Monthly Archives: December 2016

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – December 7, 2016

Five new malware programs are discovered every second;  Microsoft still has work to do when it comes to malware security;  Video: The top 5 reasons you should care about privacy;  My favorite Netflix secrets: hidden genres, customized subtitles and more;  These Are the Most Popular iPhone Apps of 2016;  Surface Book i7 vs. MacBook Pro;  Google WiFi review: Wi-Fi that works;  How to get rid of image burn-in on an LCD display;  Setting up Secret Conversations in Messenger;  The 10 Most Pirated Movies – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Five new malware programs are discovered every second – The numbers are in, and they don’t look too good. A new report from the respected independent testing agency AV-Test.org reveals some scary-sounding facts about the state of malware today. According to AV-Test.org, it has 578,702,687 malware samples in its testing database – with over 115 million discovered so far during 2016 alone. That translates to 4-5 new malware samples every second of every day.

Video: The top 5 reasons you should care about privacy – Here are five things that might convince you to care about your personal data, even if you think you don’t.

Microsoft still has work to do when it comes to malware security – Tests performed by AV-Test.org show Microsoft’s malware solutions work–but they’re far from the best. The company needs to do better.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Creators Update Will Go All-In on Security – Just one month after patching 68 Windows 10 security vulnerabilities, Microsoft drops a raft of new enterprise security features.

These Are the Most Popular iPhone Apps of 2016 – Of the two million apps that currently inhabit the App Store, Apple has singled out 20 that have proven to be the most popular in 2016. The company just published its annual best of the year lists, which include a compilation of the top 10 free and paid apps that dominated the App Store this year.

Facebook encrypted messages: Setting up Secret Conversations in Messenger – Even Facebook lets you have a little privacy, letting you send encrypted messages using the Secret Conversation feature in Facebook Messenger. Here’s how it works.

Google’s new “Trusted Contacts” app lets you keep tabs on family – Today Google launched a “personal safety app” for Android called “Trusted Contacts.” The new app offers another location-sharing service from the company, one that Google envisions for use in emergency situations. After installing the app, you can flag some of your contacts as “trusted.” Then you’ll be able to send your location to a trusted contact or ask for their location. The whole app is built around the “emergency” use case, complete with a dead man’s switch for location requests. When someone asks for your location, you’ll get a full screen pop up allowing you to approve or deny the request. You only have five minutes to do this, though—after five minutes, your location will be shared automatically. The idea is that if you’re unable to use your phone, your trusted contacts will still be able to find you.

How to make the rechargeable battery in your smartphone, tablet or laptop last for years – There’s a lot of voodoo written about how to take care of the rechargeable batteries inside smartphones, tablets or notebooks. While a bit of care can make all the difference, you don’t need to treat the battery like a sick pet. It’s been designed and built to do a job, so most of the time you can just let it get on with that job. But with a little bit of care, a rechargeable battery can last years. How much of a difference can taking care of the battery actually make? In my experience, the answer is “a lot.”

How to Make Calls on Your iPhone Without Cell Service – Thanks to apps like Facebook Messenger and Skype, it’s possible to call nearly anyone regardless of whether or not you have a carrier plan or even know the recipient’s phone number. But an increasing number of phones and carriers are beginning to support Wi-Fi calling too. As its name implies, Wi-Fi calling is a feature that makes it possible to place a call so long as your phone is connected to Wi-Fi. This means if you’re stuck in an area with poor cell reception, you’ll still be able to make a phone call by connecting to a Wi-Fi network.

Android distribution in 2016: updates are still a mess – Google has just updated its Android developer dashboard, the last time it will do so before the year ends, and the numbers are in. Android 5.0 and 5.1 Lollipop, not 6.0 Marshmallow, has the largest piece of the pie. Android 7.0 Nougat, which was released to the public back in August, is only installed on 0.4% of the devices in the market, mostly Nexus and some third-party ROMs. While it might seem good, at a glance, that devices and OEMS are converging on just two to three versions nowadays, the numbers show one undeniable fact. Eight years into its existence, Google and its partners still can’t get updates right.

Getting an Android phone this holiday season? Here’s how to migrate from iOS to the Google world – The iPhone 7 was enough of a letdown to push plenty of people into Google’s arms. If you’re hoping for a new device this holiday season here’s how to make your transition easy.

Surface Book i7 vs. MacBook Pro: Fight! – We pit the newest and best PC laptops against Apple’s latest models in a knock-down, drag-out benchmark brawl.

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Google WiFi review: Wi-Fi that works – Google says that the Wifi system is the product of three-and-a-half years of work — and it has previously released a router, called the OnHub. But Google Wifi is different from what Google did before. First of all, Google is making it directly. Google Wifi also leverages both clever hardware design and cloud-based intelligence to make sure you have a strong Wi-Fi signal throughout your home, no matter its size, construction, or layout. In addition, Google designed the product so that it can be easily set up via a smartphone and managed and controlled remotely. Easy guest network setup and parental controls are also part of the Wifi pitch. Google Wifi, which is hitting stores today, is sold individually ($129) or as a three-pack ($299).

Plume’s ‘routerless’ mesh network blankets your home in Wi-Fi with an army of tiny pods – Plume wants to put a pod in every room of your house, with most router functions controlled by the cloud.

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Dropbox provides offline folder support – Users who need to make sure they can get access to files stored in Dropbox while they’re on the go and away from the web have a new feature to help with that. The company announced Tuesday that users of its mobile apps will soon be able to save files locally for use offline.

Instagram will soon let you turn off comments and boot followers from private accounts – With images as its main form of social currency, Instagram’s problems with abuse have never been quite as visible as those of other social networks. Nevertheless, the Facebook-owned company has been pretty quick to roll out new tools that make its app — in the words of CEO Kevin Systrom — “a safe place for self-expression.” (Twitter, take note.) The latest announced update will introduce the ability for users to turn off comments on specific posts, like others’ comments, and remove followers from private accounts. All of these will be made available over the “coming weeks.”

WhatsApp releases new update for your holiday GIF-giving – If you haven’t been running the WhatsApp Messenger beta on your phone, you might not know that you’ve been missing out on the wide world of GIFs. The feature’s been available since November for iOS users and in beta testing for several months on Android, but the FaceBook-owned company has just unlocked the feature for everyone in its latest Play Store update.

Zuckerberg shows off upcoming Facebook features – Created in corporate hackathons, features like GIFs for comments, offline communications and shared photo albums are likely soon.

EU Threatens New Laws to Combat Online Hate Speech – European lawmakers on Sunday accused Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft of dragging their feet when it comes to combating online hate speech, and threatened to pass new laws if the companies don’t make good on their promise to remove hateful comments within 24 hours.

