Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – December 14, 2016

The Best Security Suites of 2016;  Three tips for dealing with an unruly desktop;  How to save and sync your passwords for free;  7 tricks to free up space on your iPhone;  Group chat comes to Snapchat;  Google Drive can now back up iPhones;  Facebook launches parents portal;  4 Windows Command Prompt tricks everyone should know;  10 Quick Tips to Fix Your Bad Photos;  Patch Tuesday is here and it’s a big one;  Netgear starts patching routers;  10 most innovative games of 2016;  The Xbox One is back on sale for $250;  The 10 Most Pirated Movies – and much more news you need to know.

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The Best Security Suites of 2016 – Using your computer for games and social media is fun; keeping it safe isn’t. A security suite can be your one-stop solution. We’ve tested almost four dozen of them, and these 10 get our highest recommendation.

How to save and sync your passwords for free – Although most of the major password managers offer a free option, you don’t get what is arguably the most important option — password syncing — unless you pony up for a premium subscription. And that can run as much as $40 annually. Not anymore. Lastpass, already a popular option thanks to its affordable $1/month Premium plan, now offers syncing as part of its free service. That means you can access your passwords on mobile, desktop and Web without spending a dime.

Three tips for dealing with an unruly desktop – We’ve talked before about how to keep the desktop clean. But for desktop addicts it’s not so simple, is it? The desktop is a convenient place to quickly store files that you download or want to have readily available. At least at first. Over time, the files build up and before you know it the desktop is a mess again, the exact opposite of efficient. Here are three tools for dealing with the chaos.

7 tricks to free up space on your iPhone – We could all use a little extra storage on our iOS devices, right? Here are a few easy ways to quickly reclaim some of your iPhone’s or iPad’s storage space — and some tricks for making sure it stays clear.

Microsoft Translator now translates your in-person conversations – Microsoft Translator is taking another step toward eliminating the language barrier separating many people, making it possible to see real-time translations during your conversation with someone speaking a different language. It’s an essential business tool and a great way to expand your horizons while traveling, and it only requires each person to have a phone and the Microsoft Translator app.

Microsoft sets the stage for Cortana-powered smart devices – Microsoft’s making several under-the-hood improvements to Cortana, not the least of which will be an SDK for (finally!) consumer devices powered by the technology.

Group chat comes to Snapchat just in time for the holidays – Snapchat today announced a Group feature for you to start chats with up to 16 friends. You can see who’s present in a group chat at the bottom of the screen, and are given the option to start a private chat by selecting individual friends’ names. Just like all things on Snapchat, chats or snaps sent to a group are deleted after 24 hours and can only be replayed once. If you don’t open them in time, they’re also gone.

Slack swipes at Skype with video calls and reaction emoji – Slack, the workplace collaboration platform with 1.25 million paying users and 4 million overall, is adding one more key feature to its artillery of tools for people to communicate with each other, and it’s one that could help it pick up even more users away from other services like Skype and Gmail: it’s adding video calling, the audiovisual complement to the audio chat services that it released earlier this year. Group video calls, for those on paid tiers, can handle up to 15 people currently, Slack says. Slack says the video calling feature will be available first on Slack for Mac and Windows on desktop and Google Chrome in the next few days. Those on mobile will be able to join video calls but will experience them as audio only.

Facebook launches parents portal to help folks navigate their kids’ social experience – Facebook, the social networking app used by 1.8 billion people globally, does not provide figures for how much of that audience is comprised of minors — that is, people under the age of 18 (and theoretically over the age of 13). But chances are that these days it’s a significant number, when you consider some news out from the company today: Facebook is launching a new parent portal, aimed at helping adults navigate their minor charges through Facebook’s social media landscape.

Google Drive can now back up iPhones to make Android switching easier – Google has updated its website that guides iPhone owners through the process of making the change to Android. But more importantly, the company is also adding a new feature to its Google Drive app on iOS: the ability to instantly back up your contacts, calendar, and camera roll and store it in the cloud. That way, whenever you buy a Pixel or some other Android phone, all your stuff will be waiting in Google’s various apps. It’s all automatic when done this way, as opposed to before when you’d have to upload this stuff from several different apps. The new option is found in the settings menu under “backup.”

Google finally releases Gboard for Android, bringing search to the keyboard – Previously iOS-only, the update to Google Keyboard lets you find and send links, pics, and GIFs.

Google’s taking Brillo into smart homes with Android Things – Android is headed to the internet of things in the form of Android Things, an operating system that grew out of Project Brillo and will be able to get updates directly from Google.

4 Windows Command Prompt tricks everyone should know – Though many of its duties have been replaced by icons or tiles, there are still things a DOS command does better or faster, as any IT professional already knows. Most users don’t need to go into the deep weeds with command prompts (check out Microsoft’s A-Z reference if you do), but there are a few tasks and tricks that are handy for everyone to know.

9 travel hacks you’ll wish you knew all along – As always, knowledge is power. The more you plan, research and prepare, the better off you’ll be. With that in mind, I’ve rounded up these nine tricks to make your travels faster, easier and hopefully cheaper. Read on, and have a nice trip!

10 Quick Tips to Fix Your Bad Photos – You don’t have to be a professional to take top-notch photos. Follow these simple pointers to improve the quality of your snapshots.

Skype, WhatsApp face increased privacy regulation in Europe – The European Commission wants to update its aging privacy rules for electronic communications services, bringing messaging apps under its umbrella for the first time.

11 Stocking Stuffers for Your Smartphone Under $25 – We hunted down 10 great gifts for Android, iOS, and Windows 10 Mobile users who are looking to raise their smartphone game this holiday. Click through for some ideas sure to please everyone on your list.

Tech gifts for non-techies – It may come as a bit of a surprise to some, but not everyone out there is as in love with technology as we are? But that doesn’t mean that they won’t find tech gifts useful. And who knows, next year they too many be a tech-head!


Patch Tuesday is here and it’s a big one – The final scheduled patch dump of the year sees Microsoft deliver fixes for multiple products, while Apple has security updates for iOS, macOS, Safari, and iTunes, and Adobe patches nine products including Flash Player and InDesign.

Netgear starts patching routers affected by a critical flaw – Networking device manufacturer Netgear released firmware updates for several router models to patch a critical vulnerability that’s publicly known and could be exploited by hackers. The vulnerability was disclosed by a researcher Friday and affects multiple Netgear router models, many from the company’s Nighthawk series. The company initially confirmed the flaw in three models — R6400, R7000, R8000 — but it has since expanded the list to include five more. The models confirmed to be affected so far are: R6250, R6400, R6700, R7000, R7100LG, R7300, R7900 and R8000. This list might not be complete as Netgear continues to analyze the flaw’s impact to its entire router portfolio.

Security flaw in McAfee enterprise software gives attackers root access – The security company took six months to patch the set of security vulnerabilities.

Covert downloaders found preinstalled on dozens of low-cost Android phone models – Dozens of low-cost Android phone models come preinstalled with apps that covertly download and install adware and other unwanted programs, researchers said. One such app, known as H5GameCenter, displays ads on top of running applications. The image can’t be removed, and infected users report that when they uninstall the app, Android.DownLoader.473.origin quickly downloads and installs it again. The list of affected models included:

Watch out: These are biggest ransomware threats and they’ve grown even larger – Attacks using the two of the most prolific forms of ransomware spiked in November as one continues to be amongst the top global threats.

Company News:

Apple ordered to cough up $2m to store workers after denying rest breaks – A California court has ruled in favor of Apple Store workers who accused the iPhone giant of trampling over their employment rights. It is a bittersweet victory. The trial jury yesterday awarded store staff $2m after Apple was found to have illegally denied them meal and rest breaks, and was late giving departing workers their final paychecks. The class-action complaint was first filed in 2011 in the California State Court in San Diego by four former employees. It was later expanded to a class of more than 21,000 current and former workers who held jobs at the Apple Store as far back as 2007. Apple had been accused of a half-dozen violations of state labor laws, including California laws forbidding the failure to provide meal and rest breaks, full pay upon termination, and unfair business practices.

