Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 16, 2016

Windows 10 tip: Create a full image backup using this hidden tool;  Windows recovery disk tip: When and if it needs updating;  14 eyebrow-raising things Google knows about you;  How to master Super Mario Run;  7 Android apps that track your expenses;  Ed Bott’s 10 most popular Windows 10 tips;  16 Android tips and tricks you shouldn’t miss;  5 things you should do following the Yahoo breach;  Evernote backtracks on controversial privacy policy;  Microsoft Offers Xbox One Owners Lost Odyssey for Free;  4 Gmail Labs features you should be using;  How to add your Gmail account to Windows 10’s Mail app – and much more news you need to know.

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Windows 10 tip: Create a full image backup using this hidden tool – Do you miss the old Windows 7 backup tool? It’s still there, well hidden in Windows 10, and its most impressive trick is the option to create a complete image-based backup.

Windows recovery disk tip: When and if it needs updating – Once you make your Windows recovery disk, do you ever need to update it? We asked Microsoft, and this is what we learned.

14 eyebrow-raising things Google knows about you – Some are fascinating, others are frightening — but here’s how to find out what Google has on you.

4 Gmail Labs features you should be using – As powerful as Gmail is, you make it even more productive with add-ons from Gmail Labs. If you’re new to Labs, it’s the testing ground for Gmail’s more experimental features. The successful ones go on to become standard Gmail capabilities—the much-loved Send & Archive button was once a Gmail Lab experiment—but while they’re in the Labs, there’s always the outside chance they could break, change, or disappear.

5 things you should do following the Yahoo breach – If you’re a Yahoo user you should consider your password compromised and should take all the necessary steps to secure your account. You should follow all of Yahoo’s recommendations, but here are a few more that you should have in mind:

How to replace 5 major Yahoo services and delete your Yahoo account – Yahoo users have 1 billion more reasons to switch another major hack. Here’s how to replace major Yahoo services with rivals and delete your Yahoo account.

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.

Evernote backtracks on controversial privacy policy – Evernote has performed an abrupt about-face on a controversial new privacy policy. The policy, released earlier this week, caused some upset, with users objecting to a clause that stated: “you cannot opt out of employees looking at your content.” Evernote tried to clarify that this employee snooping was only done to improve machine learning analysis, and that personal details were censored, but the damage has been done. Now, the company says it’s making this part of the privacy policy opt-in instead.

Don’t like Evernote’s new privacy policy? Here are five free alternatives – Note-taking app Evernote has quietly changed its privacy policy to allow some of its employees access to user-stored content, as part of the company’s effort to improve the service. Users are, as you might expect, not happy about their data being open to snooping, and they are planning to vote with their feet (and data). But what services can take over from Evernote? Let’s look:

16 Android tips and tricks you shouldn’t miss from 2016 – In case you missed any of ’em the first go-round or maybe just didn’t have the time to try everything out, here are some of my favorite Android tips and tricks from 2016. So pour yourself some cocoa, kick back by the fire, and give yourself the gift of finely tuned technology. Best of all? This is one gift that’s affordable as can be.

7 Android apps that track your expenses – The following seven Android apps have been created to help users track and report on their expenses. Some are strictly for business purposes; others can be used for both personal and work finance tracking. All of these have been updated within the last six months and have earned a rating of at least 4 out of 5 stars on Google Play by at least 100 users.

How to add your Gmail account to Windows 10’s Mail app – The Windows 10 Mail app can do more than just send and receive email from your Microsoft account–it can handle your Gmail as well.

Facebook partners with fact-checking organizations to begin flagging fake news – Facebook today began rolling out new tools designed to prevent the spread of misinformation, weeks after the US presidential election results raised new questions about how viral hoaxes may have contributed to Donald Trump’s victory. Facebook is introducing tools designed to make it easier to report links shared in the News Feed as fake news, and it’s working with four independent fact-checking organizations to assess the accuracy of viral stories. Facebook users who try to share a story that has been marked as false will be warned that “independent fact-checkers have disputed its accuracy.”

How to See Your Hidden Facebook Messages – Facebook actually keeps two inboxes for messages that come from people you’re not friends with. One contains contact attempts coming from people Facebook thinks you might know or want to get in touch with, while the other includes messages from accounts it thinks are strangers or spam. The former is referred to as a new message request, while the latter is called a filtered request. Unlike regular messages between friends, people who send you requests won’t know if you’ve read their message until you accept their invitation. Check out the steps outlined in the video above to see how to access both inboxes.

