Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 23, 2016

Digital forensics: The smart person’s guide;  How to improve the security and privacy of your iPhone: 5 steps;  How to Share Your Phone’s Internet Connection;  How to record audio with OneNote;  How to use G Cloud, a complete Android backup solution;  Samsung Smart TV update forces users to see ads;  Super Mario Run: 10 tips to master the game;  Raspberry Pi’s Pixel for PC and Mac breathes new life into old computers;  BitTorrent’s live video app is now available on iOS;  The 33 Best Amazon Fire Tablet Apps – and much more news you need to know.

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Digital forensics: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about digital forensics, the science of recovering data from computers, networks, mobile phones, and IoT devices.

How to Share Your Phone’s Internet Connection – This capability is available on most iPhone and Android devices, and can be activated by navigating to your phone’s settings menu. Once the hotspot is turned on, your phone will begin broadcasting a password-protected Wi-Fi network that you can access on other electronics. The video above will walk you through how to get your hotspot up and running.

The 33 Best Amazon Fire Tablet Apps – Amazon’s Appstore has an ever-growing list of apps; here are the ones you need now.

6 cool ways to use Alexa on the Amazon Fire tablet – Now that Amazon’s voice-powered assistant has made her way to the company’s tablet, find out how to make the most of her.

How to use G Cloud, a complete Android backup solution – If you’re looking for a way to get a more complete Android backup solution than is offered by Google, Jack Wallen thinks G Cloud Backup is the answer.

How to troubleshoot a flakey Windows 10 system with the Memory Diagnostics Tool – Don’t rule out bad memory when encountering problems in Windows 10. The Memory Diagnostics Tool can help you zero in on defective RAM.

How to record audio with OneNote to supercharge your note-taking – OneNote’s audio recording feature links your notes to specific points in the recording. Here’s how it works.

Raspberry Pi’s Pixel for PC and Mac breathes new life into old computers – Pixel is a lightweight operating system with a clean desktop UI released by the foundation behind the affordable, tinker-friendly Raspberry Pi $35 computer in September, and now it’s available for PC or Mac users who might want to throw old hardware into renewed service. The lightweight Linux-based OS now comes as a downloadable image you can either burn to a DVD or load onto a USB drive, letting you boot directly into the Pixel environment on any Mac or PC that has at least 512MB of RAM and an x86 processor. That means if you have an old laptop lying around, like the OG plastic MacBook or an ancient ThinkPad, you could get it going again with a modern OS for basic tasks, including web browsing via Chromium which is pre-installed. Other software in Pixel includes a select suite of productivity software and programming tools, and it’s all built on Debian, which itself has a wide range of free software available.

15 tips for organizing your Gmail – You don’t have to dread opening your Gmail account — there are lots of ways to tweak Gmail for a more efficient and organized experience. Here are 15 tips that will help you get closer to the elusive dream of Inbox Zero.

Opera Max ‘VIP Mode’ gives unlimited data saving…and puts an ad on your phone – Opera offers an Android app designed to reduce the amount of mobile data you use throughout the day, and it’s pretty great at doing so. That has resulted in somewhere around 50 million Android users actively using the app every month, and Opera found itself in a bit of a pickle: while the free app shows an advertisement when you’re within the app, there was little reason to actually open the app and thus no one was looking at these ads with any sort of regularity. The company recently introduced a limitation that addresses that issue, and users weren’t happy, so now the company is back with yet another change: VIP Mode.

BitTorrent’s live video app is now available on iOS – Half a year after its initial release back in May, BitTorrent Live is finally making its way to iOS. BitTorrent Live is already available on the Fire TV, Apple TV, and macOS, and is now coming to its first mobile platform after a delay following plans to launch on iOS in June. And while the service still offers a somewhat lackluster offering of 16 channels — the highlights of which include NASA, One World Sports, and France 24 — it’s the technology behind BitTorrent Live that makes it significant.

WhatsApp update: how to edit and delete messages – This week the folks at WhatsApp have updated their app to include the ability to edit and delete messages with one big caveat. If the messages have been read, they’ll no longer be able to be edited or deleted. This update will be available for download soon- we’ll be including the link to the download as soon as it becomes available in the post you’re reading right this minute.

