Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – November 25, 2016

Ten desktop PCs that fit in your pocket;  The Best Media Streaming Devices of 2016;  The Ultimate Apple MacBook Buyer’s Guide;  8 Best Health or Fitness Apps for Android and iOS;  22 Tips Every Amazon Addict Should Know;  Telegram launches Telegraph, an anonymous blogging platform;  Hackers Are Using MailChimp to Spread Malware;  Are iPhone owners really less honest than Android users?  The best graphics cards for PC gaming;  Just How Big Has the Internet Become? – and much more news you need to know.

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Buying a PC on Black Friday? Here are five trends to watch out for – Based on this year’s ads, things are a little different than in the past if you’re looking to purchase a laptop, desktop, or tablet. Here’s how.

The Ultimate Apple MacBook Buyer’s Guide – Apple recently added three new MacBook Pros to its lineup, making the company’s notebook selection more diverse than ever. There’s the feature-packed new Pros, the still-worthwhile old Pros, the critic-favorite MacBook Air, and the ultra-portable 12-inch MacBook. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro is increasingly a worthy laptop replacement. So which MacBook is right for you? Here’s a breakdown of how Apple’s laptops compare that can help you make a decision, whether you’re buying for yourself or a loved one:

Ten desktop PCs that fit in your pocket – Today it’s not just phones you can slip in your pocket, it’s full desktop PCs. These portable desktops range from stick PCs to credit card-sized single board computers, such as the bestselling Raspberry Pi. Here are your go to gadgets if you want a full desktop machine you can take with you.

5 burning questions about AMD’s next-gen Zen processors – AMD’s Zen chip is just around the corner; it’ll first come to gaming systems any day now. There’s a lot of excitement about Zen, which AMD believes is its most important chip this decade.

The Best Media Streaming Devices of 2016 – We pit the highest-rated media-streaming devices against one another to find out which one is your best bet for streaming TV, movies, music, and more to your television.

22 Tips Every Amazon Addict Should Know – Here’s how to best take advantage of Amazon’s deals, shipping, payments, and more.

Check out our Thanksgiving tech support survival guide (2016 edition) – Get some down time over Thanksgiving (and the holiday season as a whole) by preparing in advance for the inevitable tech support requests.

8 Best Health or Fitness Apps for Android and iOS – Ever wondered why there is usually a surge of interest and sales in health-related products and apps around February. By now it’s probably obvious that it’s usually a guilt-induced urge brought about by months of binging on holiday treats. Of course, staying healthy is a year-round commitment and you don’t have to wait for next year to get started. Heck, you don’t even have to enroll in a gym. To help get the ball rolling, here are 8 apps, available on both Android and iOS that are not just meant to keep you healthy, they can be pretty fun too.

How to see Wi-Fi passwords on an Android phone – What do you do when all you see is a sea of asterisks? (Hint: Rooting required.)

How to Customize Your Default Apps in Windows 10 – You can control which particular app or browser launches when you open a program in Windows 10. Here’s how.

Are iPhone owners really less honest than Android users? That’s what this study says – Researchers claim your phone really does say a lot about who you are as person, and if you’re an iPhone owner what it says is not flattering.

How to get more from Windows Defender by using its command-line tool – Windows Defender’s command-line utility lets you automate basic tasks and handle certain advanced operations. Here’s a look at how to use the tool and examples of ways it can come in handy.

Telegram launches Telegraph, an anonymous blogging platform – Telegram now has a blogging platform to go along with its popular messaging app. It’s called Telegraph and, according to VentureBeat, offers fast publishing and anonymous posting — without requiring you to register an account or sign in through social media. The app’s user interface looks very similar to Medium and allows for easy embeds. You can also embed images from your computer by clicking on the camera button. In comparison to Medium, the loading time for embeds is relatively fast. Publication is instantaneous upon hitting “publish.” Posts are shareable on social media platforms but are designed to work best on Telegram’s new Instant View layout, which works similarly to Facebook’s Instant Articles feature.

SD Association unveils App Performance Class SD cards – The SD Association has announced a new type of memory card that users of smartphones and tablets that need more space for their favorite apps will want to know about. The new App Performance Class is part of SD Specification 5.1 and establishes technical and market requirements to run and store apps on SD cards. The specification still supports storage of images, video, music, documents, and other data as well.

