Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 2, 2016

Top Google Chrome productivity, privacy and security extensions 2016;  NFL streaming: how to watch football without CBS All Access;  How to use a tablet as a second display;  Tech on a Budget: 20 Gift Ideas Under $20;  A beginner’s guide to beefing up your privacy and security online;  The Best SSDs of 2016;  Dusk’s new app lets you live stream anonymously;  How to download, manage Netflix shows on your phone or tablet – and much more news you need to know.

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A beginner’s guide to beefing up your privacy and security online – This is not a comprehensive guide to security, nor should it be considered good enough for professional activists or people who suspect they may be under targeted surveillance. This is for people who use their phones and computers for work and in their personal lives every single day and who want to reduce the chances that those devices and the accounts used by those devices will be compromised. And while security often comes at some cost to usability, we’ve also done our best not to impact the fundamental utility and convenience of your devices.

Top Google Chrome productivity, privacy and security extensions 2016 – If you are a Google Chrome user and you’re not making use of extensions, then you are really missing out. Here are a huge selection of extensions aimed specifically at boosting your productivity and privacy.

NFL streaming: how to watch football without CBS All Access – CBS has announced that its users will be able to stream some NFL games starting this upcoming Sunday. CBS says this is a multi-year deal between it and the NFL; once it kicks off, CBS All Access will offer all the NFL on CBS games, including halftime coverage, Thursday Night Football, and more. If you’re not a CBS All Access customer, though, or if you prefer greater access to NFL content, you’ve got a few other streaming options.

How to use a tablet as a second display – Tablets aren’t just for binge-watching the new Netflix “Gilmore Girls” miniseries or perusing the fake news on your Facebook feed. You can also put that bad boy to work as a second display. Two displays for a single computer give you more space to spread out your documents, spreadsheets and web browsers. If you already own an Android tablet, why not? It’s cheaper than buying an extra monitor and only requires a few app downloads. There are a few apps that let you do this, but for this guide, I’ve chosen iDisplay since it it has options for multiple platforms.

How to download, manage Netflix shows on your phone or tablet – The day has finally arrived! It’s now possible to download shows and movies using the Netflix app to watch when you’re on a plane, or without an internet connection. Heck, downloading Netflix content is a super easy way to save on your mobile data plan while on the go. Before you get too excited, the first thing to do is install the latest version of the Netflix app on your iOS or Android device. According to Netflix, the new feature works on Android devices running Android 4.4.2 and up, as well as iOS 8.0 or later.

Here are Google’s top apps, content for 2016 – The year is about to end, and as is the tradition almost every where, it’s a time for reminiscing and retrospectives. That’s true back in the analog days and still true even in today’s digital age. Being one of the biggest sources of digital content, Google Play has some insight into the hottest trends of the year. So naturally, Google is in the position to reveal what’s hot and what’s not as far as apps, music, and movies go. While some of them are as you would expect, there are others that will have you scratching your head.

Windows 10 tip: Jump through your list of installed apps – The Windows 10 Start menu includes a handy scrolling list of all the apps and desktop programs you’ve installed. It also offers a hidden alphabetical index. Here’s how to make that index visible.

How to restore missing desktop icons in Windows – You’ve lost your Windows desktop icons and you want them back. Here’s how to do it.

The Best SSDs of 2016 – External solid-state drives are faster, more affordable, and more versatile than ever. These are our top-rated SSDs, along with advice on how to shop for the right type of storage.

9 free ways to get the most out of Google’s Play Music app – Even if you don’t pony up $10 a month for Play Music, you can still upload your music collection, create and save “instant” mixes,” tweak your equalizer levels, set a sleep timer, and more.

Dusk’s new app lets you live stream anonymously – Stepping into this controversial space is a new app called Dusk, which lets you live stream anonymously to its online community, while protecting your identity through pixelated video and voice changed audio. The end result is something like an anonymous version of Periscope video, or a live video version of the secret-sharing app Whisper.