Pana’s travel companion app goes free, can automatically check you into flights – Pana, a travel companion that organizes your plans and sends personalized trip alerts, is now making its app free to challenge rivals like TripIt, Google Trips and others. First launched two years ago, Pana had previously focused on its paid subscription service for individuals and companies needing a 24/7 travel concierge — a move that may have limited its potential market. The free app (ver. 3.0), launched this week, brings a wide set of Pana’s features to those who may not be frequent fliers in need of Pana’s more hands-on service. The result is a useful travel companion that can help you plan, organize and access your trip information, even when you’re offline.

Signal’s private chat app uses Google to stay uncensored – Signal, the encrypted messaging app endorsed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, just received rather significant update. No, we’re not referring to the new stickers and doodling functionality. Those are just a front for the real meat of the update. In almost a similar fashion, Signal now uses a “front”, specifically a domain front utilizing, in order to circumvent current and future government censorship that would block an app that is reported to be in popular use among activists, advocates, and even dissidents.

Buying a laptop, last-minute holiday shopper? We can help – Want to give someone a laptop this Christmas, but can’t decide which machine to choose? CNET’s Marguerite Reardon offers some advice.

Talking holiday toys that can become your kid’s digital friend – Siri and Alexa are great voice assistants, but they aren’t necessarily great for playtime. That’s where these toys come in: They all respond to different voice commands to make toy time engaging.


How to improve the security and privacy of your iPhone: 5 steps – Protecting the data on your smartphone is paramount. Here are five simple changes you can enact to make your iPhone more secure.

The new Barnes & Noble Nooks come with free malware – Barnes & Noble began outsourcing its Nook e-readers a few years ago after a partnership with Samsung and their latest $50 Nook 7 android tablet, announced last month, shows us how that has worked out for them. Their latest e-reader includes ADUPS, a firmware that sends user data back to the manufacturer or an interested hacker. This is the same malware that researchers found on cheap Blu tablets and phones last month.

Facebook streamlines the login process with Instant Verification – The Android-exclusive feature uses your phone number to bypass one-time password entries.

Why Malwarebytes detects PC Pitstop as Potentially Unwanted – PC Pitstop makes several products including PC Matic, PC Magnum, Optimize, Driver Alert, and Disk MD. As of a few weeks ago, we detect these products as PUP.Optional, here is why.

The group that hacked the DNC infiltrated Ukrainian artillery units – The cyberespionage group blamed for hacking into the U.S. Democratic National Committee (DNC) has also infiltrated the Ukrainian military through a trojanized Android application used by artillery units.

Company News:

Google sued by employee for confidentiality policies that ‘muzzle’ staff – A product manager at Google has sued the company over its allegedly illegal confidentiality rules, which, among other things, prohibit employees from speaking even internally about illegal conduct and dangerous product defects for fear that such statements may be used in lawsuits or sought by the government. The alleged policies, which are said to violate California laws, restrict employees’ right to speak, work or whistle-blow, and include restrictions on speaking to the government, attorneys or the press about wrongdoing at Google or even “speaking to spouse or friends about whether they think their boss could do a better job,” according to a complaint filed Tuesday in the Superior Court of California for the city and county of San Francisco.

Uber forced to remove self-driving cars from San Francisco roads – The California Department of Motor Vehicles has today revoked the registrations for Uber’s fleet of 16 self-driving cars, forcing the company to remove the vehicles from the streets of San Francisco where they were being used. The move comes after Uber refused to apply for a $150 permit that would designate the cars as test vehicles, and allow them to be used on Californian roads, with the company arguing that the documentation didn’t apply to its specific self-driving cars.

Uber is moving its self-driving cars from San Francisco to Arizona – Uber is relocating its San Francisco self-driving car fleet to Arizona, where it says it has the support of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. The fleet of cars were hauled away on flat-beds towed by Uber’s Otto self-driving big rigs, though the trucks do not appear to have been autonomously driving to Arizona. The move comes after California’s Department of Motor Vehicles revoked the registration of Uber’s 16 self-driving cars because the company refused to apply for the appropriate permits for testing autonomous cars.

Google cut its 2015 tax bill by $3.6 billion using the infamous Dutch Sandwich loophole – Google was able to shave $3.6 billion from its 2015 tax bill by relying on an elaborate system of loopholes known as the “Double Irish” and “Dutch Sandwich,” according to a report from Bloomberg today. The loopholes — infamous among US corporations — effectively allow companies as large and profitable as Google to shuffle profits through subsidiaries in low-tax countries like the Netherlands and Ireland, and then onward to tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. In this case, Google moved $15.5 billion worth of euros to a Bermuda shell company, cutting its tax rate outside the US to 6.9 percent last year, according to regulatory filings in the Netherlands that were obtained by Bloomberg.