Windows 10: Ten missing and highly anticipated features due in 2017 – A look at the most significant changes due to hit Microsoft’s evolving OS in the coming year.

How to Check Out Early Versions of Windows 10 – To shape Windows 10 with new features and functionality, Microsoft enlists the aid of people who are part of the Windows Insider Program. Through this free program, you can install early pre-release editions, or builds, of Windows 10 as Microsoft continues to update the OS. You’ll be able to check out and test potentially cool new stuff. You can also help Microsoft improve Windows 10 by offering your feedback on what you think of each major change and minor tweak. How do you get these pre-release builds of Windows 10? Read on.

Security:

Millions exposed to malvertising that hid attack code in banner pixels – Millions of people visiting mainstream websites over the past two months have been exposed to a novel form of malicious ads that embed attack code in individual pixels of the banners. The malicious script is concealed in the alpha channel that defines the transparency of pixels, making it extremely difficult for even sharp-eyed ad networks to detect. After verifying that the targeted browser isn’t running in a virtual machine or connected to other types of security software often used to detect attacks, the script redirects the browser to a site that hosts three exploits for now-patched Adobe Flash vulnerabilities.

Hackers actively stealing Wi-Fi keys from vulnerable routers – Hackers have graduated from planting malware on the vulnerable routers supplied to consumers by various ISPs towards stealing Wi-Fi keys. Andrew Tierney, a security researcher at UK consultancy Pen Test Partners, noticed the switch-up in tactics in attacks against its honeypot network over the weekend. Customers of UK ISP TalkTalk are among those at the most immediate risk of having their Wi-Fi credentials stolen. The TalkTalk router firmware fix fails to solve this problem because it reverts customers back to a default password hackers might already have snatched, Pen Test Partners warns.

Millions of Dailymotion accounts exposed in hack – The video-sharing site strongly advises its users to reset their passwords.

You should probably still avoid toys that talk with your kids – A complaint to the FTC filed by consumer watchdog groups highlights ongoing privacy and security concerns with this creepy class of toy. Now, I hate FUD as much as the next guy, and I seriously doubt that these toy makers and software companies are in a shady scheme to secretly record toddlers worldwide. But when it comes to protecting groups who can’t protect themselves, we can’t be too vigilant — and on the other side of the equation, companies can’t be too transparent or explicit about how information is used and protected at every step.

Company News:

YouTube pays music industry $1 billion from ads – YouTube, the music industry’s No. 1 enemy earlier this year, said Tuesday it has paid more than $1 billion in advertising revenue to artists, labels and publishers in the last 12 months. The figure, released in a blog post by YouTube business chief Robert Kyncl, is part of the video giant’s effort to mend fences with its critics in the music industry. Or at least, YouTube hopes to convince some of them that the massive amount of free listening on its site is a valuable complement to music subscriptions, the industry’s main area of growth right now.

Amazon Go grocery store replaces cashiers with automation and AI – Amazon recently announced Go, a brick-and-mortar concept store that uses technologies like artificial intelligence to eliminate the need for cashiers.

Tim Cook disputes analyst report that Apple Watch sales have tanked – A new report from IDC shows Apple Watch sales have slumped since last year. The report estimates that Apple has sold 1.1 million Watch units in the third quarter of 2016, down 71 percent from a year ago. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly told Reuters that sell-through, or the number of Apple Watches that reach consumers rather than the number on store shelves, reached a new high. “Sales growth is off the charts,” Cook said. “In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product’s history. And as we expected, we’re on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch.”

A third of wearable devices abandoned by consumers: Gartner – Consumers are initially drawn to shiny new wearable devices, but a good portion abandon them after they get bored of them, a study by Gartner has found.

Samsung gets another chance to reduce Apple’s $400 million patent win – The Supreme Court has overturned Apple’s $400 million award in its long-running patent lawsuit against Samsung. Apple won the case in 2012, convincing a federal court that a number of Samsung devices had infringed upon iPhone design patents — including one for a rectangular device with rounded corners and bezels, and another for a home screen comprised of a grid of colorful apps. The Supreme Court’s decision today does not reverse Apple’s win, but does mean that the case will be returned to the Federal Circuit so that the damages can be reassessed.

GoDaddy is buying rival Host Europe Group for $1.8B to accelerate its international expansion – GoDaddy is on a shopping spree. Yesterday we reported that the domain and hosting company had bought WP Curve, a WordPress services startup to expand its WordPress support team. And today the company has just announced a much bigger deal. GoDaddy has acquired European rival Host Europe Group (HEG) for $1.8 billion — including €605 million paid to existing Host Europe shareholders, and €1.08 billion in assumed debt. HEG has 1.7 million customers throughout Europe, with more than 7 million domains under management. For comparison, GoDaddy’s most recently reported quarter ended with about 14.5 million customers and manages more than 63 million domains.

Apple Music hits 20 million paying subscribers – Apple Music is continuing to pick up subscribers at a strong pace, as the company confirms to Billboard that the streaming service has crossed the milestone of 20 million paying subscribers. Apple said it had 17 million subscribers three months ago, 13 million in April, and 11 million in February. Spotify is still significantly ahead with over 40 million users, but Apple Music has only been available for a year and a half.

Netflix becomes the Top Grossing iPhone app for the first time – Netflix’s decision to introduce an in-app subscription option in its iOS app over a year ago has helped the streaming service steadily gain more subscribers, and surge up the Top Grossing charts in the Apple App Store. Back in November of last year, the app hit the Top Grossing chart for the first time, reaching the No. 9 position. Today, Netflix has reached another milestone, as the app has earned the No. 1 Top Grossing spot on the U.S. iPhone App Store. Its bump up to the top spot was spotted by app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, which has been following its climb since the introduction of in-app subscriptions last fall. Between then and today, Netflix has grown its weekly net revenue from under $50,000 to nearly $2.9 million, its report says.

Games and Entertainment:

How to get rid of image burn-in on an LCD display – Annoying image burn-in on LCD displays can usually be minimized or eliminated.

My favorite Netflix secrets: hidden genres, customized subtitles and more – Netflix is the pinnacle of streaming home entertainment, but even veteran subscribers probably aren’t using it to its fullest abilities. The video streaming service is full of secrets, some more secret than others, and you’re unlikely to stumble upon them unless you go searching for them. Would you like larger, more colorful subtitles? Yes, there’s a setting for that. How about filtering genres down to niche categories? Yep, you can do that, too.