Switching from Android to iOS this holiday season? Here’s the guide that doesn’t come with the gift – Apple has made it incredibly easy to leave Android behind, but there are a few catches. Find out how to make the process super smooth for you and your loved ones.

Western Digital releases series of Raspberry Pi disk drives – Western Digital (WD) today introduced a new series of storage devices designed specifically for use with Raspberry Pi, a single-board micro PC. The WD PiDrive Foundation Edition drives include a microSD card preloaded with the custom New Out of Box Software OS installer. The drives are available in three capacities: a 375GB hard disk drive (HDD), a 250GB HDD and a 64GB flash drive. The 375GB and 250GB products include a WD PiDrive cable that ensures optimal powering of the hard drive and Raspberry Pi.

The best Raspberry Pi boards, accessories and alternative boards – The Raspberry Pi might be the name that springs to mind when people think of single board computers for homebrew projects, but there are other boards out there worth considering. Also added are a selection of accessories to help you make more from your project board.

Amid distraction fears, Android Auto gets “Ok Google” voice trigger – Google has enabled “Ok Google” voice triggers to Android Auto, allowing users of the in-car interface to issue commands or dictate messages without having to press a button first. Designed to increase in-car safety while still offering access to smartphone features users have progressively become dependent on, Android Auto relies on a customized interface designed for easier use while on the move. Until now, though, it had required users either press an on-screen button or a button on the steering wheel to actually get the system’s attention.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: Now ready for business after four months of tweaks – The Windows 10 Anniversary Update that was released to Home users in the summer is now available under the Current Branch for Business servicing option.

How to fix iCloud calendar spam – For the last few weeks, some iCloud users have been experiencing an uptick in spammy Calendar invites to fake events and things like Ray-Ban sales and Ugg discounts. And unlike email spam, simply declining the events may make things worse, since it shows the spammers that your account is active, increasing the odds of getting more spam in the future. In a statement made to iMore yesterday, Apple commented that it is aware of the issue and is working to address it. Until that happens, iCloud spam will continue to be a frustrating situation for many. Fortunately there are a few options to deal with the spam.

Security:

Firefox zero-day: Mozilla, Tor issue critical patches to block active attacks – If the government created this Firefox and Tor Browser exploit, it just endangered all web users, argues Mozilla.

1 million Google accounts compromised by Android malware called Gooligan – Researchers say they’ve uncovered a family of Android-based malware that has compromised more than 1 million Google accounts, hundreds of them associated with enterprise users. Gooligan, as researchers from security firm Check Point Software Technologies have dubbed the malware, has been found in at least 86 apps available in third-party marketplaces. Once installed, it uses a process known as rooting to gain highly privileged system access to devices running version 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, and KitKat) and version 5 (Lollipop) of Google’s Android operating system. Together, the vulnerable versions account for about 74 percent of users.

Find out if your Google account has been hacked – Check to see if your Android device has been hit by Gooligan and what to do if it has.

At least 10 million Android users imperiled by popular AirDroid app – For at least the past six months, a popular remote management app available in the official Google Play Store has opened tens of millions of Android users to code-execution and data-theft attacks when they use unsecured networks, researchers said Thursday.

Legal raids in five countries seize botnet servers, sinkhole 800,000+ domains – A botnet that has served up phishing attacks and at least 17 different malware families to victims for much of this decade has been taken down in a coordinated effort by an international group of law enforcement agencies and security firms. Law enforcement officials seized command and control servers and took control of more than 800,000 Internet domains used by the botnet, dubbed “Avalanche,” which has been in operation in some form since at least late 2009.

Amazon offers DDoS Protection with Shield – Frightened of your site getting blown off the internet with a distributed denial of service attack? Amazon can protect you with AWS Shield.

Company News:

Mozilla puts new money to use fighting for ‘internet health’ – After weaning itself from dependence on Google, the nonprofit plans to expand beyond the Firefox browser. That may clash with Trump administration priorities.

