Category Archives: Internet Security Alerts

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 4, 2015

Survey: Hardly Anybody Uses a Password Manager;  The Best iPhone Apps of the Week;  How to Get Bluetooth to Actually Work;  Five obscure Android apps that should be on your must-use list;  Mass infection malware attack targets Android;  Chromebook: How to run Windows programs in a browser tab for free;  Five kits for building drones, gadgets and robots with your Raspberry Pi;  Flaw in GoPro update mechanism reveals users’ Wi-Fi passwords;  BitTorrent Sync 2.0 adds pro features;  Alibaba Is Expanding Its Cloud Services To The U.S.  Mysterious Android App Emails Your Location to Creepers;  Some Bloggers Really Piss Me Off – Lucy Is One;  Global experiment exposes the dangers of using Wi-Fi hotspots.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Survey: Hardly Anybody Uses a Password Manager – Once you’ve installed a password management tool, you only have to remember one password. So how come the vast majority of consumers still rely on bad passwords and sticky notes? The survey evaluated password practices in the U.S. and U.K. by polling 1,000 consumers. It evaluated how well participants hewed to correct password practices such as using a different password for every site, creating strong, unguessable passwords, and changing passwords every month or two. The results? Well, what did you expect? Passwords: they’re doing it wrong. Siber Systems, the survey’s sponsor, offers the well-known RoboForm password manager. While RoboForm is one of our recommended best password managers, others have rated even better. If money is tight, don’t fret. We’ve also identified the best free password managers. So, if you’re not using a password manager, start now! Don’t be one of the 92 percent whose passwords are painfully lame.

Paperspace Lets Anyone Access A Better Personal Computer That Lives In The Cloud – Imagine never having to buy new and expensive hardware to upgrade your personal computer with more speed and storage space. That’s the vision behind Y Combinator-backed Paperspace, a new company launching today, which is building a full, personal computer that lives in the cloud, which you access from any web browser. Today, there are number of solutions for accessing computing power via the cloud thanks to companies like Amazon and others, but these services require users to be more technical in order to get started. Paperspace is different because it’s aiming to wrap up a similar service in terms of accessing a remote, cloud computer, but offering it through an easy-to-use console where everyday consumers can just click a button to log into their upgraded, more powerful remote machine.

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The Best iPhone Apps of the Week – It seems like hundreds of new iPhone apps pop up every week, but which ones should you bother trying? We explored the App Store and found some apps actually worth downloading.

When words won’t cut it, express yourself with reaction GIFs – When you really want to get your point across, nothing beats a hilarious little video clip. Here’s how to find them and use them.

Pointing up     Or, make your own. Checkout today’s free downloads for an open source GIF application with surprising functionality.

How to Get Bluetooth to Actually Work – While the most recent updates to Bluetooth technology have added better pairing, increased range and lowest-ever power usage, you may still encounter the odd obstacle when getting set up. Troubleshoot your Bluetooth connection with these tips and let us know how they work for you in the comments.

Five obscure Android apps that should be on your must-use list – If you’re an Android user, you know the Google Play Store is filled with apps — many of which are outstanding, but some of which… are not. Finding a few of the hidden, lesser-known gems isn’t a terribly challenging task, but it can take a while. So to save you a bit of time, I searched the Play Store and came up with five apps you may never have heard of but might benefit from using. Let’s see if any of them fits your bill.

5 TV antenna tricks for the modern-day cord cutter – When I was growing up, it seemed like almost everyone had cable, and owning a TV antenna meant you were stuck in the past. But with the rise of cord cutting, the lowly over-the-air antenna has experienced a rebirth. More than just an old-school way to get basic channels like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, an HD antenna can pair with all kinds of high-tech hardware, unlocking capabilities that were never possible before. If you’ve ditched cable TV and are using an antenna for over-the-air channels, here are five ways to take it to the next level:

Strip search: Meet the Calvin and Hobbes search engine – If you are serious fan of Bill Watterson’s classic comic strip, then you need to be made aware of the existence of the Calvin and Hobbes search engine created by Michael Yingling. It lets you search by keyword, so you can find the strips, for example, that have Calvin and Hobbes waking up to a snow day, battling Calvin’s nemesis Susie, or seeing the world via Calvin’s alter ego Stupendous Man. You must use an exact phrase when searching by keyword, and you can also search by date.

Google Contacts gets fresh design, better tool for dealing with duplicates – Google is cleaning up your contacts. Today, the company teased out a preview of its new and improved Contacts page, where you view and manage the people, phone numbers and email addresses in your Google account. It looks a whole lot cleaner and promises to help make getting rid of duplicate entries easier.

You can now embed OneNote images, tweets, and YouTube into Microsoft’s Sway – Microsoft said Tuesday that it has greatly expanded the types of content and sources that can be embedded into its Sway tool, with an eye toward OneNote. And, just for fun, you can embed other Microsoft Sways into your Sways, as well. Microsoft has also bumped up its suggested search terms to include tweets and YouTube videos, allowing any Sway user to embed a wealth of content in new Sways.

Chromebook: How to run Windows programs in a browser tab for free – Most of the time we focus on helpful tips for Windows users, but today’s article will also appeal to anyone with a Chromebook. A company named Cameyo is known for its software that lets you run Windows program from a USB stick, but it also offers a virtualization service that lets you run full-blown Windows desktop programs in a browser for free. Cameyo isn’t perfect. Virtual programs tend to run slowly, some don’t work at all, and using personal files with the apps is not as obvious as it could be. Nevertheless, Cameyo can come in handy in a pinch when you’re away from your primary PC. Here’s how it works.

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Twitter CFO floats idea of newspaper-like ‘daily edition’ – People already check Twitter to see what’s happening. But news junkies who follow lots of accounts may have dozens if not hundreds of tweets to comb through every morning. Twitter thinks it can address this, partly by better organizing the content posted to its site and presenting it in new ways.

Five kits for building drones, gadgets and robots with your Raspberry Pi – A selection of kits that make it easier to build your first gadget with the $35 Linux board.

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BitTorrent Sync 2.0 adds pro features – More than two years after its initial public release, BitTorrent Sync has been updated to version 2.0 and dropped its “beta” designation. Based on the peer-to-peer BitTorrent protocol, it enables users to securely sync folders among their own devices and share them with other users, without relying on cloud servers like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and Apple’s iCloud Drive. Although the software remains free, version 2.0 adds an optional Pro tier—aimed primarily at business users—with extra convenience features and access controls, for $40 per user per year (with volume discounts for more than five licenses). All users of BitTorrent Sync 2.0 get 30 days of free access to the Pro features.

No reboot patching comes to Linux 4.0 – One reason to love Linux on your servers or in your data-center is that you so seldom needed to reboot it. True, critical patches require a reboot, but you could go months without rebooting. Now, with the latest changes to the Linux kernel you may be able to go years between reboots.

Security:

Mass infection malware attack targets Android – AdaptiveMobile uncovered one of the single largest messaging-initiated mobile malware outbreaks. The malware, dubbed Gazon, which uses victims’ mobile phone contacts to propagate, sends messages to their contacts linking to offers for spoof Amazon vouchers, which when opened, installs malware to their Android device. The attack, which went live on the 25th February and originated in the US, has infected thousands of mobile devices in more than 30 countries around the world, including Canada, UK, France, India, Korea, Mexico, Australia and the Philippines.

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Flaw in GoPro update mechanism reveals users’ Wi-Fi passwords – A vulnerability in the update mechanism for the wireless networks operated by GoPro cameras has allowed a security researcher to easily harvest over a 1,000 login credentials (including his own). The popular rugged, wearable cameras can be controlled via an app, but in order to do so the user has to connect to the camera’s Wi-Fi network. Israel-based infosec expert Ilya Chernyakov discovered the flaw when he had to access the network of a friend’s camera, but the friend forgot the login credentials.

Mysterious Android App Emails Your Location to Creepers – Smartphones have brought us wonderful things, such as Snapchat, Flappy Bird, and the ever present fear that someone might be tracking our every move. This week, researchers at Malwarebytes  tipped us off to a malicious Android app that emails your location to an unseen operator. It’s scary and it’s called Spy.MailGPS. Before we dive in, I must note that location tracking is a huge issue on all smartphones. Smartphone makers and app developers have come under fire for accidentally exposing users’ location, and for harvesting that same information. It’s a problem that’s not going away, but MailGPS is much scarier.

US air traffic control computer system vulnerable to terrorist hackers – The US system for guiding airplanes is open to vulnerabilities from outside hackers, the Government Accountability Office said Monday. The weaknesses that threaten the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to ensure the safety of flights include the failure to patch known three-year-old security holes, the transmission and storage of unencrypted passwords, and the continued use of “end-of-life” key servers. Among the findings:

A Group ‘Hacked’ the NSA’s Website to Demonstrate a Widespread Bug – A group of researchers only needed $104 and 8 hours of Amazon’s cloud computing power to hack the NSA’s website. And their feat was made possible by a bug that, ironically, was practically created by the NSA itself and its anti-encryption policies from 20 years ago. The NSA’s site was just the guinea pig to demonstrate a newly-disclosed internet flaw called FREAK. Now, as crypto expert Matthew Green correctly pointed out, this wasn’t really a “hack.” Mounting a man-in-the-middle attack against NSA.gov is not the same as hacking the NSA (as an always-appropriate XKCD cartoon illustrates).

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Global experiment exposes the dangers of using Wi-Fi hotspots – A global Wi-Fi hacking experiment exposed major security issues regarding the browsing habits of users around the globe. Avast mobile security experts traveled to cities in the United States, Europe, and Asia to observe public Wi-Fi activity in nine major metropolitan areas. They were equipped with a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop and an application that monitored local Wi-Fi traffic at 2.4 GHz frequency – a free app that is widely available. Because HTTP traffic is unprotected, the Avast team was able to view all of the users’ browsing activity, including domain and page history, searches, personal login information, videos, emails, and comments.

Company News:

Google’s Schmidt meets EU competition chief to discuss antitrust woes – Google chairman Eric Schmidt and other company officials have met with the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to discuss the ongoing antitrust investigation into Google’s search practices. The Monday meeting was the first time Google executives had the chance to talk to Vestager about the antitrust case since she took over from her predecessor, Joaquín Almunia, on Nov. 1 last year.

Alibaba Is Expanding Its Cloud Services To The U.S. To Give Amazon New Competition – Alibaba, the Chinese commerce firm which held the largest IPO in history last year, is bringing cloud computing services in the U.S. after it announced a data center in Silicon Valley. The base — the location of which Alibaba isn’t revealing for security reasons — is the first for its Aliyun division outside of China, where it claims 1.4 million cloud services customers. The company has four data centers in China and one in Hong Kong, and it plans to expand that reach into Europe and Southeast Asia before the end of the year.

BlackBerry CEO: I’m open to creating a tablet again – That’s if CEO John Chen thinks the opportunity is right. “It’s not in the works, but it’s on my mind,” Chen said in an interview at the Mobile World Congress conference here. A BlackBerry tablet could satisfy the needs of a small but fiercely loyal group of productivity-focused customers who have stuck with the struggling smartphone maker and its operating system, potentially giving it a new revenue stream. But there aren’t enough BlackBerry faithful to sustain such a business, especially given the tablet category saw its first year-over-year decline in shipments in the fourth quarter.

Pizza Hut, Visa Experimenting With In-Car Ordering – The pizza maker is working with Visa and tech consultancy Accenture to develop a concept car that will test mobile online purchases on the go. Visa Checkout would be integrated into a car’s dashboard for in-car purchases, like that pizza you want to pick up on the way home. Place your order via voice to make sure you eyes stay on the road. Pizza Hut will provide in-car access to menus, delivery, and pick-up options, while beacon technology will notify Pizza Hut workers when your car is pulling in to the restaurant. It’s just a concept right now, but is on display at MWC in Barcelona.

Apple tops Samsung in quarterly smartphone sales for the first time since 2011 – Apple sold 74.8 million smartphones globally during the fourth quarter, up from 50.2 million in the year-earlier quarter, according to Gartner. Apple’s decision to offer phones with larger screens paid off, the research firm said. U.S. and Chinese buyers are especially keen on the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, said Gartner, adding that demand for the phones is still strong in both countries. The larger screens also gave Apple customers a reason to replace their older phones. Samsung, by comparison, sold 73 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, down from 83.3 million in 2013’s fourth quarter. Samsung had held the quarterly sales title since 2011.

Apple in settlement talks with electric-car battery maker – Lawsuit accused Apple of luring away key engineers to work within a new battery division, fueling speculation that the iPhone maker has ambitions of developing an electric car of its own.

Games and Entertainment:

This is Nvidia Shield: a closer look at the 4K Android TV game console – Nvidia touted three big announces at its GDC 2015 press conference, but all of them center around its latest Shield device: a home console powered by Tegra X1, running Android TV, and capable of playing games like Crysis 3 locally and streaming premium titles through its also-just-announced Grid service. The $199 console itself, coming this May, embodies Nvidia’s design language — sharp edges, a mix of gloss and matte black, a green glow that “cracks” through the front of the system. (The controller, on the other hand, feels like the opposite of all that.) Nvidia has made a lot of promises with the capabilities, and we won’t know how well it’ll make good on those promises until we try it ourselves. But the hardware itself? Here you go!

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Crysis 3 on NVIDIA SHIELD with Android TV hands-on – The Android version of Crysis 3 has been revealed, and here it is – in a very early form. This game is set to be released later this year – likely at the same time as the NVIDIA SHIELD home entertainment device – but for now it’s in a very early stage of development. This is not a GRID game – it’s running natively on Android. This is a real-deal Android game we’ll be able to download from Google Play for NVIDIA SHIELD later this year.

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Insomniac announces next major DLC for ‘Sunset Overdrive’ – “Sunset Overdrive” will get a new downloadable expansion in less than a month, bringing an entirely new area to the game as well as new weapons and a new traversal mechanic.

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Xbox 360 gamers get Preview program; can now reserve their Xbox One Games with Gold – Microsoft is paying attention to Xbox 360 owners, with the company now launching the Xbox 360 Preview Program. Not only that, but 360 gamers can now reserve their Xbox One Games with Gold even if they don’t own the new-gen console. Users on the Xbox 360 that are subscribed to Gold can now start building up their games collection for the Xbox One, even without owning the console. The feature, which recently went live, allows these users to essentially reserve their Free Games with Gold without downloading them.

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ARM Ready to Light Up the Gaming World – The U.K. chip maker’s Geomerics subsidiary on Tuesday released Enlighten 3, an advanced, dynamic lighting solution for game engines like Unity 5 and Unreal Engine 3 and 4. Enlighten 3 comes with Forge, an editing tool enabling game developers to “quickly understand the capabilities of Enlighten and rapidly iterate on high-quality, real-time lighting,” ARM said.

Valve Announces Source 2, And It’ll Be Free – It’s been a good week for game developers. Unreal Engine 4 went free. Unity 5 came out, and a massive chunk of its once premium features went free. And now: Valve has just announced Source 2, the next generation of their Source game engine… and sure enough, it’s “free to content developers”.

Off Topic (Sort of):

It’s Still Way Too Easy for Government Employees to Hide Official Conversations – Think Hillary Clinton was the first government employee to be caught using a personal email account to conduct official business? Government employees have been doing this sort of thing for years. Both the US and Canadian governments have information laws that require government correspondence to be logged, retained, and made available to the public through Freedom of Information or Access to Information laws, respectively. But both governments make skirting these requirements surprisingly easy, and in some cases, employees are only too happy to do so.

Petraeus plea deal reveals two-tier justice system for leaks – The deal brokered by federal prosecutors with the former general and CIA director is another example of a senior official being slapped on the wrist for serious violations while lesser officials are harshly prosecuted for relatively minor infractions.

Some Bloggers Really Piss Me Off – Lucy Is One – One of the first blogs I go to every day is Bill Mullins’ page. He is a wealth of knowledge and each day he gives me links that I follow up on. Bill’s March 3rd page led to stuff written by Lucy Steigerwald, a writer that pisses me off because of the crap she lays out for people to read. Everybody knows there are good cops and bad cops – same with plumbers, photographers, electricians and every other known category of professions. Lucy writes stuff to incite the reader. Just like newspapers that write about cops only to sell newspapers or news agencies that follow incidents about police activity only to incite their viewers with “their angle” on a story. A lot of the time, before the full facts of the incident come to light. What I Learned Writing About Bad Cops for a Year and a Half is an example of this broad’s work. I hate linking to her stuff as I am pro cop. Obviously Lucy is not as she has chosen to post stories about cops first to earn a living and second, to incite her readers – just look below at her bio.

Ferguson police showed patterns of racial bias for years, says Justice Department – The Ferguson Police Department violated the constitutional rights of the city’s black residents for years, says a Department of Justice report expected to be released tomorrow. Federal investigators found that, well before the shooting death of Michael Brown last year, police activity in Ferguson, Missouri, was fueled by racial discrimination against the predominantly black population, resulting in unjustified traffic stops, arrests without probable cause, and the use of excessive force.

The Fogo smart flashlight is a survivalist’s dream tool – After turning heads and bagging multiple accolades at CES in January, the Fogo flashlight is now trying to charm the Kickstarter community into loosening its purse strings to the tune of $125,000. Truth be told, calling it a flashlight would be a bit unfair to both Fogo and flashlights. Because the Fogo aspires to be a digital Swiss army knife, cramming into its IPX8-rated waterproof frame a 1000-lumen flashlight, GPS receiver, backlit LCD display, Bluetooth LE, 128MB flash storage, accelerometer, magnetometer, “bicycle computer,” and much more. Further, Fogo’s lone USB port is intended to function as a hardware expansion slot that’ll let users attach purpose-built accessories.

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Three steps to weasel-woodpecker acceptance – It’s hard not to question the veracity of this image. You mumble “photoshop” as you look at it. Fortunately, the internet has answers: this is the real deal. A man by the name of Martin Le-May took a series of pictures of the pair when he heard distress calls from the bird — a European green woodpecker — in Hornchurch Country Park in East London, according to NBC. You finally accept that it’s real. After all, this has happened before.

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You finally accept that it’s real. After all, this has happened before.

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Cutting the final cord: How wireless power and wireless charging works – In the 1890s, Nikola Tesla captured the imagination of the world with his invention of the Tesla coil, a device that could transmit electricity through the air, no wires required. More than 100 years later, the world has responded by adapting this breakthrough technology… mainly to recharge their electric toothbrushes. How will your phone, your lights, and even your electric car someday be powered without a wire? Here’s a primer on how wireless power works.

Something to think about:

“Wrong’ is one of those concepts that depends on witnesses.”

–    Scott AdamsDilbert, 11-05-09

Today’s Free Downloads:

ScreenToGif - This tool allows you to record a selected area of your screen and save as a Gif.

Features:

Record your screen and save directly to a gif looped animation.

Pause and continue to record.

Move the window around to record what you want.

You can add Text, Subtitles and Title Frames.

Edit the frames, add filters, revert, make yoyo style, change frame delay, add border, add progress bars.

Export frames.

Crop and Resize.

You can work even while the program is recording.

Remove frames that you don’t want.

Select a folder to save the file automatically or select one before enconding.

Add the system cursor to your recording.

Very small sized, portable and multilanguage executable.

Start/Pause and stop your recording using your F keys.

Multi language: Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Greek, French, Simplified Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese and Tamil.

GreenScreen unchanged pixels to save kilobytes.

You can apply actions/filters to selected frames.

Fullscreen Recording.

Snapshot Mode.

Drag and Drop to add frames in the editor.

Pointing up   I often use this open source application to play around and have a little fun. It’s a neat little app with enormous capabilities.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Privacy advocates find Obama proposal lacking – A consumer privacy proposal from U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration gives people too little control over their personal data and companies too much latitude to use that information, a coalition of 14 privacy and digital rights groups said.

