Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – December 28, 2016

End-of-the-year cleanup checklist for Windows;  Tips for new tech devices;  10 must-have apps for your new Android phone;  Fix Your Sleep, Be More Productive;  Netflix movie list January 2017 – what’s new, what’s done;  The 10 biggest hacks, breaches, and security stories of 2016;  You got a new phone for Christmas: What to do with your old phone;  Here are the best internet video streaming services;  12 tips to make the most out of Surface Pro;  Why DVDs and Blu-rays remain essential in the age of streaming – and much more news you need to know.

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End-of-the-year cleanup checklist for Windows – With the end of the year upon us, there’s no better time to perform some system upkeep chores to ensure that your system is optimized as you head into 2017. This is also the time of year when equipment is replaced by holiday gifts, with older equipment being handed down or sold to make way for the new. So let’s work through this handy checklist of practical procedures that will keep your Windows PCs humming along.

10 must-have apps for your new Android phone – There are more than 1 million apps in the Play Store, but most of them aren’t worth your time. That’s not the case with these ten apps, though. These apps fill in some fundamental feature gaps in Android and make for a much more enjoyable experience. They’re also free or cheap, so you really don’t have any excuse not to give them a shot.

Tips for new tech devices – Tech gear is a perennially popular holiday gift. If you’re the proud owner of a new phone, tablet, computer or other device — or you provide tech support for family and friends with new devices — we’re here to help. Check out and share these stories, which can help you get the most out of a new Android or iOS device, Apple Watch, Alexa device, Apple TV, Mac or Windows PC, and stay safe while doing so.

You got a new phone for Christmas: What to do with your old phone – If Santa left a new iPhone or Android smartphone under the tree, what do you do with your old smartphone? It’s a perennial question each holiday season, but the answer doesn’t have to be “sell it” or “dump it in a drawer”. Instead, there are plenty of useful things a smartphone can be turned into, even if it doesn’t have an active phone line connected. Read on for some of our favorites.

Watch Out, Chromebooks: These Windows PCs Might Eat Your Lunch – Laptops with Qualcomm’s 835 processor could be a promising alternative for thrifty shoppers who want a powerful PC.

Private Tunnel VPN offers simple, reliable VPN for mobile access – When you’re on the go, and you have to send sensitive information from your Android or iOS device, the last thing you want is to transmit that data over an unsecure connection. When your carrier connection isn’t enough, and the only Wi-Fi available is the password-less network at a local coffee shop, what do you do? You turn to an app like Private Tunnel VPN. This particular service is a spin-off of OpenVPN, so you know they understand VPN technology.

12 tips to make the most out of Surface Pro – If you are anything of a tech lover, chances are, you got a new toy this season. Or maybe you’re still planning on buying one while deals are still hot. And maybe, just maybe, you’ve got your eyes, and heart, set on Microsoft’s not so latest but still current Surface Pro 4 “tablet that can replace your laptop”. Whether you’re already holding one in your hands or have booked an appointment with Microsoft Store, there are a few things you’d want to immediately do to start on the right foot with your new work, creativity, and entertainment partner.

Move over Raspberry Pi, here are a dozen, better alternatives – 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.

38 must-know secrets and shortcuts for your Apple TV – After installing your favorite streaming apps and playing some of the games designed just for tvOS on your Apple TV, you’re probably wondering what else this set-top box can do. There are a slew of under-the-radar features that let you customize your TV to your heart’s content and make it much easier to use. Here are 30 tips and tricks to make the most out of your fourth-generation Apple TV.

Mozilla to scrap Firefox support on Windows XP and Vista in 2017 – The exact timing of Firefox’s retirement from those Microsoft operating systems will be determined in the summer, according to a post to a company blog. “We expect to continue to provide security updates for [Windows XP and Windows Vista] users until September 2017,” the firm said. “In mid-2017, user numbers on Windows XP and Vista will be reassessed and a final support end date will be announced.”

CyanogenMod is dead. Long live LineageOS – Cyanogen has switched gears, leaving the Android variant CyanogenMod in the lurch, CyanogenMod’s developers aren’t giving up. They’re forking the code into LineageOS.

