Jim Hillier: Best of Freeware 2016; Worried about Windows 10 snooping? Here’s how you can stop it; 4 apps that give your phone a free second number; Five ways to maintain your privacy on your smartphone, no downloads required; The Top Black Friday Deals Sites; Google Wifi wireless router: The smart person’s guide; Google’s PhotoScan makes digitizing old photos easy; How to Build a Website; Everything you need to know about Windows 10 recovery drives; How to avoid getting conned by fake news sites – and much more news you need to know.
Jim Hillier: Best of Freeware 2016 – It’s a been a while since we last posted our best of freeware selections. That’s largely down to the fact that freeware offerings haven’t changed that much and new/innovative freeware has become somewhat of a rarity. So, there’s not much point in re-iterating categories which haven’t really changed (such as ‘image viewers’, for example, where FastStone, IrfanView, and XnView still pretty much rule the roost). The criteria for selections includes ease of use, feature set, plus overall efficacy. You will also notice that I have a particular leaning toward portable freeware. The availability of a portable version, where viable, is always a big plus in my book:
4 apps that give your phone a free second number – Need a disposable phone number for better online privacy? Or for an effective way to juggle work and personal lines? This is easier, and cheaper, than you think.
Worried about Windows 10 snooping? Here’s how you can stop it – Attempts to stem the quantity of data that Windows 10 gathers on users continue to this day. Here are the options available if you’re uncomfortable with how much data the OS hoovers up.
Everything you need to know about Windows 10 recovery drives – We take a look at the recovery drive, one of the most useful troubleshooting tools included with Windows 10.
Windows 10 tip: Protect removable storage devices with BitLocker encryption – Do you use a USB flash drive, MicroSD card, or portable hard drive to keep backups of important files? Protect yourself by encrypting removable storage devices so your files can’t be accessed if the drive is lost or stolen.
How to Use and Tweak the Start Screen in Windows 10 – Much maligned in Win 8, the Windows Start screen still exists, but it’s undergone several much-needed improvements.
How to avoid getting conned by fake news sites – Here’s how you can identify and avoid sites that just want to serve up ads next to outright falsehoods.
Just how partisan is Facebook’s fake news? We tested it – Far more spin and fake news is pushed at Trump supporters.
The Top Black Friday Deals Sites – Cash-strapped shoppers looking for the best deals should check out these online destinations. The sheer magnitude of deals can be overwhelming, but there are sites devoted entirely to highlighting the best, as well as collecting and scanning Black Friday circulars for you to peruse before the big day. Check out the gallery for sites that can help you plot your Black Friday plan of attack.
The 10 Best Gadget Gifts Under $60 – The 2016 holiday is fast approaching. That means one thing: gadget time. These are the TIME technology team’s suggestions for the best gifts under $60, which make great stocking stuffers or add-ons. We’ve also included a few lines about why we like each gadget we’ve picked for the list.
Five ways to maintain your privacy on your smartphone, no downloads required – You can download apps to audit your privacy, but who’s to say those apps aren’t a security risk themselves? Here are five tips for maintaining your privacy in the always-connected world.
Signal encryption app sees 400 percent boost after election – The co-founder of Open Whisper Systems says installations of its app have increased four-fold since November 8.
Facebook privacy settings: How to control your ad preferences – Facebook targets ads based on your activity. You can check–and change–what it thinks your interests are in Ad Preferences.
Google Wifi wireless router: The smart person’s guide – Our comprehensive guide about the Google Wifi wireless router includes its specifications and features, and what it means for small businesses and home use.
Google’s PhotoScan makes digitizing old photos easy – It is a question as old as time — or at least as old as digital photos: What is the best way to digitize old pictures? The answer is easy — a dedicated photo scanner. But, if you don’t want to drop the cash on one of those and spend all the time it takes to actually scan individual pictures, Google Photos thinks it has a pretty good solution in its new app.
Everything you need to know about home networking – CNET editor Dong Ngo gives all his answers to questions about the basics of home networking.
The 7 worst tech gifts you absolutely shouldn’t buy this holiday – Any site can tell you the best tech gifts to buy. But before you get too creative (or too cheap), read this list to find out what not to buy.
