Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – August 17, 2015

AT&T helped NSA spy on millions of Americans’ private calls, emails;   Volkswagen Spent Years Hiding This Huge Security Flaw;  10 Do’s and don’ts for every Android user;  Report claims Kaspersky faked malware to trip up competitors’ products;  10 ways your phone has embarrassed you in public;  Three Windows 10 Start menu tweaks that subtly improve your experience;  Stop the Flash madness – 5 bugs a week;  10 cross-platform messaging apps you shouldn’t overlook;  16 Instagram Tips for the Photo Obsessed;  How to get the most out of your rechargeable batteries;  Sick of Windows spying on you? Go Linux;  Zero-day flaw in Google Admin app allows malicious apps to read its files;  Parrot drones easily taken down or hijacked;  The 10 Best Wireless Speakers of 2015;  The 10 Best HDTVs of 2015;  How to Unlock Higher-Quality Xbox Streaming in Windows 10;  The 15 best Android puzzle games for teasing your brain.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

AT&T helped NSA spy on millions of Americans’ private calls, emails – Newly published documents published Saturday, provided by Edward Snowden in 2013, show the US cellular and telecom giant was in cahoots with the intelligence agency as far back as 1985, a relationship that later intensified following the September 11 terrorist attacks. More than two years after the first document was published by reporters, we’re now venturing into the portion of the documents disclosed by Snowden that are highly likely and previously suspected, but now finally confirmed. The report is long, and there are more than 70 pages to digest. Here some of the snippets from the ProPublica-New York Times report:

Stop the Flash madness – 5 bugs a week – On August 11, 2015 Adobe fixed 34 bugs in their Flash Player software. Many of the bugs enabled a computer to get infected with malicious software simply by viewing a web page. This most recent round of bug fixes comes 28 days after Adobe fixed two other Flash bugs, and 34 days after they fixed 36 bugs. Putting this in perspective, the Flash Player has been updated a dozen times so far this year (below). If you are reading this on August 18th, the odds are that Adobe has found, and not yet fixed, 5 new bugs in the Flash Player. Reading this on August 25th? Chances are you are vulnerable to 10 new Flash bugs. Five bugs a week.

Volkswagen Spent Years Hiding This Huge Security Flaw – First we had a report from a U.S. Senator on the security risks facing new car owners, and then the news that Fiat had recalled 1.4 million cars to address security flaws. And this week a paper is being presented at the USENIX security conference in Washington, D.C., on a security flaw affecting “thousands of cars from a host of manufacturers,” according to a Bloomberg News report. We could have known about these risks for some time, as the paper was actually written two years ago, but car makers like Volkswagen fought in court to keep the information private. According to Bloomberg:

10 Do’s and don’ts for every Android user – There are a lot of choices when it comes to making your Android phone all it can be, and a lot of nuance about which are the “best” choices to make. Everyone has an opinion about the best apps, home screen layouts, launchers, and so on. However, there are some enduring certainties that cannot be avoided. Here are ten “do’s” and “don’ts” for every Android user.

Three Windows 10 Start menu tweaks that subtly improve your experience – Wondering how to logout from the Start menu, improve the look and feel of the Start menu, taskbar, and action center, as well as get the Start screen back? Read on.

How to juggle multiple applications using Task View in Windows 10 – When it comes to managing multiple application windows, one of the most common tasks that you perform in the Windows operating system, Windows 10 really has it all! The new Task View virtual desktop feature makes it easy for you to spread out multiple applications. The enhanced Snap feature provides you with a great way to view and work with multiple applications on the same screen. The Shake and Peek feature, which was introduced in Windows 7 and still exist in Windows 10, allows you to zero in on a single application and quickly hide multiple applications respectively. Let’s take a closer look.

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10 cross-platform messaging apps you shouldn’t overlook – When choosing a messaging app, cloud-synchronized chat logs, contact lists, and settings are important considerations. Read about 10 cross-platform messaging apps worth checking out.

16 Instagram Tips for the Photo Obsessed – Are you snap happy? Then you probably have Instagram on your phone. The supersocial photo-sharing app has 300 million monthly active users, but there’s a lot more to the service than just selecting a filter. Read on for 16 more tips and tricks for Instagram.

Microsoft Drops Another Windows 10 Update – And then there were three. Earlier this week, Microsoft released a new set of updates for Windows 10, the third time it has done so since the operating system formally debuted in late July. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s attempt to build a single operating system that can function on devices of any size, or input variety. As before, the update comes with minimal documentation and explanation.

Sick of Windows spying on you? Go Linux – You can try to turn Windows 10’s data-sharing ways off, but, bad news: Windows 10 will keep sharing some of your data with Microsoft anyway. There is an alternative: Desktop Linux. You can do a lot to keep Windows 10 from blabbing, but you can’t always stop it from talking. Cortana, Windows 10’s voice activated assistant, for example, will share some data with Microsoft, even when it’s disabled. That data includes a persistent computer ID to identify your PC to Microsoft.

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Linux Mint looks like classic Windows, but without any of Windows 10’s privacy leaks.

Why you can’t find your product key after upgrading to Windows 10 – With Windows 10, Microsoft is doing away with the conventional product key for digital installs. You may never have to manage product keys again. When you use the free upgrade to Windows 10 or pay for a digital retail version, you don’t get a product key. Instead, your computer uses what Microsoft calls a digital entitlement.

Report: 50 million devices now run Windows 10 – How well is Windows 10 doing? Microsoft hasn’t said anything yet about how many people are running the new OS, but if figures reported by WinBeta are correct, it’s off to a strong start. According to WinBeta’s sources, Windows 10 is now running on at least 50 million devices (PCs and tablets).

How to get the most out of your rechargeable batteries – Seven tips for getting the best possible life out of the Li-Ion rechargeable batteries inside your smartphone, tablet or notebook.

The 10 Best Wireless Speakers of 2015 – Wireless speakers have exploded in popularity, and nearly every major consumer electronics vendor has a cord-cutting model of some sort. Speakers can vary wildly in size, shape, and even the type of wireless connection they use, but this list will probably have at least one speaker that’s right for you. Before anything else, though, you need to decide how you want to go wireless.

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The 10 Best HDTVs of 2015 – The HDTV market has been changing a lot recently, both in terms of technology and price. New types of screens with organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels and Ultra HD (UHD, or 4K) resolutions are popping up everywhere. Big, 50-plus-inch sets that once cost thousands of dollars can be had for around $500. If you want an HDTV, you have more options now than ever. But which one should you buy? Here are the main points to consider when shopping for a new set, as well as the 10 best HDTVs we’ve tested.

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iCloud.com now lets users restore deleted files – With no announcement whatsoever, Apple has just added a new feature to iCloud.com, the browser version of its cloud storage service, that has it rivaling Dropbox just a tad: the ability to restore recently deleted files. Unfortunately, the feature isn’t exactly easy to find, buried in the Advanced Settings menu, so most iCloud users may not even notice it exists. Should they find it though, they’ll be able to restore documents and other files, in addition to recently deleted contacts and calendar entries.

Microsoft sinks in antivirus tests, as Avira, Bitdefender hit top scores – The latest antivirus scores from the Madgeburg, Germany-based testing lab AV-Test ranks Windows Defender as the worst-performing anti-malware app out of the 22 most common consumer products tested. Breaking down that figure, the scores show the app protected against 89 percent of existing widespread malware threats, and 95 percent of new zero-day flaws. The app also scored a paltry score on performance, suggesting it hogs system resources, but scored top marks in user experience, indicating it is easy to use.

Security:

Zero-day flaw in Google Admin app allows malicious apps to read its files – An unpatched vulnerability in the Google Admin application for Android can allow rogue applications to steal credentials that could be used to access Google for Work acccounts. The flaw lies in the way Google Admin processes and loads URLs received from other applications inside a WebView—a simplified browser window.

Mozilla Makes Private Browsing More Private In Firefox, Adds Tracking Protection – Mozilla is testing a new private browsing mode in Firefox that doesn’t just keep no trace of your porn browsing habits on your machine but that also blocks online services that could track you while you’re surfing the web. That’s not unlike what plug-ins like Ghostery and the EFF’s Privacy Badger can do for you, but Firefox now combines that with its own incognito mode. This new experimental feature is now available in the Firefox Developer Edition for Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as the Firefox Aurora channel on Android.

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Report claims Kaspersky faked malware to trip up competitors’ products – Two former employees of Kaspersky Lab have accused the malware protection software company of seeding competitors’ products with fake malware signatures intended to make them erroneously label benign files on customers’ computers as malicious. The allegations, made in a report published by Reuters Friday morning, have been strongly denied by a Kaspersky Lab spokesperson. According to Reuters, the “junk” files were tailored to have the same signature as legitimate files, based on the fingerprinting mechanisms of competitors’ products. To do this, the two former employees alleged, Kaspersky assigned employees to reverse-engineer competitors’ products to see how they identified malware and then tailored samples that would match the signatures of common, harmless files.

My browser visited Weather.com and all I got was this lousy malware – Millions of people visiting weather.com, drudgereport.com, wunderground.com, and other popular websites were exposed to attacks that can surreptitiously hijack their computers, thanks to maliciously manipulated ads that exploit vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash and other browsing software, researchers said. The malvertising campaign worked by inserting malicious code into ads distributed by AdSpirit.de, a network that delivers ads to Drudge, Wunderground, and other third-party websites, according to a post published Thursday by researchers from security firm Malwarebytes. The ads, in turn, exploited security vulnerabilities in widely used browsers and browser plugins that install malware on end-user computers.

Parrot drones easily taken down or hijacked, researchers demonstrate – In two separate presentations at Def Con in Las Vegas last weekend, security experts demonstrated vulnerabilities in two consumer drones from Parrot. The simplest of the attacks could make Parrot drones, including the company’s Bebop model, fall from the sky with a keystroke. In a live demonstration at Def Con’s Internet of Things Village on August 8, Ryan Satterfield of the security consulting firm Planet Zuda demonstrated a takedown of a Parrot A.R.Drone by exploiting the drone’s built-in Wi-Fi and an open telnet port on the drone’s implementation of the  BusyBox real-time operating system. Connecting to the drone gave him root access to the controller, and he was able to kill the processes controlling flight—causing the drone to drop to the ground.

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Apple squashes serious security bug with update to Mac OS X – Released on Thursday, Mac OS X 10.10.5 resolves scores of holes and technical glitches. But one serious bug in particular was squashed along with the rest. The vulnerability in an environment variable known as DYLD_PRINT_TO_FILE in Apple’s OS X was considered serious because it enables hackers to remotely run a program on a Mac using administrator rights, which opens up wide access to the entire operating system. The vulnerability had already been exploited “in the wild,” or in the real world, according to the Guardian, with at least one adware installer taking advantage of it.

Scan your Android for Certifi-Gate vulnerability – This flaw, dubbed Certifi-Gate, was discovered by Check Point and revealed at Black Hat in Las Vegas. The flaw uses a remote support tool’s security certificate to take total control over an Android device. Unfortunately, the Android platform offers no means of revoking the certificates issued to the vulnerable apps. The only way Certifi-Gate can be fixed is for the makers of the remote support tools to issues patches. This means that you are at the mercy of a third-party, and not all third parties are created equal. But which apps are vulnerable? Here’s the official list from Check Point:

Company News:

News Corp. CEO calls Google thieves (and other things) – News Corp. CEO Robert Thompson isn’t moved by Google’s new Alphabet. As Australia’s mUmbrella reports, in a speech at the Lowy Institute Media Awards, Thompson created his own lexicon of what Google’s Alphabet stands for. He said: “That Google’s newly conceived parent company is to be called Alphabet has itself created a range of delicious permutations: A is for Avarice, B is for Bowdlerize, through to K for Kleptocracy, P for Piracy and Z for Zealotry.” Thompson believes that Google represents a leech on the hard work of those who try to create original content, only to have it purloined by Google’s caring, sharing, Web-controlling ways.

IBM Teams With Canonical To Put Ubuntu Linux On Mainframes – You might not think that ‘Linux’ and ‘mainframe’ belong in the same sentence, but IBM has been putting various flavors of Linux on its mainframe computers for 15 years. Today IBM and Canonical announced that the two companies were teaming up to build one running Ubuntu Linux. The new unit is called the LinuxOne. The announcement comes as part of a broader strategy from IBM designed to drive mainframe usage to a wider audience. This new approach includes a monthly subscription pricing model, deeper involvement with other open source projects, contributing a huge cache of mainframe code to open source and participating in the newly launched Open Mainframe Project.

Court denies Samsung request for rehearing in Apple patent case – A U.S. appeals court has denied Samsung Electronics’ request for a rehearing in a smartphone patent infringement case that awarded rival Apple US$548 million. The case stems from a 2011 patent infringement lawsuit brought by Apple, alleging Samsung infringed on several iPhone patents related to the design and packaging of the smartphone. Fellow tech giants Google, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Facebook backed Samsung’s appeal of the damages.

Apple’s self-driving car plans may have just been outed – Apple’s supposed self-driving electric car efforts may be real — and far enough along for testing, according to a new report from the Guardian. The publication, citing documents it obtained under a public records act request, said Apple has met with officials from the GoMentum Station, a large former Navy weapons station near San Francisco that is being changed into a high-security testing area for self-driving cars.

Court dismisses Dallas Buyers Club’s letters to infringers – The Federal Court has ruled that Dallas Buyers Club cannot send the draft letters presented to court to the almost 5,000 Australian IP addresses that have allegedly breached its copyright by downloading infringing copies of the film.

Games and Entertainment:

How to Unlock Higher-Quality Xbox Streaming in Windows 10 – I’ve been having fun with Windows 10; it’s a pretty easy operating system for Windows enthusiasts to comprehend. For gamers, there’s the added perk of being able to play Xbox One games on your PC, especially if your computer setup is better than your TV. These games aren’t played on your PC. Microsoft just streams whatever you’re doing on your Xbox One to your computer, and any controller inputs are sent back to your console.

The 15 most anticipated PC games of (the rest of) 2015 – It’s August, which means we’re technically two-thirds of the way through the year. But don’t tell that to video games. We’re about to enter the vaunted “fall release cycle,” which means in the next three or four months publishers will release more big-name games than they’ve released since January. Like last year, though, delays have pushed some of the year’s most-anticipated titles back to 2016. But all is not lost. We’ve rounded up fifteen of the most interesting PC games still scheduled to release this fall, from Fallout 4 to SOMA.

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Fallout 4 – Nov. 10

Unreal wants you to mod dinosaur world with the ARK Dev Kit – This week the folks at Studio Wildcard and Epic Games have teamed up with Alienware to encourage creative folks to go wild in dinosaur-land. In the world of ARK, that is, a video game where the ancient world and the modern world mix in an absolutely wild open world environment. To begin, users need to sign up for a free Unreal account and download the ARK Dev Kit – which is no small task due to its size. The ARK Dev Kit is a cool 42GB in size. It’s massive. But it’s worth the wait. Inside you’ll be rolling around in code, aiming to create one of the following: New Maps, New Functionality, New Game Modes.

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The Witcher 3 mod tools: What can we expect? – Ever since the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt back in May, a steady flow of mods have been trickling out for the PC version of the game. However, pretty soon modders will be getting new tools to help make content creation even easier via the introduction of official mod tools by CD Projekt Red. But what can we expect from these tools? I recently got the chance to talk to CD Projekt Red about what The Witcher 3’s mod tools can do and what their plans are for mods in the future.

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The 15 best Android puzzle games for teasing your brain – No mater if you’re into match-three games, word puzzlers, engrossing adventures, or tricky touch-centric affairs, we’ve picked 15 essential Android puzzle games worth tossing on your phone or tablet. Whether you’ve got two minutes or two hours to fill, you’ll find some excellent choices within.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Brilliant GPS navigation system changes to children’s voice near schools – We often drive unconsciously. Our minds drift as our hand-eye coordination pilots our cars automatically. Until, sometimes, it’s too late. So a Scandinavian insurance company — the confidently named If Insurance — came up with an idea that seems blissfully simple, yet potentially very effective. It’s a GPS navigation system with a tiny difference. Whenever you’re driving near schools, day care centers or anywhere where there might be children, the system’s voice switches to that of a child.

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Why Google Became Alphabet, Explained In 120 Seconds – What are the pros and cons of Google reorganizing itself as Alphabet? Well, Larry gets to play with the future, Google can focus on more ambitious projects, and it could help the company retain top talent. But will the independent Alphabet company CEOs get frustrated relying on Larry for resources? Here’s everything you need to know in a quick two minute video.

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How to Get Started With a Fitness Tracker – If you just got your first activity tracker, whether a Fitbit or some other device, you’re about to become aware of your body and fitness level in a whole new light! Fitness trackers bring an awareness to our daily habits and patterns that few other devices can. As a huge proponent of fitness trackers, I personally test and try out as many of them as I can. I remember how it felt to get my first one, and how annoyed I was when I realized after several hours that I hadn’t set it up right! I also know that there are some aspects of fitness trackers you should learn about as soon as possible, because you need to use them for several days before they tell you anything meaningful.

The smartphone battleground of India — and why Xiaomi wants in – India is the world’s fastest growing smartphone market, predicted to overtake the US in just two years. And it’s already becoming one of the most bitterly fought-over pieces of turf in the global smartphone war.

Nerf’s new ‘Rival’ tactical guns are for grown ups, fire at 70MPH – Nerf guns are fun for a moment or two, but the combination of endless dart hunting and lackluster shooting speed/accuracy wears thin quickly. As such, the play rifles have largely been relegated to the realm of children, but that’ll be ending with the maker’s new ‘Rival’ lineup of tactical guns for competitive play. Nerf has been silently working on these new tactical arms for more than four years, and this week graced us all with a behind-the-scenes look at what went into making them. Pre-orders are live, but you’re probably too late: most of them are sold out already.

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Watch as astronauts soar over an Aurora Borealis in the space station – This isn’t your run-of-the-mill snapshot of the Northern Lights. The ten-second clip catches the spectacular moment right as the vibrant greens and violet swirls of light meet the blinding white of the sunrise. The scene, however brief, is otherworldly and reminiscent of fantastic sci-fi visages from the arts. It looks like something out of a Mass Effect cutscene or the psychedelic trip to “The Infinite and Beyond” in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Except this is no piece of fiction: this is real life, and it’s right here near Earth.

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10 ways your phone has embarrassed you in public – Sometimes your smartphone is a life-saver – like when it helps you avoid super awkward situations. But other times it’s not so awesome—like when it rings in the middle of your grandfather’s funeral service, or when your obsession with it causes you to fall into a fountain while texting: Here are 10 times your phone is not on your side. And in public, no less!

Something to think about:

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

–     Mae West

Downloads:

Kingsoft Writer Free 2013 – Kingsoft Writer Free 2013 is a totally free word processor program with the qualities matching Microsoft Word and includes a wide range of easy to use features. It is the best Microsoft Word replacement supporting all the Word file formats including .docx. The easy to use user interface makes Kingsoft Writer an attractive choice of software for complete beginners and even the most advanced users. In addition, it introduced lots of useful functions including a built-in Word to PDF converter, automatic spell check, web layout view, etc.

As a free word processor, Kingsoft Writer is more powerful compared with any other similar software, regardless of interface, operation, or storage format. With Kingsoft Writer, it is easy to create visually stunning documents and manage your files. Using the default format already defined, users can save the editor time from having format each document.

The latest version supports saving file as DOCX format.

Pointing up      I’ve used this free application for years. In fact, this is the application that I used to initially set up the web page you are now reading. The screen capture below is an example of my everyday usage of this super freebie.

WPS Office Free 2014 (which includes Kingsoft Writer Free), is also available.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Leaked NSA documents show AT&T had a ‘highly collaborative’ relationship with spy agency – New documents released by Edward Snowden reveal AT&T was far more than just a willing participant in the National Security Agency’s efforts to snoop on the world’s internet usage. NSA documents say that the agency had a “highly collaborative” relationship with AT&T, and the company is described as having an “extreme willingness to help.”