With Cyanogen dead, Google’s control over Android is tighter than ever – Having never realized mainstream success, the heavily altered CyanogenMod OS is kaput, and the most aggressive threat to Google’s control of Android is closing its doors.

The top 5 Microsoft announcements you likely missed this year – This was a big year for Microsoft. The HoloLens began shipping to developers, Windows 10 made it through its first year intact (though not without controversy), and the company got into the desktop computer market with a stunning mega-touchscreen. But there were a few key announcements that flew under the radar this year. While they may not have the splash factor of a Surface Studio or HoloLens, these developments have the potential to alter Microsoft and the world for years to come. Here’s the rundown on what you probably missed.

Microsoft Eyes Precision Touchpad Requirement – New rules would require all PCs with touchpads to support multitouch Windows 10 gestures.


Chrome will soon mark some HTTP pages as ‘non-secure’ – Beginning next month, the company will tag web pages that include login or credit card fields with the message “Not Secure” if the page is not served using HTTPS, the secure version of the internet protocol. The company on Tuesday began sending messages through its Google Search Console, a tool for webmasters, warning them of the changes that take place starting in January 2017. The changes are supported in version 56 or later of the Chrome browser.

It’s Incredibly Easy to Tamper with Someone’s Flight Plan, Anywhere on the Globe – It’s easier than many people realize to modify someone else’s flight booking, or cancel their flight altogether, because airlines rely on old, unsecured systems for processing customers’ travel plans, researchers will explain at the Chaos Communication Congress hacking festival on Tuesday. The issues predominantly center around the lack of any meaningful authentication for customers requesting their flight information. The issues highlight how a decades-old system is still in constant, heavy use, despite being susceptible to fairly simple attacks and with no clear means for a solution.

Sony Music Twitter hack trolled people with Britney Spears death tweets – The Sony Music Group Twitter account was recently hacked and used to send out a fake death tweet announcing the passing of singer Britney Spears. The tweet has since been removed and confirmed as false, with Sony saying it has ‘rectified’ the issue. Spears’ own manager confirmed that she has not died. It is also possible a Twitter account belonging to Bob Dylan was also accessed and used to spread the fake death news.

The 10 biggest hacks, breaches, and security stories of 2016 – It’s been a long, depressing, breach-filled year in the world of computer security. Yahoo broke the record for allowing the largest hack in history—twice. Millions of zombified webcams and DVRs took down the Internet for users in the United States. Russia was accused of “hacking the vote,” and a new type of malware earned a tidy profit extorting unsuspecting users for Bitcoin. What was it John Oliver said about 2016 (NSFW), again?

New cybersecurity guidelines for medical devices tackle evolving threats – Today, the US Food and Drug Administration released its recommendations for how medical device manufacturers should maintain the security of internet-connected devices, even after they’ve entered hospitals, patient homes, or patient bodies. Unsecured devices can allow hackers to tamper with how much medication is delivered by the device — with potentially deadly results. First issued in draft form last January, this guidance is more than a year in the making. The 30-page document encourages manufacturers to monitor their medical devices and associated software for bugs, and patch any problems that occur. But the recommendations are not legally enforceable — so they’re largely without teeth.

Company News:

Amazon’s best holiday season shipped over 1 billion items – The Seattle-based retailer giant shipped more than 1 billion items with Prime around the world for the holiday season, more than five times its sales last holiday season, between November 1 to December 19. The Echo Dot was the most coveted gift out of items shipped from Amazon, which quickly sold out. Echo devices sales spiked a record-setting nine times more than the amount sold in 2015’s holiday season.

Hulu and Disney pen major multi-year streaming movie deal – Hulu has announced a new major deal with Walt Disney Studios that gives the company exclusive streaming rights to dozens of Disney titles. According to Hulu, this is the first time it has struck a licensing deal for Disney’s ‘theatrical features,’ the likes of which include Mulan, Sister Act, Pocahontas, and more. More than fifty of the titles covered by this deal will stream on Hulu for the first time.

Qualcomm fined $853M in South Korea for unfair practices – Qualcomm may be the biggest name in the mobile application processor market, but that also means it’s an even larger target of lawsuits, be it from other companies or even government agencies. in South Korea, for example, it just got slapped a hefty fine after being found guilty of antritrust violations. According to the country’s antitrust watchdog, the chip maker exercised unfair business practices to gain a monopoly in the mobile market and edge out its rivals.