How to Build a Website – Need to establish an online presence for your business, but don’t know where to begin? Our primer will show you exactly what you need to get up and running in no time.
More Androids carry phone-home firmware – Got a cheap-and-cheerful Android phone from BLU, Infinix, Doogee, Leagoo, IKU, Beeline or Xolo? It might be harbouring some badware in the firmware. The issue affects phones that use an over-the-air update mechanism from Chinese company according to BitSight researcher Dan Dahlberg and Anubis Networks’ João Gouveia and Tiago Pereira. Since a firmware update runs at root, the phones in question are vulnerable to pretty much anything a malicious server might install. Which means a keylogger, bugging software, or anything else an attacker might contemplate. In a twist that doesn’t look like an accident, the vulnerable process tries to hide itself from the user and has a command that would let the manufacturer turn it off for six months or until the phone is rebooted
Hacker can backdoor your computer and router in 30 seconds with $5 PoisonTap – If you lock your computer and walk away, it takes only 30 seconds for a hacker armed with a small $5 Raspberry Pi Zero, which is loaded with devious code, to completely pwn your password-protected computer and install remotely accessible backdoors. PoisonTap, the latest creation of hacker and developer Samy Kamkar, has a long list of wicked slick capabilities, including the fact that after an attacker removes the device from a USB port, a backdoor and remote access will persist on both your computer and your router.
Symantec will acquire identity protection firm LifeLock in $2.3B deal – Aiming to boost its consumer security business, Symantec is acquiring LifeLock, a vendor of identity protection services, for US$2.3 billion in enterprise value.
Major layoffs signal Intel’s departure from wearables – Except for some of the biggest tech companies, the wearables market has been a tough one to find success in. It seem Intel is waking up to that fact, as new reports indicate the company is laying off almost all the staff from its wearable division. This also comes after the debacle surrounding Intel’s own Basis Peak smartwatch, which was recalled earlier this year over concerns of overheating and burning users.
Samsung says its Galaxy S7 smartphones are safe and do not have battery issues – Samsung has denied that devices in its Galaxy S7 range are affected by the same battery safety issue that forced it to kill off the Galaxy Note 7. In addition to the Note 7 disaster, there have been reports that other phones in Samsung’s newest range have combusted due to battery issues like the Note 7. A paramedic, a mother in Australia, and even a tech reporter are among those who have witnessed a Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Active device go up in smoke, while Samsung is facing a U.S. lawsuit that alleges its battery problems apply to older devices, too
Apple is replacing faulty batteries on ‘a very small number’ of iPhone 6s devices – Tis the season for Apple replacement programs, it appears. Days after the U.S. tech giant addressed ‘touch disease’ on certain iPhone 6 Plus devices, so Apple has announced a battery replacement program for iPhone 6s owners affected by unexpected shutdowns. Apple said the problem impacts “a very small number” of iPhone 6s devices that were made between September and October last year. In those cases, the phone may unexpectedly shut down due to issues with the battery. Owners of affected devices can go to their nearest Apple Store to check the serial number of their device — which should identify whether it is part of the malfunctioning batch — and then get a free battery replacement, if needed.
Chinese smartphone vendors show sales gains as Apple, Samsung decline – Third-quarter smartphone sales showed strength by Chinese vendors but declines of 6% for Apple iPhones and 14% for Samsung smartphones over last year. Samsung’s decline is unsurprising, given the furor over the overheated batteries in its Galaxy Note7s that surfaced in late August, leading to a global recall of millions of the devices.
Sources: Microsoft and HP will launch consumer Windows 10 phone in 2017 – Microsoft and HP are working on a consumer-tier Windows 10 Mobile phone, according to sources. This would follow the HP Elite X3, a phablet with a hefty price tag and features like Continuum and HP Workspace. Details about this tipped consumer-tier Windows phone are still slight at the moment, though the same sources say Microsoft has announced a phone event internally for February 2017, highlighting a timeframe in which we may see this handset announced.
Hell freezes over as Microsoft joins the Linux Foundation – Microsoft announced today it is joining the Linux Foundation, some 15 years after declaring Linux was a cancer. Looks like the cancer won.
Games and Entertainment:
Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4: Top Game Consoles Duke It Out – Three years later, and the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 are still battling to be the best. Now the Xbox One S and PS4 Pro are jumping into the arena. Which side are you on?
