Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 9, 2016

Is antivirus software dead at last?  YouTube’s top trending videos for 2016;  A beginner’s guide to total Android customization;  9 free ’round-the-clock streaming apps for low-effort TV watching;  Ed Bott’s 10 most popular Windows 10 tips;  Group Test: All-In-One desktop systems;  Google Photos tips and tricks;  Apple’s CarPlay is now available in more than 200 different models – and much more news you need to know.

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Is antivirus software dead at last? – While the value of antivirus software has been diminishing for some time, it was arguably pushed over the edge by ransomware, which, by some recent estimates, evades 100% of antivirus systems, owing its success to the rapid succession of new variants. So, is traditional antivirus software dead?

Worried about identity theft? Then you should avoid these password pitfalls – We’re constantly reminded of the risks that come with bad passwords, yet many people persist in using obvious and easy-to-crack names, words, and patterns. Want to know if you’re at risk?

A beginner’s guide to total Android customization – We often, and quite rightly, complain about the way device makers customize the “stock” build of Android to suit their own needs. Customizing software is not inherently bad, but Samsung, LG, and others are usually doing it to push their apps and services. These companies frequently make unnecessary aesthetic changes for the sake of being different. You don’t have to put up with the look and feel of Android on your phone, though. You can customize things to better suit your own style and usage patterns—all it takes is a little legwork. The more time you want to spend on it, the more extensive the customization can be. It all starts with the right tools.

Ed Bott’s 10 most popular Windows 10 tips – How well do you know the ins and outs of Microsoft’s flagship operating system? Every week, Windows expert Ed Bott delivers a new trick or shortcut. We’ve collected his most popular tips.

Windows 10 tip: Turn on File History for automatic backups – Windows 10’s File History feature keeps regular copies of files so you can roll back to a previous version of a file or restore an entire system. The feature is designed to use an external drive, but you can also specify a network location. Here’s how.

How to use the Windows 10 View Your Network Properties feature to obtain detailed information – With Windows 10’s View Your Network Properties feature and the Network Reset command, troubleshooting has gotten a bit easier.

Google Drive update makes managing backups a little easier – A new dedicated sidebar option takes some of the mystery out of your device and app backups.

10 tips to get the most out of Google Wifi – Google Wifi does more than blanket your home in Wi-Fi signal. Here’s how to get your money’s worth.

9 free ’round-the-clock streaming apps for low-effort TV watching – For this type of lean-back, passive viewing, you’ll want a video app that has some kind of ‘round-the-clock streaming element, so you can start watching with minimal effort. These types of apps have become more commonplace over the last couple years, so there’s a good chance you’ll find a few that match your interests. Here’s a list of our favorites:

Group Test: All-In-One desktop systems – If you need screen real estate, computing horsepower and a degree of upgradability, an AIO desktop can be a good choice. We examine contenders from the top five PC vendors.

wps9BFF.tmpMicrosoft is about to turn a phone into a real PC – Microsoft is bringing a full version of Windows 10, complete with desktop app support, to ARM chipsets. The software giant demonstrated Windows 10 running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip today, complete with HD video playback, Adobe Photoshop support, and Microsoft Office. Microsoft expects ARM-based laptops to be the first to adopt this new version of Windows 10. Traditional x86 desktop apps will be emulated, making the experience seamless to the end user. Laptops might be the first, but it’s easy to see past that and realize that this means Microsoft is about to turn a phone into a real PC.

Microsoft Decides Minimum Spec for Mixed Reality on Windows 10 – Delivering mixed reality through HoloLens means an opportunity to push a range of other Microsoft products. So the launch will be backed by 20,000 Windows apps, 360-degree movies through the Microsoft Movies & TV app, WebVR using the Microsoft Edge browser, as well as the ability for users to drag and drop 3D objects out of Edge and “into their physical world.” If you’re wondering what mixed reality is, Microsoft created this informative video to help explain their take on it:


Facebook custom picture frames go live for videos and photos – Facebook has rolled out the ability to create custom picture frames for videos and photos posted on the social network. Unlike pre-made frames that are used by everyone, this new feature enables users to create their own unique frame for their own videos and artwork. The move follows the trend set by a certain other app, enabling users to better modify and adorn their own content and, perhaps, making Facebook a touch more enticing in the process.

Google Photos tips and tricks – Google Photos has some powerful tools for tweaking and editing images. We show you how to take advantage of them to enhance and display your photos.