Fitbit is reportedly buying Pebble for $34 million-40 million – A report from The Information states that the fitness tech giant Fitbit is finalizing a deal to buy Pebble. The report suggests the price would be for “a small amount,” and an independent source confirmed to Engadget that Fitbit will buy Pebble for $34 to $40 million.

Nokia-branded Android phones begin arriving next year – Those of you who have a soft spot for Nokia will be pleased to hear that smartphones bearing the company’s name will be making a return next year. Today Nokia and HMD Global Oy announced the terms of their licensing agreement, which was signed six months ago. Perhaps most importantly, this means that Nokia will be entering the realm of Android, a move many fans wanted to see Nokia make before it was bought up by Microsoft.

GoPro lays off 15 percent of workforce, shutters entertainment division – GoPro on Wednesday said 200 employees, or 15 percent of its workforce, will be laid off as the action sports camera company looks to return to profitability. As part of the restructuring, GoPro will also reduce office space, shutter its entertainment division, and cancel seeking candidates for open job positions. The entertainment division was set to be GoPro’s saving grace, putting its cameras’ content on set-top boxes and other media streamers. Operating expenses are expected to drop $650 million after the restructuring.

Apple Is the Latest Tech Giant Reportedly Developing Its Own Drone Fleet – Amazon has drones preparing to deliver our groceries. Google’s Project Wing is preparing to deliver our groceries, too. Facebook has drones working to give us internet, and Microsoft drones are fighting Zika virus. And now Apple has drones for giving us better maps. According to Bloomberg sources, Apple is readying a drone fleet to improve its Maps service in a bid to catch up with mobile map megastar Google. Sources told Bloomberg that Apple will use drones to survey the Earth to update map information much faster and more accurately than its current methods, which involve a Google-like car loaded with cameras.

Games and Entertainment:

5 Games You’ll Want to Buy in December – The year is almost over. December is here, the holiday season is in full swing, and the video game launch flood is receding. With the overwhelming number of releases in October and November, December’s lighter fare is a welcome change of pace, and we’re sure your wallet appreciates it, too. But don’t fret; if you’re on the hunt for a last-minute gift or personal treat, December has a few hot titles that you definitely want to grab.

The big problems with Facebook Messenger Instant Games – In case you missed the news, games are now included on the ever-growing list of Facebook Messenger features. There are a lot of them, too, with arcade classics such as Arkanoid and PAC-MAN joining newer titles like Bust-A-Move Blitz and Words with Friends: Frenzy. It’s frankly an excellent idea that makes Messenger more attractive as a chatting platform, but it’s not without some glaring flaws at this early stage.

DirecTV Now FAQ: All the details on AT&T’s new streaming TV service – After months of hype with little substance, AT&T has launched DirecTV Now, a bundle of streaming channels that will compete with Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue. While AT&T bills its new service as “TV beyond your wildest dreams,” on paper it’s not markedly different from its competitors. We’ll have more to say about how well the service performs in the coming weeks. For now, here are all the details we’ve gleaned from from AT&T’s public statements and a little bit of hands-on time:

Here are the 53 launch titles that will be available for the Oculus Touch controllers – The Oculus Rift’s motion controllers come out on December 6th, and Oculus just announced the list of over 50 Touch-compatible games and apps that will be available on the Oculus Store at launch. There are 53 launch titles in all, ranging from smaller indie games to major studio productions. Some of these titles were already in the store and are just getting updated with Touch support, while others are completely new and specifically designed to take advantage of the motion controllers.

Plex embraces Kodi as Plex Media Player becomes available to all – For the past year or so, popular media home server software Plex has been working on a new version of the Plex Media Player (PMP) client software for Windows. Now that client software is free for anyone to use, eliminating the need for a premium Plex Pass subscription. Plex Media Player is just one part of the Plex puzzle for playing content across your devices. The idea is to have the media player software installed on the PC hooked up to your TV, while another PC or NAS device runs the central Plex server software in another room.