Google’s self-driving car unit becomes Waymo – Google is setting up its self-driving car unit as its own separate entity called Waymo under the Alphabet umbrella, the company announced today. The name is derived from its mission of finding “a new way forward in mobility.”

Qualcomm, Google to team up on Android Things, eye Internet of things apps – Next year Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors will have hooks into Google’s Android Things OS, which is now in a developer preview. Will the IoT OS race matter though?

Google snaps up smartwatch OS startup Cronologics to boost Android Wear – Google has acquired the team behind Cronologics, a company focused on the development of operating systems suitable for wearable devices. Started in 2014 by former Google business employees, the company hoped to one day create the go-to platform for smartwatches. With the introduction of Android Wear and Apple watchOS, this dream did not come to fruition, but there is still a future for the startup’s team. In a statement on the Cronologics website, the team said they are joining Google to “help grow the portfolio of watches powered by Android Wear.”

Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe Steps Down – The Facebook-owned company is establishing new PC and mobile VR groups, and Iribe will be leading the PC VR team.

Games and Entertainment:

10 most innovative games of 2016 – It’s that time of year again — for several years in a row, I’ve picked the most innovative games of the year on any platform. This year was much, much easier than past years, mostly thanks to a wide selection of games and the debut of virtual reality headsets. Even the major releases from studios like Electronic Arts had brilliant innovations we’ve never seen before.

Star Wars: Battlefront goes free on Xbox One for EA Access members – Rogue One hits theaters this week, and so the currently most popular Star Wars game, Battlefront, is getting all the perks ahead of time. Game owners just got access to the Rogue One DLC on December 6th, and now some Xbox One owners are getting another special perk: free access to the game, assuming they have an EA Access subscription. The subscription, of course, provides access to the EA Access game vault.

The Xbox One is back on sale for $250 for last-minute holiday shopping – Microsoft is putting all of its Xbox One S bundles back on sale for $50 off for the holiday season. So, if you missed out on the many Black Friday deals, now’s a good time to get in on Microsoft’s latest console. The discount runs from December 11th until December 24th and is available at all the usual Xbox One retailers, including Amazon, Target, GameStop, Best Buy, Walmart, and the Microsoft Store. The news comes on the heels on Sony announcing a similar discount for the PlayStation 4, so no matter what your console of choice, you can get a decent deal between now and Christmas.

The 10 Most Pirated Movies – The Magnificent Seven ride back into town to take on the incumbents like Sully, Snowden, and Strange.

Here are all the countries where Pokemon Go is available – Can you get Pokemon Go yet? Check this list to find out.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Video: The top 5 things to know about the blockchain – The blockchain is best known as the system that validates Bitcoin transactions, but it has other potential uses. Here’s what’s essential to know about it.

Scientists: help archive climate data before Trump presidency – Fear is increasingly gripping the scientific community as it prepares for a hostile presidency under Donald Trump, someone who has loudly proclaimed skepticism about global warming. The president-elect has been assembling a team composed of vocal climate change deniers, among others, as well as individuals with business interests at odds with climate change efforts. Researchers worry the administration will unravel decades’ worth of research efforts, but they’re taking steps to minimize any potential data loss. The University of Toronto, for example, recently announced a ‘guerrilla archiving event’ that has the goal of ‘saving environmental data from Trump.’ The event, which is scheduled to take place on December 17, aims to ‘archive federal online pages and data that are in danger of disappearing during the Trump administration.’

Tech workers vow not to build database to track Muslims – More than 200 engineers, designers and executives pledge not to build a database for the Trump administration to track Muslims in the US.

Music industry asks Trump to crack down on illegal file-sharing and downloading sites – A group of music industry organizations sent President-elect Donald Trump a letter today, urging him to focus on intellectual property protections during his presidency, Variety reports. The letter, signed by companies like ASCAP, BMI, and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), asks Trump to consider the issue of music piracy ahead of his Silicon Valley “tech summit” tomorrow. The letter claims that some search engines and file-sharing sites are guilty of “perversely abusing US law to underpay music creators,” by taking advantage of loopholes that allow people to download or host music illegally.

Net Neutrality – Why it should matter to you – Before this year’s presidential elections became the major factor dividing the US tech industry, it was “net neutrality” that split camps along lines of for or against. And if you thought the (legal) battle is over, you are definitely wrong. Although the FCC already ruled in favor of net neutrality last year, the changing of the guards opens up the real possibility, nay an explicit objective even, of undoing all that. The net neutrality debates are about to be reignited and, whichever side of the camp you stand on, the results will inevitably affect everyone.

There Are Twice as Many Species of Birds as We Thought, Study Finds– Bird-watchers of the world: your list may have just doubled. A recent study published in the journal PLOS One suggests that the way bird species are defined has traditionally been too narrow, and there are actually more than 18,000 bird species in the world—double previous estimates. Aside from making it trickier for bird fans to tick off all the species on their list, how we classify bird species has serious implications for conservation. If a bird is thought to be a subspecies of a healthy population, but is really a tiny population of its own species, it could be at risk of extinction without anyone realizing. That’s what happened recently with the red-bellied pitta, which was believed to be a single species but turned out to be 13 different species of bird, some of which were threatened, while others were of least concern.

Something to think about:

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

–       Bertrand Russell    (1872 – 1970)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Google publishes eight secret data requests from the FBI – In a post today, Google published a series of eight National Security Letters, in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation secretly requested subscriber information on specific accounts. The letters range from 2010 to 2015, but follow a nearly identical format, identifying a number of accounts and sometimes a specific time frame but providing no evidence or suspicion to justify the request.

Google was legally prohibited from disclosing the requests when they were first issued, but that prohibition has since been lifted. The letter lifting each so-called “gag order” is also included in the post. Google first acknowledged the declassification in a transparency report earlier this year, updating the range of “NSLs received” from 0-499 to 1-499.

In most cases, the FBI’s request is limited to the name, address and length of service for the given account, although two of the letters also ask for “electronic communications transactional records” associated with the account. That category of records, which was the subject of some debate in 2010, can include the IP addresses from which the service was accessed, although it does not include the content of emails. All eight of the orders were justified under Executive Order 12333, a controversial Reagan-era decree that is used to authorize a significant amount of domestic web surveillance.

Today’s post from Google is part of a wave of recently declassified data requests, In keeping the USA Freedom Act’s new classification guidelines, the Department of Justice has undertaken a broad review of the classification status of existing National Security Letters, which has resulted in a number of newly public data requests. In Google’s case, each of the published letters was declassified in the last six months.

Snowden: Donald Trump could get pal Putin to kick me out of Russia – NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has warned Donald Trump, as US President, could do a deal with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to extradite or imprison the whistleblower.

In an hour-long live-streamed video interview on Periscope with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey today, Snowden argued the US had trapped him in Russia when it cancelled his passport. The ex-NSA IT nerd added the incoming White House administration – which seemingly has better relations with the Russian government than the Obama regime – may be able to get him kicked out of the country and delivered into the hands of Uncle Sam, or otherwise imprisoned.

“It could happen, sure, but am I worried? Not really – I am very comfortable with decisions I made and know I did the right thing,” he said.

“If my personal security was the only thing I cared about I never would have come forward and revealed myself in public. I would have stayed at NSA making an incredible amount of money for very little work and [would] be spying on you.”

Up until now the US had worked hard to keep him in Russia – even going so far as to force down the President of Bolivia’s private jet to make sure Snowden wasn’t trying to flee. Snowden said he may also have to leave the Putin-led nation because he criticizes the Russian administration. There is no suggestion at this stage that Russia will eject or punish the American fugitive.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – December 12, 2016

The cheapskate’s guide to buying a new PC or Mac;  The Best Chromebooks of 2016;  20 Tips & Tricks to Make Windows 10 Easier;  Google is replacing Flash in Chrome once and for all;  Does Google listen in on your life? Should it?  Yahoo Answers makes its official mobile debut;  15 common Android problems and how to fix them;  The complete list of Alexa commands so far;  Windows Server 2016: The smart person’s guide;  Keyless-entry cars can be stolen with this new ‘mystery hack’ – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The cheapskate’s guide to buying a new PC or Mac – Only suckers pay sticker price for a new Windows PC or Mac. If you’re patient and willing to do some research, you can save hundreds of dollars and get a more powerful configuration than you ever dreamed possible. Here’s how.

