Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – December 26, 2016

8 critical things to do immediately with a new PC;  The best apps for your new Windows 10 PC;  How to customize your Windows PC with Winaero Tweaker;  The best apps for your new Mac;  How to recycle your phone for cash;  Six Smart Person’s Guides you may have missed;  How to sell or swap gift cards;  This low-cost device may be the world’s best hope against account takeovers – and much more news you need to know.

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8 critical things to do immediately with a new PC – So you’ve got a new PC. Awesome! That humble metal box is the key to a wide world of potential. It can help you with everything from juggling your finances to keeping in touch with Grandma to blowing off some steam on, uh, Steam. But a new PC isn’t like a new car; you can’t just turn a key and put the pedal to the metal. Okay, maybe you can—but you shouldn’t. Performing just a few simple activities when you first fire it up can help it be safer, faster, and better poised for the future. Here’s how to set up a new PC the right way, step by step.

The best apps for your new Windows 10 PC – Congratulations! You just unwrapped a new Windows 10 PC for the holidays! Now you’re wondering what the best apps are to install on your new machine. Fortunately, we’re here to help, with some of our top picks to try out on your new PC.

Your new PC needs these 15 free, excellent programs – Yes, stocking your PC is an intensely personal task. Even still, some programs are so helpful, so handy, so useful across the board that we heartily recommend them to everybody. These are the programs you want to install on a new PC first.

How to customize your Windows PC with Winaero Tweaker – Winaero Tweaker lets you do deep system customizations that require meddling in the registry, without directly meddling in the registry.

The best apps for your new Mac – So you got a new Mac, huh? Lucky! I’ve been using a Mac as my primary computer on and off for about 20 years. I have a PC for games, but nothing beats a Mac yet for the modern media professional. Here are a few apps I use to get the job done.

‘My computer is slow’: 5 quick tips for troubleshooting friends and family over the holidays – Do you end up as tech support for relatives and others over the holidays? Here are five quick tips to help you resolve their speed problems.

9 Alexa tips and tricks – Amazon’s Echo, Echo Dot and Tap devices can do more than just check the weather and sling playlists.

Google Home: 11 tips and tricks to get started – The Google Home is one of those devices that the more you use it, the more you discover it can do. For example, did you know you can call an Uber using the Google Home? Or what about playing YouTube videos on your TV without touching a single remote or device? It’s all possible, and then some.

How to recycle your phone for cash – So you’re about ready to offload your old phone for a new one (our top picks here if you need some inspiration). The next step is to figure out what to do with your old phone. You could keep it as a spare, or give it to a family member or friend. Or, you could try to get cash, credit or trade-in value. This applies to ancient, cracked, broken phones and other electronics you don’t want hanging around anymore, either — you may be able to still get a few bucks, or at least get rid of them responsibly. Don’t count on raking in the big bucks, but if you’re smart about it, you can get a decent deal.

How to sell or swap gift cards – It’s hard to mess up a generic gift like a gift card, but it’s definitely possible. If you’re the proud owner of some gift cards that you’re never going to use, this is the article for you. Instead of dumping those unwanted gift cards in your junk drawer for future re-gifting, why not try your hand at selling or swapping them online?

How to Register a Domain Name for Your Website – Every business needs a website, and the first step is registering a domain name. Our primer will tell you all you need to know to get the job done.

Attention, cord-cutters: Here are the best internet video streaming services – Internet streaming services, such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now are getting to be almost as expensive as cable services, but Amazon Video, Netflix, and Hulu are still bargains.

Google Pixel now reported to randomly freeze for minutes – Google may have broken out the champagne a wee bit too early for its Pixel smartphones. After a brief but pleasant honeymoon, owners are slowly discovering the warts hiding under the pretty facade. The latest string of user complaints involve the Pixel smartphones randomly freezing and becoming unusable under still unreproducible circumstances. It is, however, just the latest in what looks like a growing list of complaints and issues plaguing the first “made by Google” smartphone.

Six Smart Person’s Guides you may have missed – Microsoft released numerous applications and updates in 2016, and TechRepublic covered them with our Smart Person’s Guides. Mark Kaelin lists six that are worth a revisit.

The top 15 TechRepublic must-watch videos from 2016 – Wondering which important videos you may have missed from TR this year? Here are 15 you need to see.

Security:

This low-cost device may be the world’s best hope against account takeovers – A two-year study of more than 50,000 Google employees concludes that cryptographically based Security Keys beat out smartphones and most other forms of two-factor verification. The Security Keys are based on Universal Second Factor, an open standard that’s easy for end users to use and straightforward for engineers to stitch into hardware and websites. When plugged into a standard USB port, the keys provide a “cryptographic assertion” that’s just about impossible for attackers to guess or phish. Accounts can require that cryptographic key in addition to a normal user password when users log in. Google, Dropbox, GitHub, and other sites have already implemented the standard into their platforms.