Hope is an app for millennial women to keep their BFFs close — but not too close – There are plenty of apps out there that purport to keep you “safe.” Apps that immediately phone your main contacts when you are threatened or attacked. Apps that allow you to share your location with key contacts. But for modern women, especially in big urban cities like New York or London, who would really rather not share literally all that stuff and perhaps find it all a bit alarmist, there isn’t anything that really suits their lifestyle. So a brand new app intends to speak to these confident, young women who like to keep their friends close, but not too close. Pitched as a “virtual BFF and concierge,” the Hope app wants to be the “social glue between millennial females.” It’s out on iOS now.

Apple’s CarPlay is now available in more than 200 different models – If reports are to be believed, Apple has scaled back ambitions to build its own car, but it’s still going strong with its more prosaic automobile offering: CarPlay. As spotted by 9to5Mac, the in-car operating system (like a stripped back version of iOS) is now available in more than 200 different vehicles. The latest list features cars from Audi, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Volkswagen, including vehicles that are already on the market, and some 2017 models. You can check the full list here.

Bluetooth 5 is out: Now will home IoT take off? – Bluetooth is aiming straight for the internet of things as the fifth version of the wireless protocol arrives with twice as much speed for low-power applications. Bluetooth Low Energy, which gains the most from the new Bluetooth 5 specification, can now go as fast as 2Mbps (bits per second).


How to set up DIY video monitoring for home or office — subscription free – Plug-and-play video monitoring cameras are all the rage, but most of them lock you into a proprietary and expensive backend. With a little extra effort, you can create your own monitoring system, with the devices you choose.


Backdoor accounts found in 80 Sony IP security camera models – Many network security cameras made by Sony could be taken over by hackers and infected with botnet malware if their firmware is not updated to the latest version.

Millions of routers allegedly backdoored with malware that can’t be removed – One of the hackers purportedly responsible for a zombie army of Mirai-infected IoT devices, claimed he infected millions of routers with malicious firmware which can’t be removed; a victim’s only recourse is to trash the router.

Yahoo fixes flaw allowing an attacker to read any user’s emails – Yahoo has fixed a severe security vulnerability in its consumer email service that could have allowed an attacker to read a victim’s email inbox. The cross-site scripting (XSS) attack only required a victim to view an email in Yahoo Mail. The internet giant paid out $10,000 to security researcher Jouko Pynnonen for privately disclosing the flaw through the HackerOne bug bounty,

Georgia says it’s traced an attempted voter hack to the Department of Homeland Security – Georgia’s secretary of state says the state was hit with an attempted hack of its voter registration system from an IP address linked to the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Russian cyberspies likely behind DNC breach move on to German election – A group of suspected Russian cyberspies blamed for interring in the U.S. elections is also attempting to influence the upcoming vote in Germany, according to the country’s domestic intelligence agency.

Company News:

Microsoft finalizes $26 billion LinkedIn acquisition, reveals what’s next – Microsoft secured regulatory approval for its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn earlier this week, and the software giant is finalizing the deal today. In a LinkedIn note, of course, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says he’s “enthusiastic about the common mission” of both Microsoft and LinkedIn. “As our two companies’ leadership teams have spent time together these last few months, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of and appreciation for LinkedIn’s relentless focus on its members.” Microsoft has a set of goals for its LinkedIn integration plan, including some specific areas where the company will leverage the social network.

Microsoft, Intel partner on Project Evo to bolster efforts in AI, security, mixed reality – At the recent Windows Hardware Engineering Community (WinHEC) event, Intel and Microsoft announced a partnership focused on far-field speech communications, biometric security, and more.

Red Hat launches OpenShift on Google Cloud – Red Hat is expanding its OpenShift Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud to the Google Cloud Platform. This move comes days after Red Hat completed bringing its JBoss software stack to OpenStack. With this new public cloud offering, enterprise users will be able to to build, launch, and manage applications on OpenShift Dedicated with Google Cloud Platform as their underlying cloud infrastructure. OpenShift was already available on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Pebble confirms Fitbit sale: Hardware is dead, software in maintenance mode – Pebble, the onetime darling of Kickstarter backers everywhere, has had a rough year. Despite the launch of the Pebble 2 this fall, the company had to lay off 25 percent of its workforce in March. And late last week, news broke that it would be selling to fitness wearable company FitBit for somewhere between $34 and $40 million. That paltry sum is about half of the $70 million that Intel allegedly offered for the company in early 2016, and it’s just a fraction of the $740 million that Citizen reportedly offered in 2015. It’s also a little less than the roughly $43 million that the company has cumulatively raised across its $10.2 million, $20.3 million, and $12.8 million Kickstarter pledge drives since April 2012.

