Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 23, 2016

20 tips and tricks that make Windows 10 more tolerable;  How to watch Thanksgiving football online;  3 security reports about shopping online for Black Friday and Cyber Monday;  The best video-streaming apps for Apple TV, from A to Z;  How to cheaply and easily improve Windows 10 performance;  How to make home IoT more secure: Assume the worst;  Windows 10 quick tips: Get the most out of Cortana;  5 things to know about fake news on Facebook, Google;  The most useful iOS travel apps for business professionals;  How to pick out the best high-end TVs for the buck this Black Friday – and much more news you need to know.

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How to watch Thanksgiving football online – If you are unable to watch the TV broadcasts of the three NFL games, you have streaming options. Each one is a bit different, however, since each game is on a different network.

3 security reports about shopping online for Black Friday and Cyber Monday – Researchers list the most and least secure online retailers, warn about vulnerabilities in WordPress e-commerce plugins and warn that crooks are cashing in on top store brands and “Black Friday” to scam consumers.

How to make home IoT more secure: Assume the worst – A report by the internet advisory group BITAG on Tuesday identified common security problems in home IoT products and recommended steps vendors should take from now on.

20 tips and tricks that make Windows 10 more tolerable – No matter who you are and where you stand on the raging Windows 10 issues, I bet there are some things you love about your new operating system, along with other things you wish were better, had stayed the same, or simply went away. In this slideshow, I take you through the parts of Win10 that irk me the most, giving you quick tips on how to set things right … or at least, right-er.

How to cheaply and easily improve Windows 10 performance – Windows 10 performance on older PCs can be cheaply and easily improved through the use of Windows’ ReadyBoost feature and a spare USB flash drive or SD card.

Windows 10 quick tips: Get the most out of Cortana – Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana is one of the major additions to Windows 10 — and it’s a winner. Turn it on and Cortana alerts you to upcoming meetings; searches your PC and the Web; tells you about the weather, news and sports; and a lot more. To help you get the most out of Cortana, I’ve put together some of my favorite tips for using it — including using Cortana to manage your Google Calendar, identify the music you’re listening to and track packages and flights.

Windows 10 tip: Keep your Microsoft account secure with 2-factor authentication – Signing in to Windows 10 with a Microsoft account is convenient, unless your password is stolen or phished. Protect yourself by turning on additional security features.

Google Maps will now tell you how busy a place is in real time – Other data-driven tricks include projections about how long people stay at a place and more detailed hours from certain venues.

The most useful iOS travel apps for business professionals – Making travel arrangements can be a hassle, and that’s before you even start on your trip. These iOS and watchOS apps will make your life much easier while traveling.

How to use Skype without an account – Skype has always required an account before you could use it. Microsoft is changing that with a new feature for Skype for Web.

5 things to know about fake news on Facebook, Google – With presidential election signs coming down from front lawns and voters watching protests on the news, many are wondering if fake news stories on Facebook and Google contributed to Donald Trump’s winning the presidency. And that raises the question of what Google and Facebook plan to do about it.

New Google Sites now ready to build websites for everyone – Building websites is as much an art as it is (computer) science. And, let’s face it, not everyone has what it takes to craft beautiful, not to mention engaging, websites, nor do we always have a web designer on call. Don’t worry, though, because Google has you covered, again. After a period of dormancy, the Google Sites website builder is jumping back into action, newer, fresher, and more responsive than ever before, to help you and your team make websites that are just as fresh and responsive.

Secure messaging app Telegram now offers its own anonymous blogging platform – Telegram, the security-focused messaging app, has launched its own take on blogging platforms. If you’re among Telegram 100 million-plus active users then the new Telegraph service will be much as you’d expect. It’s minimalist and anonymous — you can add your name if you wish — with support for markdown, in-line photos and other embeds as is standard. That makes Telegraph an interesting option for posting short notes or anonymized content online. I took it for a spin — just a few pics — and it was very easy to use.