Games and Entertainment:

Netflix movie list January 2017 – what’s new, what’s done – Netflix users are preparing their minds for the possibility that January will be an end-time for some of their favorite movies and episodic series. At the same time, January is a time of rejuvenation in the streaming content universe, where such monster hit movies as the original Superman: The Movie and The Shining begin to be available. This is also the time at which the Netflix Original series Lemony Snicket’s A series of Unfortunate Events begins. That’s Netflix’ own series, not the Jim Carrey movie – fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your taste.

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.

Why DVDs and Blu-rays remain essential in the age of streaming – Why purchase a single movie for someone when Netflix, Amazon Prime, and a growing number of other streaming services offer libraries with thousands of films and TV shows for a monthly price less than the cost of a single new movie on disc? If you did find movies on disc under this tree this year, or if you picked up a few with holiday gift cards, count yourself lucky: Physical media remains superior to streaming in nearly every way as a technical experience. But even more than that, owning movies yourself helps build an emotional connection that’s hard to replicate with streaming.

The 10 best games to use a Steam Gift Card on right now – For a lot of PC gamers, Christmas means one thing: Steam gift cards. The holiday season is the perfect time to fill your Steam wallet, too, as we find ourselves smack in the middle of the Steam winter sale. With nearly 16,000 games on sale, there’s a truly overwhelming number of options, so here are a few ideas that might help you get your spending spree rolling.

10 amazing games you may have missed this year – 2016 was a great year for big games. There were fantastic sequels like Uncharted 4 and Final Fantasy XV, long-awaited adventures like The Witness and The Last Guardian, along with fantastic indie gems like Firewatch and Inside. But amidst all of the big names, the year was also filled with many smaller, yet equally enticing experiences that you may have missed. There’s everything from cute horror games to futuristic puzzle boxes to heartbreaking true stories. Here are 10 of my favorite hidden gems from 2016.

Frog Fractions 2 found hidden within a game about fairies – The game Frog Fractions 2, a sequel to the oddity Frog Factions, has been discovered in a Steam game about fairies. The discovery comes two years after the Kickstarter for Frog Fractions 2 launched, and is the end result of a bunch of clues and hunting amongst fans. The discovery was ultimately made when the fairy game — Glittermitten Grove — received a large update at the same time a video of a button press ‘launching’ Frog Fractions 2 was published.

Game on! The best board games of 2016 – The tireless members of the Ars Cardboard crew spent a lot of time playing, replaying, and dissecting the year’s new titles, and we’re ready to tell you what we enjoyed most. So here, in no particular order, are our 20 favorite tabletop games of 2016—along with a few runners-up and notable new editions.

Off Topic (Sort of):

‘Duck Dynasty’ vs. ‘Modern Family’: 50 Maps of the U.S. Cultural Divide – Americans have been clustering themselves into cultural bubbles just as they have clustered in political bubbles. Their TV preferences confirm that.


Fix Your Sleep, Be More Productive – The holidays are a great time to fix your sleep problems. With our tips and the right tech, you can sleep better and be more productive in the new year.

FinTech and Blockchain: Are banks dead? – A top financial services technology executive and enterprise blockchain guru explains what you need to know.

Smart home turns informant: Police want Echo and IoT data in murder case – Your smart home could turn into a police informant, if investigators in Arkansas can set a precedent that data from connected devices like Amazon’s Echo be seized as murder case evidence. The police force in Bentonville served Amazon with a warrant for recordings made by an Echo smart speaker, after it potentially heard details around a murder that took place in the home. However, Alexa wasn’t the only inadvertent potential witness to the alleged crime.

Diving into the unthinkable cold truths of a nuclear war – Last Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump issued a few statements (guess where) about America’s military, with this statement as a kicker: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its sense regarding nukes.” Despite Trump’s assertion, the world has come to its senses about nukes (and not just in Hollywood). Political consensus over issues like denuclearization has been fairly stable since the 1980s, thanks in part to scientific researchers showing what would happen to a world ravaged by nuclear bombs. One such study was The Medical Implications of Nuclear War, published by Fred Solomon and Robert Q. Marston in 1986. This rigorous and grim estimate of nuclear war’s effects on our planet is written in a bleak manner for good reason: to scare us straight.