Yik Yak lays off 60 percent of employees as growth collapses – Yik Yak has laid off 60 percent of employees amid a downturn in the app’s growth prospects, The Verge has learned. The three-year-old anonymous social network has raised $73.5 million from top-tier investors on the promise that its young, college-age network of users could one day build a company to rival Facebook. But the challenge of growing its community while moving gradually away from anonymity has so far proven to be more than the company could muster.

Games and Entertainment:

Ubisoft’s 30th anniversary putters across the finish line with free copies of Assassin’s Creed III – Ubisoft has given away some truly excellent games in 2016 to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Since June, players have been able to scoop up free copies of Beyond Good & Evil, Rayman Legends, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and more. So what classic gem did they choose to end on?


YouTube’s top trending videos for 2016 – The list includes the indescribable madness of carpool karaoke, scientific inquiry, John Oliver, and Vlogger Casey Neistat. This year’s list is interesting because while it does have some weird items that are part of the YouTube tradition. There’s also a lot of particularly mundane items like a six-minute short from a sportswear company and a guided tour of first class. These videos received 550 million views and have been watched for over 25 million hours combined.

Super Mario Run hands-on: like Mario, just simpler – A week ahead of the release Nintendo’s first true smartphone game, Super Mario Run, we had a chance to spend a half-hour with the portable platformer. How does it feel? Surprisingly like a classic Mario game. Super Mario Run strips the core of a Mario game to its very basics. Unlike classic Mario games, in which you control the forward and backward movement of Mario, this game is an automatic runner, which means that Mario will run on his own. You control when he jumps.


Pokémon GO is officially teaming with Starbucks for 7,800 new Gyms and PokéStops – Pokémon GO’s next big sponsor partner in the U.S. is Starbucks, which is going to host new gyms and PokéStops at 7,800 company-run Starbucks stores in the U.S. In addition to the new in-game locales, Starbucks is also making a Pokémon GO edition Frappuccino to celebrate the tie-up. What does Pokémon GO taste like in sugared coffee drink form? I have no idea, but I will definitely find out. This is similar to the McDonald’s partnership from closer to Pokémon GO’s launch earlier this year, wherein the fast food restaurant paid for Niantic to turn 3,000 locations in Japan into Gyms and PokéStops. The Frappuccino element adds a bit more reciprocity to the mix — there was no McPsyduck on the menu thought the McD’s deal.

Total PlayStation 4 sales cross 50 million mark – Despite Microsoft’s recent boost in Xbox One sales, the PlayStation 4 remains dominant. Sony has announced that total PS4 sales have crossed the 50 million threshold, thanks in part to what Sony calls the “best ever Black Friday week in the history of PlayStation.” That number includes sales of the freshly-released PlayStation 4 Pro, though at this early point in the console’s life, PS4 Pro likely didn’t contribute much to the overall tally of 50 million.

AMD strengthens gaming and VR on Linux with graphics improvements – Windows is the indisputable platform of choice for gaming and VR, but Linux is catching up fast as graphics companies ramp driver up and hardware support for the OS.

Bully launched on Android and iOS: here’s why you need it – Bully is a game made by Rockstar Games for game console, ported now to the Android universe for mobile users. This game was great when it was first released, and now that it’s time for mobile, it’s being re-launched with all components at once. Instead of waiting for DLC to be released, this game comes with all “unlockable” items from the title’s console run already in the game. This is a game that’s more than worth the few bucks it costs, and perfect for long trips to grandma’s house for Christmas.

DOOM free update 5 adds Infernal Run multiplayer mode and bots – DOOM has turned out to be one of the coolest games launched this year and Bethesda has been making gamers even happier about the game with free updates since launch. Free update five is now available and it adds in some cool new features that players will be thrilled about. One of the biggest additions in the update is a new multiplayer mode.

Hulu will now let you create profiles for up to six people – Hulu announced today that users can now create multiple profiles through the company’s website. More devices will support profiles over the next couple of weeks, but for now, it’s limited to Each account can maintain up to six individual profiles that will remember everyone’s viewing history and Watchlist. It’ll also, of course, make recommendations. There’s also a kids-oriented profile to wall off inappropriate content. Yes! Finally, you can stop getting all those recommendations for Frasier because your mom loves that show, and instead get the more accurate Real Housewives of Beverly Hills recommendation.