The new details come from a joint report from The New York Times and ProPublica. The key takeaway is that it appears AT&T was happy to help the NSA. It’s already been documented that the telecom giant, like other service providers, did not try to protect its customers’ privacy or make efforts to restrict the NSA’s reach. But it now seems clear that AT&T went out of its way to accommodate the NSA.

According to the joint report, AT&T installed surveillance equipment — at the NSA’s request — in no fewer than 17 internet hubs across the US. To put that in perspective, it’s said that Verizon, the other major telecom in the US, installed “far fewer” systems at its hubs. The NSA’s payments to AT&T for its cooperation — which were previously revealed to be $10 million in 2013 — are reportedly more than double what the agency paid for the second largest program. It’s likely Verizon was the recipient of the second-largest payments.

In addition, the documents reveal that AT&T provided the NSA with emails sent between foreigners years before Verizon started the practice.

The end of privacy as we know it: 60 Minutes uncovers huge mobile phone security vulnerabilities  – IT’S the dirty little secret that’s facilitating what’s being called the biggest breach of privacy ever.

Government, security agencies and the telecommunications industry will be forced to explain a security hole that allows hackers to listen in to conversations and hijack Australians’ mobile phones after it’s exposed by a 60 Minutes investigation, the program claims.

In an investigation into mobile security spanning three continents, reporter Ross Coulthart believes he has uncovered a security vulnerability that could affect any of us, and there’s nothing being done to stop it.

“What it means is that your smartphone is an open book,” he told news.com.au

“Criminals now have access to these huge security holes to steal your data and listen in to your calls. We know telephone companies know about it, we know security agencies know about it, but nothing is being done.” (recommended by Mal C.)

Harper (and friends – Tony Abbott and David Cameron) are a bigger threat than IS – Conservatives PMs Stephen Harper, Tony Abbott and David Cameron parrot the same message — selling fear to win votes.

The comedian Peter Sellers acting in the role of Inspector Clouseau has always been one of my investigative heroes. So, using Clouseau-like sleuthing skills, I think I have finally figured out what Stephen Harper must have meant in the recent Canadian election debate when he warned of an “international movement” presenting “a very serious menace to this planet, including to this country.”

I respectfully submit the following as evidence:

With the next three statements, made in recent days by separate individuals in three different countries, I ask you this question: What is the common thread?

“It would be absolutely foolish for us not to go after this group before they come after us.”

“This is the threat of our generation, the battle of our generation and the fight that we’re going to have.”

“They’re coming after us. We may not feel we are at war with them, but they are certainly at war with us.”

(Drum roll, please …)

And the answer is … conservative prime ministers!

These were words uttered recently by 1) Stephen Harper, Canada; 2) David Cameron, United Kingdom; and 3) Tony Abbott, Australia.

Their similarities are revealing. What links these three leaders, apart from their common ideology, is a remarkably identical — and extreme — approach to the challenges of today’s Middle East. In fact, there are growing signs that these politicians, all comrades in arms, are quietly working from the same playbook.

After all, the formula is simple: Wildly exaggerate the actual threat. Inflame the rhetoric. Blame Muslims. Brush aside issues of human rights. And strap in — while the votes flow your way. It is a clever way to distract voters from more immediate and genuine threats, such as climate change and the economy.

In my view, if this doesn’t fit the criteria of an “international movement” posing “a very serious menace to this planet,” I don’t know what does.

New York Times: The Closing of the Canadian Mind – THE prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, has called an election for Oct. 19, but he doesn’t want anyone to talk about it.

He has chosen not to participate in the traditional series of debates on national television, confronting his opponents in quieter, less public venues, like the scholarly Munk Debates and CPAC, Canada’s equivalent of CSPAN. His own campaign events were subject to gag orders until a public outcry forced him to rescind the forced silence of his supporters.

Mr. Harper’s campaign for re-election has so far been utterly consistent with the personality trait that has defined his tenure as prime minister: his peculiar hatred for sharing information.

Americans have traditionally looked to Canada as a liberal haven, with gun control, universal health care and good public education.

But the nine and half years of Mr. Harper’s tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of that reputation for open, responsible government. His stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively. He has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is worried net neutrality might help the terrorists – In a remarkable feat, internet providers have apparently succeeded in making the net neutrality fight about terrorism. In a newly-published letter delivered to the Federal Communications Commission in May, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) raised concerns that the new net neutrality rules might be used to shield terrorists. In particular, Feinstein was concerned that Dzhokar Tsarnaev had studied bomb-making materials on the internet — specifically, online copies of AQAP’s Inspire magazine — and that many broadband providers had complained to her that net neutrality rules would prevent them from honoring any orders to block that content.

It’s quite a bind, and in the letter, Feinstein entreats FCC chair Tom Wheeler to assure providers that it isn’t true. The senator acknowledges that there are laws against material support for terrorism, and Title II only applies to legal web traffic, but “nonetheless, there is apparently confusion among at least some broadband providers on whether they may take such actions in order to promote national security and law enforcement purposes.”

This argument is nonsense for at least three different reasons.

Will Supreme Court force DHS to divulge secret plan to cut cell service? – The Supreme Court was asked in a petition to force the government to disclose the US clandestine plan to disable cell service during emergencies.

The case concerns Standard Operating Procedure 303. A federal appeals court in May said the government did not have to release its full contents because the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows the authorities to withhold records if they would “endanger” public safety.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center told the high court’s justices Tuesday that the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s decision created a new “catchall provision that can be used in any case involving records related to domestic and national security programs.” (PDF)

The privacy group had demanded the documents from the Department of Homeland Security in 2011 following the shuttering of cell service in the San Francisco Bay Area subway system to quell a protest. The Department of Homeland Security refused to divulge the documents associated with SOP 303, which the appeals court described as a “unified voluntary process for the orderly shut-down and restoration of wireless services during critical emergencies such as the threat of radio-activated improvised explosive devices.”

Woman fined for Facebook pic of police car in disabled spot – In the US, citizens have begun to film the police with abandon.

In turn, the police have started to wear bodycams in order to capture what they see.

In Spain, however, a new gagging law has been enacted. It’s titled the Citizens Security Law.

When laws are named this way, you get the feeling that citizens’ security might not be their primary aim.

This law limits what people can post on social networks about, for example protests. It also prevents “the unauthorized use of images of police officers that might jeopardize their or their family’s safety or that of protected facilities or police operations.”

Oddly, this law has just been used to fine a woman who took a photograph of a police car. This particular car was parked (illegally) in a disabled spot.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – August 14, 2015

Even when told not to, Windows 10 just can’t stop talking to Microsoft;  Viral video shows how easily predators lure kids on social media;  You Can Now Run Windows 10 On Your Mac;  Classic Shell and Start10 banish Windows 10 Live Tiles, bring back Windows 7 look;  5 tips to make your Android phone run faster, longer;  Five easy-to-use apps for comparison shopping;  Amazon Appstore gives away 39 paid apps, including Goat Simulator and Sonic the Hedgehog 2;  Twitter lifts 140 character limit on direct messages;  4 ways to make Evernote smarter and safer;  Lenovo used shady ‘rootkit’ tactic to quietly reinstall unwanted software;  YouTube Live Broadcast revealed: watch out Periscope;  Have an iPhone? Mac? Just about anything else Apple flogs? Patch now;  All the movies you can watch online for free in August;  Fallout 4: New perks, new shooting, and a very familiar feel;  Turn Your TV Into A Huge Smart Touch Display With The $99 Touchjet WAVE;  Microsoft quietly rewrites its activation rules for Windows 10;  The 15 Scariest Things at Black Hat 2015.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Viral video shows how easily predators lure kids on social media – Think your daughter would never get inside a car with a stranger or open the door of your home to someone she just met on Facebook? Think again. YouTuber Coby Persin — a self-described 21-year-old “prankster who looks like Zac Efron” — decided to put those questions to the test with the help of three families, and record the results on video. He created a fake Facebook profile for one 15-year-old “Jason Biazzo” and then, with the parents’ permission, contacted the three unsuspecting teenage girls to see how far they would go to meet their new online contact. Persin’s video is far from a prank, he insists, and his findings are extremely scary. The video, called The Dangers of Social Media (Child Predator Social Experiment), is also attracting attention, garnering more than 17 million views since being uploaded on August 10.

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Even when told not to, Windows 10 just can’t stop talking to Microsoft – Windows 10 uses the Internet a lot to support many of its features. The operating system also sports numerous knobs to twiddle that are supposed to disable most of these features and the potentially privacy-compromising connections that go with them. Unfortunately for privacy advocates, these controls don’t appear to be sufficient to completely prevent the operating system from going online and communicating with Microsoft’s servers.

Microsoft quietly rewrites its activation rules for Windows 10 – With Windows 10, Microsoft has rewritten the rules for how it performs product activation on retail upgrades of Windows, including the free upgrades available for a year beginning on July 29, 2015. The net result is that clean installs will be much easier–but only after you get past the first one. The biggest change of all is that the Windows 10 activation status for a device is stored online. After you successfully activate Windows 10 for the first time, that device will activate automatically in the future, with no product key required. That’s a huge change from previous versions of Windows, which required a product key for every installation. And it’s potentially an unwelcome surprise for anyone who tries to do a clean install of Windows 10 without understanding the new activation landscape.

Classic Shell and Start10 banish Windows 10 Live Tiles, bring back Windows 7 look – While the Windows 10 Start menu brings back some elements from Windows 7, it’s not exactly the same as it used to be. Here are two ways to make the menu more familiar.

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Default Windows 10 Start menu on the left, Start10 on the right.

You Can Now Run Windows 10 On Your Mac – Thanks to the new Boot Camp 6 update, you can now run Windows 10 on your Mac. Boot Camp, a program that allows users of Intel-based Macintosh computers to run the Microsoft Windows XP operating system, was revealed to be updated in a new support document on Apple’s website.

5 tips to make your Android phone run faster, longer – There’s a lot of power contained within that little glass rectangle you carry around all day. We’ve got eight-core CPUs, multiple gigabytes of RAM, and batteries with thousands of milliampere-hours of capacity, but sometimes the experience doesn’t live up to the hardware’s potential. Things go wrong, settings get screwed up, and apps get greedy for resources. This can render a phone sluggish and kill the battery. That’s certainly a problem, but don’t worry, we can fix it in a few simple steps.

Nextbook 10.1 Windows 2-in-1 for $179 at Walmart – Those looking for a budget-friendly Windows hybrid should check out this one at the local Walmart. An inexpensive Windows 2-in-1 — a laptop that can be also used as a tablet — can be the ideal purchase for the kids. It can also be a good way to get familiar with the latest version of Windows without losing the familiar version on the main PC. Walmart has such a laptop for just $179. The Nextbook 10.1 doesn’t have powerful hardware inside but the specifications aren’t bad for the price. It features a quad-core Intel Atom processor, 1GB of memory, 32GB of storage, and a 10.1-inch display (1280 x 800). It has a claimed battery life of 10 hours, which is quite good for this price range.

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Five easy-to-use apps for comparison shopping – We all shop. There’s no way around it. Sometimes we shop to fill our personal needs and sometimes we shop to take care of our businesses. No matter the reason, you want to shop responsibly and save as much money as you can. Let’s take a look at five great apps that can streamline your shopping chores and help you save money.

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Amazon Appstore gives away 39 paid apps, including Goat Simulator and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – The best kind of back-to-school shopping is the free kind. Amazon has obliged with another fire sale in its Appstore for Android. You know the drill: be sure you’ve installed the Amazon Appstore app on your device, and then head there or to the web portal for the latest freebies. There are some neat titles here, like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Goat Simulator, and tower defense game Bloons TD 5. The sale is good through August 15, so don’t dally. Here’s the full list, with a link to grab it directly from Amazon:

4 ways to make Evernote smarter and safer – Even if you’ve been regularly using Evernote to capture your notes and ideas, you’ve probably only scratched the surface of what it can do. Here are some features and tricks that can help you take your Evernote expertise to the next level.

Twitter lifts 140 character limit on direct messages, further enhancing DM functionality – There are plenty of services available that allow you to carry out private conversations across platforms. With today’s announcement, Twitter makes it easier to serve as your messaging service. Previously, direct messages were limited to the same 140 character limit as a public Tweet. Starting today, that limit has been lifted to 10,000 characters for direct messages. This should provide more than enough capacity for even the chattiest person.

Google launches “Android Experiments” for your phone, watch, and tablet – This morning Google launched (officially, this time) Android Experiments, a collection of apps for Android smartphones and tablets. Google suggests that these “experiments” celebrate creativity and code on Android – and they’ve got the hand-picked collection credentials to prove it. Every app in the Android Experiments gallery has been chosen by Google specifically because they embody the aim of this project. Google wants developers to “push the limits of what’s possible on phones, tablets, watches, and beyond.”

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Yahoo’s Audio-Free Video Messaging App Livetext Is Now Available Worldwide – If you were intrigued by Livetext, the audio-free video messaging app launched by Yahoo last month, but don’t live in the U.S. or the handful of test markets where it was available, then we have news for you. The app is now live worldwide, which means anyone with an iOS and Android device can get hold of it.

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Periscope Has 10M Registered Users Watching 40 Years Of Video Per Day – Periscope may have just hit the impressive milestone of 10 million registered users after just four months, but what it wants you to focus on is the sheer volume of video content that its users are streaming: nearly 40 years of watch time every day from its iOS and Android apps. The lifetime of content, which amounts to just over 350,000 hours of video streamed per day, doesn’t even include the videos viewed through browsers on periscope.tv, as the service is still looking to track Time Watched on that medium more precisely.

YouTube Live Broadcast revealed: watch out Periscope – If Periscope and Meerkat are to be believed, live-streaming video from your point of view is the new big thing, and so YouTube is getting in on the deal. YouTube Live Broadcast, revealed today as a feature on the new Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+, turns the smartphone camera into a live-streaming platform. That video can be shared privately with just a few contacts, or alternatively beamed out publicly to anybody with access to your YouTube channel.

Turn your Fire TV or Fire TV Stick into a Chromecast (almost) with this $8 app – Google’s Chromecast dongle is the best way to send video from a phone, tablet, or PC to your television, but its lack of a proper remote and TV interface can be a sticking point. But if you have an Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, a new app could give you the best of both worlds. It’s called YouMap Cast Receiver, it costs just $8, and it duplicates much of Chromecast’s functionality, including tab mirroring in Chrome and sending video from Cast-supported apps. I’ve tried it, and it works fairly well with a few caveats.

Security:

Lenovo used shady ‘rootkit’ tactic to quietly reinstall unwanted software – Even when users reinstalled a clean version of Windows on some Lenovo devices, the software would still reappear.

Android security on the ropes with one-two punch from researchers – Android security woes got worse on Thursday, with two separate reports of code defects that put millions of end users at risk. The first involves the update Google released last week fixing a flaw that allowed attackers to execute malicious code on an estimated 950 million phones with nothing more than a maliciously crafted text message. Seven days later, security researchers are reporting that the patch, which has been in Google’s possession since April, is so flawed that attackers can exploit the vulnerability anyway.

Have an iPhone? Mac? Just about anything else Apple flogs? Patch now – Apple has issued a huge wad of updates to address dozens of CVE-listed security vulnerabilities in iOS, OS X Yosemite, Safari, and OS X Server. The update includes fixes for security flaws that an attacker could exploit to remotely execute code on one’s shiny belongings. For newer iOS devices, Apple is putting out the iOS 8.4.1 software update. The patch applies to iPhone 4S and later, iPod Touch 5th generation and later, and iPad 2 and later. Among the fixes are patches for four code-signing vulnerabilities in iOS discovered and used by the TaiG Jailbreak Team, a hacking team famous for discovering ways to unlock iOS devices via security exploits. Those flaws would allow unsigned (and potentially unsafe) code to run on iOS hardware.

Microsoft Just Fixed Windows 10’s First Problems – In its monthly round of security fixes, Microsoft has included five bulletins that address Windows 10 issues, and one that covers the new Edge browser included in their newly-launched operating system. These patches include addressing vulnerabilities in the .NET framework that could allow for elevation of privilege (meaning a hacker could potentially make changes only a user with admin rights could make), vulnerabilities in a Microsoft graphics component that could allow remote code execution, and fixing an information disclosure vulnerability.

‘Cyberflashing’ incident ushers in new era of perverts – The modern world is full of funny new terms that speak of situations facilitated by the gadgets we carry around with us. The new word buzzing around is ‘cyberflashing’, and some are saying the first of such incidents has taken place via a lone pervert using AirDrop. Reportedly, the suspect used Apple’s AirDrop to send unsolicited indecent pictures (it is unclear whether they were images of the suspect) to a passenger on a train in London. Police say they have investigated the matter.

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Cisco warns customers about attacks installing rogue firmware on networking gear – Installing rogue firmware on embedded devices has long been a concern for security researchers, and it seems that such attacks have started to gain ground with hackers. In an advisory Tuesday, Cisco Systems warned customers that it is aware of a limited number of cases where attackers have replaced the boot firmware on devices running its IOS operating system. IOS runs on most Cisco routers and switches and provides a complex set of networking tools and features. Attackers used valid administrative credentials in order to replace the ROMMON image on IOS devices, Cisco said.

This card skimmer is so slim it was hidden inside the card slot – You might be able to avoid some card skimmers by checking an ATM for obvious signs of tampering before using it. This one, however, you’d never even notice. It was hiding right inside the machine’s card slot. Experts actually have a special name for this thing — it’s called a shimmer because of its incredibly slim profile. It’s specifically designed for use in ATMs that feature a chip reader, and all a criminal has to do is slide it in through the card slot like he or she was inserting a card to make a withdrawal.

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Researchers reveal electronic car lock hack after 2-year injunction by Volkswagen – In 2012, researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands discovered a security flaw in a common automotive security chip used in theft prevention by Volkswagen, Audi, Fiat, Honda, and Volvo vehicles. But after they disclosed their results to the auto manufacturers—a full nine months before they planned to publish them—the automakers sued to keep them quiet. Today, that suppressed paper is finally being presented at the USENIX security conference in Washington, DC. Entitled “Dismantling Megamos Crypto: Wirelessly Lockpicking a Vehicle Immobilizer,” the paper details how researchers Roel Verdult, Flavio Garcia, and Baris Ege uncovered weaknesses in the cryptography and authentication protocol used in the Megamos RFID transponder used in car immobilizers used in many luxury vehicles. The list of impacted cars includes vehicles from Volkswagen’s Porsche, Audi, Bentley, and Lamborghini brands.

Lax IoT security: Smart TVs and wearables are paving the way for massive privacy breaches – However secure a connected device is when consumers buy it, there’s little guarantee of its safety in the long haul, which is one of the reasons why internet-of-things vendors are being told they need industry guidelines.

Company News:

Lenovo pre-tax income drops 80 percent with 3,200 jobs to go – Despite an increase in its first-quarter revenue, Chinese computing giant Lenovo has seen a significant drop in its profit, and in response will be restructuring its business. For the quarter, revenue improved by 3 percent, to come in at $10.7 billion, but pre-tax income fell 80 percent year on year to be reported at $52 million, with operating profit taking a 67 percent year-on-year cut to $96 million. The company said its numbers were a result of “severe challenges” as it saw significant declines in PC and tablet sales across the world, and faced a slower growth and increased competition in China.

Tinder follows Twitter meltdown with new CEO – This week Tinder was in the news for its epic meltdown, which took place on Twitter in tweet form following a piece about the company in Vanity Fair. The company has left that news behind, though, admitting that it shouldn’t have happened and then quickly shifting focus: the company has given CEO Chris Payne the boot, and will be replacing him with former CEO and co-founder Sean Rad. The reason is said to revolve around Payne not being a good fit for the company, something Payne is said to agree with. As a result, Payne will be leaving and Rad, who stepped down from his position several months ago, will be resuming his former role.

Apple subscription TV service said to face further delay – Web-based TV service won’t debut until at least next year because of a lack of progress in licensing programming, Bloomberg reports.