The Best Chromebooks of 2016 – If a quick and easy way to get on the Web is all you need out of a laptop, a chromebook is the way to go. Here’s what to look for when shopping, and our top recommendations.

Jim Hillier: 20 Tips & Tricks to Make Windows 10 Easier – Whether just getting started with Windows 10 or looking to improve your experience, here are links to 20 tips and guides to help you get to know the new operating system better, all in one place for your convenience:

The best free tech gifts you can give – Even Santa won’t organize someone’s photo library or set up a password-management system. If you have the skills, prepare to become a holiday hero.

Does Google listen in on your life? Should it? – A widely held myth says Google eavesdrops on your life to improve search results. It doesn’t, but should it?

Google is replacing Flash in Chrome once and for all – Google told us in May that it would eventually block Adobe Flash Player content on Chrome. And today, the company is making good on its promise. Google is slowly rolling HTML5 out to users over the next couple of months, starting with one percent of users on the current version of Chrome. Everyone should have an updated Chrome by February, when the most recent beta version goes stable. This means that unless a website has an HTML5 content player, the Flash content won’t display. Users will have to enable it manually on a site-by-site basis. At first, the Flash permissions will only apply to sites that users are visiting for the first time, but by October, every site will require user permission to run Flash.

32 tips and tricks for Google Photos – Google Photos is a great way to store your personal photos and make them available across different devices — and with the holiday season upon us, the potential for generating lots of photos is at an especially high level. But the service is far more than just a virtual cloud locker. Photos has oodles of options, features and possibilities for viewing, manipulating and managing your digital memories. And many of them aren’t immediately obvious. Take a few minutes to scan through these tips and make sure you’re making the most of your Google Photos experience.

How to Use Google Maps Offline – To get the most out of Google Maps, you’ll need to make sure you have a reliable Internet connection. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to use the navigation app in dead zones. Google Maps allows you to download maps of certain areas and neighborhoods to your phone so that they can be accessed offline. It’s important to note that you will need to be connected to the Internet in order to save these maps to your device. But once they’ve been downloaded, you’ll be able to access them anytime, whether your phone is online or offline.

The complete list of Alexa commands so far – Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, is infiltrating your home, your beach trips and even your ride to work. Now that there are four ways to interact with Alexa — with the Tap, Echo and Dot devices, and with the Amazon Fire TV — you might find yourself talking to her more often. The list of commands is expanding rapidly, as is the number of third-party services and devices that Alexa officially (and unofficially) supports. Here is the (almost) complete list of Amazon Alexa commands.

Contextual App Folder: The coolest Android app you’re not using – Android users looking for a contextual folder that will automatically alter its contents based on configured triggers should check out Contextual App Folder.

2016’s five best virtual reality headsets – This year made consumer virtual reality headsets, well, a reality. Major hardware players now have affordable offerings on the market, just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Yahoo Answers makes its official mobile debut – Yahoo Answers has officially launched on mobile. As TechCrunch reported last month, Yahoo’s experimental app code-named Yahoo Hive had been rebranded as Yahoo Answers Now — a move that indicated Yahoo’s plans to bring its desktop Q&A site to the App Store. However, at the time, the app still required an invite in order to test it out — that restriction was lifted Thursday, and the app is open to all.

Windows Server 2016: The smart person’s guide – This guide covers details about Windows Server 2016, such as new features, minimum requirements, install options, and how Microsoft’s virtualized services seamlessly integrate with the cloud.

T-Mobile’s Digits looks to expand your phone number to all of your devices – The carrier launches a new program that lets you use a single number across all of your devices, and multiple numbers on one device.

15 common Android problems and how to fix them – Let’s face it, our phones aren’t perfect. When they aren’t running out of juice, they are slow, won’t power on, or have problems connecting to the Internet. These are some quick fixes for some of the most common problems Android owners face.

11 Secret Tricks, Hidden Gestures in Your Favorite iOS Apps – Your fingers have so much magic, you don’t even know!

WTF is daily fantasy sports? – If you’ve watched or been to a professional sports game in the past year you’ve no doubt seen advertisements for daily fantasy sports companies like DraftKings and FanDuel. In just a few years the industry has become the hottest thing in the sports world probably since cable TV.


Netgear users advised to stop using affected routers after severe flaw found – An advisory posted on Friday in Carnegie Mellon University’s public vulnerability database (CERT) said that Netgear’s R7000 and R6400 routers, running current and recent firmware respectively, are vulnerable to an arbitrary command injection flaw. If exploited, the vulnerability could let an unauthenticated attacker run commands with root privileges.

Attackers use hacked home routers to hit Russia’s 5 largest banks – Botnets made up of hacked home routers were used to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks against the five largest financial organizations in Russia.

Three serious Linux kernel security holes patched – The good news is developers are looking very closely at Linux’s core code for possible security holes. The bad news is they’re finding them. The latest three kernel vulnerabilities are designated CVE-2016-8655, CVE-2016-6480, and CVE-2016-6828. Of these, CVE-2016-8655 is the worst of the bunch. It enables local users, which can include remote users with virtual and cloud-based Linux instances, to crash the system or run arbitrary code as root. In short, it’s nasty.

AirDroid updated to fix major security holes – Last week it was reported that AirDroid, the popular app that allows Android users to read/send messages and remotely access files on their device from a PC/Mac, has been plagued with several security holes over the last several months. Security research firm Zimperium detailed how hackers could easily gain access to users’ information and Android device. Fortunately that news spurred AirDroid’s developers to take action, as fixes are now available for both the mobile app and PC/Mac clients.

Keyless-entry cars can be stolen with this new ‘mystery hack’ – As cars become more and more reliant on computers and operating systems, not just in their engines but in the ways drivers interact with them, they continue to be susceptible to hacks and other software-based attacks. The latest example comes from the US’s National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), which has identified a new tool that can allow thieves to unlock cars equipped with keyless-entry, start the engine, and simply drive off.

Ransomware scum offer free decryption if you infect two mates – The ransomware variant “Popcorn Time”, unrelated to the popular Bittorrent client by the same name, first tells users they have a week in which to pay one one bitcoin (US$770) in order to have their files decrypted. The menace, spotted by the MalwareHunter group, also offers victims the chance to infect two other users to avoid payment. Friends are confirmed as having been infected using a referral link and must both pay the ransom for the first victim to receive their decryption key for free. Users who insert the wrong decryption key may see their data deleted on the fourth incorrect attempt. Ransomware authors claim the ransom will be used to pay for food and shelter in Syria.

Ransomware attacks against businesses increased threefold in 2016 – The number of ransomware attacks targeting companies increased threefold from January to September, affecting one in every five businesses worldwide.

Obama orders review of Russian election hacking – Cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta led to a series of damaging leaks that dogged the Clinton campaign throughout the election season. Her opponent, Donald Trump, was dismissive of the hacks and the attribution of them to Russia. Although U.S. intelligence agencies assert that the attacks were conducted by Russian operatives, Trump told TIME magazine recently, “I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say, ‘Oh, Russia interfered.’ Why not get along with Russia?”

Company News:

AT&T begins refunding 2.7 million customers over bill cramming – If you’re an AT&T mobile customer (or you used to be one), you may see a bill credit in the next couple months or find a check in the mail soon. According to the FTC, AT&T has mailed the first round of checks to former customers refunding some of the money they spent due to the carrier’s alleged bill cramming issue. Current AT&T customers — of which about 2.7 million are affected — will see their refund in the form of a bill credit within the next 75 days.

Verizon won’t push Samsung’s Note 7 bricking update, but the other carriers will – Early this morning Samsung announced plans to finally extinguish the on-going fire that is the Note 7 once and for all here in the States by way of a software update that won’t allow the troubled phone to charge at all. Apparently not everyone involved is onboard with the move. Verizon (the parent company to TechCrunch’s parent company) quickly issued a follow up statement, citing the potential risks involved in killing the phone altogether. By Samsung’s count, around only 7 percent of Note 7 owners in the U.S. have clung to their devices, but the carrier is concerned with the safety of those last few.