Netflix adds video previews to make it easier to find something to watch – Netflix knows how difficult it is to actually find something you want to watch in its massive streaming catalog. To that end, the company is adding a long-awaited feature to its TV apps: video previews. The previews will show up while you’re browsing through Netflix’s content, allowing you to get an idea of the flavor of the show or movie without having to hit play. Netflix says the previews aren’t trailers, but instead serve as curated experiences for “quickly highlighting the story, characters and tone of a title.”

Netflix goes big on unscripted programming with 20 original shows planned for 2017 – Netflix is making headway on its ambitions to fill half its library with original content. According to Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, the company is planning to release about 20 unscripted series next year, bringing it closer to its goal of having 1,000 annual hours of original programming available on its service in 2017. That’s more than the amount of original programming available on Netflix this year, but even so, Sarandos says that the 1,000-plus hours was a “conservative measure.” (Netflix had earlier said that it was aiming for 600 hours of originals in 2016, up from 450 in 2015.)

Dead Rising 4 improves on past installments, but still lacks polish – Ho, ho, ho! It’s Christmastime in Willamette, and Frank West is here to mow down zombies in the most over-the-top way imaginable. Dead Rising 4 is on store shelves today, so now is your chance to smack, slice, and explode the undead hordes on the Xbox One and Windows 10.

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15 unconventional and off-kilter holiday movies – We all know that there are two kinds of holiday entertainment: The kind you watch with your parents (or kids) and the kind you do not watch with your parents (or kids). It’s that time of year again, and we’re starting things right, with an all-new list of 15 slightly off-beat, slightly irreverent streaming holiday films and/or TV specials to help get you into the spirit; these have a little more emphasis on the “naughty” side and less on the “nice.”

The 10 Most Pirated Movies – The utterly unnecessary remake of Ben Hur faces off with The Accountant.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Report: Design Flaws, Not Battery, Caused Note 7 Explosions – An independent test found too little space between the Galaxy Note 7’s battery and other components.

Amazon Go may kill retail jobs but privacy is the real victim – If Amazon Go has taught anybody anything today, it’s shown retail employees exactly what long-distance truckers meant by the sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach when they realized tech could make them obsolete. Just as autonomous semis could cut human drivers out of tomorrow’s haulage, so Amazon’s surprise announcement of an unstaffed store that replaces the checkout line with artificial intelligence could have a big impact on retail and the jobs involved in it. Even if it’s not the person at the register that’s made redundant, an unblinking AI could have big implications for today’s stores.

Say goodbye to the MS-DOS command prompt – It’s quite possible that you have been using Microsoft Windows for years — decades, even — without realizing that there’s a direct line to Microsoft’s earliest operating system or that an MS-DOS underpinning has carried over from one Windows version to another — less extensive with every revision, but still there nonetheless. Now we’re about to say goodbye to all of that.

Facebook and Google make lies as pretty as truth – If you asked Google who won the popular vote just after the election, there’s a chance you would have been sent to a conspiracy blog with bogus results. And the site is likely to have looked as legitimate as any other.

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube are creating a database of ‘terrorist content’ – The United States’ biggest social networks are working together to build a database of photos and videos used to recruit people into terrorism, the companies said. Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube will create a shared database that identifies images via a unique digital fingerprint, making it easier for the platforms to identify and remove the imagery.

Something to think about:

“Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.”

–      Voltaire    (1694 – 1778)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Court: Secret spying of would-be Christmas tree bomber was OK: ACLU slams ruling, says this surveillance violates the constitution – A US federal appeals court has rejected an effort to overturn the Portland Christmas tree bomber’s conviction on the grounds that the surveillance to initially identify the suspect did not, in fact, require a warrant. On Monday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also rejected an entrapment argument raised by lawyers for suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud.

As Ars reported back in January 2016, the case (United States v. Mohamud) involves a Somali-American accused of trying to blow up a 2010 lighting ceremony in Portland. Undercover FBI agents posed as jihadis and presented Mohamud with the means to conduct the operation, which turned out to be wholly bogus. Mohamud was eventually found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

But after the conviction, the government disclosed that it used surveillance under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act to collect and search Mohamud’s e-mail. Seeing this, Mohamud’s legal team attempted to re-open the case—but the judge denied their motion. Mohamud’s defense raised this issue on appeal, but they have now been rejected by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Google Is Fighting Global Search Censorship In Canada’s Supreme Court – On Tuesday, Google went in front of the Supreme Court of Canada to argue that the country’s courts shouldn’t have the authority to order the search giant to censor links worldwide. This is because last year a court in the province of British Columbia upheld an order that forced Google to remove search results globally for a company selling counterfeit goods at the behest of a Canadian company. This is despite Google not having any data centres in Canada.

The question under consideration by the Supreme Court, according to the case summary on the court’s site, is: “Do Canadian courts have the authority to block search results outside of Canada’s borders?”

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist is live-tweeting the court proceedings, and based on his tweets, it appears Google’s argument is that if a Canadian court wants to block search results in another country, the court should obtain a court order against the company in the country where it’s based.

Google is also reportedly echoing the concerns of Canadian privacy experts who’ve argued that the ability to block search results worldwide could be used to silence legitimate free speech online.

The UK’s Investigatory Powers Act allows the State to tell lies in court – Blighty’s freshly passed Investigatory Powers Act, better known as the Snoopers’ Charter, is a dog’s dinner of a law. It gives virtually unrestricted powers not only to State spy organisations but also to the police and a host of other government agencies.

The operation of the oversight and accountability mechanisms in the IPA are all kept firmly out of sight – and, so its authors hope, out of mind – of the public. It is up to the State to volunteer the truth to its victims if the State thinks it has abused its secret powers. “Marking your own homework” is a phrase which does not fully capture this.

However, despite the establishment of a parallel system of secret justice, the IPA’s tentacles also enshrine parallel construction into law. That is, the practice where prosecutors lie about the origins of evidence to judges and juries – thereby depriving the defendant of a fair trial because he cannot review or question the truth of the evidence against him.

Dutch police get OK to exploit zero-days: So will that just mean more surveillance? – Last month, the Netherlands government gave its police and central intelligence agency official approval to exploit zero-day vulnerabilities.

These hardware and software flaws, which are unknown to the public and often also to the product makers themselves, are seen by Dutch law-enforcement agencies as key tools in understanding potential cyberattacks.

But critics believe that allowing security agencies to exploit zero-days amounts to a license to conduct covert surveillance programs on the public.

Zero-day vulnerabilities can be unknown or known to manufacturers. In either case, the public is not aware of them until the manufacturer issues a software or firmware patch or update.

Manufacturers usually issue swift updates, but sometimes end users do not download them right away. The Dutch government will also allow law enforcement to exploit known vulnerabilities that users or manufacturers have left untreated for a period.