Twitter overcharged video advertisers, issues refunds – Now it’s Twitter copying Facebook… but in the worst way. Following several embarrassing disclosures of inaccurate metrics by Facebook, today Business Insider’s Alex Heath broke news that Twitter overcharged some advertisers. Between November 7th and December 12th, a source tells BI that video ad buyers were overcharged up to 35 percent. Twitter apparently informed these advertisers earlier this week and issued refunds, but didn’t publicly announce anything until after BI’s report today. In a short, extremely vague blog post, Twitter writes that “We discovered a technical error due to a Twitter product update to Android clients that affected some video ad campaigns.” It doesn’t mention that advertisers were over-billed or that they’ve been issued refunds.

Nokia files even more patent lawsuits against Apple – Nokia filed new patent infringement lawsuits against Apple on Thursday, a day after it weighed in on a licensing dispute with the company by filing claims in Germany and the U.S. On Wednesday, the Finland-based mobile network vendor filed lawsuits in three German courts and two lawsuits in a Texas court, leveling infringement claims against Apple on the widely used H.264 video codec and other technologies. Those suits cover 32 of Nokia’s patents.

Games and Entertainment:

Steam’s Winter sale 2016 has begun: Hide your wallets! – As the all-knowing PayPal foretold, the Steam winter sale for 2016 has begun. Like all the sales before it, this one brings plenty of discounts on much of Steam’s catalog. The sale will last until January 2nd as well, giving you plenty of time to consider your options.

Rent any movie from Google or Amazon this Christmas for just $0.99 – Google and Amazon have both launched holiday promotions for their online movie rental services. You can head over to Google Play and grab any title (including a number of recent blockbusters) for $0.99, or do the same at Amazon Video using the promo code “MOVIE99.” In both cases, you can only get one movie per account, and you have until January 23rd 2017 to redeem the offer. So, if you don’t fancy using it up for Christmas, you can always wait until the New Year.

RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic launches for Android and iOS – Atari has launched RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic, a new mobile game for iOS and Android that brings together the best of Rollercoaster Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon 2. The game is available for the most popular mobile devices: Android phones and tablets, the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, for $5.99 USD. This game follows RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile.

Super Mario Run: 10 tips to master the game – Unless you’re a gamer hiding under a rock, you have probably heard about Nintendo’s real first mobile game. And unless you have a phobia of Italian plumbers in jumpers, you’ve probably already tried Super Mario run for a short while or are just about to. The game’s deceptive simplicity belies the somewhat non-trivial mechanics operating behind the scenes. Whether you’re a complete novice, a returning player, or a stumped regular, these tips could help you gain an edge and populate your self-established kingdoms with psychedelic and inappropriately named mushroom people.

Samsung Smart TV update forces users to see ads – Samsung recently updated its televisions to make viewing ads mandatory if you want to use the Smart TV features. If you haven’t recently invested in a set, it may be time to take Samsung permanently off your screens — at least until it stops requiring you view ads in perpetuity on hardware you already paid for.

Vane on PS4 lets you spread your wings in a forgotten desert – Did you like Journey or Absu? Then you should keep an eye on this upcoming PlayStation 4 title.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Canada declares ‘high-speed’ internet essential for quality of life – Canada has recognized the obvious and declared high-speed broadband internet access a “basic telecommunications service” that every citizen should be able to access. Previously, only landline telephone services had received this designation from the country’s national telecoms regulator, CRTC, and the change is supported by a government investment package of up to $750 million to wire up rural areas.

Panda vs. snowman is the showdown we all need to see – In “Frozen,” Anna famously asked sister Elsa if she wanted to build a snowman. But everyone knows the real fun isn’t in building something, it’s in breaking it. Or so a giant panda named Da Mao seems to think. The Toronto Zoo posted a video Tuesday of Da Mao taking apart a snowman like Clubber Lang knocking out Rocky, only way cuter. The zookeepers built the panda the snow figure for “enrichment,” the YouTube video claims, and it certainly did seem to enrich his ability to Hulk Smash things.