HTC to cut work force by 15 percent, amid struggling smartphone sales – Struggling HTC is cutting 15 percent of its work force in an attempt to cut costs and revive its ailing smartphone business. The Taiwanese company announced the lay offs on Thursday, after its second quarter earnings took a dive, for a NT$8 billion (US$257 million) loss. HTC declined to mention the exact number of layoffs. But as of March 31, the company had 15,685 employees, according to its most recent annual report. This means a 15 percent reduction could end up cutting 2,300 jobs.

Google gets more time to answer EU charge of abusing search dominance – The European Commission grants the technology giant another two weeks to respond to allegations of using its dominance in search to advance its own services and harm rivals. The EC antitrust investigation began in 2010, and is considering whether Google took advantage of its dominant position in the search market by promoting its own products, such as shopping search, above those of competitors.

Games and Entertainment:

Fallout 4: New perks, new shooting, and a very familiar feel – The more popular a franchise gets, the less room there is to take creative risks and rock the boat. Such is the curse of success. From what I’ve seen Fallout 4 is an apt demonstration of this idea. Its approach is one of enhancing past successes rather than exploring new directions. Perks, shooting, levelling up, and exploration have all been boosted in some way, but only within the predefined boundaries that the audience already understands. This direction is not necessarily good or bad—it all comes down to how much you value iteration over innovation, and of course, how entertaining the thing is in the first place.

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Hateful Eight trailer released: watch Tarantino’s next epic – Up front of this next trailer is Samuel L Jackson, set to light up The Hateful Eight the right way. Eight Strangers. One Deadly Connection. And one of them fellas is not what he says he is. And you’re going to be able to see this film in “glorious” 70mm, Ultra Panavision 70, just like Quentin Tarantino wanted you to. Just so long as the theater you’re going to has the capability of showing you that the way he wanted.

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All the movies you can watch online for free in August – You look like someone who needs to watch many movies about leprechauns who terrorize humans. You’re in luck! Six “Leprechaun” movies arrived on Crackle just for the month of August. In case you are not a leprechaun-phile, some great titles are arriving include “Jerry Maguire,” “District 9,” “Legend of Zorro,” and perhaps the best horror-comedy of all time, “Shaun of the Dead.” Check out the full list below:

Windows 10’s secret Xbox setting makes game streaming look way better – Xbox One game streaming to Windows 10 PCs is one of the best features of the new operating system. While Microsoft has a variety of settings that will suit a home network bandwidth, there’s a secret one hidden away that unlocks the full potential of Xbox One streaming. Reddit users have uncovered a way to unlock a “very high quality” setting that streams games with better quality. I’ve tested the setting and there’s a noticeable difference in quality from the regular high quality setting. Games look less blurred and sharper, but the required bandwidth naturally increases.

PlayStation 4 still on top in July, says NPD – Microsoft may have wowed the crowd at Gamescom early this month, and may even have won hearts, but Sony is still winning wallets, at least in July and for now. Market research firm NPD has just given their report on the console gaming market in the US for the past month and Sony is only too happy to share it. That’s because, despite not having new games for the season, both in general and for Sony specifically, the PlayStation 4 still ranked as the top console and its games the top software for July.

Sesame Street gets “exclusive” with HBO – Sesame Street is about to break standards for television shows that’ve been on for 45 seasons. Not that a lot of shows have been on for that long, of course. But here the Sesame Street show is prepared not to go off and fade away, but to grow. Signing a deal with HBO, Sesame Workshop has promised five seasons to HBO with “almost twice as much new content as previous seasons.” This content will be “exclusive” to HBO for nine months after each episode is aired, after which PBS will be allowed to show reruns for free.

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This game will shut itself down when enough players have died – The first-person, multiplayer thriller takes place in a post-apocalyptic version of the year 3000, one where players compete for a mysterious object known as the “light artifact.” As you battle you can, like in most games, die. But each death brings The Flock closer to its ultimate conclusion. Dutch studio Vogelsap has set a counter, and once the in-game death toll reaches 215,358,979, new players won’t be able to purchase the game, and the story for those who are playing will move into the final phase.

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Here Are The Drugs You Can’t Use in Professional Gaming – The Electronic Sports League (ESL) on Wednesday revealed the full list of drugs it will ban for gaming competitions. “As the world’s largest and oldest esports organization, ESL has an ongoing commitment to safeguarding both the integrity of our competitions and that of esports as a whole—we wish to ensure we can provide a fair playing field for all participating players,” Ella McConnell, senior editor of ESLGaming, wrote in a statement. ESL is working with the World Anti-Doping Agency to choose which drugs are prohibited. The current list includes everything from cocaine to steroids to ADHD medication Adderall. Those with legitimate medical reasons for taking Adderall will need proof from a physician.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Eagle joins kangaroo, hawk in sky battle against drones – Most drones are equipped with cameras, and those cameras are excellent at capturing the assaults against the drone and its death spiral out of the sky. Nature itself hasn’t taken kindly to drones on more than one occasion — we’ve seen one drone get taken down by an apparently annoyed kangaroo after a drone wouldn’t stop being nosy, and we’ve seen a hawk swoop down and take a drone out of the sky. The latest video to surface is similar, but this time involves an eagle that decides to engage in a brief sky battle.

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Turn Your TV Into A Huge Smart Touch Display With The $99 Touchjet WAVE – Innovations on the good ol’ family television have moved from 3D to 4K to curved panel over the years. But what all of those evolutions have shared are a heightened price tag for a whole new device. An Indiegogo campaign that launched yesterday is hoping to bring some crazy new functionality to your existing TV by way of a $99 device that adds touch controls and other smart features to your TV. The Touchjet WAVE allows you to control your television with your finger, a stylus or your smartphone, while also letting you download a host of apps directly to your TV.

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ISS pictures are being used to map global light pollution – A project called Cities at Night is using photographs taken by astronauts from the International Space Station to map nightly light pollution in cities across the world. The project started last summer, and requires the mapping of more than 130,000 high-resolution photographs using geo-centric details. This project is looking at the amount of light produced by cities across the entire globe, including the smaller sources of scattered light in addition to the bigger, more obvious points of light pollution.

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11 Jaw-Dropping Miniature Movie Sets – In the good old pre-digital days, if filmmakers wanted to shoot a scene in a fantastic environment they had to get their hands dirty and build it. Good set design could go a long way, but for wide shots a very specific art form was born: the art of the miniature. In this feature, we’ll spotlight 11 awesome movies that featured incredible miniature sets. We’ll also delve into how they were constructed and even what happened to them once filming was over.

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Escape From New York

Zero Latency: The VR revolution begins in Melbourne, Australia – Once confined to realm of science-fiction movies like Walt Disney’s “Tron,” virtual reality has grown into a real-world industry worth an estimated $7 billion. But since the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset appeared on Kickstarter in 2012 and reignited passions for VR, the big question has been when these prototypes and concepts will launch for public consumption. And when we reach commercial launch, will the experience live up to the hype? Zero Latency is one of the first ventures that will put mainstream viability to the test.

The 15 Scariest Things at Black Hat 2015 – Three PCMag analysts attended Black Hat this year, and made it back alive. They brought with them terrifying tales, but also good advice, and the hope that our digital lives can be made safer and more robust through better security. Check out the slideshow to see what made them come back from Vegas wearing tinfoil hats.

Something to think about:

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”

–     Henry David Thoreau

Downloads:

SpeedFan – SpeedFan is a program that monitors voltages, fan speeds and temperatures in computers with hardware monitor chips. SpeedFan can even access S.M.A.R.T. info and show hard disk temperatures. SpeedFan supports SCSI disks too. SpeedFan can even change the FSB on some hardware (but this should be considered a bonus feature). SpeedFan can access digital temperature sensors and can change fan speeds accordingly, thus reducing noise. SpeedFan works fine with Windows 9x, ME, NT, 2000, 2003, XP, Vista, Windows 7, 2008, Windows 8, Windows 10 and Windows Server 2012. It works with Windows 64 bit too.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Twitter sees its largest increase from governments wanting account information – Governmental bodies around the world have an appetite for Twitter account information and are wanting more than ever, with the social network reporting its largest increase in requests for account information in the history of its transparency report.

Twitter said it had experienced a 52 percent increase in requests for account information, and over the six months to the end of June had handled 4,363 requests and produced information in 58 percent of cases. The company said the number of accounts affected by information requests had jumped by 78 percent, to 12,711.

The United States made the highest number of requests, with 2,436 requests impacting 6,324 accounts and an 80 percent success rate, followed by Japan, with 425 requests on 529 accounts and information coughed up 42 percent of the time. Japan overtook previous second-highest requester Turkey, which is now the third-highest, having made 412 requests impacting 670 accounts, all of which were unsuccessful.

Turkey was far and away the country that made the highest number of content removal requests, making 92 percent of the 442 requests Twitter received globally from courts, and 55 percent of all content takedown requests made by government bodies such as police forces. In Turkey from January to June, Twitter withheld 1,667 tweets from 125 accounts.

Reddit Responds After Being Threatened, Banned And Unbanned By The Russian Government – Reddit has had a pretty bizarre last few days in Russia. The entire site was blacklisted and banned yesterday for a number of users in Russia following a clear threat made by Russia’s FCC, the Roskomnadzor, to remove a thread about growing psychedelic mushrooms that had been posted on the site.

Roskomnadzor’s post on Vkontakte (basically the Russian Facebook) read:

Those who have contacts with the [Reddit] administration – ask them to check their email for messages from Roskomnadzor, otherwise… a number of operators may block the entire site.

Late yesterday, it was reported that the site had been blocked in its entirety for many users depending on their ISP, after being placed on a government blacklist. Yet, within hours the site was mysteriously unbanned, leading many users to question what was actually going on.

Canada’s democratic institutions are on trial – When I published Governing from the Centre: The Concentration of  Power in Canadian Politics in 1999, some political aides in Ottawa insisted that I had overstated the case. I hear no one making the argument today, and for good reason. One only needs to look at the pile of e-mails that were made public from the Mike Duffy trial this week to appreciate the extent to which governing from the centre now drives everything in Ottawa, from major policy decisions down to minor management issues, if the centre decides it needs to go there.

Staffers from the Prime Minister’s Office roamed the corridors of the Senate as if it were an extension of their office. Audit reports were regarded as little more than briefing notes to be carefully managed by the centre. What truly matters in government now is the ability to manage the “blame game,” and it seems that only those operating at the centre have the required political clout to dictate how it should be managed. If PMO staffers think that they are free to tell the Senate how it should go about its work, one can only imagine what it must be like for ministers, their staffs and senior public servants whose careers are tied directly to the wishes of the prime minister.

We have created a two-tier system of government in Ottawa, or an upstairs-downstairs to governing. More to the point, governing from the centre has created a fault line in the government where things that matter to the prime minister and his immediate advisers are brought above the line and dealt with quickly and effectively. Only the prime minister and his advisers will decide what belongs above the fault line. It can be anything from a decision to go to war while not consulting the relevant ministers – let alone the cabinet – down to a $90,000 problem considered sufficiently important to generate 450+ pages of e-mails. Under these circumstances, why would anyone other than a career politician want to run for Parliament?

Pointing up     The Harper government is a quasi-criminal government – history will recognize it as having been so.

DOJ calls for encryption balance that includes law enforcement needs – It’s possible for companies to design their encryption systems to allow law enforcement agencies to access customer data with court-ordered warrants while still offering solid security, U.S. Department of Justice officials said.

When DOJ and FBI officials raised recent concerns over end-to-end encryption on Android and iOS mobile phones, some security experts suggested it was difficult or unsafe to build in provider access to encrypted consumer data. But many companies already offer encryption while retaining some access to user information, two senior DOJ officials said Wednesday.

Many email service providers offer encryption but retain access to the content of users’ email to deliver advertising based on keywords in email text, to filter out spam or malware or to enforce terms of service, one DOJ official said on background during a press briefing. Many U.S. companies also encrypt employee mobile phones or laptops, while retaining the ability to access the content on those devices, he added.

Some of the same companies offering end-to-end encryption also retain access to customers’ email in other services, one DOJ official said.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – August 12, 2015

How to secure Windows 10: The paranoid’s guide;  Microsoft Windows 10: Five free apps you should download;  New rules for buying back-to-school laptops;  Google restructures, naming parent company Alphabet;  Four apps better than your phone’s built-in address book;  Add Star Wars emojis to your text messages;  LastPass makes its password management apps free on smartphones;  7 top Linux desktop environments compared;  Thirty five Flash Player holes plugged;  Facebook security hole remains open months after report;  Microsoft rolls out second cumulative update for Windows 10;   Facebook Says This Is How We Laugh on the Internet;  Dual-booting Linux with Windows: What you need to know;  Snapchat Just Fixed the Worst Thing About its App;  Pushbullet adds end-to-end encryption for SMS;  Researchers wirelessly hack a Corvette’s brakes using an insurance dongle;  Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 beta has 3 maps and 7 modes;  PlayStation Plus subscription prices to increase in UK;  Driving Your Car Will Soon Be Illegal;  Xbox One DVR to launch in US, UK, and Canada;  The NSA Playset: Espionage tools for the rest of us.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to secure Windows 10: The paranoid’s guide – I think some people’s fears about Microsoft looking over your shoulder are over-the-top. And, I speak as someone who looks at Microsoft with a great deal of suspicion. What you need to realize is that Microsoft has made Windows 10 both a desktop and a cloud operating system. Adding cloud functionality means that when you run Windows 10 you’ll be sharing far more information with Microsoft and its partner customers than ever before. For example, while Windows 10 doesn’t have a keylogger it does collect your keystrokes and voice to improve spell-checking and voice recognition. Before having a fit about this, keep in mind that every cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) program does this to one degree or another.

Microsoft Windows 10: Five free apps you should download – With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft decided to cut and mangle some beloved, long-standing features available in previous versions of its operating system. Windows Media Center is gone and Solitaire now shows you full-screen ads, which you have to pay to get rid of. That’s not to mention the outcry over Microsoft releasing software to play DVDs that costs $14.99 through the Windows Store. Fortunately, you can ignore these shenanigans – as there is plenty of free software out there to fill the gaps in Microsoft’s new OS.

Microsoft: glitch preventing Windows 10 store downloads will be fixed soon – While Microsoft’s much-anticipated (or dreaded, depending on your situation) rollout of Windows 10 has been fairly smooth for most users, this weekend a bug surfaced that prevented some from being able to download app updates from the Windows Store. Users that are affected say they haven’t been able to sign into the store, preventing them from either downloading new apps or getting updates for apps they already have installed.

New rules for buying back-to-school laptops – With that new school year may come the need for a new laptop, and time- and cash-strapped parents are often left confused and scrambling. How much do you really need to spend on a school-minded PC? And how can you make sure you’re getting a system that will go the distance? (Hopefully just four years, if you’re packing a kid off to college.) Fear not: Even with hundreds of options, picking the right laptop (or perhaps…tablet?) is easy if you follow a few simple guidelines.

Pushbullet adds end-to-end encryption for SMS, copy and paste, and notification mirroring – The company is ramping up its security by adding optional end-to-end encryption. This means your data is encrypted before it leaves your phone, and decrypted when it gets to your other devices. It’s a good layer of security to include, as all those SMS messages and notifications contain a lot of personal data. The encryption also applies to Pushbullet’s ability to copy and paste between devices. To set it up, you need to go to Settings on every device where you’re using Pushbullet select Enable encryption, then enter a password.

Four apps better than your phone’s built-in address book – The address book is at the core of your phone. Since most of us don’t memorize phone numbers anymore, it’s a crucial tool for keeping touch with friends and family through phone calls, texts and emails. Unfortunately, the built-in contacts app that comes with the iPhone or Android phones hasn’t changed in years. It can be frustrating to edit, fraught with duplicates and lacking the most up-to-date information. Luckily, there are several address book apps out there that offer a better alternative with innovative features and modern designs.

LastPass makes its password management apps free on smartphones – LastPass, one of the more popular password management solutions next to 1Password, is making its smartphone apps free to use. “Now, if you get started with LastPass on your Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone, you’ll have completely free access from your smartphone, and can even sync across smartphones for free,” the company wrote in a blog post today. “The same is true for tablets, if that’s where you get started.”

Get Started on LastPass for Free – If you’ve been meaning to try the password manager LastPass, now is the perfect opportunity, because the service is currently free to start. Under the new pricing model, you can get started with LastPass for free on any device, including smartphones, tablets, or desktops. Sync data between similar devices, like two smartphones or two tablets. But if you want to sync between two different devices—between phone and desktop, for example—you’ll need to upgrade to premium.

Microsoft introduces Floatie for OneNote on Android – Microsoft has added a new feature to the OneNote application for Android that allows users to access their notes from any where across the phone with the help of floating icons.

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Microsoft rolls out second cumulative update for Windows 10 – Microsoft has rolled out another cumulative update for Windows 10 and you can download it now by checking Windows Update – but what’s new in this release is not yet known.

Snapchat Just Fixed the Worst Thing About its App – Ephemeral messaging app Snapchat knows its demographic well. Teens are still at the mercy of their parents’ financial decisions, and that can sometimes mean they don’t have a whole bunch of mobile data to use up every month. Luckily for data-strapped teens (and everyone else), the company rolled out a new data-conserving feature Monday. “Travel Mode,” which “disables auto-loading of content like Stories when you’re using mobile data,” as it’s described in the app.

Add Star Wars emojis to your text messages – The official Star Wars app now features over 50 adorable characters, ships and more. Animated GIFs, too! Here’s how to text them.

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Freedom of choice: 7 top Linux desktop environments compared – Linux distros usually have a default desktop environment, but there are a slew of desktop environments available to use. Heck, Ubuntu alone offers nine official alternate “flavors” with different desktop configurations. None of these desktop environments is better than another. They have different aesthetics, functionality, and features. They may perform better or worse on different hardware. Only you can decide which you prefer. Curious? Here’s a run-down of some of the most popular Linux desktop environments.

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Dual-booting Linux with Windows: What you need to know – Windows 10 isn’t the only (kind of) free operating system you can install on your computer. Linux can run from just a USB drive without modifying your existing system, but you’ll want to install it on your PC if you plan on using it regularly. Installing a Linux distribution alongside Windows as a “dual boot” system will give you a choice of either operating system each time you start your PC. It’s the ideal way for most people to install Linux, as you can always get back to a full Windows system with a reboot.

Windows 10 on the Raspberry Pi: What you need to know – Microsoft has released a version of Windows 10 for the credit card-sized machine. But just what can you do with it?

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Windows 10 IoT Core on the Raspberry Pi / Image: Microsoft

Facebook Says This Is How We Laugh on the Internet – Well now you can tell exactly how your e-laughing compares with the average joe’s, after Facebook published an analysis on it’s research blog. Inspired by a New Yorker blog post about the various ways we indicate laughter online, researchers, “analyzed de-identified posts and comments posted on Facebook in the last week of May with at least one string of characters matching laughter,” the post reads. “We did the matching with regular expressions which automatically identified laughter in the text, including variants of haha, hehe, emoji, and lol.” Here’s what they found:

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Facebook

Google Launches First Beta Of Its Zync Visual Effects Renderer On Google Cloud Platform – Google, the largest subsidiary corporation of Alphabet, wants movie studios to use its cloud to render their special effects. Last August, Google acquired Zync, a visual effects rendering service that allows studios and independent artists to render their works in the cloud. Today, the company announced that it will open up the first beta of Zync on its Cloud Platform next week on August 20.

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Study: Ad-blocking software use is rising at breakneck speed – AdBlock and apps like it are the bane of ad-supported websites, and an occasional bit of browser extension-based guilt for users. On one hand, no one wants to deal with ads, at least not the poorly utilized ads found on many websites. At the same time, many users recognize that their favorite websites probably depend on those advertisement dollars, and so they may disable AdBlock for certain websites. Many ad-blocking users don’t bother doing the latter, however, and that makes a new report from Adobe and PageFair particularly worrisome for companies.