In a memorandum to parliament, the Netherlands government called the use of hardware and software vulnerabilities by law enforcement an urgent matter of national security, as increasingly more criminals commit crimes via the internet.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – December 5, 2016

‘Guessing Attack’ Bypasses Credit Card Security in 6 Seconds;  WTF is AI?  Find out what your web browser is telling websites about you;  How to shop online and stay secure;  The Best iPad Apps of 2016;  Uber now monitors where you go after a ride, but you can stop it;  Free data platforms: How to choose a good one;  Android Security Bulletin November 2016: What you need to know;  How to reinstall Windows 10 without any bloatware;  Gifts for people who like to fix things – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

‘Guessing Attack’ Bypasses Credit Card Security in 6 Seconds – December is always a very busy time for the banks and credit card companies as we all scramble to purchase presents in time for Christmas. But it’s also a boon period for fraudsters who are trying to steal those precious card details. And now it seems, they can “guess hack” a credit card in mere seconds. A team of researchers at Newcastle University discovered two weaknesses in the way online transactions are verified using the Visa payment system. Neither weakness is of much use alone, but when used together, an attacker can recover a credit card’s security information in as little as six seconds.

How to shop online and stay secure – It’s that time of year again: Soon we’ll begin scouring the internet to find the lowest prices for holiday gifts. As a savvy online shopper, you’ll visit multiple websites to find the perfect deal, usually creating accounts with your credit card and other personal information. But when it’s time for checkout, don’t make the same mistakes I did. Protect yourself and your password.

Find out what your web browser is telling websites about you – Interested in knowing what information a website has access to about you as soon as you visit a page? Here are a couple of websites that will show you what information you are leaking as you browse the internet.

WTF is AI? – These days, AI is a term applied indiscriminately to a host of systems, and while I’d like to say that many stretch the definition, I can’t, because AI doesn’t really have a proper definition. Roughly speaking, we could say that it is a piece of software that attempts to replicate human thought processes or the results thereof. That leaves a lot of wiggle room, but we can work with it. You have AI that picks the next song to play you, AI that dynamically manages the legs of a robot, AI that picks out objects from an image and describes them, AI that translates from German to English to Russian to Korean and every which way. All of these are things humans excel at, and there are vast benefits to be gained from automating them well.

Jim Hillier: What are the Best PC Specs for You – Whenever someone asks me to build a custom machine for them, my first and most important question is always… “what will you be using it for?”. While some users might be financially comfortable enough to be unconcerned about price, most of us are subject to budgetary constraints and there’s not much point in paying a premium for high-end specs which are never going to come into play. So, the first and primary consideration should always be best value for the dollar. However, at the same time, you should, where budget allows, also factor in future-proofing… in other words, make sure your system implements as much of the latest available technology as possible.

The Best External Hard Drives of 2016 – Whether you need a sit-on-your-desk backup solution or a drive you can slip into a pocket to shuttle files, these top-rated external hard drives have your storage needs covered.

Flash’s slow death continues with Chrome 55 – Google is continuing its plan to phase out Flash in favor of HTML5 today by launching Chrome 55. With this new update, many sites around the web will begin defaulting to HTML5 instead of Flash. There are a few exceptions, but Chrome 55 largely implements the measures Google laid out earlier in the year.

The Best iPad Apps of 2016 – According to Apple, more than a million dedicated iPad apps have been released worldwide. The right app can transform the iPad, regardless of its size, into nearly anything you desire. Want to look for a job? Download the LinkedIn app. Want to whip up phat beats during the subway commute? Download GarageBand. Any task you want to do, there’s probably an app for that.

How to reinstall Windows 10 without any bloatware – Windows 10 actually has the ability to install just the OS without any additional software.

How to Turn on Cortana by Voice in Windows 10 – Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant is an integral part of Windows 10. But normally, to pose a question or command, you first have to click on the microphone icon next to Cortana’s “Ask me anything” field just to wake it up. But why bother clicking on something when you can use your voice? Through Microsoft’s “Hey Cortana” feature, you can get the attention of the voice assistant just by saying “Hey Cortana,” and segue into your converation seamlessly. Let’s see how this works.

Microsoft Teams: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about the chat-based communication and collaboration platform Microsoft Teams.

Windows 10 Creators Update to include new accessibility features for braille, narration – The Creators Update for Windows 10 is still a ways off from its spring 2017 release, but Microsoft continues to share what’s in development and what users can look forward to. The latest blog post from the company details some of the accessibility features that will be included with the update, allowing the Windows 10 OS to be just as easy to use for those with disabilities.

$49 Windows tablets, $1,000 PC discounts, and 50% off Xbox games highlight Microsoft deals – Microsoft’s “12 Days of Deals” contain some hidden gems, including $1,000 off selected PCs, discounts on Groove Music and Xbox Live Gold, as well as sweet stocking stuffers. Here, we tell you what to buy and what to skip.

Report: Microsoft’s Home Hub will chase Amazon’s Alexa and Echo as a software service – A Windows Central report suggests that Microsoft is indeed developing a smart-home solution, though its Home Hub may be a Windows 10 service rather than a device.

5 new tricks for Instagram addicts – Instagram has been rolling out monthly updates that are changing the way you can use the photo-sharing app, including a new live video option that’s already available to some users.

iHeartRadio partners with Napster for on-demand music streaming – The streaming music market is already a crowded one, but that isn’t stopping iHeartRadio, the conglomerate behind over 800 US radio stations, from jumping in. With updates to both its iOS and Android apps this week, the service has debuted two new paid subscription plans that allow users to stream music on-demand, thanks in part to a new partnership with Napster.

Free data platforms: How to choose a good one – Free online tools for understanding data abound, each promising to help your business make sense of its data troves. But how to choose one? Here are the factors to consider.

Google Pixel camera bug: five workarounds that may solve the issue – Google’s newly released Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones are, in some cases, suffering from a serious camera issue that overlays magenta-colored streaks over images. This issue has been reported by Pixel owners over the last several weeks, and though Google is looking into the issue, there’s no solution at this time. However, some Pixel owners report finding troubleshooting techniques, of which these are the five most successful methods.

This Guy Built a Fake News Detector, Then Facebook Blocked It – Last night, TechCrunch ran a story purporting that Facebook was showing certain users red warning labels above fake news links. But as it happens, this wasn’t Facebook’s doing at all, but rather the work of a Chrome plugin called B.S. Detector, made by activist and independent journalist Daniel Sieradski. If that irony wasn’t interview-worthy enough, with the backdrop of an ongoing public crisis over Facebook’s involvement in fake news, the social network appears to have just actually just banned the plugin, according to Sieradski.