The Obama administration’s consumer privacy bill of rights, released late Friday, allows companies holding personal data to determine whether consumers should be able to demand changes to the information, the groups said in a letter to Obama, sent Tuesday.

The White House proposal contains several “shortcomings,” said the groups, including the Center for Democracy and Technology, Consumer Watchdog, Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

You Can Now Easily Send Encrypted Texts to Anyone, and the NSA Is Gonna Hate It – The NSA is not thrilled about the fact that encrypted communications are becoming easier and more widespread than ever before. Its director, Admiral Mike Rogers, said as much last week during a cybersecurity event in Washington, D.C., where he joined the FBI in asking for a “legal framework” by which government agencies can insert backdoors into commonly used communications software.

So chances are, NSA and co. are not going to like Si​gnal, a cross-platform app that now lets you send encrypted text, picture and video messages to virtually anyone with a smartphone.

The free app is made by Open Whisper Systems, makers of TextSecure and Redphone, which allow Android users to send end-to-end encrypted texts and calls, respectively. That means that short of someone hacking your phone and stealing your encryption keys, no one—not even the app’s creators—can eavesdrop on your calls and texts.

We Give Up Our Data Too Cheaply – Our data has enormous value when we put it all together. Our movement records help with urban planning. Our financial records enable the police to detect and prevent money laundering. Our posts and tweets help researchers understand how we tick as a society. There are all sorts of creative and interesting uses for personal data, uses that give birth to new knowledge and make all of our lives better.

Our data is also valuable to each of us individually, to keep private or disclose as we want. And there’s the rub. Using data pits group interest against self-interest, the core tension humanity has been struggling with since we came into existence.

The government offers us this deal: if you let us have all of your data, we can protect you from crime and terrorism. It’s a rip-off. It doesn’t work. And it overemphasizes group security at the expense of individual security.

The bargain Google offers us is similar, and it’s similarly out of balance: if you let us have all of your data and give up your privacy, we will show you advertisements you want to see—and we’ll throw in free web search, e-mail, and all sorts of other services. Companies like Google and Facebook can only make that bargain when enough of us give up our privacy.

Canada turfed out more spies to the U.S. than elsewhere – New figures show Canada has turfed out five spies in the past decade from a surprising source country — its best friend and ally, the United States.

From 2004 to 2014 Ottawa sent back to the U.S. five of a total of 21 of those barred from Canada “on security grounds for engaging in an act of espionage that is against Canada or that is contrary to Canada’s interests,” according to a document produced by Canada Border Services Agency.

It’s not clear whether the espionage was by foreign government agents or whether it was industrial espionage — that is, spying to obtain state secrets or spying that targeted intellectual property or corporate secrets.

James Clapper: Kill the Patriot Act, But Don’t Blame Me If Another 9/11 Happens – Go ahead and let one of the most embattled provisions of the Patriot Act expire, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says. Just don’t blame the NSA when another terrorist attack happens, he says.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act is the bit of the law that allows the FBI and the NSA to scoop up mass telephone records from American accounts. The mass collection of “metadata,” which includes the numbers your phone is calling, location information, how long your calls last, and more, was exposed by Edward Snowden’s very first revelations roughly two years ago, and has since become a prime target of NSA reform bills.

President Obama, in fact, restricted the amount and types of records that could be scooped up by intelligence agencies. The Obama administration came to the conclusion that metadata hasn’t prevented even one single terrorist attack. Metadata, meanwhile, can be used to spy on you, which is why many civil liberty types, and, indeed, some in Congress, would rather it go away altogether.

“I hope everyone involved assumes the responsibility and it not be blamed, if we have another failure, exclusively on the intelligence community”

That’s actually set to happen on June 1, when Section 215 will expire. Clapper, speaking today at the Council on Foreign Relations, sounded as though he’s not looking forward to the prospect.

Edward Snowden willing to face trial in U.S. — if it’s fair – Edward Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who leaked details of the agency’s surveillance programs, is willing to return to the U.S. and face criminal charges, if he’s assured of a fair trial, according to a Russian news report.

Snowden, now living in Russia, is ready to return to the U.S. on the condition that he’s guaranteed a fair trial, Snowden lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told journalists Tuesday, according to a report from Russian news agency TASS.

Several Snowden lawyers are negotiating his return to the U.S., Kucherena said. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has promised in a letter to Snowden’s lawyers that he would not face a death sentence, Kucherena added.

So far, the Department of Justice has guaranteed Snowden “will not be executed, not that he will receive a fair trial,” the lawyer told reporters.

Snowden continues to work in IT in Moscow and consults with several U.S. companies as well, Kucherena told reporters.

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Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 3, 2015

7 things Net neutrality won’t do;  US court rubber-stamps dragnet metadata surveillance (again);  Meet the free encryption app that promises to put your privacy first;  The 10 Coolest Things the Samsung Galaxy S6 Can Do;  Installing Signal, an Encrypted Messaging App for iPhone;  How to transfer any media file to your iOS device;  Streaming Music Showdown: Beats vs. Spotify;  New Tinder Charges Whatever It Wants;  Hands on with Outlook for Android;  OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 public beta arrives with Photos;  Here’s the New Camera That Could Kill GoPro;  This browser extension wants to stop you from tweeting something you’ll regret;  D-Link patches router, says more fixes are on the way;  IBM rolls out 3 new iOS-based enterprise apps;  Tor Users Must Now Provide A Phone Number To Open A New Twitter Account;  Netflix to go live in Australia and New Zealand on March 24;   WonderFox DVD Ripper Speedy (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

7 things Net neutrality won’t do – One day after the FCC adopted new Net neutrality rules, consumers are left scratching their heads about what it means for their Web-surfing experience. Has anything really changed?

John Oliver mocks Verizon, celebrates Net neutrality decision – Did calling FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler a dingo steer the Net Neutrality debate to its conclusion? Ever since comedian John Oliver spent 13 minutes on his HBO show in June explaining his views on this difficult topic — causing the public-comment system on the FCC’s website to crash — there have been mutterings that his intervention was decisive. It was inevitable, therefore, that he might spend a couple of minutes of last night’s “Last Week Tonight” in a mood of celebration.

US court rubber-stamps dragnet metadata surveillance (again) – The decision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to green-light the NSA’s mass surveillance of US phone call metadata until 1 June comes a year after President Barack Obama promised to end the controversial programme. The programme has been extended five times in the 14 or so months since. White House officials have repeatedly said they want to be in step with Congress in ending the programme, whose intelligence value has long been criticised by privacy activists.

Google reverses its promise to enable encryption by default in Android Lollipop – The search giant will let phone makers decide whether or not to enable encryption-by-default, saying it will be considered for “future” versions of Android.

Meet the free encryption app that promises to put your privacy first – Peerio is an encrypted messaging and file storage app for Windows, Mac, and the Chrome browsers that takes the likes of Gmail and Outlook, HipChat, and Dropbox to task. The app puts its users in the privacy driving seat, clearly marking for the lay user when something is encrypted. What sets this app apart from most other messaging and file storage services is the enabled-by-default end-to-end encryption, which lets users hold onto the keys. The aim is to make the data unreadable and useless to anyone who might succeed in snatching it.

Installing Signal, an Encrypted Messaging App for iPhone – In the age of ubiquitous government surveillance, the only way citizens can protect their privacy online is through encryption. Historically, this has been extremely difficult for mere mortals; just watch the video Edward Snowden made to teach Glenn Greenwald how to encrypt his emails to see how confusing it gets. But all of this is quickly changing as high-quality, user-friendly encryption software becomes available. App maker Open Whisper Systems took an important step in this direction today with the release of a major new version of its Signal encrypted calling app for iPhones and iPads. The new version, Signal 2.0, folds in support for encrypted text messages using a protocol called TextSecure, meaning users can communicate using voice and text while remaining confident nothing can be intercepted in transit over the internet.

Tor Users Must Now Provide A Phone Number To Open A New Twitter Account – It isn’t clear whether Twitter is clamping down on Tor because it sees the browser (and its ability to protect a user’s unique IP address) as fertile grounds for trolls. There’s a chance that it may be testing new process that will eventually roll out to all new sign-ups. The problem with this move is that, despite its reputation with some, Tor is not simply a front for illicit activity. Its security (relative to other browsers) is relied on by many operating in legitimate circles, including those working as human rights and security activists. Forcing all new accounts to provide directly identifiable data — such as a phone number — is a risk to those that need to keep a low profile.

Pointing up  Sure, here’s my number.  lol

The 10 Coolest Things the Samsung Galaxy S6 Can Do – The S6 isn’t just the most exciting Android phone, it may be the most exciting of all phones.

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You Can Now Embed Twitter Video On Your Website – Twitter has launched an embedding feature for Twitter-hosted videos, letting you put any movies shot using its native video capture and publishing tool on your site, complete with an embed button on Twitter’s on website. Clicking the “Embed Video” option in the “…” expanded options menu from a tweet featuring a native Twitter video will expose a snippet of HTML code, setting it up for a copy and paste into your own site’s HTML or CMS companies window. Here’s how it looks:

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How to transfer any media file to your iOS device – Using the Mac app Waltr you can transfer any type of video or music file to your iOS device without the need for a companion iOS app.

Streaming Music Showdown: Beats vs. Spotify – It’s been almost nine months since Apple’s $3 billion purchase of Beats catapulted the Dr. Dre-backed streaming music service into the limelight for casual music listeners. And while Apple is reportedly working on an overhaul of the service, I spent the last nine months as a paid Beats Music subscriber, after having used Spotify exclusively for more than a year. Beyond the music, the differences between the two services are stark. Here is what you need to know in comparing the two most prominent (with apologies to all the other players) streaming music services on the market:

Hands on with Outlook for Android – Microsoft has released an Outlook client for Android. Take a look at how it works.

This browser extension wants to stop you from tweeting something you’ll regret – Twitter can be an innocuous journal of mundane thoughts, a breeding ground for unrestrained hate, or a place where people say really dumb things they will soon regret. A new browser extension wants to help you prevent that feeling of regret by making sure you never tweet the dumb thing in the first place. The extension, created by Carnegie Mellon professor Paolo Pedercini, changes Twitter’s text field prompt from “What’s happening?” to “Remember: you are always one tweet away from being fired.”

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New Tinder Charges Whatever It Wants – Tinder’s “Rewind” functionality just went live, finally giving users the ability to go back in time and swipe right instead of left. The “Rewind” feature is included in the premium tier of the service, Tinder Plus, which was unveiled today and costs anywhere between $9.99 and $19.99 in the United States, depending on the age of the user. That’s right. Tinder Plus costs $19.99 for users older than 30, while it costs just $9.99 for folks who are younger than 30.

OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 public beta arrives with Photos – Those who are signed up to be part of Apple’s OS X Beta Program have scored the first public beta for OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 today, perhaps most notable for its inclusion of the new Photos app with which we have previously gone hands-on. That alone is enough to drum up excitement, but the pre-release comes with some other goodies, as well, including those new more diverse emojis and new support for Google’s two-factor authentication account security feature.

Here’s the New Camera That Could Kill GoPro – Xiaomi unveiled its first action camera on Monday, and it beats the entry-level GoPro Hero on both price and specs. The Yi Camera, which will be available in only China, is on sale for 399RMB ($64), about half the price of the $130 GoPro Hero, The Verge reports. The Yi Camera has a 16-megapixel camera that can record 60 frames per second. That trumps the GoPro Hero’s five-megapixel camera, which can record only 30 frames per second.

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How to enable Chrome’s clutter-free experimental reading mode – Other browsers have had it for years, but Chrome is finally adding a “Reader mode” that strips down an online article to its most essential parts—images and text—to make it easier to read. The new feature, dubbed Distill, is currently a work in progress but is still worth trying out for full-time Chrome users. Here’s how I enabled the Distill feature in Windows 8.1.

Security:

D-Link patches router, says more fixes are on the way – D-Link issued fixes on Monday for flaws that could allow remote access to one of its routers, and will patch several other models in the coming week. The vulnerabilities were found by Peter Adkins, a systems engineer in Canada who said he alerted the company to the issues in early January and decided to publicize them last week after falling out of contact with D-Link. D-Link acknowledges Adkins’ findings in its advisory, which included three new firmware versions for its DIR-820L router. The company expects to release firmware updates in the next week for the DIR-626L, DIR-636L, DIR-808L, DIR-810L, DIR-826L, DIR-830L and DIR-836L.

Mozilla scrubs Superfish certificate from Firefox – Mozilla has released an update to Firefox that erases the self-signed digital certificate implanted by Superfish, the vulnerable adware that blew up in Lenovo’s face a week and a half ago. The update was issued Friday, Feb. 27.

Company News:

Antivirus Maker Avast Is Latest Overseas Tech Firm Blocked In China – Popular security software company Avast is the latest overseas technology company to get caught in China’s censorship net after users began reporting that its service and website were blocked inside the country. Data from GreatFire.org shows that Avast.com has been unavailable in China since Sunday. Users of Avast — which claims over 220 million global users of its antivirus and security products for Windows, Mac and Android — posted screenshots on Weibo, Avast’s forum and other sites showing issues.

Google confirms that it will launch its own wireless service – No matter your opinion of Google, most will agree that Google Fiber is a good thing for not only consumers, but the industry as a whole; as it puts pressure on ISPs and gives consumers another option for broadband. Because of this, hearing that Google is about to launch a wireless service too sounds fantastic, but the end result will likely have less impact than Google Fiber.

PayPal Buys Paydiant, The Mobile Wallet Behind CurrentC, To Raise Its Game v. Google + Apple – PayPal, the payments service with 162 million users preparing to separate from e-commerce giant eBay later this year, is announcing an acquisition today to help build out its mobile business targeting physical merchants, and sharpen its focus in competition with other tech payment hopefuls like Apple and Google. It is buying Paydiant, a startup out of Boston that makes mobile wallet technology. That technology, in turn, powers payment apps for large business like Subway, Harris Teeter supermarkets, Capital One bank, and — perhaps most notably — MCX, a merchant-owned network that is developing a payment app called CurrentC.

IBM rolls out 3 new iOS-based enterprise apps – IBM has unveiled a fresh crop of enterprise apps resulting from the partnership it forged with Apple last year. Announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the three new mobile apps for iOS target the banking, retail and airline industries and join the 10 industry-specific IBM MobileFirst apps that arrived in December.

Judge appears poised to approve Apple, Google anti-poaching settlement – Judge Lucy Koh in August rejected the companies’ initial $324.5 million offer to settle the case accusing four Silicon Valley giants of conspiring to stay away from each other’s employees.

Games and Entertainment:

Celebrate YouTube Music Award Winners With Exclusive Content – Google on Monday announced the winners of its 2015 YouTube Music Awards, which honors the artists that made the biggest splash on the video-streaming site over the last six months. The list of winners includes big names like Beyoncé, Brad Paisley, Ed Sheeran, Hozier, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Manaj, One Direction, Pharrell, Rihanna, Snoop Dogg, and Taylor Swift. Head over to the 2015 YouTube Music Awards channel to see the full list of winners, who collectively pulled in more than 47 billion views over the past six months

Netflix to go live in Australia and New Zealand on March 24 – Summary:Netflix has set a launch date for its service in Australia and New Zealand, and to complement its arrival, it has signed agreements with iiNet, Vodafone New Zealand, and Microsoft Xbox.

Score a $10 Xbox gift card when you pre order games from the Microsoft Store – Earlier today the Microsoft Store tweeted that users could score a $10 Xbox digital gift card when a pre-order of a game is purchased via the Store. The gift does not apply to all games listed here, but you could preorder Halo 5: Guardians, Battlefield Hardline, Rise of the Tombraider or Dead Island 2 among others to qualify for the gift. Most games that include the free gift card range between $39.99 and $59.99, but we found one costing $29.99 called ScreamRide for Xbox 360 that sweetens the deal.

Video Game Guns Get Everything Wrong – There’s no weight, gravity, or consequence to shooting in games, no effort on the behalf of game-makers to appropriate what it takes, both physically and mentally, to fire a gun at a person. All you get are three lousy buttons. After that, you can inflict violence—or at least, fire your weapon—with no fuss or cognition. If we’re talking morality, or even good writing, gaming’s simplified version of shooting does nothing to represent the complexity or horror of real-world violence. If we’re talking what’s fun to play, doing the same thing over and over, without having to think about it, soon grow old. I think games would improve, both in terms of narrative and raw enjoyment, if they obeyed how guns work in reality.

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The player’s perspective in 2013’s ‘Call of Duty: Ghosts’

Epic is letting anyone build games with Unreal Engine 4, for free – A year ago, Epic Games decided to cut the amount of revenue it collected from developers who used its Unreal Engine platform and game development tools in an effort to attract smaller developers. But at GDC 2015, Epic is taking things a step further and making Unreal Engine 4 (as well as any future updates) completely free up front to build games with, though it’ll still take a cut of game revenue.

Google API puts games on TV as phone/tablet become controller – Android users might have another reason to want an Android TV soon. Adjunct to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Google is hosting a Developer’s day event, and has announced a new API. Called ‘Nearby Connections’, the API has a few handy tweaks for Developers, and when used properly, you as well. With Nearby Connections, users will be able to use Android devices as game controllers for Android TV-ready games. It’s only available on one game so far, but expect more to follow suit quickly.

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New demo shows Firewatch might be a perfect exploration game – Gone Home, a first-person exploration game that hit PCs back in 2013, was a breath of fresh air for gaming in that it demonstrated how to make an affecting game without ever needing a gun. Firewatch looks like its natural successor, as watching 17 minutes of gameplay, courtesy of IGN, is a fascinating and singularly engrossing introduction into the life of a fire lookout. Firewatch is being developed by San Francisco-based out Campo Santo, which is comprised of folks who helped develop The Walking Dead Season 1 at TellTale Games, as well as minimalist artist Olly Moss, whose work you might recognize from a few certain Star Wars posters.

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Play the Best New iPhone Puzzle Games – Looking for a new iPhone game a little more mentally stimulating than Angry Birds? Try one of these five puzzle games, sure to confound and delight you.

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Under the Sun

Google Launches New Analytics, Monetization Tools For Android Game Developers – Google today announced a couple of new tools for game developers on its Android platform. These include new analytics to help developers better understand in-game player behavior, as well as a number of new monetization features through its AdMob platform. Google also launched a new game-centric Nearby Connections API for Android TV, its nascent smart TV platform.

Off Topic (Sort of):

What I Learned Writing About Bad Cops for a Year and a Half – The problems facing law enforcement and its relationship with the public are enormous, and they’re divided into poisonous, spiny slices. It’s not just local police, and it’s not just federal authorities. It’s local cops, and it’s federal money. It’s dangerous and unnecessary laws against vices like drugs, prostitution, and gambling—and it’s the conduct of individual bad cops. It is mission creep. It is excess war gear going to police departments, and it is the feeling that police are at war with the people whom they ostensibly serve. It is police who don’t understand mental illness, or physical disabilities such as deafness—or rather, it is police who pull the trigger too quickly on even suspects who don’t understand what’s happening.

Future-proof your IT career: 8 tech areas that will still be hot in 2020 – Sure, organizations will still need programmers and developers, but they’ll want (and pay better salaries to) programmers who know how to work with robots and developers who know how to apply their craft to wearable devices. So, yes, while labor market experts expect that IT as a whole will continue to add good jobs through 2020 and beyond, savvy tech pros are taking pains to ensure their personal road map is steering them towards concentrations with maximum longevity. What follows are some specialties worth pursuing to future-proof your tech career.