Starbucks charts its digital future as CEO Schultz sets to depart – Starbucks’ technology chief plans to build on previous digital successes and add new technologies that boost personal engagements digitally and anticipate customer behaviors.

Workplace by Facebook begins to take shape – Workplace by Facebook has been in general release for just two months now, but it’s clear that Facebook has big plans for its enterprise social product. Just this week, at TechCrunch Disrupt in London, the company announced a new platform to integrate enterprise applications with Workplace, putting it in direct competition with Slack, the enterprise social darling of the moment.

Games and Entertainment:

Super Mario Run needs a constant internet connection to run – It a bit of news that will surely shift the value proposition of Mario’s long-awaited iPhone debut for legions of underground commuters, Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed this week that Super Mario Run will only work on a device with a constant internet connection. The legendary game creator chalked up the decision to security concerns, fears that an offline mode would make the game unstable and open it up to piracy. Those worries are likely due in no small part to the fact that Nintendo simply isn’t accustomed to developing games for platforms it doesn’t have on lock-down.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ huge open-world map revealed by Ubisoft – Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the latest entry in Ubisoft‘s tactical shooter series, and when it’s released on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on March 7th next year, it will feature the largest open-world environment the developer has ever created. Wildlands takes place Bolivia, and the developers have managed to recreate the entire South American country in-game, offering a huge area for players to explore and carry out missions. For the first time, Ubisoft has revealed the map, along with details on just how expansive the game world really is.


Resident Evil 7 demo arrives on Xbox One today, PC December 19 – PlayStation 4 owners have already had access to Capcom’s Resident Evil 7: Biohazard demo for quite some time, but now it’s Xbox One’s turn. The demo is arriving on Xbox One today, giving players an early look at the next installment in the long running Resident Evil series. Beyond this Xbox One release, the demo will also be coming to PC later this month, with Capcom announcing a December 19 release date.

Off Topic (Sort of):

2016: The year flagship phones became skippable – For the cost of a brand new Google Pixel XL or iPhone 7 Plus, you can buy a pair of Huawei Mate 8s and still treat yourself to a decent dinner.

Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and 18 others commit $1 billion to new cleantech fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Vinod Khosla, Jack Ma, John Doerr and 15 other high-profile investors have formed a new venture firm, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, that will pour at least $1 billion into cleantech companies over the next 20 years. The firm’s goal, according to its own website will be: “to provide everyone in the world with access to reliable, affordable power, food, goods, transportation, and services without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.” BEV will invest in tech ventures at any stage, from seed through commercialization. The deals will focus on electricity, manufacturing, agriculture, buildings and transportation.

What Trump said about Apple, Alphabet and Facebook — the tech companies he’s meeting next week – In case you missed it: President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is convening a tech summit at Trump Tower next week, and top execs from Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and more are attending. As one person familiar with the summit plans told my boss, Recode’s Kara Swisher, “Look, this is obviously a circus.” So, let’s do some social media-searching acrobatics and see what Trump has said about these companies.

Something to think about:

“The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.”

–       H. L. Mencken    (1880 – 1956)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

European Surveillance Companies Were Eager to Sell Syria Tools of Oppression – In 2007, Syrians could only access the internet through state-run servers, and services like Microsoft Hotmail and Facebook were sometimes blocked. But Bashar al-Assad, who had been head of the Syrian Computer Society before becoming president, knew the internet would inevitably spread more, and he knew he had to tighten his grip over it.

On October 2, 2007, the head of the government-owned Syria Telecommunications Establishment, or STE, put out a call for companies to develop a surveillance system that would monitor all data flowing on the Syrian internet.

The tender listed a series of “services that must be monitored,” including web browsing, email, chat rooms, instant messaging, internet VOIP calls, encrypted HTTPS web connections, and the use of VPNs.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 9, 2016

Is antivirus software dead at last?  YouTube’s top trending videos for 2016;  A beginner’s guide to total Android customization;  9 free ’round-the-clock streaming apps for low-effort TV watching;  Ed Bott’s 10 most popular Windows 10 tips;  Group Test: All-In-One desktop systems;  Google Photos tips and tricks;  Apple’s CarPlay is now available in more than 200 different models – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Is antivirus software dead at last? – While the value of antivirus software has been diminishing for some time, it was arguably pushed over the edge by ransomware, which, by some recent estimates, evades 100% of antivirus systems, owing its success to the rapid succession of new variants. So, is traditional antivirus software dead?

Worried about identity theft? Then you should avoid these password pitfalls – We’re constantly reminded of the risks that come with bad passwords, yet many people persist in using obvious and easy-to-crack names, words, and patterns. Want to know if you’re at risk?

A beginner’s guide to total Android customization – We often, and quite rightly, complain about the way device makers customize the “stock” build of Android to suit their own needs. Customizing software is not inherently bad, but Samsung, LG, and others are usually doing it to push their apps and services. These companies frequently make unnecessary aesthetic changes for the sake of being different. You don’t have to put up with the look and feel of Android on your phone, though. You can customize things to better suit your own style and usage patterns—all it takes is a little legwork. The more time you want to spend on it, the more extensive the customization can be. It all starts with the right tools.

Ed Bott’s 10 most popular Windows 10 tips – How well do you know the ins and outs of Microsoft’s flagship operating system? Every week, Windows expert Ed Bott delivers a new trick or shortcut. We’ve collected his most popular tips.

Windows 10 tip: Turn on File History for automatic backups – Windows 10’s File History feature keeps regular copies of files so you can roll back to a previous version of a file or restore an entire system. The feature is designed to use an external drive, but you can also specify a network location. Here’s how.

How to use the Windows 10 View Your Network Properties feature to obtain detailed information – With Windows 10’s View Your Network Properties feature and the Network Reset command, troubleshooting has gotten a bit easier.

Google Drive update makes managing backups a little easier – A new dedicated sidebar option takes some of the mystery out of your device and app backups.

10 tips to get the most out of Google Wifi – Google Wifi does more than blanket your home in Wi-Fi signal. Here’s how to get your money’s worth.

9 free ’round-the-clock streaming apps for low-effort TV watching – For this type of lean-back, passive viewing, you’ll want a video app that has some kind of ‘round-the-clock streaming element, so you can start watching with minimal effort. These types of apps have become more commonplace over the last couple years, so there’s a good chance you’ll find a few that match your interests. Here’s a list of our favorites:

Group Test: All-In-One desktop systems – If you need screen real estate, computing horsepower and a degree of upgradability, an AIO desktop can be a good choice. We examine contenders from the top five PC vendors.

wps9BFF.tmpMicrosoft is about to turn a phone into a real PC – Microsoft is bringing a full version of Windows 10, complete with desktop app support, to ARM chipsets. The software giant demonstrated Windows 10 running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip today, complete with HD video playback, Adobe Photoshop support, and Microsoft Office. Microsoft expects ARM-based laptops to be the first to adopt this new version of Windows 10. Traditional x86 desktop apps will be emulated, making the experience seamless to the end user. Laptops might be the first, but it’s easy to see past that and realize that this means Microsoft is about to turn a phone into a real PC.

Microsoft Decides Minimum Spec for Mixed Reality on Windows 10 – Delivering mixed reality through HoloLens means an opportunity to push a range of other Microsoft products. So the launch will be backed by 20,000 Windows apps, 360-degree movies through the Microsoft Movies & TV app, WebVR using the Microsoft Edge browser, as well as the ability for users to drag and drop 3D objects out of Edge and “into their physical world.” If you’re wondering what mixed reality is, Microsoft created this informative video to help explain their take on it:


Facebook custom picture frames go live for videos and photos – Facebook has rolled out the ability to create custom picture frames for videos and photos posted on the social network. Unlike pre-made frames that are used by everyone, this new feature enables users to create their own unique frame for their own videos and artwork. The move follows the trend set by a certain other app, enabling users to better modify and adorn their own content and, perhaps, making Facebook a touch more enticing in the process.

Google Photos tips and tricks – Google Photos has some powerful tools for tweaking and editing images. We show you how to take advantage of them to enhance and display your photos.