8 awesome gifts for PC gamers – PC gamers are a tough, discriminating crowd to shop for. And if you don’t know the difference between an SSD and a GPU, it makes shopping even harder—can you imagine browsing for LED fans and power supply cables without knowing what you’re looking for? Yikes. But don’t worry—to make it easier for you, we’ve assembled a list of the best gifts for PC gamers that won’t break the bank. This is the gear that our gaming-obsessed staff is pining over this season, and there’s a little something to fit everyone’s needs.
Streaming-box app comparison: Roku vs. Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Fire TV vs. Android TV – It doesn’t matter how cheap or how powerful a media box might be if you can’t stream the programming you want. Here’s how the major players compare.
Google Play Movies is rolling out 4K rental and purchasing options – This will allow those with 4K televisions and a Chromecast Ultra to take full advantage of their capabilities, though the titles are going to cost you extra.
‘Motorsport Manager’ Shows That Racing Is About So Much More Than Driving – Auto-racing so often comes off as such a personal sport in video games, whether it’s in the realistic first-person views of Assetto Corsa or in the mad juggles for first place in a game like Super Mario Kart. Sometimes such games will tease at the larger truth beyond with menus that let players choose from multiple cars and tinker with features like rim styles and differentials, but the safe approach has always been to keep that under the rug and champion the illusion of personal glory. Motorsport Manager, a simulation game for PC, Mac, and Linux that casts you as the manager of a Formula 1-style racing team, tosses that personal focus aside to emphasize the big picture and emerges the better for it.
Massive Civilization VI update adds DirectX 12, new multiplayer mode and maps – The ranks of DirectX 12-compatible games continue to grow. Gears of War 4, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and Forza Horizon 3 all released in recent months with support for Microsoft’s next-gen graphics technology, and today, Civilization VI’s getting a big fall update that adds DX12 along with some new multiplayer goodies.
Off Topic (Sort of):
Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It – I’m a millennial computer scientist who also writes books and runs a blog. Demographically speaking I should be a heavy social media user, but that is not the case. I’ve never had a social media account. At the moment, this makes me an outlier, but I think many more people should follow my lead and quit these services. There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness, but the argument I want to make here is more pragmatic: You should quit social media because it can hurt your career. This claim, of course, runs counter to our current understanding of social media’s role in the professional sphere.
When Airbnb asked users to pledge to treat people equally, a lot refused – Stung by ongoing criticism and evidence that some of its hosts discriminated against non-white guests, Airbnb this month began asking users to pledge to treat everyone equally. A lot have refused. The so-called “community commitment” has been presented to Airbnb hosts and users since Nov. 1 and asks them to make a simple promise: to “treat everyone —regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age — with respect, and without judgment or bias.” Anyone declining to click the accept button has had their ability to host and book suspended and was given the option of canceling their account.
The 25 Best Inventions of 2016 – Every year, TIME selects the best inventions that are making the world better, smarter and—in some cases—a little more fun. In the past, we’ve featured everything from the real-life hoverboard to the desktop DNA lab. Here’s which ones made this year’s unranked list.
Tesla releases self-driving demo video that shows what the car sees – Tesla is continuing to go all-in with autonomous driving technology, having already promised that all future models, including the upcoming Model 3, will include self-driving features. Now found Elon Musk has shared a new video that attempts to better demonstrate to drivers how the technology works. The demo clip shows what it’s like for a Tesla vehicle to drive itself on local, public roads, all while showing the car’s point of view of things.
World War II warships, submarines are being stolen off the ocean floor – On February 27 1942, an Allied force consisting of two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and nine destroyers faced off against the Imperial Japanese Navy in what’s now known as the Battle of the Java Sea. The battle was a massive defeat for the Allied fleet, which contained ships from the Australian, Dutch, UK, and American navies. The area where the battle took place is now considered a graveyard, given that more than 2300 sailors were killed in the engagement. But a recent mission to the area to film the sunken vessels as part of commemorating the 75th anniversary of the battle has discovered that many of the wrecks have vanished off the ocean floor.