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Image courtesy Thinkstock

Google Street View Now Lets You Explore The Amazon Jungle Via Zip-Line – That’s right. Google took its cameras and literally suspended them in the rainforest thanks to assistance from the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS). The BBC reports that the cameras traveled as fast as 100 km/hour, that’s around 62 miles/hour. The resulting 360-degree images are a spectacular reminder of the unique experiences that the internet makes possible.

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Alligator blood may be our next source of new antibiotics – The key to an alligator’s immune system is the enzymes contained in their blood combined with cationic antimicrobial peptides, or CAMPs for short. The enzymes alone are capable of dealing with 23 different types of bacteria as well as performing well against the HIV virus. However, if you add in the CAMPs found so far, alligators can fend off E.coli, sepsis, food poisoning, and skin infection bacteria. In total 45 peptides have been identified so far from one type of alligator.

This Incredible Photo Of A Baby Weasel Riding A Woodpecker Is Straight Out Of A Children’s Fantasy Book – East London resident Martin Le-May captured this incredible photo of a baby weasel on the back of a green woodpecker in Esssex, England, on Monday. As much as we’d all like to believe this is a wondrous tale of friendship wherein two mates go on an epic adventure featuring a baby weasel and his magnificent flying steed, sadly it’s NOT. It’s a photo of a weasel trying to kill a woodpecker.

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Hillary Clinton Only Used Personal Email While Secretary Of State – Clinton used a personal email account to conduct official business despite federal law requiring correspondence be retained by the government, the New York Times reported.

Something to think about:

“Love is not blind – it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.”

–      Rabbi Julius Gordon

Today’s Free Downloads:

WonderFox DVD Ripper Speedy – WonderFox DVD Ripper Speedy is a professional and powerful free DVD ripper software which can rip the content of DVDs.

Convert your DVD to digital video to enjoy your DVD! Just got simpler now! You can watch anytime, anywhere. Alter, enhance, convert – whatever you do – the final result will be in the perfect quality (even in high-definition)! No missing key frames, quality-loss, redraw issues, or crashes.

WonderFox DVD Ripper Speedy let you backup a DVD to MPG video within 5 minutes. This is real No. 1 Speed. All of conversions as base on 0-Quality-Loss.

It offers flexible choices to fine-tune and adjust parameters to tailor the output videos, in terms of video audio encoding, bitrate, frame rate, aspect ratio, resolution, audio codec, audio channel number, sample rate, etc. You can customize and apply your own settings to all, you can also save all of settings as a single profile.

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iSpy – iSpy uses your webcams and microphones to detect and record movement or sound and provides security, surveillance, monitoring and alerting services. Any media that is captured is compressed to flash video and made available, securely over the web. iSpy can be setup to run on multiple computers simultaneously. iSpy is free, open-source software, so if you want it to do anything else, please download the source code and customise it to your requirements.

With iSpy you can:

Connect and monitor as many cameras and microphones as you like. Import and export object lists to share with colleagues.

Connect multiple computers in a group and manage over the web

Install iSpy Server and publish your webcam to other instances of iSpy, over your network and to the web

Detect, highlight, track and record movement

Detect loitering

Customise movement detection areas on your cameras

Detect and record sound

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is detected

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is not detected (monitor machinery or staff activity)

Receive email movement alerts with attached frame grab images from your webcams

Periodically receive image grabs via email from your webcams

Connect to any device, even webcams attached to other computers with JPEG, MJPEG, IP Cam, webcam and AVI file support

Watch live and recorded media over the web (through this website) and also via mobile devices

Access and control iSpy remotely

Password protect iSpy and hide it in the System Tray

Schedule sound and video capturing to start and stop automatically

Time-lapse record from any camera

Motion track and count moving objects

Connect multiple instances of iSpy and iSpy server running on different computers to this website and view all aggregated media online

Create groups, invite friends and share access to your webcams and microphones

Receive email alerts if your connection goes offline

Download the source code and customise it to your own requirements!

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Screen shot from a review I wrote in January 2011.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Bruce Schneier: The Democratization of Cyberattack – The thing about infrastructure is that everyone uses it. If it’s secure, it’s secure for everyone. And if it’s insecure, it’s insecure for everyone. This forces some hard policy choices.

When I was working with the Guardian on the Snowden documents, the one top-secret program the NSA desperately did not want us to expose was QUANTUM. This is the NSA’s program for what is called packet injection–basically, a technology that allows the agency to hack into computers.

Turns out, though, that the NSA was not alone in its use of this technology. The Chinese government uses packet injection to attack computers. The cyberweapons manufacturer Hacking Team sells packet injection technology to any government willing to pay for it. Criminals use it. And there are hacker tools that give the capability to individuals as well.

All of these existed before I wrote about QUANTUM. By using its knowledge to attack others rather than to build up the internet’s defenses, the NSA has worked to ensure that anyone can use packet injection to hack into computers.

This isn’t the only example of once-top-secret US government attack capabilities being used against US government interests. StingRay is a particular brand of IMSI catcher, and is used to intercept cell phone calls and metadata. This technology was once the FBI’s secret, but not anymore. There are dozens of these devices scattered around Washington, DC, as well as the rest of the country, run by who-knows-what government or organization. By accepting the vulnerabilities in these devices so the FBI can use them to solve crimes, we necessarily allow foreign governments and criminals to use them against us.

Australian lawmakers can’t use phones, will vote on data retention – Summary:If MPs can’t even be bothered to learn about the work tools they use every day, what hope is there for intelligent debate on mandatory data retention?

Pointing up   Just one more example of the stupid and the blind leading the uninterested. Uninterested, that is, until it’s too bloody late!

Google gets an early win in fight against Mississippi Attorney General’s subpoena – Google just chalked up an early win against Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, an MPAA-friendly prosecutor who was implicated in a number of Goliath documents. A federal court in Jackson, Mississippi, has granted a preliminary injunction against Hood’s efforts to fight content piracy on Google’s network, restricting any subpoena or further investigative action from Hood while the case is still in progress. It’s still early in the case, but the injunction represents a significant win for Google and a real setback for both Hood and his supporters at the MPAA.

In 2013, Hood sent Google a massive, 79-page subpoena for data related to content piracy in Search, but Google contested the subpoena, claiming it overstepped the attorney general’s authority and violated a number of US privacy laws. Hood had called a “time out” to the legal actions in the aftermath of the Goliath disclosures, but the court case has continued in the months since. Ultimately, Hood was seeking a similar legal authority over Google’s network as SOPA looked to establish, although Hood was pursuing it through judicial rather than legislative channels.

Forget 1,000 lashes for Facebook posts, Saudis now want to behead blogger Raif Badawi – Saudi blogger Raif Badawi – sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for announcing he is an atheist on Facebook – may now be beheaded by his government.

“We have received information from reliable sources that there are attempts within the Penal Court to retry ‪‎Raif Badawi‬ on apostasy charges again,” his wife said in a Facebook posting.

“Apostasy charge is punishable under Saudi law with the death penalty by beheading. We also received confirmed information that the Supreme Court has referred Raif case to the same judge, who sentenced Raif with flogging and 10 years imprisonment.”

The family accuses the judge presiding over the case of bias, saying in an earlier legal judgment that “he has proof and is confident that Raif is an apostate,” and that he had wanted to bring apostasy charges earlier but wasn’t able to under existing Saudi law.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 for running the Liberal Saudi Network message board and making statements on Facebook that broke religious and state laws; specifically expressing support for women’s rights, democratic reform, and stating that he is an atheist.

Pointing up   How, in good conscience, can the West support this medieval torture chamber who’s ultimate goal is the destruction of Western culture – including Christianity. Not that I’m a fan of Christianity – but…

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Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 2, 2015

The FCC’s net neutrality rules: 5 things you need to know;  Science finds the best place to hide from zombies;  How to report a suicidal post on Facebook;  Google pulls out of gaping Blogger smut black hole;  iOS 8.2 tipped for release on March 2nd;  Prepare your Android device for disasters with this master plan;  Bad with names? 2 Android apps try to help;  Six ways to make your iOS or Android phone easier on the eyes;  Hands On With The Samsung Galaxy S6 And S6 Edge;  Apple products no longer welcome in the Chinese government;  These Are the Best Weather Apps for Your iPhone;  Illustrators Pay Tribute to Leonard Nimoy;  AVG unveils invisibility glasses;  Man blames third-degree burns on exploding iPhone;  White House Drops ‘Consumer Privacy Bill Of Rights Act’ Draft;  Aomei Partition Assistant (free);  Junkware Removal Tool (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The FCC’s net neutrality rules: 5 things you need to know – Advocates for open access to the Internet were popping champagne corks on Thursday after the Federal Communications Commission voted in favor of reclassifying broadband Internet as a public utility. In addition to regulating fixed broadband lines that go into your home, the FCC vote also extended public utility rules to mobile broadband for the first time. The FCC vote means that Internet service providers (ISPs) will be required by law to respect the principles of net neutrality. But what exactly does that mean, and why are so many people celebrating the FCC’s ruling while others are cursing it? Here’s a quick explainer.

How to report a suicidal post on Facebook – Facebook has launched a new feature aimed directly at helping those who may be going through hard times.

Is it time to force PC makers to disclose how much they make from crapware? – When it preinstalled the Superfish adware on consumer PCs, Lenovo sold its customers out for a pittance, but it still hasn’t had to disclose how much it received. Maybe it’s time for a Truth in Labeling act to shine a light on this dark corner of the PC market.

Google pulls out of gaping Blogger smut black hole – Monday: Get rid of this filth … By Friday: Oh my God, where have ALL the blogs gone? The ad giant on Thursday said it will continue to allow randy netizens to post amateur smut, reversing an earlier decision forbidding X-rated blog posts unless they were deemed arty and acceptable to Mountain View’s censors. Educational posts would have apparently escaped the blog burning, but everything else was to be scrubbed clean from public view. Today, Google has done a full 180 on banishing titillating blogs.

Bad with names? 2 Android apps try to help – Many of us have trouble relating faces to names — which can be disastrous in a business situation. Humin and Social Recall try to help with that.

iOS 8.2 tipped for release on March 2nd – If recent reports are true, Apple may be gearing up to release iOS 8.2 as soon as March 2nd, or this coming Monday. As the latest version of the iPhone and iPad operating system, iOS 8.2 has already seen five developer betas released since November. The new update has already been revealed as containing some support for the Apple Watch, but full compatibility with the wearable may not come until iOS 8.3, which is currently expected to be released in April.

Prepare your Android device for disasters with this master plan – When tragedy strikes your electronic devices (and there’s no way around that inevitability), will you be ready? Will your data be backed up? Will the process of purchasing another phone be as simple as firing it up, associating it with your Google account, and waiting for the data to sync? This master plan will cover backing up: apps, app data, photos, call/SMS logs, and miscellaneous. I want to do this without relying on a single, third-party solution (though there will be third-party solutions to back up the likes of call and SMS logs).

These Apps Will Make Filing Your Taxes Way Less Painful – Let me start by saying that I am not a tax professional. But I am a professional who pays his taxes, and I highly recommend getting expert assistance in navigating the bureaucratic machinations that are the state and federal income tax systems. Still, if you are planning on going it alone (or you want to get organized enough that your accountant doesn’t charge you a bundle), there are many ways technology can help you file your taxes. Let’s take a look:

First look: Vivaldi browser – Vivaldi, a Web browser now in tech preview, caters to power users who expect more from their browsers, letting them interact with content in new and exciting ways. Created by former Opera developers, Vivaldi is built on Chromium, the same platform used for Google Chrome, Comodo Dragon, and, of course, Opera. On the surface, Vivaldi looks similar to other browsers, but a plethora of tools lie beneath that unassuming interface. Here are our six favorites.

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Six ways to make your iOS or Android phone easier on the eyes – Even as the displays on our iPhones and Android phones get bigger and bigger, the type on our screens remains stubbornly small—so small, indeed, that you may find yourself squinting whenever you glance at your handset. Give your aching eyes a break. Read on for six settings that’ll make your iPhone or Android screen a bit easier to read, from boosting the size of text to zooming your display with your fingertips.

YO! This messaging app has a lot more to say for itself, even offline – This year showgoers will be able to try out a new Android app, called YO!, that can send text messages, photos and videos over Wi-Fi to other users nearby without any Internet connection whatsoever, making it a true peer-to-peer messaging app. And as long as they’re prepared to disable certain security settings on their phone, they won’t even need to log on to the Play store to get it: Anyone with YO! installed on their phone can share it with other would-be users over Bluetooth.

Rumor: Tinder Plus Launching Monday (for $10/Month) – So, what does the monthly investment get you? For starters, Tinder Plus will come with a somewhat-helpful “Rewind” feature that will allow you to go back and take a second look at the last person you swiped off your screen—a person you were perhaps initially uninterested in, but one who you might suddenly have second thoughts about. (That, or perhaps you were a bit too quick on the trigger finger, and accidentally swipe-declined someone that you would actually be interested in.) Tinder Plus will also remove ads from Tinder—ads that don’t yet exist, but are allegedly going to hit the service this month.

SanDisk new microSD card packs a whopping 200GB of storage – The new card is a 56 percent jump on the current highest capacity MicroSD, a 128GB card. The card supports data transfer at up to 90MB per second, or around 1,200 photos per minute. It will be available worldwide in the second quarter for $400.

Hands On With The Samsung Galaxy S6 And S6 Edge – Samsung has two brand new smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge. It’s a first for the company, in terms of revealing two different versions of its primary flagship on stage at the same time, and we got a chance to try both of them out to see how they perform.  The resulting experience was impressive in both cases, and while the biggest changes were on the design front, Samsung’s software shifts also came out as very promising overall.

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$40 Firefox-Powered Orange Klif Also Includes Voice, Text, Data – Before you get too excited, you should know that the Firefox OS-powered Orange Klif smartphone is primarily geared towards Africa. That said, $40 for a smartphone that includes calls, text, and data for six months is still something to get excited about. I got a chance to check it out after Mozilla’s press conference at Mobile World Congress.

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Firefox OS coming to U.S., developed markets in 2016 – Firefox OS, the smartphone operating system from Mozilla targeted at low-cost smartphones in emerging markets, is coming to more developed markets. A new project with carriers in the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Spain will see high-spec phones developed for release in 2016. But rather than challenging Android and iOS head on, the project will target something that’s been largely out of fashion in recent years: flip phones and sliders.

Microsoft announces the Lumia 640 and 640 XL – Microsoft has just formally announced the Lumia 640 and 640 XL at their Mobile World Conference 2015 presentation. The smartphones are not exactly high-end, but the specs are pretty interesting.

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Microsoft unveils a foldable Bluetooth keyboard – The Lumia 640 isn’t the only hardware device that Microsoft unveiled today, as the company showed off on-stage a foldable keyboard device, designed to be taken on the road.

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Brazilian judge rules for a nationwide ban of Whatsapp – A Brazilian judge has ordered a nationwide temporary ban of WhatsApp following the company’s refusal to help in an investigation related to child pornography. Despite the ban, it is working normally.

VLC is now a true Universal App across all of Windows – VideoLAN is likely one of the best builders of quality apps for the Windows Store, and while the development team provides frequent updates to the desktop version of their VLC media player, they usually take their time with the apps. That is not necessarily a bad thing, and today’s news is going to explain that long wait.

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AVG unveils invisibility glasses to defend against facial recognition – AVG has unveiled invisibility glasses as a way for people to protect their online identities. Revealed at Pepcom in Barcelona, Spain, the antivirus provider says the privacy wearable can make it more difficult for cameras and facial recognition technologies to get a “clear view of your identity.” Designed by AVG Innovation Labs, the glasses — chunkiness and dubious fashion aside — uses both technology and select materials to blur the gaze of cameras.

Pointing up   Crystal Ball gazing – The fascist crazies, including Australia’s Tony Abbott, Canada’s Stephen Harper, and of course the crazy-in-chief, Barak Obama, will attempt to sabotage this technology. Far fetched? Just wait.

These Are the Best Weather Apps for Your iPhone – Opening this story with a weather-related adage or aphorism would have been great, if Mother Nature’s approval ratings weren’t currently quite so low. But guess what — it’s here, and we’re all white walkers. So don’t bother making chit-chat by talking about the weather, tap about it instead. No matter the conditions, these ten apps will keep you covered, because believe it or not, it can actually get worse than this.

Security:

Personal data on 50,000 Uber drivers exposed in breach – Uber discovered a possible breach of its systems in September, and a subsequent investigation revealed an unauthorized third party had accessed one of its databases four months earlier, the company said. The files accessed held the names and license plate numbers of about 50,000 current and former drivers, which Uber described as a “small percentage” of the total. About 21,000 of the affected drivers are in California. The company has several hundred thousand drivers altogether.

How does the security of 3 mag-stripe credit card alternatives stack up? – Several electronic and mobile payment options have become available, but most of us in the U.S. are still using plain-vanilla credit and debit cards with magnetic stripes. They use technology that dates to the first Nixon administration. That’s not a problem in itself; I have no problem with time-tested security measures that work effectively. But just look around: Data breaches are everywhere, and those magnetic-stripe cards are often implicated.

How a Blu-ray disc could install malware on your computer – A pair of vulnerabilities found in hardware and software for playing Blu-ray discs might come in handy for secret snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency. Stephen Tomkinson of NCC Group, a U.K.-based security consultancy, engineered a Blu-ray disc which detects the type of player the disc is running on and then picks one of two exploits to land malware on a computer. He presented the research at the Securi-Tay conference at Abertay University in Scotland on Friday.

National Cyber Awareness System: Vulnerability Summary for the Week of February 23, 2015 – The US-CERT Cyber Security Bulletin provides a summary of new vulnerabilities that have been recorded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) National Vulnerability Database (NVD) in the past week. The NVD is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) / United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). For modified or updated entries, please visit the NVD, which contains historical vulnerability information.

Pointing up   I’ve not linked to this weekly report in the past since I’m not convinced that it necessarily has value for an average user – looks pretty scary close up. Still, if you’re a regular reader here,  I’m hopeful that you’ll balance the incredible daily hype pushed out by the tech industry with the reality of this weekly report. You may find it useful to subscribe to this resource.

It seems to me that at one time, some years back, we were prohibited from publishing this data. But, I’m probably “misremembering” – which seems all the rage these days.   Smile

Company News:

Sailfish Secure wants to be an Android alternative safe from spies’ prying eyes – Keeping your communications locked away from prying eyes, Sailfish Secure is a new version of the niche mobile operating system that’s designed to bring peace of mind to businesses, government officials, and privacy-minded phone fans. Sailfish developer Jolla has partnered with fellow Finns SSH Communications Security to build the privacy-focused software. It’s based on the Jolla’s Sailfish OS, bolstered by SSH’s communication encryption and key management.

Ericsson sues Apple, wants ITC to block iPhone sales in the U.S. Market – This week has not been the best for the Cupertino tech giant, but it’s about to get even worse. Ericsson, world pioneer in mobile technology and wireless communications, is filing seven lawsuits against Apple in a U.S. court, accusing it of infringing on 41 of its patents, including some “that are essential to the 2G and 4G/LTE standards”, as well as patents related to the component design of Apple products, UI, location services, and iOS features. If having to pay half a billion dollars to Smartflash sounds bad, now Ericsson is asking the International Trade Commission to ban sales of Apple’s iPhone and iPad in the U.S. market. Kasim Alfalahi, Ericsson’s chief intellectual property officer, stated that “we have offered them a license; they have a turned it down.”

Google rumoured to have chosen a Chinese OEM for the next Nexus – Google’s Nexus program is set to get a new manufacturer as a latest rumour has revealed that the next smartphone will be made by a Chinese OEM with a probable launch in the second half of the year.

Apple products no longer welcome in the Chinese government – China has dropped some of the big companies from its list of approved technology providers for use in government departments to reduce dependence on American technology.