Food for thought: 10 bits of Android analysis worth chewing over this holiday season – From useful insights on the evolution of Google services to important perspective on the future of Android, these original analyses are must-reads for anyone interested in mobile technology.

Tesla tops 2016 owner satisfaction survey as VW plummets – Tesla has taken the top spot in a customer satisfaction survey, with more owners of the electric car saying they’d buy another than any other automaker brand. The results of Consumer Reports’ 2016 Annual Owner Satisfaction Survey see Tesla once again in pole position, with Porsche and Audi keeping hold of their second and third place spots. However, there’s some sizable movement elsewhere in the rankings, particularly after this year’s “dieselgate”.

States that enact medical marijuana laws see dips in fatal car crashes – Medical marijuana may save lives out on the road as well as in clinics, according to a new study. When examining 19 states that had medical marijuana laws on the books by 2014, researchers found that their average rate of traffic deaths fell 11 percent after the laws were enacted. The happy side-effect wasn’t uniform, however; only seven states saw significant reductions, while two states saw increases. Nevertheless, the authors of the new report in the American Journal of Public Health argue that the data bucks the common criticism that more pot access should increase car crashes and injuries.

This bed with built-in subwoofer, TV, lamp and power outlets may be your last purchase, ever – Furlenco’s new “Pod” might just be the most outrageous product hitting the market this holiday season. The Bangalore, India based furniture rental startup has always had a penchant for targeting the millennial subset, but this is something else entirely — because as any 20-something knows, adding a bed to things makes them universally more practical. The Pod includes a 32-inch mounted television, Bluetooth connectivity, 2:1 channel speakers with a serious subwoofer, an adjustable reading light, ports to charge your gear, a bookshelf and, for good measure, a bed.


EPA now concedes fracking is a hazard to drinking water – After a year-long review of the data, the EPA has concluded that fracking poses a systemic danger to clean groundwater. But it’s not necessarily inherent to the technology of fracking itself. Human handling is a lot of the problem.

Trump Tales:

What’s standing between Donald Trump and nuclear war? – When President-elect Donald Trump officially becomes the president of the United States in January, he will take complete control of America’s nuclear arsenal. Should he decide to start a nuclear war, there are no legal safeguards to stop him. Instead, a much less tangible web of norms, taboos, and fears has reined in US presidents since World War II. But as North Korea escalates its nuclear weapons tests, Russia promises to strengthen its nuclear forces, and the president-elect of the United States openly tweets that the US must “strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” experts worry that this fragile web could start to tear.

Oracle staffer quits over co-CEO’s support for Trump – George Polisner publishes his resignation letter on LinkedIn, with unkind words for the president-elect.

“Trump stokes fear, hatred and violence toward people of color, Muslims and immigrants,” he said. “It is well-known that hate crimes are surging as he has provided license for this ignorance-based expression of malice.”

Jetblue Passengers Kicked Off Flight for Harassing Ivanka Trump – Jetblue has confirmed that two passengers were kicked off a flight for verbally harassing Ivanka Trump. The daughter of President-elect Donald Trump was seated on a commercial flight in New York Thursday morning when a male passenger reportedly began shouting at her, according to The Wrap. “Your father is ruining the country,” he said. “She should be flying private.” The airline then removed both the offending passenger and his husband from the plane, prompting the former to ask, “You’re kicking me off for expressing my opinion?”

Obama Blocked Trump from Drilling the Arctic and Atlantic With This Obscure Law – In a preemptive move, President Obama invoked a little-known law to permanently keep oil and gas drilling out of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.

Obama ending program that tracked Muslim travelers before Trump can use it – President Obama will officially end a controversial Bush-era registration program that largely affected travelers from Muslim-majority nations, the Department of Homeland Security has announced. Donald Trump’s advisers have suggested the program could be revived under his administration, but the preemptive move by Obama may partially head off those efforts.

Documents suggest Palantir could help power Trump’s ‘extreme vetting’ of immigrants – Training materials obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center show Palantir has played a role in a far-reaching customs system

Something to think about:

“First there is a time when we believe everything, then for a little while we believe with discrimination, then we believe nothing whatever, and then we believe everything again – and, moreover, give reasons why we believe.”

–       Georg Christoph Lichtenberg   (1742 – 1799)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Government Requests for Facebook Data Up 27 Percent – Governments worldwide requested Facebook users’ data nearly 60,000 times in the first half of 2016, a 27 percent increase over requests made in the second half of 2015, according to a Facebook bi-annual report published this week.