Security:

Thirty five Flash Player holes plugged (and there’s one quick fix) – Adobe has patched 35 security vulnerabilities in its Flash Player, all of one of which could lead to unexpected code execution. The fixes relate to vulnerabilities including 15 use-after-free, eight memory corruption, and five type confusion bugs. Most flaws have been slapped with the panic severity rating of one, meaning someone is or probably will soon hack the holes. Linux and Chrome OS users can afford to ignore the patch issuance for a while with the respective holes being rated a boring severity score of three. Microsoft’s Edge and its older browser sisters Internet Explorer 11 and 10 get the same Player version update as Google Chrome, and the Desktop runtime. Linux and AIR offerings are also fixed.

Windows 10 gets its first set of security patches – For August, Microsoft’s monthly round of security patches contains five bulletins that cover Windows 10, as well as a bulletin that covers the new Edge browser that runs on Windows 10. Overall, Microsoft released 14 security bulletins for this month’s Patch Tuesday—which occurs on the second Tuesday of each month. Three of the bulletins were marked as critical, meaning that they should be patched as quickly as possible.

Researchers wirelessly hack a Corvette’s brakes using an insurance dongle – Researchers at the University of California at San Diego have found a way to wirelessly hack thousands of vehicles by exploiting the on-board diagnostics (or OBD) devices that insurance companies use to monitor speed and location. In a video posted to YouTube (seen above), they were able to activate the windshield wipers and engage or disengage the brakes of a 2013 model Corvette by sending an SMS message to the OBD dongle’s cellular radio. More details about the vulnerability will be revealed at the Usenix security conference today, according to Wired.

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Facebook security hole remains open months after report – Android users can relax. This isn’t about you this time. This time, it’s Facebook’s turn to take the hot seat. Not that it has completely left the chair anyway. According to Reza Moaiandinm, Technical Director of marketing company SALT.agency, Facebook has a gaping security hole that leaves it wide open to attack and its users vulnerable to phishing attempts. While news of such security lapses aren’t exactly new, especially with Facebook involved, Moaiandinm’s beef stems from the fact that Facebook has seemingly done nothing months after he reported the exploit.

Intel left a fascinating security flaw in its chips for 16 years – here’s how to exploit it – A design flaw in Intel’s processors can be exploited to install malware beneath operating systems and antivirus – making it tough to detect and remove. The blunder was introduced in 1995, in the Pentium Pro. It is hardwired into the silicon, and has been staring kernel-level programmers in the face for years. The good news is that Intel spotted the howler in its processor blueprints, and corrected the issue: chips built from January 2011 and onwards (Sandy Bridge Core CPUs and later) are not affected.  A trusty Linux box from the previous decade that’s still plodding away, an office of old PCs, or a relative’s aging laptop, are the sorts of computers at risk of attack via this vulnerability. Your fancy new gaming rig, your virtual machine in the cloud or on your workstation, and that office PC bought two years ago in the last refresh, are immune.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter band together to battle child pornography – Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Twitter are working with the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to implement a new system that will help detect and block images of child pornography online. IWF, a charitable foundation, has introduced a new technology that enables it to tag images of sexual abuse with distinct hashes — essentially codes that act like a digital fingerprint. The hash is generated by an algorithm; once assigned to an image, it’s unique to it, making it easy to identify a specific image against a list of offending hashes. The IWF keeps a record of all the hashes, which it has only shared with the five tech companies so far, but plans to roll out to other IWF members soon.

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Wearsafe Is A Connected Panic Button For The App Generation – At the Disrupt NY hackathon this year the winning hack was a live-streaming app called Witness whose team’s pitch was a desire to be the panic button for the mobile age. But what about sticky situations where you don’t have time to fire up an app? That’s where Connecticut-based startup Wearsafe Labs is hoping to step in, with a hardware panic button also updated for the app era.

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IBM discovers Android serialization vulnerability allows arbitrary code execution – In the latest security issue to plague Android, IBM has discovered a vulnerability in Android and some third-party SDKs that allows malicious code to elevate its privileges to the system user.

Company News:

Google restructures, naming parent company Alphabet – Google will become a subsidiary of a new parent company called Alphabet, under a massive restructuring arrangement designed to let the company’s businesses operate more efficiently. Alphabet will include a group of companies, the largest of which will be Google. Other efforts will be run separately but apart from Google, including health efforts such as Life Sciences, which works on glucose-sensing contact lenses, and Calico, focused on longevity. Alphabet will also include Google’s advanced X labs, which handles projects like Google’s self-driving cars and Wi-Fi balloons. Under the changes, the main Google business will be slimmed down to include search search, ads, maps, apps, YouTube and Android. Other businesses, like Calico as well as Nest, Fiber and Google’s investing arms, will be managed separately. All will be under Alphabet.

Google’s Larry Page explains the new Alphabet – Here’s the full text of the letter from Google CEO Larry Page announcing his company’s restructuring.

Apple Shares Tumble 5% Amid China Concerns – Apple suffered a 5 percent drop in its share price Tuesday as Wall Street reacted strongly to news from China that the government is further devaluing the yuan. The currency devaluation is likely to increase import costs of devices for Apple. The announcement from China’s central bank that official guidance for the yuan would be reduced 2 percent to 6.2298 yuan per dollar, its lowest point in three years, sent the $700 billion tech giant’s shares tumbling. A drop worth tens of billions in market cap value.

Facebook Brings Auto-Play Video Ads To Apps In Its Mobile Ad Network – These new ad formats include auto-play video, as well as its multi-image Carousel Ads that can give deeper looks at a product or tell stories, Dynamic Product Ads that retarget users with items they’ve considered buying elsewhere on the web, and more traditional interstitial Click-To-Play Video Ads. Some users might find these flashy ads annoying, but at least they’re well-targeted and run properly.

Facebook is making an app that will send breaking news alerts to your phone – The stand-alone app is still in the early stages, but it will reportedly ask users to choose which publications they want to receive notifications from, and specific topics or “stations” they want to receive news about. Then, when news in those preselected topics breaks, the publications can send a push notification of up to 100 characters to users. All notifications sent through Facebook’s app will link out to that publication’s website. Only a select number of publications will be available on the app, according to Business Insider.

Symantec Sells Veritas Division To Private Equity Group For $8B – Symantec announced today that it had sold its Veritas division to The Carlyle Group, a Washington, DC-based private equity firm for $8 billion in cash. The move comes after Symantec, mostly known as a computer security company, announced it was splitting into two separate publicly traded companies last fall. The first was going to be Symantec, which as you might expect focused on security and the second was Veritas, which concentrated on information management. It was named for a storage vendor that merged with Symantec back in 2005.

Judge orders Cablevision to stop calling Verizon a liar – A federal judge has ordered Cablevision to stop running advertisements that accuse Verizon of lying about offering its Fios broadband customers the fastest in-home Wi-Fi service. On Friday, Judge Gary Brown threw out Cablevision’s lawsuit against Verizon, which was filed in January, accusing Verizon of misrepresenting its service. Then on Monday, he ruled in favor of Verizon’s request for a temporary restraining order to put a stop to ads Cablevision has been running in the New York City metro area accusing Verizon of lying about its broadband Internet speeds, the quality of its DVR, service appointments and other aspects of its service.

Firefox sticks it to Microsoft, redirects Cortana searches in Windows 10 – After blasting Microsoft’s attempts to set Edge as the default browser in Windows 10, Mozilla is enjoying some sweet revenge by steering Firefox users away from Bing. With the newly-released Firefox 40, users no longer have to use Bing for web searches from Cortana on the Windows 10 taskbar. Instead, Firefox will show results from whatever search engine the user has chosen as the default. Using Firefox isn’t the only way to replace Cortana’s Bing searches with Google or another search engine. But Firefox is currently the only browser that does so without the need for third-party extensions. (It wouldn’t be surprising, however, if Google follows suit.)

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Chinese vendors triple smartphone share in India – Chinese vendors tripled shipments year-on-year in the second quarter in the Indian market, indicating that low-cost vendors are posing a challenge to global players like Apple in a very price-sensitive market. The Chinese vendors have been successful by a combination of strategies, including online flash sales and by pushing low-cost 4G phones, priced at between US$100-150, a market that was unattended by Indian and global vendors, according to research firm IDC.

Foxconn to invest $5B to set up first of up to 12 factories in India – As part of its plan to set up to 12 manufacturing facilities in India by 2020, contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group is investing US$5 billion in a factory and other facilities in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. The Indian government has been coaxing foreign companies, including smartphone makers, to set up manufacturing units in India under its “Make in India” program. A number of smartphone makers are planning to make the devices in the country, with Chinese maker Xiaomi expected to announce its first phone manufactured in India on Monday.

Games and Entertainment:

Why Everybody Should Play Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture – I can tell you the world wrought here looks as beautiful as a this-gen console game should, a sometimes linear, sometimes open swathe of blissful countryside you stroll freely through, espying mist-capped valleys punctuated by bus stops, phone booths, smoking ashtray-filled pubs, vast barns, spooky-looking domed towers, unpeopled flats, golden pastures choked with gently swaying strands of wheat and towering windmills. The weird stuff tends to happen as you amble along and trip (or interact with) trigger points.

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The Chinese Room / Sony

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 beta has 3 maps and 7 modes – Activision today released a new trailer for the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops III multiplayer beta, which provides the first details about what fans can expect from it. As you can see in the video, the beta will have at least three maps and seven modes. The video specifically says three-plus maps and seven-plus modes are included, suggesting more of each may be added later. Players will also get to check out Black Ops III’s new movement system using eight different “Specialist” characters. You’ll also be able to test out Black Ops III’s weapon customization tools, including the paintshop.

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Hulu says it won’t release its new original shows in binge-watch form – Hulu has no plans to start catering to binge-watchers with its original programming, preferring instead to release new episodes one week at a time. Hulu’s strategy runs counter to that of Netflix and Amazon, which release entire new seasons of their original shows all at once. While this allows viewers to easily get hooked by watching several episodes in one sitting, the trade-off is that any social media buzz around a show can die off quickly after the premiere. For Netflix and Amazon, the answer to that problem is to simply release more original content.

Xbox One DVR to launch in US, UK, and Canada – Microsoft announced last week that the Xbox One DVR would initially land in three countries at launch. Those three countries are the US, Canada, and the UK. The announcement was made at the Gamescom conference in Cologne. The launch is set for an unspecified time next year with more details coming closer to launch.

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PlayStation Plus subscription prices to increase in UK – Bad news for PlayStation gamers in the UK today: the subscription prices for two of the PlayStation Plus plans are increasing next month. The one-month option is rising from £5.49 to £5.99, and the three-month plan is going from £11.99 to £14.99. The silver lining in all of this? The price for the one-year subscription is staying the same, at £39.99. This last option was already the best value, now it will be even more so.

Off Topic (Sort of):

It’s time for PC companies to copy one of Apple’s best features – I like PC hardware. OK, that’s sort of a lie; PC hardware infuriates me no end, because I can never find a motherboard with precisely the set of features I want, but it’s the kind of infuriation that comes of having high expectations. My main PC is a self-built desktop system, and Apple simply doesn’t have a desktop system offering the kind of longevity and flexibility that I want. PC hardware does, and this is great. But Apple from time to time does some things which are really neat, and sometimes I find myself looking at those things and yearning for them. Operating system installation and disaster recovery is one of those things.

Defusing The Internet Of Things Time Bomb – “Smart” devices are all the buzz, whether in the connected home (thermostats, lightbulbs, garage door openers, locks and various appliances) or new wearable devices. They promise convenience along with improved control and efficiency in our lives. But, as highlighted by the recent hacking of automobiles, connectivity can come at a significant cost. Consumers cringe as the barrage of data breaches continues — from major retailers to health insurers to government agencies, hundreds of millions of records are now exposed and there seems to be no end in sight. Will we face a similar future with some of our most personal and sensitive information (where we are, the status of our home, our latest health vitals), or even with our physical security?

Does too much technology make a car artificial? – Two trends are interacting in the car world right now, and I’m fascinated by the questions being raised as a result. Computers are in control of everything, modulating our control inputs and interpreting our intent. For example, between your foot and the pedals of a hybrid are complex software routines that decide how to juggle internal combustion engines and conventional brakes with electric motor-generator units when it comes to stopping and going. Cheap, rugged, and powerful electronics can let an engineer solve a suspension or engine problem with some code instead of mechanical fix. Is that a good thing, or is the solution an artificial one?

Driving Your Car Will Soon Be Illegal – Driving a car will be illegal by 2030. Our economy will be severely impacted as millions of truck drivers, cabbies and delivery people are put out of work. In this era of endless innovation, man’s century-long relationship with the automobile is about to be permanently disrupted.

Climate change deniers, like fanboys, don’t care about your science – Climate change is a hot topic in politics. That climate change is happening and that humanity has something to do with it isn’t up for debate anymore. How to deal with it is. Still, climate change has its deniers. You’d think that these people could be convinced with a bit of education. If they knew what the scientists knew then surely they’d change their minds. That’s what I thought, anyway — it’s not true. In fact, it’s the opposite. Or so says the research from Dan Kahan, professor of law and psychology at Yale, and member of the Cultural Cognition Project which tries to explain how we come to hold our beliefs.

Something to think about:

“You can’t outwit fate by trying to stand on the sidelines and place little side bets about the outcome of life. Either you wade in and risk everything to play the game, or you don’t play at all. And if you don’t play, you can’t win.”

–     Judith McNaught

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The NSA Playset: Espionage tools for the rest of us – When Der Spiegel and Jacob Appelbaum published leaked pages of the National Security Agency’s ANT Catalog—the collection of tools and software created for NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division—it triggered shock, awe, and a range of other emotions around the world. Among some hardware hackers and security researchers, it triggered something else, too—a desire to replicate the capabilities of TAO’s toolbox to conduct research on how the same approaches might be used by other adversaries.

In less than 18 months since the catalog’s leak, the NSA Playset project has done just that. The collection boasts over a dozen devices that put the power of the NSA’s TAO into the hands of researchers. Project creator Michael Ossmann—a security researcher, radio frequency hardware engineer, and founder of Great Scott Gadgets—detailed the tools at a presentation during the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas last week, and he talked with Ars more about it this past weekend at DEF CON 23.

Many of the software components of the 50-page ANT catalog were things that had already been developed by security researchers. Some of the discovered capabilities appeared to stem from off-the-shelf hardware (or its equivalent) and software similar to existing tools; they were simply combined in a package suitable for spy work. But other pieces of hardware in the NSA’s catalog appeared to have no openly available equivalent—such as wireless bugs planted in computer cables or connectors. Some of those bugs were radio “retro-reflectors,” wiretaps that only broadcast data when hit by a directed radio signal. (It’s similar in concept to “The Thing”—the infamous bug Soviet spies planted inside the US Embassy in Moscow.)

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How Japan’s Privacy Visor fools face-recognition cameras – If you’re worried about Big Brother monitoring you from security cameras, Japan has developed eyewear that can keep you anonymous.

The Privacy Visor consists of a lightweight, wraparound, semitransparent plastic sheet fitted over eyewear frames. It’s bulky and not exactly stylish, but it could have customized designs.

It’s meant to thwart face-recognition camera systems through a very simple trick. It reflects overhead light into the camera lens, causing the area around the eyes to appear much brighter than it normally does.

That’s enough to trick standard face-recognition systems, such as the Viola-Jones object detection framework, according to the National Institute of Informatics (NII), which has been developing the visor for years.

At a demo on Tuesday, NII staffers showed how a face-recognition program can easily identify someone by comparing video input to a database of head shots. The system also works when the subject is wearing sunglasses.

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Russia threatening nation-wide Reddit ban over drug posts – The Russian government has said it’s considering a nation-wide block on the social website Reddit over concerns about easily accessible information on growing and acquiring drugs. One government agency has said it’s tried contacting Reddit about removing such posts, but they haven’t gotten a response. Oddly enough, the government says it was prompted to take action because of complaints from users. Because surely people go right to the government when they see things on the internet, as this couldn’t be a case of Russia wanting to censor information.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – August 10, 2015

Want to be totally secure on the Internet? Good luck;  Windows 10’s privacy policy is the new normal;  You Can Shut Off Win 10’s Data Collection, But Should You?  Ten Tips and Tricks for Windows 10;  Back to school 2015: Student tech deals and discounts;  Two backups are better than one–if you do them right;  Here’s Why Email Puts You in a Nasty Mood;  How to install Windows 10 on your PC;  How to uninstall Windows 10 and go back to Windows 7 or 8;  Scan PCs for Security Problems? Nope, Scan the Users;  UK-Based Carphone Warehouse Hack Could Affect Up To 2.4M Customers;  Here are some of the best games for Android right now (pictures);  Are connected cars worth the risk?  Free Course: Hack yourself first (before the bad guys do);  Rand Paul And Chris Christie Spar Over NSA Surveillance;  These Companies Have the Best (And Worst) Privacy Policies.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Want to be totally secure on the Internet? Good luck – When it comes to being safe from hackers, we could all take steps to do better, myself included. Less than a month into my new job covering cybersecurity, my personal site was hacked because I had failed to update some forgotten software for two years. It was a glaring hole with an easy fix, but it got me thinking: What does it take to be completely secure? What would I need to do that I wouldn’t have to in order to never worry about hackers again? Is being completely secure even possible?

Windows 10’s privacy policy is the new normal – Windows 10, in normal usage and typical configurations, will send quite a lot of information to Microsoft. Windows 8, in normal usage and typical configurations, will also send quite a lot of information to Microsoft. On the other side of the fence, OS X, in normal usage and typical configurations, will send some information to Apple. It’s hard to imagine a modern day operating system that doesn’t do this, at least to some extent.

You Can Shut Off Win 10’s Data Collection, But Should You? – You can opt out of many of the parts of Windows 10 that give Microsoft a way to collect data, but doing so disables some of the operating system’s best new features. You could run a PC without a Microsoft account (something you can’t do on an Apple Mac or Google Chrome OS computer), for example, but then you wouldn’t get syncing with OneDrive or access to the Windows Store of apps. To use a Windows 10 PC without a Microsoft ID, you can use what the OS calls a “local account.” You can make that change in the Settings app’s Accounts page.

EFF launches Privacy Badger 1.0 browser extension – The EFF has launched a new browser extension that is designed to stop data collection via cookies and other hidden trackers when you surf the web. The new browser extension is called Privacy Badger 1.0 and it aims to keep you from being spied on as you surf the web. Privacy Badger has been available in alpha and beta forms for a while. Privacy Badger 1.0 will detect cookies and other techniques used to track you that results in you seeing ads while you surf the web that reflect web searches you made in the past. It works along with the Do Not Track policy announced by the EFF recently.

These Companies Have the Best (And Worst) Privacy Policies – In an effort to assess, exalt and shame some of the world’s leading tech companies for how they’ve presented privacy information to millions of users, TIME reached out to the Center for Plain Language. We asked the Center’s experts to judge and rank the privacy policies of seven tech companies that most consumers know. They did this on several levels, assessing everything from design and tone to how many words writers tried to pack into each sentence. They also examined the more subjective “spirit” of their policies. Does the policy, for instance, make it easy for people to limit the ways in which the company collects their personal information? Or are instructions about opting out obscured in the policy’s hinterlands with no hyperlinks?

Ten Tips and Tricks for Windows 10 – So Windows 10 has been out for more than a week and, if you were in any way immersed in Microsoft or Windows news, you probably are already aware of how it fared. Maybe you even read our hands-on after spending a week with the latest version of the most popular, or even unpopular operating system in the world. But if you’re just receiving the update now and are about to embark on the journey for yourself, what are the tools you need to bring? Where are the pit stops you need to make? Here are our top ten favorites.

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12 obscure new Windows 10 features that eliminate everyday hassles – The amount of new goodies in Windows 10 is almost mind-boggling. Even if you’ve read PCWorld’s insanely detailed Windows 10 review, our look at Windows 10’s best new features, and our mammoth guides to the operating system’s best tips and tricks and hidden features, you still haven’t seen everything Microsoft has to throw at you. Case in point: These 10 awesome new Windows 10 features that fly under the radar. Between these and virtual desktop support, Windows 10 renders a decent chunk of our list of free PC programs that ease headaches obsolete. Let’s dig in.

Windows 10 cumulative update causes ‘reboot loop’ havoc for some users – Microsoft’s first cumulative update for Windows 10 – KB3081424 – is causing havoc for some users. How do I know this? Because I spent a good part of my Sunday morning dealing with it, that’s how.