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The Worst Hacks of 2016 – It’s that time of the year again, where we recap the worst or biggest hacks of the previous 365 days, and try to convince you that, yes, this was the worst year for security ever. It’s not quite like that. Plus, every year has been called the worst year, or the year of data breaches, for at least five years now. Perhaps the reality is that we will always have data breaches and hacks. 2016 was no different, but it’s fair to say it actually had some of the most shocking cyberattacks we’ve ever seen. Here’s a handy list to remind you of all the things that got badly pwned this year.

Camera Makers Aren’t in a Hurry to Add Encryption – Last week, over 150 filmmakers and photojournalists asked major camera manufacturers to build encryption into devices. But the companies don’t seem that keen.

Company News:

Snapchat has quietly acquired an Israeli startup for a reported $30 million to $40 million – Snapchat sewed up its first acquisition in Israel this week, according to the outlet Calcalist News. It acquired four-year-old Cimagine, whose augmented reality platform lets consumers instantly visualize products they want to buy in their intended location, paying what Calcalist says was between $30 million and $40 million. According to its LinkedIn page, Cimagine currently works with brands like Jerome’s, a furniture store franchise in Southern California; the U.K.-based digital retailer Shop Direct; and the global giant Coca Cola — its cloud-based mobile platform aiming to help these companies augment their sites and mobile apps and boost online conversion rates and in-store sales in the process.

After Super Mario Run, Nintendo plans 2 or 3 new mobile games per year – Super Mario Run may have its detractors, but it’s also managed to rack up nearly 10 million downloads per day in its App Store debut, officially topping 50 million downloads as of Friday. Those numbers, combined with its early revenue generating power, have Nintendo still keen on exploring more in mobile, with plans to release around two or three new mobile games per year beyond 2017. That’s according to a new interview with Nintendo’s president Tatsumi Kimishima (via MacWorld), wherein the Nintendo executive says that two or three games are on the roadmap for next year, too – reportedly an Animal Crossing and a Fire Emblem game, thought plans might change.

Dutch regulators order T-Mobile to stop offering free music streaming over net neutrality concerns – T-Mobile’s no-data-charge-music-streaming-thing has been going strong since 2014 here in the States, with the company adding services to the offering one by one. The Netherlands version of the promotion ran into significant headwinds this week, however, as regulators at the Dutch Consumer and Markets  (AFM) officially ordered the carrier to stop offering the “zero rating” feature over concerns that it constitutes a threat to net neutrality. T-Mobile Netherlands, which introduced the service on October 10, will be hit with a $52,000 a day fine if it refuses to comply to yesterday’s ruling.

Fitbit drops case to block Jawbone imports to US – A Friday filing puts an end to just one of the legal disputes between the fitness-tracker rivals. Meanwhile, Jawbone’s failing finances may be the bigger issue.

Cyanogen shutting down services and OS by December 31 – Rocky times at Cyanogen turn for the worse. The open source project and source code will remain available, but there will be no more nightly builds.

Games and Entertainment:

The best games for your new PC or Mac – You’ve just unwrapped your shiny new laptop, desktop, or MacBook. Now, what are you going to play on it? Whether you’ve got a gaming powerhouse that can render the true face of God or just an all-purpose computer, there’s a lot to choose from. (If you’ve got a VR headset, there are even more options, which we’re breaking down separately.) Here are a few of our favorite picks.

The best games for your new Xbox One – You just unwrapped a new Xbox One (or Xbox One S) for the holidays! Now you’re wondering what the best games are to play on Microsoft’s latest console. Fortunately, we’re here to help, with some of our top picks to try out on your new machine.

The best games for your new PS4 – Well hello there, new PlayStation 4 (or PS4 Pro) owner! If you’ve just unwrapped your very first Sony console for this generation, you might be wondering where to start, game-wise. This feeling of giddiness and even a pinch of anxiety is normal. But, you’re not alone, friend. We’ve got this list to get you started.

The best games for your new iPhone, iPad, or Android phone – If you aren’t already an active mobile gamer, even at this point, you’re missing out on quite a bit of both simple and even deeply involved experiences — and if this holiday, you happened to upgrade your device to the latest and greatest, we’ve got a couple of suggestions. Here are a few of our picks to get through the end of 2016 and beyond.

Got a 4K TV? Here Are the First 10 Things to Watch and Play On It – If you’ve made the leap or are planning to soon, then you ought to know what’s waiting for you on the other side: not a ton of great stuff just yet, but plenty of quality content to watch and play. Here are our 10 top picks as of now, spanning a variety of devices, platforms, and experiences, ensuring that you’re ready to sample the best of what 4K has to offer today.

Off Topic (Sort of):

See the Most Googled Person in Each Country in 2016 – People across the globe were more curious about Donald Trump than anyone else this year. The president-elect earned the distinction of being the top-trending person in 88 countries in 2016, far more places than anyone else in the world, according to data Google provided to TIME. Check out our interactive map below to see the full results, which reflect the person in each country who experienced the largest jump in search rate from 2015 to 2016, according to Google. (Note that Google narrowed this year’s list to include only people who are alive.)