You can finally watch Netflix offline now – Netflix wants to make your trip back home this holiday season a little merrier. The company announced on Wednesday that select TV shows and movies were available for download on Android and iOS. In other words, Netflix now enables offline viewing. It’s not for everything, though. Most of Netflix’s original programming will be covered by the new feature, but some titles may not be due to licensing restrictions.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Tech on a Budget: 20 Gift Ideas Under $20 – Sometimes it pays to remember that you don’t always have to spend big to get a big thank you.

Inside the black box: Understanding AI decision-making – Artificial intelligence algorithms are increasingly influential in peoples’ lives, but their inner workings are often opaque. We examine why, and explore what’s being done about it.

Study: iPhone users may be less honest than Android users – 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 Pick the Right Drone for You – Drones are among this year’s hottest holiday gifts. But there’s a big difference between the less expensive models — which are basically toys — and the more powerful and pricey units. So how do you pick the right model for your needs?

French man sentenced to two years in prison for visiting pro-ISIS websites – A man in France was sentenced to two years in prison this week for repeatedly visiting pro-ISIS websites, even though there is no indication that he planned to stage a terrorist attack. The 32-year-old, whose name has not been released, was convicted by a court in the department of Ardèche on Tuesday under a new law that has drawn scorn from civil liberties groups. The man had been regularly consulting jihadist websites for two years, police said.

Five essential cybersecurity audiobooks – A curated list of cybersecurity audiobooks to help you better understand the history of computing, who hacks and why, and the future of cyber-defense.

The Golden Age of Texas Instruments Consumer Gadgets – Despite its military and industrial forays, TI’s consumer business perhaps had the most effect on the average person. Between 1972 and 1983, Texas Instruments released a string of products that revolutionized educational electronic toys, calculators, wristwatches, and to some extent, personal computers. In the slides ahead, we will explore this period in TI’s history.

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TI-99/4A (1981)

Magic mushrooms help cancer patients cope with fear and depression – Magic mushrooms, once associated mostly with Phish concerts, may lead to better end-of-life care for cancer patients. One dose of the active ingredient, psilocybin, can help terminal cancer patients experience less depression and anxiety even six months later. Two studies from New York University and Johns Hopkins University confirm a recent wave of research suggesting that hallucinogenic drugs are an important mental health tool.

FDA’s OK on trial opens possibility of prescription ecstasy in five years – The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the first large-scale, phase 3 clinical trial of ecstasy in patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the New York Times reported. The regulatory green-light follows six smaller-scale trials that showed remarkable success using the drug. In fact, some of the 130 PTSD patients involved in those trials say ecstasy—or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)—saved them from the devastating impacts of PTSD after more than a decade of seeing no improvement with the other treatment options available.

Something to think about:

“In the fight between you and the world, back the world.”

–    Frank Zappa   (1940 – 1993)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Game over: New US computer search law takes effect Thursday – “By sitting here and doing nothing, the Senate has given consent to this expansion of government hacking and surveillance.”

Those were the words Wednesday of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) as he failed to convince fellow senators to even hold a floor vote that could block changes to what is known as Rule 41 from taking effect Thursday.

Wyden was referencing an amended Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure, which originated from an unelected advisory committee and was signed by the Supreme Court in April. By rule, it becomes effective December 1. The measure clarifies the law allowing judges to sign warrants that let authorities hack into computers outside a judge’s jurisdiction. The rule also gives federal judges the authority to issue a warrant to search multiple computers—even without knowing who is the targeted computer owner. Previously, some judges had practiced this, while others did not.

Wyden, a handful of fellow lawmakers, and civil rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation oppose Rule 41. They say that under the measure, a warrant would not have to say with any particularity whose computer the authorities are searching. Wyden said Congress should vote on whether to allow this instead of the measure taking effect without any congressional approval.

The Department of Justice, meanwhile, said Wyden’s fears are overblown.

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