Google Buys Rights to .App Top-Level Domain for $25M – Google prevailed in ICANN’s public auction for the top-level domain, paying just a hair over $25M for the rights to .app. It’s reportedly the highest purchase price yet paid for a top-level domain in an ICANN auction. It was more more than triple the price of the previous record-holder, Dot Tech LLC and its $6.8 million winning bid this past September for the rights to .tech.

Yahoo gains U.S. search share on the back of Firefox – Since November 2014, when Yahoo partnered with Mozilla to make its search engine the default for U.S. Firefox users, Yahoo’s share has grown by 2.8 percentage points, representing a 28% increase. The continued upward trend in Yahoo’s share identified by comScore was similar to the one drawn by Irish analytics firm StatCounter, which earlier in February pointed to a second-consecutive month of gains by the Sunnyvale, Calif. company.

Google+ divided into Photos and Streams, with new boss – Google’s social network gets a new leader in Brad Horowitz, and likely will see the Hangouts communication service stand alone, too.

Games and Entertainment:

This Is the Incredible Game President Underwood Is Obsessed With in House of Cards Season 3 – Francis Underwood, Kevin Spacey’s Machiavellian character on the Netflix series House of Cards, has always allow himself a few good video games. These have tended toward the violent, first-person shooter variety. But in season three, which became available on the streaming service on Friday, a beautiful, somewhat esoteric indie game for mobile devices becomes a minor plot point. That game is Monument Valley, created by UsTwo. The title—available here for Android and here for iOS— was ranked one of TIME’s 10 best games of 2014.

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Mad Catz Surfr combines QWERTY keys with game controls (pictures) – Mad Catz’s latest gaming controller packs a mini QWERTY keyboard for typing to your Android TV box.

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HTC partners with Valve for a virtual reality headset—the Re Vive – The Vive appears to be a standalone VR headset for a PC. We don’t know many details about how it works, but HTC says it “features high-quality graphics, 90-frames-per-second video, and incredible audio fidelity.” The headset uses two 1200×1080 displays, one for each eye, and the relatively high resolution should help cut down on the “screen door effect” you got with the original Oculus Rift developer kit. HTC will also be producing “wireless VR controllers” along with the headset. A Developer Edition will be available in the spring, with a Consumer Edition coming “by the end of 2015.”

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PC version of latest Resident Evil loses local co-op available on console – Capcom has taken to the Steam Community page for the game to “apologize to our Resident Evil Revelations 2 PC players who purchased the game and expected to have local co-op as a feature.” The company says the local co-op feature was never intended for the PC version, and initially left in the Steam description as an oversight. “This was an unintentional error and again, we apologize for the confusion this may have caused.” While Capcom initially said no such PC co-op was planned, it now says it’s “currently looking into the matter and potential solutions and we hope to have new information to share very soon, so please stay tuned. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

Lego Star Wars TV special to retell entire film saga – Just incase you haven’t had enough collaboration between the Star Wars and Lego franchises yet, a new special from Disney will have re-watching the entire first two trilogies, albeit in plastic brick form. Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales is part of Disney’s effort to promote and draw in new audiences for the December release of the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. Set to premiere on the Disney XD channel, the miniseries will be released as five episodes, each 22 minutes long.

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Sid Meier’s Starships hands-on: A stripped down Civ and a complicated board game – Sid Meier’s Starships comes out on March 12, which isn’t that far away. As such, I don’t really want to delve too deeply into the game because, well, I’m going to have to write the whole thing up again in two weeks when we review it. But I did spend about an hour tooling around with a pre-release build earlier this week, and it only seems right to give you an idea how this spin-off strategy game (of sorts) is shaping up.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Illustrators Pay Tribute to Leonard Nimoy – Leonard Nimoy was the coolest guy ever. In the wake of his passing, a lot of the more obscure things that he did have been brought up. Sure, he anchored Star Trek and was easily the best actor on the original show. He also directed the best Star Trek movie and appeared on bothThe Simpsons and Futurama. He released some notable records and wrote an autobiography called I Am Not Spock which he followed up with I Am Spock. I asked illustrators to draw pictures memorializing the late actor. Here are fifteen. It would have been good if at least one of these drawings didn’t Nimoy as Spock, but it’s fun to draw him as Spock and I think he would have been fine with it.

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ISIS Supporters Issue Death Threats Against Jack Dorsey And Twitter Employees – While it is difficult to ascertain if the threat was actually written by people directly involved with ISIS, Twitter is taking it seriously. The company told Buzzfeed that “our security team is investigating the veracity of these threats with relevant law enforcement officials.” TechCrunch has contacted the company for more information and will update this post if we hear back from them. Twitter’s terms of service allow users post “potentially inflammatory content,” but it draws the line at “direct, specific threats of violence against others.” The company has also cooperated with the British government to delete content which violates UK terror laws.

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Olixar Light Bulb review: A Bluetooth enabled speaker that also illuminates the room – Olixar brings us an affordable Bluetooth speaker that doesn’t require batteries in a convenient light bulb package. But does it compare to a dedicated Bluetooth speaker? Let’s find out.

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Man blames third-degree burns on exploding iPhone – A New Jersey man says that he is unable to work after his iPhone 5C emitted a popping noise and caused a burning sensation in his pocket. Johnson reportedly spent 10 days in a burn unit. He had second- and third-degree burns on the inside of his thigh.

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A little too close to “home”, I’d say!    Smile

IKEA announces tables, lamps with wireless charging – We might be in the midst of the wearables boom right now, but a safe bet for the next technology to take off in the next few years is wireless charging. Thanks to features from a handful of smartphone manufacturers, as well as several charging accessory makers, wireless charging seems prime to be popular among consumers. Furniture retailer IKEA is betting on it, as they’re just announced a new line of lamps and tables that feature integrated wireless charging.

Science finds the best place to hide from zombies – When the undead threaten to turn your cerebrum to caviar, where do you run? A new study confirms what you might already suspect, and even offers a specific destination.

Something to think about:

“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a lifetime’s experience.”

–    Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Today’s Free Downloads:

Aomei Partition Assistant – Partition Assistant is a comprehensive disk partition solution, which includes a Partition Manager and Extend Partition Wizard for Windows 7/XP/2000/Vista and Server 2008/2003/2000. Besides, the magic partition utility can support all hard disks recognized by Windows such as IDE, SATA, SCSI, Hardware RAID, USB external disks, Fire wire disks etc. Partition Assistant provides powerful and professional features to manage disk partition including:

Extend NTFS system partition without restarting computer.

Resize and Move partition to optimize disk space management.

Extend Partition Wizard help you step by step expand the size of your selected partition.

Merge two or more partitions into a larger one.

Split one partition into two or more.

Create, Delete and Format partition.

Convert file system from FAT to NTFS.

Wipe permanently sensitive data to anti-recovery.

Repartition by drag & drop mouse on a disk panel.

Partition Assistant is a partition magic alternative. It has been widely used by many companies as well as individuals all around the globe with fine reputation, and the Home Edition is absolutely free of charge for personal users. You will be amazed by its cool functions and would like to recommand to your friends after you try our top-notch technologies.

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Junkware Removal Tool – Junkware Removal Tool is a security utility that searches for and removes common adware, toolbars, and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) from your computer. A common tactics among freeware publishers is to offer their products for free, but bundle them with PUPs in order to earn revenue. This tool will help you remove these types of programs.

Junkware Removal Tool has the ability to remove the following types of programs:

Ask Toolbar

Babylon

Blekko

Claro / iSearch

Conduit

Crossrider

DealPly

Delta

Facemoods / Funmoods

Findgala

Globasearch

Hao123

iLivid

Iminent

IncrediBar

MocaFlix

MyPC Backup

MyWebSearch

PerformerSoft

Privitize

Qvo6

Searchqu

Snap Do

Swag Bucks

Wajam

Web Assistant

WhiteSmoke

Zugo

And many more…

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

White House Drops ‘Consumer Privacy Bill Of Rights Act’ Draft – In a late-Friday release, the White House published a draft of its proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. You can read the full text here. The bill sets out to, in its own words, “establish baseline protections for individual privacy in the commercial arena and to foster timely, flexible implementations of these protections through enforceable codes of conduct developed by diverse stakeholders.”

The proposal details what an individual should be able to expect from a service that they use, including how security is managed. It also deals with data deletion, and the revocation of consent on the part of a user. A service would have 45 days to comply with a deletion request.

Also enumerated is a restriction of what sort of information that can be collected:

Canada: Open letter to Parliament: Amend C-51 or kill it – The following is an open letter addressed to all members of Parliament and signed by more than 100 Canadian professors of law and related disciplines.

Dear Members of Parliament,

Please accept this collective open letter as an expression of the signatories’ deep concern that Bill C-51 (which the government is calling the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015) is a dangerous piece of legislation in terms of its potential impacts on the rule of law, on constitutionally and internationally protected rights, and on the health of Canada’s democracy.

Beyond that, we note with concern that knowledgeable analysts have made cogent arguments not only that Bill C-51 may turn out to be ineffective in countering terrorism by virtue of what is omitted from the bill, but also that Bill C-51 could actually be counter-productive in that it could easily get in the way of effective policing, intelligence-gathering and prosecutorial activity. In this respect, we wish it to be clear that we are neither “extremists” (as the Prime Minister has recently labelled the Official Opposition for its resistance to Bill C-51) nor dismissive of the real threats to Canadians’ security that government and Parliament have a duty to protect. Rather, we believe that terrorism must be countered in ways that are fully consistent with core values (that include liberty, non-discrimination, and the rule of law), that are evidence-based, and that are likely to be effective.

The scope and implications of Bill C-51 are so extensive that it cannot be, and is not, the purpose of this letter to itemize every problem with the bill. Rather, the discussion below is an effort to reflect a basic consensus over some (and only some) of the leading concerns, all the while noting that any given signatory’s degree of concern may vary item by item. Also, the absence of a given matter from this letter is not meant to suggest it is not also a concern.

We are grateful for the service to informed public debate and public education provided, since Bill C-51 was tabled, by two highly respected law professors — Craig Forcese of the University of Ottawa and Kent Roach of the University of Toronto — who, combined, have great expertise in national security law at the intersection of constitutional law, criminal law, international law and other sub-disciplines. What follows — and we limit ourselves to five points — owes much to the background papers they have penned, as well as to insights from editorials in the media and speeches in the House of Commons.

Accordingly, we urge all MPs to vote against Bill C-51 for the following reasons:

Pointing up    Once again, The Great White North overshadows The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, in citizen/taxpayer engagement.

Australia: Metadata laws may close piracy loopholes – Even with a parliamentary committee’s last-minute recommendations, Hollywood pirate hunters will still probably use your metadata against you in court.

The piracy code doesn’t grant copyright holders access to your metadata, even after three strikes. It just compels your ISP to comply with a court request to use metadata – your IP address – to find your name and then hand that name over. With the metadata proposal on the table, it seems the copyright holder could actually ask for access to your metadata in any civil piracy case, with Brandis’ blessing. Unlike the piracy code, this wouldn’t necessarily be limited to residental fixed-line connections – eliminating a major loophole.

Copyright holders such as the backers of the Dallas Buyers Club case are already complaining that the piracy code is too narrow for their liking. That won’t be a problem if they can rely on the Attorney-General to let them trawl through your metadata and use it against you in any civil trial.

(Contributed by Mal C.)

How I requested my photographs from the Department of Homeland Security – I have my photograph taken and my fingerprints scanned every time I enter the United States. So do all other foreign nationals. The information is collected under the US-VISIT program. Information such as name, date of birth, gender, and travel document data is recorded as well. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request I filed in November 2014, the Department of Homeland Security released a document containing information collected about me under this program over the last four years.

To request this information yourself, visit FOIAonline and make a request to US Customs and Border Protection.

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Every photo taken of Runa by the Department of Homeland Security between 2010 and 2014.

Conservative audience laughs as former nsa chief refers to himself as an ‘unrelenting libertarian’ – For a second year in a row, the Conservative Action Political Conference hosted a debate on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

This morning, in a stinging rebuke similar to audience jeering of former Gov. Jim Gilmore’s seething criticism of Ed Snowden at last year’s CPAC, former NSA director Michael Hayden received an earful when he awkwardly declared that he is a libertarian.

Referring to his co-panelist Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano as an “an unrelenting libertarian,” Hayden continued, “So am I.”

As Mediaite pointed out, Hayden was quickly mocked by the audience with sustained booing and at least two people yelling, “no, you’re not!”

One person’s laughter was so loud that it is audible on C-SPAN’s video of the event.

Though Hayden went on to cast his defense of domestic spying as a his duty in the pursuit of liberty and homeland security, he also has a direct stake in the debate over surveillance — and it doesn’t make him any more disposed to the libertarian side of that debate.

Hayden is a principal with the Chertoff Group, a consulting firm for the multi-billion dollar cyber security and intelligence industry. He is also on the board of Alion Science and Technology, a military contractor that does intelligence and techical work. For that part-time gig he has been paid approximately $336,500 over the last four years, according to reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 27, 2015

FCC votes to reclassify ISPs and preserve net neutrality;  AT&T, Verizon lash out at FCC after Net Neutrality ruling;  Woz: Net neutrality decision a victory over ‘bad behavior';  Facebook stops defining gender for its users;  Revealed: The apps that are draining your smartphone battery;  Building a custom WordPress site? These tools will reduce your pain;  Spotify Update Brings Song Lyrics to Your Desktop;  How to send Gmail attachments to Dropbox automatically;  The GIMP’s bad news could be good news;  D-Link remote access vulnerabilities remain unpatched;  Microsoft finally offers Windows 7 ISO downloads;  Some Bitdefender products break HTTPS certificate revocation;  What is malvertising?  Study: Most People Won’t Stop Online Bullies;  Microsoft takes Fable Legends free-to-play on Xbox One and PC;  Photos: The machines that defined British computing;  The Video Game That Goes in Search of God.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

A huge win for the People:

FCC votes to reclassify ISPs and preserve net neutrality – Several weeks after revealing a plan to enshrine net neutrality in federal regulation, the FCC has voted to reclassify internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. That means the FCC can enforce net neutrality regulations, which it is was prohibited from doing after a court battle with Verizon some years ago. Big internet players like Google and Amazon are happy, but ISPs like Verizon and Comcast are not amused in the slightest.

The expected response from the folks whose “highway robbery” business style led to this slap down:

AT&T, Verizon lash out at FCC after Net Neutrality ruling – The nation’s two largest telco companies get personal — and downright childish — following the FCC’s Net Neutrality decision.

The usual suspects:

House Republicans Threaten To Curb The FCC’s “Ability To Regulate The Internet” – Following a landmark vote to put in place strict net neutrality regulations, a group of 21 Republican House members sent a nastygram to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, upbraiding him from policy to procedure, and threatening more than just words.

A techno-wizard’s view:

Woz: Net neutrality decision a victory over ‘bad behavior’ – Technically Incorrect: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says that the FCC overseeing the Web will be a positive step in controlling illegality. He also describes it as a victory for consumers.

Gates and Co.

Microsoft backs FCC vote, happy about net neutrality rules – Microsoft relies on broadband connectivity for many of its consumer services like Skype, Xbox Live, OneDrive and several others. Because of today’s ruling, ISPs cannot force Microsoft to pay for ‘fast lanes’ to prioritize these services for their customers. We will likely see many other companies react to the announcement as it has a profound impact on the future of broadband in the US.

Revealed: The apps that are draining your smartphone battery – Which apps are hogging space, consuming mobile data, and sucking the life out of your Android smartphone?

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Spotify Update Brings Song Lyrics to Your Desktop – The next time you’re rocking out to your favorite jams on Spotify while working away on your desktop, song lyrics will be just a click away. The music-streaming service on Thursday launched a new desktop update, which brings fully integrated lyrics powered by Musixmatch, the world’s largest lyrics catalogue, along with some other handy features. The updates will be rolling out gradually to all desktop users over the coming weeks — so if you don’t see them right away just sit tight.

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Facebook stops defining gender for its users – Last year Facebook took a socially responsible step forward when it allowed users to choose from preset custom genders like “cisgender” or “transgender.” But while the company worked with GLAAD to generate the custom genders, the move was not completely celebrated because users were still made to choose from pre-defined options. Now, it appears those options are gone as the company has started rolling out a new version of its custom gender field. This version still populates suggestions as you type, but also allows users to type in any word they wish to represent themselves with across Facebook.

Twitter Will Crackdown On Serial Trolls By Tracking Their Phone Number – Twitter has a troll problem. Even its CEO knows it. And now the company is doing more to prevent its users suffering abuse and threats on its service. In a bid to make improvements, Twitter has announced new measures to expand the process for reporting user safety concerns, and a system that uses phone numbers to prevent those who repeatedly harass others from creating new accounts.

Building a custom WordPress site? These tools will reduce your pain – If you manage or build WordPress sites, you know just how time-consuming the chore can be. David Gewirtz shares eight tools that will help you get the job done effectively, reliably — and quickly.

Microsoft Spartan: Edge is about breaking from the past, while not breaking the Web – The IE team revealed more on the story behind Microsoft Spartan – the new browser across all Windows 10 devices, and why they will not be moving forward with Internet Explorer.

Microsoft finally offers Windows 7 ISO downloads – Obviously this isn’t a free version, as you’ll need your license key to authenticate the copy. And if your device came with an OEM volume license you might be completely out of luck. Still for those of you out there who have access to their license, this is a great way to legally download a Windows 7 ISO. All users need to do is head over to Microsoft’s website, type in their product key and select which product language you need.

The GIMP’s bad news could be good news – The GIMP has lost its User eXperience (UX) maintainer. Jack Wallen thinks this could be good news for one of the most powerful open-source image editing tools.

Google Play app store to test paid placement in search results – Finding apps in mobile stores is getting harder as more programs join the fray. And for developers, getting your app in front of a consumer is harder too. But now Google is planning to offer a new way to surface apps — and maybe even make some money off it. Developers looking to increase awareness of their apps will soon be able to buy space in search results in Google Play’s mobile apps marketplace.

How to send Gmail attachments to Dropbox automatically – One of the pitfalls of Gmail’s generous storage limits is the temptation to use it as a warehouse for all your email attachments. That seems like less of a good idea when you have to wade through your inbox for that report you need for the weekly all-hands in 15 minutes. But processing the daily influx of messages from clients, colleagues, and friends takes long enough without having to stop and manually save each attached file you receive. Fortunately, you can create an automated workflow to do it for you.

Security:

Some Bitdefender products break HTTPS certificate revocation – Carsten Eiram, the chief research officer of vulnerability intelligence firm Risk Based Security, found that the latest versions of several Bitdefender products, namely Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Bitdefender Internet Security and Bitdefender Total Security, do not check the revocation status of SSL certificates before replacing them with new ones that are signed using a root certificate installed locally. The products use this technique in order to scan encrypted HTTPS traffic for potential threats. While the certificate revocation oversight in Bitdefender products is not as serious as the HTTPS interception flaws found recently in other programs, like the Superfish adware preloaded on Lenovo laptops, its impact is not negligible, Eiram said.

D-Link remote access vulnerabilities remain unpatched – D-Link routers have several unpatched vulnerabilities, the worst of which could allow an attacker to gain total control over a device, according to a systems engineer in Canada. Peter Adkins, who does security research in his free time, released details of the flaws on Thursday. Adkins said in a phone interview that he has been in intermittent contact with D-Link since Jan. 11 on the issues, but the company has not indicated when it might patch.

What is malvertising? – We’re on a bit of an educational push here at Malwarebytes with the aim of helping Internet users become a bit more aware of the latest tricks that criminals are using to catch you out. Hopefully, this means you will be a bit safer online. Today’s post takes a closer look at ‘malvertising’. This was covered in a bit of detail in our previous post on Exploit Kits, but as it presents a significant threat to everyday folks, so we wanted to dig into it in a bit more detail.