Instagram launches disappearing Live video and messages – Instagram is combining the best of Snapchat and Periscope to help you get comfortable on camera. Rather than overlap with Facebook Live and Messenger, Instagram is putting an ephemeral spin on video streaming and private messaging. Today, two big new features begin rolling out to Instagram Stories on iOS and Android over the next few weeks. Instagram Live lets you broadcast video to your followers in real-time, but they can only watch while you’re still streaming. No replays. But you will be able to browse an algorithmically curated Explore page of the best Instagram Live videos happening right now.

Disney launches free Moana-themed coding tutorials – As part of Code.org’s Hour of Code program, Disney is releasing “Moana: Wayfinding with Code,” a free online tutorial to teach kids the basics of computer science. The tutorial features characters from Moana, Disney’s upcoming animated feature film. In the past, the company has created coding tutorials featuring characters from Frozen and Star Wars. Through those sessions, Disney taught nearly 40 million kids the basics of computer programming. Disney says it hopes to reach even more this time around.

10 gizmos and gifts to encourage kids to learn to code – The learn-to-code space has no shortage of ideas to inspire young minds and help them get to grips with programming logic. We’ve rounded up some of the best stuff we’ve seen recently, from toys which aim to encourage learning via play, to connected hardware kits focused on inventing and project-making, to gamified software learning environments for those happy to gift a subscription. Prices range from a few dollars for an in-app purchase to around $200 for fancier gadgets. Whether you’re buying a gift for a three year old or a tricky teen you’ll find something to consider here.

Yeehaw is a 3D printer ideal for kids (priced that way, too) – Yeehaw is a 3D printer made specifically with kids in mind – made to be safe, simple to use, and inexpensive. This printer was built to allow kids to print their own toys, and tools, and all manner of tiny oddities. It does so with an always-expanding library of 3D objects available for download as well as an app that allows kids to create 3D objects with big pixels in 3D space.

Done With Tinder? Try ‘Sindr,’ the Vatican’s New Confession Finder App – For those Catholics itching to be absolved, a Scottish Archbishop may have just revolutionized the search for a confessional — with a new smartphone and tablet app launched at the Vatican on Tuesday. The Catholic app, which has inevitably been dubbed “Sindr” by some media and online commentators, is expected to go live in early 2017, according to Vatican Radio.

How to pick out the best high-end TVs for the buck this Black Friday – A few months ago. I bought a new home with something I’d always wanted: A room big enough for a home theater. So, I went looking for the best HDTV I could find and afford. Here’s what I found on my journey. Now, I grew up with a soldiering iron in my hand in my dad’s TV repair shop. I make my living from knowing how computers work, but I started in electronics with television. When it comes to TVs, I know what I’m looking for. Here are the factors I use in determining what TV to buy.

Security:

Don’t let yourself be targeted by cybercriminals: Here are 6 tips for safe holiday shopping – Online shopping is easy and convenient, and more people are doing it than ever before. The rise in e-commerce also gives cybercriminals more opportunities to rob you blind. Here’s how to stay safe.

Tor phone is antidote to Google “hostility” over Android, says developer – The Tor Project recently announced the release of its prototype for a Tor-enabled smartphone—an Android phone beefed up with privacy and security in mind, and intended as equal parts opsec kung fu and a gauntlet to Google. To protect user privacy, the prototype runs OrWall, the Android firewall that routes traffic over Tor, and blocks all other traffic. Users can punch a hole through the firewall for voice traffic, for instance, to enable Signal. The prototype only works on Google Nexus and Pixel hardware, as these are the only Android device lines, Perry wrote, that “support Verified Boot with user-controlled keys.” While strong Linux geekcraft is required to install and maintain the prototype, Perry stressed that the phone is also aimed at provoking discussion about what he described as “Google’s increasing hostility towards Android as a fully Open Source platform.”

Elegant 0-day unicorn underscores “serious concerns” about Linux security – Recently released exploit code makes people running fully patched versions of Fedora and other Linux distributions vulnerable to drive-by attacks that can install keyloggers, backdoors, and other types of malware, a security researcher says.

