators” to store data within China’s borders. According to Human Rights Watch, an advocacy organization that is opposing the legislation, the law does not include a clear definition of infrastructure operators, and many businesses could be lumped into the definition.

“The law will effectively put China’s Internet companies, and hundreds of millions of Internet users, under greater state control,” said Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch’s China director. HRW maintains that, while many of the regulations are not new, most were informal or only laid out in low-level law — and implementing the measures on a broader level will lead to stricter enforcement.

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