The future of robotics: 10 predictions for 2017 and beyond – What does the future hold for robotics? It’s hard to say, given the rapid pace of change in the field as well as in associated areas such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. But one thing seems certain: Robots will play an increasingly important role in business and life in general. Research firm International Data Corp’s (IDC) Manufacturing Insights Worldwide Commercial Robotics program recently unveiled its top 10 predictions for worldwide robotics for 2017 and beyond. The list has some interesting forecasts, and if they come true, they will likely have a significant impact on business and society.

D’oh! 2016’s Biggest Tech Fails – Thankfully for this list, 2016 wasn’t any less full of serious tech fails. In fact, it’s been a bumper year for gadgets that explode, break, or leave us asking “why?” Even Apple decided to get in on the action, and more than once! There’s also a hint of death, some security blunders, and the serious issue of trying to name a ship. So sit back, get that mouse-clicking finger ready, and enjoy our pick of the biggest tech fails of the year. Surely, 2017 can’t be any worse…right?

Quantum Leap: Researchers Send Information Using a Single Particle of Light – According to research published Thursday in Science, physicists at Princeton University have designed a device that allows a single electron to pass its quantum information to a photon in what could be a big breakthrough for silicon-based quantum computers. “We now have the ability to actually transmit the quantum state to a photon,” said Xiao Mi, a graduate student in Princeton’s Department of Physics. “This has never been done before in a semiconductor device because the quantum state was lost before it could transfer its information.”

Is this the age of the smart wallet, or are they more trouble than they’re worth? – If your smart wallet is lost or stolen, you can locate or track it with a smartphone. That’s a cool idea, and it has attracted several crowd-funded projects such as Cashew, Ekster, SmartWallet, Walli, Wallor and Woolet. However, small, standalone trackers like TrackR’s may do the job cheaper, and they’re less risky purchases.

Trump Tales:

Silicon Valley’s Trump rebellion now has EFF calling for more encryption – The Electronic Frontier Foundation is keenly worried that President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will step up surveillance activities and pass laws to curtail electronic rights. As a result, the EFF is advising the tech sector to use end-to-end encryption for every transaction by default, and to scrub logs. “You cannot be made to surrender data you do not have,” the EFF said. The EFF has assembled evidence it believes justifies this call for action. That includes Trump’s call for forcing Apple to open the iPhone owned by one the San Bernardino attackers.

Memo to Trump: We’re Already Updating the US Nuclear Arsenal – President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter three days before Christmas to freak everyone out about nukes.

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That’s Cold War talk, made worse by similar statements from Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin.

“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces,” Putin said during a Dec. 22, 2016 discussion with Kremlin military officials. He said Moscow would push for “missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.”

The world’s nuclear arms control community proceeded to freak out. Trump followed up to MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Dec. 23. “Let it be an arms race … we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,” Trump said.

On Twitter, Trump supports Putin’s mockery of Democrats – It’s Christmas, a time of peace and love, but the concepts of winning and losing continue to fill Donald Trump’s mind. And, of course, fill his Twitter feed. On Friday, the president-elect considered the plight of the Democrats, those losers who can’t believe they lost. He used not his own well-chosen words, but borrowed those of Vladimir Putin. “Vladimir Putin said today about Hillary and Dems: ‘In my opinion, it is humiliating. One must be able to lose with dignity.’ So true!” he tweeted. It still must be quaint for many to see an American president-elect seeming to be such an admirer of a Russian president. Especially a Russian president who is accused of eliminating opponents by force, rather than even risk losing to them in any way.

Donald Trump rages at A-list celebrities on Twitter – Commentary: Amid reports it’s not been easy to get famous performers for his inauguration, the president-elect snorts at the famous.

Something to think about:

“In a networked world, trust is the most important currency.”

–      Eric Schmidt – University of Pennsylvania Commencement Address, 2009

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Privacy is still alive and kicking in the digital age – Our lives are lived in data. Data crossing borders and connected in virtual space. Most often, it appears, we live in open and too easily accessible data networks. States and corporations are watching us through data, and we are watching each other through data. What does individual privacy mean in this data saturated environment?

Privacy is like trust and security; much easier to define when you don’t have it. We know exactly what trust and security are when we find ourselves in a precarious situation where we feel threatened, a situation which reveals someone else’s lie or dishonest actions. It’s something that can make us feel angry, insecure and most importantly, disempowered.

The same is true of privacy; it’s hard to put a finger on it before we realize it’s missing. More and more of us are beginning to sense the lack of privacy in our digital daily lives — and to understand what we are missing and how we feel about it. (continued)

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – December 26, 2016

  1. delenn13

    Hi Bill,

    Hope you had a great Christmas.

    Here is a page with some pretty decent programs for free until January 3rd.
    Christmas from Giveaway Club You can probably use at least one of these programs.

    Regards,

    Del