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Google enlists BlackBerry to help make Android devices ‘more secure’ – As Reuters reports, BlackBerry will be helping Google “to manage devices equipped with Android for Work”, an initiative designed to securely separate business and personal data and apps on Android devices, which is built on some of Samsung’s own KNOX efforts. The tie-up between Google and BlackBerry is intended to extend the ‘highly secure mobility solution’ to other Android manufacturers. While Android remains a firm consumer favorite, Google is keen to expand its presence in business and enterprise, particularly as its iPhone and Windows Phone rivals enjoy growing workplace support.

Company News:

Silent Circle targets enterprise users with ‘world first’ privacy ecosystem – Encrypted communications provider Silent Circle has raised approximately $50 million in a funding round aimed at pushing the company forward in the enterprise market. Announced on Thursday, Silent Circle said “strong demand” from enterprise customers seeking to keep communication private through the Blackphone product range led the firm to launch a private, common equity round in order to grow and cater for new clients.

IBM to pump $4B into cloud, mobile and analytics this year – IBM will dedicate $4 billion in spending this year to the cloud, analytics and mobile technologies, as it struggles with seismic shifts that are changing the computing landscape it once dominated. In return, by 2018 IBM expects to reap a combined $40 billion in annual revenue from the areas in which it’s investing, which also include social and security, the company said at an annual meeting on Thursday.

Uber’s preferred car-loan partner has been illegally repossessing veterans’ cars – Yesterday, auto lender Santander Consumer USA agreed to pay at least $9.35 million to resolve the accusation that it illegally repossessed over 1,100 vehicles from active military personnel. The company is a close partner of the ride-sharing giant Uber, which funnels drivers with low credit to Santander loan officers. It’s not the company’s first brush with the law: the lender holds over $40 billion in car loans and has repeatedly been the subject of criminal investigations into its subprime auto loan arm.

$533 million not enough? Smartflash files new patent lawsuit against Apple – Patent licensing firm Smartflash may still be celebrating a $533 million victory against Apple, but the companies aren’t finished in the courtroom.

Ericsson joins the queue to sue Apple for patent infringement – No doubt Apple is still smarting over a $533 million court case win by Smartflash this week, but Ericsson is now also suing the company in a patent dispute.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft takes Fable Legends free-to-play on Xbox One and PC – Microsoft and Lionhead Studios are getting behind free-to-play gaming in a big way this morning, announcing that Fable Legends will use the somewhat infamous business model when the game launches on Xbox One and PC later this year (though Xbox One players will still need an Xbox Live Gold account for the multiplayer-only title). This isn’t a case of a limited free portion as a teaser for more extensive paid DLC, either. Lionhead says all of the game’s stories and quests will be included in the free version, and players will be able to “play through it beginning-to-end without having to spend any money… you’ll be able to earn everything that affects gameplay.”

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NVIDIA HairWorks shown off in Far Cry 4 – This week the folks behind development for Far Cry 4 have made a point to show off the wilder aspects of their environment Kyrat. To make their universe one that looks especially realistic, they worked with NVIDIA and one of the more radical elements in NVIDIA’s collection of graphics-intensive programs: NVIDIA HairWorks. We’ve spoken about this before – here we’re getting the opportunity to see HairWorks work in a real deal working game that’s out in the wild right this minute.

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The state of Linux gaming in the SteamOS era – For decades after Linux’s early ’90s debut, even the hardest of hardcore boosters for the open source operating system had to admit that it couldn’t really compete in one important area of software: gaming. “Back in around 2010 you only had two choices for gaming on Linux,” Che Dean, editor of Linux gaming news site Rootgamer recalls. “Play the few open source titles, Super Tux Kart and so on, or use WINE to play your Windows titles.”

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The Video Game That Goes in Search of God – As a sort of implicit, controlled test for the freak-out potential of a technologically governed environment, Breath of Life is rather fascinating. If it isn’t a game that endorses a particular religion, though, Pneuma might be styled as a game of religious striving. Its protagonist’s farcical delusions are an incentive for the player to seek out a more reliable authority about the nature of existence—a deity, in other words, who can guarantee the objective reality of what is perceived.

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Sony Launching 8-Week Spring Fever PSN Sale Next Week – March is almost here, and PlayStation Plus members should know what that means — it’s time for the annual Spring Fever promotion. Sony on Thursday announced details of this year’s sale, which starts March 3 and will last for eight weeks — twice as long as last year. During the sale, PS Plus members will get 10 percent off “hot new digital-only games” like Helldrivers, a hardcore twin stick shooter from Arrowhead Game Studios, during the week they launch.

Microsoft trims price of Xbox Live Gold membership to $40 – Instead of paying the usual fee of $60 a year, you can become an Xbox Live Gold member for $40. The fine print doesn’t indicate whether this is a temporary promotion and, if so, when the sale might end. Want do you get for the $40 annually? An Xbox Live Gold subscription –good for both the Xbox One and Xbox 360 game consoles — allows you to play with and compete against other Xbox owners. You can also tap into a lineup of free games and save anywhere from 50 percent to 75 percent on other games sold in the Xbox Store.

Rayman, Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider are the next Free Games with Gold – Every month Xbox Gold subscribers get the chance to download a few games from Microsoft’s catalogue for free. And this time, the offer really features some great titles.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Microsoft’s 2015 Future Vision video released, connected display everywhere – Microsoft has released a new video showcasing their ideas for the future. Demonstrating how emerging technologies could transform the future, Microsoft creates a very unique compilation. It’s sleek and precisely orchestrated to create an introspective look at what Microsoft hopes it can achieve for the world in the not-too-distant future. The video is futuristic but strangely grounded in reality. Each of the tasks carried out in the video don’t seem that far off from today’s technological capabilities. Microsoft’s Future Vision is set just five to ten years in the future.

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Study: Most People Won’t Stop Online Bullies – In 1964 a woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed and left for dead in Kew Gardens, Queens. She screamed for help over a half hour while bystanders and apartment-dwellers above apparently ignored her pleas. Her assailant had time to disguise himself during the attack. She died of her injuries, and experts at the time called the failure of bystanders to act “Genovese Syndrome.” While the online world isn’t nearly as dire as Genovese’s tragedy, its clear from a recent OSU study that bystander syndrome that bears her name is still alive and well. The study watched 221 students as they interacted in a chat room. A bully would appear and berate other members of the group. According to the study, “only 10 percent of the students who noticed the abuse directly intervened, either by confronting the bully online or helping the victim.”

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This is how rain and snow travel across the globe – Today NASA released a visualization of storm swirls that took place in 2014, and the results are pretty spectacular. The data were gathered thanks to NASA’s “Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory” (GMP), a satellite network that provides near real-time precipitation data covering the entire planet. But the patterns shown in the video aren’t just meant to look pretty — they’re going to help save lives.

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Photos: BBC Micro, Spectrum, Amstrad CPC 464 and more – the machines that defined British computing – As the Raspberry Pi takes the title for the best-selling British computer of all time we look back at the classic machines to come out of the UK. You can find more details on each of these machines in this accompanying article.

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Amstrad Colour Personal Computer – Launched: 1984 – Price: From £700

The proof is in the testing: The Swiss breakthrough that will make software more reliable – The size and complexity of today’s software programs can make it difficult to check their likely reliability. Testing only goes so far: often after applications are released, it’s a wait-and-see strategy, with developers sending out patches for products if and when major problems become evident. Two computer scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne or EPFL) hope to change that – using automated reasoning tools to replace validating software through testing with more accurate formal mathematical proofs.

Something to think about:

“To be one’s self, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity.”

–      Irving Wallace

Today’s Free Downloads:

Make it a gaming weekend!   Smile

FlightGear – FlightGear is an open-source flight simulator.  It supports a variety of popular platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.) and is developed by skilled volunteers from around the world.  Source code for the entire project is available and licensed under the GNU General Public License.

The goal of the FlightGear project is to create a sophisticated and open flight simulator framework for use in research or academic environments, pilot training, as an industry engineering tool, for DIY-ers to pursue their favorite interesting flight simulation idea, and last but certainly not least as a fun, realistic, and challenging desktop flight simulator. We are developing a sophisticated, open simulation framework that can be expanded and improved upon by anyone interested in contributing.

There are many exciting possibilities for an open, free flight sim. We hope that this project will be interesting and useful to many people in many areas.

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Söldner Secret Wars Community Edition – Söldner is a semi realistic Military Tactical Multiplayer Shooter using modern weapons and units.

Söldner uses realistic physics and elements to create a believable environment. Still Söldner is fun and easy to play.

Features:

ADS – Advanced Destruction System

– In Söldner – Secret Wars you can destroy everything! With ADS you can deploy an endless variation of true to life tactics.

SWS – Söldner Weapons System

– With SWS you can choose from more than a 100 weapons, all faithfully reproduced with the help from expert military advisor’s. No other game will offer you the same versatile amount of weapons!

AFV – Advanced Fighting Vehicles

– Wage war by land, sea or air. Become a stealthy scuba diver slipping from the waters behind enemy lines. Jump out of an aircraft under cover of darkness and skydive to your target or declare war on a massive scale and invade the enemy base with tanks, helicopters, jets and assault ships.

CMM – Customizable Multiplayer Mode

– Feel the gameworld come alive with the Virtual Online Battlefield. With 22.000.000 km2 (roughly the size of Europe) Söldner- Marine Corps offers you the largest online battlefield today.

OCM – Online Commander Mode

– Become your team’s eyes and ears, directing your troops to victory.

AGS – Advanced Gesture System

– Order your troops into action, call for covering fire, or taunt the enemy into giving away their positions. Make your choice from more than 200 gestures and commands.

UCS – Unit Customization System

– From your flak jacket to your sunglasses each character is completely customizable to give your Söldner a unique look.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Net Neutrality Is Here — Thanks To an Unprecedented Guerrilla Activism Campaign – This morning, the Federal Communications Commission voted to guarantee the open Internet through so-called net neutrality rules, and with it, forged ahead with one of the biggest policy accomplishments of the Obama administration.

“This is probably the most important ruling in the history of the FCC,” says Tim Karr, campaign director for Free Press.

Net neutrality, a principle that all Internet traffic must be treated equally, was a founding concept for the web. But many Internet service providers have attempted to change that. Cell phone companies have attempted to block apps that could compete with their services and cable companies have pressed for paid prioritization, seeking extra income by forcing users to pay for faster connections to select websites.

For Internet start-ups and political activists alike, the efforts by the ISP industry to move away from net neutrality represented a transformation of the Internet, from a place in which all voices were equal to a world of big incumbent websites and corporate media-dominated information sources. “The question came down to, who ultimately controls this Internet? Is it going to be these powerful corporations?” says Karr.

FinFisher spyware violated human rights guidelines, says UK watchdog – Today, a British human rights watchdog condemned private surveillance vendor Gamma International for violating human rights guldelines through its sale of the FinFisher spyware program. Based in London and Frankfurt, Gamma had been criticized for selling to repressive governments in Bahrain and Ethiopia, who used the software to target activists in exile. Today’s decision was issued by the British government’s contact point to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international forum to promote global well-being. Because many of the targeted activists had taken refuge in Britain, the government took particular exception to the spyware, calling today’s ruling “one of the most critical decisions ever issued by the OECD.”

Similar to spyware implants developed by the NSA and GCHQ, FinFisher was sold on the open market, leading many to call for stronger export restrictions against surveillance software.

Why Does the FBI Have to Manufacture its Own Plots if Terrorism and ISIS Are Such Grave Threats? – The FBI and major media outlets yesterday trumpeted the agency’s latest counterterrorism triumph: the arrest of three Brooklyn men, ages 19 to 30, on charges of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS. As my colleague Murtaza Hussain ably documents, “it appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant.” One of the frightening terrorist villains told the FBI informant that, beyond having no money, he had encountered a significant problem in following through on the FBI’s plot: his mom had taken away his passport. Noting the bizarre and unhinged ranting of one of the suspects, Hussain noted on Twitter that this case “sounds like another victory for the FBI over the mentally ill.”

In this regard, this latest arrest appears to be quite similar to the overwhelming majority of terrorism arrests the FBI has proudly touted over the last decade. As my colleague Andrew Fishman and I wrote last month — after the FBI manipulated a 20-year-old loner who lived with his parents into allegedly agreeing to join an FBI-created plot to attack the Capitol — these cases follow a very clear pattern:

The Head of the NSA Is on a Charm Offensive – Admiral Michael Rogers is grinning at a room of military men and women. He just took a question from one Canadian navy officer sporting facial hair. (“You, sir, with the beard.”) Now, he’s pointing at another scruffy defence type. The crowd, a collection of private defence contractors, bureaucrats, and enlisted people, laugh and exchange looks. This guy is the head of the NSA?

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Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 26, 2015

It’s official: NSA spying is hurting the US tech economy;  Bloatware: Why computer makers fill your PC with junk, and how to get rid of it;  Android for Work: what is it?  Google now lets you upload 50,000 songs to the cloud for free;  The five best iOS notification center widgets;  Ubuntu 14.04.2 arrives;  Hands On with Microsoft’s wireless charging pad;  Microsoft opens Garage door, shows off experimental apps;  Plex: Hey, it’s not just for pirates anymore;  The 7 Best Facebook Alernatives You Didn’t Know About;  Car Owners Find High-Tech Systems Unreliable;  Facebook fixed 61 high-severity flaws last year;  Iran, U.S. Locked in Escalating Cyberwar;  The best Android games you need to play (right now);  Citing encryption, FBI lobbying to keep phone metadata spying powers.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Chinese government continues dropping foreign tech in favor of local products – China’s interest in moving toward products made within the country appears to be twofold: it removes security concerns around foreign products and bolsters its own tech industry. It’s not clear which is more important to the country. The sources Reuters spoke with seem to believe that security concerns may just be a cover story, but it’s not an entirely unreasonable one, particularly in light of the ongoing revelations about how far US spy agencies are willing to go for information. The US, too, has shown an unwillingness to trust foreign tech, with much being made of its frequent restrictions on the large Chinese telecom firm Huawei.

It’s official: NSA spying is hurting the US tech economy – A new report confirmed key brands, including Cisco, Apple, Intel, and McAfee — among others — have been dropped from the Chinese government’s list of authorized brands, a Reuters report said Wednesday. – Although a number of reasons were cited, domestic companies were said to offer “more product guarantees” than overseas rivals in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. Some reports have attempted to pin a multi-billion dollar figure on the impact of the leaks. In reality, the figure could be incalculable.

Windows 365 will be Windows, plus a little bit more – There’s been rumor and speculation about Microsoft switching the Windows operating system to a subscription-based model since it launched Office 365. When Microsoft unveiled the latest preview build of Windows 10, executives referred to it as Windows-as-a-Service. Now, Microsoft has all but confirmed that some sort of subscription model is coming, since it trademarked Windows 365. Some customers are vehemently opposed, but before you freak out, let’s back up a step and consider what a Windows 365 subscription might entail.

Pointing up   Personally, I would refuse to be part of a subscription based operating system. Should Microsoft attempt to force the issue, my focus would switch from running with Linux 20% of the time to running with Ubuntu, for example, full time. The idea that a Linux distro is clunky or otherwise handicapped, or difficult to use, is sheer propaganda – this is not 1999.

If you’re using an Android smartphone – then, you’re already running with a variation of Linux. How hard was that? 

Android for Work: what is it? – Today Google revealed their newest Android-based initiative: Android for Work. This system brings several work-related technology to the Android software universe for businesses of all kinds. Four key technology components are included: Google Play at Work, the Android for Work app, Work profiles, and built-in productivity tools of all kinds. This system is launching with a large collection of industrial technology partners that have Google scoring big with potential for business-related engagement through Android – this includes smartphones, tablets, and everything in-between.

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Bloatware: Why computer makers fill your PC with junk, and how to get rid of it – Lenovo’s Superfish debacle has thrust bloatware back into the limelight. Here’s why PC makers intentionally make your PC experience worse, and how to blast the crap off your computer.

The five best iOS notification center widgets – You may have been one of the many to shout “Finally!” when widgets came to iOS. Whether you’ve used them before on Android or were just waiting for that kind of flexibility on iOS, you finally have one touch access to key apps. It’s taken developers a while to fully utilize this new functionality to its potential, but we’re finally seeing the fruits of their labor. Here is a roundup of some of the apps that put widgets to their best use.

Google now lets you upload 50,000 songs to the cloud for free – Google’s taking a big step out in front of its music streaming competitors today. The company has just announced that effective immediately, you’ll be able to upload up to 50,000 songs from your personal music collection and store them in the cloud through Google Play Music — all for free. The previous limit was 20,000.

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Facebook suicide prevention tool update inbound – Cries for help come in many forms, and in our digital age, many of them take place online. Facebook, being one of the biggest social networks out there, is peppered with depressed, suicidal, and otherwise troubling statuses making one’s personal anguish known to a larger audience. The social network has previously had a tool that aimed to help those who might be suicidal, and now the network is updating it to be more robust. With the update, those who may be suicidal are temporarily locked out of their account. Posts flagged as being suicidal will be shuttled off to Facebook workers trained in suicide prevention. That user’s account will be temporarily blocked, and the user won’t be able to get access again until they are presented with a Facebook page showing information on preventing suicide, a suicide hotline, and an option to contact one’s friends over it.

Hands On with Microsoft’s wireless charging pad, the DT-903 – A few weeks back, Microsoft started shipping the DT-903, a wireless charging pad and we have gotten our hands on one; after the jump is a gallery of the new device.

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Twitter Finally Launches An Official WordPress Plug-In – There are hundreds upon hundreds of Twitter-related plug-ins for WordPress. Seriously, go look. And yet, in its nine years since launch, Twitter has never released an official plug-in to make WordPress and Twitter play friendly. Until today.

Google officially launches Flights, their Search-friendly travel tool – As the travel booking game tightens up via acquisitions, Google is set to muscle their way in. Though Expedia and Travelocity are toeing the line, Google is also ready to get involved with Google Flights, a new Search item that finds you the best deal on your travel. Flights works as you might expect, too: put in your departure city, an arrival destination, and Flights will find you the best deal. Flights is also neat because you don’t even need to know where you’re headed.

Ubuntu 14.04.2 arrives with updated hardware support and a new Linux kernel – Canonical just released Ubuntu 14.04.2, the second point-release of the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS series. As always, this point release brings hardware support updates so you can continue installing Ubuntu 14.04 on new PCs. You won’t get the hardware support updates on existing PCs, though—if your computer’s hardware doesn’t all work properly, you’ll want to update it yourself. Let’s dig in.

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Panasonic’s new 4K VIERA LED TV line to run Firefox OS – The platform wars are moving to smart TVs. Don’t believe it? Samsung is putting Tizen on all its smart TVs this year. LG’s own sets already have webOS inside. Now Panasonic is joining the fray, but not with an operating system that it has developed itself. As it showed at CES last month, the consumer electronics maker is betting big on Firefox OS and it is announcing that all the members of its new 4K VIERA TV line will be employing the web-based platform for its user interface.

Plex: Hey, it’s not just for pirates anymore – Plex doesn’t exactly hide the fact that it’s a killer app for pirated video. Just look at the marketing materials for the media server software, and you’ll see how easy it is to stream your collection of movies and TV shows to all your devices.    Hey, I’m not here to judge. But I was interested to see if Plex could be a valuable tool for law-abiding cord cutters as well. After playing around with the software and asking some kind folks on Reddit, I’ve found some legal uses for Plex that are worth checking out.

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Microsoft opens Garage door, shows off experimental apps – The Garage incubator releases apps for Windows Phone and Android that range from giving you reports on air quality in China to connecting you to conference calls using voice commands.