Trump Tales:

The Atlantic: Donald Trump’s False Bragging About His Charitable Giving – Once again, the president-elect is trying to mislead the public about his philanthropy. Even the most unsparing critic of the news media cannot deny the tremendous effort put forth by Washington Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold as he spent months doggedly trying to document all of Donald Trump’s donations to charity. The task wasn’t easy—the candidate refused to release his tax returns—so Fahrenthold probed records going back decades, repeatedly questioned the Trump campaign, and contacted more than 400 nonprofit organizations while showing his work. His thoroughness was a sight to see. For example:

The Washington Post: Even when he’s got a point on the economy, Trump can’t help but overplay his hand – Isolating and exaggerating good news isn’t unique to Donald Trump. What makes him different is that his willingness to take credit or assign blame tends toward the extremes.

The New York Times: California, at Forefront of Climate Fight, Won’t Back Down to Trump – President-elect Donald J. Trump has packed his cabinet with nominees who dispute the science of global warming. He has signaled he will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. He has belittled the notion of global warming and attacked policies intended to combat it. But California — a state that has for 50 years been a leader in environmental advocacy — is about to step unto the breach. In a show of defiance, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and legislative leaders said they would work directly with other nations and states to defend and strengthen what were already far and away the most aggressive policies to fight climate change in the nation. That includes a legislatively mandated target of reducing carbon emissions in California to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Something to think about:

“I listened as you called my President a Muslim.

I listened as you called him and his family a pack of monkeys.

I listened as you said he wasn’t born here.

I watched as you blocked every single path to progress that you could.

I saw the pictures you made of him as Hitler.

I watched you shut down the government and hurt the entire nation, twice.

I watched you turn your backs on every opportunity to open a worthwhile dialog.

I watched you say that you would not even listen to any choice for Supreme Court no matter who the nominee was.

I listened as you openly said that you will oppose him at every turn.

I watched as you did just that.

I listened.

I watched.

I paid attention.

Now, I’m being called on to be tolerant.

To move forward.

To denounce protesters.

To “Get over it.”

To accept this…

I will not.

I will do my part to make sure, this great American mistake, becomes the embarrassing footnote of our history that it deserves to be.

I will do this as quickly as possible, every chance I get.

I will do my part to limit the damage that this man can do to my country.

I will watch his every move and point out every single mistake and misdeed in a loud and proud voice.

I will let you know in a loud voice every time this man backs away from a promise he made to you.

The people who voted for him. Yes you, the ones who sold their souls and prayed for him to win.

I will do this so that you never forget.

And you will hear me.

You will see it in my eyes when I look at you.

You will hear it in my voice when I talk to you.

You will know that I know who you are.

You will know that I know what you are.

Do not call for my tolerance. I’ve tolerated all I can.

Now it’s your turn to tolerate the ridicule.

Be aware, make no mistake about it, every single thing that goes wrong in our country from this day forward is now Trump’s fault just as much as you thought it was Obama’s.

I find it unreasonable for you to expect from me, what you were entirely unwilling to give.”

–   Comment (The Rest of America) – Washington Post – December 27, 2017

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Hiding your tracks from Trump: Online privacy worries heat up – There’s something about a Donald Trump administration in charge of the US National Security Agency that has folks taking government surveillance very seriously.

Encrypted email provider ProtonMail and encrypted chat service Signal saw a spike in new users after the election. What’s more, privacy advocates say they’re hearing from more people who are interested in covering up their tracks online.

Eva Galperin, a global policy analyst at the privacy-oriented Electronic Frontier Foundation, said she’s received more requests for trainings than usual since the election. Concerned internet users include journalists and activists, Galperin said. Driving these groups’ fears is uncertainty over how an unpredictable Trump administration will handle its profound surveillance power.

“What protects most of us are just subjective norms,” Galperin said. “The government didn’t individually target people [with surveillance] because of subjective norms, but those change over time.”

Whatever your reasons for wanting to keep your personal information, communications and browsing habits private, it’s a complicated task.

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One response to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – December 28, 2016

  1. Please let’s have less politics and more tech stuff. Thanks