Vivaldi web browser can directly control Philips Hue bulbs – Philips Hue bulbs can already be controlled through various means and there are most likely web apps that can accomplish that as well. Vivaldi, however, prides itself for having that feature built right into the browser, no add-ons needed. As long as the bulb and the browser use the same Wi-Fi network, a bridge between the two can be made.

Google Cast branding dropped in favor of Chromecast built-in – The Google Cast brand hasn’t been around that long, but Google is already phasing it out. The branding, which marked speakers and other things compatible with Google’s casting technology, will disappear and be replaced with the ‘Chromecast built-in’ designation. The company’s Google Cast website already mentions this change, though it seems to be happening slowly rather than in one big sweep.

New federal guidelines seek to lock out apps on drivers’ phones – “Distracted driving” has been getting more attention because the government calculates that it is prevalent and is causing more car crashes. Today, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration published guidelines calling on smartphone makers to create a “Driving Mode” that shuts down app-use while a car is in motion. The 96-page voluntary guidelines (PDF), intended to reduce “driver distraction,” also call for cars to be more easily “paired” with mobile devices so that drivers can access them through an in-vehicle interface.

Windows 10 snooping: Microsoft gets more time to tackle ‘excessive’ data collection – Microsoft has been granted more time to change how Windows 10 collects data about users in order to comply with the French data protection act.

Security:

Make companies pay full cost of breaches to restore trust in the internet, says ISOC – Fake news, online banking thefts and data breaches: It’s no wonder that trust in the internet is at an all-time low. But don’t worry: The Internet Society has a five-step plan for restoring faith in the network of networks.

Google warns journalists and professors: Your account is under attack – Google is warning prominent journalists and professors that nation-sponsored hackers have recently targeted their accounts, according to reports delivered in the past 24 hours over social media. The people reportedly receiving the warnings include Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Stanford University professor and former US diplomat Michael McFaul, GQ correspondent Keith Olbermann, and according to this tweet, Politico, Highline, and Foreign Policy contributor/columnist Julia Ioffe; New York Magazine reporter Jonathan Chait; and Atlantic magazine writer Jon Lovett. Reports of others receiving the warnings are here and here. Many of the reports included banners that Google displayed when account holders logged in. Ars spoke to someone who works for a well-known security company who also produced an image of a warning he received. The person said he was aware of a fellow security-industry professional receiving the same warning.

Madison Square Garden Suffered Year-Long Credit Card Breach – The Madison Square Garden Company this week disclosed a massive credit card breach at four of its New York venues. Payment cards used to purchase merchandise, food, and drinks between Nov. 9, 2015 and Oct. 24, 2016 at Madison Square Garden, the Theater at MSG, Radio City Music Hall, or Beacon Theater—as well as Chicago Theater in Illinois—may have been affected. That means, for example, anyone who picked out a Billy Joel T-shirt or ordered popcorn and a beer during the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular could be a victim of identity theft.

US Navy warns 134,000 sailors of data breach after HPE laptop is compromised – A data breach at the US Navy has exposed the social security numbers and names of more than 130,000 current and former sailors, officials confirmed late on Wednesday—adding that “unknown individuals” had accessed the sensitive information. Hewlett Packard Enterprise told the US Navy that one of its laptops operated by a contractor had been “compromised,” however it didn’t provide any further information about how the breach—affecting 134,386 sailors—had occurred.

Hackers Are Using MailChimp to Spread Malware – You probably know MailChimp either as an email newsletter service, or the company that seems to have adverts on every single podcast you’ve ever listened to. Hackers recently jumped on that popularity, and managed to send out emails containing malicious links to subscribers of various different companies. The incident shows that hackers will likely use whatever distribution channels they can in an attempt to spread their malware and turn a profit.

Security researchers can turn headphones into microphones – Security researchers at Israel’s Ben Gurion University have created a proof-of-concept exploit that lets them turn headphones into microphones to secretly record conversations. The PoC, called “Speake(a)r,” first turned headphones connected to a PC into microphones and then tested the quality of sound recorded by a microphone vs. headphones on a target PC. In short, the headphones were nearly as good as an unpowered microphone at picking up audio in a room. The hack is fairly ingenious. It essentially “retasks” the RealTek audio codec chip output found in many desktop computers into an input channel. This means you can plug your headphones into a seemingly output-only jack and hackers can still listen in.

Tech Giants: IoT Security Is Terrible, Here’s How to Fix It – A report calls for future Internet of Things devices to have stronger encryption and allow less Internet access by default.