Hope is an app for millennial women to keep their BFFs close — but not too close – There are plenty of apps out there that purport to keep you “safe.” Apps that immediately phone your main contacts when you are threatened or attacked. Apps that allow you to share your location with key contacts. But for modern women, especially in big urban cities like New York or London, who would really rather not share literally all that stuff and perhaps find it all a bit alarmist, there isn’t anything that really suits their lifestyle. So a brand new app intends to speak to these confident, young women who like to keep their friends close, but not too close. Pitched as a “virtual BFF and concierge,” the Hope app wants to be the “social glue between millennial females.” It’s out on iOS now.

Apple’s CarPlay is now available in more than 200 different models – If reports are to be believed, Apple has scaled back ambitions to build its own car, but it’s still going strong with its more prosaic automobile offering: CarPlay. As spotted by 9to5Mac, the in-car operating system (like a stripped back version of iOS) is now available in more than 200 different vehicles. The latest list features cars from Audi, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Volkswagen, including vehicles that are already on the market, and some 2017 models. You can check the full list here.

Bluetooth 5 is out: Now will home IoT take off? – Bluetooth is aiming straight for the internet of things as the fifth version of the wireless protocol arrives with twice as much speed for low-power applications. Bluetooth Low Energy, which gains the most from the new Bluetooth 5 specification, can now go as fast as 2Mbps (bits per second).


How to set up DIY video monitoring for home or office — subscription free – Plug-and-play video monitoring cameras are all the rage, but most of them lock you into a proprietary and expensive backend. With a little extra effort, you can create your own monitoring system, with the devices you choose.


Backdoor accounts found in 80 Sony IP security camera models – Many network security cameras made by Sony could be taken over by hackers and infected with botnet malware if their firmware is not updated to the latest version.

Millions of routers allegedly backdoored with malware that can’t be removed – One of the hackers purportedly responsible for a zombie army of Mirai-infected IoT devices, claimed he infected millions of routers with malicious firmware which can’t be removed; a victim’s only recourse is to trash the router.

Yahoo fixes flaw allowing an attacker to read any user’s emails – Yahoo has fixed a severe security vulnerability in its consumer email service that could have allowed an attacker to read a victim’s email inbox. The cross-site scripting (XSS) attack only required a victim to view an email in Yahoo Mail. The internet giant paid out $10,000 to security researcher Jouko Pynnonen for privately disclosing the flaw through the HackerOne bug bounty,

Georgia says it’s traced an attempted voter hack to the Department of Homeland Security – Georgia’s secretary of state says the state was hit with an attempted hack of its voter registration system from an IP address linked to the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Russian cyberspies likely behind DNC breach move on to German election – A group of suspected Russian cyberspies blamed for interring in the U.S. elections is also attempting to influence the upcoming vote in Germany, according to the country’s domestic intelligence agency.

Company News:

Microsoft finalizes $26 billion LinkedIn acquisition, reveals what’s next – Microsoft secured regulatory approval for its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn earlier this week, and the software giant is finalizing the deal today. In a LinkedIn note, of course, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says he’s “enthusiastic about the common mission” of both Microsoft and LinkedIn. “As our two companies’ leadership teams have spent time together these last few months, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of and appreciation for LinkedIn’s relentless focus on its members.” Microsoft has a set of goals for its LinkedIn integration plan, including some specific areas where the company will leverage the social network.

Microsoft, Intel partner on Project Evo to bolster efforts in AI, security, mixed reality – At the recent Windows Hardware Engineering Community (WinHEC) event, Intel and Microsoft announced a partnership focused on far-field speech communications, biometric security, and more.

Red Hat launches OpenShift on Google Cloud – Red Hat is expanding its OpenShift Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud to the Google Cloud Platform. This move comes days after Red Hat completed bringing its JBoss software stack to OpenStack. With this new public cloud offering, enterprise users will be able to to build, launch, and manage applications on OpenShift Dedicated with Google Cloud Platform as their underlying cloud infrastructure. OpenShift was already available on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Pebble confirms Fitbit sale: Hardware is dead, software in maintenance mode – Pebble, the onetime darling of Kickstarter backers everywhere, has had a rough year. Despite the launch of the Pebble 2 this fall, the company had to lay off 25 percent of its workforce in March. And late last week, news broke that it would be selling to fitness wearable company FitBit for somewhere between $34 and $40 million. That paltry sum is about half of the $70 million that Intel allegedly offered for the company in early 2016, and it’s just a fraction of the $740 million that Citizen reportedly offered in 2015. It’s also a little less than the roughly $43 million that the company has cumulatively raised across its $10.2 million, $20.3 million, and $12.8 million Kickstarter pledge drives since April 2012.

Yik Yak lays off 60 percent of employees as growth collapses – Yik Yak has laid off 60 percent of employees amid a downturn in the app’s growth prospects, The Verge has learned. The three-year-old anonymous social network has raised $73.5 million from top-tier investors on the promise that its young, college-age network of users could one day build a company to rival Facebook. But the challenge of growing its community while moving gradually away from anonymity has so far proven to be more than the company could muster.

Games and Entertainment:

Ubisoft’s 30th anniversary putters across the finish line with free copies of Assassin’s Creed III – Ubisoft has given away some truly excellent games in 2016 to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Since June, players have been able to scoop up free copies of Beyond Good & Evil, Rayman Legends, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and more. So what classic gem did they choose to end on?


YouTube’s top trending videos for 2016 – The list includes the indescribable madness of carpool karaoke, scientific inquiry, John Oliver, and Vlogger Casey Neistat. This year’s list is interesting because while it does have some weird items that are part of the YouTube tradition. There’s also a lot of particularly mundane items like a six-minute short from a sportswear company and a guided tour of first class. These videos received 550 million views and have been watched for over 25 million hours combined.

Super Mario Run hands-on: like Mario, just simpler – A week ahead of the release Nintendo’s first true smartphone game, Super Mario Run, we had a chance to spend a half-hour with the portable platformer. How does it feel? Surprisingly like a classic Mario game. Super Mario Run strips the core of a Mario game to its very basics. Unlike classic Mario games, in which you control the forward and backward movement of Mario, this game is an automatic runner, which means that Mario will run on his own. You control when he jumps.


Pokémon GO is officially teaming with Starbucks for 7,800 new Gyms and PokéStops – Pokémon GO’s next big sponsor partner in the U.S. is Starbucks, which is going to host new gyms and PokéStops at 7,800 company-run Starbucks stores in the U.S. In addition to the new in-game locales, Starbucks is also making a Pokémon GO edition Frappuccino to celebrate the tie-up. What does Pokémon GO taste like in sugared coffee drink form? I have no idea, but I will definitely find out. This is similar to the McDonald’s partnership from closer to Pokémon GO’s launch earlier this year, wherein the fast food restaurant paid for Niantic to turn 3,000 locations in Japan into Gyms and PokéStops. The Frappuccino element adds a bit more reciprocity to the mix — there was no McPsyduck on the menu thought the McD’s deal.

Total PlayStation 4 sales cross 50 million mark – Despite Microsoft’s recent boost in Xbox One sales, the PlayStation 4 remains dominant. Sony has announced that total PS4 sales have crossed the 50 million threshold, thanks in part to what Sony calls the “best ever Black Friday week in the history of PlayStation.” That number includes sales of the freshly-released PlayStation 4 Pro, though at this early point in the console’s life, PS4 Pro likely didn’t contribute much to the overall tally of 50 million.

AMD strengthens gaming and VR on Linux with graphics improvements – Windows is the indisputable platform of choice for gaming and VR, but Linux is catching up fast as graphics companies ramp driver up and hardware support for the OS.

Bully launched on Android and iOS: here’s why you need it – Bully is a game made by Rockstar Games for game console, ported now to the Android universe for mobile users. This game was great when it was first released, and now that it’s time for mobile, it’s being re-launched with all components at once. Instead of waiting for DLC to be released, this game comes with all “unlockable” items from the title’s console run already in the game. This is a game that’s more than worth the few bucks it costs, and perfect for long trips to grandma’s house for Christmas.