2016 Christmas gift guide: Gifts for people who like to fix things – If you’re in the business of repairing PCs, smartphones, or tablets, then you need the tools to help you get the job done in a fast, efficient, and safe way.

The Hottest Tech Toys for Kids – Every year, as the holidays roll around, children’s hearts are filled with joy and anticipation. Adult hearts, in turn, are filled with fear and trepidation. After all, how would you know if that DIY robot is a better buy for your youngster than that hoverboard all her classmates have been talking about? And even as junior yearns for that gizmo with the flashing lights and incessant music, is it really appropriate for their age? The choices are endless, the decisions daunting. Fear not, PCMag has you covered.

Security:

Android Security Bulletin November 2016: What you need to know – How did Android fare in the November Security Bulletin? It may come as no surprise to learn that our old friend the Mediaserver has returned with a critical vulnerability. We also see some new entries in the mix. Let’s dive in and see what’s what.

Jim Hillier: Is Your VPN Leaking – With the dramatic increase in tracking online activity, more and more users are turning to VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to help mask their identity and whereabouts. The general expectation with VPNs is that they provide absolute privacy/anonymity, however, that is not always the case. Some VPNs will actually leak real IP and DNS addresses which, of course, negates the entire reason for using a VPN in the first place.

Uber now monitors where you go after a ride, but you can stop it – Uber now keeps track of where you go after your ride ends. The tracking spans the first five minutes after you reach your destination. The data gathered from this monitoring is used to improve Uber’s service, including pickups and drop-offs. If you, like many users, aren’t happy about being surveilled by the Uber app, you can disable the feature before your next trip.

Blame the ISPs rather than the routers – That its a new variant of Mirai, makes for sexy for headlines, but is not important. That five million devices may be vulnerable is also not important. And, It’s pretty much irrelevant that the buggy routers were produced by Acadyan and Zyxel. The most important issue in this latest router attack is that most of the blame falls on the Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The routers were attacked on TCP port 7547, which is used by the TR-069 protocol (also known as CWMP or CPE WAN Management Protocol). Leaving port 7547 open would have been a non-issue if the ISPs had made better decisions. Its the network equivalent of not wearing seat belts. No surprise then, that customers were eventually thrown through the front window.

There’s a new DDoS army, and it could soon rival record-setting Mirai – For almost three months, Internet-of-things botnets built by software called Mirai have been a driving force behind a new breed of attacks so powerful they threaten the Internet as we know it. Now, a new botnet is emerging that could soon magnify or even rival that threat. The as-yet unnamed botnet was first detected on November 23, the day before the US Thanksgiving holiday. For exactly 8.5 hours, it delivered a non-stop stream of junk traffic to undisclosed targets, according to this post published Friday by content delivery network CloudFlare. Every day for the next six days at roughly the same time, the same network pumped out an almost identical barrage, which is aimed at a small number of targets mostly on the US West Coast. More recently, the attacks have run for 24 hours at a time.

Remote management app exposes millions of Android users to hacking – Poor implementation of encryption in a popular Android remote management application exposes millions of users to data theft and remote code execution attacks. According to researchers from mobile security firm Zimperium, the AirDroid screen-sharing and remote-control application sends authentication information encrypted with a hard-coded key. This information could allow man-in-the-middle attackers to push out malicious AirDroid add-on updates, which would then gain the permissions of the app itself.

Researchers find a way to bypass the iOS activation lock – The researchers crashed the lock screen by inserting long strings in the Wi-Fi configuration settings.

Company News:

Intel’s silence on Optane SSDs raises questions about launch and focus – There’s a lot of excitement about Intel’s superfast Optane SSDs, but products won’t be on shelves this year as the chipmaker had earlier promised.

In new lawsuit, Instacart shoppers say they were regularly underpaid – The Instacart lawsuit is one of several currently targeting so-called “sharing economy” startups, and they all get at the same question: can workers be accurately classified as independent contractors, or should they properly be designated as employees? In Instacart’s case, customers order groceries online, but those groceries are then picked up and delivered by the company’s shoppers. So, should those shoppers be treated as employees?

Volkswagen launches Moia, a new standalone mobility company – Volkswagen Group is making a significant bet on future mobility services with Moia, a new separate company that will exist under the VW umbrella of brands focused specifically on providing mobility solutions, including fleet-based commuter shuttles and, eventually, autonomous on-demand transportation.

Apple admits what caused your iPhone battery issue – Apple made a statement about the iPhone 6s this morning in China, adding details to a battery issue reported by users in China and the USA. This battery issue has affected a “small number of iPhone 6S devices,” said Apple. In addition to what was reported by Apple earlier, they’ve revealed details on the exact cause of the device switching off as it reaches 40% battery. It would seem that this is not a bug, but a sort of feature – as Apple says: “an iPhone is actually designed to shut down automatically under certain conditions.”

Apple Pay debuts in Spain with support for Mastercard and American Express – Apple Pay officially launched in Spain this week, making it the latest European nation to accept Apple’s contactless mobile payments service. It also comes shortly after similar debuts in Japan, New Zealand, and Russia. Using compatible iPhone models or an Apple Watch, Apple Pay will allow users to make fast and easy payments at 27 Spanish retailers simply by holding their device over an NFC terminal.

Pandora shares up 11% on acquisition report – Internet radio pioneer Pandora, saw its shares jump over 11% on Friday to $12.77, amid renewed acquisition speculation. A report from CNBC indicated that Pandora and SiriusXM are expected to discuss a possible purchase. The story cautions that there is “no assurance” that Pandora will reach a deal with SiriusXM or any other prospective buyers.

Games and Entertainment:

DirecTV NOW vs Sling TV vs PlayStation Vue: Streaming Showdown – The brave new world of live television is upon us, and it comes in three forms: PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and DirecTV NOW. Having multiple products to choose from is never a bad thing, but it does require more leg work. Which service has the features you can’t live without? Is there some hard-to-find fine print you should know about? Does the service you’re leaning toward offer the best value for your money? We’ve answered all those questions and more.

‘The Last Guardian’ Is a Game About the Only Pure Thing in Life: Dogs – Have you ever seen a dog about to jump into a pool for the very first time? It’s one of life’s great pleasures. The dog’s excited and afraid. It paws at the water hesitantly, preparing to leap in, then backs away at the last minute, because who know knows what the hell is going on in there. Then it’ll come back because the water’s so enticing. This will go on until the dog finally finds the courage to take the leap and discover that the pool is pure ecstasy. I’ve never been as excited about anything in my life as much as a dog can get excited about a pool. The Last Guardian, which after a decade in development is one of the most hotly anticipated games ever, expertly recreates that marvelous sight, only instead of a dog it’s a giant bird-dog-dragon hybrid creature named Trico.