Would You Sacrifice Sex for Online Security? – To what lengths would you go to ensure online privacy? According to a new survey, about 40 percent of Americans would refrain from sex and give up their favorite food to avoid cybersecurity headaches. Password management firm Dashlane last week reported that nearly four in 10 people would sacrifice lovemaking for a year if in return they could stop worrying about being hacked, identity theft, or losing access to one or more of their online accounts. Such drastic measures, however, are not necessary if simple password rules are followed—which, based on a continued stream of successful attacks, we clearly aren’t all doing.

Company News:

Office Depot caught claiming out-of-box PCs showed “symptoms of malware” – Office Depot and its sister retailer OfficeMax have stopped using a technically dubious piece of malware-scanning software after two news services caught the stores recommending costly fixes for PC infections that didn’t exist. According to an investigation conducted by KIRO TV News, four out of six stores in Seattle and Portland, Oregon claimed that out-of-the-box PCs showed “symptoms of malware” that required as much as $180 for repairs and protection. The computers, according to the report, had never been connected to the Internet and were diagnosed as free of malware by security firm IOActive.

Samsung raided for second time over presidential scandal – Samsung has been raided for the second time over allegations that it bribed the president’s close contact to get approval over the controversial merger of its two key affiliates.

Oracle to buy cloud infrastructure provider Dyn – Oracle plans to acquire internet performance and DNS provider Dyn in an effort to pump up its cloud-based offerings and challenge infrastructure and platform service leaders like Amazon and Microsoft. Dyn, in the news last month when it was targeted in a massive distributed denial-of-service attack, operates a global network that makes 40 billion traffic optimization decisions each day for more than 3,500 enterprise customers, including Netflix and Twitter.

Apple dumps wireless router development, will exit the market – Apple has manufactured its own line of AirPort cards and routers for 17 years, dating back to the introduction of the original AirPort Base Station in 1999. Now, the company is apparently planning to kill its support for the AirPort division, not long after announcing it would also exit the display markets. It’s been more than three years since Apple announced a new base station (its last update, in 2013, added support for the 802.11ac standard), so this move isn’t entirely surprising — but it’s also a further sign that Apple is consolidating its product lines.

Google acquires AWS training vendor Qwiklabs – Google is acquiring Qwiklabs, a company that helps people learn how to use public cloud services to run applications without operating a data center. It’s a helpful move for Google, which is trying to expand the use of its cloud platform and stands to gain when developers and IT professionals get a handle on making applications run in the cloud. The company will create tools to help get people up to speed on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and G Suite productivity service, said Jason Martin, the director of professional services for Google Cloud, in a blog post.

The cloud price war continues: Amazon cuts its cloud storage prices, again – Amazon Web Services (AWS) is cutting the price of its S3 cloud storage service and Glacier cloud archive service, as well as adding new options for companies wanting to retrieve data from Glacier. AWS said it is cutting the per-gigabyte price of its S3 Standard Storage in most AWS regions as of 1 December, and reducing it down to three pricing tiers. It is also cutting the price of Glacier storage in most AWS regions.

Games and Entertainment:

The best video-streaming apps for Apple TV, from A to Z – The App Store might have opened it up to a wide variety of uses, but the Apple TV will always be, first and foremost, a media streamer. But while streaming on Apple TV is easier than ever thanks to its built-in Siri search capabilities and universal sign-in, finding things to watch requires a little legwork. Apple isn’t nearly as helpful with the channel lineup as it once was, and with thousands of apps available, you have to know where to look to find the best ones. So whether you’re an Apple TV newcomer or a veteran from the Front Row days, our list of the 50 best streaming apps will fill your schedule with more must-see than your Apple TV can handle.