In addition to government requests for user data, the report details which content Facebook restricts for violating local laws. The company says it studies each request carefully to determine whether or not it has merit, especially in emergency cases where imminent risk of serious injury or harm is involved. It ultimately handed over data in 80 percent of cases.

The 27 percent jump for the latest reporting period compares to a 13 percent increase between the first and second halves of 2015, and 18 percent growth between the second half of 2014 and the first half of 2015. The majority of the requests came from law enforcement agencies in the US. Of those, the most common were related to search warrants—13,742 out of 23,854.

Mass internet surveillance is unlawful say judges in blow to Snoopers’ Charter – The UK government’s controversial Snoopers’ Charter was dealt a blow today, after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that “general and indiscriminate” retention of online traffic is unlawful.

The ECJ’s ruling comes just one month after the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), better known as the Snoopers’ Charter, which requires internet providers to record every customer’s top-level web browsing history for up to one year.

However, according to the ECJ, under EU law such online traffic data should only be retained when operations are carried out in a targeted manner, and in the course of fighting “serious crime”.

The UK government says it is assessing the potential impact of the ruling.

Encryption backdoors are against US national interest, say lawmakers – Any attempt to weaken encryption is against the national interest, a group of US lawmakers has warned.

The widespread use of strong encryption has lead to complaints from law enforcement agencies that they are unable to access to communications of criminals – the so-called ‘going dark’ issue. This has lead to calls for government to order tech companies to install backdoors into the encryption they use, in order to allow investigators access to data. Critics of this move argue backdoors would weaken security and privacy for everyone, with little benefit to law enforcement.

The congressional Encryption Working Group has held meetings with federal, state, and local government, legal experts, academics, and cryptographers since it was set up in March 2015 to consider the issue and has now published an end of year report highlighting four key points.

US government starts asking foreign travelers to disclose their social media accounts – The US Customs and Border Protection has started demanding that foreign travelers hand over Facebook, Twitter, and other social media account information upon entering the country, according to a report from Politico. The new policy follows a proposal laid out back in June and applies only to those travelers who enter the US temporarily without a visa through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, process. The goal, the government says, is to “identify potential threats,” a spokesperson tells Politico.

The new policy went into effect on Tuesday, and the request is currently “optional.” It asks foreign travelers to “enter information associated with your online presence,” and offers a drop-down menu allowing participants to enter in account names for most major social networks, including LinkedIn and even Google+.

It’s unclear if the information collected can be immediately used to deny travelers entry into the US. However, the express purpose of the collection is to identify individuals with ties to terrorist groups. As it stands today, Customs and Border Protection says it will not deny entry to those that refuse to submit any social media information.

Facebook already has a Muslim registry—and it should be deleted – Since Donald Trump’s election, many in the tech industry have been concerned about the way their skills—and the data collected by their employers—might be used. On a number of occasions, Trump has expressed the desire to perform mass deportations and end any and all Muslim immigration. He has also said that it would be “good management” to create a database of Muslims, and that there should be “a lot of systems” to track Muslims within the US.

In the final days of his presidency, Barack Obama has scrapped the George W. Bush-era regulations that created a registry of male Muslim foreigners entering the US—the registry itself was suspended in 2011—but given Trump’s views, demands to create a domestic registry are still a possibility.

As a result, some 2,600 tech workers (and counting) have pledged both not to participate in any such programs and to encourage their employers to minimize any sensitive data they collect. The goal is to reduce the chance that such data might be used in harmful ways.

1 Comment

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One response to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 23, 2016

  1. delenn13

    Hey Bill,

    Love your NEW Addition. Here’s one for ya…
    21 Entertainers on Whether They’d Perform at Donald Trump’s Presidential Inauguration | TIME I hope TIME magazine is mainstream enough.

    “This year, however, might present a unique set of challenges for booking talent for the inauguration, which had confirmed only Jackie Evancho and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as of Thursday.” So[;=iz1ike a real blowout of a party…….

    As of today, they have added the Rockette’s and they are being “required” to do it. “After at least one dancer voiced concern about “being involved in a dangerous political climate,” the performance union representing the Rockettes told the dancers that they will be required to perform at the inauguration.”

    Oh, and Merry Christmas to you and yours. And happy thoughts through the New Year. Hope you are feeling better…