Watch Dogs 2 review: A fresh, interesting rebirth that ditches the stale Ubisoft formula – Watch Dogs 2 is as big a series-defining comeback as Assassin’s Creed II was back in 2009—and it does it by burning away all the worst parts of Ubisoft’s formula.

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WWII fighter pilot game leans on Tuskegee Airmen’s legacy to get Kickstarter aloft – By gameplay concept alone, Iron Wings would be difficult to stand out from the crowd of Kickstarted video games begging for your dollar. It’s an air combat shooter proposed for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One, and there have been plenty of those, through all periods of history, on consoles and PCs down through the years. What’s eye-catching about Iron Wings, by Messina, Italy-based Naps Team, is the cast: African-American pilots. And women. In World War II. It’s as if the studio — which dates to 1993 — understood how tough it would be to stand out using a bog-standard squadron of Allies, and the gameplay concepts they wish to introduce with Iron Wings wouldn’t be enough to set things apart.

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FCC says AT&T, Verizon are violating net neutrality with sponsored data plans – This week the FCC sent letters to both AT&T and Verizon, stating that zero-rated data — plans and services that don’t count against users’ monthly allotment — is a violation of net neutrality rules. For AT&T, this applies to their new DirecTV Now streaming video service, and for Verizon it’s their own Go90 video service. The FCC’s wireless communications chief Jon Wilkins wrote that the telecoms’ practices “inhibit competition, harm consumers, and interfere with the ‘virtuous cycle’ needed to assure the continuing benefits of the Open Internet.”

Ars Cardboard’s 2016 board game gift guide – Whether your giftee is a longtime gamer or a brand new convert, Ars Cardboard is here with a list of games to please players of every stripe. We’ve broken your friends and family into tidy little categories and provided a main pick and some alternatives for each demographic. Our main picks focus on titles released in the last year or two, but we dug into some older titles for our expanded picks. To boot, most games on this list are friendly to tabletop newbies.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The biggest threat to artificial intelligence: Human stupidity – Thoughtless use of artificial intelligence could be much more dangerous than the super-intelligent digital villains of science-fiction.

Another Android update betrayal: when will we learn? – This week another Android device less than 2-years old has been announced to be at its end-of-life for Android updates. It is my opinion that this happens all too often – that while it isn’t necessarily Google’s fault this happens, it should be made more clear. Clarity should be the name of the game when it comes to the promise of a smartphone that’ll last. Clarity should be at the forefront of the presentation of a brand new smartphone – especially when it costs several hundred dollars.

Op-ed: Stop pretending there’s a difference between “online” and “real life” – Sometimes I get into one of those conversations about the Internet where the only way I can reply is to quote from The IT Crowd: “Are you from the past?” I say that every time someone asserts that the online world is somehow separate from real life. You’d be surprised how much this comes up, even after all these years of people’s digital shenanigans leading to everything from espionage and murder to international video fame and fancy book deals. But now that the U.S. has a president-elect who communicates with the American people almost exclusively via Twitter and YouTube, it’s really time to stop kidding ourselves.

How will Silicon Valley respond to Trump? – Capital founding partner Freada Kapor Klein isn’t happy.  Klein, one of technology’s leading social activists and impact investors, has been “deeply troubled” by the election of Donald Trump. She is particularly disgusted by what she calls the “unleashing” of “horrific behavior” since the election, such as what she fears might even be the now acceptable use of the N word on the streets of San Francisco. So what can Silicon Valley do to respond to Trump? We need, Kapor Klein says, to “get out of our bubble”.

Something to think about:

“The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.”

–      H. L. Mencken    (1880 – 1956)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden says Petraeus shared ‘far more highly classified material than I ever did’ – Edward Snowden blasted the US justice department in an interview with Yahoo News on Sunday, saying “we have a two-tiered system of justice in the United States” that allows the well connected to get off with light punishments.

Snowden, a fugitive and former NSA contractor who revealed the organization’s worldwide spying powers in 2013, pointed to the case of former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus as evidence.

“Perhaps the best-known case in recent history here is General Petraeus who shared information that was far more highly classified than I ever did with journalists,” Snowden told Katie Couric, global news anchor at Yahoo. “And he shared this information not with the public for their benefit, but with his biographer and lover for personal benefit conversations that had information, detailed information, about military special access programs that’s classified above Top Secret, conversations with the president, and so on.”

Couric traveled to Moscow for the face-to-face interview, where Snowden remains in exile. The full interview will be available to view Monday on YouTube.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 2, 2016

Top Google Chrome productivity, privacy and security extensions 2016;  NFL streaming: how to watch football without CBS All Access;  How to use a tablet as a second display;  Tech on a Budget: 20 Gift Ideas Under $20;  A beginner’s guide to beefing up your privacy and security online;  The Best SSDs of 2016;  Dusk’s new app lets you live stream anonymously;  How to download, manage Netflix shows on your phone or tablet – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

A beginner’s guide to beefing up your privacy and security online – This is not a comprehensive guide to security, nor should it be considered good enough for professional activists or people who suspect they may be under targeted surveillance. This is for people who use their phones and computers for work and in their personal lives every single day and who want to reduce the chances that those devices and the accounts used by those devices will be compromised. And while security often comes at some cost to usability, we’ve also done our best not to impact the fundamental utility and convenience of your devices.

Top Google Chrome productivity, privacy and security extensions 2016 – If you are a Google Chrome user and you’re not making use of extensions, then you are really missing out. Here are a huge selection of extensions aimed specifically at boosting your productivity and privacy.

NFL streaming: how to watch football without CBS All Access – CBS has announced that its users will be able to stream some NFL games starting this upcoming Sunday. CBS says this is a multi-year deal between it and the NFL; once it kicks off, CBS All Access will offer all the NFL on CBS games, including halftime coverage, Thursday Night Football, and more. If you’re not a CBS All Access customer, though, or if you prefer greater access to NFL content, you’ve got a few other streaming options.

How to use a tablet as a second display – Tablets aren’t just for binge-watching the new Netflix “Gilmore Girls” miniseries or perusing the fake news on your Facebook feed. You can also put that bad boy to work as a second display. Two displays for a single computer give you more space to spread out your documents, spreadsheets and web browsers. If you already own an Android tablet, why not? It’s cheaper than buying an extra monitor and only requires a few app downloads. There are a few apps that let you do this, but for this guide, I’ve chosen iDisplay since it it has options for multiple platforms.

How to download, manage Netflix shows on your phone or tablet – The day has finally arrived! It’s now possible to download shows and movies using the Netflix app to watch when you’re on a plane, or without an internet connection. Heck, downloading Netflix content is a super easy way to save on your mobile data plan while on the go. Before you get too excited, the first thing to do is install the latest version of the Netflix app on your iOS or Android device. According to Netflix, the new feature works on Android devices running Android 4.4.2 and up, as well as iOS 8.0 or later.