DOOM free update 5 adds Infernal Run multiplayer mode and bots – DOOM has turned out to be one of the coolest games launched this year and Bethesda has been making gamers even happier about the game with free updates since launch. Free update five is now available and it adds in some cool new features that players will be thrilled about. One of the biggest additions in the update is a new multiplayer mode.

Hulu will now let you create profiles for up to six people – Hulu announced today that users can now create multiple profiles through the company’s website. More devices will support profiles over the next couple of weeks, but for now, it’s limited to Each account can maintain up to six individual profiles that will remember everyone’s viewing history and Watchlist. It’ll also, of course, make recommendations. There’s also a kids-oriented profile to wall off inappropriate content. Yes! Finally, you can stop getting all those recommendations for Frasier because your mom loves that show, and instead get the more accurate Real Housewives of Beverly Hills recommendation.

Off Topic (Sort of):

DIY guide: How to add new tech to old cars – For those of you jealous of all the cool tech in the new cars my colleague Bill Howard gets to write about, there are lots of alternatives for adding technology to your current car. In most cases, add-ons aren’t as slick, or as powerful, as the versions you can get if you go all-in for a new vehicle. But they’re a lot less expensive, and some are quite effective. Done correctly, aftermarket solutions can even more flexible and future-proof than OEM systems. Remember when car phones were built into vehicles, and they got old really fast? Or when navigation systems all got built in and they got old really fast? Now, most of us use our smartphones for both of those functions — tied into our cars. Many of the add-ons we’ll look at in this article also leverage your smartphone, while others take advantage of the rapid pace of change and decrease in cost of consumer technologies.

Google offers virtual tour of Manhattan Christmas store windows – It’s a Christmas tradition in Manhattan for stores along Madison, Fifth Avenue, and other streets to put up elaborate and beautiful store window displays for Christmas. According to Google, over 5 million people travel to Manhattan during the holiday season just to see these holiday displays. If you can’t make it to Manhattan in person, Google is offering you a way to view these Christmas displays from the comfort of your home.


Uber spells outs its expectations for riders – Uber has updated its Community Guidelines to lay down some ground rules for those who use the service to catch a ride. Usually when we hear about the expectations Uber has for people using its service, those rules revolve around drivers, but not today. Instead, Uber is letting you know what you can do to be a good rider.

Exploring the Most Popular Websites of the Last 20 Years – These sites can really give you some insight on the rises and falls of some of the biggest businesses in the Internet age.

Something to think about:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

–     Aristotle    (384 BC – 322 BC)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden leaks reveal NSA snooped on in-flight mobile calls – GCHQ and the NSA have spied on air passengers using in-flight GSM mobile services for years, newly-published documents originally obtained by Edward Snowden reveal.

Technology from UK company AeroMobile and SitaOnAir is used by dozens of airlines to provide in-flight connectivity, including by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, and many Arab and Asian companies. Passengers connect to on-board GSM servers, which then communicate with satellites operated by British firm Inmarsat.

“The use of GSM in-flight analysis can help identify the travel of a target—not to mention the other mobile devices (and potentially individuals) onboard the same plane with them,” says a 2010 NSA newsletter.

A presentation, made available by the Intercept, contains details of GCHQ’s so-called “Thieving Magpie” programme.

GCHQ and the NSA intercepted the signals as they were sent from the satellites to the ground stations that hooked into the terrestrial GSM network. Initially, coverage was restricted to flights in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, but the surveillance programme was expected to go global at the time the presentation was made.

US government seeks more data on Apple customers – Apple has seen a sharp year-over-year increase in the number US government demands for customer data.

The company’s first biannual report this year covers how many demands were made from global law enforcement and intelligence agencies — including the US government — for data it stores.

Apple said it reviewed 4,822 demands for device data from US authorities, affecting 10,260 devices, an increase of 26 percent on the same period a year earlier.

The company said that it was compelled to turn over data in over three-quarters of all cases.

Additionally, the company received 1,363 demands from US authorities, the top requesting country, affecting 9,090 accounts.

Apple turned over data in 84 percent of those cases.

But requests from the US were eclipsed by the number of requests made by Germany, where device ownership is especially high.

NSA, Wikimedia Foundation argue fate of surveillance lawsuit – The Wikimedia Foundation wants a judge to decide whether a major US surveillance program is constitutional. The US government says the organization has no business bringing the case to court.

That was the conflict at the heart of arguments lawyers for both sides gave in a federal appeals court Thursday in Richmond, Virginia. The program, often referred to as “upstream” surveillance, searches communications as they travel through underwater cables that pipe the internet around the world.

If allowed to continue with its case, the Wikimedia Foundation and a host of other nonprofits, non-government organizations and news publications that communicate internationally over the internet would ask a federal judge to determine whether the program violates the Fourth Amendment.

As privacy advocates see it, “This is a case about the warrantless collection of communications straight from the backbone of the internet,” Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in an email. “Cases like this are important to establish that such unbounded surveillance violates the constitution.”

Facebook and Twitter Need to Shut Down Hate Speech Within 24 Hours, Europe Warns – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft aren’t responding to cases of online hate speech fast enough, according to the European Commission, which demands the technology companies review reports of hate speech less than 24 hours after they were first reported.

Only 40 percent of all notifications of hate speech were acted upon within a 24-hour timeframe, found a European Commission report, a report that forms part of the governing body’s first evaluation into how Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Microsoft fight online hate speech more than six months after the four signed up to a code of conduct in Europe in May 2016.

European Commissioner for Justice Věra Jourová said in a statement this week, “It is our duty to protect people in Europe from incitement to hatred and violence online. This is the common goal of the code of conduct.”

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – December 7, 2016

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–      Voltaire    (1694 – 1778)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – December 5, 2016

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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


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


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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–      H. L. Mencken    (1880 – 1956)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 2, 2016

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best Raspberry Pi boards, accessories and alternative boards – The Raspberry Pi might be the name that springs to mind when people think of single board computers for homebrew projects, but there are other boards out there worth considering. Also added are a selection of accessories to help you make more from your project board.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


TI-99/4A (1981)

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–    Frank Zappa   (1940 – 1993)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 30, 2016

The Internet Archive is building a Canadian copy to protect itself from Trump;  $89 Linux laptop? Check out the new Pinebook;  Protect Yourself With a Free VPN Service;  How to watch Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services offline with PlayOn Cloud;  The best Facebook Messenger games to play right now;  Five To-Do apps that got a lot smarter this month;  The state of malware: 4 big takeaways from AV-TEST’s 2016 report;  7 best PC games to play over winter break – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Internet Archive is building a Canadian copy to protect itself from Trump – The Internet Archive, a digital library nonprofit that preserves billions of webpages for the historical record, is building a backup archive in Canada after the election of Donald Trump. Today, it began collecting donations for the Internet Archive of Canada, intended to create a copy of the archive outside the United States. “On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change,” writes founder Brewster Kahle. “It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change. For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a web that may face greater restrictions. It means serving patrons in a world in which government surveillance is not going away; indeed it looks like it will increase.”

Protect Yourself With a Free VPN Service – Very little in life is truly free, but as far as virtual private networks (or VPNs) are concerned, you can get quite a bit for nothing. Though you’ll likely have to pay to get all the features of the best VPN services, there are many free options available. If it’s the price tag that has prevented you from using a VPN, you should definitely try one of these services.

$89 Linux laptop? Check out the new Pinebook from Raspberry Pi rival Pine – The makers of a popular Raspberry Pi challenger, the $20 Pine A64, have returned with two sub-$100 Linux laptops, called Pinebooks. With an Allwinner quad-core ARM Cortex A53 64-bit processor, the A64 board could run Ubuntu, Debian, or Android Lollipop 5.1. The same processor is powering the 11-inch and 14-inch Pinebook notebooks, which at $89 and $99 respectively, could become some of the cheapest laptops available. The displays on both models have a 1,280 x 720-pixel resolution, and besides the A64’s ARM processor, the Pinebooks include the basics needed for a functional laptop, including display, keyboard, touchpad, storage, memory, and ports.


The sub-$100 Pinebook runs on an ARM CPU and Linux. Image: Pine

Fedora 25 makes Linux easy enough for anyone to try – The Fedora community created one of the smoothest Linux Installation experiences ever.