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Car Owners Find High-Tech Systems Unreliable – Modern cars have more high-tech bells and whistles than ever before, but technologies like Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition rank as the least dependable vehicle systems, according to a new study by J.D. Power.

The 7 Best Facebook Alernatives You Didn’t Know About – Your Facebook friends are boring. Your Twitter followers sound like a bunch of parrots. And your LinkedIn contacts, well, who wants to talk about work all day, anyway? Amazingly, in 2015, it’s still possible to feel like you’ve reached the end of the Internet, especially if you rely on your social networks for news and amusement. But there are more ways to connect with people online than the three most popular social networks. In fact, smaller networks are some of the best places to dig into topics you care more deeply about. So sign up and check out at one of these great alternative social networks:

Security:

EFF unearths evidence of possible Superfish-style attacks in the wild – It’s starting to look like Superfish and other software containing the same HTTPS-breaking code library may have posed more than a merely theoretical danger to Internet users. For the first time, researchers have uncovered evidence suggesting the critical weakness may have been exploited against real people visiting real sites, including Gmail, Amazon, eBay, Twitter, and Gpg4Win.org, to name just a few. Until now, that danger was nothing more than a troubling hypothetical, but no more. On Wednesday, researchers presented evidence attackers have exploited the weaknesses in Superfish and the other programs to launch real man-in-the-middle attacks on end users as they visited some of the most sensitive HTTPS-protected websites on the Internet.

Lenovo’s bad week gets worse: website hacked by Lizard Squad – After publicly admitting to poor business decisions regarding the pre-loaded Superfish software on Lenovo machines, Lizard Squad decides the company could use a good hacking as punishment.

Europol and security vendors disrupt massive Ramnit botnet – European law enforcement agencies seized command-and-control servers used by Ramnit, a malware program that steals online banking credentials, FTP passwords, session cookies and personal files from victims. Researchers from antivirus vendor Symantec described the malware program as “a fully-featured cybercrime tool” in a blog post Wednesday and said that it infected over 3.2 million computers over its five years of existence.

Target Says Credit Card Data Breach Cost It $162M In 2013-14 – Target today said that it has booked $162 million in expenses across 2013 and 2014 related to its data breach, in which hackers broke into the company’s network to access credit card information and other customer data, affecting some 70 million customers. The figure, revealed in the company’s Q4 earnings published today, includes $4 million in Q4, and $191 million in gross expenses for 2014, as well as $61 million gross for 2013. Target says that the gross number was offset in part by insurance receivables of $46 million for 2014 and $44 million for 2013.

Apple patent reveals tracking capabilities even if phone appears off – Apple is getting a bit of interest over patent news today, and not just because of a patent lawsuit the company lost in court yesterday. A new patent filed in January could allow for stolen iPhones and iPads to be tracked even when they are powered down. The patent, titled “Apparatus and Method for Determining a Wireless Device’s Location after Shutdown” looks to tie into the Apple “Find My iPhone” app that works to triangulate the position of an iPhone to help its owner recover a lost/missing device. This new technology, if functioning properly, would allow iPhone and perhaps iPad owners to see the current location of their devices even if the units are powered down.

Facebook fixed 61 high-severity flaws last year through its bug bounty program – In 2014, the company paid bug bounties totaling $1.3 million to 321 researchers from 65 countries, according to a newly published annual report. The average reward was $1,788 and the top three countries where valid bug reports originated were India, with 196 submissions; Egypt, with 81 and the U.S. with 61. It’s worth noting that, based on the statistics released by the company, finding a critical bug is not that easy. Facebook received 17,011 bug submissions in 2014 and those resulted in only 61 high-risk bugs being identified.

Iran, U.S. Locked in Escalating Cyberwar – Cyberwarfare between the U.S. and Iran has been accelerating at an alarming rate since 2012, according to a recently disclosed document from the NSA. The top-secret and classified document confirms that the two countries have developed and deployed technology for spying and sabotage, a situation that has escalated dramatically in the last three years.

Company News:

Apple ordered to pay half a billion dollars for patent infringement – A federal jury in Texas has ordered Apple to pay more than half a billion dollars after the company was found guilty of infringing three patents held by a local company. The patents, held by Smartflash LLC, relate to digital rights management, data storage and access through payment systems. They were seemingly infringed upon by Apple’s iTunes and some of the apps found in the App Store, though the plaintiff also mentioned the Mac App Store, and iAd as avenues for infringement.

Samsung faces complaint in US FTC over Smart TV ‘surveillance’ – A complaint filed by a privacy group to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission charged that Samsung’s Smart TVs intercept and record private communications of consumers in their homes, violating a number of rules including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has asked the FTC to investigate and stop the practice by Samsung of collecting private communications and transmitting the recordings to a third party.

Despite a billion viewers, YouTube has zero profit – It’s hard to image that YouTube, as ubiquitous and gigantic as it is, has never turned a profit. But that’s exactly what a new report explains, alongside the myriad challenges that the site faces.

Pointing up   Big Deal! YouTube has always been positioned as a “loss leader” for Google. Why the fuss now?

Google chairman Eric Schmidt will reportedly meet EU antitrust commissioner next week – After recent discussions with Microsoft, Axel Springer and other complainants against Google, the EU’s antitrust chief will meet with Schmidt in the latest stage of Europe’s 4-year investigation.

Uber goes free in Seoul as pressure from city government mounts – The car-hailing service has been operating despite the city’s argument that it’s illegal. It says its latest move is an effort to establish “a consensus” with government officials.

Games and Entertainment:

The best Android games you need to play (right now) – Finding a good game to play is hard — so many options! Fret not, I’m here to help with a with a heap of games you should probably toss onto your Android phone or tablet, posthaste. Stow your pitchforks: the games here aren’t listed in any particular order, and while I’d love to play everything under the sun, pesky responsibilities get in the way. These are just my current favorites, and it’s likely I missed some of yours. Here’s an idea: post your favorites in the comments, as I’ll be updating this regularly and don’t want to miss too many gems. Also, note that all prices are in US dollars.

The New Razer Blade Is The Gaming Laptop To Beat – Like its predecessor, this year’s Razer Blade packs in a 14-inch, 3200 x 1800 pixel screen. It looks pretty from most angles and can get quite bright, and has a touch screen if you’re one of the Windows 8 users who actually takes advantage of touch-friendly menus. Photos and video really pop on the display — it’s not quite 4K, but considering it’s already past the point of not being able to discern pixels at reasonable distances, that’s not something anyone is going to miss.

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Chat App Viber Opens Its Games Service To All Users Worldwide – Messaging app Viber has quietly made its games service available for all users worldwide following a two month pilot in five countries. The company, which was bought by Rakuten for $900 million a year ago, initially launched three games for users in Belarus, Malaysia, Israel, Singapore and Ukraine in December 2014. The titles — Viber Candy Mania, Wild Luck Casino and Viber Pop, links to which popped up in my app today — are standalone apps that link up to Viber to let users share scores, battle and generally interact with friends on the service.

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Netflix Expands Its Kids’ Lineup With Five New Shows, Including An “Inspector Gadget” Reboot – Netflix this morning announced it’s preparing to expand its lineup of original and exclusive programs aimed at children with an order of five new kids’ shows, including remakes of well-loved classics like Inspector Gadget and Danger Mouse. While children today may not be familiar with these titles themselves, their Gen X and millennials parents likely are – and they’re Netflix’s paying subscribers.

Nickelodeon Unveils “Noggin,” A Mobile Subscription Service For Preschoolers Arriving In March – Nickelodeon today unveiled its new mobile streaming subscription service called Noggin, which will be aimed at preschoolers and priced at $5.99 per month when it launches next month. Parent company Viacom had previously announced the forthcoming service’s arrival in January, noting also that the service would not require households to have a cable or satellite TV subscription in order to access its content.

Sub-$100 Gaming Headset Roundup – Having only ever bought relatively cheap headsets with proportionally cheap audio quality, it seems about time for me to upgrade. In the process of settling on a new headset, I’ve acquired six sub-$100 gaming-oriented models from separate hardware manufacturers to compare in a roundup. I have models from Kingston, Polk, Gigabyte, Razer, Logitech and Tesoro. Most of these companies are not known for their audio products, so it’ll be interesting to see what they deliver. It goes without saying but we will anyway: audiophiles may want to bail now because these headsets aren’t for you.

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Amazon shuttering Unbox on March 29th; download your movies now – Amazon notified customers that Unbox, the tool used to download and play movies offline, is officially closing on March 29th, at which time customers will lose all access to their purchased content.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Alan Turing’s Family Wants Britain to Pardon All 49,000 Gay Men Convicted of ‘Gross Indecency’ – The family of Alan Turing, the legendary mathematician who helped crack the Nazi Enigma code and hasten the end of World War II, is championing a campaign to pardon nearly 50,000 men who were convicted of “gross indecency” under antiquated laws banning gay sex in Britain. Turing, whose story inspired the 2015 Oscar-winning movie The Imitation Game, was himself convicted of indecency in 1952. He was chemically castrated and two years later, at the age of 41, died in an apparent suicide, after taking a bite of a cyanide-laced apple. While Turing was offered a royal pardon in 2013, campaigners argue that the Queen should have extended the measure to include all those affected. An estimated 15,000 men who were convicted under the outdated law are thought to be alive today.

Curiosity Mars rover takes its most impressive selfie yet – Curiosity continues to be one of the most successful robotic missions in the history of space exploration, but it’s not all work for this Mars rover. Sometimes it likes to have a little fun up there and take some selfies. The latest Curiosity selfie was taken at the “Mojave” site at the base of Mount Sharp, and it’s an amazing view. This camera has a resolution of just 1600 x 1200, or about 2 megapixels. If you piece together enough images taken with the MALI camera, though, you can create massive images. This mosaic is an example of that with a total resolution of 18,029 x 9,233. It’s the equivalent of more than 166 megapixels. You can download the full resolution image here, but be aware it’s a 32MB JPEG. That’s gigantic by image standards. Many programs and computers will choke on it.

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NASA satellite shows how much sand from the Sahara is in the atmosphere – NASA is using one of its satellites to determine how much sand from the Sahara Desert in Africa ends up helping the Amazon rainforest in South America to grow. While the two locations are on different continents, the amount of dust from the desert that makes its way to the rain forest will surprise you. NASA used one of its satellites to quantify how much dust from the desert makes it to South America for the first time.

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Vintage X-rays reveal the hidden effects of corsets – In 1908, a doctor used X-rays to highlight the damaging effects of tight corsets on a woman’s body.

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Google’s AI wins Space Invaders, proves “human-level control” – A new study has been published this week which suggests that artificial intelligence can now learn “human-level control.” The team of researchers come from Google’s DeepMind, where they’re using Space Invaders – the video game – to show how the search for truly human artificial intelligence isn’t too far off. The machine learns to play the video game, learns to win at the video game, and dominates all humans at the game they’ve created to help us defend our planet against the alien hordes.

Something to think about:

“A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.”

–      Dorothy C. Fisher

Today’s Free Downloads:

X-Mouse Button Control – X-Mouse Button Control is a windows application to remap your mouse buttons.

You are able to provide an application specific mappings, which means one application can use the mouse differently from another. This is useful for games which do not inherently support the extended mouse buttons, because you can map keys to each button.

What’s more, the list of functions available to map to is somewhat more comprehensive than the 32bit MS Intellimouse Software can handle, including things like:

Copy/Cut/Paste

Volume Up/Down/Mute

Media Player control

Send a custom keystroke sequence

Launch your email (or any other) application.

Capture screen (or active window) image to clipboard.

Click-Drag [Sticky Buttons].

Save and restore desktop icon positions.

Vista (and Windows 7) support including some Vista/7 only featurs such as ‘Flip 3D’.

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SoftPerfect Network Scanner – SoftPerfect Network Scanner is a free multi-threaded IP, NetBIOS and SNMP scanner with a modern interface and several advanced features. It is intended for both system administrators and general users who are interested in computer security. The program pings computers, scans for listening TCP ports and displays which types of resources are shared on the network (including system and hidden).

In addition, it allows you to mount shared folders as network drives, browse them using Windows Explorer, filter the results list and more. SoftPerfect Network Scanner can also check for a user-defined port and report back if one is open. It can also resolve host names and auto-detect your local and external IP range. It supports remote shutdown and Wake-On-LAN.

Features:

Pings computers.

Does not require administrative privileges.

Detects hardware (MAC) addresses even across routers.

Detects hidden shared folders (normally invisible on the network) and write accessible shares.

Detects your internal and external IP addresses.

Scans for listening TCP ports and SNMP services.

Retrieves currently logged-on users.

You can mount and explore network resources.

Can launch external third party applications.

Exports results to HTML, XML, CSV and TXT

Supports Wake-On-LAN, remote shutdown and sending network messages.

Retrieves potentially any information via WMI.

It is absolutely free, requires no installation, and does not contain any adware/spyware/malware.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Canadian Spies Collect Domestic Emails in Secret Security Sweep – Canada’s electronic surveillance agency is covertly monitoring vast amounts of Canadians’ emails as part of a sweeping domestic cybersecurity operation, according to top-secret documents.

The surveillance initiative, revealed Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, is sifting through millions of emails sent to Canadian government agencies and departments, archiving details about them on a database for months or even years.

The data mining operation is carried out by the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, Canada’s equivalent of the National Security Agency. Its existence is disclosed in documents obtained by The Intercept from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The emails are vacuumed up by the Canadian agency as part of its mandate to defend against hacking attacks and malware targeting government computers. It relies on a system codenamed PONY EXPRESS to analyze the messages in a bid to detect potential cyber threats.

Last year, CSE acknowledged it collected some private communications as part of cybersecurity efforts. But it refused to divulge the number of communications being stored or to explain for how long any intercepted messages would be retained.

Now, the Snowden documents shine a light for the first time on the huge scope of the operation — exposing the controversial details the government withheld from the public.

Gemalto Doesn’t Know What It Doesn’t Know – Gemalto, the French-Dutch digital security giant, confirmed that it believes American and British spies were behind a “particularly sophisticated intrusion” of its internal computer networks, as reported by The Intercept last week.

This morning, the company tried to downplay the significance of NSA and GCHQ efforts against its mobile phone encryption keys — and, in the process, made erroneous statements about cellphone technology and sweeping claims about its own security that experts describe as highly questionable.

Gemalto, which is the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, launched an internal investigation after The Intercept six days ago revealed that the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ hacked the company and cyberstalked its employees. In the secret documents, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the intelligence agencies described a successful effort to obtain secret encryption keys used to protect hundreds of millions of mobile devices across the globe.

The company was eager to address the claims that its systems and encryption keys had been massively compromised. At one point in stock trading after publication of the report, Gemalto suffered a half billion dollar hit to its market capitalization. The stock only partially recovered in the following days.

Citing encryption, FBI lobbying to keep phone metadata spying powers – The law that the Obama administration cites to allow bulk telephone metadata collection expires on June 1, and the FBI has already begun lobbying to keep Section 215 of the Patriot Act from expiring. Bad guys “going dark” using encryption, the FBI says, is one of the reasons why the government needs to collect the metadata of every phone call made to and from the United States.

Robert Anderson, the FBI’s chief of the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch, told reporters during a roundtable discussion Tuesday that the Patriot Act is necessary because encrypted communications are becoming more commonplace in the wake of the Edward Snowden disclosures.

“In the last two to three years, that whole ‘going dark’ thing went from a crawl to a flat-out sprint because the technology is changing so rapidly,” Anderson said.

Joseph Demarest, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, told reporters that if Section 215 expires, “Obviously it’s going to impact what we do as an organization and certainly on cyber.”

The comments, especially as they relate to encryption, are part of a growing chorus of calls—from as high as President Barack Obama—that the government needs Silicon Valley’s assistance for backdoors into encrypted tech products like the iPhone.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 25, 2015

Chicago police are running a horrifying CIA-style black site out of a warehouse;  Arrange your iOS home screen any way you like with Makeovr;  Microsoft rolls out free Office for students, worldwide;  Microsoft kills off Google and Facebook chat for Outlook.com;  How to turn your old phone into a basic PC for cheap;  Reddit bans nude images posted without consent;  How to Clean Out and Organize Your Computer;  Six awesome Android apps to get your creative juices flowing;  Monitor battery status with these five free apps;  Forge, the sketch app for brainstorming, lands on iOS;  Tips: How the iPhone 6 Plus and Android phones can do real work;  Feds say skin cancer apps are deceptive;  Tweaking.com – Technicians Toolbox (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Chicago police are running a horrifying CIA-style black site out of a warehouse – A remarkable report from Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian has revealed in detail the existence of an interrogation facility used by Chicago police to detain and hold people in secret. The report describes how police have used a “nondescript warehouse” to keep detainees out of booking databases, beat prisoners, shackle them for “prolonged periods,” and keep them from legal counsel for up to 24 hours — including even children as young as 15. As The Guardian’s report demonstrates, it’s not just weapons from the war on terror that are flowing to police departments across the country: it’s tactics and attitudes, too. “I’ve never known of any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours,” retired DC homicide detective James Trainum told The Guardian. “That scares the hell out of me that that even exists or might exist.”

Pointing up       A chilling illustration of the Boiling Frog.

Microsoft rolls out free Office for students, worldwide – In 2013, Microsoft said it would offer Microsoft Office 365 to U.S. students for free, provided their schools licensed the software for faculty and staff. Now, that offer is being extended worldwide. Microsoft said Tuesday that the offer for free Office is being extended anywhere Office is available: from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, or dozens of countries around the world. As before, the school must license Office in order for its students to be eligible.

How to Clean Out and Organize Your Computer – Deep cleaning your computer of unwanted files and streamlining your folder system can not only free up storage space, but improve your computer’s performance. From decluttering tips to apps that do your organizing for you, here’s how to spruce up your computer and make sure it stays that way.

How to turn your old phone into a basic PC for cheap – Your old smartphone has a greater destiny than your junk drawer. Believe it or not, you can turn it into, say, a mini-PC or media streamer. Assuming it packs both USB On The Go support (OTG) and a Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) compatible port, there’s a ton of additional functionality lurking under that its hood. Heck, you can even use a smartphone with a broken screen for this. Without further ado, here’s how to transform your old smartphone into the brains of an Android-powered PC.

Arrange your iOS home screen any way you like with Makeovr – Tired of the same, boring home screen grid layout that’s been around on iOS since its inception? You’re going to want to read this.

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The process for adding a home screen icon to your iOS device.

Monitor battery status with the help of these five free apps – Don’t get caught short with a powerless device. These apps make it easy to monitor and conserve battery life.

Reddit bans nude images posted without consent – Several months after reddit found itself at the center of a controversy involving stolen celebrity nude photos, the site has changed its policy regarding nudity. As of March 10, any photos posted without permission of those photographed will be banned. The change was announced today in a short statement signed by executives and “the reddit team,” which also mentions new hires and other changes. It alludes to reddit’s failure to act promptly when unruly users in a few subreddits continued to post links to nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and other celebrities. The statement reads:

Google Chrome Experiments launches their 1000th experiment – It’s a landmark day for Google’s Chrome Experiments as they’ve reached 1000 submissions today. Google has curated a collection of user-made games, art, and creative coding it calls Chrome Experiments. These experiments look like games, but each one uses outside-the-box design and coding to create an entirely unique user experience. Launched in 2009, it started with only a handful of games. Now Google has reached its 1000 experiments! To honor the occasion, they have created a unique way to interface with the entire collection of experiments titled Experiment #1000.

Microsoft opens up OneDrive storage for developers to integrate into apps – Microsoft is opening up its cloud storage service, OneDrive, to developers today so they can start integrating it directly into applications. A new OneDrive API will include support for Windows, iOS, Android, and the web, with the full features of OneDrive available directly within apps. “The OneDrive API is a major step toward making the platform more accessible and powerful, but this is only the beginning,” says OneDrive program manager Ryan Gregg. “We are working on a lot of other improvements and features that we will release throughout the year.”