The 5 best Black Friday gaming sales of 2016 – Black Friday is quickly approaching, and that usually means good things for folks looking to pick up some video games. Whether you’re looking for video games or consoles, a lot of stores will have plenty of offers to take advantage of. With so many places vying for your time on Black Friday, where do you stand the best chance at getting a good deal? Here are some of the more attractive locations for gamers on Black Friday.

Ultimate Xbox One holiday gift guide – There’s new Xbox One hardware on store shelves, cross-platform play is going strong, and the Xbox 360 backwards compatible catalog continues to grow. And if nothing else, 4K UHD TV owners have a very good reason to grab a new console this holiday season.

Here’s what you’ll need to run Windows 10 VR headsets next year – Excited about forthcoming Windows 10 VR support? You should be, since it’s going to open up who gets access to virtual reality considerably, thanks to third-party headsets from established OEM partners starting at just $299. Minimum PC specs are now available, too – and The Verge points out they aren’t too demanding, which is great news. The into comes via a ‘Windows Holographic First Run’ tester application that appears in pre-release builds of Windows 10 aimed at testers, and reveals minimum requirements for running Microsoft’s virtual computing environment that include 4GB of system RAM, at least one USB 3.0 port, a graphics card that can support DirectX 12 (not a steep bar) and at least 4 CPU cores that include dual-core processors with hyperthreading capability.

Titanfall 2’s Upcoming Free Map is a Blast From the Past – Titanfall 2 may not be doing great sales-wise but it has something that could help it in the long run: free DLC. We’ve known about the game’s free DLC model for some time but didn’t know when it would arrive or what it would contain. Today, Respawn Entertainment has at last outlined what the first downloadable content will be. The first DLC will be called Angel City’s Most Wanted, which has an all-new map, weapons, Titan kits, and more. The Angel City map is new to Titanfall 2 but not to the series since it appeared in the original Titanfall. Those who pre-ordered the game will have access to the map on November 30 while everyone else will get it on December 3.

Oculus Rift gets Xbox One game streaming on December 12th – Microsoft originally announced its plans to stream Xbox One games to the Oculus Rift back in June, 2015. While it’s taken nearly 18 months to arrive, the software giant is planning to allow Oculus Rift owners to play Xbox One games on December 12th. Rift owners will be able to download a free Xbox One streaming app from the Oculus Store, and any console output will be streamed directly to the Rift headset. Microsoft is also supporting the Rift natively in Windows 10, and the company continues to ship its wireless controllers with the Rift as part of its partnership.

Pokemon Sun and Moon become second-largest 3DS launch in Japan – It would seem that Pokemon Sun and Moon’s lineup of legendaries, vast number of pre-launch trailers, glowing reviews, and possibly even price have turned the games into a smashing success in Japan. Nintendo has announced that the games sold a combined 1.9 million copies in its home territory during their first weekend of availability. Sales numbers for North America aren’t available at the moment, while the games aren’t even available in Europe yet – something that’s set to change tomorrow.

Off Topic (Sort of):

#WeAreNotWaiting: Diabetics are hacking their health, because traditional systems have failed them – Diabetics have been waiting for years for better technology to manage their condition. Some got tired of waiting and hacked together an open source hardware and software solution. This is their story.

Eating Cheese Could Help You Live Longer – A new study from Nature Science suggests that consuming aged cheeses with the compound spermidine seems to extend the lifespan of mammals, based on tests with rodents. Rodents and cheese. Of course. It makes too much sense. But rats and mice weren’t the only test subjects to be examined. Italians were also queried on how much cheese they eat and their resulting health changes were studied accordingly. Both the risk of high blood pressure and heart failure seemed to go down as cheese intake went up.

Most students can’t tell the difference between sponsored content and real news – Most students can’t tell the difference between real news articles and sponsored content, according to a study from Stanford University, raising concerns over how young people consume online media. According to the study, 82 percent of students could not distinguish between a sponsored post and an actual news article on the same website. Nearly 70 percent of middle schoolers thought they had no reason to distrust a sponsored finance article written by the CEO of a bank, and many students evaluate the trustworthiness of tweets based on their level of detail and the size of attached photos, according to the Journal.