The top 12 overused IT terms – Every part of the corporate world has its share of unusual and even strange jargon. IT is no different, offering us clouds, ecosystems, waterfalls, sprints and scrums, and even cookies and breadcrumbs. Does anyone outside of IT really know what these expressions mean? Here are the top 12 annoying, overused IT terms that we should replace with normal language.
Something to think about:
“Nothing is worse than active ignorance.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)
In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:
Britain has passed the ‘most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy’ – The UK has just passed a massive expansion in surveillance powers, which critics have called “terrifying” and “dangerous”.
The new law, dubbed the “snoopers’ charter”, was introduced by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2012, and took two attempts to get passed into law following breakdowns in the previous coalition government.
Four years and a general election later — May is now prime minister — the bill was finalized and passed on Wednesday by both parliamentary houses.
But civil liberties groups have long criticized the bill, with some arguing that the law will let the UK government “document everything we do online”.
It’s no wonder, because it basically does.
Mark Zuckerberg outlines how Facebook will tackle its fake news problem – The weeks since the 2016 presidential election has put Facebook under the spotlight for its role in the circulation of fake news articles, which included President Barack Obama weighing in during a press conference earlier this week. While CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made an effort to sidestep the blame leveled against his company for the rise of these articles, he had said that the company has more work to do in combatting misinformation.
In a post to Facebook last night, Zuckerberg outlined the steps that Facebook is taking to limit the spread of false information, but reiterated his belief that the company should not become the “arbiters of truth.”
Some of the projects currently underway at Facebook include new systems that will help flag false information, better ways for people to report misinformation and flags to users once fake articles are reported, better recommendations when an article is clicked on, and updating its ad policies to discourage spam sites, which profit off of the exposure. He also noted that Facebook would be working with journalists and “respected fact checking organizations” to understand how they work to verify information, so that the company could learn from their efforts and experience.
It’s time to get rid of the Facebook “news feed,” because it’s not news – In the wake of the US election, critics have blamed Facebook for bringing about—at least in part—Trump’s surprise win. A BuzzFeed report showed that Facebook users interacted far more with “fake news” stories about both candidates than they did with mainstream news outlets before the election. This wouldn’t seem like such a big deal if it weren’t for a Pew Research Center survey showing that 44% of Americans rely on Facebook to get their news.
But proving whether fake news influenced the election more than the usual political propaganda is impossible. What’s certain is that fake news on Facebook is a symptom of a larger problem: the company is trying to play contradictory roles as both trustworthy news publisher and fun social media platform for personal sharing. The problem is that it cannot be both—at least not without making some changes.
U.S. lawmakers introduce bill to delay enhanced government hacking powers – U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation to delay the coming into force on Dec. 1 of a rule change that aims to expand the government’s ability to search computers and other digital devices across many jurisdictions with a single warrant.
The Review the Rule Act aims to delay for discussion proposed amendments to rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure until July 1 next year. The changes to the rule were upheld by the Supreme Court in April, and if Congress doesn’t act to the contrary, they will go into effect on Dec. 1.
The modified rule would remove the current prohibition with some exceptions on a federal judge issuing a search warrant outside of the judge’s district, so as to enable the remote search by law enforcement of computers whose locations are concealed using technology such as anonymizing techniques. The changes in rule 41 were proposed by the Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure at the request of the Justice Department.
The rule changes have been opposed by lawmakers, industry and civil rights groups who are concerned about their implications on privacy and surveillance.
Trump’s attorney general pick could restart the encryption fight – After weeks of speculation, President-elect Donald Trump today named Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as his choice for attorney general. The choice has already alarmed Trump critics for a number of reasons — particularly his role in drafting Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban muslim immigration — but for tech companies, there may be another concern entirely. Less than a year after prosecutors took Apple to court over an iPhone linked to the San Bernardino shootings, a Sessions-led Justice Department could be exactly what law enforcement needs to restart the encryption fight.
Sessions has to be confirmed by the Senate before he can officially take the post, but observers say it’s unlikely Democrats can effectively block the nomination.
A former prosecutor, Sessions was one of the FBI’s staunchest allies during the San Bernardino case, and has long criticized companies that design products without mechanisms for government access. As head of the Justice Department, Sessions would have the power to prosecute companies that don’t cooperate with law enforcement demands under the All Writs Act, the same mechanism used against Apple earlier this year.