Here are Google’s top apps, content for 2016 – The year is about to end, and as is the tradition almost every where, it’s a time for reminiscing and retrospectives. That’s true back in the analog days and still true even in today’s digital age. Being one of the biggest sources of digital content, Google Play has some insight into the hottest trends of the year. So naturally, Google is in the position to reveal what’s hot and what’s not as far as apps, music, and movies go. While some of them are as you would expect, there are others that will have you scratching your head.

Windows 10 tip: Jump through your list of installed apps – The Windows 10 Start menu includes a handy scrolling list of all the apps and desktop programs you’ve installed. It also offers a hidden alphabetical index. Here’s how to make that index visible.

How to restore missing desktop icons in Windows – You’ve lost your Windows desktop icons and you want them back. Here’s how to do it.

The Best SSDs of 2016 – External solid-state drives are faster, more affordable, and more versatile than ever. These are our top-rated SSDs, along with advice on how to shop for the right type of storage.

9 free ways to get the most out of Google’s Play Music app – Even if you don’t pony up $10 a month for Play Music, you can still upload your music collection, create and save “instant” mixes,” tweak your equalizer levels, set a sleep timer, and more.

Dusk’s new app lets you live stream anonymously – Stepping into this controversial space is a new app called Dusk, which lets you live stream anonymously to its online community, while protecting your identity through pixelated video and voice changed audio. The end result is something like an anonymous version of Periscope video, or a live video version of the secret-sharing app Whisper.

Switching from Android to iOS this holiday season? Here’s the guide that doesn’t come with the gift – Apple has made it incredibly easy to leave Android behind, but there are a few catches. Find out how to make the process super smooth for you and your loved ones.

Western Digital releases series of Raspberry Pi disk drives – Western Digital (WD) today introduced a new series of storage devices designed specifically for use with Raspberry Pi, a single-board micro PC. The WD PiDrive Foundation Edition drives include a microSD card preloaded with the custom New Out of Box Software OS installer. The drives are available in three capacities: a 375GB hard disk drive (HDD), a 250GB HDD and a 64GB flash drive. The 375GB and 250GB products include a WD PiDrive cable that ensures optimal powering of the hard drive and Raspberry Pi.

The best Raspberry Pi boards, accessories and alternative boards – 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. Also added are a selection of accessories to help you make more from your project board.

Amid distraction fears, Android Auto gets “Ok Google” voice trigger – Google has enabled “Ok Google” voice triggers to Android Auto, allowing users of the in-car interface to issue commands or dictate messages without having to press a button first. Designed to increase in-car safety while still offering access to smartphone features users have progressively become dependent on, Android Auto relies on a customized interface designed for easier use while on the move. Until now, though, it had required users either press an on-screen button or a button on the steering wheel to actually get the system’s attention.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: Now ready for business after four months of tweaks – The Windows 10 Anniversary Update that was released to Home users in the summer is now available under the Current Branch for Business servicing option.

How to fix iCloud calendar spam – For the last few weeks, some iCloud users have been experiencing an uptick in spammy Calendar invites to fake events and things like Ray-Ban sales and Ugg discounts. And unlike email spam, simply declining the events may make things worse, since it shows the spammers that your account is active, increasing the odds of getting more spam in the future. In a statement made to iMore yesterday, Apple commented that it is aware of the issue and is working to address it. Until that happens, iCloud spam will continue to be a frustrating situation for many. Fortunately there are a few options to deal with the spam.

Security:

Firefox zero-day: Mozilla, Tor issue critical patches to block active attacks – If the government created this Firefox and Tor Browser exploit, it just endangered all web users, argues Mozilla.

1 million Google accounts compromised by Android malware called Gooligan – Researchers say they’ve uncovered a family of Android-based malware that has compromised more than 1 million Google accounts, hundreds of them associated with enterprise users. Gooligan, as researchers from security firm Check Point Software Technologies have dubbed the malware, has been found in at least 86 apps available in third-party marketplaces. Once installed, it uses a process known as rooting to gain highly privileged system access to devices running version 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, and KitKat) and version 5 (Lollipop) of Google’s Android operating system. Together, the vulnerable versions account for about 74 percent of users.

Find out if your Google account has been hacked – Check to see if your Android device has been hit by Gooligan and what to do if it has.

At least 10 million Android users imperiled by popular AirDroid app – For at least the past six months, a popular remote management app available in the official Google Play Store has opened tens of millions of Android users to code-execution and data-theft attacks when they use unsecured networks, researchers said Thursday.

Legal raids in five countries seize botnet servers, sinkhole 800,000+ domains – A botnet that has served up phishing attacks and at least 17 different malware families to victims for much of this decade has been taken down in a coordinated effort by an international group of law enforcement agencies and security firms. Law enforcement officials seized command and control servers and took control of more than 800,000 Internet domains used by the botnet, dubbed “Avalanche,” which has been in operation in some form since at least late 2009.

Amazon offers DDoS Protection with Shield – Frightened of your site getting blown off the internet with a distributed denial of service attack? Amazon can protect you with AWS Shield.

Company News:

Mozilla puts new money to use fighting for ‘internet health’ – After weaning itself from dependence on Google, the nonprofit plans to expand beyond the Firefox browser. That may clash with Trump administration priorities.

Fitbit is reportedly buying Pebble for $34 million-40 million – A report from The Information states that the fitness tech giant Fitbit is finalizing a deal to buy Pebble. The report suggests the price would be for “a small amount,” and an independent source confirmed to Engadget that Fitbit will buy Pebble for $34 to $40 million.

Nokia-branded Android phones begin arriving next year – Those of you who have a soft spot for Nokia will be pleased to hear that smartphones bearing the company’s name will be making a return next year. Today Nokia and HMD Global Oy announced the terms of their licensing agreement, which was signed six months ago. Perhaps most importantly, this means that Nokia will be entering the realm of Android, a move many fans wanted to see Nokia make before it was bought up by Microsoft.

GoPro lays off 15 percent of workforce, shutters entertainment division – GoPro on Wednesday said 200 employees, or 15 percent of its workforce, will be laid off as the action sports camera company looks to return to profitability. As part of the restructuring, GoPro will also reduce office space, shutter its entertainment division, and cancel seeking candidates for open job positions. The entertainment division was set to be GoPro’s saving grace, putting its cameras’ content on set-top boxes and other media streamers. Operating expenses are expected to drop $650 million after the restructuring.