Company News:

Microsoft starts shipping Surface Studio orders early, offers dedicated support line – Microsoft has started shipping some Surface Studio orders a little early. The software giant originally planned to ship units to customers in mid-December, but Microsoft has been emailing the first people to preorder the $3,000 device, letting them know the Studio will arrive this week. Microsoft is still accepting “preorders” for the Surface Studio, but new devices won’t ship until “early 2017.”

Amazon makes good on its promise to delete “incentivized” reviews – Amazon is making good on its promise to ban “incentivized” reviews from its website, according to a new analysis of over 32,000 products and around 65 million reviews. The ban was meant to address the growing problem of less trustworthy reviews that had been plaguing the retailer’s site, leading to products with higher ratings than they would otherwise deserve. Incentivized reviews are those where the vendor offers free or discounted products to reviewers, in exchange for recipients writing their “honest opinion” of the item in an Amazon review. However, data has shown that these reviewers tend to write more positive reviews overall, with products earning an average of 4.74 stars out of five, compared with an average rating of 4.36 for non-incentivized reviews.

Facebook slapped with racial discrimination suit – Facebook was struck with a racial discrimination lawsuit after two black employees at the social network’s North Carolina data center alleged the company didn’t respond promptly to repeated complaints of harassment. The suit, filed Tuesday in US District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges Facebook allowed “retaliation against the employees reporting discrimination to fester and continue” at the facility despite their continued complaints. Robert Baron Duffy, a former employee, and Robert Louis Gary, a current employee, allege a facility manager used racial slurs when referring to black employees. They also say they were paid less than white colleagues.

Games and Entertainment:

The best graphics cards for PC gaming – In the market for a new video card? These are the best graphics cards that PC gamers can buy today.

2016 is saved as Microsoft Solitaire hits iOS and Android – Microsoft is bringing one of its most popular products to iOS and Android, and if you needed the perfect distraction from Trump talk at the Thanksgiving dinner table, this is it. The Microsoft Solitaire Collection brings some of the mainstays of Windows distraction from the PC to the smartphones most of us have in our pockets. Best of all, it’s a free download.

Rocket League Game of the Year Edition drives onto PS4 and PC – If you’ve yet to play Rocket League, you may want to have a look at the Game of the Year Edition, which has arrived on PC and PlayStation 4. Interestingly enough, Xbox One isn’t included in this launch, despite the fact that there’s an Xbox version of Rocket League. Perhaps such a release is coming at some point in the future, but for now, Xbox One owners are being left out in the cold.

Minecraft introduces flying Elytras, cartoon textures – Holiday season isn’t just shopping season. It’s also gaming season. Which is why game makers usually go all out during this time to ensnare bored or willing victims into their choice of escape from reality. And nothing says “escape from reality” more than Minecraft. Appropriately, Mojang has just announced some holiday treats for everyone, both on consoles and mobile, though not everyone is getting the exact same gifts. Console gamers will have adventures and misadventures in the air, while those on mobile can make goofy faces instead.

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Titanfall 2 free DLC arrives starting November 30 – Gamers who preordered Titanfall 2 will be able to download the game’s first free DLC starting on November 30. If you didn’t preorder the game, you’ll still get access to the DLC, but you’ll have to wait until December 3 to get it. Once you do, though, you’ll get access to the Angel City map from Titanfall 1, perhaps the most anticipated part of the DLC, as well as a new pistol and more.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Just How Big Has the Internet Become? – Wrap your mind around this: the average website today is now roughly 2.3MB—the size of the original Doom PC game, as noted in a study released in April by software engineer Ronan Cremi, CTO of DeviceAtlas. And the overall page size is “increasing inexorably,” Cremin stated in his report. Now consider the fact there are over 1 billion of these websites and counting clogging up the net, an increase of over 1,000 percent in the last decade. In other words, websites are getting bigger and bigger, and at the same time, more and more of them are being launched. But when you take into account all of these websites and their text, photos, animated ads, videos, and everything else that goes into them, just how big is the internet as a whole? And does it really matter?

Facebook is unlikely to succeed in China, even if it compromises on free speech – Facebook may have laid some of the early groundwork for a potential entry into China, but the U.S. social network’s chances of making a dent in the world’s most populous country are remote.

Google WiFi mesh networking crushes the competition in new test – Mesh networking is the future, and Google thinks it has a winner with Google WiFi. It’s backed up by a new test showing Google WiFi putting the competition to shame.