How to watch Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services offline with PlayOn Cloud – The free PlayOn Cloud iOS app is a ‘streaming digital video recorder’ that lets you watch offline video from Netflix, Hulu and other services.

Facebook is bringing games like Pac-Man to Messenger and your News Feed – Facebook wants you playing games just about everywhere, and today the company is introducing a new initiative called Facebook Instant Games that it hopes will do just that. Instant Games is an HTML5 gaming platform that lets Facebook users play games on Messenger and in the Facebook News Feed, without the need to download anything. Instant Games are cross-platform, so they’ll work on both the web and mobile. The service launches today in a closed beta with a total of 17 games, including the likes of Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, and Words With Friends.

The best Facebook Messenger games to play right now – Starting today you can play games inside Facebook Messenger and News Feed, but which should you try? There are old classics like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, as well as modern titles like EverWing and Words With Friends you can play by tapping the game controller icon in a Messenger thread. Click or scroll through to see our quick reviews and scores out of 10 for all 17 of the launch titles, plus our three favorite picks at the end.

Yahoo brings its Q&A site to mobile via a new app, Yahoo Answers Now – Yahoo has quietly launched a native mobile app for Yahoo Answers, one of the web’s largest Q&A sites which attracts over 3.1 million U.S. monthly visitors. The app, which was previously being tested under a different name, Yahoo Hive, was rebranded to Yahoo Answers Now at the beginning of the month. Like the web version, Yahoo Answers Now lets you view, ask, answer and track questions posed by the online community.

A new rating system will tell you if SD cards are capable of running mobile apps – The SD Association announced a new “app performance class” that will give buyers more knowledge about what to put inside their phones.

Five To-Do apps that got a lot smarter this month – The holiday season doesn’t just usher in the shopping season, it also signals the count down to a new year. Which means that, in addition to trying to work off all that holiday food, people will obsess over resolutions, plans, and goals. Yes, it’s the perfect time to be a todo list app or a productivity app. And as if warming up the engines for the holidays, a handful of such apps and services have stepped up their game to deliver just a bit more smartness to their list of features. Here are five of the best known todo apps that have just made your productivity even more productive.

How to download Windows Store apps with a local account – Microsoft didn’t want you to use the Windows Store without signing in with a Microsoft Account. That no longer appears to be the case.

SnipBack: The best audio recording Android app you’ve never heard of – There’s a new Android audio recorder in town, and it’s making its competition look bad. Find out why SnipBack should be your go-to mobile recording app.

AMD will sneak-peek its high-end Zen CPU in December, starting a new CPU war – AMD’s Zen chips are supposed to be as fast as Intel’s fastest, and they may also be a lot cheaper. If the rumors come true, Intel will finally have some competition in high-end gaming CPUs.

Why you should start using Google Keep right away – Artificial intelligence is transforming Google’s yellow sticky note app into an indispensable peripheral to your own mind.

It will soon be illegal to punish customers who criticize businesses online – Congress has passed a law protecting the right of US consumers to post negative online reviews without fear of retaliation from companies. The bipartisan Consumer Review Fairness Act was passed by unanimous consent in the US Senate yesterday, a Senate Commerce Committee announcement said. The bill, introduced in 2014, was already approved by the House of Representatives and now awaits President Obama’s signature.

Cyber Monday hauls in $3.45B of online purchases, smashing the single-day sales record – As people continue to hunt for bargains online, we are more seeing more record-breaking marquee online sales days. Cyber Monday — coming the first day after the long Thanksgiving break — racked up $3.45 billion in sales in the U.S., pipping past the previous record of $3.34 billion spent on Black Friday just a few days earlier. Sales were up 12.1 percent compared to Cyber Monday a year earlier. Both figures come from Adobe, which said it tracked 23 billion anonymised visits to retail websites, covering 80 percent of all online transactions for the top 100 U.S. retailers. Earlier in the day, Adobe had said it expected $3.36 billion in sales.

Apple has a Calendar and Photos spam problem and it better fix it soon – There’s a nasty new kind of spam hitting Apple users across the Internet. We show you what’s happening, point you to some fixes, and call on Apple to make fixing this loophole a top priority.


Tech support scams evolve, borrow tricks from ransomware creators – If cold calling, fake alerts, and screen lockers aren’t enough, potential victims now face a new threat born from ransomware.

Firefox 0day in the wild is being used to attack Tor users – There’s a zero-day exploit in the wild that’s being used to execute malicious code on the computers of people using Tor and possibly other users of the Firefox browser, officials of the anonymity service confirmed Tuesday. According to security researchers who analyzed the code, it exploits a memory corruption vulnerability that allows malicious code to be executed on computers running Windows. The malicious payload it delivers, according to an independent researcher who goes by the Twitter handle @TheWack0lian, is almost identical to one that was used in 2013 to deanonymize people visiting a Tor-shielded child pornography site. The FBI ultimately acknowledged responsibility for the exploit, which was embedded in Web pages served by a service known as Freedom Hosting.

Newly discovered router flaw being hammered by in-the-wild attacks – Online criminals—at least some of them wielding the notorious Mirai malware that transforms Internet-of-things devices into powerful denial-of-service cannons—have begun exploiting a critical flaw that may be present in millions of home routers. Routers provided to German and Irish ISP customers for Deutsche Telekom and Eircom, respectively, have already been identified as being vulnerable, according to recently published reports from researchers tracking the attacks. The attacks exploit weaknesses found in routers made by Zyxel, Speedport, and possibly other manufacturers. The devices leave Internet port 7547 open to outside connections. The exploits use the opening to send commands based on the TR-069 and related TR-064 protocols, which ISPs use to remotely manage large fleets of hardware. According to this advisory published Monday morning by the SANS Internet Storm Center, honeypot servers posing as vulnerable routers are receiving exploits every five to 10 minutes.

The state of malware: 4 big takeaways from AV-TEST’s 2016 report – The new report details increased risks to Android and Apple products and the top 10 Windows malware programs of 2016. Here’s what your business needs to know to stay safe.

Web CCTV cams can be hijacked by single HTTP request – An insecure web server embedded in more than 35 models of internet-connected CCTV cameras leaves countless devices wide open to hijacking, it is claimed. The gadgets can be commandeered from the other side of the world with a single HTTP GET request before any password authentication checks take place, we’re told. If your camera is one of the at-risk devices, and it can be reached on the web, then it can be attacked, infected with malware and spied on. Network cameras typically use UPnP to drill through to the public internet automatically via your home router. Proof-of-concept code to exploit the vulnerable web server in the cameras can be found right here on GitHub.

Thousands of xHamster login credentials surface online – Members of the porn site xHamster should be changing their passwords today after a set of nearly 380,000 usernames, emails and poorly hashed passwords appeared online. The subscription-only breach notification site LeakBase has published the set of login credentials, which Motherboard reports were being traded online. It’s not clear exactly where the database originated, but it contains information for only a small subset of xHamster’s 12 million registered users. While xHamster doesn’t require viewers to register with the site, those who do can comment and make video playlists. Still, the leaked information has the potential to embarrass users — several of the accounts are linked to U.S. Army and other government email addresses. If xHamster’s subscribers reused their passwords on other sites, their accounts on those sites are at risk of compromise, as well.

Uber begins background collection of rider location data – Imagine you’re on your way to a therapy appointment in a downtown high-rise. You hail an Uber and enter a nearby coffee shop as your destination so you can grab a snack before the appointment. In the car, you scroll through Instagram and check your email. You get out, buy your coffee, and walk around the corner to your therapist’s office. If you installed the latest app update, Uber has been tracking your location the entire time.

Company News:

Samsung Electronics considers restructure following pressure from shareholders – Samsung Electronics has revealed that it is considering splitting the company into two following pressure from investors. Stakeholder Elliott Management last month criticized the Korean firm’s structure which it believes prioritizes the Lee family, which owns the Samsung Group, over its shareholders. In a statement released Monday, Samsung Electronics said it is assessing whether to implement a new corporate structure — which could see the establishment of a holding company — and the potential to list on additional stock exchanges worldwide. Samsung Electronics is working with “external advisors” to look over the possibilities, it said.