Back to school 2015: Student tech deals and discounts – Going to college doesn’t have to be expensive thanks to the range of deals offered by companies including Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.

5 handy Google Maps tips to make your commute or business trip easier – Google Maps could easily become one of your most faithful mobile tools… if you make use of a few lesser-known features. Jack Wallen shows you how.

Two backups are better than one–if you do them right – Backing up twice provides more protection than backing up once–but only if you don’t make the same mistakes twice.

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Five to Try: Microsoft Translator hits phones and watches, and Accomplish gets to-do tasks done – Games aside, this week’s top new Android apps are handy tools designed to help in very different ways. Microsoft Translator is a useful option for translating phrases between languages, and it one-ups Google’s option with Android Wear support. Meanwhile, Accomplish is designed to make sure your everyday to-do list tasks are actually worked into your schedule, while Genius saves you the hassle of searching through wonky song lyrics online. Scratch that off the to-do list, then!

BitTorrent Bleep update improves offline message security – In addition to its Sync 2.0 service, BitTorrent also has an offline messaging app called Bleep that allows users to, says the company, “chat privately. srsly.” Unlike other messaging apps, Bleep works straight from user-to-user, no in-between cloud storage to be seen. The benefit of this is security — as BitTorrent says, you don’t have to worry about the online data related to your account being hacked as there is no cloud. The security isn’t perfect, however, and so BitTorrent has pushed out an update.

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High barrier to entry? Busting this and 6 more myths about Linux – Jack Wallen finishes up his “barrier to entry” series for the Linux operating system by busting a few remaining myths surrounding the platform.

Ubuntu phone goes global, but you’ll get slow speeds in the US – After a long wait, Ubuntu phones became a reality this year. But now Linux fans outside of Europe and China will be able to try out the newcomer OS for the very first time. Spanish smartphone maker BQ has announced that it is now shipping its Aquarius E5 Ubuntu smartphone across the world. The E5 Ubuntu Edition has a fairly barebones set of specifications that matches its affordable €199.90 price tag. It has a 5-inch, 720 x 1280 display that’d be more at home on a top-tier smartphone from a few years ago. There’s also 1GB of RAM, 16GB of memory (thankfully upgradable thanks to its microSD card slot), and a 1.7GHz, quad-core Mediatek chip.

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How to install Windows 10 on your PC – You’ve read the review, pored through the tips and how-tos, and have waited breathlessly for the day that you can download Windows 10. So how do you do it, exactly? We’ve got you covered.

How to uninstall Windows 10 and go back to Windows 7 or 8 – To make life easier on Windows 7 and 8.1 converts, Microsoft will allow you to rollback your Windows 10 installation to the previous operating system for 30 days post-upgrade. Don’t worry—if you want to come back later, you can still take advantage of the free Windows 10 upgrade for the next year. Keep in mind that downgrading to your older OS requires that you still have your Windows.old folder at C:\Windows.old. If you typically delete that after upgrading, or you’ve done a post-upgrade clean install of Windows 10, you’re out of luck.

Skylake Review: Intel’s 6th-gen CPU arrives with nice presents for gamers and enthusiasts – If you came into this review expecting Skylake to be “40 percent faster” than its predecessor in all things, like the rumors said, you’re already set up for disappointment. Well, don’t be. Skylake is indeed faster than Haswell, but despite the “tock” label, it’s still just an evolutionary step forward. Skylake isn’t just about the CPU, though—it’s an entire platform, and that’s where this 6th-gen part moves us forward.

FREE COURSE: Hack yourself first (before the bad guys do) – If you can’t think like a hacker, it’s difficult to defend against them. Such is the premise of this free, nine-part online course, presented by Computerworld and training company Pluralsight, about how to go on the cyber-offensive by using some of the same techniques and tools the bad guys do. (registration required)

Security:

Scan PCs for Security Problems? Nope, Scan the Users – To build a car, you need thousands of nuts, bolts, screws, and other components. Which of these is the most dangerous? According to an old joke, it’s the nut behind the wheel. The very best security system in the world will fail if a fast-talking stranger convinces you to turn it off. Penetration testers and security analysts scan for system vulnerabilities, and very effectively, too. Laura Bell, founder and lead consultant at SafeStack, explained to Black Hat attendees that we need to test the human side of security as well.

UK-Based Carphone Warehouse Hack Could Affect Up To 2.4M Customers – Today, UK-based mobile retailer Carphone Warehouse shared with its customers that it had been the subject of a “sophisticated” cyber attack, potentially laying bare the personal details of 2.4M of its customers. If that wasn’t bad enough, credit card information for upwards of 90,000 of those customers might be running out and about, too. The company found out about the attack last week, which affected its arm that runs the sites: OneStopPhoneShop.com, e2save.com and Mobiles.co.uk. The names, addresses and worst of all, bank details, “may” have been accessed. Which means it was, especially since the “attack” “may” have lasted for nearly two weeks.

Here’s How Hackers Steal Fingerprints From Your Phone – Fingerprint scans, retina prints, and even heart signatures are touted as security silver bullets. Hackers can guess your password, but they can’t guess your fingerprints, right? Not exactly. FireEye’s senior staff research scientist, Tao Wei, and fellow researcher Yulong Zhang took the stage at Black Hat in Las Vegtas to show all the ways they found to defeat fingerprint scanners on mobile phones.

Hacking For Cause: Today’s Growing Cyber Security Trend – What do the following data-breach headlines from the past year have in common? The Sony Pictures hack: Everything we know so far; Anonymous hackers release emails ordering bear cubs be killed; Hackers threaten to release names from adultery website … Connecting the dots yet?

Company News:

Apple’s App Store Saw $1.7B in Billings And Broke Customer Records In July – Perhaps to counter concerns over iPhone sales and China, Apple this week released numbers related to the App Store’s growth that demonstrate the very real impact China is having on its app ecosystem and developer community. The company said that, in July, it had its largest number of transacting customers with over $1.7 billion in billings. In addition, the same month broke records for China, too, which also saw the largest number of transacting customers, Apple said. To date, the company has paid out $33 billion to App Store developers, it said – $8 billion of which was in 2015 alone. For comparison’s sake, just over a year ago, Apple said it had paid $20 billion to developers.

Microsoft will let shareholders nominate board members – Microsoft added a provision to its bylaws Friday that allowed shareholders with a significant stake in the company to directly nominate up to two candidates to its board of directors. With the change, Microsoft will allow consortiums of up to 20 shareholders, who have owned a combined 3 percent stake in Microsoft for the past three years, to put forward nominations for up to 2 candidates or 20 percent of the board, whichever is larger. Functionally, that means a very small number of people and institutional investors have the power to nominate board members through the process.

Nuance beats Q3 expectations on strong healthcare revenue – Nuance released its third quarter earnings report Thursday after the bell. The voice recognition software giant posted a net loss of $39.4 million, or 13 cents per share (statement). Wall Street was expecting earnings of 28 cents per share on revenue of $480.36 million. While Nuance’s results are in line with expectations, the company still blamed currency fluctuations — a common scapegoat in earnings misses this year — for stifling revenue growth. Nuance said that if Q3 2014 currency rates were applied to the same quarter this year, revenue would have been approximately $17 million higher.

Games and Entertainment:

Here are some of the best games for Android right now (pictures) – Have some time to kill and an Android phone or tablet? Check out a few of our favorite Android games.

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Dungeon Hunter 5

X-wings, pirates and a generic Lara: Gamescom 2015 – Missed all the news, announcements and hype that’s been pouring out of Gamescom over the last few days? Worry not, as we carve a path through the hype to bring you all the stories that matter from the Germany-based games show.

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Battleborn is the best game of Gamescom 2015 – Battleborn is a team-based first-person shooter developed by the deranged minds behind the Borderlands series. It plays very much like Borderlands, which makes it an immediate pick-up-and-frag experience, but it has a great deal of extra depth and variety. The cast of 25 heroes starts with a conventional rifle-wielding soldier — his name’s Oscar Mike and he was the one I played my way through the Gamescom level with — but quickly expands to include characters you wouldn’t expect to find in an FPS, such as the katana-wielding Rath and the “unhinged chaos witch” Orendi.

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Microsoft’s NFL partnership enters next generation with new apps – With the start of the U.S. professional football season around the corner, Microsoft unveiled the new tech it’s going to be providing coaches and fans this season as part of its ongoing partnership with the National Football League. Fans get an updated NFL app for the Xbox One and Windows 10 that provides them with video content, stats, replays and fantasy football information about their favorite teams, while coaches and players will be using new Surface Pro 3 tablets that help them strategize on the sidelines.

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Dark Souls 3: The return of the king – In Bloodborne, the faster speed replaced Dark Souls’ shield: why block when you can dodge? While Dark Souls 3 won’t be doing away with shields, the raised tempo does encourage you to use it less and instead wield a second weapon in your off hand or equip a single, larger weapon that requires the use of both hands. It also reduces the quantity of excuses you can use for when you die. And yeah, you’ll still die. A lot. This is the hardest Dark Souls yet. Extra speed doesn’t equate to reduced challenge. Weapons and certain attacks have been modified to fit that increased sense of alacrity too. While I only handled a few of the game’s tools at Gamescom—and there’s no guarantee that they won’t be altered before launch—there’s definitely more focus on being ballsier during combat.

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Alienware Alpha consolized gaming PC for $400 – So, what are the specs like for this mini gaming rig? It sports a dual-core 2.9GHz Intel Core i3-4130T CPU, a discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M+ graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5, 4GB of DDR3L RAM (1600MHz), a 500GB hard drive, Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11b/g/n/ac WiFi support. It also comes with a wireless Xbox 360 controller and a USB receiver. Combine those with Alienware’s custom 10-foot interface, and this is just like a real console experience — the only major difference here is the Alpha can do way more. At its core, this is still just a PC running Windows.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Are connected cars worth the risk? – The standard response from security pros is simple: get better at maintaining your software. Cars are connected to the wild and woolly internet now, so manufacturers need to get better at finding and patching bugs. Automatic updates mean cars have to be even more connected, so that a car company’s security team can remotely patch security holes as quickly as attackers find them. Once you’re plugged in, the logic goes, you have to plug in all the way. But why connect cars to the internet at all? Why not give up your Wi-Fi hotspot in exchange for not having to worry about getting totaled by a software vulnerability? Maybe the risks of the connected car now outweigh the benefits. Why are we so committed to the connected car?

NASA Tools Let You Take a Virtual Trek Across Mars – Experts say that NASA will be ready to send human explorers to Mars by the 2030s, but let’s face it—the chances of you visiting the martian planet in your lifetime are pretty slim. Fortunately, you don’t need a space shuttle or special training to explore Mars—you can now do it from the comfort of home. NASA this week released two new online tools that “open the mysterious terrain of the Red Planet to a new generation of explorers, inviting the public to help with its journey to Mars.”

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Cops filmed behaving badly say pot shop’s camera illegally recorded raid – Did you hear the one about the cops not wanting to use a store’s surveillance tape to help solve a crime? Who could blame these Santa Ana cops? Video shows them smashing surveillance cameras, badmouthing a woman in a wheelchair, and perhaps even munching on marijuana-infused products after they stormed a medical marijuana shop in Southern California, which was being investigated for allegedly operating unlawfully in the city.

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Thermos Smart Lid bottle tracks your drinking habit – The bottle also has a capacity-sensing tube that keep tabs on the water’s temperature — never again do you have to taste the water to see if it is warm. The bottle has a 24oz capacity, uses Bluetooth to connect to a smartphone, and has a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. The bottle will cost $59.99 USD when it launches.

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Here’s Why Email Puts You in a Nasty Mood – Your alarm goes off, you roll over, grab your phone, and flicker your eyes open. You squint in the glow of the blue and it begins: You’re scrolling through notifications, emails, texts. It’s already been shown that emailing after business hours can be psychologically damaging, but new research published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology confirms what you probably know in your gut to be true: workers who are expected to be available even when they aren’t at work experience an elevated stress response.

10 embarrassingly lazy things you do with your phone – Face it: Your smartphone is an enabler. Thanks to your handy little always-connected pocket device, you now no longer have to do anything that requires any effort , whether that’s interacting with other human beings or getting out of bed to turn off the lights. In fact, you’ve almost reached the heady heights of those fat future blob humans in WALL-E (goals, right?). Here are 10 super lazy—er, super-efficient—things you do with your phone (even if you won’t admit it).

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Text your roommate

Predator or prey? The eyes tell all, say scientists – Staring into the eyes of a wild animal might seem like an invitation to make you a meal, but new research suggests pupil shape is enough to reassure you or not. A team at UC Berkeley discovered that the ecological niche within which an animal sits – whether it hunts or is hunted, and when and how that hunt takes place – is a strong predictor of the pupil shape of that animal. The study saw vision scientist Martin Banks, who is a professor of optometry at UC Berkeley, collaborate with Durham University in the UK, investigating whether earlier theories around slitted eyes and circular pupils were indeed connected with feeding habits. In contrast, species with vertical slit pupils are more likely to ambush prey rather than chase it, and be active both day and night.

Something to think about:

Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”

–     Jack Canfield

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Major psychological association bans cooperation with CIA following torture scandal – The American Psychological Association made a nearly unanimous decision today to bar psychologists from participating in national security interrogations, The New York Times reports. The decision was a response to an independent report that came out last month, detailing how top APA officials and psychiatrists participated in the CIA’s torture program during the Bush administration.

The APA’s council of representatives voted on the measure at the organization’s convention in Toronto. The one dissenting vote came from Col. Larry James, who used to be the top Army intelligence psychologist at Guantánamo Bay, according to Democracy Now. The convention was the APA’s first since the release of the “Hoffman Report,” an independent review conducted by Chicago lawyer David Hoffman looking at the organization’s role in the US enhanced interrogation program. The report showed how the APA secretly worked with the Department of Defense, the CIA, and the White House to come up with ethical guidelines that would allow the torture program to continue without legal fallout.

Rand Paul And Chris Christie Spar Over NSA Surveillance – The exchange really highlighted what advocates for reigning in NSA spying are up against, and if the applause from the crowd was anything to go off of, it’s a depressingly uphill battle.

Fortunately, at least, last night’s exchange should keep the conversation going.

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Apple, Google should give FBI every last drop of user information, says ex-HP CEO and wannabe US prez Carly Fiorina – Former HP CEO and current presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina says Apple and Google should just hand user information over to government investigators.

Speaking Thursday at the Republican party’s presidential debates, Fiorina said companies should be more willing to cooperate with requests from federal investigators to produce customer information.

“I do not believe that we need to wholesale destroy every American citizen’s privacy in order to go after those that we know are suspect or are – are already a problem,” Fiorina told the debate moderator.

“But yes, there is more collaboration required between private sector companies and the public sector.”

Later in the debate, when asked specifically if Apple and Google should give the FBI unfettered access to their systems, Fiorina responded, “I absolutely would call on them to collaborate and cooperate, yes.”

Both Apple and Google have drawn the ire of government investigators by resisting efforts to decrypt and hand over personal information.

Australia: Telco national security law passage planned for spring – The Australian government has announced its intention to both introduce and pass the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill during the spring sitting of parliament, a law that would require telecommunications companies to increase network protection and allow government agencies to intervene for the purpose of protecting national security.

The government announced at the end of June its intention to amend the Telecommunications Act with additional national security-related measures. Under the proposed changes (PDF), released by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis on June 26, telcos “must do their best” to protect their networks against unauthorised access, or risk facing fines.

The Bill provides the secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, in consultation with the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the secretary of the Department of Communications, with the power to force carriers to provide information and refrain from undertaking certain activities on their networks, with the threat of fines to ensure compliance.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – August 7, 2015

10 Simple, Time-Saving Computer Tricks;  Microsoft vacates moral high ground for the data slurpers’ cesspit;  Why Windows 10 isn’t really free;  Best Buy fails to erase some returned devices before re-selling them;  A Week with Windows 10: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly;  Attention students and teachers: Check if you can get Office 365 for free now;  Send self-destructing messages with Kaboom;  Law banning secret filming of animal abuse on farms ruled unconstitutional;  Design flaw in Intel chips opens door to rootkits;  Hacker-friendly Chrysler hauled into court for class-action showdown;  Apple has new iOS 9 and watchOS 2.0 betas for you;  Meet RollJam, the $30 device that jimmies car and garage doors;  12 Tips All Diehard Xbox 360 Fans Should Know;  Pornhub is emulating Netflix with its new premium streaming service;  Mozilla urges users to update Firefox with file stealing exploit in wild;  Microsoft, Salesforce.com join $5.3 billion Informatica buyout;  Should Software Companies Be Legally Liable For Security Breaches?

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

10 Simple, Time-Saving Computer Tricks – When I watch inexperienced computer users scroll a Web page using the down arrow on their keyboard or look for specific information in a PDF by running their eyes down each page, I realize just how many tiny tricks and tips there are that make more experienced computer users faster at what they do. Here are ten of those tricks that anyone can—and should—learn. Chances are you know some of them, but even if only a couple of them are new to you, it’s worth checking out the list and the video below.

Attention students and teachers: Check if you can get Office 365 for free now – Earlier this year, Microsoft announced it was giving away Office 365 subscriptions to New York City public school students, and later it opened up the program to students in dozens of countries around the world. Now, any qualified student or faculty member can get a free Office 365 Education plan, which gives you unfettered access to Word, Excel and Powerpoint, plus the ability to collaborate with others in real-time using those programs. Here’s how to get it.

A Week with Windows 10: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – It seems almost surreal to think that it has already been a week since Microsoft unleashed Windows 10 to the world. Or at least to those not privy to Insider previews. In that short span of time, a lot has already been said about the latest, and supposedly the last, version of Windows. As expected, not all of them are good, but not all of them are bad either. Here are some of the top five things you can expect to experience when your time finally comes to upgrade.

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How to stop Windows 10 from using your PC’s bandwidth to update strangers’ systems – By default, Windows 10 turns your PC into a server for distributing updates to other machines. Here’s how to make it stop.

Send self-destructing messages with Kaboom – Kaboom is a free app that only requires those who want to send self-destructing messages to download the app. Once downloaded, you can send text and picture messages, complete with a countdown timer that dictates when the message will disappear forever. Not sure how long you want a message to remain active? You can also set a message to expire after a number of views. The company behind the app, Anchor Free, claims the disappearing act also includes deleting the content from its servers once the message expires. You can download the app for free for either iOS or Android.

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

7 Apps to Help You Get Stuff Done Around the House – These seven apps can help you keep track of your various household chores and projects, so you can spend more time getting things done and less time keeping track of them.

Facebook gives businesses more ways to privately message users – Businesses using the site now have more ways to send private messages, through Messenger, to Facebook users who interact with businesses’ pages or ads. Previously, businesses could only respond to users’ messages in the way they were initiated, either through a comment or a private message. Now, if a user leaves a comment on a Facebook page, the page owner can respond privately through Messenger.

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Apple has new iOS 9 and watchOS 2.0 betas for you – Apple has released iOS 9 beta 5 for iPhone and iPad, as well as watchOS 2 beta 5 for Apple Watch, as it nears the final versions this fall. The new software, which requires either an Apple developer account or beta program membership in order to access, paves the way for features like WiFi Calling on the iPhone across more carriers, as well as smarter switching of WiFi and cellular data for faster browsing, while on the smartwatch there’s a new Time-Lapse face among other tweaks.

Microsoft’s New App Is PowerPoint for People Who Hate PowerPoint – If the idea of formatting a PowerPoint fills you with dread, then you might want to consider downloading Sway, a new presentation app from Microsoft out Wednesday. Rather than overwhelm users with nitpicky formatting options, Sway sits between the user and the slides like an eager designer, automatically selecting fonts, prepping layouts, cropping photos and placing them flush against the text. PowerPoint maestros may bridle at the prospect of losing control to an overweening algorithm, but that’s fine with the Sway team.