Off Topic (Sort of):

DIY guide: How to add new tech to old cars – For those of you jealous of all the cool tech in the new cars my colleague Bill Howard gets to write about, there are lots of alternatives for adding technology to your current car. In most cases, add-ons aren’t as slick, or as powerful, as the versions you can get if you go all-in for a new vehicle. But they’re a lot less expensive, and some are quite effective. Done correctly, aftermarket solutions can even more flexible and future-proof than OEM systems. Remember when car phones were built into vehicles, and they got old really fast? Or when navigation systems all got built in and they got old really fast? Now, most of us use our smartphones for both of those functions — tied into our cars. Many of the add-ons we’ll look at in this article also leverage your smartphone, while others take advantage of the rapid pace of change and decrease in cost of consumer technologies.

Google offers virtual tour of Manhattan Christmas store windows – It’s a Christmas tradition in Manhattan for stores along Madison, Fifth Avenue, and other streets to put up elaborate and beautiful store window displays for Christmas. According to Google, over 5 million people travel to Manhattan during the holiday season just to see these holiday displays. If you can’t make it to Manhattan in person, Google is offering you a way to view these Christmas displays from the comfort of your home.


Uber spells outs its expectations for riders – Uber has updated its Community Guidelines to lay down some ground rules for those who use the service to catch a ride. Usually when we hear about the expectations Uber has for people using its service, those rules revolve around drivers, but not today. Instead, Uber is letting you know what you can do to be a good rider.

Exploring the Most Popular Websites of the Last 20 Years – These sites can really give you some insight on the rises and falls of some of the biggest businesses in the Internet age.

Something to think about:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

–     Aristotle    (384 BC – 322 BC)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden leaks reveal NSA snooped on in-flight mobile calls – GCHQ and the NSA have spied on air passengers using in-flight GSM mobile services for years, newly-published documents originally obtained by Edward Snowden reveal.

Technology from UK company AeroMobile and SitaOnAir is used by dozens of airlines to provide in-flight connectivity, including by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, and many Arab and Asian companies. Passengers connect to on-board GSM servers, which then communicate with satellites operated by British firm Inmarsat.

“The use of GSM in-flight analysis can help identify the travel of a target—not to mention the other mobile devices (and potentially individuals) onboard the same plane with them,” says a 2010 NSA newsletter.

A presentation, made available by the Intercept, contains details of GCHQ’s so-called “Thieving Magpie” programme.

GCHQ and the NSA intercepted the signals as they were sent from the satellites to the ground stations that hooked into the terrestrial GSM network. Initially, coverage was restricted to flights in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, but the surveillance programme was expected to go global at the time the presentation was made.

US government seeks more data on Apple customers – Apple has seen a sharp year-over-year increase in the number US government demands for customer data.

The company’s first biannual report this year covers how many demands were made from global law enforcement and intelligence agencies — including the US government — for data it stores.

Apple said it reviewed 4,822 demands for device data from US authorities, affecting 10,260 devices, an increase of 26 percent on the same period a year earlier.

The company said that it was compelled to turn over data in over three-quarters of all cases.

Additionally, the company received 1,363 demands from US authorities, the top requesting country, affecting 9,090 accounts.

Apple turned over data in 84 percent of those cases.

But requests from the US were eclipsed by the number of requests made by Germany, where device ownership is especially high.

NSA, Wikimedia Foundation argue fate of surveillance lawsuit – The Wikimedia Foundation wants a judge to decide whether a major US surveillance program is constitutional. The US government says the organization has no business bringing the case to court.

That was the conflict at the heart of arguments lawyers for both sides gave in a federal appeals court Thursday in Richmond, Virginia. The program, often referred to as “upstream” surveillance, searches communications as they travel through underwater cables that pipe the internet around the world.

If allowed to continue with its case, the Wikimedia Foundation and a host of other nonprofits, non-government organizations and news publications that communicate internationally over the internet would ask a federal judge to determine whether the program violates the Fourth Amendment.

As privacy advocates see it, “This is a case about the warrantless collection of communications straight from the backbone of the internet,” Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in an email. “Cases like this are important to establish that such unbounded surveillance violates the constitution.”

Facebook and Twitter Need to Shut Down Hate Speech Within 24 Hours, Europe Warns – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft aren’t responding to cases of online hate speech fast enough, according to the European Commission, which demands the technology companies review reports of hate speech less than 24 hours after they were first reported.

Only 40 percent of all notifications of hate speech were acted upon within a 24-hour timeframe, found a European Commission report, a report that forms part of the governing body’s first evaluation into how Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Microsoft fight online hate speech more than six months after the four signed up to a code of conduct in Europe in May 2016.

European Commissioner for Justice Věra Jourová said in a statement this week, “It is our duty to protect people in Europe from incitement to hatred and violence online. This is the common goal of the code of conduct.”

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