More than half the world’s people still off the Internet – Less than half of the world’s population still isn’t using the Internet, although the numbers are improving, according to a United Nations report. A report released this week by the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) found that 47.1% of the population is online, an increase from 2015’s figure of 43%. The spread of mobile networks around the globe has played an important role in increasing Internet connectivity, the report said. Mobile-broadband networks cover 84% of the world’s population this year, but the number of users, at 47.1%, is well below those who have access.

Fix your stuff with this $20 essential electronics toolkit from iFixit – This $20 toolkit from iFixit allows you crack open and take a stab at repairing most electronic devices.

Something to think about:

“This above all: to thine own self be true; And it must follow, as the night the day; Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

–       William Shakespeare     (1564 – 1616), ‘Hamlet,’ Act I, Scene iii

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

FYI: The FBI is being awfully evasive about its fresh cyber-spy powers – Senior US senators have expressed concern that the FBI is not being clear about how it intends to use its enhanced powers to spy on American citizens.

Those are the spying powers granted by Congressional inaction over an update to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. These changes will kick in on December 1 unless they are somehow stopped, and it’s highly unlikely they will be challenged as we slide into the Thanksgiving weekend.

The rule tweak, which was cleared by the Supreme Court in April, will allow g-men to apply for a warrant to a nearby US judge to hack any suspect that’s using Tor, a VPN, or some other anonymizing software to hide their whereabouts, in order to find the target’s true location.

Normally, if agents want to hack a PC, they have to ask a judge for a warrant in the jurisdiction where the machine is located. This is tricky if the location is obscured by technology. With the changes to Rule 41 in place, investigators can get a warrant from any handy judge to deploy malware to find out where the suspect is based – which could be anywhere in America or the world.

Also, when agents are investigating a crime that spans five or more different judicial districts in the US, the new Rule 41 will allow them to go to just one judge for a warrant, rather than all the courts in all the involved jurisdictions. And it allows the Feds, with a search warrant, to poke around in people’s malware-infected computers.

Here’s how assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell summed up the changes:

Surveillance firm slashes staff after losing Facebook, Twitter data – Business isn’t good at a Chicago tech company that was outed last month for its practice of buying social media data and re-selling it to police.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that Geofeedia had been given access to data by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, which Geofeedia used to build software products for police that the ACLU called “surveillance tools.” Facebook and Instagram took cut off Geofeedia’s access in September, and Twitter blocked access after reviewing the ACLU report in October.

Losing access to those social media data feeds seems to have had a big impact on Geofeedia’s business. A Geofeedia spokesperson today told the Chicago Tribune that it laid off 31 employees out of about 60 total.

In an e-mailed statement to the newspaper, Geofeedia CEO Phil Harris said his company wasn’t “created to impact civil liberties,” but after the debate spurred by the ACLU report, they’re changing the company’s direction.

Facebook is reportedly building a censorship tool so it can re-enter China – Facebook is developing a software tool that suppresses users’ posts from appearing in the News Feed in designated geographic areas, a possible first step toward making the social network available in China, the New York Times reported. The tool has reportedly caused a controversy within Facebook, with “several employees” quitting in protest after working on it, according to the Times.

Facebook has been banned from China since 2009. Like many US technology companies, Facebook has long sought a way back in, seeing the country’s 1.3 billion residents as a source of enormous potential growth. Google built a version of its search engine that complied with China’s censorship guidelines but retreated from the country in 2010 after a series of seemingly state-sponsored cyberattacks. More recently, Uber exited the Chinese market with a quick sale of its business there to local rival Didi Chuxing.

As the Times notes, Facebook has taken down posts in other countries around the world, including Pakistan, Russia, and Turkey. But the tool now in development would prevent the posts from ever surfacing in the News Feed at all, according to the report. Facebook plans to outsource censorship duties to a third-party company, the report said.

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