Best Buy fails to erase some returned devices before re-selling them – We’ve seen this happen a few times with Best Buy, that ubiquitous chain with 1,600 stores in North America, which boasts that “more than 70 percent of the [US] population lives within 15 minutes of a Best Buy store.” The most recent incident happened last week when Michal Urban bought an open box Apple TV from a Best Buy in Mission Viejo, California. The Apple TV was still logged in to several of the previous owner’s accounts, Urban told Ars. Urban provided us with screenshots showing logged-in accounts for iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now.

Google turns your Android phone into a Hangouts presentation powerhouse – Google is on a roll with adding new features to Slides—the company’s presentation software—on mobile. After introducing support for Airplay and Chromecast in June, Google just announced Slides support for Hangouts video calls on Android. Instead of sharing your PC desktop during a Hangouts call, the new feature allows you to display a presentation on Hangouts from your smartphone or tablet. As with the AirPlay and Chromecast features, this essentially turns your phone into a presentation remote control, allowing you to advance through slides, check your speaker notes, and even monitor your presentation pace with a built-in timer.

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Dual-booting Linux with Windows: What you need to know – Linux can run from just a USB drive without modifying your existing system, but you’ll want to install it on your PC if you plan on using it regularly. Installing a Linux distribution alongside Windows as a “dual boot” system will give you a choice of either operating system each time you start your PC. It’s the ideal way for most people to install Linux, as you can always get back to a full Windows system with a reboot.

iOS keyboard app Signily lets users type with sign language – Signly, a new keyboard app for iOS, offers something that almost no other app does: the ability for deaf users to type and communicate with sign language. The app comes from ASLized, a US nonprofit group, and was created with the help of deaf people, and uses American Sign Language (ASL). Typing is done with hand gestures making different signs, in a style similar to the default emoji on iOS. There are even options to change the hand’s skin color, much like the recent iOS update that did the same to face and hand emojis.

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An SSD upgrade is still the single best thing you can do for your PC – I can’t tell you exactly how much your PC will speed up with an SSD. But I can tell you it will be a lot.

Microsoft caught using Windows user’s bandwidth to seed Windows 10 – I knew something was fishy when my internet connection was far slower than normal. This has been happening over a few days, after contacting my ISP they did some digging and found that my uploads were far higher than normal. I checked my devices one by one and found the culprit was my windows box. Hogging bandwidth and causing huge slowdown. And this is on a fiber connection! Later I found out that this was because MS has decided to automatically opt in ALL windows users into distributing windows 10 to other users!  Absolutely disgusting!

500px Revamps Its App To Better Appeal To The Instagram Crowd – 500px, the online photo-sharing community that recently raised another $13 million to challenge Flickr and Getty, is today rolling out a significant change to its mobile application. Beginning with an update on iOS, the company has completely redesigned and rebuilt its app from the ground up, in an effort that’s focused on making its app appeal to a more mainstream consumer base.

Reddit bans racist communities, ‘quarantines’ other offensive talk – Reddit is removing several racist communities from its website, as well as other offensive discussion topics, part of an ongoing effort to clean up the most toxic content on its site. Among those now banned are the subreddits /r/CoonTown and /r/bestofcoontown—as well as others with even more racist names—and also content related to “animated” child pornography, said Steve Huffman, Reddit’s chief executive, in a post on Wednesday. Reddit is trying to strike a balance between honoring its heritage as a place for free-wheeling free speech while also restricting hateful or harassing content. It’s a tough balance, though, and some of its longtime users have criticized what they see as censorship of the site.

Microsoft releases DVD player app for Windows 10 — for $15 – Windows 10 excludes a few key features, including support for playing DVDs. Microsoft has now released an app to handle the task, though it doesn’t play Blu-ray discs.

Don’t pay! You can watch DVDs for free on Windows 10 – Watching a movie on a DVD may seem archaic in this streaming age, but you shouldn’t have to pay a fee to play a DVD on your computer. For many people, the Windows 10 upgrade doesn’t come with software to play a DVD movie. Microsoft is charging $15 for the program in its app store, but you don’t have to pay. Watch CNET Update below to learn what you can do about it:

Security:

Design flaw in Intel chips opens door to rootkits – A design flaw in the x86 processor architecture dating back almost two decades could allow attackers to install a rootkit in the low-level firmware of computers, a security researcher said Thursday. Such malware could be undetectable by security products. The vulnerability stems from a feature first added to the x86 architecture in 1997. It was disclosed Thursday at the Black Hat security conference by Christopher Domas, a security researcher with the Battelle Memorial Institute.

Waiting for Android’s inevitable security Armageddon – We’re on day who-the-heck-knows of the Android Stagefright security vulnerability, and there’s really no point keeping track of the days because no one’s going to fix it. The Android ecosystem can’t deal with security, and it won’t change until it’s too late. The Android ecosystem’s reaction to the “Stagefright” vulnerability is an example of how terrible things are. An estimated 95 percent of Android devices have a have a remote arbitrary code execution just by receiving malicious video MMS. Android has other protections in place to stop this vulnerability from running amok on your smartphone, but it’s still really scary. As you might expect, Google, Samsung, and LG have all pledged to “Take Security Seriously” and issue a fix as soon as possible.

Google, Samsung, LG promise monthly Android phone security updates – Good news, Android users! Your devices are about to get more secure, thanks to a new update program Google is kicking off. You’ll now be getting security updates on a monthly basis — not whenever your carrier gets around to approving them. Samsung and LG are on board, and Google expects other manufacturers to follow their lead. The first update will be delivered to Nexus devices (4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, and the Nexus Player) this week. It features “fixes for issues in bulletins provided to partners through July 2015,” including the Stagefright exploit that set alarm bells off last week.

Windows patches can be intercepted and injected with malware – Researchers say Windows machines that fetch updates from an enterprise update server not configured to use encryption are vulnerable to an injection attack.

Russia blamed in Pentagon cyber-attack – A Russian cyber-attack in July saw the Pentagon pull the plug on the entire unsecured email and internet system for the Joint Staff, it’s been revealed. Described as a “sophisticated cyber intrusion”, the incident saw email accounts of around 4,000 military and civilian personnel who work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff compromised, though officials aren’t decided yet on whether it was sanctioned by the Russian government or the handiwork of an independent player. No classified documents or correspondence was taken, officials insist to CNBC. Nonetheless, it seems the haul has been well distributed.

Meet RollJam, the $30 device that jimmies car and garage doors – Serial hacker Samy Kamkar has devised RollJam, a $30 device that steals the secret codes so attackers can use them to gain unauthorized access to a car or garage. It works against a variety of market-leading chips, including the KeeLoq access control system from Microchip Technology Inc. and the High Security Rolling Code generator made by National Semiconductor. RollJam is capable of opening electronic locks on cars from Chrysler, Daewoo, Fiat, GM, Honda, Toyota, Volvo, Volkswagen Group, Clifford, Shurlok, and Jaguar. It also works against a variety of garage-door openers, including the rolling code garage door opener made by King Cobra.

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Mozilla urges users to update Firefox with file stealing exploit in wild – A violation of the same origin policy within Firefox’s built-in PDF Viewer is being exploited, which is fixed in newly released Firefox versions.

Man-in-the-Cloud Attacks Want Your Dropbox, Google Drive Files – We’ve heard of man-in-the-middle and man-in-the-browser attacks. But Imperva researchers have now uncovered man-in-the-cloud attacks, and they’re coming for your Google Drive and Dropbox accounts. With a man-in-the-cloud attack, someone can compromise major file sync services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and Box (to name a few) without having to resort to stealing the user’s account credentials or somehow compromising the cloud provider’s servers. In this scenario, attackers just have to steal the synchronization token saved on the user’s endpoint machine.

Company News:

Pornhub is emulating Netflix with its new premium streaming service – Adult entertainment giant Pornhub — the flagship in the portfolio of online video conglomerate MindGeek — is launching a premium offering as a Netflix-style streaming service, one complete with ad-free HD viewing, faster playback, and exclusive content. This appears to be the site’s first step into the world of paid porn after years spent feasting on free (and often illicit) content. The service costs $9.99 per month, and it’s currently available within both desktop and mobile browsers. Pornhub is working on Android and Roku apps for release in the near future, and it’s also planning to augment the existing service with VR integration in 2016.

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IBM Buying Merge Healthcare For $1B To Bring Medical Image Analysis To Watson Health – IBM announced a huge deal today, agreeing to pay a billion dollars for Merge Healthcare, a medical imaging company it plans to fold into the Watson Health unit. Merge’s technology is in use in 7500 healthcare facilities in the US, according to information supplied by IBM. The firm processes billions of images such as x-rays, MRIs and CT scans with 30 billion images processed to-date, a number that is growing by the day. In fact, IBM researchers estimate that up to 90 percent of all medical data today is in the form of images.

Microsoft, Salesforce.com join $5.3 billion Informatica buyout – Data-integration giant Informatica has made itself a private company in a $5.3 billion deal that includes investments from Microsoft and Salesforce.com. The deal, said to be the biggest leveraged buyout this year, means Informatica’s stock ceased trading on the Nasdaq on Thursday. In exchange, Informatica stockholders are getting $48.75 per share in cash. It’s part of a trend in which companies have been taking themselves private to make themselves more competitive. Dell, Tibco Software, Riverbed and Compuware have all made similar moves.

Hacker-friendly Chrysler hauled into court for class-action showdown – Fiat Chrysler is facing a class-action lawsuit in the US after researchers proved they could wirelessly snatch control of the engine management systems in some of its vehicles. The lawsuit, filed in the southern district of Illinois, claims Chrysler knew the networking systems in its cars were insecure. The motoring giant offers a service called uConnect that connects vehicles and their internal Wi-Fi to the public internet via the cellular network, allowing people to check Facebook on the move, or whatever.

NVIDIA Soars 9% After Beating On Profit And Revenue, Credits Growth In Its Gaming And Auto Tech Divisions – NVIDIA shares were up nearly 9 percent in after-hours trading following its announcement of a beat in FY 2016 Q2 earnings Thursday. The computer component manufacturer managed to exceed street expectations on revenue with $1.153 billion while posting non-GAAP earnings of $0.34 per share, up 13 percent from a year ago. Analysts had looked for Nvidia to generate $0.20 per-share profit on top line of $1.01 billion.

Games and Entertainment:

12 Tips All Diehard Xbox 360 Fans Should Know – The 360 is the best-selling console Microsoft has made, the sixth best-selling in gaming history (right behind the PS2, Nintendo DS, Game Boy, original PlayStation, and Nintendo Wii). Which means there are a lot of 360 users still making do. There is obviously a lot of life left in the ol’ Xbox 360. To solidify that fact, I’ve put together 12 tips that keep me happy every day with mine. Implement them if the console remains your hub of fun and entertainment activity.

Classic iPhone game Spider finally has a sequel – 2009 was an exciting time for mobile games. The App Store was new, and game developers were still trying out strange and inventive ideas for touchscreen gaming, without having to worry about payment models or an over-flooded market. One of the best of that early wave of games was Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, where you played as a tiny spider, spinning webs to eat bugs while also exploring a sprawling house filled with secrets. It was an entirely unique combination of gameplay and environmental storytelling. Now, six years later, an eternity for mobile gaming, a sequel arrives: Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon, available today on iOS and Steam.

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HBO NOW Adds Support For Google’s Chromecast – HBO’s over-the-top streaming service may not be making money just yet, but it is rapidly expanding its footprint. Starting today, the service will support Google’s Chromecast for streaming from your mobile device to your TV, according to the update text in the iOS version that just arrived on the iTunes App Store. The Android app has not yet been updated, as of the time of writing, but will arrive later today.

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The Mad Max game has little to do with the movie, but could be just as good – Here’s an easy recipe for disappointment: take one of the awesomest, most refreshingly nuanced and thoughtful action movies of recent times, Mad Max: Fury Road, and turn it into a generic find-and-destroy open world game. That’s exactly what I envisioned when I first heard of the Mad Max game, which is set in the same universe and stars the same titular character, but is otherwise divorced from Fury Road. I’m glad to say I was wrong.

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World of Warcraft: Legion unveiled with teaser – Blizzard has announced the upcoming expansion to World of Warcraft, it is called Legion. The company showed off Legion at Gamescom in Germany earlier today, including releasing the first teaser for the expansion that includes a look at both gameplay and its different features (we’ve the video after the jump). Among other things, World of Warcraft: Legion will include a new level cap raised to 110, as well as a new hero class called Demon Hunter.

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Prison Break becomes the latest Fox series to be rebooted – Prison Break, a show about hot tattooed men learning how far they will go for the people they love as they writhe inside cages, is coming back for another escape. Deadline reports that the series, which limped off the air in 2009 after two incredible seasons and two mediocre ones, will return for 10 episodes. The first one is now being written by creator Paul Scheuring, with stars Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell returning as brothers who perpetually find themselves caught up in shadowy conspiracies. They will probably have to break out of something again. It could be fun!

Off Topic (Sort of):

Microsoft vacates moral high ground for the data slurpers’ cesspit – A funny thing happened while I was reinstalling Windows 8 over Windows 10 yesterday morning. There in front of me, halfway through the installation process, were two full, clear pages of privacy toggles. Every toggle was set to not send private information to Microsoft, or anyone else. In addition, Windows 8 created a local user account by default – and didn’t demand I maintain a constant, umbilical connection to Microsoft’s servers. Windows 8 was configured for maximum privacy. Now compare this to the indiscriminate data slurp that Microsoft calls Windows 10. It’s basically a clumsy, 3GB keylogger.

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Why Windows 10 isn’t really free: The subtle new world of built-in costs – Windows 10 isn’t really free. Realizing why and how it isn’t really free can help you understand why installing the operating system on 1 billion systems by 2017 is such a big deal for Microsoft—and why this version of Windows is very different at its core than Windows 7 and its predecessors. Let’s get the “free” part out of the way before we dive into that, though.

Should Software Companies Be Legally Liable For Security Breaches? – It’s a truism that all software has bugs and security holes. It’s another that license agreements invariably make software vendors immune to liability for damage or losses caused by such flaws. But, to my surprise, Black Hat’s founder and keynote speaker are arguing that software product liability, presumably mandated by governments, is inevitable. If they’re right, a seismic change is on the horizon.

Man films cop, who quickly unholsters his weapon for no apparent reason – In the most recent incident involving authorities, filming, and firearms, a new viral phone video from California depicts a bizarre situation where a local police officer unholsters his weapon at a man for no apparent reason. The video was taken by Don McComas (aka Ryan Jones), of Rohnert Park, California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco. The five-minute film was posted to YouTube on August 3, and it shows a Rohnert Park police SUV slowly approaching McComas on what appears to be a quiet residential street. In the YouTube notes, McComas wrote that it all started when he was out in front of his house, hooking up his boat to his car.

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Samsung will turn its TVs into giant credit cards – Samsung wants to make it easier for you to make purchases from the comfort of your couch. That’s why they’re bringing Samsung Pay integration to their smart TVs. Only 2014 and 2015 models will be receiving the upgrade. If that happens to include your Samsung set, you’ll soon be able to make payments with the greatest of ease. Link your Samsung Pay account to your credit card or PayPal account, and all you have to do to complete a transaction on your television is to enter a four-digit PIN.

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The One Thing Every Great Company Has In Common – Obscured in the valuation dust of the current unicorn stampede is a key question: What actually makes a great company great? What do the future Facebooks, Googles and Apples have in common — not to mention the current ones?

Something to think about:

“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

–     Albert Einstein

Today’s Free Downloads:

Belarc Advisor – Belarc Advisor builds a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware, network inventory, missing Microsoft hotfixes, anti-virus status, security benchmarks, and displays the results in your Web browser.

While there are a lot of choices in system info tools, Belarc has the advantage of being around the longest. It’s a tool found in most techs toolboxes.

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Pointing up  I bought a new machine yesterday and Belarc Advisor got me up to date quickly on all facets of this new box. The graphic above illustrates just a small sample of the type of reporting this app is capable of. Highly recommended.

IP Camera Viewer – IP Camera Viewer lets you use any USB or IP camera is to keep an eye on your home, office, parking area or anywhere you need security.

View video from multiple IP cameras directly to your computer. Currently more than 2000 different IP camera models from leading camera manufactures are supported. It includes Axis, Canon, D-Link, Foscam, Panasonic, Mobotix, Pixord, Sony, Toshiba, Vivotek and many more.

You can send a request to our technical team if your camera or model is not listed in our application. Virtually all USB cameras work with IP Camera Viewer. You can control and view up to 4 camera feeds simultaneously. Get a live preview from multiple cameras with this light-weight application. IP Camera Viewer’s centralized camera and layout management allows you to view your cameras from multiple remote locations on a single screen. You can change the arrangement and preview layout of the cameras, for your security needs.

Make the live video clearer by adjusting camera image and video properties. It allows you to individually configure video properties such as resolution and frame rate for USB cameras. You can set image properties such as saturation, brightness, contrast for USB and IP Cameras.

What if your camera is mounted upside-down or its preview is tilted a bit? With IP Camera Viewer you can adjust the orientation of your camera preview. It helps you to adjust the coverage area by supporting many PTZ (Pan/Tilt/Zoom) enabled network cameras. IP Camera Viewer provides a digital zoom, even if it is not supported by your camera.

IP Camera Viewer allows you to set up a system that suits your needs. It’s absolutely free and ideal for both personal and business use.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Dream of Internet freedom dying, Black Hat keynoter says – Today the dream of Internet freedom is dying as the global network becomes more centralized, regulated and globalized, according to Jennifer Granick, who delivered the opening keynote Wednesday at the annual Black Hat USA Conference in Las Vegas.

Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said we will have an Internet in 20 years that does not reflect the original dream of freedoms and global conversation.

“It will be a slick, stiff, controlled closed thing,” she told a packed Mandalay Bay Ballroom.

Granick said the hacker ethic that information should be accessible is dying along with decentralization, that was an original design element of the Internet, and the idea of a network that would allow free speech, while providing security and privacy.

Australia: Foxtel to launch legal action to block pirating websites – FOXTEL will be the first rights-holder to begin launching legal proceedings, with the company confirming it is receiving legal advice on how it can best put the new anti-piracy legislation into effect.

If Foxtel does launch a case in the coming months, it would be aimed at blocking websites such as The Pirate Bay, which Australians flock to to illegally download shows such as Game of Thrones, which Foxtel has the exclusive rights to in Australia.

A Foxtel spokesman told news.com.au: “The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill does nothing more than give copyright holders similar rights in relation to foreign websites which steal their content to those they would have if the sites were based in Australia.

“Because these pirate sites do not exist in Australia, rights holders are not able to take direct legal action against them.

“Similar laws exists in Europe, the UK, Singapore and many other jurisdictions.

“Foxtel and other rights holders are currently assessing what action can and should be taken to give effect to the legislation.” (recommended by Mal C.)

China Is Making a Massive New Move to Censor the Internet – China, long known for its strict Internet censorship laws, is now sending online censors to take posts at the country’s biggest online companies.

Key “network security officers” will monitor the work of key websites and Web firms for crimes such as fraud and the “spreading of rumors,” China’s Ministry of Public Security said in a statement. These officers would be a part of the roughly 2 million people employed by the government to monitor Web activity, as first reported by the BBC.

The ministry didn’t say which companies would be getting a new in-house police unit, the Wall Street Journal notes. It also wasn’t clear whether these new measures would apply to international companies as well as local tech firms operating in China.

Germany’s top prosecutor fired over Netzpolitik “treason” probe – Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas has fired the country’s top prosecutor, Harald Range, over the latter’s handling of the Netzpolitik.org “treason” investigation, turning what began as a battle over blogs, whistleblowing, and freedom of the press, into a full-blown political crisis. As the Deutsche Welle website reports, the dismissal was framed as an “early retirement.” Maas said: “I have told Federal Prosecutor Range that my trust in his ability to fulfill the office has suffered lasting damage and therefore in agreement with the Chancellery I will request his retirement today.”