Microsoft kills off Google and Facebook chat for Outlook.com – Microsoft is revealing today that it plans to kill off Google and Facebook chat from its Outlook.com email service “within the next couple of weeks.” In an email to Outlook.com customers, Microsoft says it’s removing Google Talk integration “due to Google’s decision to discontinue the chat protocol used by the Google Talk platform.” Microsoft will also be discontinuing support for Facebook chat in Outlook.com, but the company has not revealed why it’s killing off the social network’s chat integration.

Six awesome Android apps to get your creative juices flowing – Form virtual pottery throwing to music making, these Android apps do wonders to get you out of your mental rut and try something new. Whether it’s humming a ditty into the mic or literally sketching up a mini-masterpiece, there’s likely an app for this, that, and everything else. What follows are examples of Android apps that can help get the creative juices flowing. Spend a few minutes with these and you may unlock a side of you that you didn’t know existed.

Stardock announces Start10, a Windows 10 Start menu replacement – Stardock, the company behind the popular Start8 application, has announced Start10 that brings new Start menu customization options to Windows 10 including the ability to use a Windows 7 styled menu.

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Scout gets IFTTT channel, runs away with DIY home security crown – Home security doesn’t have to be expensive any more. In fact, you can get peace of mind for a few hundred bucks upfront, and never pay another dime. It’s one of the benefits of the ‘Internet of Things’ we keep hearing about. DIY home security is probably best realized with Scout, which lets you migrate between connected monitoring and home-grown security. Already one of the better options around, Scout just got a lot better with a new IFTTT channel.

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Forge, the sketch app for brainstorming, lands on iOS – Drawing apps for iOS are easy to come by, with Paper by FiftyThree or Adobe’s Sketch being the most notable and identifiable apps. Those ask that you use them to completion, though, and provide you with the tools necessary to finish works of art. What if you just want a sketching app, though? Those do the trick, but a new app, Forge, is made for it. Rather than creating something that looks like a painting, Forge is meant for brainstorming.

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New ‘Pebble Time’ Smartwatch Hits Kickstarter – Pebble is returning to its roots today with the Kickstarter launch of its new Pebble Time smartwatch. The next-gen wristwatch features a new color e-paper display and microphone, as well as a thinner, curved design. Like its predecessors (the Pebble and Pebble Steel), the Time syncs with Apple and Android smartphones; users will need an iPhone 4s or newer running the latest iOS, while Android owners must be updated to Android 4.0 or higher.

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How to deal with difficult SD cards that refuse to write data – SD cards can be pricey, but they also pack a lot of storage into a small form factor—if you don’t get one that refuses to work with PCs. If you do, here’s how to fix the issue.

Tips: How the iPhone 6 Plus and Android phones can do real work – Tablets do a nice job standing in for laptops at work, especially when paired with a good keyboard. What some don’t realize is the same is true for smartphones with a large display. The biggest iPhone is particularly good for occasional work tasks if you do it right. The advantage the phone has over other types of mobile devices is that the phone is always with you. This is reason enough to give some thought to using it for work, and with a little preparation it can be a full work system.

VMSave preserves your deceased loved one’s voicemail greeting – Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things in the world. A new service saves the voicemail greetings of those who’ve passed away so you can listen to them forever.

Security:

The NSA’s SIM heist could have given it the power to plant spyware on any phone – The stolen SIM keys don’t just give the NSA the power to listen in on calls, but potentially to plant spyware on any phone at any time. Once the stolen keys have bypassed the usual protections, the spyware would live on the SIM card itself, undetectable through conventional tools, able to pull data and install malicious software. If the NSA and GCHQ are pursuing that capability, it could be one of the biggest threats unearthed by Snowden so far.

Glad you’re not on the Anthem hacker hit list? Not so fast – millions more affected – US health insurer Anthem now says that the recent security breach that exposed the personal data of tens of millions of its customers also affected people who never did business with the firm. That’s because Anthem’s database included data not just for customers of Anthem-run Blue Cross Blue Shield healthcare plans, but also for customers of Blue Cross Blue Shield plans run by other companies outside of the fourteen states in which Anthem operates. Reuters reports that in addition to the 70 million Anthem customers who were affected by the breach, Anthem now estimates that between 8.8 million and 18.8 million customers of other companies’ health plans may also have had their data compromised.

FBI “close” to identifying Anthem hackers, as dozens of state-sponsored groups identified – As many as 78.8 million people may have been affected by the health insurance hack that hit the company earlier this year. That also includes up to 18.8 million customers of non-Anthem plans, the company said. It comes as the FBI confirmed Tuesday it has more than 60 different state-sponsored cyber-threat groups on its radar.

Snowden’s favourite Linux – Tails – rushes sec-fix version to market – Tails, the secure live-boot Linux made famous by Edward Snowden, has had a major revision release to Version 1.3. The new version, released after testing since February 12, combines various security fixes with new apps and simplified install, the developers say. The developers want to kill off the previous version, Tails 1.2.3, as soon as possible, with a list of 14 security issues covering everything from the Tor browser and its network security services (NSS) through to a sudo privilege escalation bug.

Kaspersky Labs Launches Online Bootcamp To Eye Security Startups – More signs that security is rising up the investment agenda: another security-focused accelerator program has launched, hoping to put a clutch of security startups through their paces — this one with backing from veteran security firm Kaspersky Labs, via its educational arm Kaspersky Academy. The incentive here is for Kaspersky to get proximity to new business ideas, and the participating VC firms to improve their security-related deal flow — given they can always step in and invest in any of the early stage businesses that catch their eye.

Feds say skin cancer apps are deceptive – The Federal Trade Commission charges several promoters of supposed melanoma-detection apps with deceptive marketing and says they must provide evidence to back up their claims.

Company News:

Google Tests Live Chat With Businesses From Search Results – Google is testing out a service that incorporates live chat with businesses right into search results, via a new link that shows whether a business is currently available, and immediately launches a chat via Google Hangouts (on either desktop or mobile) if they are. The service resembles Path Talk’s direct messaging platform with local businesses, but incorporates its service right into the business listing search result card it shows on Google.com, which also shows you details including price level, address, map location, phone number, opening hours, ratings and reviews.

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HP gives a bleak forecast as split approaches – Hewlett-Packard has lowered its financial outlook for the year after another quarter of declining sales and profit. CEO Meg Whitman is trying to get HP in shape before the company splits itself in two later this year. One half will sell PCs and printers and the other will focus on back-end business products.

Google Acquires Facebook Marketing Startup Toro – Toro, a startup that helps developers promote their apps on Facebook, just announced that it’s been acquired by Google. The announcement does not disclose the financial terms of the deal. Toro had raised $1.5 million in funding from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, SV Angel, General Catalyst, Keith Rabois, Chris Dixon, Bill Tai and Guitar Hero co-creators Charles Huang and Kai Huang. A Google spokesperson confirmed the news and said Toro will be joining the mobile ads team.

Games and Entertainment:

You got TV in my video game: Telltale, Lionsgate partner for episodic hybrid – Telltale is going a bit outside of its traditional adventure game box for its next foray into interactive storytelling. The studio behind episodic gaming hits like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and The Wolf Among Us has teamed up with film and TV studio Lionsgate (Orange is the New Black) to develop a “Super Show” hybrid combining a traditional TV show with episodic adventure gaming. Each episode of the Super Show will “combine one part of interactive playable content with one part of scripted television style content,” as Telltale CEO Kevin Bruner put it in an announcement interview with Entertainment Weekly. The hybrid episodes will be released together in a package that can be played/watched in either order, though the second portion you experience will be altered based on your experience with the first.

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A scene from Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us

Homeworld Remastered puts you in command of the most stunning space battles ever – Homeworld, a space-based strategy game first released in 1999, is one example of this. Whoever’s call it was to make the spaceships emit colorful light trails in their wake made a pretty amazing decision, because it helped solidify one of the most distinctive art styles in the history of gaming. Homeworld rendered space warfare as gorgeous, balletic battles, with every movement made by your fleet etching rainbow lines against a backdrop of psychedelic nebulae. At least, that’s how I remember it looking. And that’s how Homeworld Remastered Collection, a new re-release of Homeworld and Homeworld 2 that’s out tomorrow, looks. It brings the two games up to date in meticulous detail, while also including the original versions so you can see how far we’ve come. As it happens, we’ve come a long way.

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Grand Theft Auto V for PC delayed again, now expected in April – The game had originally been scheduled for PC release on January 27 – already over two months later than its launch on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – but the games developers said that they needed “a few extra weeks of testing and polish to make it as good as can be”, promising to release it on March 24. Rockstar now says that GTA V for PC will go on sale on April 14th (still 2015, we presume), both in retail stores and as a digital download. Anyone who has already pre-ordered the game will get an extra $200,000 of in-game cash for use in GTA Online.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Cybergeddon: Why the Internet could be the next “failed state” – That day is not yet nigh, but logic suggests the status quo can’t continue forever. The recent rash of major breaches of corporate networks, including the theft of personal information from the health insurer Anthem and the theft of as much as a billion dollars from over 100 banks are symptoms of a much larger trend of cybercrime and espionage. And while the issue has been once again raised to national importance by the White House, it could be argued that governments have done more to exacerbate the problem than address it. Fears of digital warfare and crime are shifting budget priorities, funding the rapid expansion of the security industry and being used as a reason for proposals for new laws and policy that could reshape the Internet.

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You Asked: How Do Driverless Cars Work? – Even though they’re barely on the road, self-driving cars have been talked about so much that they already seem like they’re last year’s model. Google has been working on one for years. Apple is allegedly, possibly, working on one, too. And there’s even speculation that everyone from Uber to Tesla could join the race, too. But before you give up the wheel, get familiar with the technology driving autonomous vehicles.

Instagram account exposes congressman who blew public funds on private flights and concerts – An Illinois congressman was found to have used taxpayer and campaign funds on private plane travel, concert tickets, and other lavish expenses after the Associated Press cross-referenced his Instagram account against his flight records. Republican representative Aaron Schock, who is already facing several ethics probes, reportedly spent more than $40,000 on private air travel from 2011 onwards, and took his interns to a sold-out Katy Perry show in June last year, a $1,928 expense that he listed as a “PAC fundraising event.”

Fresh honey is on tap at these amazing beehives – Amateur apiarists, check out this sweet little creation. It’s a revolutionary new beehive system that literally puts honey on tap in your backyard. The Flow Hive offers an easier — and much gentler — way to collect honey. Put a container under the tube, turn the handle, watch the liquid gold flow. There’s no smoker required and no protective suit is necessary. It looks so safe you could probably do it in the nude if you were so inclined.

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Gerbils replace rats as historical plague spreaders – It would appear that our hatred of rats for the past several hundred years may be due to a bit of mistaken identity. Scientists this week have published a paper which suggests that it wasn’t so much rats that spread the bubonic plague across the planet, but gerbils. Your best buddy, the gerbil – the one you’ve got in a plastic tube cage sitting in your living room right now. He may have been guilty this whole time! All these hundreds of years, keeping silent for his ancestors, the real-deal spreaders of plague.

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Here’s how to make mini ‘rockets’ out of tea bags – DIY guru DaveHax is back with another one fun but pointless project. Here, he makes miniature “rockets” out of nothing more than a standard tea bag. Remember, safety first.

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The big deal about “big data”—your guide to what the heck it actually means – On the surface, “big data” sounds like it ought to have something to do with, say, storing tremendous amounts of data. Frankly it does, but that’s only part of the picture. Wikipedia has an extremely long, extremely thorough (and, overly complex) breakdown of the term, but without reading for two hours, big data as a buzzword refers to the entire process of gathering and storing tremendous amounts of data, then applying tremendous amounts of computing power and advanced algorithms to the data in order to pick out trends and connect dots that would otherwise be invisible and un-connectable within the mass

Something to think about:

“The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly – that is what each of us is here for.”

–      Oscar Wilde

Today’s Free Downloads:

Tweaking.com – Technicians Toolbox – Tweaking.com – Technicians Toolbox is a collection of powerful tools to help both the technician and home users. Portable version also available.

Many of the tools have been built with making certain repair, cleanup and tasks easier, faster and better.

More and more tools will be added to the program over time. Many of the tools have so many options, control and features that they could have been full programs on their own. But the goal was to have everything in one spot.

Here are just some of the tools in the program. Also note that the program has full Unicode support!

Quick Tools (Windows Built-in Tools)

Take A Screen Shot

Check Disk (chkdsk) At Next Boot

Run As System Account

Netstat

Network Information

Static IPv4

TCP & UDP Stats

IP Subnet Calculator

IP Address Scanner

Manage Windows Users

Manage Users

Create New Windows User

User Account Properties

Manage Groups

Create New Windows Group

Group Properties

Bulk Manage Users Tool

Delete, Move Or Rename Locked Files At Bootup

Svchost.exe Lookup

Process Information

Windows Services

Windows Services Safe Mode

Windows Shutdown Timer

CPU Monitor

Drives Monitor

Memory Monitor

Network Monitor

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Tails – Tails is a live system that aims to preserve your privacy and anonymity. It helps you to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leaving no trace unless you ask it to explicitly.

It is a complete operating system designed to be used from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card independently of the computer’s original operating system. It is Free Software and based on Debian GNU/Linux.

Tails comes with several built-in applications pre-configured with security in mind: web browser, instant messaging client, email client, office suite, image and sound editor, etc.

It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and helps you to:

use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship;

all connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network;

leave no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly;

use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging.

 

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Report: Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Police Operating Domestic Black Site – Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Police Department is operating a CIA-style black site on the city’s West Side, according to an explosive new report from The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman. The facility, an otherwise plain warehouse known as Homan Square, also houses military-style vehicles, according to Ackerman.

The Guardian reports that the CPD detains mostly poor, black and brown people at Homan. Once at the site, detainees are allegedly beaten by police, shackled for hours and denied access to counsel. There is no booking at Homan Square, so details about who has been detained at the facility are scarce. “Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are,” Ackerman wrote. “Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts.”

One detainee, 44-year-old John Hubbard, died in an interview room at Homan. There are no official records — or a coroner’s report — concerning Hubbard’s official cause of death, or why he was detained in the first place.

European Lawmakers Demand Answers on Phone Key Theft – European officials are demanding answers and investigations into a joint U.S. and U.K. hack of the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile SIM cards, following a report published by The Intercept Thursday.

The report, based on leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, revealed the U.S. spy agency and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, hacked the Franco-Dutch digital security giant Gemalto in a sophisticated heist of encrypted cell-phone keys.

The European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the European Union’s data protection law, Jan Philipp Albrecht, said the hack was “obviously based on some illegal activities.”

“Member states like the U.K. are frankly not respecting the [law of the] Netherlands and partner states,” Albrecht told the Wall Street Journal.

Sophie in ’t Veld, an EU parliamentarian with D66, the Netherlands’ largest opposition party, added, “Year after year we have heard about cowboy practices of secret services, but governments did nothing and kept quiet […] In fact, those very same governments push for ever-more surveillance capabilities, while it remains unclear how effective these practices are.”

Former FBI Director Defends Metadata Collection – The current practices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court are effective and don’t need to be changed, according to former FBI director Robert Mueller.

“Yes, it’s worthwhile. Metadata of telephone companies is terribly helpful,” Mueller said, speaking Tuesday morning at an American Bar Association breakfast held at the the University Club in Washington, D.C.

Mueller cited the example of the Boston Marathon bombing as evidence that bulk collection is important, saying that analysis of metadata was able to rule out potential associates of the Tsarnaev brothers. “They had additional IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices],” Mueller said, adding that bulk collection helped prevent a second attack.

Metadata collection, he said, “is tremendously helpful in identifying contacts.”

The FISA court’s bulk metadata collection program has come under intense scrutiny in light of disclosures made by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Congress now has until the end of May to decide whether to reauthorize Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the bulk collection program.

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Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 24, 2015

Looking Up Symptoms Online? These Companies Are Tracking You;  This Is the Best Mac Security Software You Can Buy;  This Is the Best PC Security Software You Can Buy;  19 Hidden Chrome Features That Will Make Your Life Easier;  10 good Android apps for productivity;  Free OCR: Turn a picture of text into real text without spending a dime;  18 Google Maps Tricks You Need to Try;  Hands On With YouTube Kids;  Google-owned Blogger bans sexually explicit content;  Timeline: Google’s role in global sex censorship;  Worse than Superfish? Comodo-affiliated PrivDog;  Security experts call for halt to PC crapware;  9 really weird movies you can watch for free;  Cable TV is speeding up its shows slightly to show you more ads;  Watch 10 years of YouTube’s best viral videos;  Marijuana is roughly 114 times less deadly than alcohol;  Bitdefender Adware Removal Tool (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Looking Up Symptoms Online? These Companies Are Tracking You – It’s 2015—when we feel sick, fear disease, or have questions about our health, we turn first to the internet. According to the Pew Internet Project, 72 percent of US internet users look up health-related information online. But an astonishing number of the pages we visit to learn about private health concerns—confidentially, we assume—are tracking our queries, sending the sensitive data to third party corporations, even shipping the information directly to the same brokers who monitor our credit scores. It’s happening for profit, for an “improved user experience,” and because developers have flocked to “free” plugins and tools provided by data-vacuuming companies.

TIME: This Is the Best PC Security Software You Can Buy – We analyzed the best free and paid security software for Windows-based computers that closely matched the “ideal” solution, calculating test results from independent security experts, consumer sites, and technology specialists. Paid software had to not only meet top security ratings, but it had to cost less than $100 per year, be marketed for personal computers, and offer coverage for multiple PCs. And for freeware, we wanted something that had equally strong ratings, was easy to use, and offered a little something extra over the other freebies out there. Here are our picks.

TIME: This Is the Best Mac Security Software You Can Buy – We placed an emphasis on performance and security over a trunk full of features. To find the best freeware, it had to meet top-notch security ratings while still offering a few perks. For paid software, we decided it had to not only achieve high security ratings, but it had to cost less than $100, offer a one-year subscription with multi-device protection, and be designed for home use. With that, we narrowed it down to our two security software picks — one free, one paid — for 2015.

19 Hidden Chrome Features That Will Make Your Life Easier – One of the reasons for Chrome’s popularity is its clean, polished UI and its versatility. While Chrome’s abilities multiply greatly when you consider the near-bottomless library of extensions, there’s a bounty of stock functionality embedded all throughout Chrome’s guts that you may not even know about. Click through our slideshow for a list of 19 hidden tricks hidden inside Chrome that you really need to be using.

10 good Android apps for productivity – Android tablets come in all sizes, making it a sure bet you can find one that helps you be productive. To get the most work done using a tablet requires apps that can handle work tasks. Finding such apps can be a chore given the number of apps in the Google Play store. We’ve done the work for you and present 10 good apps for Android tablets. They range from well-known office suite apps to some more obscure apps that will increase your productivity. Most of the apps have a free version that makes it easy to try, and some add a premium version that adds additional functionality for a nominal fee.

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Free OCR: Turn a picture of text into real text without spending a dime – You may already have an OCR program. OneNote, the outliner and research organizer that comes with many versions of Microsoft Office, has had OCR capabilities since version 2007. If you don’t have Microsoft Office, OneNote is also available as a free download, although you will be required to use or create a Microsoft account. Using it for OCR is very simple. Just copy and paste the image into a OneNote page. Then right-click the image and select Copy Text. OneNote will OCR-copy any text it finds in the image text to the clipboard.

Nutshell Camera turns your photos into mini-movies – Or maybe it turns mini-movies into artistic expressions. Whatever the case, it’s pretty cool. It’s fun, it’s free and it’s definitely different from other apps that let you share snippets of your life.