Skype begins testing an all-in-one app on Android offering native phone calls, SMS support & more – A new Skype application dubbed “Skype Mingo” has been spotted in the wild, offering Android users the ability to use Skype as the native calling app and contacts manager for their smartphone, while still being able to take advantage of Skype features like chat, file and photo sharing, video calls, and its new bots. The app, still in alpha testing according to Google Play, was first spotted by the blog, MSPoweruser, which also noted that Skype has been planning to bring SMS relay to Android users. That could indicate that Skype Mingo is meant to serve as the testing grounds for that feature set, before it rolls out to all of Skype’s Android user base.

Google’s Motion Stills app now can make cinemagraphs and add motion text – Google Motion Stills took the untapped potential of Apple’s Live Photos and made them a killer feature by instantly turning them into GIFs. Now, Google is adding even more features to Motion Stills that further enhance its toolset. The app now offers the ability to add “motion text” to an image, that can track and move along with motion in the photo. Google’s example shows a caption following a bird in flight, and the execution looks pretty slick. Additionally, Motion Stills can now create cinemagraphs. By using machine learning to analyze the imported Live Photo, Google’s app can freeze the background and create an endlessly looping transition of motion.


Android everywhere: If it has a screen, it will probably run Android soon – As the most popular OS on Earth, Android finds itself on a lot of different form factors. Sure, there are smartphones in countless different flavors, and Google has expanded the OS to cover tablets, watches, and TVs. But there’s way more to the Android world than that. Remember, the core Android platform is open source, which means all sorts of companies want it for things other than the typical Google-suggested use cases. Android is becoming the OS of choice for everything with a screen. So that’s what we’re diving into—the weird world of Android devices.

FreedomPop Expands to AT&T’s Network – FreedomPop, the Los Angeles-based startup whose mobile phone plans offer free texts, calls, and data, will give its subscribers access to the AT&T network starting today. Previously only available available on the Sprint network, FreedomPop’s expansion to AT&T will offer its customers more choices for how to use their free data, including a new mobile hotspot offering or the option to buy a SIM card for use in an existing device. The AT&T hotspot costs $29.99, and comes with 2GB of free data. The SIM card, meanwhile, is $10, and can be used with any GSM-compatible phone.

Windows 10: Microsoft’s Edge browser the latest to disable Flash by default – Next year will see Microsoft reduce Flash to being click-to-play in Edge, as part of a bid to improve the browser’s security, stability and battery drain.


Hit by ransomware? No More Ransom portal adds 32 more free decryption tools to help you – Bitdefender, Check Point, Emsisoft and Trend Micro have joined the No More Ransom scheme – allowing more victims of ransomware to get their files back without paying criminals.

For privacy and security, change these iOS 10 settings right now – Before you do anything on your new iPhone or iPad, you should lock it down. This is how you do it.

0-days hitting Fedora and Ubuntu open desktops to a world of hurt – If you run a mainstream distribution of Linux on a desktop computer, there’s a good chance security researcher Chris Evans can hijack it when you do nothing more than open or even browse a specially crafted music file. And in the event you’re running Chrome on the just-released Fedora 25, his code-execution attack works as a classic drive-by. The zero-day exploits, which Evans published on Tuesday, are the latest to challenge the popular conceit that Linux, at least in its desktop form, is more immune to the types of attacks that have felled Windows computers for more than a decade and have increasingly snared Macs in recent years.

The government body that oversees the security of voting systems was itself hacked – The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which is responsible for testing and certifying voting systems, among other things, was hacked around the time of the election, security outfit Recorded Future reports. The EAC confirmed a “potential intrusion” in a statement issued to TechCrunch. This isn’t a smoking gun for a stolen election or anything like that; the EAC doesn’t actually run the elections, nor does it handle voter information. But it is a shameful display all the same, especially considering how loudly and frequently the hacking threat has been bruited by officials this year.

Company News:

Adobe delivers record revenue on Q4 earnings beat – Adobe delivered strong fourth quarter financial results Thursday as the company continues to push an aggressive cloud strategy toward record-setting revenue growth. The creative software giant reported Q4 net income of $399.6 million, or 80 cents a share. Non-GAAP earnings in the quarter were 90 cents a share on revenue of $1.61 billion, up 23 percent year over year. Wall Street was looking for earnings of 86 cents a share on revenue of $1.59 billion. For the year, Adobe’s revenue came in at $5.85 billion on earnings of $3.01 per share. Analysts were looking for revenue of $5.83 billion earnings of $2.98 per share.