Report: Intel plans to make the Core i7 the brains behind self-driving cars – Sixteen years ago, a small low-power chip startup called Transmeta forced Intel to retool its desktop PC processors to meet the demands of notebooks. Today, Intel is adapting its PC processors to an entirely new market: self-driving cars. Intel has joined forces with Mobileye—the former brains behind Tesla Motors’ autopilot system—and auto parts maker Delphi, according to several reports.

Adblock Plus wins its 6th court case, brought by Der Spiegel – In the US, blocking online advertisements might land you in a heated debate. In Germany, you might have that debate in front of a judge. Eyeo GmbH, the company that makes Adblock Plus, has been through no fewer than six court cases by publishers who say blocking online ads violates German law. The ad-blocking company has now won all of its cases at the district level, and one case has been through an appeal. Other cases continue through the German appeals courts. The final lawsuit was brought by Germany’s best-known media brand, Spiegel Online, run by the same company that owns the newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Yesterday, Eyeo disclosed that its lawyers were contacted by telephone to be told that the case against them has been dismissed. The judge’s reasoning won’t be known until a written decision is released later this week.

Uber to European Court: We’re Not a Transportation Company – If the court rules that Uber is more than just an app, it will be subject to the same regulations as its taxi competitors.

Report: Google on pace to sell 3 million Pixels by the end of the year – A Morgan Stanley estimate says Google should sell another 5 to 6 million next year, though Samsung remains the smartphone sales king.

Games and Entertainment:

AT&T launches streaming TV service to compete with Vue, Sling – If you’re looking to cut cable TV, a new video streaming service from AT&T will be available starting Wednesday. DirecTV Now is a flexible pay-as-you-go streaming service that starts at US$35 per month. DirectTV’s conventional satellite service is the foundation, but the content will be streamed over the internet. Traditionally, users needed a two-year commitment and credit check to get DirecTV, but those requirements are not needed for the new service. The streaming service will work on the Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices, as well as mobile devices with Android and iOS and PCs. There are four pricing bundles, AT&T said at a press event in New York City. Users will be able to get more than 60 channels for $35, more than 80 for $50, more than 100 for $60, and more than 120 for $70. As an introductory promotion, AT&T will offer 100 channels for $35.

7 best PC games to play over winter break – With winter break quickly approaching for many students in the US, a lot of you might be thinking about how you’re going to spend your time. More specifically, you might be wondering what games out there are worthy of a playthrough while you have some time to burn. We’ve already covered seven console games that are worth a look during your time away from school, but here are seven more for those of you playing on PC.

7 best console games to play over winter break – Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, some form of winter break is on the horizon for many students in the US. For high school students, winter break can last around two weeks, while colleges and universities usually break for three or four. If you’re in parts of the country that actually see snow and cold, spending any significant time outside may not be possible, so what’s a student with nothing but time to do? Play video games, of course – here are seven console-based games you should consider spending your winter break with.

The hottest games of winter – This time of year brings all kinds of reasons to stay in and play a video game, whether you prefer console or computer. As the nights grow longer, we’ll be firing up the hottest games of the season: Here are the four you won’t want to miss this month and next, three more coming at the top of 2017, and the holiday deals and discounts to watch for.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Google Earth Timelapse update shows Earth from 1984-2016 – Google Earth Timelapse is a really awesome project that lets you turn back the clock on Planet Earth. In 2013, Google worked with the US Geological Survey (USGS), NASA, and TIME to compile a history of satellite imagery from 1984 to 2012. Today, Google updated the project with “four additional years of imagery, petabytes of new data, and a sharper view of the Earth from 1984 to 2016.” The new data isn’t just “new” data—Google also managed to compile better older images of Earth thanks to the Landsat Global Archive Consolidation Program. Google says it sifted through 5 million satellite images from five different satellites, taking the best of the “three quadrillion pixels” to create 33 images of Earth (one for each year). Thanks to the plethora of data and Google’s cloud-computing algorithms, you get all of this without any clouds blocking the view.

A Google Earth Timelapse of a community in Canada.

Why Fake News Is So Incredibly Effective – If you get your news from social media, as most Americans do, you are exposed to a daily dose of hoaxes, rumors, conspiracy theories and misleading news. When it’s all mixed in with reliable information from honest sources, the truth can be very hard to discern. In fact, my research team’s analysis of data from Columbia University’s Emergent rumor tracker suggests that this misinformation is just as likely to go viral as reliable information.

Homeopathic solutions now have to be labeled to disclose that there’s no science behind them – The FTC is playing whack-a-mole with pseudoscience again, and this time it’s targeting homeopathy. Their latest comments contend (PDF) that the standard disclaimer isn’t enough to dissuade consumers from buying this crap, so now not only do homeopathic products have to carry the standard disclaimer, they also have to say there’s no science behind them.

FDA approves large-scale trials of ecstasy to treat PTSD – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of MDMA in large-scale clinical trials, The New York Times reports, amid emerging evidence that the illegal party drug could be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Phase 3 research will involve at least 230 patients, the Times reports, and will be funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization that advocates for the medical use of marijuana, LSD, and MDMA (also known as ecstasy). MAPS has already funded six Phase 2 studies of MDMA, involving 130 PTSD patients in total. In one study involving 19 PTSD patients, 56 percent said their symptoms declined in severity after receiving three doses of MDMA; by the end of the study, two-thirds didn’t meet the criteria for having PTSD.

Ex-Watergate investigators urge Obama to show leniency to Edward Snowden – President Obama has been urged to show leniency to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden by 15 intelligence experts, who were part of a 1970s congressional committee that investigated the CIA during the Watergate era.

Something to think about:

“When one admits that nothing is certain one must, I think, also admit that some things are much more nearly certain than others.”

–       Bertrand Russell     (1872 – 1970)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

THE UK NOW WIELDS UNPRECEDENTED SURVEILLANCE POWERS — HERE’S WHAT IT MEANS – The UK is about to become one of the world’s foremost surveillance states, allowing its police and intelligence agencies to spy on its own people to a degree that is unprecedented for a democracy. The UN’s privacy chief has called the situation “worse than scary.” Edward Snowden says it’s simply “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.”

The legislation in question is called the Investigatory Powers Bill. It’s been cleared by politicians and granted royal assent on November 29th — officially becoming law. The bill will legalize the UK’s global surveillance program, which scoops up communications data from around the world, but it will also introduce new domestic powers, including a government database that stores the web history of every citizen in the country. UK spies will be empowered to hack individuals, internet infrastructure, and even whole towns — if the government deems it necessary.

Although the UK’s opposition Labour Party originally put forward strong objections to the bill, these never turned into real opposition. The combination of a civil war between different factions in Labour and the UK’s shock decision to leave the European Union means the bill was never given politicians’ — or the country’s — full attention. Instead, it will likely inspire similar surveillance laws in other countries. After all, if the UK can do it, why shouldn’t everyone else? And there will be no moderating influence from the US, where the country’s mostly intact surveillance apparatus will soon be handed over to president-elect Donald Trump.

With this global tide of surveillance rising, it’s worth taking a closer look at what exactly is happening in the UK. Here’s our overview of what the Investigatory Powers Bill entails:

Senators plan last-ditch push to curb U.S. law enforcement’s hacking power – Unless Congress takes 11th-hour action, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will gain new authority this week to hack into remote computers during criminal investigations.

Proposed changes to Rule 41, the search and seizure provision in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, would give U.S. law enforcement agencies the authority to cross jurisdictional lines and hack computers anywhere in the world during criminal investigations.

The rules, in most cases, now prohibit federal judges from issuing a search warrant outside their jurisdictions. The changes, approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in April at the request of the Department of Justice, go into effect on Thursday unless Congress moves to reverse them.

Lawmakers opposed to the changes are planning a last-minute push to roll them back. Senators will attempt to bring the issue to a vote on Wednesday, said a spokesman for Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat.

Wyden and four other senators are sponsors of the Stop Mass Hacking Act, a bill to reverse the proposed changes. A similar bill in the House of Representatives has 12 co-sponsors. Two other bills, introduced earlier this month, would delay the proposed changes to give Congress more time to debate them.


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