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18 Google Maps Tricks You Need to Try – The very fact that this technology exists (and is available for free) should be the lead story on the news every night: “Breaking News: all humans are still omniscient beings with God-like powers of teleportation!” But that’s not how we see things. We just take these superpowers for granted. Which is kind of sad, really. Regardless of how you feel about it, Google Maps (and its cousin Google Earth) remain powerful and versatile tools—and most of us are only scratching at the surface of what they have to offer. (And we’re just talking about the Web version, the mobile incarnations are a whole other bag of magic.) Here, we present 18 cool things you didn’t know Google Maps could do. Click on through and experience just a little bit of the power of the everyday.

Hands On With “YouTube Kids,” Google’s Newly Launched, Child-Friendly YouTube App – Today, much to the delight of families everywhere, that app has now arrived, complete with a simplified design, a curated selection of kid-safe content, parental controls, and more. Google says the app will be made available to families on both Android and iOS devices, contrary to earlier reports that YouTube Kids would be Android-first. There’s been a need for an app like this for some time – in fact, parents’ desires for a safer video service for their children even led a number of startups to jump in and fill the void, as YouTube itself was dropping the ball.

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Here are 40 of the best apps available for the Kindle Fire, and Kindle Fire HD and HDX – Some of the apps that made this list focus on collaboration and task-management, while others are designed for consuming videos, books, music, and other media. Some apps are great for the whole family, and others, such as those for taking private notes or accessing personal documents, you might want to keep as your own little secret. Missing from this list are apps that come pre-installed on the Kindle Fire, which include Pulse, Audible, IMDb, Quickoffice, Facebook, and a few others. Many of these apps are indispensable, but, seeing as you already have them, there’s no need to mention them.

Apple’s Latest Betas Bring More Diversity To Emoji – Apple is adding more diverse emoji options to both iOS and OS X, new developer preview builds reveal. These includes various skin color options for emojis featuring people, faces, hands and other exposed skin, as well as new country flags that add to the rather limited original set. The new skin tone options are available as alternates when a user clicks (or taps) and holds on any of the face, hand or people emoji, offering a further six skin color selections for any given enjoy in the People section where it’s applicable (meaning not the space invader, ghost, poo, skull or mask emojis, for instance).

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Google-owned Blogger bans sexually explicit content – Google-owned blogging platform Blogger will no longer allow its users to post sexually explicit content, the company confirmed today. In a statement sent via email to selected Blogger users, Google said it would no longer allow blogs to feature “graphic nude images or video” from March 23rd. Any blogs that continued to show explicit images would be made private after that date — while graphic images and videos would remain, Google says they would only be visible to the blog owner, admins, and other people who the owner shared it with.

Timeline: Google’s role in global sex censorship – While you were busy freaking out about government surveillance, censorship blossomed at the one corporation that has the most power to fight — or enable — suppression of speech: Google.

9 been-around-the-block Office tips – Just because a tip has been used for a long time doesn’t mean it isn’t new to you. Learn a few of Susan Harkins’ old but reliable tips for working more efficiently in Office.

How to Create an App for iOS, Android, or Windows Phone – Like the early days of the Web, several tools have risen that will allow anyone to create a product with little-to-no programming language. (But if you have the coding skills, it will give you the ability to make a truly unique thing). These third-party services will even handle the process of submitting your app to the various stores (e.g. Google Play, the iOS App Store, or the Windows Phone app store). We’ll get into some of those services below, but let’s start with a very basic overview of each environment and how to break in all by yourself.

Security:

Worse than Superfish? Comodo-affiliated PrivDog compromises web security too – PrivDog is marketed as a solution to protect users against malicious advertising without completely blocking ads. The program is designed to replace potentially bad ads with safer ones that are reviewed by a compliance team from a company called Adtrustmedia. As Abdulhayoglu puts it in a January 2014 post on his personal blog in which he describes the technology: “Consumers win, Publishers win, Advertisers win.” However, according to people who recently looked at PrivDog’s HTTPS interception functionality, consumers might actually lose when it comes to their system’s security if they use the product.

Gemalto says NSA SIM card hack might not be so bad after all – Late last week, Edward Snowden revealed another bombshell. In his ongoing quest to reveal the scope of NSA spying, he announced the NSA and GCHQ (NSA’s UK counterpart) hacked a major SIM card provider, Gemalto, in an attempt to get the ‘keys’ to your phone. In hacking your phone via the SIM, the NSA and GCHQ would be able to bypass the carriers, and keep a watchful eye on you with no one being the wiser. In response to the report, Gemalto is now saying it might not be a problem at all.

Chrome warns users of devious software that could impact Google’s business – Google has added an early warning alert to Chrome that pops up when users try to access a website that the search giant suspects will try to dupe users into downloading underhanded software. The new alert pops up in Chrome when a user aims the browser at a suspect site but before the domain is displayed. “The site ahead contains harmful programs,” the warning states. Google emphasized tricksters that “harm your browsing experience,” and cited those that silently change the home page or drop unwanted ads onto pages in the warning’s text.

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Your phone’s power usage can reveal where you’ve been – When you think of smartphone location tracking, both legitimate or otherwise, and you will most likely think of technologies that directly relate to locations, like GPS, WiFi, or even Bluetooth. But a group of researchers from Standford University and Israeli defense group Rafael are proving even something so innocent sounding like your phone’s battery consumption can be used to track your movements. The good news is that it’s not exactly as easy or as informational as those more dedicated sensors. At least not yet.

Security experts call for halt to PC ‘crapware’ after Lenovo debacle – Security professionals want Lenovo — and other PC makers — to stop the practice of loading third-party software on new PCs after one such app was found to be vulnerable to abuse by cyber criminals.

Company News:

First lawsuit filed against Lenovo for Superfish adware – Things are getting serious for Lenovo, as the first lawsuit from their Superfish spyware scandal has been filed in a California court by Jessica Bennett. This is the first lawsuit in what may be a series of legal troubles for Lenovo. This different from run-of-the-mill adware that one might find from a scheduled virus check. Lenovo has been caught putting pre-installed adware from a company called Superfish on their products. This was exceptionally dangerous to Lenovo consumers because it not only leaked their data but left them vulnerable to outside attacks.

Facebook’s Data Protection Practices Under Fresh Fire In Europe – Facebook is facing fresh criticism in Europe over data protection and the myriad smoke-and-mirrors methods it uses to obfuscate its gathering and processing of user data. A report commissioned by Belgium’s data protection authority has found Facebook’s revised privacy policy, last updated in January, violates European consumer protection law in a number of ways.

Google’s privacy policy: Italians probing a little deeper – Google is to be subject to regular on-site spot checks by the Italian data protection regulator under moves to ensure the Chocolate Factory complies with the country’s privacy laws. “For the first time in Europe, it will be the subject of regular checks to monitor progress status of the actions to bring its platform into line with domestic legislation,” said the county’s data protection authority. Quarterly updates on the firm’s progress will be conducted, with the regulator to carry out on-the-spot checks at Google’s US headquarters to verify whether the measures being implemented are in compliance with Italian law. Google will have to be fully compliant with the measures by 15 January 2016.

Twitter Throws Its Weight Behind The FCC’s Net Neutrality Push – Twitter backs the FCC’s push to pass new net neutrality regulations it underlined today, publishing a blog post calling for the passage of open Internet rules that will prevent throttling, paid prioritization. The company also advocated for the regulation of wireless connections under net neutrality rules. The FCC will vote on its open Internet proposal later this week.

Target.com Undercuts Amazon And Walmart With New Free Shipping Minimums – Target today announced a change to its e-commerce site designed to undercut competitors like Amazon and Walmart: It dropped the minimum requirements for free shipping from $50 previously down to just $25. This means that the free shipping minimum requirement from Target is now actually $10 less than it is on Amazon, and half of Walmart’s minimum. While Amazon Prime subscribers are able to choose from over 20 million items available for free two-day shipping, non-subscribers or those buying outside of the Prime catalog have to build orders that are $35 or more in order to qualify for Amazon’s free shipping option.

Google snaps up IP from Softcard, strikes deal with carriers for Wallet – Google Wallet is no Apple Pay, largely because Google can’t play the strong-arm game Apple does about what software is on their iPhone. Not long ago, Google Wallet was sidelined by carriers, as they intended to create their own mobile payment system. Known as Softcard, the app did much of what Google Wallet did, except it had the blessing of carriers. According to a new report, the line between Softcard and Google Wallet (as well as carriers) is blurring.

Games and Entertainment:

The Windows Store’s scam apps will be a problem as Xbox and Windows 10 intertwine – In fairness, Microsoft isn’t alone in battling scams and clones, and we’ve seen similarissues on platforms such as iOS. And to Microsoft’s credit, the company is trying to crack down on bad actors after the issue gained wider attention last year. But as I’ve written before, the Windows Store faces a unique challenge in taking the quantity-over-quality app store model and applying it to the PC. While that model works fairly well for phones and tablets, it doesn’t translate well to laptops and desktops, where people are expecting substantial, high-quality software.

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The new Xbox app in Windows 10.

Nvidia hit with class-action lawsuit over graphics card RAM issues – What started as an arcane debate among hardcore hardware spec analyzers has now become a legal headache for Nvidia. The graphics card maker is facing a class-action lawsuit in the Northern District of California over allegations that it falsely advertised the total hardware power in the GTX 970 graphics card released late last year. In marketing materials and reviewer guides provided when the GTX 970 launched in September, Nvidia advertised a card that had 4GB of high-speed GDDR5 RAM. Earlier this year, though, many users online reported performance issues when trying to utilize the entirety of that RAM, including stuttering and crashing on games and video editing applications.

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Nvidia backtracks on mobile GPU overclocking, new driver set to enable it again – Nvidia has responded to the criticism it received in its customer forums for disabling the overclocking features of their 900M series of GPUs stating it will roll back changes in a new driver update.

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9 really weird movies you can watch for free – You could look for the best films for free online, but that’s boring and predictable. How about some of the strangest? These nine movies are bizarre, unique, and deserve your viewing at least once because of how weird they are. No, they’re not the absolute weirdest films on the Internet, because that’s a rabbit hole with no bottom. However, they’re some fascinating movies you can watch on Hulu, Crackle, Shout! Factory TV, and even YouTube right now, legitimately and for free.

‘Morningstar’ and ‘Decay: The Mare’ are snack-sized games bursting with point-and-click nostalgia – This weekend I took a break from big-budget, explosion fare to dig through the backlog of indie games we’ve accumulated since the start of the year. I wanted something small and easily consumable, and two titles stood out—Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock and Decay: The Mare. The two have a lot in common. They’re both point-and-click adventures, and they both clock in around two hours long. In other words, they’re both the types of games that are hard to fit into our standard reviews format, so they get the honor of ending up bundled here together.

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Valve announces SteamVR, debuting at next week’s Game Developers Conference – That device, dubbed “SteamVR,” is described as a “previously unannounced hardware system,” and it will debut at next week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco alongside “the refined Steam Controller” and “new living room devices.” The brief announcement included no virtual reality device mock-ups or announcements of compatible games. In fact, we can’t imagine many compatible games exist yet, as the announcement noted that Valve Software “is actively seeking VR content creators.” As such, the Steam Universe portal now includes a contact form to schedule GDC demos with Valve to test out the SteamVR Dev Kit.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Cable TV is speeding up its shows slightly to show you more ads – It’s not news that reruns of Friends aren’t what cable TV really wants you to be watching. Networks make money by showing ads, and for years those networks have been looking for ways to pack in more and more quick spots to get you to buy Charmin, Tide, and Viagra. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that many networks are desperately trying to increase the number of commercials you watch per hour, sometimes resorting to subtly speeding up older shows and reruns in an effort to recapture the revenue from tanking ratings. The Journal notes that TBS used compression technology to speed up the Wizard of Oz during its airing last November, causing pop-culture writer Stephen Cox to notice that the munchkins’ voices were pitched higher than normal. TBS, TNT, and TV Land have also sped up shows including Seinfeld and Friends.

FCC Republicans launch last-ditch effort to sink net neutrality plan – With the Federal Communications Commission scheduled to vote on net neutrality rules Thursday, the commission’s two Republicans want to delay the vote by at least 30 days. Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly want the commission to break with past practice by releasing the entire proposal before the vote. Typically, the FCC releases a summary of the proposal but not the entire document until after it votes on it.

Buddha statue contains mummy in “advanced state of meditation” – The man inside this statue is dead according to conventional knowledge and science – but don’t tell him that. The Netherlands-based Drents Museum at the Meander Medical Centre in Amersfoort has taken to scanning this particular fellow recently. The only Chinese buddhist mummy “available in the West for scientific research,” they say, and Erik Bruijn, buddhist art and culture expert, is in charge of the project. Under his care, this reliquary – as its being called – has been under close watch, and ceremonies before scans have been implemented. The CT scan that took place weeks ago had very little to do with the idea that this mummified man was still “in meditation.” Instead, the case here and similar cases are believed by some buddhists to be part of a similar ending – the tukdam state – for advanced monks.

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Mummified buddhist master Liu Quan. Statue (L), CT scan (R). (Photos: Drents Museum)

Will gravestones of the future represent your digital life? – A new artwork at Science Gallery Dublin imagines how all the data that we’re accumulating could be brought back into the real world to define us after death. It places statistics about a person on a gravestone — number of Twitter followers, eBay feedback, Tinder matches, and so on — all of which is informative but fails to actually reveal anything about the human behind the numbers. That may be the ultimate irony of lifelogging: it can help us live and record everything that we do, but it says very little about who we actually are.

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Watch 10 years of YouTube’s best viral videos – YouTube launched 10 years ago this month, and what a decade it has been. Since the days of Charlie the Unicorn, we’ve seen the site become a breeding ground for a whole generation of #brands, artists, and political actors. Thankfully, there’s still all sorts of weirdness filling its servers. YouTube channel The Daily Conversation compiled some of the best viral videos of the last 10 years into one 16-minute retrospective, and it makes for a really nostalgic trip down digital memory lane.

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Marijuana is much safer than alcohol or tobacco, according to a new study – Marijuana is roughly 114 times less deadly than alcohol, according to recent findings published in the journal Scientific Reports. Of the seven drugs included in the study, alcohol was the deadliest at an individual level, followed by heroin, cocaine, tobacco, ecstasy, methamphetamines, and marijuana. Previous studies consistently ranked marijuana as the safest recreational drug, but it was not known that the discrepancy was this large. The researchers determined the mortality risk by comparing a lethal dose of each substance with the amount typically used. Not only was marijuana the lowest of the drugs tested, but there was such a gap between its lethal and typical doses that they classified it as the only “low mortality risk” drug tested. All others were classified as “medium” or “high.”

How to optimize your home lighting design based on color temperature – Once you understand what color temperature is and why it matters, you can choose the right types of light bulbs to improve the quality of your life at home.

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The color temperature of your home lighting can have a significant impact.

Something to think about:

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

–   Harry J. AnslingerAssistant Prohibition Commissioner in the Bureau of Prohibition, first Commissioner of the Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) (1930-1962, 32 years), US Representative to the United Nations Narcotics Commission.

Today’s Free Downloads:

Bitdefender Adware Removal Tool – Bitdefender Adware Removal Tool for PC is a free app that identifies and removes unwanted apps such as adware, malicious hijacker programs, annoying toolbars and other browser add-ons. Keep the apps you like, get rid of the programs that bug you. The tool will only erase those apps that you wish to be removed. It scans your computer for adware, and produces a list of apps marked for removal. App is portable, no install or uninstall needed.

How it works: It scans your computer for adware, and produces a list of apps marked for removal. You will be able to choose what to keep on your computer.

 

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DiskBoss – DiskBoss is an advanced file and disk management solution allowing one to search and classify files, perform disk space utilization analysis, detect and remove duplicate files, organize files according to user-defined rules and policies, copy large amounts of files in a fault-tolerant way, synchronize disks and directories, cleanup wasted disk space, etc.

All file management operations are integrated in a centralized and easy-to-use GUI application with a built-in file navigator allowing one to execute any required operation in a single mouse click. Frequently used file management operations may be pre-configured as user-defined commands and executed using the GUI application or direct desktop shortcuts.

Features:

Disk Space Utilization Analysis

Classification and Categorization

Duplicate Files Finder and Cleaner

High-Speed File Synchronization

Real-Time Disk Change Monitor

File Copy and Data Migration

File Delete and Data Wiping

Rule-Based File Organizing

Rule-Based File Search

Command Line Utility

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Yahoo exec goes mano a mano with NSA director over crypto backdoors – Echoing the concerns of many US-based technology companies have about US-led surveillance programs, Yahoo Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos asked the director of the National Security Agency some pointed questions concerning proposed or existing backdoors placed in encryption technologies. The responses from NSA director Adm. Mike Rogers only underscored the growing divide.

The frank exchange occurred Monday at the Cybersecurity for a New America conference in Washington DC. It came 17 months after materials leaked by former NSA subcontractor Edward Snowden documented NSA-engineered backdoors were built into widely used cryptography technologies so that government agents could decrypt communications. Critics have since warned that the policy could backfire on US citizens, since backdoors can be exploited by governments of a variety of countries. Rogers clearly disagreed, but his denials were notable for a lack of technical detail.

What follows is an excerpt of the exchange, as first provided by website Just Security:

Secrets become history: Edward Snowden in the Oscar-winning Citizenfour – Citizenfour is filmmaker Laura Poitras’ account of the first meetings between herself, Glenn Greenwald, and Edward Snowden. It was first shown publicly last Friday, and it will open in theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco on October 24.

For those who have followed the news around the Snowden documents, even in small doses, Citizenfour isn’t full of revelations (though there are a few surprises). But for viewers interested in surveillance, or the future of the Internet, or journalism—it won’t matter. The film is riveting, and its power is in its source material.

Poitras filmed Snowden for 20 hours over eight days in his Hong Kong hotel, and her film has now given the world an unfiltered portrait of the man who, in the course of the year, became the West’s most wanted dissident.

“Suspicious male in possession of flight simulator game” lawsuit moves ahead – In an order issued Friday, a federal judge in San Francisco has allowed a case challenging the National Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSI) to move forward by denying the government’s motion to dismiss.

The current case, known as Gill et al. v. Department of Justice et al (Gill v. DOJ), seeks to halt the standards that define the entire NSI program. If Gill was successful, it could effectively stop it.

Lead plaintiff Wiley Gill is a white man who converted to Islam as a student at California State University, Chico, and he drew the attention of the Chico Police Department in May 2012. (Chico is about 180 miles due north of San Francisco.) According to the SAR about Gill, the officer entered Gill’s residence in response to an apparent domestic violence incident (Gill was home alone). The officer then saw on a webpage “titled something similar to ‘Games that fly under the radar’” on Gill’s computer.

“Coupled with the fact he is unemployed, appears to shun law enforcement contact, has potential access to flight simulators via the Internet which he tried to minimize is worthy of note,” the SAR, entitled “Suspicious Male Subject in Possession of Flight Simulator Game,” concludes.

Snowden Does Reddit – Edward Snowden, who you might have heard of by now, took to Reddit today along with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Poitras won an Oscar last night for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Poitras’ winning film, CITIZENFOUR, covers when Greenwald, the filmmaker, and Snowden were together in Hong Kong, right before the documents were leaked and the world changed.

I’m no film critic, but I can understand why the film won the award — it’s a raw look at a moment in history that has proven to be geopolitically pivotal, leading to change at the level of nations and multinational corporations.

The Reddit session is much of what you would expect — you can read the full episode here — but there is one Snowden answer I think is worth highlighting in response to a question concerning how to bring domestic surveillance back to the fore of discussion, and perhaps to make it into an issue for the 2016 presidential election.

Here’s Snowden, at full length:

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