Oracle’s quarterly cloud revenue surpasses $1B – Oracle reported earnings for the second quarter of 2017 on Thursday. Earnings slightly beat estimates, though revenue fell short of expectations. The software giant touted its growing cloud revenues. Oracle’s non-GAAP earnings came to 61 cents a share on non-GAAP revenue of $9.1 billion. A year earlier, the company reported 63 cents a share on revenue of $9 billion. Wall Street was looking for 60 cents a share on revenue of $9.11 billion. Total cloud revenue hit $1.1 billion, up 64 percent in constant currency. Non-GAAP Software-as-a-service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) business came to $912 million, up 89 percent in constant currency.

Instagram has doubled its monthly active user base in two years – It appears that the rise of Snapchat and all its Spectacles fun have yet to slow Instagram’s growth: the Facebook-owned company today announced that it has reached 600 million monthly active users, doubling its figure from 2014. Of that statistic, 100 million monthly active users were added in the past six months — Instagram’s last milestone announcement was back in June of this year. Since then, Instagram introduced one of its biggest feature to date: Instagram Stories, a near-carbon copy of Snapchat. It also added the ability to delete followers from your private account and filter out abusive words this month, alongside an ephemeral live video function to users in the US.

TCL signs an exclusive deal to build BlackBerry-branded phones – BlackBerry announced the major global partner in its shift toward a solely software and service company today, and no surprise, it’s TCL. The Chinese hardware maker behind the Alcatel brand has already done a lot of heavy lifting for BlackBerry, as the designer and manufacturer behind the DTEK50 and DTEK60 handsets. Under this deal, TCL will build and distribute BlackBerry-branded devices globally, while BlackBerry provides the security, apps and customer support. The deal is the first of its kind for the BlackBerry, though the language surround the announcement implies that it won’t be the last – though other manufacturers likely won’t have access to the same sort of direct branding as TCL in most of the world, likely limiting the name to software suites and security.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft Offers Xbox One Owners Lost Odyssey for Free – The last round of games console releases from Sony and Microsoft did not come with backwards compatibility as standard. This was mainly due to both platforms moving to an x86 architecture and not wanting to spend any more cash than was necessary to ship new machines. However, Microsoft is steadily unlocking Xbox 360 games for play on the Xbox One, and the company is celebrating a milestone by offering a game for free.

Xbox One update turbocharges downloads for virtually all users – A new system update can speed up your Xbox One downloads by up to 80 percent.

How to master Super Mario Run: 13 quick and easy tips – Super Mario Run, Nintendo’s first true smartphone game, arrives today on iOS. It’s a little different than your typical Mario fanfare, which typically send the mustachioed plumber out on a grand adventure. Instead, the game has three modes — which you can test out for free — for players to sink their time into. The game does include in-game purchases with coin currency and a one-time fee of $9.99 to unlock its full features, and it will require an active internet connection to play. To help you make the most of your mobile Mario time, we’ve compiled our best tips and tricks.

DOOM Bloodfall DLC arrives alongside double points weekend – Bethesda has announced the release of the third and final DLC for DOOM (2016). The latest DLC is called Bloodfall, and it is of the multiplayer variety. As has become popular with special expansions, Bethesda has also announced a double points weekend that’ll run until next Monday (December 19). Those without a DOOM season pass can buy the DLC individually for $14.99 USD.

BBC and ITV’s BritBox streaming service brings UK shows to a US audience – The commercial arm of the BBC is teaming up with rival UK broadcaster ITV to launch BritBox, a subscription streaming service that will give US anglophiles access to hundreds of British TV shows. Pricing for BritBox is yet to be announced but, we’re told, it will launch in the first quarter of 2017 on iOS, Android, Roku, AppleTV, and Chromecast, as well as via Web browsers. Other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu typically cost around the $10 mark. BBC Worldwide added that while the service will be US-only initially, it has an “ambition” to roll it out to other international markets in the future.

Dolby’s luscious Atmos surround sound is coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One – During the introduction of the Windows 10 Creators Update in October, Microsoft announced that Dolby Atmos sound would be coming to the Xbox One S. Turns out that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Microsoft recently revealed that Dolby Atmos support is also coming to the original Xbox One and Windows 10 for PCs and tablets. There’s no specific release date yet, but it’s a good bet the feature will arrive with the Creators Update next spring.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Privacy should never be sacrificed for the sake of free – Yesterday was not a very good day for privacy. First was the revelation that Evernote’s new privacy policy will basically allow its engineers to take a peek at any of your notes. Then there’s Google’s lawsuit settlement, which involves still scanning your (and non-Gmail users’) e-mails. And to top it all off, Yahoo has admitted that an even more massive breach happened in 2013, affecting no less than 1 billion accounts. All this should send chills down your spine, and yet most people will probably react to the news with a shrug. Have we become accustomed, even numb, to intrusions of privacy in exchange for service? Common sense tells us we shouldn’t, and yet that might not be the case.