These 4 Things Kill Relationships – John Gottman can listen to a couple for 5 minutes and determine, with 91% accuracy, whether they’ll divorce. Gottman’s researched marriage for over 40 years and couples that attend his workshops have half the relapse rate that standard therapy provides. How can he tell who will split up? There are a number of indicators but at the core of Gottman’s research are ” The Four Horsemen.” These are the four things that indicate a marriage apocalypse is on its way:

Australia: Census reports highlight government IT incompetence – Inquiries by the Australian Senate and the PM’s special advisor on cybersecurity highlight ‘significant and obvious oversights’ by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which ‘couldn’t handle a predictable problem’.

The Small Business Holiday Season Survival Guide – Experts from Balboa Capital explain how small to midsize businesses (SMBs) can prepare for and capitalize on the upcoming holiday shopping season.

Reddit CEO admits he secretly edited comments from Donald Trump supporters – Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has admitted that he modified comments about him left on the site from supporters of Donald Trump. Huffman said he changed mentions of him in some of the messages inside the site’s largest forum for the President-elect, but not the messages themselves. But, in doing so, he dredges up past concerns that Reddit remains unable to work with its community.

Something to think about:

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

–       Franklin D. Roosevelt    (1882 – 1945)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tweets aren’t tools for surveillance: Twitter pushes back against law enforcement – Just because your tweets are public, doesn’t mean that law enforcement can use them to track your activity, Twitter clarified in a blog post on Tuesday. The post came after the company received reports of the service being used for surveillance on its users, the post said.

“As a company, our commitment to social justice is core to our mission and well established,” the post said. “And our policies in this area are long-standing. Using Twitter’s Public APIs or data products to track or profile protesters and activists is absolutely unacceptable and prohibited.”

Twitter’s public API makes tweets and some of their data available to developers worldwide, to be used in a variety of applications. In the post, the company said that the APIs were built using “content that people choose to share publicly,” and noted how that can be leveraged to help respond to natural disasters.

UK Cops Are Trying to Remove Spy Gear Records from the Web – UK police forces have long shrouded their use of IMSI catchers in extreme secrecy. In October, a report in the Bristol Cable uncovered new evidence that several forces had bought such technology, which UK police refer to as “covert communications data capture,” or CCDC.

But, that doesn’t mean police forces are going to break with tradition: some agencies have tried to remove evidence of their spending on IMSI catchers from the web, even though the publication of some of these documents is supposed to provide more transparency into the police and how it uses public funds.

“Their insistence on secrecy is in stark contrast to shallow political promises around accountability. There is no question that these devices raise serious data protection issues for the thousands of innocent people who have their personal data collected by these mass surveillance systems,” Richard Tynan, a technologist from activist group Privacy International, told Motherboard in an email.

Tynan added that UK police force’s stance on IMSI catchers “reveals their contempt for transparency.”

Germany is worried about fake news and bots ahead of election – Angela Merkel this week warned that fake news and bots may influence Germany’s national elections next year, days after she announced plans to seek a fourth term as the country’s chancellor. In a speech to parliament on Wednesday, Merkel said that fake news and bots have “manipulated” public opinion online, adding that lawmakers must “confront this phenomenon and if necessary, regulate it,” the AFP reports.

“Something has changed — as globalization has marched on, [political] debate is taking place in a completely new media environment. Opinions aren’t formed the way they were 25 years ago,” Merkel said. “Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls — things that regenerate themselves, reinforcing opinions with certain algorithms and we have to learn to deal with them.”

UK ISPs may be forced to block porn sites that snub age checks, sex acts face ban – Late on Wednesday, the government’s planned amendment to the Digital Economy Bill—which, if unopposed by parliament, will force ISPs to block porn sites that refuse to provide adequate age verification mechanisms—was published online. The tabled tweak to the draft legislation states that, where ISPs fail to act, they will be found guilty of an offence and hit with a fine.

As part of its mission creep, the government is also pushing for the BBFC regulator to have the power to tell ISPs to block content that isn’t pornographic. It states:

The steps that may be specified or arrangements that may be put in place under subsection (2) (c) include steps or arrangements that will or may also have the effect of preventing persons in the United Kingdom from being able to access material other than the offending material using the service provided by the Internet service provider.

However, the government’s amendment doesn’t nail down what it defines as “other material”—making it arguably a sweeping demand for all sorts of content to be censored.

Meanwhile, campaigners are increasingly vexed by the government’s decision to appoint the BBFC to police online porn blockades where sites fail to bring in age checker systems—even though the regulator is yet to explicitly state what fruity online material would be placed on its banned list.

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