On Sunday, Ars reported that Range was pausing the investigation. That was partly as a result of the growing public outcry over the suggestion that two journalists at Netzpolitik.org had committed treason for publishing leaks about Germany’s surveillance plans, but also because of growing political pressure. Last week, Maas indicated to Range that he doubted that publishing the leaked documents on Netzpolitik.org constituted treason. Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Monday that she gave her “full support” to the Justice Minister, while refusing to say whether she still had confidence in Range—effectively siding with Maas.

Yesterday, Range hit back, accusing Maas of “an intolerable encroachment on the independence of the judiciary.” AFP reported him as saying: “The freedom of the press and of expression is a valuable asset. But this freedom, including on the Internet, is not limitless. It does not absolve journalists of the duty to comply with the law.” This framing turned the “treason” affair into an open battle between the German state and its judiciary, but with Merkel’s public support, Maas evidently felt in a strong enough position to remove Range without further discussion.

Tech industry objects to terrorist activity reporting section in US legislation – Powerful tech industry groups have asked the U.S. Senate to drop a plan to require Internet companies to report terrorist activity on their platforms, as the provision could potentially raise privacy issues for users.

Section 603 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 would require Internet services companies, who obtain ”actual knowledge of any terrorist activity,” to provide to the appropriate authorities the “facts or circumstances” of the alleged activities.

Describing “any terrorist activity” as a vague and overbroad term, the Internet Association, Reform Government Surveillance and Internet Infrastructure Coalition have in a letter Wednesday warned that the provision could result in “overbroad reporting to the government, swamping law enforcement with useless information, and potentially raising First Amendment and privacy concerns for the user who posted the item.”

How the Arab Spring blew the lid off the commercial spyware – When Middle Eastern governments fell in the Arab Spring uprisings, one of the side effects was that hard evidence of dodgy practices by commercial spyware vendors was made public. Unfortunately, the result is putting us all at risk.

Documents uncovered when the Mubarak regime fell showed that the Egyptians had bought commercial spyware from the UK-based firm Gamma International, while in Syria, Blue Coat Systems was found to have been selling deep packet inspection equipment to the government.

The same was true in Libya, where after the fall of the Gaddafi dictatorship, documents were found showing that Amesys – a subsidiary of French conglomerate Groupe Bull – had sold the mad colonel’s government spyware that was tracking Libyan citizens both at home and abroad.

“All of this became evidence of what people knew all along – that there were sales of sophisticated malware that enabled governments that weren’t tech savvy to spy on their own citizens and on diasporas abroad,” explained security researcher Collin Anderson.

Carly Fiorina calls on Apple, Google to provide greater access for FBI – Republican presidential candidate and former tech-executive Carly Fiorina has called on Apple and Google to provide greater access to information about their users to the FBI and law enforcement in order to aid investigations.

Speaking Thursday in a televised debate in Cleveland organized by Fox News Channel, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard said restrictions that prevent private companies and law enforcement from working together need to be changed.

“I certainly support that we need to tear down cyber walls, not on a mass basis but on a targeted basis,” she said in response to a question from a moderator.

“I do not believe that we need to wholesale destroy every American citizen’s privacy in order to go after those that we know are suspect or already a problem, but yes, there is more collaboration required between private sector companies and the public sector and specifically we know that we could have detected and repelled some of these cyber attacks if that collaboration had been permitted,” she said.

Law banning secret filming of animal abuse on farms ruled unconstitutional – Idaho’s pro-agribusiness law that barred the secret recording of livestock has been deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge who ruled that the so-called “ag gag” law violated the First Amendment.

The decision, if it survives on appeal, threatens similar laws in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and Utah. A North Carolina law takes force in January. Idaho’s law carried a maximum one-year jail penalty and up to a $5,000 fine for first offenders for filming or audio recording at a farm without the owner’s consent.

It was challenged by several animal-rights groups. Monday’s decision marks the first time one of these laws has been declared unconstitutional.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the group hopes the Idaho decision snowballs. “This Idaho decision is just the first step in defeating similar ag gag laws across the country,” the group said in a statement.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – August 5, 2015

Trust no one: How caller ID spoofing has ruined the simple phone call;   Want Windows 10 to stop tracking you? Now there’s an app for that;  Use Cortana to control your Android phone from Windows 10;  Tor users: Do not expect anonymity and end-to-end security;  LibreOffice 5: The best office suite today won’t cost you a dime;  12 obscure new Windows 10 features that eliminate everyday hassles;  Mac backup basics;  YouTube rolls out an updated video player;  How to install Windows 10 on a Mac;  BitTorrent Sync apps updated with productivity features;  Yahoo’s ads spread malware via hackers, vulnerable Flash;  Netflix Surges 8% To All-Time High;  Xbox One will get a TV DVR feature next year;  14 Optical Illusions That Prove Your Brain Sucks;  Why it’s time to prepare for a world where machines can do your job.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Trust no one: How caller ID spoofing has ruined the simple phone call – Caller ID is easy to spoof and it’s leading to a host of real threats, from account recovery fraud to marketing scams to malicious pranks resulting in SWAT teams showing up at a victim’s door.

Windows 10 doesn’t offer much privacy by default: Here’s how to fix it – Windows 10, by default, has permission to report a huge amount of data back to Microsoft. By clicking through “Express Settings” during installation, you allow Windows 10 to gather up your contacts, calendar details, text and touch input, location data, and a whole lot more. The OS then sends it all back to Microsoft so that it can be used for personalisation and targeted ads. That isn’t to say you should be happy about this state of affairs, however. If you’d like to retain most of your privacy and keep your personal data on your PC, Windows 10 can be configured in that way. Just be warned that there are quite a few toggles that need to be turned off, and you’ll lose some functionality as well (Cortana won’t work, for example).

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Want Windows 10 to stop tracking you? Now there’s an app for that – Some have said Microsoft does not respect its users’ privacy by default; others believe some of the hype is overblown. Perhaps the biggest critique is that upon setup, the process could offer more granular options, and report less data back to the software giant. All of the tracking mechanisms can be switched off through the various options at setup, and after the fact through the settings. But now there’s a lightweight, open-source app that aims to claw back your privacy.

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Windows 10 Tip: Customizing the Start menu – With Windows 10, Microsoft is offering new ways to customize the Start menu and for those of you who are new to the OS, we have a guide to help you get started making Windows feel a bit more personal.

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Windows 10 ‘Service Release 1’ expected to roll out next month – SR1 will be a maintenance update, focusing on adding polish and stability to the OS, so don’t expect any new features. As more people continue to upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft will gather more telemetry from the OS in action, and will no doubt use that data to help inform development of future maintenance releases.

Use Cortana to control your Android phone from Windows 10 – Cortana is now almost everywhere, thanks to Windows 10 bringing Microsoft’s smart assistant desktops and tablets. While there have been indications that Cortana will indeed come to Android smartphones, that might still be a long time coming. What if you wanted Cortana to let you control your smartphone, or almost anything else, hands-free and only using your voice? Good thing, then, that Android already has all the needed tools to make that happen and, with a bit of trickery, rope in Cortana into it as well.

12 obscure new Windows 10 features that eliminate everyday hassles – The amount of new goodies in Windows 10 is almost mind-boggling. Even if you’ve read PCWorld’s insanely detailed Windows 10 review, our look at Windows 10’s best new features, and our mammoth guides to the operating system’s best tips and tricks and hidden features, you still haven’t seen everything Microsoft has to throw at you. Case in point: These 10 awesome new Windows 10 features that fly under the radar. Between these and virtual desktop support, Windows 10 renders a decent chunk of our list of free PC programs that ease headaches obsolete. Let’s dig in.

How to install Windows 10 on a Mac – If you haven’t already heard, Windows 10 is pretty great and worth installing on your PC. Apple fans won’t miss out either, since the new operating system can be installed on your Mac as well. Following these instructions will install Windows 10 on your Mac in a dual-boot configuration, meaning you’ll have the option to choose which operating system (Windows 10 or Mac OS) to use each time you turn on the computer.

Mac backup basics – A Mac backup plan doesn’t have to be complicated. The easier a plan is to set up and follow, the more likely you are to use it and have a current backup when disaster happens.

LibreOffice 5: The best office suite today won’t cost you a dime – I’ve used LibreOffice as my main office suite since it forked from OpenOffice five years ago. Now its latest edition, LibreOffice 5.0, is better than ever. And, in my book, that means it’s the best standalone office suite available in 2015.

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YouTube rolls out an updated video player – You may have already noticed this morning that YouTube has rolled out a revised version of its video player for desktop users. The new video player looks very nice and you can see it in the image here or when you play any of the embedded videos on SlashGear. YouTube didn’t bother to toss up a PR to tell us all of what it changed leaving us to glean the details for ourselves.

The $169 Cloudbook is Acer’s idea of a Windows 10 Chromebook – Announced a month ago, Acer has officially launched the Windows 10 equivalent of Google’s Chromebooks, coming in at jut $169 and running full Windows 10.

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Epson’s new printers will make ink cartridges a thing of the past – Printer drivers, paper jams, running out of ink, it’s all the worst (though the advent of wireless printing makes things marginally less horrible). Epson is trying to do its part to make things a little better with its new line of EcoTank printers — despite the ridiculous name, they have the smart idea of coming with huge tanks of ink that should last about two years before they need to be replaced. Epson claims that these printers have about the same capacity of 20 sets of ink cartridges; when the tanks run low, you can top them off with a bottle of ink. Basically, the EcoTank is the Droid Turbo of printers: can’t come up with better ink / battery technology? Just make things bigger. These printers don’t come cheap, either — the least expensive EcoTank printer starts at $379.

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BitTorrent Sync apps updated with productivity features – The Bittorrent Sync mobile apps have been updated with features needed for productivity, not just file sharing. Among the changes is the ability to directly edit files and then sync those changes on other devices where the item is stored. There’s also the option to create different file types that are saved straight into the Sync folder for sharing to other devices or users. The changes have arrived for mobile users on multiple platforms as of today.

Security:

Security experts create worm that infects Mac firmware and is nearly impossible to get rid of – Apple’s Macs and OS X have traditionally been viewed as a safer, more secure alternative to Windows, but researchers have proven that’s not the case. Security experts created a worm that attaches itself to a Mac’s firmware and remains there no matter what. Ahead of a presentation on this type of attack, researchers created a proof-of-concept worm that can stealthily burrow itself into a Mac’s firmware. It’s then impossible to remove without re-flashing the device’s firmware, which can be difficult and is only for those who really know what they’re doing.

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Yahoo’s ads spread malware via hackers, vulnerable Flash – Yahoo was recently hit by hackers who used its advertisements to deliver malware to an unspecified number of visitors on several of its own websites, it has been revealed. The malware campaign carried on for a full 7-day week before Yahoo, having been alerted by the researchers who discovered it, took it down. Yahoo says it is investigating the matter, and though it has not revealed how many people were affected, it said through a spokesperson that the initial reports “grossly misrepresented” the scale of the attack.

Tor users: Do not expect anonymity and end-to-end security – The Tor network is similar to a door lock: It works well, until a determined individual wants to get in. Get details on what Tor is and what it is not.

EFF developing stronger ‘Do Not Track’ standards for web browsers – While a “Do Not Track” setting has become standard in most browsers today, including Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, it’s commonly known that internet advertisers still have ways of tracking users. Advertisers profit from tracking the browsing history of users, and whether users have turned the Do Not Track setting on or not, many will ignore it altogether in their quest for data. That’s why the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has announced it’s building a stronger standard for the setting, aimed to protecting user privacy.

Battery Attributes Can Be Used To Track Web Users – A team of European security researchers has published a paper analyzing how the battery life of mobile devices could be used to track web browsing habits of Firefox users on Linux, using the HTML5 Battery Status API.

Company News:

Netflix Surges 8% To All-Time High On News Of New Price Target And Japan Launch Date – On a day the NASDAQ was down about 0.2 percent, Netflix hit a new all-time high during intra-day trading, hitting $122.78 and eventually closing at $121.00 per share, up 7.5 percent on the day. The video streaming service has seen its shares rise 143 percent so far in 2015. A stock split, Icahn cashing out, and and encouraging earnings reports have spurred investor’s attention in the company, as has its recently announced entry into Asian markets.

Netflix Announces Its New ‘Unlimited’ Maternity And Paternity Leave Program – A few hours after hitting its all-time stock price high today, Netflix has announced a new program for all employees. This is a pretty landmark perk, with the company showing both current and potential employees how much it cares. The company suggests parents can come back to the office either part or full time, then go back out as necessary during the first year. All paid of course. Yahoo doubled its maternity and paternity leave in 2013 to make it more competitive with Facebook and Google, and it has shown to be an important perk for all three companies. The talent is growing up.

Apple falls to third in China smartphone rankings, while Xiaomi vaults ahead – Xiaomi regained its position as China’s leading smartphone vendor in the second quarter, while Apple fell to third place despite increased sales of its iPhones. Xiaomi took 15.9% of the Chinese market in the April-to-June quarter, according to research firm Canalys, followed by Huawei, which had 15.7% and was the fastest growing vendor. It’s an impressive feat for both Xiaomi and Huawei. China is the world’s biggest smartphone market and competition is more fierce than ever, with Apple, Samsung and dozens of smaller local vendors all fighting for a bigger piece of the pie.

Accenture acquires US cybersecurity firm FusionX – Global consulting giant Accenture announced on Tuesday it has acquired FusionX, a Washington, DC-based cybersecurity firm. FusionX specializes in cyber attack simulation, threat modeling, cyber investigations and security risk advisory — services that Dublin-based Accenture plans to fold into its own suite of global security offerings.

Amazon responds to furor over limits on Prime sharing – Amazon has responded to an erupting controversy surrounding its popular Prime membership program, saying that a change it quietly made in regard to sharing accounts was meant to benefit customers, not restrict them.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox One backward compatibility for Xbox 360 games launches in November with 100 titles – Microsoft’s Mike Ybarra said that over 83 years’ worth of Xbox 360 games have been played on the Xbox One so far – and there will soon be plenty more titles to look forward to. He announced that all future Xbox 360 Games with Gold titles will have backward compatibility support on the newer console. Most importantly of all, he announced that Microsoft will make Xbox 360 backward compatibility available on the Xbox One this November for everyone – not just those on the preview program – with over 100 titles at launch.

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Xbox One will get a TV DVR feature next year – Microsoft announced the new feature on stage at Gamescom today, but the company is limiting it to only free-to-air TV. While the Xbox One can control and view content from cable boxes using a HDMI-in port, Microsoft has released digital TV tuners in Europe and the US to support free-to-air television. Mike Ybarra, head of platform engineering at Xbox, only mentioned recording free-to-air TV on stage, and Microsoft’s blog post reveals this is for free-to-air only. Microsoft is planning to enable the Xbox One TV DVR feature in 2016.

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Microsoft announces Halo World Championship with $1 million prize pool – We’ve seen plenty of Halo 5: Guardians in the lead-up to its October 27th release date. For Gamescom 2015, Microsoft focused on Halo’s history as an e-sport — and then took it a step further by announcing a World Championship with $1 million in prizes. That’s a significant boost from last month’s $150,000 pool but still a far cry from the $18 million Dota 2 International Championships. The focus will be on Halo 5’s more frenetic Arena multiplayer (instead of Warzone).

Off Topic (Sort of):

Stratolaunch aircraft will have a 385-foot wingspan – Paul Allen, Elon Musk and several other partners are teaming up to build an aircraft that will be the largest aircraft in the entire world when finished. The aircraft is dubbed Stratolaunch and if all goes well the partners plan to begin testing the aircraft in 2016. Stratolaunch is already under construction at the Mojave Air and Spaceport in California. The partners plan to use the giant aircraft to perform in air launches of satellite-laden rockets. By launching the rockets in the air rather than from the ground, inclement weather wouldn’t delay a launch and the rockets would save fuel since they would already be at altitude and speed before the launch started.

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Google And MIT Researchers Demo An Algorithm That Lets You Take Clear Photos Through Reflections – In a paper they will present at Siggraph 2015 later this month, Tianfan Xue, Michael Rubinstein, Ce Liu and William T. Freeman show how you can take a short video sequence with your phone and then let their algorithms do their magic. Reflections, rain drops and fences mostly disappear from the final image. The algorithms looks at the different images from the video and then figure out what’s an obstruction in the foreground and what’s part of the background. Others have tried this before, but none of their results are as good as what these researcher came up with.

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14 Optical Illusions That Prove Your Brain Sucks – Our brains filter through a constant tsunami of stimuli and piece the important parts together to recreate what we know as “reality.” And they do all this in damn-near real-time—which is really impressive if you think about it. But here’s the thing: a big chunk of what we consider “reality” actually consists of our brains making guestimates. We know this because researchers have devised ways to consistently fool our brains into seeing things they’re not really seeing—even when our brains know that’s not what they’re seeing. These little reality busters are known as “optical illusions.”

Why it’s time to prepare for a world where machines can do your job – For decades movies have warned of intelligent machines taking our lives while ignoring a more plausible near-future threat: that they will take our jobs. A growing number of economists and artificial intelligence researchers are recommending that societies prepare for a world where large numbers of jobs are automated. If they’re right, the disruption to labour markets would be significant: the jobs identified as vulnerable are held by swathes of the population including supermarket cashiers and shop assistants, waiters, truck drivers and office admins. All of these tasks have a high probability of being carried out by software within “a decade or two”, according to a study by the Oxford Martin School & Faculty of Philosophy in the UK.

Watch: man surfs with dirt bike, rides across ocean – If you thought GoPro’s video of a man flying like a superhero down a mountain and through a split rock was impressive, DC’s new video will blow your mind. Titled ‘Pipe Dream’, the video shows the successful conclusion of one man’s two-year pursuit: to surf with his dirt bike. He took to the waves in full motocross getup, helmet and all. He also blasted his way over the ocean on the motor bike, dumbfounding a few people in the process. Full video after the jump!

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Dear sexists, this is what engineers actually look like – Technically Incorrect: In response to criticism of an ad featuring a female engineer, the Twitter hashtag #Ilooklikeanegineer attracts pictures of the sort of people that some wouldn’t expect.

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Sugar changes the chemical structure of tea and coffee – Some people just can’t handle their coffee or tea black. It’s too bitter, they say. So, they put a little sugar in to get rid of some of the bitter bite. However, researchers have found that the additive isn’t masking the flavor of these favorite morning beverages — it’s changing the chemistry of the caffeine within these drinks in a fundamental way.

Something to think about:

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

–       Isaac Asimov

Today’s Free Downloads:

Viber for desktop – Viber for Desktop lets you send free messages as well as make free calls to other Viber users, on any device and network, in any country!

Free calls, text and picture sharing with anyone, anywhere!

    Free text, calling, photo messages and location-sharing with Viber users*

No registration, alias or invitations required

Instantly integrates with your own contact list

Best-quality mobile calls using 3G or Wi-Fi

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Global spy system ECHELON confirmed at last – by leaked Snowden files – Special Report: Duncan Campbell has spent decades unmasking Britain’s super-secretive GCHQ, its spying programmes, and its cosy relationship with America’s NSA. Today, he retells his life’s work exposing the government’s over-reaching surveillance, and reveals documents from the leaked Snowden files confirming the history of the fearsome ECHELON intercept project. This story is also published simultaneously today by The Intercept, as is – at long last – Duncan’s Register Christmas Lecture from last year.

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India nixes online porn ban following intense public outrage on social media – That didn’t take long. The world’s oldest Internet hobby is resuming in India, days after the country virtually banned Internet porn. Indians took to Twitter and other social-media sites blasting this weekend’s anti-porn move, and the government has listened.

IT and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Tuesday that websites that don’t display child pornography may resume streaming, according to local media reports. On Saturday, the Indian government initially ordered Internet providers to filter about 857 websites said to render pornographic material in a bid to protect morality. The government said the sites’ content was “immoral and indecent,” sites including things like Pornhub and Playboy.

“A new notification will be issued shortly. The ban will be partially withdrawn. Sites that do not promote child porn will be unbanned,” Prasad told India Today TV.

Senate heads toward vote on CISA cyberthreat info sharing bill – The U.S. Senate could take a preliminary vote as soon as Wednesday on a controversial bill intended to encourage businesses to share cyberthreat information with each other and with government agencies, despite concerns that the legislation would allow the widespread sharing of personal customer data.