Australia: Site blocking efforts could prove more ‘symbolic’ than prohibitive for keen internet users – YESTERDAY a federal judge handed down a ruling that will usher in an unprecedented site blocking regimen in Australia — but plenty of uncertainties still remain. (recommended by Mal C.)

Why your tech is a pain in your neck. And back. And eyes – All those blinky, flashy, beepy screens keep you connected at your body’s expense. Here’s why it’s time to cut back.

100s of tech professionals take stand against Trump’s Muslim database – Hundreds of employees from top tech firms have formally pledged to not assist in building a database to track US citizens “based on race, religion, or national origin.” The pledge itself is hosted at, and contains signatures from employees of IBM, Google, Slack, Microsoft, and more. The open letter commitment is targeted at US President-elect Donald Trump who proposed a database system for tracking Muslims in the US while he was campaigning for president.

An Explainer on the Polar Vortex You’re About to Experience – A polar vortex is on the way, so if you live in the colder regions of North America, you may want to stock up on hot cocoa and frozen food, because you’re in for a weekend of Netflix and chill. But despite its ominous name, how many of us actually understand what a polar vortex even is?

Google Home is going to help you misdiagnose yourself – Google announced its conversation actions for the Google Home this past week, which are similar to the Amazon Echo’s skills but instead prompt users to converse with Home to get something done. Today we got a better idea of Google’s partners. Domino’s Pizza, Genius, and WebMD will all be supported, according to VentureBeat. Publications, like BuzzFeed, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN will also have actions. The new actions are available starting today, bringing the total number of conversation actions up to 35. Clearly the only skill we care about is WebMD because what could go wrong? Anyone who has fallen down a rabbit hole of symptoms, diagnoses, and statistics on WebMD knows one search can take an unexpected turn. Please go see a doctor because I promise it’s usually not as bad you think. Doctors are good. WebMD is fine.

The First-Ever Amazon Drone Deliveries Have Begun – Today, Jeff Bezos announced that an Amazon drone has completed its first ever package delivery to a customer. The delivery, which took place on December 7, is part of a continuing private customer trial the company is running in the Cambridge region of England. The whole delivery took about 13 minutes—from the moment the customer made the purchase to the time the drone came hovering down in their front lawn with the package. Amazon released a video of the delivery today, and Jeff Bezos proudly tweeted about it as well.

White House suggests Putin authorized DNC hack and helped to elect Trump – The Obama administration today joined the throngs of anonymous intelligence officials in saying Russian President Vladimir Putin had to have been involved in the cyberespionage operation to undermine the US election, the Associated Press reports. Not only does the White House say Putin was likely involved, but it also asserts that the Russian leader probably directly authorized the hack of the Democratic National Committee. The statements, from White House press secretary Josh Earnest, also suggest the goal was to help elect Donald Trump, who Earnest added must have known about Russia’s involvement. This follows yesterday’s report from NBC News that first surfaced the intelligence community’s claim of Putin’s involvement.

Something to think about:

“Almost everything: all external expectations, all pride all fear of embarrassment or failure. These things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

–        Steve Jobs   (1955 – 2011), Stanford Commencement Adress, 2005

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Twitter cuts off geospatial data access for police intelligence centers – Police across the country will now have a harder time singling out individual Twitter users. Twitter announced today that it has cut off all geospatial intelligence data being sold to police intelligence centers, also known as fusion centers.

The geospatial intelligence tool was being provided by Dataminr, an analytics firm partially owned by Twitter, which has exclusive access to the company’s live data feed or “firehose.” Dataminr introduced the system in March, and the ACLU of Northern California found evidence that at least one center had access to it for months afterwards. After a review, Twitter confirmed today that the tool is no longer in use by any such agencies.

“Our long-standing position has been that the use of Twitter data for surveillance is strictly prohibited,” the company said in a statement, “and we continue to expand our enforcement efforts.”

Dataminr has a number of law enforcement clients, but has often struggled with Twitter’s anti-surveillance policy, canceling a CIA contract earlier this year over similar concerns. Still, the company has continued to provide some data to law enforcement clients through a more limited version of the tool.

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