Apple Is the Latest Tech Giant Reportedly Developing Its Own Drone Fleet – Amazon has drones preparing to deliver our groceries. Google’s Project Wing is preparing to deliver our groceries, too. Facebook has drones working to give us internet, and Microsoft drones are fighting Zika virus. And now Apple has drones for giving us better maps. According to Bloomberg sources, Apple is readying a drone fleet to improve its Maps service in a bid to catch up with mobile map megastar Google. Sources told Bloomberg that Apple will use drones to survey the Earth to update map information much faster and more accurately than its current methods, which involve a Google-like car loaded with cameras.

Games and Entertainment:

5 Games You’ll Want to Buy in December – The year is almost over. December is here, the holiday season is in full swing, and the video game launch flood is receding. With the overwhelming number of releases in October and November, December’s lighter fare is a welcome change of pace, and we’re sure your wallet appreciates it, too. But don’t fret; if you’re on the hunt for a last-minute gift or personal treat, December has a few hot titles that you definitely want to grab.

The big problems with Facebook Messenger Instant Games – In case you missed the news, games are now included on the ever-growing list of Facebook Messenger features. There are a lot of them, too, with arcade classics such as Arkanoid and PAC-MAN joining newer titles like Bust-A-Move Blitz and Words with Friends: Frenzy. It’s frankly an excellent idea that makes Messenger more attractive as a chatting platform, but it’s not without some glaring flaws at this early stage.

DirecTV Now FAQ: All the details on AT&T’s new streaming TV service – After months of hype with little substance, AT&T has launched DirecTV Now, a bundle of streaming channels that will compete with Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue. While AT&T bills its new service as “TV beyond your wildest dreams,” on paper it’s not markedly different from its competitors. We’ll have more to say about how well the service performs in the coming weeks. For now, here are all the details we’ve gleaned from from AT&T’s public statements and a little bit of hands-on time:

Here are the 53 launch titles that will be available for the Oculus Touch controllers – The Oculus Rift’s motion controllers come out on December 6th, and Oculus just announced the list of over 50 Touch-compatible games and apps that will be available on the Oculus Store at launch. There are 53 launch titles in all, ranging from smaller indie games to major studio productions. Some of these titles were already in the store and are just getting updated with Touch support, while others are completely new and specifically designed to take advantage of the motion controllers.

Plex embraces Kodi as Plex Media Player becomes available to all – For the past year or so, popular media home server software Plex has been working on a new version of the Plex Media Player (PMP) client software for Windows. Now that client software is free for anyone to use, eliminating the need for a premium Plex Pass subscription. Plex Media Player is just one part of the Plex puzzle for playing content across your devices. The idea is to have the media player software installed on the PC hooked up to your TV, while another PC or NAS device runs the central Plex server software in another room.

You can finally watch Netflix offline now – Netflix wants to make your trip back home this holiday season a little merrier. The company announced on Wednesday that select TV shows and movies were available for download on Android and iOS. In other words, Netflix now enables offline viewing. It’s not for everything, though. Most of Netflix’s original programming will be covered by the new feature, but some titles may not be due to licensing restrictions.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Tech on a Budget: 20 Gift Ideas Under $20 – Sometimes it pays to remember that you don’t always have to spend big to get a big thank you.

Inside the black box: Understanding AI decision-making – Artificial intelligence algorithms are increasingly influential in peoples’ lives, but their inner workings are often opaque. We examine why, and explore what’s being done about it.

Study: iPhone users may be less honest than Android users – Researchers claim your phone really does say a lot about who you are as person, and if you’re an iPhone owner what it says is not flattering.

How to Pick the Right Drone for You – Drones are among this year’s hottest holiday gifts. But there’s a big difference between the less expensive models — which are basically toys — and the more powerful and pricey units. So how do you pick the right model for your needs?

French man sentenced to two years in prison for visiting pro-ISIS websites – A man in France was sentenced to two years in prison this week for repeatedly visiting pro-ISIS websites, even though there is no indication that he planned to stage a terrorist attack. The 32-year-old, whose name has not been released, was convicted by a court in the department of Ardèche on Tuesday under a new law that has drawn scorn from civil liberties groups. The man had been regularly consulting jihadist websites for two years, police said.

Five essential cybersecurity audiobooks – A curated list of cybersecurity audiobooks to help you better understand the history of computing, who hacks and why, and the future of cyber-defense.

The Golden Age of Texas Instruments Consumer Gadgets – Despite its military and industrial forays, TI’s consumer business perhaps had the most effect on the average person. Between 1972 and 1983, Texas Instruments released a string of products that revolutionized educational electronic toys, calculators, wristwatches, and to some extent, personal computers. In the slides ahead, we will explore this period in TI’s history.

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TI-99/4A (1981)

Magic mushrooms help cancer patients cope with fear and depression – Magic mushrooms, once associated mostly with Phish concerts, may lead to better end-of-life care for cancer patients. One dose of the active ingredient, psilocybin, can help terminal cancer patients experience less depression and anxiety even six months later. Two studies from New York University and Johns Hopkins University confirm a recent wave of research suggesting that hallucinogenic drugs are an important mental health tool.

FDA’s OK on trial opens possibility of prescription ecstasy in five years – The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the first large-scale, phase 3 clinical trial of ecstasy in patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the New York Times reported. The regulatory green-light follows six smaller-scale trials that showed remarkable success using the drug. In fact, some of the 130 PTSD patients involved in those trials say ecstasy—or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)—saved them from the devastating impacts of PTSD after more than a decade of seeing no improvement with the other treatment options available.

Something to think about:

“In the fight between you and the world, back the world.”

–    Frank Zappa   (1940 – 1993)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Game over: New US computer search law takes effect Thursday – “By sitting here and doing nothing, the Senate has given consent to this expansion of government hacking and surveillance.”

Those were the words Wednesday of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) as he failed to convince fellow senators to even hold a floor vote that could block changes to what is known as Rule 41 from taking effect Thursday.

Wyden was referencing an amended Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure, which originated from an unelected advisory committee and was signed by the Supreme Court in April. By rule, it becomes effective December 1. The measure clarifies the law allowing judges to sign warrants that let authorities hack into computers outside a judge’s jurisdiction. The rule also gives federal judges the authority to issue a warrant to search multiple computers—even without knowing who is the targeted computer owner. Previously, some judges had practiced this, while others did not.

Wyden, a handful of fellow lawmakers, and civil rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation oppose Rule 41. They say that under the measure, a warrant would not have to say with any particularity whose computer the authorities are searching. Wyden said Congress should vote on whether to allow this instead of the measure taking effect without any congressional approval.

The Department of Justice, meanwhile, said Wyden’s fears are overblown.

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