Senate leaders are attempting to iron out compromise language to address privacy concerns in the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), but if no compromise is reached Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will schedule a so-called cloture vote on Wednesday morning, said a spokesman for McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.

A cloture vote would limit debate on the bill and move the Senate toward final passage, potentially before the Senate leaves for a four-week summer recess this weekend.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – August 3, 2015

How to upgrade to Windows 10 without waiting in line;  How to protect your wireless network from Wi-Fi Sense;  25 Apps for the Tech-Savvy Teacher;  How to block a phone number on your Android phone;  7 Router Features You Should Be Using for Better Wi-Fi;  GTA 5 becomes an RPG with this new mod;  Hacker steals Bitdefender customer log-in credentials;  Faster booting, smaller footprint make Windows 10 an easy upgrade for old PCs;  How to do a clean install of Windows 10;  12 Things You Can Replace With a $38 Tablet;  Drawing Lessons From July’s Jeep Hack;  Batch forward emails with Multi Forward for Gmail;  How to use Facebook’s new Security Checkup feature;  1.4m Fiat Chrysler radio hack recall may be tip of iceberg;  Google instant translation app adds 20 new languages;  Game of Thrones S5 downloads arrive early on August 31;  Nvidia Shield Tablets Recalled Over Fire Concerns;  Why India’s IT firms are retraining masses of employees;  U.S. District Judge rules mobile-phone tracking does require a warrant.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to upgrade to Windows 10 without waiting in line – Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade is rolling out to millions of PCs worldwide. 14 million machines are now running Windows 10, but are you still waiting for your upgrade notification? If so, there’s an easy way to avoid the line and download Windows 10 and upgrade straight away.

How to do a clean install of Windows 10 – If you have a Windows 7 or 8 computer, you can install Microsoft’s new Windows 10 OS completely for free. If you choose to follow this method Windows 10 will bring along all of your data, apps and most of your system settings from your older OS. Which can adversely affect performance. This post will show you how to change that and get a clean install of Windows 10 onto your computer. This is possible to do both after you’ve already upgraded to Windows 10 and before, when your computer still runs Windows 7 or 8.

Faster booting, smaller footprint make Windows 10 an easy upgrade for old PCs – If you bought an eligible PC in Windows 7’s heyday, you will probably be installing the new OS on five- or six-year-old hardware that has long since been forgotten about by the company that sold it to you. Or maybe you bought something during the post-Chromebook era, where Windows PCs dipped back into netbook territory in their quest for a low price tag. We installed Windows 10 on a few of these kinds of systems to see what you can expect, at least if you’re comparing a clean install to a clean install. Current users of both Windows 7 and Windows 8 should expect to recover a few gigabytes of drive space, a few megabytes of system RAM, and a few precious seconds of boot time.

Windows 10 superguide: Everything you need to know – After months of teasing, testing, and technical previews, Windows 10 is finally here, and it’s one of the best operating systems Microsoft’s ever released. Windows 10 weaves together the best parts of Windows 7 and Windows 8, adds a dash of compelling features, then gives it all away for free to current Windows 7 and 8 users. And yes, the Start menu is back.

25 Apps for the Tech-Savvy Teacher – This collection includes mobile apps that specifically target teachers and school leaders, from grading and taking attendance to simplifying presentations or perfecting their use of the whiteboard. For more, we’d recommend edshelf, an online repository of digital tools for teachers. Until then, dive into our slideshow of the apps you should be downloading to take your teaching to the next level.

This App Shows How Climate Change Is Affecting the World Around You – You’ve heard about what climate change is doing the arctic and to the sea levels around the world. But sometimes it can be hard to understand what’s happening in your own backyard. A new app called Field Notes shows you just that. The free app, manufactured by tech mapping company Esri, is part of a broader effort by the company to put data about people, climate and geography at your fingertips.

How to block a phone number on your Android phone – After about the twentieth time that telemarketer bugs you with an “incredible deal” you’re probably ready to throw your phone out the window. There’s a better way. With just a few steps you can banish that caller from contacting you forever. Here’s how to do it. As a caveat, your specific dialer may look different or have some of the options placed elsewhere depending on which device you have. By and large, however, the process is pretty similar.

7 Router Features You Should Be Using for Better Wi-Fi – Only a few years ago, wireless routers were relatively dumb devices that merely beamed the Web into your home or office and not much more. Now, they offer everything from support for multiple wireless frequencies to mobile-management tools. And forget the painful setup: The best routers boast a much higher level of default intelligence, making it simpler than ever to configure and use more advanced features. Many functions that once required significant networking know-how can now be properly set up with the click of a mouse. With that in mind, here are seven features found in most advanced wireless routers that are well worth the time and effort to configure and use.

Batch forward emails with Multi Forward for Gmail – Need to forward a bunch of emails? This Chrome extension lets you perform such a maneuver with ease and alacrity.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

12 Things You Can Replace With a $38 Tablet – If you’ve ever operated an iPad, you’ll be fantastically disappointed by the 7Ci. Let us not dwell on what the 7Ci can’t do, let’s consider what it can do! It’s still a flat touch-screen device that can connect to the Internet and run apps—which means it’s not just a tablet, it’s a clock, camera, pedometer, guitar tuner, or just about anything we want it to be. And that’s where things get interesting—we can use this slate to replace all the things in our lives. While you wouldn’t want to waste a $400 iPad as a wall clock, you wouldn’t really think about it for a $38 7Ci. Here are 12 things around the house and office we were able to replace with the 7Ci.

Google instant translation app adds 20 new languages – If you’re heading over to the Czech republic any time soon, you wont have to worry about figuring out which sign says “ladies” or “gentlemen”. Google just added Czech, Slovak, and 18 other languages to their translation app. It really broadens the scope of the program, which started out with the ability to translate to and from French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and of course, English. Though Google boats that a total of 90 languages are supported in the app, only 37 of them are available for picture mode translations.

Security:

How to use Facebook’s new Security Checkup feature – The new feature is in the process of rolling out to all user accounts, but if you visit this webpage you can try to access the new security check feature right now. Otherwise you can wait until you are prompted when you log in on a desktop, don’t worry — eventually you will have access to the feature. The process itself only takes a few minutes of your time, and is well worth it (especially if you use a lot of apps or are in the habit of logging into your account using random computers). As you go through the process, simply click on each section title to view relevant links and information.

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How to protect your wireless network from Wi-Fi Sense – If the recent controversy over Windows 10’s Wi-Fi Sense feature has you concerned about wireless security, good. In this post, I explain why wireless security is as much social as it is technological, and suggest four ways to make your wireless network safer.

New attack on Tor can deanonymize hidden services with surprising accuracy – Computer scientists have devised an attack on the Tor privacy network that in certain cases allows them to deanonymize hidden service websites with 88 percent accuracy. Such hidden services allow people to host websites without end users or anyone else knowing the true IP address of the service. The deanonymization requires the adversary to control the Tor entry point for the computer hosting the hidden service. It also requires the attacker to have previously collected unique network characteristics that can serve as a fingerprint for that particular service. Tor officials say the requirements reduce the effectiveness of the attack. Still, the new research underscores the limits to anonymity on Tor, which journalists, activists, and criminals alike rely on to evade online surveillance and monitoring.

Hacker steals Bitdefender customer log-in credentials, attempts blackmail – A hacker extracted customer log-in credentials from a server owned by Bitdefender that hosted the cloud-based management dashboards for its small and medium-size business clients. The antivirus company confirmed the security breach but said in an emailed statement that the attack affected less than 1 percent of its SMB customers, whose passwords have since been reset. Consumer and enterprise customers were not affected, the company said. The hacker, who uses the online alias DetoxRansome, first bragged about the breach on Twitter Saturday and later messaged Bitdefender threatening to release the company’s “customer base” unless he was paid $15,000.

Globalstar GPS network (allegedly) vulnerable to hackers – Researcher Colby Moore will be presenting findings related to a security issue with the Globalstar satellite network at Black Hat in Las Vegas next week. The researcher found that devices using the Globalstar network reportedly can be fed false data or have their data transmissions intercepted. The type of system Globalstar reportedly uses is “kind of fundamentally broken from the get-go,” according to Moore. That’s not the end of its problems, however.

1.4m Fiat Chrysler radio hack recall may be tip of iceberg – Fiat Chrysler’s hackable infotainment may be the tip of the iceberg, with safety regulators broadening investigations to see if other automakers are at risk. While Fiat Chrysler recalled 1.4m Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler vehicles after a flaw in its Uconnect system – potentially allowing hackers to access the dashboard systems while the car is moving – was identified, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has now requested further data from infotainment provider Harman Kardon, with an estimated 2.8m systems now under the microscope.

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Drawing Lessons From July’s Jeep Hack – If you were anywhere near the internet in late July, you probably read the news: Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, two security researchers who specialize in hacking cars, figured out how to remotely take control of a Jeep. They didn’t just take control of the vehicle from ten miles away— the hacking duo exploited a software flaw that shut down the Jeep’s engine while Wired’s Andy Greenberg was driving it. On a busy stretch of public highway where cars whizzed by at 60+ miles per hour. Without a shoulder or emergency pull off lane. “THEY DID WHAAAAAAAAT?” most of the internet asked, mouths agape while watching the video proof that this was all possible.

Company News:

Mozilla CEO slams Microsoft over Windows 10 browser defaults – In an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard accuses Microsoft of hobbling users’ browser choices by making Edge the default browser in the next generation of its operating system and called on the tech giant to reverse what he called an “aggressive move to override user choice.” While noting that it was still technically possible to preserve users’ browser settings, Beard charged that the default setting changes have made the option less obvious.

Google defies France over making right to be forgotten global – The search engine has rejected an order by the French data protection watchdog to apply the right to be forgotten to all its domains, including those outside Europe.

Microsoft reportedly investing in Uber at a $50 billion valuation – If it seems like Uber is working on another new round of funding, that is because Uber is always working on another new round of funding. Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal are reporting that the company has closed a new investment which values it at $50 billion, and also includes Microsoft as a backer. The round gave Uber another $1 billion, putting its total funding at $5 billion. Uber’s endless appetite for cash is driven by its equally ambitious plans for expansion. It is currently active in over 50 countries and 300 cities around the globe. It is hiring drivers and adding cars at a rapid pace in all these territories, while also spending considerable amounts on political lobbying and legal battles with regulators.

Microsoft bests Google in patent case appeal – A federal appeals court has handed Microsoft a win against Google in a long-running lawsuit over patent licensing that was originally filed against Motorola in 2010. A panel of three judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a lower court ruling that set a licensing rate for some patents owned by Motorola that was significantly lower than the company had originally asked for.

Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpelès arrested in Japan for alleged fraud – Mt. Gox. That’s a name you probably never imagined, or wished, hearing again after all this time. Good thing that this is more about its CEO Mark Karpelès. Sadly, it might actually still be linked with the scandal that rocked the Bitcoin world early last year. In Japan, Karpelès was arrested on the grounds that he allegedly manipulated the company’s computer systems to add $1 million to his balance, at a time when Mt. Gox has filed for bankruptcy because of its inability to pay back its customers.

Yahoo Will Acquire Fashion Startup Polyvore – In a blog post about the deal, Yahoo’s senior vice president of publisher products Simon Khalaf highlighted “Polyvore’s expertise on community-driven experiences and retailer-supported commerce” and wrote that the deal “will accelerate Yahoo’s digital content growth strategy across the areas of social, mobile and native.” Khalaf also said the Polyvore team will be joining Yahoo and working out of the company’s offices in Sunnyvale, San Francisco and New York, with co-founder and CEO Jess Lee reporting directly to him.

Games and Entertainment:

Nvidia Shield Tablets Recalled Over Fire Concerns – Nvidia is conducting a voluntary recall of its Shield 8-inch tablets sold between July 2014 and 2015. According to the manufacturer, the battery can overheat and pose a fire hazard. Owners of the recalled device should stop using their tablet—except to back up data. Details on how to get a replacement device can be found online.

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Game of Thrones S5 downloads arrive early on August 31 – Game of Thrones stands chief among all shows, at least when you look at how many people are pirating it. That piracy was aided by early leaks of season 5 episodes, and all in all HBO is scrambling to squeeze some pocket change from those Internet rebels. As such, it isn’t surprising HBO has decided to launch the digital downloads for season 5 before it releases the Blu-ray and DVD versions (though the network probably won’t cry if you pre-order them anyway). Downloads start next month.

High-quality movies and TV shows hit HBO, iTunes in August – HBO Now is available on more platforms than ever and it’s bringing Oscar winners “Birdman” and “The Theory of Everything”. Meanwhile, Apple’s bringing home the Bacon (Kevin) in “Cop Car” and other first-run movies.

GTA 5 becomes an RPG with this new mod – Grand Theft Auto V is a huge, sprawling, entertaining action game, but it does not have very many RPG elements. One modder has decided to change that, and is creating a mod that turns GTA V into a role-playing game. User LogicSpawn is working the mod, which is called GTA V: RPG, and the modder’s adding skill trees, looting systems, and a whole bunch of other tweaks to the game. This includes a system of relationships with characters in the game. You’ll be able to talk to and befriend NPCs, who can affect the way the game plays out. You can watch the trailer for the mod below (warning: some strong language).

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Netflix changes ‘Fuller House’ plot to make it less depressing – Netflix, in what may be one of its more misguided reboots, has decided to bring back the 90s family-friendly television show Full House as a continuation of the original series. As we’d previously heard, it will feature some of the original cast, with the then-kids now being the show’s adults going through life’s mild follies and saccharine sweet learning moments. If you paid attention to the original announcement, you probably noticed something important: the storyline sounded really depressing. It seems Netflix noticed too, and it has done something about it.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Man finds iPhone that fell from airplane –  Ben Wilson can be forgiven for thinking his iPhone was gone for good after it fell 9,300 feet (2,835 meters) from a Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft. But the missing phone kept on ticking, not only reporting its location but providing a map so Wilson could find it. “It was by the side of the road south of Jacksboro, under a mesquite tree,” Wilson told the Times Record News in Wichita Falls, Texas. “The donkey pointed out where it was.”

Machine Learning And Human Bias: An Uneasy Pair – Any program designed to predict, manipulate and display racial categories must operationalize them both for internal processing and for human consumption. Machine learning is one of the most effective frameworks for doing so because machine learning programs learn from human-provided examples rather than explicit rules and heuristics.

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Why India’s IT firms are retraining masses of employees – Rolling out new modules to coach employees, re-skilling, and retraining were never alien to India’s IT services firms, which have continually demonstrated their ability to weather the many industry changes. This time around, the training exercises are necessitated by digital technologies but could point to a deeper shift for the $146 billion-in-revenues industry. Earlier this month, India’s largest IT services firm, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), said it would train 100,000 employees — about a third of its workforce — in digital technologies this year alone.

America proves too tough for hitchhiking robot after vandals end cross-country trip – It seems the tough streets of Philadelphia were too much for a friendly little robot from Ontario. All the Hitchbot wanted to do was see the United States. But just two weeks after starting its cross-country journey in Boston, Hitchbot’s trip has come to an unfortunate end. Last night, the cute little robot was vandalized and apparently decapitated in the city of brotherly love. This wasn’t Hitchbot’s first trip, either. Last year the robot successfully travelled across Canada, and in the past it’s made it across Germany and the Netherlands as well. The Americans, it turns out, have proved not quite so friendly to our metallic cousins.

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Something to think about:

“There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.”

–      Napoleon Bonaparte

Today’s Free Downloads:

DETEKT – Detekt is a free tool that scans your Windows computer for traces of FinFisher and Hacking Team RCS, commercial surveillance spyware that has been identified to be also used to target and monitor human rights defenders and journalists around the world.

Please beware that Detekt is a best effort tool. While it may have been effective in previous investigations, it does not provide a conclusive guarantee that your computer is not compromised by the spyware it aims to detect. The tool is provided as is, without warranties or guarantees of any kind.

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Free Gmail Backup – Why backup Gmail?

    Your account can be hacked

    Your account can be disabled

    Email is deleted due to a user error

    Gmail can be a subject to an outage

    Program error can erase some of your content

    The internet connection many be unavailable

    You can overrun Gmail storage quota

    Your account is infected by a virus

Easy installation and configuration – You don’t need to enter any credentials to your Gmail account: instead you simply signing in with google.

Incrementally backup Gmail account – Every time you run backup it downloads only new emails.

Archiving – Save all your emails together with attachements locally and delete them from Gmail account

Full backup history – See the full backup history.

Preview backup messages – You can see backed up email messages in Backup View dialog: read text, view attachments.

Restore selected messages – Select one or several messages to restore them.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

White House will not force FBI to get a warrant for email data – The Obama administration will not force federal agencies to get a warrant to access older emails, despite a growing effort from lawmakers and the public alike to change the law.

As the law stands, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) allows federal agencies to access opened email data older than six months with a subpoena. Anything under the six-month period still requires a warrant. The law has not been updated since it was first enacted in 1986, failing to account for technological developments like limitless online storage.

Following a heavy backlog, the White House responded Tuesday to a 2013 petition, signed by 113,035 people, demanding that federal agencies including the FBI and the IRS “get a warrant” before accessing email content.

In its response, the White House said that although it agrees the law is “outdated” and “should be reformed,” the administration deferred responsibility to Congress for failing to act sooner.

U.S. District Judge rules mobile-phone tracking does require a warrant – In May, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that cops don’t need a warrant to grab carrier cell-phone records. Not quite three months later, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California, ruled police must obtain a search warrant to seize your mobile-phone records.

So, what does this mean? It means that sooner or later the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will have to decide if the cops can track where you’ve been by your phone. Still, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) would argue that Koh’s decision is the more telling one. That’s because, Hanni Fakhoury, EFF Senior Staff Attorney, argued, the Eleventh Circuit was “based on old cases considering analog-era technology and hardly settles the question.”

In Koh’s case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Schenk has argued that cell phone users who are concerned about their privacy could either not carry phones or turn them off.

NSA report shows China hacked 600+ US targets over 5 years – NBC has released a 2014 slide from a secret NSA Threat Operations Center (NTOC) briefing—a map that shows the locations of “every single successful computer intrusion” by Chinese state-sponsored hackers over a five-year period. More than 600 US businesses and institutions were breached during that period.

The slide was provided to NBC by an unnamed “intelligence source,” who said the briefing “highlighted China’s interest in Google and defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, and in air traffic control systems… [and] catalogued the documents and data Chinese government hackers have exfiltrated,” the network reported.

The report suggests that the NSA has been tracking Chinese cyber-attacks for years and that its own network surveillance of China gives the agency the ability to correlate those attacks with specific sources. The briefing shown to NBC listed locations for the sources of each of the “exploitations and attacks,” NBC reported.

The leak, coincidentally, comes as the leadership of the NSA and Department of Defense continues to lobby for the creation of a “cyber-deterrent”—a network attack capability that could be used to launch a massive and crippling computer and network attack against any adversary who launched an attack on US networks. In a speech before the Aspen Security Forum last week, NSA Director and US Cyber Command head Admiral Mike Rogers warned, “If we do nothing, then one of the potential unintended consequences of this could be, does this send a signal to other nation states, other groups, other actors that this kind of behavior is OK and that you can do this without generating any kind of response?”

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Federal Court’s data breach decision shows new tilt toward victims, class-action lawsuits – Federal courts historically have been quick to dismiss plaintiff claims of on-going harm when their data is snatched in a breach, but a crack is appearing in that logic that could change how liability is gauged for hacked corporations and fuel class-action lawsuits against those companies.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit began to question the depth of on-going harm to victims by overturning a district court that had tossed a class-action lawsuit against Neiman Marcus over a 2014 data breach. The Court said victims had “standing,” a right to file a lawsuit in federal court, over concerns of on-going problems.

“The court likened the case to a recent data breach involving Adobe, wherein the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California declared that ‘the risk that Plaintiffs’ personal data will be misused by the hackers who breached Adobe’s network is immediate and very real,’ ” lawyers from Ballard Spahr, a national law firm based in Philadelphia, wrote in a review of the ruling.

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